THE CONVERSION BUREAU

A ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’ Fan Fiction by Blaze

From the Author (READ FIRST): I've seen a lot of backstories written about how Equestria is simply a post-apocalyptic Earth set in the distant future. I decided to expand on it in a much less...grimdark fashion. It may seem very human-centered in the beginning, but you'll see more ponies as the story progresses. Enjoy. 9_6

Prologue

    The pony race and humans have lived together in harmony for centuries. A peaceful race, the ponies never really felt the need for war or violence to solve world problems. Things always seemed a lot friendlier with the ponies involved. Only recently have ponies been integrating into the modern human society. Ponies have lived in isolated, calm lands for many generations, but with over-population becoming a risk for the equine communities, moving from Canterlot to Newark was a common occurrence in these times.

    Through warfare and species-exclusive diseases, humans have begun a steady decline in population and general health. The ways humans have destroyed the world around them, through pollution, greed and unhealthy living conditions, have led the humans to realize the error of their ways, but it had been too late. Ponies, being a hardy, largely pacifistic folk, had slowly become the majority in world population (but only just so). It was becoming clear the time of the human was coming to a close. Soon, scientists of both human and pony worked together to create a formula to, in a sense, "ponify" a human, and hopefully keep society from collapsing. Their long term plan was to start a thriving, pony-centric world for generations to come.

    In this interim period, humans were plagued with mass confusion and doubt as to what to do. Most humans understood the decline in the population, and would much prefer to be a pony. With a down-to-earth, carefree lifestyle, the possibility of flying or using magic to their advantage, and current human health problems a thing of the past, what could possibly go wrong? However, some people have shown some second thoughts.

    People like Ethan McCullough.

Chapter 1 - In Which Something Happens

    Ethan rose from his bed on that warm Sunday morning in April to the sun beating down through his window. He knew today was the day. He was finally going to do it. Get it done and over with. He was going to be ponified, and he was going to move to the pony world. Most of his other friends have already gone through the ponification process, and now it was his turn. For a young adult still not quite done with his teenage years, this 17-year old couldn't help but succumb to peer pressure. Ethan laughed quietly and got up to pack.

    The newspaper talked about it last month. He still had the clipping of the article on the wall of his bedroom, "PONIFICATION CAMP OPENS; HUNDREDS FLOCK TO JOIN PONY SOCIETY". Ethan had skimmed through the article several times a day, looking over the regulations and the daily regiment of the 7-day camp; and as he packed the six sets of clothes, toiletries, and other essentials, he was confident he'd know what he was doing the moment he walked into the door of that camp.

    Ethan hopped into his car and drove his way through the streets of his hometown. There were many memories attached to these streets, and hopefully they will stay with him when he comes back, a totally different species entirely. The once-crowded suburban complex he called home was now barren, with only a few of his neighbors still going about their business, and some ponies are seen bustling through the streets (and skies above). Ethan knew that this kind of living was soon going to come to an end, and the new society he will soon be integrated into will be much better. Or, at least, that's what he was reassuring himself with.

    After about twenty minutes behind the wheel, following the MapQuest directions he'd printed out the day before, Ethan arrived at what looked like the cleanest building in the neighborhood. The camp looked more like a clinic on the outside, with what looked like a large greenhouse complex in the back, and a sprawling field of fresh grass even further back. The people-to-pony ratio in the general area of the building was about even, with nervous humans walking in, and ecstatic ponies coming out. Ethan parked his car, got his things, and headed inside.

    The waiting room gave off a very noticeable vibe that would normally come from a doctor's office. It was awkwardly quiet in the mid-sized room, with only a few people sitting in comfortable chairs reading old magazines, and a unicorn pony at the reception desk typing on a computer with her magic, and sorting papers with her hooves. Ethan quietly walked up to the desk and wrote his name on the sign-in sheet, placing the application he had filled out the night before in the basket with a few others, and sat down with the other people. The uneasiness in the room was palpable.

    Suddenly, after what felt like hours, the door on the opposite end of the room opened, startling everyone in the room, even the secretary pony. A lime-green mare appeared from the other room and looked at the people in the chairs, including Ethan. After a minute, she spoke.

    "Okay! All of you come with me!" She said, in that kind of peppy, cheery tone that would annoy the average schmo off the streets.

    The aforementioned people rose quickly and started for the door, anything to break the monotony of sitting in that room. Something told Ethan that it brought back bad doctor memories for most of them.

    "Now, I'm going to take you five to your living quarters," the pony said as they walked down the long hallway to the dormitories.

    Even though ponies had been living in his neighborhood for a few years now, Ethan had never really gotten the chance to be this close to a pony before. They had always been either at home or work, and his friends and family didn't really have any pony acquaintances he knew of (at least, until they became ponies, that is). It was an odd experience being this close to a fellow sentient being, that looked nothing like him. It felt like he was following a talking dog.

    Finally, the pony and her followers arrived at a small hallway. There must have been twenty rooms there, each individually numbered, like a hotel's rooms. The pony directed each of the people to their respective dorms, and Ethan was the last. He got room 526, or so it said on the plate on the front of the door. It was then he noticed the doors had no knobs, and just pushed open, like a public restroom. Ethan got self-conscious about his privacy, until he noticed the wooden door block placed tenderly at the edge of his room.

    The dorm was simple, and warm. The first thing he noticed was the heater was on full blast, so he turned it down to a reasonable temperature, and put his stuff down on the bed. The bed was short and stocky, but still managed to be a full-sized bed with a fluffy, sleepable mattress and neatly made sheets. Before he had a chance to unpack his things, a knock unexpectedly came at his door.

    "Ethan? Is this your room? The reception lady told me to come to 526, but I'm not sure if the signs got mixed up or anything, so I'm just making sure..."

    The familiar voice babbled on as Ethan opened the door to his old middle school friend, Barry Gelsi. Barry was lanky with a messy brown jewfro on his head, and was wearing a grey, battered looking T-shirt with equally as battered cargo pants. The two friends man-hugged at first glance of each other.

    "Hey, buddy!" Ethan greeted Barry with his first genuine smile of the day.

    "Hi, there! I guess I was right about the room," Barry replied and let himself into Ethan's dorm, sitting enthusiastically on the bed. After a short silence, Barry continued, "So...I guess you're here for the pony thing, eh?"

    "No, I'm here to exact revenge on one of the employees here. He killed my father, and he must die," Ethan replied with a dead-serious look on his face. Soon, both of them collapsed with laughter. "Sure as hell, I'm here for the pony thing, buddy! How long have you been here?"

    "I just moved in last night. We're supposed to go for a seminar after dinner tonight, to 'inspire us to make the right choices', and all that junk," Barry said, using finger quotes where appropriate, "Half the reason I'm going is because my friend is giving the speech. She's a pony, too."

    "You have pony friends already? Geez, I wish I did. Things are so weird around here," Ethan replied.

    "Eh, you get used to it. I did, and I've only been here for 15 hours!"

   

    Ethan spent the next couple of hours looking over the papers given to him in the dorm room with Barry, and meanwhile catching up with his long lost friend. Barry had moved out of the suburbs the summer before their first year of high school, and Ethan hasn't been able to keep in touch with him since. He was glad he had a friend at the camp to go though the ponification with, and he was sure Barry felt the same way.

    "Well, I think the seminar is coming up soon. Did you have anything to eat before you came over?" Barry asked Ethan as he unpacked his things.

    "Not really, but I'll probably grab something from the vending machine outside or something. Let's just get this over with," Ethan said, attempting to hide his anxiety. He was unsuccessful.

    Barry seemed to pay no attention to Ethan's jitteryness, "Sounds like a plan. Let's roll!" And with that, they set out on the short walk to the seminar hall.

Chapter 2: Let the Game Begin

    The room the seminar took place in reminded him of a town meeting. The room was empty, save for about thirty chairs, half of which filled, and a chair up front for the presenter. Lots of small talk can be heard, and not a pony in sight, as expected. Ethan and Barry walked in and sat down quietly close to the front of the crowd, both joking about how they got front row seats.

    "So, what is this thing about, again?" Ethan asked curiously. He was still a little jittery about being new.

    "It's just to greet the newbies, like us. Relax, this won't take long," Barry reassured Ethan with a pat on the back, and the presenter trotted out from a door that Ethan hadn't seen before. The crowd fell silent immediately.

    The unicorn pony was very calm and studious looking, but still looked like she'd be nice if you talked to her. She had a noticeably purple coat, with a dark purple straight mane with unique pink streaks. The symbol on her flank was a magenta six-pointed star surrounded by a few other smaller stars. She put the pile of papers she had been holding up with her magic down on the chair up front and started once the crowd quieted down.

    "Afternoon, everyone. I'm Twilight Sparkle, and I'll be talking to you all for the next 20 minutes," the unicorn said uniformly. Ethan could hear a few people faintly giggle at Twilight's name, but she simply ignored them.

    "Now, I'm almost positive all of you are here because you want to become a pony. This is a fact. You don't come here because you don't want to be a pony, unless someone forced you at gunpoint, but that's a different story." Twilight continued, casual, but serious, "I may not fully understand your reasoning behind your choice to become a pony, considering I was born one myself, but I can understand what we have been facing in the past few years. Humans such as yourselves have brought your world to shambles, all because of the selfish greed of big business, and the horrible health habits of the majority of the population."

    Twilight pointed at a map of the world, with a small island just outside the east coast of the United States circled in red marker, "Ponykind faces overpopulation, in ways that the tiny isle of Equestria simply can't keep together for long. That's why we moved into your towns and cities." A small pause, while someone coughed near the back, "I'm sure you all know about this already, but what you haven't heard is why we're doing this. Why you are here today, sitting in this cramped room with sweaty, tired people just waiting for me to stop talking."

    "Our plan is to ponify you, the sooner the better. Expect this to happen when you least expect it. You'll get used to our culture, our food, and our lack of thumbs. Trust me, it's easier than it looks. Because humans can't handle the magic radiating from Equestrian borders, becoming a pony is crucial to expanding the peaceful, friendly aura that surrounds Equestria every day of every month of every year. Thank you."

   

    A small applause followed, and most people got up and started to leave for their dorms. Barry immediately got up and walked up to Twilight, who hadn't moved since she stopped talking.

    "Twilight! How's the new job treating you?" Barry asked hardily.

    "Great, Barry! Good to see you finally caved in and signed up for the cause. And who is this?" Twilight gestured toward Ethan, who had just walked up to join Barry.

    Ethan jumped a little at the attention, "Uh, I'm Ethan..." he mumbled nervously. He wasn't really that good at talking to ponies that much, and that coupled with his normal social awkwardness is a horrible combination.

    "Ethan here is an old friend of mine from middle school! He's dorming next to me for the week!" Barry said enthusiastically, putting his arm around Ethan’s shoulder.

    "Er, yeah. Ha ha..." Ethan added, just as awkward as earlier.

    "You remind me of another friend of mine, Ethan. It's nice to meet you." Twilight replied, smiling genuinely at him. Ethan smiled back, only glad that he didn't come off as a total creep.

    "Well, we'll be heading back to the dorms, now." Barry started.

    "Actually, I wanted to talk to Twilight for a minute, if you don't mind." Ethan said, finally growing a pair and speaking up.

    "Oh, sure." Barry said, a little surprised, "Don't let him get on your flank, Twi. See you guys later!" And with that, he rushed back to his dorm, leaving Ethan and Twilight the only people in the room.

    "What did you want to talk about, Ethan?" Twilight asked.

    "Well, I hope I'm not wasting your time or anything. I don't want to seem like just some bum off the streets."

    "No, no! Not at all. A friend of Barry's is a friend of mine. Now, what's troubling you?" Twilight got up from her chair and started cleaning up a bit.

    "Well..." Ethan started, realizing he had not rehearsed this beforehand, "I'm a little apprehensive about the ponification. I want to go through with it, but I'm a little...for lack of better word, suspicious, of the anonymity of the process itself. I hope you understand my feelings."

    Twilight, a little taken aback by how surprisingly wordy he is, despite how shy he was at first impression, stopped what she was doing and looked at Ethan, "There's no need to be suspicious. It'll be like getting a shot, or taking medicine. Plus, you'll be unconscious during the actual transformation, so you won't feel any pain."

    But after all of that, Ethan was still iffy. "I don't know...I still don't feel right about it."

    Twilight looked at Ethan in the eyes for the first time and smiled reassuringly, "You'll be fine. Now go see Barry, I think he's been waiting for you."

    Ethan looked back out the doorway to see Barry waving his hands wildly in the air looking at Ethan in impatience.

    "Thanks, Twilight. See you tomorrow."

Chapter 3: What is To Come

    "Doodoodoodoo, doo doot, doo doot, doo-doodoodoodoo, doo doot, doo doot, doo-doodoodoodoo, doo doot, doo doot! GOOD MORNING CAMPERS!"

   

    The incessant singing over the loudspeakers woke Ethan up with a start, and he began groggily putting his second set of clothes on. Once the short song ended, the obnoxious pony began reading the morning announcements.

    "Um, um...okay. Alright. Okay." Ethan could hear the shuffling of papers. "The cafeteria menu for the day of Monday, April 16 is chicken...'lo meen'? What's that? And for you ponyfolk, hay fries and the flower of the day sandwich. Also, can...James Thompson mosey on over to the ponification room? You're up, Jimmy! This has been Pinkie Pie with your daily announcements! Have a fun-erific day!" And with that, the loudspeaker crackled off.

    The second the speaker turned off, an audible "Woo-hoo!" was heard from a few rooms down, then heavy, sprinting footsteps. The footsteps were soon followed by more noises of people in the dorm hallway thundering to their doors. Ethan joined them, to see a person they don't know for the last time as a human.

    The scrawny, auburn-haired 20-something made his way out of his room, wearing nothing but a ratty tanktop and boxer shorts, and walked triumphantly down the hall, with applauding campers at each side of him. Each step his last on human feet, the smug look on Jimmy's face showed that he was most certainly ready to be ponified. The clapping and cheering didn't end until he was out of sight. When the noise finally died down to a hush, people began sitting down in their doorways. Ethan turned to his dorm neighbor Barry.

    "How long do these take?" Ethan asked curiously.

    Another person near them answered his question, "Give or take, around ten minutes. It's really short, I'm surprised. Technology is amazing..."

    Leaving that guy alone to his thoughts, Ethan decided to join the sitting group as they started making small talk and discussing their own pony aspirations.

    "I want to be a pegasus! Flying like that must be so cool." One boy said to the girl next to her. A few people near him nodded in agreement.

    "Too extreme for me, I think I'll just stick with living the simple life of an Earth pony." The girl replied. Others nodded.

    Ethan had never really put much thought into what kind of pony he wanted to be. After seeing so many ponies around the building, he was surprised he hadn't decided what he'd look like. He assumed that your physical appearance all depends on genetics, but is the pony type chosen? Ethan was afraid to ask more questions, he didn't want to feel like a newbie with the other campers.

    A four-legged's footsteps were heard by every camper simultaneously. They all looked down the hall intently, hoping to finally see the ponified Jimmy. The trotting sounded slow, and careful. A loud thud was heard once, then a pause...then the trotting resumed.

    Jimmy turned the corner, fully ponied. A peach-colored earth pony, the most prominent thing he kept was his auburn hair and stubble around his muzzle. The other obvious trait he seemed to have kept was the smug expression on his face, albeit with a little nervousness over his new legs.  Jimmy was trotting very slowly, almost to a crawl, attempting to get used to his new center of balance. The thud was heard again, except this time Ethan knew it was Jimmy falling on the floor, then getting himself up immediately and continuing to walk. The campers were going crazy, patting his back and head as he walked by (which seemed to create more troubles for his balance), and some just poked him. Ethan watched carefully as the new pony walked to his dorm's doorway, give a loud cheer of triumph, and trot inside. Everyone resumed their daily business, with some people crowding around Jimmy to ask questions.

   

    Ethan's mind had been wondering for the last few minutes of Jimmy's first trot. He had been thinking about what will happen when he becomes a pony. Will he enjoy being a herbivore? What if he hates flying? Who will he meet when he goes to Equestria, if he does? Will he miss his feet and opposable thumbs? Ethan felt like he had taken up a much larger commitment than he had expected. But, he knew it must be done eventually, and got it off his mind come lunchtime.

    "Hey, dude, you gonna eat your salad?" A passerby pony asked him at the lunchroom.

    Ethan snapped back into reality, "Huh? Oh, no, you can have it."

    "Thanks, brah. Not a big fan of dandelions, myself." The pony chuckled, and started to shovel the salad onto his tray with his snout.

    "Hey," Ethan asked, with blinding curiosity, "How long have you been a pony? How does it feel?"

    "I got ponified yesterday morning. It's a little awkward for the first hour or so, but it gets way easy afterwards. Moving things is still a problem, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. Take it easy, brah." And with that, the pony trotted away, with tray in tow on his back.

    Barry retired from his bountiful lunch and turned towards Ethan. "You gotta calm down, man. You're getting all tense over nothing. I know! I'll take you over to the greenhouses! That oughta calm you down."

    "There are greenhouses?" Ethan asked, only to realize immediately after saying that, that he had seen the greenhouses when he first walked in the other day.

    "Of course, stupid! Didn't you see the big glass things outside?" Barry said jokingly, "Let's go!"

    Barry energetically grabbed Ethan by the wrist and dragged him out of the lunchroom, just barely leaving Ethan time to throw the rest of his lunch away.

    The greenhouse was massive. Despite being an isolated glass case filled with trees, the ceiling was no where in sight, or at least to Ethan's sight. The trees towered over the rest of the nearby structures, and many pegasi were seen flying overhead, with a look of sheer elation plastered on each of their faces. Anyone could tell from where they were standing that these ponies were having the time of their lives.

    "Isn't this calming?" Barry asked, hoping to get a positive response from the dazed Ethan, who had been staring up at the pegasi the whole time.

    "Yeah, yeah. Really peaceful." Ethan said, trying his best to pay attention to Barry over the sound of the forest's wildlife. It looked like an amalgamation of every woods that Ethan walked in. There was a muddy creak, a plethora of bugs and small rodents, low and high-hanging branches, and a very humid, post-rainstorm atmosphere throughout.

    Finally done with looking up at the winged ponies, Ethan lowered his head with a noticeable crack. "Hey, Barry..." He started, only to see that Barry was distracted talking to a unicorn friend of his near the river. Ethan decided to go on his own and sat down lazily on a nearby rock.

    A bush rustled nearby. Not right next to Ethan, but within earshot where he was curious. He heard it again, followed with some light mumbling. From the rock, he rose to investigate. The bushes nearby were bare, but he could still hear the mumbling. It was clearly a someone, as it sounded like the mumbling was in English.

   

    The source of the mumbling came from a pegasus pony in a thicket just behind the rock. The pegasus had a long, wavy pink mane and a sunny yellow coat. Her blue-green eyes looked distressed and nervous.

    "Oh, no. Mr. Squirrel, you shouldn’t sneak into those thorn bushes like that. It's not safe." The pony said quietly, slowly removing a baby squirrel from a thorn bush.

    "Excuse me?" Ethan greeted the pony, not as quietly, but just as shy.

    The pony gasped, clearly frightened by Ethan's sudden appearance. After hyperventilating for a minute, she looked slowly over to where Ethan's voice came from.

    "Um...hello..." The pony mumbled.

    "Is something wrong?" Ethan asked the pony, worried he'll hurt her feelings.

    "Oh, no. Just...um...nothing..." The pony replied, trailing off near the end of the sentence.

    "Do you need help at all?" Ethan said, noticing the animals she had previously had in tow running off into the bushes.

    "No, no. It's fine...but, you can help...I mean, if you want..."

    "Uh, sure."

    Ethan and his new friend spent the next hour or so gathering up the animals. It was alot easier than Ethan had expected, and all of the animals seemed very harmless and friendly; very odd behavior for animals that Ethan had been raised to know carried rabies and weren't afraid to bite humans in self-defense. After the last chipmunk was found in a patch of tall grass, Ethan and the pony walked to the rock where they met and Ethan sat down.

    "You know, in all of this excitement, I didn't catch your name." Ethan said quizzically.

    "Oh, I'm Fluttershy...I'm sorry, did I get your name?"

    "No, you didn't, don't worry. I'm Ethan. Nice meeting you, Fluttershy."

    "Nice meeting you, too. I guess..." Fluttershy replied. Ethan couldn't shake off the fact that Fluttershy seemed to always be so quiet. Even with how friendly they've gotten, where she could finally speak full sentences to him without squeaking in fright, she seemed to be perpetually reclusive.

    Suddenly, a blue pegasus pony flew overhead and stopped about ten feet above their heads.

    "C'mon, Fluttershy!" she shouted impatiently, "Quit talkin' to your new friend and help me greet the new pegasi! We still need to teach 'em to fly, you know!"

    "Oh! Um...coming, Rainbow Dash!" Fluttershy called out to the pegasus, then turned to Ethan and smiled at him, as if to say 'bye' without actually saying it, and gently flew away.

    Barry arrived seconds later, but unbeknownst to Ethan, had been there the whole time.

    "Dude, she totally has the hots for you." he said, making Ethan jump off his rock and onto the dirt road.

    "Shut up!" Ethan joked as they left the greenhouse.

Chapter 4: According to Plan

    From the moment Ethan gained consciousness, there was noise. The sights were calming, from the sun beating down on his bed from the nearby window, to the warm spring wind blowing lazily into his open window. The sounds, however, were anything but peaceful. Raucous cheering and shouting were heard immediately outside his dorm room, the kind he had heard the day before when Jimmy was being ponified. After finally realizing what he was about to miss, Ethan shot out of his bed, bolted to the door, and yanked it open.

    Whomever was being ponified had already walked down the hallway, so people began quieting down. Ethan sat on the hallway floor, curious as to who was being ponified, and if he knew them.

    But suddenly, Ethan noticed something. The door adjacent to his was wide open, with it's bed and doorway unoccupied, Ethan could have sworn the loud footsteps he heard were much louder than when it was Jimmy's turn, and he hadn't gotten a tap on the shoulder, or a silly remark yet today from a certain friend of his...

    "Oh, no." Ethan said out loud to himself. No one heard him, but it was the only way he could vent his anger towards himself. He just missed seeing Barry as a human for the last time. While this may not be a big deal, considering at least he'd still see him, this was still a life changing event for Barry, and Ethan felt horrible for missing the beginning of it. All he could do was sit and wait for his friend to return.

    The inevitable cheering commenced again, after what seemed like centuries for Ethan, as pony Barry trotted down the hallway. His coat was an odd mixture of orange and yellow, making it seem like he might have had a scent like an air freshener. His brown hair had been almost directly transferred to his mane, even keeping his perpetual bedhead intact. The next thing Ethan noticed was that Barry was a unicorn, and thus would receive training from Twilight sometime today. Ethan pictured Barry attempting magic, and failing horribly, which made him laugh a bit.

    "What's so funny? Never seen an attractive pony before?" Barry had just reached his dorm room door, and was sitting next to Ethan.

    Ethan hadn't noticed Barry's presence, and jumped a bit at the sight of him, "No, and I still haven't." They both laughed, then Ethan asked for what seemed like the umpteenth time this week, "How does it feel?"

    "I knew you were going to ask me this." Barry said. Ethan still had trouble putting Barry's voice into the pony's mouth, but it seemed to fit the look nicely, "It's...new, I'll give ya that. Walking is easier than it looks, but still takes some getting used to. I feel like I'm a midget with four legs, with how short I am now."

    "A midget with four legs, and a horn." Ethan corrected Barry. "Have you used it yet?"

    Barry looked straight up at his forehead, where the orange appendage stared right back at him. "Not yet. I'd like to, though."

    "Try opening that guy's door." Ethan suggested, pointing to a door across the room.

    Barry concentrated. Much more than Ethan had ever seen him concentrate on anything, really. His horn began to glow a little, lighting up the area around him. The doorknob of the door Ethan suggested began turning slowly, as if it was struggling to open. Suddenly, the door thrust itself open, and slammed against the adjacent wall as it opened. Barry panted heavily, and numerous people clapped and cheered and patted him on the back in congratulations.

*******

    "Are you sure you want to commit to this?"

    "Yes, I'm absolutely sure. I'm confident in his abilities."

    Twilight Sparkle looked confidently into the princess's eyes. In all of her years following Celestia, she had never been this willing in her life. She stood her ground before her teacher, who was sitting sternly in her massive throne. While Twilight was almost like a daughter to her, this was a serious discussion, and they treated it as such. Celestia fidgeted in her chair as she thought the plan over.

    "This is not normal for a ponification camp, you know. Normally they have to spend another week there to learn how to be a pony, even after the transformation. Why do you want to pull this unicorn out so soon?"

    "I think he's much more in touch with his magic than most unicorns I've seen go through this camp. He can already move objects, and control the strength of the magic used, to an extent. I think I should take him...for lack of better saying, under my wing...because we could use him to our advantage."

    Princess Celestia thought for a minute, then surrendered, "Alright. You can bring him. But...what about the other one? Surely you don't want him to come here as a human, do you?"

    "Oh, no. I have plans for him. You'll see." Twilight responded.

    "I hope you know, I don't like it when you hide things from me." Celestia replied sternly.

    "Don't worry, Princess. My intentions are anything but bad. It's just I...haven't really planned what to do with him yet." Twilight said, embarrassed at her lack of organization.

    "Well, be sure to get him here safely. We don't want any humans running around Equestria willy-nilly like this. Make sure he's a pony when the time comes for him to be."

    "Of course."

*******

    Ethan couldn't help but be a little sad. He knew this was a good thing for Barry, and to an extent, Earth, but he couldn't shake the fact he'll never see human Barry again. There were certain things in his mind that made human Barry unique that they can't replicate in a pony. Barry's choice in clothing, for instance. Last year, Barry was infamous for going to the prom in nothing but gym shorts and a Led Zeppelin T-shirt. His girlfriend was mortified, to say the least. However, Ethan had to embrace this new look for Barry, and he was glad that at least he kept his personality.

   

    At dinner that afternoon, Barry sat next to Ethan at their usual table closest to the garbage can. Barry visibly had some difficulty sitting in his new quadrupedal form, but an Earth pony next to him helped him to sit up straight. It looked awkward a first, but Barry seemed to get more comfortable as time went on.

    "First pony meal. You ready?" Ethan teased Barry, who was staring nervously at the hay fries before him.

    Barry gulped loudly, and silently lifted the bundle of hay with his magic. Moving it towards his mouth, Barry took a small nibble, just enough to get the taste out of it. Suddenly, Barry's eyes widened.

    "...Why..." Barry said, shaking in his seat.

    "Barry? You alright?"

    "Why...do I like this so much?!" And Barry kept eating the hay, visibly enjoying it.

    Ethan gagged a bit, and resumed eating his beef jerky.

    The loudspeaker turned on with a start and caught the attention of the entire lunchroom. Humans and ponies stared up at the speaker near the doorway to wait for it's message.

    "Err, howdy there, ev'ryone." The speaker began in a noticeable southern drawl, "Now how does Pinkie do this again? Oh, right. Can Ethan Mc...McCullugg, please come to the pony-transformification room? I think it's yer turn, or somethin'. Thanks."

    Barry elbowed Ethan as hard as he could with his front hoof. Ethan was frozen for at least thirty seconds before slowly getting up. Every single thing with eyes was using them to stare right at Ethan at that moment. It was as if Ethan were naked right now. It was his worst nightmare.

    There was no cheering. Usually these announcements are made in the mornings, and for one to happen this late is very odd. Ethan walked quickly out of the room, so as to avoid anymore unnecessary attention. The lunchroom's conversations started up again as soon as he left.

    Everyone (and everypony) was staring at Ethan as he walked down the empty hallways and into the atrium, where the small, unnoticeable door to the ponification room was visible next to the receptionist's desk. The door was labeled "AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY". Ethan could only assume he was 'authorized' enough to go in, so he did.

    On the immediate other side of the door was a bright pink earth pony with an equally pink curly mane. She seemed to have a perpetual smile on her face.

    "SHHH! This way!" She whispered. Ethan could recognize the voice from somewhere, but he couldn't put his finger on it. As they walked down the dark, claustrophobic hallway, Ethan got more and more curious as to what was going to happen. He had already come to terms with the fact that these will be his last moments as a human, but he still needed some reassurance that he'll be safe, and it won't be a risky procedure.

    "Um..." he began, almost sounding like Fluttershy.

    "I said "SHH"! We have to be quiiieeet!" The pink pony replied immediately, startling Ethan.

    "Can you at least tell me where we're going?" Ethan persisted.

    "To the pony room, silly! Where else would we be going?"

    Ethan soon realized she was right. The pony pushed open the knobless door to reveal what looked eerily like a doctor's office. There was a small, cushioned bench with sterile paper on it, and a desk opposite the bench with numerous doctor's accoutrements laid out in a very neat fashion. A pony-sized, clean doctor's robe was draped on the hanger on the door. The silence in the room was ominous.

    "Wait here." The pony said, sounding like she was in some sort of infiltration mission. Ethan obeyed, and sat quietly on the bench. Thankfully, it wasn't long before the doctor came from the door next to the desk. The doctor was a unicorn mare with flowing violet-blue hair and a light-gray coat. She looked very well-groomed and clean.

    "Right. Let's get this over with. I have a salon appointment at 7 that I simply cannot miss." Before Ethan could speak, the pony continued, "I'm Rarity, and I will be your ponificator today. Are you feeling any stress at this moment?"

    Ethan, taking the cue, started talking, "Err, no. I'm a little nervous, but..."

    "Oh, darling, that's normal. There's nothing to worry about. This will be quick and painless, and it'll be over before you can say 'fabulous'!" Rarity laughed at her own joke, then began to use her magic to summon some doctors tools to her side. She began looking into Ethan's eyes, ears, mouth, and (oddly enough) his nose with a light, and started making awkward small talk.

    "So, you are being ponificated awfully late. Any idea why, Ethan?"

    "Uh, well, no. I was just called down here during dinner. I thought these things usually happen in the mornings."

    "They do. I'm not even sure myself why you are here. But, alas, here you are." Rarity put the tools down and retrieved a paper cup filled with a purple, viscous liquid, and a syringe. Ethan cringed at the sight of the needle, as he was deathly afraid of them.

    Rarity got uncomfortably close to Ethan. "All right, now lay down on the bench, and drink this." She said, handing him the cup gently.

    "What is it?"

    "It's a sedative to help you sleep. Think of it as anesthesia in a cup. It will make this whole process so much easier for both of us, trust me."

    Ethan nervously took a gulp of the liquid. It tasted like grape jelly, and was about as goopy, but he soon emptied the cup. He could already feel the sedative kicking in as he set the cup down on the table nearby and laid his head on the bench. Rarity walked up to him and lightly prodded the needle into his upper arm. Ethan didn't feel a thing, and a few seconds later, he was unconscious.

Chapter 5: In Which Something Else Happens

    Grass. He was laying in grass. He could feel the cold, damp dirt on his back, and his face was being tickled by the soft breeze. Ethan opened his eyes to nothing, realizing it was the dead of night, and he was still human. What had happened, he had no idea what. All he knew was that he wasn't a pony, and he was nowhere near the camp. He rose to investigate.

    There was a highway nearby, with cars zipping past. The once-soft breeze now felt alot stronger when Ethan stood on his two feet, and he almost fell a few times while trying to walk. The sedative Rarity had given him was probably still affecting his movement, he suspected, and walked deeper into the grass.

    As he plunged deeper into the grass, Ethan could hear voices echoing. He wasn't totally sure whose voices they were, but they sounded familiar. They were calling his name, but not in the cliche mysterious, spooky, ghost-sounding way; in an urgent, rushed, and even scared way. Ethan felt like he needed to come after these voices, as they grew louder as he ran deeper into the now waist-high grass.

    "ETHAN! WAKE UP!"

    Ethan felt a hard slap to his face as he woke up from the dream. His eyes shot open and he looked around. He was in a huge library, with books lining every wall, and the ceilings reaching higher than any library he had ever seen. A familiar purple pony was looking at him, annoyed, but worried.

    "Oh, thank Celestia, you're awake!" Twilight said, relieved that Ethan was alive. The unicorn trotted to her desk across the expansive main room.

    "Wha...? Where am I, Twilight?" Ethan mumbled. His voice sounded slurred, as if he had been on novocaine from the dentist's office.

    "You're in my library. I've brought you to Equestria."

    After hearing that, Ethan drew his own conclusions as to what had happened to him. He struggled to raise his head, and look at the body that he now had.

    He had a light navy blue coat, with a blonde tail to match his mane. Again, his mane was almost identical to his hair as a human, and had kept it's light blonde hue. The next thing he noticed was his wings, which opened at Ethan's will as he stared at them, mesmerized. Twilight walked back to the bed Ethan was laying on, and started poking him in different random places.

    "Well, the ponification seemed to have worked like a charm." Twilight said astutely.

    "Why am I here? Shouldn't I be back at the camp, or something?"

    "I'll explain in a minute, I need to wait for the others to get here." She responded. Twilight sounded a little rushed at this point, as if she really didn't want to talk right now.

    Ethan could faintly hear snoring in another room, but he paid no attention to it, assuming it was another roomie of Twilight's. He got up slowly, landing on his stomach in the process. He put one hoof on the ground, then another. Soon he was standing, albeit very rigidly, afraid to move. The standing was very easy to get used to, and Ethan compared it to learning to skate or ride a bike in his head. Walking was a different story. Having four legs to worry about now was the biggest difficulty, and he sometimes forgot to move one of the legs the first few steps he took. However, learning to walk was a breeze after a few minutes of pacing around the library.

    Twilight looked back at Ethan and noticed he was finally walking. She nodded with approval, "Don't try flying yet. I don't want you knocking over any books. Spike just cleaned up." She warned him, before returning to the big book laid out on her desk.

    Ethan, kind of distraught that he can't fly yet, resumed walking around the library. Suddenly, Ethan and Twilight heard a light tapping on the door, much too quiet to be a knock. If it had not been deathly silent in the room, they would not have heard it. Twilight trotted over to the door and opened it softly. Fluttershy came in nervously, then noticed that Twilight and Ethan were the only ones around, and was a little relieved.

    "Oh, um...hello, Twilight. Who is this pony?"

    "That's Ethan, remember?" Twilight said, hinting at something Ethan couldn't make heads or tails about.

    "Oh, I see it now! I'm sorry, the last time I saw him, he was human...Ethan, how is it being a pony?"

    "It's...odd. I'm getting used to it, though."

    "Good! That's wonderful." Fluttershy seemed much more comfortable knowing the pony was Ethan.

    "Do you know when the others are coming over?"

    "I think they're all coming in a group. Rainbow Dash is probably going to come here first, because she's so fast." Fluttershy said matter-of-factly.

    After a short pause, Fluttershy looked off into the distance, then focused on Ethan's wings, "Oh! You're a pegasus?"

    "Yeah, I guess I am." Ethan said, almost boastfully.

    "That's great! We should fly sometime...oh, I mean...if you're free...um..." Then Fluttershy let out a little squeek.

   

    The door knocked again, breaking the increasingly awkward silence between the two ponies. The door opened, then four other ponies trotted in one by one. Ethan recognized three of them from the camp, but the fourth was a complete mystery, and the look on his face made it obvious. The fourth pony, an orange earth pony with a straight blonde mane and a cowboy hat, walked up to Ethan, firmly gripped his hoof and shook it.

    "No need to be confused, mister. I'm Applejack. You must be Ethan. Pleasure to make your acquaintance." The pony said, and Ethan finally realized who she was.

    "Oh! You're the one who called me down during dinner on the speaker!" Ethan said.

    "Yessir. Pinkie Pie normally does that stuff, but she was helping Rarity prep the pony-transformin' doohicky, so I had to do it. Glad to finally meet you."

    The rainbow-maned pegasus flew up to Ethan, seeming to prefer flying than walking, and stared at Ethan's wings.

    "Awesome! You're a pegasus, too! I should totally teach you how to fly, I could show you all of my awesome flying tricks!"

    Twilight got up from her desk and turned on the lights in the library, "Now, now, Rainbow Dash. Let's not rush our new friend. Everyone take a seat while I wake Spike up."

    As the six ponies quietly found the closest chairs and took a seat near Twilight's desk, they could hear a rather annoyed Twilight waking up what Ethan assumed was Spike from upstairs.

    "Spike...Spike...SPIKE!" Twilight said loudly, and a thud was heard.

    "Hunh? I'm up, I'm up...jeez..." A second voice replied groggily.

    "Ethan's here, we're going to do the thing."

    "The thing?" Spike asked, dumbfounded.

    Twilight let out a heavy sigh, "The mission briefing."

    "Oh! That thing! Why didn't you just say so? I'll be right down."

    Twilight came down the ladder, and a purple and green baby dragon followed, holding a pillow in one arm, and his nightcap in another. Spike took a seat next to Ethan, and Twilight returned to her desk, shuffling a few papers before beginning.

    "Alright, I'm sure you all know why we're here."

    A silence followed this statement, only to be broken by Pinkie Pie.

    "Oh! Oh! I love guessing games! Uhhh...are we here to have a tea party? No! Are we here to...eat cupcakes and tell spooky stories? Waitwaitwait! Are we here to-"

    Applejack muffled Pinkie's speech by putting her hoof in Pinkie's mouth until she shut up.

    "Go on, Twilight." Applejack said, before removing the hoof.

    "Thank you. Well, that was the answer I was expecting, anyway. I haven't informed anyone about what we're doing today except Spike." Twilight then retrieved a map of the world from her desk, and presented it to the ponies, much like she did at the seminar when Ethan first met her, "Now, we all know that the humans are trying to get their people turned into ponies, so they can move in with us here in Equestria." She pointed to the small island adjacent to the east coast of the United States, "Does anyone know why?"

    "Sure I do!" Rainbow Dash blurted out, "It's because they didn't know how to control their greedy, fat butts from getting too greedy and fat for their own good, and now they're gonna dump all of the people over here!" Rainbow then looked at Ethan, who was a little shocked, "Er, present company excluded, of course."

    "It's fine, Rainbow Dash. I know us humans have trouble controlling their stubborn pride. All they want is more of everything. More money, more food, more industry and pollution. There's no reason behind it but blind greed and hatred."

    "Exactly, Ethan. Very well put." Twilight added, "And that's why they want this happening. Now, there's nothing wrong with turning into a pony. You lose that 'human nature' that keeps you greedy and selfish, and you become more carefree and friendly. Ethan and Barry would understand this more than anypony here, since they were humans only yesterday."

    "So, what is our problem with them? Can't we just simply let them come here? I see nothing wrong with that." Rarity said, genuinely curious.

    "Well, no one is volunteering to be ponified. People are too afraid to abandon their fleshy ape-bodies to live the pony life. They feel like the process in itself is way too risky to give a shot, even though tests have been made over the past ten years to confirm to the public that the process is completely harmless."

    "So, how is this bad for us?" Rainbow queried, "Let them stay in that manure-hole they live in, and we'll just hang out with all of the cool new ponies comin' in!"

    "That's the problem. They don't want to stay on their, quote, 'manure hole'. They want to live in Equestria, without going through the effort of becoming a pony, and abandoning their pride."

    Pinkie Pie piped up, "But what's so bad about that? Human bodies are icky and big and ugly and...and mean! Humans are mean!"

    "Well, they are." Ethan said, "But you have to put things in the humans' perspective. Lush, green fields perfect for farming? Nice neighbors? Weather always under control? Think of the money they could rake in from selling houses in Equestria!" The other ponies looked at Ethan with a look of disdain. "Oh! I think I got a little too into that, I'm sorry. That's not what I think, it's what they think!"

    "He is right. And that's exactly what the humans plan on doing. They want to move into Equestria, human form and all, and ruin the sanctity and peace-of-mind that this land has come to embrace over the last century!" Twilight was clearly getting riled up about this conversation.

    "Woah, woah there, sugarcube." Applejack said, attempting to calm Twilight down, "Isn't there some kinda magic force field thingy protecting Equestria from the humans?"

    Twilight took a few breaths, regaining her composure, "Yes, Applejack. But the technology the humans have made over the last few decades may be able to counteract the magic surrounding the land. Think about it, if they can turn humans into ponies, they can get humans here no problem."

   

    Ethan could hear the collective gulp the other ponies made, including him. Finally, he mustered up the strength to break the silence in the room.

    "So, why am I here?"

    "I'm glad you asked, Ethan. You're here because you know the ways of the humans. You know how they think. You can get into their heads in ways that us ponies just wouldn't be able to."

    "What about Barry? Should he be here?"

    "He already heard all of this. In fact, he helped me bring you here. At the moment, he's in Whitetail Wood practicing his magic abilities. I brought him not only because he's very competent in magic for a pony, let alone a former human, but because I felt like you needed a friend to accompany you. Another human."

    Ethan couldn't help but feel emotionally charged from that reasoning. But he was still confused as to what his job was.

    "Do you have a plan in mind? How will we go about stopping the humans if we don't know when they will come after us?"

    "Well, I haven't come up with an exact plan yet, but I think what we should worry about now is you getting your pony legs. Spend tomorrow learning the ropes of being a pony, and a pegasus at that. Rainbow Dash, I'll leave Ethan with you to teach him how to fly..."

    "Can I help, too?"

    Everypony in the room turned to look at Fluttershy in disbelief.

    "Um, I mean, if it's o-okay with Ethan, that is...um..."

    "It's fine, Fluttershy. You can help Rainbow teach me how to fly." Ethan said reassuringly.

    "Oh, okay." Fluttershy said, with more confidence.

   

    After a short silence, Ethan got up from his chair dramatically.

    "Let's do this."

    Pinkie Pie got up in a similar fashion, "Oh, boy! Here we go!"    

TO BE CONTINUED

Um, I mean...if you don’t mind...