ZeroandInfinity

Ten

Jun 18th, 2018
710
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  1. Nothingness…nothingness…nothingness…nothingness…nothingness…nothingness…
  2.  
  3. Nothingness…nothingness…nothingness…
  4.  
  5.  
  6. Somethingness…somethingness…somethingness…
  7.  
  8. Somethingness…somethingness…somethingness…somethingness…somethingness…somethingness…
  9.  
  10. Somethingness…
  11.  
  12. You!
  13.  
  14. BZZZZRRRRRRRTTTTTT!
  15.  
  16. A loud machine-like screech blasts through your ears, echoing throughout your head. You immediately open your eyes, only to be greeted by a seemingly infinite pink haze. You can’t make anything out as even the haze appears blurry, but you involuntarily start to cough. Motors and other machine-like sounds ring through your head, seemingly drowning you in unending noise. You try to run away from wherever the heck you are, but you find that you can’t move anywhere. You’re bound into place by…something.
  17.  
  18. “HELLO! ANYONE OUT THERE? GIMME OUTTA HERE!”
  19.  
  20. You pause for a moment, realizing your voice sounds nothing like what you’re used to. It’s far deeper and more serious in tone than what you remember your true voice sounding like. Still, it’s only enough to make you ponder briefly. Your bigger concern is figuring out why you’re bounded in a pink gassy void, as well as finding a way out of here.
  21.  
  22. You fidget and squirm as the machine-like sounds continue to screech all around you. As seconds fall into minutes, you squint and look around yourself, noticing ever so slightly that the pink haze is starting to lighten. Scanning your surroundings carefully, you try to peer through the pink veil. All you can really see is what looks to be a glass lid of some kind resting in front of you, apparently stained by the pink mist itself. You try to reach out to touch it, but you find that you can’t move your hoof. You try looking down at yourself to see where your hooves are, only to find that…that…
  23.  
  24.  
  25. You gulp, sweat already beginning to precipitate across your forehead. Your forehooves were covered by red-like metallic grips, as were your rear hooves. Much as you try wiggling them, you cannot do so. You also notice your head is held in place by what feels like a helmet strapped on top of it.
  26.  
  27. “HEY! CAN SOMEONE GET ME OUTTA HERE?!?”
  28.  
  29. Panic is nestling into you over the notion that you’re being held against your will in a kind of contraption, and yet the deepness of your voice also signaled to you that many things were wrong. It takes another minute or so of wiggling and trying to break free of whatever it is you’re in before the pink-stained glass door in front of you makes a clinking noise. Then, without hesitation, it props itself open and raises up into the air. You’re immediately blinded by bright white light.
  30.  
  31. Closing your eyes briefly to shield them from the sudden brightness, you slowly begin to reopen them. Things are still somewhat blurry, though as your vision begins to sharpen, you see the pink mist fading away into nothingness. Clear air flows straight into your nostrils, and while it does feel good to breathe in some fresh air, you immediately realize where you are.
  32.  
  33. Facing directly across from you is an open doorway that leads out into a hallway. Right above the doorway is an intercom with a black camera sitting at the top, except it’s staring down at the ground. You can’t tell for sure, but it looks like it’s off. The surrounding room you’re in is completely white, with the only other notable thing being the bright lights shining all across the ceiling. Still, regardless of the minor details, those are not what immediately take your breath away; it’s the sight of none other than Dr. Money himself standing to your left, dressed in a black suit with a gray tie, casting you a small smile.
  34.  
  35. “Hello there.”
  36.  
  37. He pauses for a few seconds, grinning at you.
  38.  
  39. “How does it feel to wake back up to reality? Or rather, the real world?”
  40.  
  41. You blink, your heart beating in nervous irregularity.
  42.  
  43. “YOU!”
  44.  
  45. He chuckles for a moment, and then turns towards the open doorway, making an inviting gesture. Breathing slowly, you see a figure walk into the room wearing a smiley face mask. Instead of being dressed in a business suit like the other workers here were, this individual is dressed in what looks to be an orange t-shirt and orange pants with black tennis shoes. He didn’t wear a green body mask like the other workers did. He looks to be a bit more muscular than anyone else you’ve seen before, but he slowly walks into the room and stops at your side on the right.
  46.  
  47. Suddenly, another machine-like noise catches your attention. Looking down, you see the metallic grips unlocking and rolling across your…your…huh-hands and…fuh-feet, disappearing into the contraption you’re sitting in. You soon feel the helmet releasing itself from your head.
  48.  
  49. “I…but…I’m…I’m a pony. I’m…I’m not a human. This…This isn’t right. This is all so very wrong!”
  50.  
  51. Despite the growing fear of being right next to Dr. Money and one of his lackeys, you’re appalled to find yourself in your old human body. The clothes you’re wearing look all dingy and dirty, with pink stains all across them, and partly across your skin as well. Looking to your arms and hands, you immediately see those rectangular explosive contraptions around your wrists. There’s no blinking red lights, though seeing them again is enough to make you gulp. In a shaky tone, you speak out.
  52.  
  53. “Plu-Please don’t hurt me. I…I don’t wanna die. I want to live! Please! Please don’t kill me!”
  54.  
  55. You try moving your arms now that they’re free, but you notice that you actually cannot. They’re incredibly stiff and nearly impossible to move. You can’t even flex your fingers, let alone move your legs. Oh God; what did Dr. Money do to you?
  56.  
  57. “Now then, there’s no need to panic. None of us here have any intention on killing you or harming you in any way. It’s going to be alright.”
  58.  
  59. You turn to face Dr. Money and lock eyes with him. You silently plead through your expression, and in return, he strangely casts you a sympathetic look.
  60.  
  61. “You have been through quite a lot, have you not? You’re the very first person to have woken up from my Virtual Dream Machine. I know this may all be quite jarring and confusing, but rest assured, you are no longer in cyberspace. You’re here in the real world with us back in your original body.”
  62.  
  63. You stare at him silently while he glances to the man at the right and makes a small nod. The man in turn kneels down and grabs for the contraptions to your wrists. Carefully, he unhooks the one on your right wrist, and then the one on your left. He eventually slides both of them off of your wrists, but while doing so, Dr. Money continues to talk with you.
  64.  
  65. “During your entire time in your virtual world, no one, including myself, has ever opened up the pod you’re in. We have done nothing to your physical body aside from keeping it alive with the nutrients the pod provided you through the gas. That having been said, you are incredibly weak, and have likely lost most of your muscle mass. Being in the condition you have been in for so long, it’s understandable that your body would have grown weak. You cannot move most of your body simply because you hardly have any muscle. Not to worry though, I have just the trick to fix that.”
  66.  
  67. You blink, looking at Dr. Money, and then to the figure on the right. The man in question places the explosive wrist contraptions off to the side. He then pulls out from one of the pockets in his pants an empty syringe, along with a small glass vial containing a clear liquid. He carefully sticks the syringe into the vial, pushing the plunger all the way down, and then slowly pulls it back up, sucking up the clear fluid.
  68.  
  69. “Whu-What is that? What are you doing?!?”
  70.  
  71. The man to your right pauses and appears as though he is sternly looking at you eye to eye through his smiley face mask. He begins to speak in a rather deep, gruff voice.
  72.  
  73. “Stay still. Don’t move at all. This should take just a few moments, but this will help improve your motor coordination and help to improve your strength moderately. Once you can move, do not suddenly thrash around. You will need to take it easy for the next several hours.”
  74.  
  75. He then places his hand halfway down your right arm, feeling for what you guess is a vein, and just as suddenly sticks the needle into your skin. You yelp a little from the prickly pain just as he pushes the plunger down on the syringe, dispensing the fluid into your blood stream. He quickly takes it out with a finger on the shot location, using his other hand to put the syringe down on his side out of your view. From there, he grabs for a cotton swab in one of his pockets and presses it down on where he gave you the shot, leaving his hand right on top to apply pressure.
  76.  
  77. “What the heck did you just inject me with?”
  78.  
  79. You can feel a warm numbing sensation all throughout your right arm. Within a matter of seconds, the sensation soon spreads to other parts of your body, numbing most of it. All you feel is warmth, and what seems like a little bit of shifting going on in various parts of your body. However, you notice out of the corner of your eye Dr. Money smiling brightly, apparently pleased by what this guy just did to you.
  80.  
  81. “My good friend here just gave you a new form of experimental medicine. My colleagues and I are still going over how exactly this medicine works, but it appears to have miraculous applications. Isn’t nanotechnology just the most fascinating thing you have ever come across?”
  82.  
  83. You blink and take a moment to process that, realizing your body is now swarming with tons of little machines that are quickly making changes all over. There’s a part of you that wants to scream in fear, and yet another part of you strangely feels calm. It’s like you want to panic and sprint and run away, but you also just want to observe what it is these…nanobots can do to you.
  84.  
  85. The figure to your right reaches for a brown bandage in another of his pockets, and firmly wraps it around your arm right where he injected you with the needle, leaving the cotton swab underneath the bandage. Instinctually, you try to quickly pull your right arm in front of you. You’re a little slow at doing it, but you soon find that you can bend it, move it around in circles, and even flex your fingers. You then slowly do so with your left arm, observing them both in front of you.
  86.  
  87. “My, my, I have to say, I’m quite impressed. It appears you can move just fine. Tell me, how do you feel?”
  88.  
  89. You glance at Dr. Money, hesitant to respond to him.
  90.  
  91. “I feel…kinda stiff, but it’s becoming easier and easier to move my arms and hands and fingers around. I feel all warm and prickly with numbing sensations, but I think I can move around. Still, it feels so very weird and wrong to be a human again. This isn’t right. I’m supposed to be a pony. I am a pony. And I’m not even a guy; I’m a girl!”
  92.  
  93. Dr. Money whistles, apparently very impressed over how successful this little injection was. The man to your right stands back up, carrying those wristband devices and other little medical trinkets out of the room. He is only gone for a moment or so, soon returning with a black wheelchair. He parks it right in front of you.
  94.  
  95. “Well, it certainly appears my Virtual Dream Machine did have some success with changing you. You’re a completely different individual now than you were before I brought you here. Funny how that experience can fundamentally change you to your core. It’s all about altering perceptions, isn’t it?”
  96.  
  97. He chuckles, making another gesture for the other employee to do something. This figure soon reaches over you and tries to grab you, pulling you up out of your contraption and onto the wheelchair. He grunts a little while doing so, yet for some reason, you don’t resist him or fight him. You let him place you in the wheelchair. He then turns you so that you are facing Dr. Money.
  98.  
  99. “I have to ask you Anon, or…it’s Radiance, right?”
  100.  
  101. You pause for a moment, reflecting on your last moments with that blue creature…with Farra. Last thing she told you before you woke up was your true name. You’re Marra. It feels weird thinking of that name, yet it also feels right for some reason.
  102.  
  103. “Actually, I’m Marra. That’s my true name, and that’s who I am.”
  104.  
  105. “Alright then, Marra, tell me; are you happier now than when you first came here?”
  106.  
  107. “I…I uhm…”
  108.  
  109. You’re not sure how to respond to him. On one hand, you certainly never ever wanna try to hurt or kill yourself. You want to live. Not only that, but it feels like a hole that’s been missing your whole life has suddenly been filled. Sure, Nullity and all the others back in that virtual world weren’t real, but Farra…you just can’t but help get the sneaking suspicion that she’s still with you, that she is real, and that she’ll help guide you, whatever that means. You felt comfort from her, and her love.
  110.  
  111. On the other hand, you still hated being here, and you were still very much afraid of what Dr. Money could do to you. If being injected with that nanotechnology-laced medicine was any indication of what he and this other guy intend to do, you knew things could potentially get a whole lot worse. Dr. Money is dangerous, and he can still inflict quite a lot of harm. Recalling that saying the wrong thing could send him into a sadistic rage, you’re hesitant about revealing how you truly feel.
  112.  
  113. “I…I don’t know. I feel better, but…I’m not exactly completely happy. You still have me trapped here against my will, and I’m in the wrong body. I just…I just want to go home, to be in the right body, and to…to be with…her.”
  114.  
  115. He casts you a sympathetic look, bending down so that he’s facing you eye to eye.
  116.  
  117. “I promise you, you will be happy. It is the whole purpose behind all of this. You will get to be who you are Marra, and you will be able to go home with your sister. Mark my words, your dreams will come true. As I have said multiple times now, I do not wish to hurt you. You are safe, and I will personally ensure that you are able to achieve true happiness with your new identity. You have my word.”
  118.  
  119. You look at him a little strangely, realizing this is probably the most sympathetic and empathetic this psychopath has ever been with you. It’s weird watching a monster promising good when he creates so much bad along the journey. You still remember all of the horrible things he’s done to you, and you’ve seen him when he gets nasty. And yet, you strangely feel comfortable talking to him face to face, even though you’d normally be panicking every time you saw his creepy smile.
  120.  
  121. “Can I ask you something Dr. Money?”
  122.  
  123. “Of course, Marra.”
  124.  
  125. “Why am I not freaking out over all of this? If I can suddenly move, why am I not trying to fight you or this other guy and run away? Cuz, I wanna get the heck out of here, but I’m feeling more and more calm and peaceful. Like, it feels like the fear is draining away from me. I dunno why that is.”
  126.  
  127. He laughs a little while placing a hand on your shoulder, gently patting you.
  128.  
  129. “I have to say, that medicine is working better than I expected. That injection was only meant to help you move again and gain back a little bit of strength, but just for kicks, I had my friend here try an extra experimental tactic. Seems nanomachines really can affect your mind, huh?”
  130.  
  131. That last sentence stops your breath. Now you can feel the panic wanting to come back, but it’s nowhere near as strong as it used to be.
  132.  
  133. “Whu-WHAT?!?”
  134.  
  135. “Stay still.”
  136.  
  137. The guy behind you speaks. He moves to your side, and stares down at you and Dr. Money.
  138.  
  139. “You still are not back to your full strength, and sudden thrashing and hysteria could end with you getting hurt. The shot I injected you with was designed to improve your physical strength. However, I was requested to make a small tweak to the medicine so that it would also calm you down and keep you calm in the process. Dr. Money spoke of you being highly resistant at times, and in order to prevent potential injuries, we both decided this would be the best for you. The effects will wear off in time though. The nanomachines do nothing else, so relax.”
  140.  
  141. You let out a deep sigh of relief. It’s just medicine to make you a little stronger. That’s all it is. There’s nothing else in you. You’re okay.
  142.  
  143. “I also,” says Dr. Money, “wanted to ensure that you wouldn’t lose your mind in this transition process. I realize living a previous life and going back to a body you’re not at all accustomed to could produce a wide array of unpleasant psychological reactions. It is quite jarring, but it seems our little medicine is keeping you nice and calm. Fortunately, this is all temporary. You will only have to live in your old body like this for a short while. You’ll still be able to have your true body and live the rest of your life with your sister, but there is still a little more…experimentation that needs to take place. And at the very least, this little injection provides me some insight on how my friend’s nanomachines affect the mind and body. Just a little more time, and then you will have true happiness.”
  144.  
  145. Dr. Money stands back up and tries to shake the other guy’s hand. He’s reluctant to do so, but he does so briefly, quickly letting go of Dr. Money’s hand. Dr. Money simply chuckles, looking at him straight through his mask.
  146.  
  147. “Go and take care of Marra now. We have a little more work to do before we can begin the next round of experiments. And make sure Marra is as comfortable as can be. If anything happens to Marra, or becomes unhappy with you, well…we wouldn’t want that now, would we?”
  148.  
  149. The man silently stares at Dr. Money. You can see him balling one of his hands into a fist at his side. Without a word, he immediately grabs your wheelchair from behind and begins to roll you out of the room.
  150.  
  151. “Also, go and put Marra with her. I’m sure they’d make very good friends. Maybe Marra can help her…get better.”
  152.  
  153. Dr. Money laughs sardonically from behind as this man slowly wheels you out of the room. You can hear the man behind you mumbling underneath his mask, but you decide to not say anything. Instead, your eyes gaze around your new surroundings.
  154.  
  155. You find that you are being led through a white hallway with older ceiling lights hanging sporadically throughout the hallway. The walls are a bland white while the floor is coated in gray tile. There isn’t much décor or anything else all that noteworthy in the hallway, aside from doors occasionally appearing along the walls. Still, you also notice small circular black cameras resting atop each doorway. They look newer and more modern, and unlike the one that was in the room you woke up in, they don’t seem to move at all except blink green lights.
  156.  
  157. There’s a small part of you that wants to ask this man questions, like who he is exactly, where he’s taking you, and what he’s intending to do to you. Stranger still, you can’t help but feel a little sympathetic towards this guy, but you were somewhat unsure of him. Probably best to not question him or bother him. If he’s the one that made that nanotechnology medicine, then you knew he wasn’t someone to mess with.
  158.  
  159. Still, your mind involuntarily flashes back to that long conversation with Dr. Money back when you were in that white void. He told you of his plans, and what he ultimately intended on doing to you. It still didn’t completely make sense to you, but you at least remember him mentioning someone he used to work with when he was younger. A man specializing in nanotechnology that Dr. Money, for one reason or another, was infatuated with. The man who injected himself with nanotechnology to make himself stronger, the man who brought down Dr. Money’s work all those years ago, the man who, according to Dr. Money, could transform people through his nanotechnology. What did Dr. Money say that was again? Ponies? He could supposedly turn them into ponies and make them be happy. Dr. Money wanted to reverse-engineer that technology, right? Something about expanding its capabilities to fulfill his crazy plan of making everyone happy? Something like that. So chances are, this guy is gonna try something like that on you. You’re their guinea pig. But, if it means being able to be in the right body again and be who you are, how could you complain? Still, what happens after that? Dr. Money said that you’d be back with Farra, and yet, what will ultimately happen to you?
  160.  
  161. It isn’t long until this man pauses in front of a door. It’s white like the walls, but it only has a keylock by where a doorknob should be. You hear him reaching for a key in one of his pockets, and slowly but surely, he places the key into the lock. He turns it, producing an audible clicking sound. You hear someone whimpering on the other side. He quickly pushes open the door and wheels you in.
  162.  
  163. What you see honestly surprises you. Right in front of you on your right is a rather lavish queen-sized bed with a lot of covers and pillows. An empty brown nightstand sits next to it with a desk lamp stationed on top of it. In front of the bed is what looks like a prisoner’s toilet, along with a sink and mirror. This side of the room is carpeted in dark brown, but looking to the left…well, that is what really draws your attention.
  164.  
  165. The left side of the room has no carpet or tile; there is only stone concrete. A small window close to the ceiling with bars shines moonlight, indicating that it was either evening or nighttime. And yet, what sat in the center of the room, much to your surprise, is a pony. This pony looks to be a mare. She’s white in color with a jade-colored mane and tail, though you can also notice lighter highlights of the color on the edges of her mane and tail. A small blue cloud sits on both sides of her body near her rear. She’s lying on her tummy burying her face in her forehooves, whimpering.
  166.  
  167. “It’s okay Zephyr. It’s me. I’m here.”
  168.  
  169. She immediately looks up with tears in her…sky blue eyes.
  170.  
  171. “Master!”
  172.  
  173. You watch from your wheelchair as he immediately rushes up to her. He quickly bends down over her and hugs onto her tightly for several long seconds.
  174.  
  175. “What’s going on Master? Why am I still chained up like this? Where’s Autumn? I wanna go home!”
  176.  
  177. She’s whimpering and beginning to whine, much like when you used to when you thought you were going crazy in your virtual world. You also notice what looks like a steel chain nailed to the floor, attaching itself in the form of a steel collar around her neck.
  178.  
  179. “Shh…it’s okay Zephyr. I promise you’re safe, and so is Autumn. It’s only going to be a little while longer like this, and we’ll all be able to go back home.”
  180.  
  181. The man stands up from her and slowly turns to walk towards your direction. The pony, or rather, Zephyr starts to flail and desperately reach for this guy, but is only able to go so far before being yanked by the chain. She can’t reach him, and the realization of that causes her to break down into a crying fit. He pauses and turns back to look at her.
  182.  
  183. “Zephyr, I’m so sorry this all happened. This is all my fault, not yours. I promise you I will fix this all. We will be able to go home, and soon. I have to stay with Autumn tonight, but know that nothing bad is going to happen. We’ll go home Zephyr. We will. I’ll personally make sure of it.”
  184.  
  185. She wipes a forehoof across her teary eyes, and then points it at you.
  186.  
  187. “Who…Who’s he?”
  188.  
  189. The man pauses for a moment, apparently caught off guard by the question. He turns slightly to give you a quick glance, then faces back to her.
  190.  
  191. “He is someone that is going to participate in something that I have planned. I am so incredibly sorry to say this Zephyr, but he has to stay with you here tonight. I have to keep him here. It’s only for tonight. He just needs a place to sleep, and I promise he won’t do anything to you.”
  192.  
  193. This figure then turns and walks right up to you, looking down on you. He then reaches for his smiley face mask and unstraps it, dropping it to the floor. He has brown hair, though it looks a little messy and unkept. He’s also growing a faint beard, but something tells you that’s only because he likely hasn’t had an opportunity to shower. Still, he stares down directly into your eyes with his dark blue eyes. He speaks in a low, dead-pan tone.
  194.  
  195. “And you won’t do anything to her. You’re only here because I have to keep you here. Let me lay down some ground rules. Your side of the room with the bed is yours. That is where you will sleep tonight. You are not to cross the line that divides the room between yours and hers. If you walk on that concrete floor, if you so much as touch her, let alone harass her, I’ll make sure you regret it. Dr. Money might be in charge for the time being, but I know all there is to know with my nanomachines. And regardless of what Dr. Money says, I’ll see to it that the rest of your life turns into a living hell if you cause any harm to her. You stay on your side of the room and leave her alone. Understood?”
  196.  
  197. BZZZZRRRRRRRTTTTTT!
  198.  
  199. Before you can even respond, Zephyr screams a blood-curling howl. The man immediately turns to face her.
  200.  
  201. “ZEPHYR!!!”
  202.  
  203. You see her shaking violently as what sounds like a loud buzzing sound roars through the room. He immediately runs over to her, and just as quickly as it started, it stops. He grabs her and holds onto her as she whines and cries.
  204.  
  205. “Now, what did I tell you Colin? You are to not threaten or harm Marra in any way.”
  206.  
  207. You quickly turn to the sound of Dr. Money’s voice, noticing a camera with a blinking red light sitting on Zephyr’s side of the room, much like the one that was in your Virtual Dream Machine room, staring at the man. It too had an intercom next to it.
  208.  
  209. “And, you are to not make Marra unhappy for any reason. After all, Marra deserves to be happy, not unhappy. You and your two little ponies want to be happy too, right? Then don’t go around making others unhappy.”
  210.  
  211. The man suddenly spins around and punches a hole straight into the wall just underneath the camera and speaker. The surrounding wall cracks and crumbles a little, producing a little bit of dust.
  212.  
  213. “Tsk, tsk. This is most unfortunate, but you are not behaving how I would like you to Colin. You forget, while you may know all about your nanomachines, you are not the one in control here. I am. And if you go against my wishes, then it is you and all of your loved ones who will pay. I know all about you, the people you’ve worked with, and the souls you love and cherish. And if you further refuse to cooperate, I’ll bring Eli and his pets over here. I know where he and your other friends are too. So, if you want them spared, as well as your two little precious pets, you will do as I say. Do you understand me?”
  214.  
  215. He looks up at the camera in rage, biting his lower lip. He pulls his hand out of the wall and turns away, going back over to Zephyr to hug her for comfort.
  216.  
  217. “I need an audible yes Colin. Do you understand me?”
  218.  
  219. “Yes.”
  220.  
  221. You can hear Dr. Money chuckling in the background from the intercom.
  222.  
  223. “Good, I’m glad to hear that. Now apologize to Marra and come back to me. We have a deadline, and we must be ready by tomorrow.”
  224.  
  225. He holds onto Zephyr just a little while longer, quietly cooing to her. He then releases her as she curls into a ball, sniffling. He walks straight over to you with a tear in his increasingly reddening eyes.
  226.  
  227. “I’m sorry. Whatever you do though, don’t you dare hurt her. She means everything to me.”
  228.  
  229. He grabs his happy face mask and puts it over his face. He quickly walks out of the room and closes the door shut. You hear another clicking sound, indicating that the door had just been locked. His footsteps echo from outside until they become fainter and fainter to the point of silence, save for Zephyr’s sniffling.
  230.  
  231. “I sincerely apologize for Colin’s behavior Marra.”
  232.  
  233. You look back up at the camera, which was now focusing straight on you.
  234.  
  235. “I have had to go to extraordinary lengths to make him compliant, as well as to bring him here. He will not hurt you, nor will I. All you have to do tonight is simply relax and rest. Take it easy and do what you like in there. And should Colin try to harm you or threaten you or make you unhappy in any way the next time he comes in, please press the red button next to the door. From there, I’ll rectify the situation by any means necessary.”
  236.  
  237. You look down and notice a distinct red button on the wall sitting next to the door. There was no writing on it or anything. Just a red button on a silver panel.
  238.  
  239. “I hope you have a pleasant evening Marra. Rest well. We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow.”
  240.  
  241. And with that, the intercom goes silent, and along with it, the camera scrolls down and stops blinking, indicating that it is no longer on.
  242.  
  243. Your gaze shifts back to this pony who supposedly goes by Zephyr. Much as that guy unnerved you, you actually felt sorry for him, and for this pony. It’s apparent they’re both being kept here against their will, and that they despise Dr. Money just as much as you do, but still…you don’t know who this Zephyr is. It is a little strange seeing a pony right before you in the real world, but considering all of your experiences in the virtual world, it doesn’t disturb you all that much. Whether that’s the effects of the nanomedicine or you growing numb by all of the insanity you’ve experienced with Dr. Money, you didn’t fully know. One thing that you did know is that you were feeling sorry for Zephyr. She looked so scared and helpless, and her crying makes you remember how you were when you first woke up in your virtual world. There’s a growing part of you that wants to go on over to her and hug her tightly, but that guy said to leave her alone and to stay on this side of this room. But silently watching a crying pony and ignoring her felt so wrong. She needs a hug and some love, and you want to help her feel better.
  244.  
  245. Carefully, you try to pull yourself out of the wheelchair and stand up. Much to your surprise, you don’t struggle all that much. You feel you can move your body around a little more easily. Still, now standing up, it feels weird to be standing on two legs when you were used to being on all fours. You try to walk forward, and…
  246.  
  247. “ACK!”
  248.  
  249. …you tumble and fall to the ground, your head slamming to the floor. Fortunately, your side of the room was heavily carpeted, so your fall was cushioned, though you can already begin to feel a headache forming. You try to sit yourself back up, placing a hand against your head where you were feeling the pain. Guess you kinda forgot how to walk on two legs, huh?
  250.  
  251. “Hey…uh…are you…okay?”
  252.  
  253. You look forward to see Zephyr staring straight at you with tears still streaming down her face. Concern, fear, sadness, and uncertainty were written all over her expression.
  254.  
  255. “Yeah. I think…I think I’m okay. Just slipped and fell. You okay yourself?”
  256.  
  257. “Who are you?”
  258.  
  259. You pause and think for a moment. Should you tell her the truth, or should you lie to her? Seems like she doesn’t have any idea of what’s going on around here.
  260.  
  261. “I’m…I’m Marra. I uh…well…I don’t even know where to start. I was actually gonna ask you that same question. Who are you?”
  262.  
  263. She looks down at her hooves, sniffling for several moments before responding.
  264.  
  265. “I don’t even know why all of this is happening. One day out of the blue, bad men broke into Master’s house and got him, and me, and Autumn. They gave me something and I passed out. Woke up here chained up like this, and it’s been like that since. And…now…now this chain can shock me too. I…I just wanna go home. Please, whoever you are, don’t hurt me or Master. I don’t know what happened, but he’s a good guy. I need him.”
  266.  
  267. She looks back up at you in pain, and the sight of her expression only makes you feel even more sorry for her. Apparently, she and this guy, and someone else named Autumn, were kidnapped by Dr. Money just like you were at home. No explanation. Just woke up here restrained, just like you. You didn’t know what Dr. Money was ultimately going to do to her, but just from observation alone, it seems Dr. Money uses her as leverage over that guy to obey him. And if he didn’t, she’d keep getting electrocuted. Monster. Just another reason to add to the list of how much you really despise Dr. Money.
  268.  
  269. “I’m a prisoner like you. I…I don’t even know who that guy really is, though Dr. Money did tell me some of his background.”
  270.  
  271. “What’d he tell you?”
  272.  
  273. Should you say the truth, or lie?
  274.  
  275. “Dr. Money, he uh…well, all he really said is that he used to be friends with that guy so many years ago. He’s borderline obsessed with that guy’s nanomedicine for some reason, and…I guess I’m gonna be experimented on. I…I really don’t know what’s gonna happen to me.”
  276.  
  277. Her ears droop, and she whimpers. A good part of you wants to go right up and hug her tightly, but what that guy said to you still keeps ringing in the back of your head.
  278.  
  279. “This is bad, real bad. Master’s a good person. He only uses his nanomachines to help people get better. Usually, he either injects them with nanobots or gives them a pony plushy laced with nanobots designed to turn them into pet ponies. He tries to give them a new life and a new home with a new family. He wants to make all of us safe and happy and loved. That’s all he does. But, he is strong and protective of all of us. He…”
  280.  
  281. She pauses for a moment and tears some more, taking a deep breath, looking back at the floor.
  282.  
  283. “...he’s dealt with bad people in the past. I even remember another guy once trying to kidnap me and take me away from Master. But, no one has ever been able to overcome him. In the end, he’s always able to stop the bad men and protect us all. This is the first time ever someone’s done something like this to him, and to me. I can’t even imagine what Autumn’s going through. Have…Have you seen her?”
  284.  
  285. You solemnly shake your head no.
  286.  
  287. “She’s…she’s another pet pony like me. What’s going on right now, she needs a lot more help and love than me, but…I wanna be with Master too, and with her. I’m so scared. I don’t know what’s gonna happen or why this is all happening. I just wanna go home. I…just…wanna…go…home…”
  288.  
  289. She breaks down and sobs, rocking herself into a ball. The temptation of giving her a hug is compelling you more and more to want to do so. Actually, you know what? Screw it. This pony needs a hug, and you were gonna give her one.
  290.  
  291. Still unfamiliar with walking on two legs, you decide to slide and crawl across the floor to where Zephyr was. It’s a little awkward doing so, but rather than risk falling again, you figured it would just be the easier route. She immediately notices you coming to her though, and it is at that moment she starts to panic.
  292.  
  293. “What are you doing?!? M-MASTER!”
  294.  
  295. “Shhh…it’s okay.”
  296.  
  297. You wrap your arms around her and hug her, patting her a little gently on her back. You can feel her tenseness, but it starts to lessen a little the longer you hug her. She feels so soft, but also a little cold. You just hug her and close your eyes briefly, silently trying to bring her comfort. She in turn starts to ease a little. You feel her trying to cling onto you tightly with her hooves.
  298.  
  299. “I’m so cold, so scared. I…I don’t know how much more I can take being apart from Master and Autumn. It’s so hard. I wanna go home.”
  300.  
  301. You hug onto her tighter and try to coo softly to her, even though it didn’t sound quite right in a deep male’s voice. Whatever. You still knew who you were, and you wanted to share affection. There’s nothing wrong with trying to help another feel better when they needed it.
  302.  
  303. “I know you do. I want to go home too. I’ve been here for so long and been through so much. I’ve seen so much stuff. I know that whatever Dr. Money is planning, his goal isn’t to kill any of us. He…only does that to those who threaten or try to bring harm to others. I know we will be free. And the fact that I’m awake means he’s closer to being done with whatever it is he’s planning. He wants us to go free, and…I know he will let us.”
  304.  
  305. In truth, you didn’t. Even though he shared with you a lot of his plans, it was still ambiguous as to what would ultimately happen to you. You didn’t know if you’d just die, fade back into cyberspace losing your mind, or if he was going to do more to you beyond that. You didn’t even know what was going to happen to Zephyr and her family. Chances are, Dr. Money is gonna keep using them as long as possible to achieve his end goals. And yet, you can’t bring yourself to tell Zephyr that truth. She’s in a fragile state, and you didn’t want to alarm her any more than she already was.
  306.  
  307. “How do you know all of that?”
  308.  
  309. You blink and scoot a little to give her some room. She looks at you puzzled, and slightly suspicious.
  310.  
  311. “I uh…well…uhmm….I uh…”
  312.  
  313. Crud. Okay, maybe you would have to share some of that truth with her. You don’t have to tell her the whole truth, but just don’t lie. Whatever friends you can get in this crazy place may be paramount to surviving and escaping later on down the road.
  314.  
  315. “Well, you shared with me some of your stuff, so…it’s only fair I share some of mine too.”
  316.  
  317. You look away from her and randomly stare at one of the walls while you talk.
  318.  
  319. “Kind of like you and your family, I was suddenly kidnapped by Dr. Money. My memory is somewhat blurry, but he captured and sedated me in the middle of the night and brought me here. He was very infatuated with who I was and my psychology, which never made sense to me. I used to be…really sad and depressed, and for whatever reason, he wanted to specifically make me happy. He wanted to try something on me that’d attempt to make me happy, and he did.”
  320.  
  321. “What’d he do to you?”
  322.  
  323. You pause for a moment, feeling a little unnerved reflecting on everything that went down in your virtual world.
  324.  
  325. “He put me in a contraption that he called a ‘pod.’ Dr. Money turned it on, I was enveloped by pink gas, and…I woke up in a whole new life. I was a pegasus mare living with several other ponies. I didn’t understand what was going on and was so confused. It seemed like I had always been living that life. The love and affection I got from those other ponies stripped me of my depression. For the first time ever, I experienced love and happiness. It felt really good and comforting. I came to the realization that I’d love my new life, and being a mare felt so right. To be honest, I believe it’s who I am. I wanna be one again.”
  326.  
  327. You can feel Zephyr’s hoof trying to reach you. You slide over a little as she tries to hug onto you tightly. You return the hug and continue talking, feeling a tear trickle down your face.
  328.  
  329. “I’m a mare, I’m a pony, and I know that’s who I’m supposed to be. Never realized it before I woke up in that life, but when I did, I was truly happy. I had so much love and support, and in a way, I miss them. But, for some strange reason, I started to see through it all. It all felt realistic, but my own personal demons from my past depression were re-surfacing, breaking the illusion of that world. And it was then that Dr. Money appeared and told me what was really going on.”
  330.  
  331. “What’d he say?”
  332.  
  333. “Well, in a nutshell, I had been in a cyber world generated by my own mind. The thing he had me climb into was connected to something he called a Virtual Dream Machine. He told me the purpose of it was to help make people happy and to give folks the lives they’ve always wanted to live. But, we both realized that there were issues with it, and despite that new life, I was still unhappy and scared. He realized he couldn’t fully make me happy, and it was there he told me of his plans, which involve that guy’s nanomedicine or whatever. Something about wanting to hybridize his Virtual Dream Machine with that nanomedicine. I don’t completely understand it, but Dr. Money and that guy apparently shared a history with each other many years ago. Dr. Money has some grandiose plan to bring happiness to others, and it involves that guy, but…it…truthfully, I don’t know. Dr. Money woke me up from cyberspace a little while ago, and here I am.”
  334.  
  335. You and Zephyr lock eyes with one another. She doesn’t say anything for a few moments, but stares at you as if trying to process what you just said.
  336.  
  337. “Master never told me any of that. I think he once told me of his old work where he used his nanomachines to get stronger, and he got fired because of it. Then, his friend Eli asked him if he could make ponies through his nanomachines and offered him money to do so. And that’s how the whole thing happened with us. It’s hard to remember my old life, but I’d trade it in a heartbeat to be with Master. He’s made me and Autumn and so many others happy and loved.”
  338.  
  339. Her response makes you freeze a little, though you try your best to not show her any sign. This guy…made others happy through his nanomachines. He turned them into ponies, but he made them happy nonetheless, just like what Dr. Money tried to do with you in cyberspace.
  340.  
  341. “Uh…Zephyr, did you and the others want to be ponies, or did he do that to you against your will?”
  342.  
  343. She wipes a forehoof across her eyes before responding.
  344.  
  345. “I know I used to be depressed and didn’t like life. I know it sounds wrong, but he kidnapped me and got nanotechnology into me through a pony plushy version of me. It took a while to accept what he did to me, but…I’m happy he did it. My life is so much better; or at least was before we were abducted and brought to here. Countless other ponies were like that too. Most didn’t originally have good lives, and Master gave them all a second chance. I don’t know where I’d be now if it wasn’t for Master. He saved me.”
  346.  
  347. “It’s just…”
  348.  
  349. You stammer for a response, unnerved by what she just shared with you.
  350.  
  351. “…Dr. Money tried to do the same thing with me, except it was through advanced virtual reality technology instead of nanomachines. What makes me uneasy is that both individuals wanted to bring happiness to depressed folks, and most of these folks seemed to have had a desire to want to start a new life, and to be a pony. I…can I be honest with you Zephyr?”
  352.  
  353. She nods without a word.
  354.  
  355. “Unlike you and that guy, I’m terrified of Dr. Money. I don’t know if he can hear us, or if he even cares, but I don’t even like him. There were times in that virtual world where I was happy, but…it just didn’t work out. I wanna be a pony; I wanna be a mare; I wanna be me, but not through Dr. Money. I don’t want to scare you, but he’s dangerous. I want to get out of here just as much as you do. But, I don’t know how to.”
  356.  
  357. “I don’t know how to get out of here either. I just woke up here and have been stuck in this room since like this. I hate being chained like this. Left here all alone, it’s one of my worst fears. I know Master knows a way out of this though. He always does! He’s smart, strong, brave, and…he’ll do what’s best for all of us. And, if you want to be like one of us, I’m sure he’d be happy to do that for you.”
  358.  
  359. She squeezes onto you tighter for warmth and comfort. She’s shaking a little, but whether that’s out of fear or being genuinely cold, you weren’t entirely sure. Still, it’s not fair for her to be chained all the way over here in the cold when you’ve got a bed full of blankets and pillows. Maybe you could share some of that with her, yeah?
  360.  
  361. “Hang on a moment. I’m gonna go get something.”
  362.  
  363. You wiggle out of her hug and awkwardly crawl over to the bed. Zephyr watches on in curiosity as you try to grab for the pillows and blankets. It takes a bit of effort, especially with being in a human body again, but you’re able to pull them off the bed and toss them over to Zephyr’s side of the room. You try your best not to accidentally hit her, and once all the blankets and pillows are over there, you awkwardly crawl back to her.
  364.  
  365. “What are you doing?”
  366.  
  367. “You don’t deserve to be over here on the cold floor. I don’t know how to take that chained collar off of you, but the least I can do is bring you some comfort and warmth.”
  368.  
  369. You reach for some blankets and toss them over to Zephyr. You then place a pillow right in front of her, and another one in front of you. She’s shaking a little from what you guess is the cold, which is enough to make you cover the blankets snuggly around her. You scooch her on top of the pillow and hug her for several long minutes, trying to keep her warm, comfortable, and calm. Neither of you say anything for a while until she speaks up again.
  370.  
  371. “Thank you. I’ve been so lonely and scared and cold, and…it feels really good to have someone to talk to, and to have warmth. You’re really nice. You sure you don’t want a blanket though?”
  372.  
  373. “I’m fine. You need it a lot more than I do.”
  374.  
  375. The room returns to silence, leaving you in your thoughts. You were getting more and more curious as to who this guy was. Zephyr keeps calling him Master for whatever reason, but Dr. Money calls him Colin. You guess that’s his real name, but still…there’s a lot to him that still doesn’t make sense. He was colleagues with Dr. Money. Both of them tried to achieve something resembling what they’re currently going after. Both want to make people happy, and both appear to do so by turning them into ponies. They target people who wanna be ponies, are depressed, and want a do-over in life. Why though?
  376.  
  377. Colin, for the most part according to Zephyr, does this to create families. He just wants to make others happy purely for the sake of it. What he did in hiding with this whole pony stuff seems to have just been for pleasure and comfort. Yeah, it’s still messed up getting kidnapped and all that, but unlike Dr. Money, Zephyr and these other ponies love him. Course, you didn’t know what he did to them in private, but if all he wants is for them to be happy and to have love and happiness, then why is Dr. Money trying to do the same thing at a much more terrifying level?
  378.  
  379. It likely has something to do with what they were both doing back when they used to work together. Something about merging man and machine. Your memory is a little rusty, but whatever it is they were doing then was likely something revolutionary. Colin took it all away, leaving Dr. Money bitter having lost all of that. Course, it seems Colin just wanted to have a peaceful life with folks he turned into ponies, but Dr. Money wanted a whole lot more. It’s blatantly obvious Dr. Money doesn’t truly care about you. He’s just using you to achieve his end goals that he sought all those years ago. It has to be. The question that keeps coming back to you though is, once you have fulfilled your purpose in helping him to achieve his end goals, what will he do with you? Should you try to break free and escape? If you did so, what would happen to Zephyr and Colin? What about the others who were trapped here? Would you be putting them in jeopardy if you tried to escape?
  380.  
  381. No, you can’t leave. You have nothing to return to in this world. Anyone that may have known of you probably figures you’re either dead or long gone. Plus, you hated that old life. It’s not something you’d want to return to. Truthfully, you just want to be with Farra, but you have no idea how to even get to her. Wherever she is, you didn’t know when that would happen, or how it would happen. All you can do then is to try to bring comfort to Zephyr and the others here and ensure their safety. You weren’t sure what more you could really do, but if nothing else, it might also lead to a future way out of here.
  382.  
  383. “What did you say your name was again?”
  384.  
  385. You blink; Zephyr’s question pulling you completely from your thoughts.
  386.  
  387. “I uhm…well…I know my true name is Marra, and I prefer being called that. Still, I know that’s a girl’s name and here I am my old human guy self. Ugh…just feels so wrong being human and being male. But, as weird as it is, let’s just go with that name for now. My old guy name doesn’t really mean anything to me anymore.”
  388.  
  389. She looks up at you with a small smile.
  390.  
  391. “Okay Marra. That’s a really nice name. And it’s okay, I just prefer Zephyr myself. I actually can’t remember my old name because Master’s nanomachines made me forget, but I know how you’re feeling. I’d never want to go back to my old life either. It feels so much more right being like this. Well, being a pet pony that is; it’s horrible and scary being trapped here.”
  392.  
  393. You instinctively start petting her back slowly and gently.
  394.  
  395. “Zephyr’s a nice name too. Still, I have another question to ask ya. Why do you keep calling Colin ‘Master?’ You keep mentioning this whole ‘pet pony’ stuff. What’s that mean exactly? You’re his pet?”
  396.  
  397. “Mhm!”
  398.  
  399. She hugs you tightly for a few seconds before continuing.
  400.  
  401. “Me and Autumn and all the other ponies Master created are pet ponies. We obey our Masters without question. Whoever adopts one of Master’s pet ponies becomes the new Master or Mistress of that pet pony. Course, we all have to obey whoever our Master is, but there is so much love and security and happiness that comes with that. I know that can sound weird to you, but I’m glad I have Master. He made me into a happier and better pony because of it.”
  402.  
  403. “So wait; you didn’t choose to become his pet? He made you?”
  404.  
  405. “Nonononono! Well, originally he did it without asking me, but later down the road he asked me if I wanted to go back to my old life. He said he could use his nanomachines to turn me back into a human, but I didn’t want to. Honestly, life is so much better as a pet. So much less to worry about. All you have to do is love, obey, and make Master and others happy. That’s it.”
  406.  
  407. So Colin can use his nanomachines to turn folks back into humans. That’s something Dr. Money was unsure of in the past, but if Colin can do that to others, who knows what else these nanomachines can do. And yet, having your free will stripped away like that…something about that is unnerving. On one hand, you completely understood wanting to live a life of peaceful bliss with nothing but love and happiness, but having to forcibly obey someone…that…well…it just didn’t sound right to you. What if the person was abusive? That could end in many horrible ways.
  408.  
  409. “Do you want to be a pet pony too Marra?”
  410.  
  411. “I…I uh…well…I don’t know. I want to be a pony again for sure, but the whole pet stuff is a little unsettling.”
  412.  
  413. “I know it is. I freaked out when it first happened to me, and so did Autumn. But we came to learn and love it.”
  414.  
  415. “And why is that? Did the nanomachines make you want it to the point of altering your mind, or was Colin just really good at sharing love and happiness with others?”
  416.  
  417. Her ears flatten a little; her smile starting to slowly turn into a frown.
  418.  
  419. “Dr. Money tried something like that on me. He tried to make me love living that new life in cyberspace, but it failed. Of course, I still very much want to live as a pony and be one, but what Dr. Money did didn’t necessarily make me happy.”
  420.  
  421. “But it’s different! Master’s nanomachines didn’t work on me or Autumn the right way when we first turned into ponies. They failed in implanting mental suggestions. Master even gave me a choice to go back to my old life, and I chose to stay like this with him and Autumn. He gave me free will. He’s a good guy, and I love him! Please, he’d never do anything to hurt one of his pet ponies. He loves us all!”
  422.  
  423. Fresh tears are already forming around her eyes. You quickly realize that what you just said to her might have hurt her. You hug her as tightly and as softly as you can for comfort.
  424.  
  425. “I’m sorry Zephyr. It’s just…I’ve been through so much and seen so much. Dr. Money is nothing like Colin, even though both seem to do the same thing. Dr. Money has killed, and he tortures others. I know he cares more about other things than just making others happy; I know he has an ulterior motive, an end goal. And once I’ve served my purpose with him, I really don’t know what will happen to me. And I won’t lie, it scares me. I just don’t know what to do. All I want is to be my true self and to have family and love. At this point, it’s all I want.”
  426.  
  427. “I’m sure Master could give you that Marra. I know he might have seemed scary to you at first, but he really does care about others. He’s made all of his ponies into pet ponies, but…I’m sure he would do something for you that doesn’t involve being a pet. I can put out a good word to him for you.”
  428.  
  429. “Thank you Zephyr, but right now I’m more worried about how we’re all gonna get out of here.”
  430.  
  431. “Do you know the way out?”
  432.  
  433. You try to remember what Dr. Money’s facility looks like, but in truth, you didn’t even know where you were. Just woke up in one of these rooms, went to another room, woke up again, went down a hallway, and now here you are. Still, there is another room that seemed to be Dr. Money’s office back when he was projecting himself out to you in cyberspace. Really though, you have no idea how to get out of here, and even if you did, you don’t even have the strength to do so. Best you could do was comfort Zephyr and wait until the moment was right.
  434.  
  435. “I don’t Zephyr. One way or another though, we will get out. I’m going to go ahead and trust that Colin knows how to get out of here. If anything, I’d rather trust him over Dr. Money any day.”
  436.  
  437. Zephyr shifts a little in her blankets, settling down right next to you. She emits a small, drawn-out yawn that you honestly found to be kind of cute.
  438.  
  439. “Thank you Marra. Master’s a good guy. He won’t hurt you, and he’ll save us. He can also make you into the pony you’ve always wanted to be. He’s really good at that. And you know, I think this is the first time ever since being trapped here that I actually feel a little better. I think for once the sleep is starting to catch up with me. It’s getting kind of hard to stay awake. Would you be okay if I went to sleep?”
  440.  
  441. “Of course Zephyr. I should probably get some sleep too. We’ve both been through a lot.”
  442.  
  443. You scoot your pillow next to her and lay down on your back right beside her. The concrete floor didn’t feel all that comfortable but some of Zephyr’s blankets helped to cushion you. You carefully wrap an arm around her, feeling exhaustion beginning to overcome you.
  444.  
  445. “It’s gonna be okay Zephyr. I don’t know what I’ll be able to do, but just know I side with you and Colin over Dr. Money in all of this. You’re not alone, and I’m here for you. Get some good sleep Zephyr.”
  446.  
  447. “Mmmm…night Marra. Thank you so…much. Thank…”
  448.  
  449. She quickly dozes off, peacefully snoozing in her blankets. Much as it warms your heart to bring comfort to this pony, you yourself are finding it harder and harder to stay awake. Your mind was racing, but perhaps it’d be best to get some sleep too. Whatever happens tomorrow, you’ll need all the sleep you can get beforehand.
  450.  
  451. You close your eyes and soon doze off into a deep slumber.
  452.  
  453.  
  454. You feel so warm and comfortable being right beside her. Snuggled up in the covers, feeling her radiating body heat; just feels so calm and peaceful. However, the crackling sound of fire is enough to stir you to open your eyes.
  455.  
  456. You slowly open them and see your stone fireplace emitting a lovely warm glow. Always so peaceful to snuggle with her right in front of it. Careful as to not wake her, you slowly slide out of your covers and stand up, yawning a little. You watch your little sister with a smile as she peacefully shifts in her sleep. Her white mane and tail always did blend in easily with those white covers of hers. You even see a smile on her face despite her being asleep.
  457.  
  458. It’s moments like these that you’ve come to cherish. You always wanted to remember them, and to remember her. You both were family to each other, and this lovely little cabin was your home. Looking around, it wasn’t anything too special, but it was perfect nonetheless. A cabin filled with nothing but innocent love. You could see all of the pictures you two drew on one of the walls. Mostly of you and her together, but also of places you visited. Drawing and capturing moments like these in the form of pictures was something you and your little sister loved to do. Neither of you were great artists, but you both were able to capture the beauty of a particular place. If only you could take a moment to draw what you’re seeing before you. The stone fireplace, the sunlight shining in through the windows, and seeing your precious little sister snuggled up into a ball in her covers. This is a memory you wanted to remember for a lifetime.
  459.  
  460. Still, as much as you want to soak in and enjoy the lovely peace, today is the day. You and your little sister were gonna explore some place new. They called this place the Aeepos. It was a supposedly beautiful location out in the forest not far from here, and few had ever been over there. It was mostly unchartered territory. The thought of finding something new to capture through art fills you with excitement.
  461.  
  462. Using your magic, you lift up some paper and quills, as well as a jar of ink into your knapsack. The noise of the objects sliding into the knapsack, however, causes your little sister to wake from her slumber.
  463.  
  464. “Mmm…Big Sis, it’s so early. Are we leaving already?”
  465.  
  466. “Soon Lil Sis, soon. I’m just gathering up some supplies.”
  467.  
  468. She yawns a small cute yawn and stretches in her covers. You watch her as she slowly stands up and moves over to you, wrapping a forehoof around you.
  469.  
  470. “I love you Big Sis. I love you so very much, and I hope you never, ever forget that.”
  471.  
  472. You giggle and kiss her on her forehead right below her horn.
  473.  
  474. “And I love you so very much too Lil Sis. You mean everything to me. Never ever wanna live without ya. But we should go soon Silly. I wanna get there and have the whole day to draw and explore.”
  475.  
  476. She yawns again and nuzzles against your neck.
  477.  
  478. “Okay Big Sis. Just give me a small moment to get ready.”
  479.  
  480. Your little sister turns and walks over to the other side of the room, disappearing into another room. You can hear a few noises in the background as she does her thing. You wait by the front door, thinking about how much fun today was going to be.
  481.  
  482. For the most part, you and your sister always loved staying together and doing everything with each other. Generally, you two stayed at home or fairly close to home in your everyday lives because there was something so serene about it all. You didn’t ask for much in life aside from basking in endless love and affection with her, as well as enjoying the simple things. It was always about the simple things. She loved to cook, she loved to play, she loved to create, but most of all, she loved to snuggle. You weren’t always as creative as her, but you sure did love snuggling with her too. You had a few of your own hobbies as well, the biggest of which was traveling. It wasn’t something you two often did, but when you did, you made sure to savor each moment. It was always fun to see someplace new, to explore its beauty, to capture it through art, and to treasure the endless memories shared with your precious sister.
  483.  
  484. Memories…that’s something you never wanted to lose. Each memory was a blessing; each memory was what fundamentally made you, you. You wanted to make sure you recorded each and every single memory through art. Life was so beautiful, and capturing every enjoyable moment of it was totally worth it, even if it meant having to travel some. If your collection of drawings and art was evidence to just how important it was to remember, then this trip was definitely worth it.
  485.  
  486. “Alright Big Sis. I’m ready.”
  487.  
  488. You look to find your little sister right back next to you, smiling with a gentle wave of her forehoof. She raises it to briefly wrap a hug around you, and then releases you. She wore her favorite white dress, which honestly went really well with the colors of her mane, tail, and coat of fur. It was a pretty white dress that she’s always had for who knows how long. Kuberends never really needed to wear clothes, but it was generally custom whenever one was to go out and do something special. Still, wearing a dress while going out to somewhere largely unexplored and possibly dirty didn’t seem like the best idea. It could get dirty or ripped or ruined in some manner. You weren’t going to tell her no, however. That white dress was hers, and it was a classic icon, a continual reminder of how beautiful your little sister was, and of just how much you loved her.
  489.  
  490. You gently kiss her on her forehead with a loving smile.
  491.  
  492. “Okay Lil Sis, let’s go. Promise it won’t be too much of a walk.”
  493.  
  494. You push open the door with a forehoof, only to be greeted by beautiful sunlight. In front of you is an open patch of land with hills in the distance. Sitting just a few feet from your home was a river that you have always been able to see from the front door. That river came from the forests behind you, and led somewhere in the distance to where the hills were. The Aeepos as everyone called them. Even from here, you could see them. You never went over there, nor did your sister. Actually, most Kuberends tended to stay away from there, refusing to explore. You never knew why, but it sparked your curiosity even more. You sister was originally somewhat reluctant about doing this, but she agreed to come along with you simply because she loved being by your side. And you loved having her with you too.
  495.  
  496. She walks out in front of you, while you turn around to close the door shut. You quickly move up to her, and when both of you are side by side once more, you both walk over to the river. She pauses for a moment and looks down, noticing a white feather right by the water. She takes a moment to study it quickly, and using her magic, she carefully floats it up to right above her mane, next to her left ear. Her light aural glow of magic fades once the feather is nestled gently with her mane. Playfully, you gently boop her on her nuzzle.
  497.  
  498. “Oh you silly Kuby you. You look really cute, you know that?”
  499.  
  500. “Mhm!”
  501.  
  502. She nuzzles a little against your side, but starts to walk along the river towards the Aeepos with you leading the way. Your sister always loved collecting the most random things out in nature, be they feathers, stones, wood, or any other random thing. It was one of the things she always loved to do exploring. She’d always build the most peculiar things, though it was mainly for decoration. Not that you ever complained; some of the stuff she made was really quite nice. You would mostly just find the perfect spot and attempt to draw out the landscape before you, and that is exactly what you intended to do this trip.
  503.  
  504. Your little sister, for the most part, smiles and gazes around your surroundings while you start to gently hum a soft tune. It wasn’t anything special, but it was like a lullaby tune that you always hummed with her whenever you and her traveled. It was a little bit of a motherly tune, mixed with love and warmth, but it always had this effect of producing a small echo, which made it sound and feel a little more powerful. You weren’t sure how you were able to hum it, nor can you remember where you got it, but one thing for sure was that whenever you hummed it, it made Farra happy and brought the two of you closer to each other. An echoing, nurturing tune meant to never be forgotten; a tune meant to signify the close bond you two shared as sisters.
  505.  
  506. This continues for a while, with both of you walking along the river, admiring the bright blue skies, the life of the surrounding greenery, and the time spent with your precious sister. She doesn’t say much, but instead stays close to you while you peacefully hummed her favorite tune. There wasn’t a whole lot on your mind besides just wanting to get to the Aeepos and draw. You’ve never really been up close to mountains before, despite always seeing them from the distance in your own home. They got bigger and bigger the closer you two approached them. This was going to be a special place to draw and capture its unique beauty. All of nature, all of life, all of…well…everything had its beauty, and all of it had to be captured one way or another. This was a place that was mostly left untouched by many, giving it an even more unique feel.
  507.  
  508. The energy from the approaching Aeepos, there was something about it that just seemed so intriguing, like you were involuntarily drawn to it. Your spindles, you could sense, picked up on an especially unusual energy you’ve never really come across elsewhere. The place seemed alive, but in a different way. You couldn’t really describe it, but something was drawing you towards this location, and you had to find out what.
  509.  
  510. After a fair bit of time passes, you suddenly notice Farra stopping once more. You pause and look back to her.
  511.  
  512. “Something wrong Lil Sis?”
  513.  
  514. “There’s a message here Big Sis. I think we’re about to enter the Aeepos, but something’s not right. Can you come over here and take a look?”
  515.  
  516. Curious, you walk back a little to where she was. She was facing a rather large emerald stone. It looked like a perfectly cut giant cube, like someone had carved it and placed it here. You weren’t sure what it was, but you did notice writing on it.
  517.  
  518. “What’s it say Big Sis?”
  519.  
  520. It wasn’t written in your native language, but oddly enough, you could make out what the words said. They were written in a rare language you once studied, otherwise known as Siwen. It was an ancient language that originated from…well…no one really knew. There were theories, yes, but it was a mostly lost language. You weren’t exactly fluent in it such that you didn’t know how to pronounce it, but you could read and translate it in your native tongue. Just even seeing Siwen here is enough to make you more curious to want to read it.
  521.  
  522. “Alright, hold on a sec. Errrmmm….hmmmmmm…let’s see…”
  523.  
  524. Before you fully read it out to her, you scan and read it over multiple times.
  525.  
  526. The Aeepos
  527.  
  528. To all who enter here, a test will begin. A test of willpower, a test of strength, and a test of the soul will be required in order to leave. Beyond this point marks a journey of unlikely return. If you wish to face the trials of the Aeepos, heed these words with care:
  529.  
  530. Absolute pleasure leads to absolute corruption.
  531. Accepting a different reality in place of your own leads to destruction.
  532. Learning to forget are the keys to finding inner strength, as well as inner ruin.
  533. Learning to remember and to stay true to oneself will lead to salvation.
  534. Remember to remember.
  535.  
  536. “Well, what’s it say Big Sis?”
  537.  
  538. “Huh?!?”
  539.  
  540. Her question quickly captures your attention from the stone. You look at her for a moment, feeling somewhat uncertain on sharing the contents of the message.
  541.  
  542. “Uh, well…I’m not really sure. Something about a test and remembering, but I don’t know.”
  543.  
  544. Her smile fades as she carefully scans your expression. You try to sound upbeat and cheery like you normally are around her, but it’s quickly evident she can see past it.
  545.  
  546. “Big Sis, we shouldn’t be here. There’s something wrong here, and while I don’t know what that stone says, I think we should go back.”
  547.  
  548. A part of you agrees with her. You could definitely pick up on something coming from beyond here, and in all honesty, you never wanted to make your sister uncomfortable. You wanted to give her endless love, affection, and comfort. And yet, the other part of you was more intrigued than afraid. You’ve never seen Siwen in real life before aside from books discussing the language. Not much was known about its origins, and the fact that the Aeepos was largely unexplored intrigued you all the more.
  549.  
  550. “Gah…well…I mean if I can be honest with you Lil Sis, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. It’s just a sign etched in stone saying this is the entrance to the Aeepos. It’s just a general description of this place, encouraging you to be careful on where you go. Considering that we’re really close to the mountains, it makes sense. Don’t wanna fall off or anything.”
  551.  
  552. She stares intently into your eyes, and while you try to cast her a reassuring look, you can tell that she knows you’re lying.
  553.  
  554. “That’s not what it says, huh Big Sis? There’s something dangerous beyond here, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to go looking for that danger.”
  555.  
  556. You quickly hug her for comfort so that she could no longer lock eyes with you. Of course, you never wanted to scare her or make her uncomfortable, but at the same token, this was something you REALLY wanted to do.
  557.  
  558. “There’s no danger Lil Sis. It’s okay! It was just saying to not stand at the edge of the mountains or to do reckless stuff. I mean, it’s unexplored territory, so it’s only fair some notice be put up. I promise you Lil Sis. Everything is okay. We don’t have to be here all day. I just wanna explore a little, do some drawings, and then we can head back home, okay?”
  559.  
  560. She scoots a little away from you and looks you once more in the eye. You can tell that she wasn’t liking this, and you knew it deep in your heart that you shouldn’t do this if it means upsetting her.
  561.  
  562. “O-Okay. We can for a little bit Big Sis, but I’m staying right with you. I won’t let you explore this place alone, and the moment something happens or if we both see something, we leave right away, okay? I don’t want to be here anymore than we have to be.”
  563.  
  564. Her response surprises you a little, but it does make you breathe a small sigh of relief.
  565.  
  566. “Okay Lil Sis. I promise. It’ll only be for a little bit, and then we’ll head back home. I’ll stay right by your side the whole time, don’t you worry. You ready?”
  567.  
  568. She reluctantly nods, and casting her a loving sympathetic smile, you two continue moving forward. Within a matter of minutes, you both approach the base of the mountains, with a large entrance to an open valley of forestry. The mountains curved around this entrance, but did not connect, leaving it as the only entrance and exit out of this majestic valley. It looks so utterly serene and beautiful; even your home is nowhere near as beautiful as this. A small cool breeze was beginning to pick up against you. It was flowing from behind to somewhere in front of you. It feels a little chilly, but it’s especially soothing.
  569.  
  570. “Isn’t it beautiful Lil Sis? I’ve never seen anything like it before!”
  571.  
  572. She looks at you with a small smile and then back to the valley.
  573.  
  574. “Yeah, it is. Still, I don’t wanna stay too long. You think this is a good enough spot to draw?”
  575.  
  576. It’s certainly a beautiful location. Truth be told, this was probably going to be as good as a spot as you’d ever get to drawing such a beautiful landscape. Still, you wanted to move forward in search of an even better location. You felt drawn, and you had to keep going.
  577.  
  578. “Ummm…well, it’s a really good spot, but I think we’ll find an even better spot if we keep going. You up for a little bit of exploring?”
  579.  
  580. You can see in the corner of your eye a small frown, but she quickly hides it and puts up a smile to you.
  581.  
  582. “Just a little bit Big Sis. I dunno if I wanna be here all day.”
  583.  
  584. “That’s totally fine Lil Sis. It’s all good. I just wanna walk some and see if we can find anything. If not, we can turn around and leave.”
  585.  
  586. She nods, and with that, the two of you move forward. The river the two of you are traveling along still flows through the entrance of the Aeepos to who knows where in the valley. Considering that it’d be a safe guide to getting back, you both stay next to it. Looking around, you notice the mountains of the Aeepos to your left and right. There’s a lot of grass around you, though you both can see the valley’s forest in front of you. You wanted to explore and go through this forest. There’s something on the other side of it that’s guiding you, and you can just feel that the other side is the perfect spot to draw the landscape.
  587.  
  588. “Ooooooo…wow…isn’t it such a pretty forest Lil Sis? It looks so exotic and pretty. Can you see all the sunlight poking through the trees’ canopy?”
  589.  
  590. “Mhm. It’s really pretty.”
  591.  
  592. The glowing rows of sunlight beaming through the canopy of the trees is a sight to behold in itself. You too notice the spots of sunlight all along the forest floor. You’re not sure how to describe it, but something about this forest had a divine feeling to it, like you wouldn’t see this kind of thing in any other forest. It’s enough to leave your mouth slightly agape, aweing in the beauty of the greenery.
  593.  
  594. You two walk and walk throughout the forest for some time, following the river as it guides both of you. Every so often you wonder if this spot or that spot would be a good area for drawing the surrounding landscape, but you’re convinced that there will be a spectacular place like no other to really capture through your artwork.
  595.  
  596. “We’re almost there Lil Sis, I can feel it. You still holding up alright?”
  597.  
  598. You turn to your left and stop, startled to find your precious baby sister is no longer with you.
  599.  
  600. “Luh-LIL SIS?!? Where’d you go?”
  601.  
  602. Panic starts to build inside of you over the realization that she might have gotten lost while you were entranced by the forest. This is really bad. She could be hurt, or trapped, or lost, or…
  603.  
  604. “FARRA! WHERE ARE YOU?!?”
  605.  
  606. You pause for a moment to listen for a response, but nothing. You slowly spin in a full circle to see where it is she might be. No sign of her. No other sounds besides the breeze of the wind and the water from the river occasionally splashing on some rocks.
  607.  
  608. Oh no. Nononononono…this is really bad. Screw the artwork, screw this place. You had to find her, and you had to find her now!
  609.  
  610. Before you turn around to go search for her, you notice something peculiar. One of the trees in front of you had a black mist glowing around it to the point where it began to flow off the tree. It looks as though it could be a gas, but you’re not sure what the heck it is. Realizing that it could be danger, you immediately turn around to dash away from it.
  611.  
  612. “Wuh-W-What is this?!?”
  613.  
  614. Your words get caught up in your throat as all of the trees are now radiating with this black mist. The trees start to slowly dissolve and disappear in it, and soon the bushes, the rocks, and the surrounding grass itself. You yelp in fear, frozen in place, too scared to move a muscle.
  615.  
  616. You watch on as the mist eats away everything around you until it completely surrounds you. You turn and turn and realize everything is now a black mist, with the grassy ground beneath your hooves still present. However, the mist quickly covers it, entrapping you.
  617.  
  618. “H-HELP ME! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! FARRA! WHERE ARE YOU?!?”
  619.  
  620. You try to move, but you can’t. You’re trapped. You start crying, realizing that you were likely going to die. Just as quickly though, the black mist pulls away from you and all around you. It disburses and reappears out in front of you into a growing black misty ball. Your gaze is hooked on it, but you turn briefly to find…to…find…
  621.  
  622. “Nuh-no. Where…Where’s everything? Where…Where am I?”
  623.  
  624. There was no ground, no sky, no forest, no river, nothing. You stood in an empty white void with only you and this black mist present. You’re still too terrified to move, but you instead look at the black ball of mist and call out to it.
  625.  
  626. “Who…Who are you? What are you? Where am I?
  627.  
  628. Once the floating black ball of mist has all of the mist within it, it quickly molds and reshapes itself. Within less than a minute, it transforms into a Kuberend…into you. And yet, there was no color on it. Just glowing white eyes and a glowing white mouth. You could only see the outline of its mane and tail, its horn, and its spindles. It stood there smiling at you.
  629.  
  630. “I said, WHO ARE YOU AND WHERE AM I AND WHERE’S MY LITTLE SISTER?!?!”
  631.  
  632. You realize that yelling at it is probably not the best thing to be doing here, but you can’t help that you’re scared and worried sick about your sister.
  633.  
  634. “Welcome to the trials of the Aeepos. I am a part of the Siwen. I am Darkness, your inner Darkness. You have chosen to enter here, and if you wish to leave, you must first lose everything. You must forget. You must lose your memories. You must lose everything. You must become one with nothingness. Nothingness.”
  635.  
  636. You back away a little, feeling threatened by what this thing is saying. Before you can even respond, however, it begins repeating itself.
  637.  
  638. “Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness.”
  639.  
  640. It continues saying nothingness over and over, and soon you hear multiple voices echoing the word repeatedly. You scream and start to run in the opposite direction, but your black misty reflection explodes into a cloud of hazy blackness, soon enveloping everything around you once more. The invisible ground quickly gives way beneath you as you scream in terror.
  641.  
  642. “Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness. Nothingness.”
  643.  
  644. Falling…Falling into the black pit of nothingness. Nothingness…
  645.  
  646.  
  647. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
  648.  
  649. “MARRA?!?”
  650.  
  651. You feel yourself being shaken violently in someone’s arms. You immediately sit right up and burst your eyes open. You’re in your cell…your cell…with…
  652.  
  653. “MARRA! Are you okay?”
  654.  
  655. You turn to see the white pegasus with a jade-colored mane holding onto you, looking at you with concern.
  656.  
  657. “I…I…I uhm…y-yeah. Just…Just a bad dream is all.”
  658.  
  659. You’re panting, and despite trying to play it off as nothing, you can’t help but feel shaky from that nightmare. That was too real. It was…It was…real. It…It had to be. That wasn’t a regular dream. What…the heck…was that?
  660.  
  661. “Okay. You scared the living daylights out of me. You sure you’re alright?”
  662.  
  663. Even though you knew you weren’t (Heck, when have you ever been alright in all of this madness?), you didn’t want to make her any more worried than she already was. Being trapped as a hostage in Dr. Money’s madhouse was more than plenty to worry about. She…She doesn’t need to know about any of this.
  664.  
  665. “Y-Yeah. It was nothing Zephyr. Just some crazy nightmare. You okay yourself?”
  666.  
  667. She lets go of you and scoots back a little to give you some space.
  668.  
  669. “Mhm. Been up for a while. Mostly just been worried about Master and Autumn. Haven’t heard of anything since he was in here last night.”
  670.  
  671. Your eyes scan upwards to the small window with bars. You see sunlight pouring in. It was obviously daytime, though you had no idea what time of day it was. Part of you wants to ask Zephyr for the time, but chances are she doesn’t know either. There weren’t any clocks in here.
  672.  
  673. “I…I see. Ugh…so…when does Dr. Money or Colin usually come in here? It’s weird, but I haven’t had anything to eat in a long time. I kinda wonder how I have such little appetite. Guess being trapped in a virtual reality world for who knows how long can rob you of an appetite, huh?”
  674.  
  675. Your stomach growls a little bit, and the pangs of hunger start to slowly build. Still, you had no idea how long you had been in that Virtual Dream Machine. Sure, it kept you alive, but it makes you wonder how you’ve been able to function without needing to eat for so long. Surely your body would have died by this point, but…it hasn’t. You were a lot skinnier than you remember, but looking over yourself, you see you still have a bit of muscle. You didn’t look completely gaunt, but you also didn’t look completely healthy either.
  676.  
  677. “Yeah, I guess. I’m kind of hungry too. I don’t know when Master or that bad guy come in here. I know they do so at least once a day, but I never know when either of them do. Most of the time it’s just sitting here alone and staring at the walls. It’s…hard being isolated by yourself without anyone.”
  678.  
  679. Zephyr for her part, just settles back down in her covers and stares off at some random spot in the room. You feel for her for a moment, realizing just how awful it is to have no one. Course, you have Farra…somewhere…out there, but as far as the real world is concerned, you really didn’t have anyone here.
  680.  
  681. “You know Marra, this was my biggest fear; being locked up in a room chained to the floor for hours on end. It’s where I started when I first turned into a pony. When Master first transformed me, I was so scared. Locked in a room in a basement. Seconds seemed like minutes, and then hours, and then days. After a while, you start to lose track of time. It’s awful.”
  682.  
  683. “Wait, why were you locked in a basement?”
  684.  
  685. “It was for my own protection. When Master brought me to his home, he discovered his nanomachines didn’t affect me mentally; well, aside from me being unable to remember my original name. But I was a danger to him and to myself. Once I started getting better, he took me out of that dark hole. Never wanted to go back there. It was one of my worst nightmares. Though, I guess I’m in one again, but at least I get to see the sunlight and the moonlight, so that helps. Plus having you here helps me not feel too alone.”
  686.  
  687. “Colin did that to you after transforming you into a pony and kidnapping you to bring to his home? Zephyr, you do realize how messed up that sounds, right?”
  688.  
  689. She looks at you with a slightly sad look, but turns her head a little and stares at the barred window.
  690.  
  691.  
  692. “I know it sounds like he was punishing me, but really he was just protecting me for my own safety. If someone woke up as a pony randomly one day, I’m sure they’d have a pretty big freak out. He didn’t know what to do with me at the time, and he was afraid of me trying to break out and run away, which could have gotten him arrested and me captured. Looking back, I understand where he was coming from. I know he might sound like a bad guy, but he’s not. Please trust me on that Marra. He really cares for all of his pet ponies. He wants them to be safe and happy with a loving family, and for them to live the rest of their lives in peace. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone.”
  693.  
  694. You say nothing for several moments. Part of you didn’t know what to say to that, and yet the other part of you was still shaken from that nightmare. Dr. Money’s theory on your history with Farra, it being a past life, suddenly doesn’t sound so crazy anymore. Course, to any normal person, you’re already long gone with everything you’ve been through. But at this point, you have to wonder what really happened with you and Farra going to the lake. The pieces of the puzzle are starting to slowly come together, and yet, it still didn’t completely make any sense. That black figure…just…what the heck was that? You don’t ever remember seeing it in any memory with Farra. Could it have been a byproduct of your experiences with those silhouettes in that virtual world, or is it just your mind playing tricks on you?
  695.  
  696. It…very well could be. If you do ever manage to escape this crazy place, chances are you’re going to need therapy for a long time. The most logical answer is that you’re recovering from the mental trauma of being in that virtual world, as well as being held captive by Dr. Money. Your logical half says yes, that’s exactly what it is, but with everything you’ve been through, chances are it was a part of your past life with Farra prior to going into the lake. Actually, you had a deep feeling that that was likely to be the case. You weren’t sure about the dark figure, but at least for going to the lake, maybe some things were starting to make sense. Maybe.
  697.  
  698. Still, there were a lot of unknowns, and after spending so much time in that virtual nightmare, you’re also just not sure anymore. That world felt very real for a good while, but then it was fake. For the longest time in your life here on Earth, it all felt like a bad joke, and felt so very fake. Yeah, you could physically perceive everything in both the real world and the virtual world, but both worlds just felt so incredibly fake. The only thing that even feels remotely real to you anymore is the stuff with Farra, and the history you two shared. And yet, you only knew shards of the history both of you shared. Honestly, when you first entered this life, all you remembered was the lake memory; nothing else. Seemed like you had always been living on Earth. It was the same with the virtual world. As soon as you were there, it felt like you had always been living there. It felt just as real as being on Earth, but both just feel so fake. There’s more to this; so much more to this. What if this world, and the virtual world, really aren’t real? What if the real world is really with Farra? Would that mean…?
  699.  
  700. You and Zephyr both immediately turn towards the door as what sounds like keys are turning inside a lock. It takes a few seconds, but the door suddenly opens up. Dr. Money’s co-worker, Colin, comes through with a tray of simple food. A few fruits and vegetables, along with what looks to be oatmeal, sit on the tray. He turns to both of you and suddenly stops.
  701.  
  702. “ZEPHYR!?!”
  703.  
  704. The tray of food from his hands falls, with some of the food spilling onto the floor. He immediately rips off his smiley face mask and looks directly at you with a big look of anger you’ve never seen.
  705.  
  706. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!?”
  707.  
  708. He immediately rushes over to you before you have time to react and pulls you away from Zephyr, suddenly pinning you against the wall with his hands around your throat. You quickly begin wheezing and coughing for air. He speaks in a low tone, staring deeply into your eyes with absolute coldness.
  709.  
  710. “I thought I made myself very clear. You were to stay on your side of the room. You were to never be near Zephyr, let alone have your hands on her. You understand how much she means to me, don’t you? Trust me, you do not want to push me. Remember…”
  711.  
  712. He whispers quietly into your ear.
  713.  
  714. “…I can do anything to you. And you are going to be front and center with the experiments we have planned today. If you want to make this easier on yourself, it would be in your best interest to do what I say.”
  715.  
  716. “MASTER NO!”
  717.  
  718. He immediately turns and lessens his grip on you, while you simultaneously try to grasp for as much air as possible.
  719.  
  720. “Marra’s not a bad person! She kept me company and took care of me last night. All she did was share her pillows and blankets with me, and spoke with me. She never did anything bad to me. She’s actually really friendly. Please don’t hurt her Master. She only means well. She’s a prisoner like we are. She even said she’d rather trust you than Dr. Money. She likes you a lot more!”
  721.  
  722. Colin releases you from his hands entirely and looks back and forth at both of you, apparently perplexed. He then eyes you a little more calmly, but still seriously.
  723.  
  724. “Is that true? Is what she’s saying true?”
  725.  
  726. You cough and cover your mouth, trying to catch your breath for a few seconds.
  727.  
  728. “Y-Yeah. I…I would never hurt her. Don’t wanna hurt her. She’s a wonderful pony…Mr. uh…Colin Sir. Please, I mean no harm.”
  729.  
  730. You look at him pleadingly, but his expression doesn’t budge. He makes no response, apparently waiting for you to say more.
  731.  
  732. “Pluh-Please…I could never hurt her, or anyone. I’ve been trapped here for…I don’t know how long. What…What year is it?”
  733.  
  734. “2018.”
  735.  
  736. You can feel your heart nearly stop. You’ve been trapped in this nightmare for a good three years. Dr. Money kidnapped you in 2015. You’ve been stuck here for that long. The thought of that almost makes you want to throw up.
  737.  
  738. “I…I…okay, that’s a lot for me to process right there. I’ve…been trapped here for nearly three years as Dr. Money’s prisoner. That Virtual Dream Machine thing you saw me in? I’ve been stuck in that thing nearly the entire time. Dr. Money scares me. I want to get out of here. He’s harmed numerous individuals in the past, used so many forms of psychological torture, and has tried to continually mess with me. I just wanna be free from this nightmare.”
  739.  
  740. His expression still doesn’t budge, though you see Zephyr looking on from behind with sorrow.
  741.  
  742. “Zephyr…it pained me to see her chained up like that. I know what you told me, but I couldn’t just ignore her and stay away from her. She needed a hug, and some blankets, and pillows, and just a little love, that’s all.”
  743.  
  744. His look suddenly becomes angry, and you realize he may have misunderstood by what you said with her needing a little love.
  745.  
  746. “NO! NO! Of course not! I just wanted to provide her a little bit of emotional comfort, that’s all! I swear on my life!”
  747.  
  748. “Do you?”
  749.  
  750. Colin stands over you with you slumped on the floor against the wall. You were quickly beginning to feel threatened by him, but you have to truly convince him that you’re harmless. You have to, or he’s gonna do who knows what on you!
  751.  
  752. “Please…I beg you, I never ever wanna hurt her or anyone. I…I was once kidnapped in the middle of the night by Dr. Money when I was about to try to kill myself. He knocked me out with some kind of chemical, brought me here without much explanation other than wanting to make me happy, and then forced me into that Virtual Dream Machine, which at the time I didn’t even know what that was.”
  753.  
  754. You pause for a moment and sigh, guilt overcoming you with abandoning Nullity by leaving that world. A huge part of you still feels absolutely horrible about that, but you have to keep telling yourself she was never real. None of that virtual world was real. All of it was fake; except Farra…who was in it…but if she was real, then…isn’t it also fair to say Nullity was too?
  755.  
  756. That thought alone is enough to make you start tearing, and then the memories of Dr. Money trying to completely screw up and mess with your mind.
  757.  
  758. “I…I entered a whole new life. I thought…I thought I had died. I thought I entered a new life. I was a pony. I was finally who I always wanted to be. I…I had a loving sister, a whole bunch of friends, and a beautiful place to live. But, things didn’t seem completely believable there, and once Dr. Money realized he couldn’t completely change me, he completely shattered that world. He…performed what I’d argue to be psychological torture. He wants to make me happy for whatever reason, that reason involving you, Colin, and…I guess, now that you’re here and have planned for whatever for me, Dr. Money decided to take me out of that virtual nightmare.”
  759.  
  760. You notice his look gradually becoming more and more sympathetic. You can see the tension in his muscles beginning to fade.
  761.  
  762. “That happened yesterday. To be completely honest with you, I’m not sure what is even real any more. All I want is to love and be loved, that’s all.”
  763.  
  764. You sniffle, the tears already beginning to well up in your eyes.
  765.  
  766. “That’s…all. And Zephyr, I felt so sorry for her. I wanted to give her any little comfort I could give her. She’s scared too, and lonely, and in desperate need of affection. I…kinda am too. I wanted her to stay warm and comfortable. Better she sleeps on pillows and blankets than cold concrete floor, huh?”
  767.  
  768. You look straight up at him. He almost looks taken aback. Somewhere deep in his eyes, you can see…he’s in pain too. He begins to speak slowly, appearing to choose his words carefully.
  769.  
  770. “If I could free her from that chain, I would in a heartbeat. I hate having her like this. However, there is nothing I can do for the time being. If I tried to free her, or made her more comfortable, Dr. Money would harm her and someone else I love dearly. I hate this too.”
  771.  
  772. He looks back at her with a pained expression as you can’t help but notice her tearing up too.
  773.  
  774. “I’ve done everything to protect those I love, to give them happy lives with loving, happy families. No one has ever been able to pull something like this on me. I hate admitting it, but I’m prisoner here too. We all are. I’m only doing this to protect Zephyr and one other close loved one. This won’t last forever, mark my words.”
  775.  
  776. “Whu-What are you intending to do?”
  777.  
  778. He turns back to you with a small smile.
  779.  
  780. “Something I cannot yet say. I’ll get us out of here. I just need some time.”
  781.  
  782. His smile, however, turns back into a frown.
  783.  
  784. “I also hate saying this, but you are going to have to go through what we have planned for you. To protect Zephyr and my family, I have no choice. I’m sorry Marra.”
  785.  
  786. You gulp and start to shake as he begins to pick up the smiley face mask from the floor, placing it back on his face.
  787.  
  788. “If it’s any consolation, thank you for looking after Zephyr last night. I…appreciate it. I’ll try to make this as painless as possible for you. In the end, you will get what you want Marra.”
  789.  
  790. Your shaking becomes readily noticeable by him and Zephyr. If…If he’s going to experiment on you, what’s he going to do to you? Turn you into a pony, or what else? Oh God…the thought of those little machines altering everything about you, your body, your mind, your memories…everything. Oh dear God…as much as you want to be a pony, you also don’t want to lose yourself. You just want to be you and be back with Farra. Please…Please…no more madness. You can’t handle that anymore. Everything going on in Dr. Money’s madhouse is…you don’t even know how to describe it anymore. You just want to go home, and be with Farra, and be out of this crazy nightmare.
  791.  
  792. Colin walks back over to the tray of food and scoops some of it back up, placing it all on the wheelchair, and rolling it over to you.
  793.  
  794. “Here, you need to eat. Take it slow. Your body is not used to eating large quantities of food. If you eat too much, it could hurt you.”
  795.  
  796. He picks up the bowl of oatmeal, which surprisingly did not shatter when it fell, and passes you a spoon. You shakily take it, hesitant to take a bite. Does this thing have nanomachines in it too?
  797.  
  798. “It’s not poisoned if that’s what you’re wondering. It’s just regular oatmeal. I can’t do anything to you without Dr. Money’s approval, least he harm my Zephyr.”
  799.  
  800. You notice him picking up the tray with the rest of the veggies and walking over to Zephyr, handing them to her. She slowly takes small bites of them, crying a little. He coos to her and whispers, words not loud enough for you to be able to hear. You look back down at the oatmeal for a moment more, reluctantly deciding it was safe to eat.
  801.  
  802. Dipping your spoon in it, you pull back up a small spoonful of oatmeal into your mouth. It was kind of cold, and very bland. A part of you almost wants to gag from the taste. You never liked oatmeal to begin with, but you could feel your tummy suddenly rumbling hard. Better to have some food than none at all, huh?
  803.  
  804. You take small bites and force yourself to swallow most of it down. It felt good having some form of food in you, though it also strangely hurt for some reason. Your tummy…was aching. Maybe because it’s not used to digesting food? Possibly. Regardless, you watch as Zephyr slowly eats her food; Colin petting her back and forth for comfort. When she finishes her food, he hugs her tightly for several long moments. You don’t say anything.
  805.  
  806. A good part of you felt sorry for them. They’re victims in all of this, just like you. All they want is to get out of here and to go back to their old lives as family. Colin just really loves Zephyr. He’s overly protective of her, almost like a protective parent. You guess you could understand where he was coming from. Despite appearing a little threatening at certain points, you could understand how Zephyr felt about him. He really does have a loving heart; something Dr. Money lacks. For Dr. Money to be so obsessed with bringing others true happiness, that seemed to be the one key thing he was missing in his search. Love. All he does is terrorize, torture, and mess with others. He has no love. And given everything he’s done, he doesn’t deserve any of it.
  807.  
  808. Still, what does Colin have in mind with stopping Dr. Money? Does he know of a way out of here, and a way to make him pay for his crimes? Considering what Dr. Money knows about him, and using Zephyr and whoever Autumn was as leverage against him, if Zephyr and Autumn could be free, Colin would stop at nothing from tearing down Dr. Money. Would that be the secret to getting out of here? Freeing Zephyr and Autumn? Maybe there’s a way to do that. You don’t know where Autumn is, but if you could have just one more night, maybe you could somehow free Zephyr from her chain. You’d need to have a private chat with Colin first, but when were you ever going to get another chance like this with him, let alone another night? Because from the sounds of things, today is the day that-
  809.  
  810. “Colin? Is Marra ready to come upstairs?”
  811.  
  812. Everyone immediately turns up to the camera with the speaker crackling static. The camera flickers on with the blinking red light, and turns to face all of you. Colin releases Zephyr from the embrace and stands back up.
  813.  
  814. “What is Marra doing slumped up against the wall on this side of the room Colin? I hope you’re not mistreating her or making her unhappy in any way. That could lead to some unfortunate consequences.”
  815.  
  816. Colin silently walks over to you and attempts to help you up onto the wheelchair, taking the bowl and spoon from you, and then grabbing the tray from Zephyr. He goes to place them on the bed and returns, grabbing onto your wheelchair. The camera, you can faintly tell, zooms in specifically on you.
  817.  
  818. “Then why does she look uneasy? What exactly were you doing with her Colin?”
  819.  
  820. “Marra is fine. I have done nothing to her but give her the food as you requested. We are heading up to you now.”
  821.  
  822. “I may just have to have a few private words with her once the two of you are up here. You better hope she says nothing negative of you Colin.”
  823.  
  824. A loud screech is heard as the speaker shuts off. The camera then zooms back down, with the red light on it flickering off. You almost want to jump out of the wheelchair and run out of here when Colin grips you on your shoulder and turns you so that you are facing him.
  825.  
  826. “Marra, I know you may be scared, but you have to remain calm. There is more at stake here than you realize. While I am not at liberty to reveal everything, I have no choice but to put you through this. Once it is over, I will try to get all of us out of here. However, we will have to work together, and nothing can be done until after your experiment. I’ll try to make this as painless as possible for you when it is your turn. I kindly ask you to share nothing of what has gone down in this room with Dr. Money. If he finds out what is going on, or if you say bad things of me, everything will turn out bad for all of us, and none of us may end up getting out of here. Do you understand me?”
  827.  
  828. You can’t help but begin to shake a little, realizing that no matter what happens, you’re going to be his and Dr. Money’s medical experiment. And if there’s anything that you know about Dr. Money, he’s going to go all out with messing you up; possibly torturing you in the process despite what he says to you. You close your eyes and shudder, sweat beginning to drip down your forehead. A part of you almost wants to have an anxiety attack when you feel Colin releasing his hand from your shoulder. You open your eyes to look at him. He simply sighs, staring down at you through his smiley face mask.
  829.  
  830. “I don’t want to do this either. I am sorry for everything you have been through, but once this is all over, I’ll try my best to get you out of here. I’ll get you a new home with a new family and a new life. I’m sorry if I came across as harsh earlier. I just want to save my two pets and protect them. If you go through this, you’ll essentially save Zephyr. And once your experiment is over, we’ll be able to personally stop Dr. Money in his tracks. For now, however, it’s time.”
  831.  
  832. You start to involuntarily yelp when you notice Zephyr looking up at you with a small smile.
  833.  
  834. “You’re in good hands Marra. Master won’t hurt you. I asked him not to when he was quietly whispering to me. It might seem scary, but you’ll really be happy afterwards Marra. You’ll get to be just like me and Autumn; being the pony you’ve always wanted to be! Master will make sure you adjust, and we’ll be there to help you through with starting your new life!”
  835.  
  836. You can’t bring yourself to muster a response, but Zephyr’s smile is at least able to make you stop shaking. As scared as you were to go through whatever you were about to go through, the thought that you’d be able to get her out of that terrible chain helped you to feel just a tiny bit better. If nothing else, for her.
  837.  
  838. “R-Right. Thu-Thank y-you Zephyr, and Cuh-Colin. I just…please, whatever happens, don’t put me back in a virtual nightmare. I can’t handle any more mind games. I just want…”
  839.  
  840. You trail off, not sure what it is exactly that you want. Sure, you wanna be you in your true body, but knowing Dr. Money and all of this, there’ll be a catch. Ultimately, all you wanted was to just be with Farra. You had to get back to her…somehow.
  841.  
  842. “It’s time Marra. Zephyr, we’ll be back in several hours. Everything will be okay, I promise.”
  843.  
  844. Almost instantaneously, Colin turns you away from Zephyr and begins pushing you out of the room. Once you both are outside the doorway, he stops. Although you couldn’t see him, you hear him closing the door, with keys turning in the lock. He then grabs your wheelchair once more and pushes you to your right. Neither of you say anything as Colin silently pushes you down the hallway.
  845.  
  846. The hallway looks as bland as ever, with the occasional camera appearing along the walls. There were several more doors to your left and right, but once you and Colin reach the end, you notice an elevator sitting directly in front you; its silvery doors reflecting a blurry reflection of you. You can’t quite make out your reflection’s details, but somewhere in there, you see fear. Colin reaches forward to push a sole up arrow button, and with a loud ding, the doors open soon after. He wheels you into an otherwise bland metallic elevator. You notice four floors on the elevator panel. You were apparently on the lowest floor, B. Colin pushes for floor 3, the highest floor. With the button lit up, the door soon closes. The elevator makes a mechanical noise and begins going up.
  847.  
  848. Colin, for his part, continues to remain silent. You sit there staring at the door, curious and afraid of what may lay beyond it. Time itself seems to have slowed, with each loud ding echoing through your ears as you passed by a floor. As you got closer and closer to the third floor, you could feel your heart beating more and more. Either Dr. Money would try to kill you, do something horrific to you, or do nothing to you. As much as you pleaded for that third option, you knew that wasn’t gonna happen. Whatever’s planned for you, you know it’s going to involve Colin’s nanotechnology being injected into you. Whether you survive that or die in excruciating agony, you didn’t know. The only thing keeping you together was knowing this would help Zephyr, and that Dr. Money might somehow help you get reunited with Farra.
  849.  
  850. The elevator abruptly stops and makes a loud ding, with the light on the third-floor button disappearing. You’re here. The doors soon open, revealing a much more crowded open area than what was in the basement. What lay before you wasn’t necessarily a hallway, but a big open circular space that lead into smaller individual hallways. There were some doors open and closed in this big, open area. Strangely enough, you didn’t really see any windows, despite being on the top floor. You also immediately notice many workers going to and from various rooms. Some were socializing, others looked to be hard at work. Others simply stood or sat down in nearby chairs. It almost looked like a lounge for Dr. Money’s workers. The creepiest thing about all of this, you observe, is that every single worker present wore one of those smiley face masks. You couldn’t make out who was who. Some wore suits, others wore casual clothes, and some even wore the same orange outfit that Colin was wearing. When Colin wheels you out of the elevator with the doors from behind closing, everyone immediately stops what they are doing. They all turn to stare at you silently.
  851.  
  852. You gulp, sweat overtaking you as you can’t help but feel like everyone is judging you; observing you as the newest guinea pig in whatever work they’re doing. No one says anything as Colin slowly wheels you through the center of the room, and then turns down a hallway to your left.
  853.  
  854. This hallway is incredibly short, with a single beige door spread out along the wall on your right. It looks like it could have been a double door, but only the right side of the door had a metallic elongated door handle down the center of both doors. To the left of this supposed double door, you also notice, is a silvery white sign. In black font, it said it was room 3060, “Nanoscience and Nanomedicine Lab.” You take another deep gulp, soon realizing there were a multitude of signs on the door. One was an orange piece of paper labeled “BSL-1 Facility BIOHAZARD.” Then there was a red sign right above the door handle on the right side labeled “Regulated Medical Waste,” as well as a danger sign on the left side warning of liquid nitrogen. Yet right above the liquid nitrogen sign was a small rectangular piece of paper taped to the door. It made you shudder hard. “Caution Nano-materials present.”
  855.  
  856. Colin quickly grips your shoulder as if to keep you from shaking. You look up to him with one last plea as he silently stares back at you with his smiley face mask. He doesn’t say anything, but holds this locked stare with you until you stop noticeably shaking. Once you have done so, he releases his grasp on you and gently pats your shoulder. You then see him turn and walk up to the door. He knocks on the door two times, waits for several seconds, and then knocks again. The door unlocks and slowly opens outwards with another worker in a smiley face mask, observing you and Colin. This worker says nothing, and then gestures for both of you to come inside. Colin soon walks back behind you and pushes you into the room with the wheelchair.
  857.  
  858. The room, which really shouldn’t have surprised you all that much, looked entirely like a chemical laboratory. You saw numerous desks scattered throughout the room; some had wheels while others were built into the floor. Directly to the right of you was a fume hood. You were no scientist, you remember, but you do remember fume hoods from your high school chemistry class. There were several scales and glassware on said scales with what looked to be clear liquid inside the fume hood. On many of the other desks too, there were lamps, some of which hung all along the ceiling, standard lab equipment, papers, writing utensils, cords, test tubes, and so on. Several colored wastebaskets were also scattered around the room, as well as numerous cylindrical gas tanks. There was even an emergency decontamination shower in front of you to your far left. Looking farther though, you notice several other rooms that look like offices that had windows with blinds covering them. The only ones present were you, Colin, and whoever the worker was that let both of you into the room. He makes a gesture and guides both of you to a gray door by the decontamination shower on the far left side of the room.
  859.  
  860. Once in front of it, you see your guide pull out a red key to unlock the door. He turns the knob and pushes it inward as Colin leads you in. You don’t see your guide close the door behind you, hearing him locking both you and Colin inside. There’s not much in this room aside from a ticking circular clock located in the top center part of the room. A glass window sat through much of the center wall, though the other side was black. You notice this room itself is very dim. There’s a solid oak table perched in front of the glass window, just below where it ends. A padded folding chair sits just underneath the desk. You also notice a microphone with a yellow and red button sitting atop the desk, with a wire connected to somewhere in the wall in front of you. To the left of the glass window is a solid, bulky door that looks as though it was a bank vault. A bright red light hung over it, shining solidly throughout the room. Colin moves forward to move the padded folding chair to the left a little, and then wheels you right up to the desk. He pats your shoulder one more time, and as you turn to him, he walks up to the vault-like door.
  861.  
  862. He knocks on it twice, waits for a few seconds more, and then knocks again. Locks can be heard turning, and then, with the most horrendous screeching ever, the door slowly opens outwards. Dr. Money is seen on the receiving end of the door, and once he notices both of you, he smiles.
  863.  
  864. “Welcome, both of you. I must say, I have been looking forward to this moment for some time now. It has taken a lot longer than I had initially planned for it to, but the end results will be well worth it. Colin, are you ready?”
  865.  
  866. He silently nods and walks into the darkened room. Dr. Money grins and steps into your room, shutting the vault door from your side.
  867.  
  868. “I have to ask, but are you ready too Marra?”
  869.  
  870. You shudder once more, trying to keep a grip. In your mind, a hundred million thoughts are screaming at you to run, but you’re sealed in this room. There’s no way out, and if you tried anything, chances are things would only get a whole lot worse. Remember what Colin said: keep your junk together and you’ll be able to get out of this nightmare. Think of Farra…Farra…
  871.  
  872. “Marra? Did you hear me? Are you ready?”
  873.  
  874. All you can muster is a gentle shake of your head back and forth.
  875.  
  876. “No? I figured that might be the case. Suffice it to say, you can breathe a sigh of relief. You will not be experimented on today.”
  877.  
  878. You nearly faint from dizzying relief, realizing that you were going to be okay, and that nothing was actually going to happen to you.
  879.  
  880. “That experiment will be either tomorrow or the following day. I’m not sure yet. It all depends on how everything goes today.”
  881.  
  882. You still gulp, but at the very least, this would buy you some more time to come up with an alternate escape strategy. If you can get another night with some alone time with Zephyr and Colin, maybe you could get out of this experimentation junk altogether.
  883.  
  884. “Which is also why you must be at the center of attention for today’s experiment. This will give you and all of us a sneak preview of what’s to come. I need to know how successful this is, and to ensure the procedure we have set up for you will indeed work. You deserve to know what is going to happen to you, especially since you won’t remember any of this. Whatever fear or terror you may be experiencing prior to your procedure, rest assured, I will make it my absolute duty to remove that from you, and fill you with nothing but pure happiness Marra. So don’t be scared. Be happy.”
  885.  
  886. And with that, he snaps his fingers loudly, turning to face the glass window. The darkness immediately fades as lights brightly shine throughout the room beyond the glass window in front of you. What you see immediately puts a knot in your stomach.
  887.  
  888. In the far right corner in the room in front of you were Daniel, Justin, and Grady bound and gagged in gray folding chairs. They had blindfolds on them, but you could tell that they immediately realized something was about to go down. They began shaking and making muffled screams in their gags. They still wore their same orange prisoner attires, though you noticed that all three of them looked a lot more gaunt and skinnier since the last time you saw them. You could even see several cuts and bruises on some parts of their exposed arms and faces. Although you couldn’t see their eyes, they looked like they were in complete and utter terror. As much as you hated them in the past, you felt sorry for them, as well as fearful for them. Today was their hell; a taste of what lay in store for you if you can’t find a way out of here soon.
  889.  
  890. Directly across from you to the far side of the other room, you saw a bunch of cabinets, a sink, a stool, and a variety of other medical equipment. The room was otherwise empty with a large open space between the glass window and where the medical stuff was. Colin, who was the only one in the room, sat on his stool overlooking all of the apparatuses that laid on the counter, carefully inspecting each and every one of them. You also notice multiple syringes on the counter; each a different size and color. He pulls out a pencil and clipboard from a drawer and begins taking notes on it. He carefully picks up each syringe, examines each of them closely, and scribbles more onto his clipboard.
  891.  
  892. Several minutes pass while he does this. You hear nothing aside from the shivering yelping from the three prisoners beyond the glass window. You’re not sure what to do aside from wait, though you perform a subtle side-ways glance to look at Dr. Money’s expression. You notice him casting a sadistic grin at his test subjects, eager to do whatever it was he had planned for them. He stares at them for several moments, studying, calculating, strategizing in cold seriousness. All you saw was evil in him. Nothing about him even seemed human. Then, he notices you glancing at him. He darts his eyes right at you; his smile returning to a gentle smile.
  893.  
  894. “Are you excited as I am Marra? What we will be achieving here today will be written down in history books. I hope you can appreciate all of the efforts I have put forth in making this day finally happen.”
  895.  
  896. You say nothing, too uneasy to even elicit a response.
  897.  
  898. “I am terribly sorry with how long this has taken. It would have happened far sooner had I not encountered numerous obstacles along the way. Colin was not easy to find, let alone with bringing him here. That, along with studying and working day after day, night after night, methodically planning each and every step to bringing us ever closer to the future of mankind; it has been truly challenging.”
  899.  
  900. “And what kind of future is that?” you ask wearily.
  901.  
  902. “A future in which everyone is happy, and can do what it is they truly wish to achieve.”
  903.  
  904. You see him grab for the padded folding chair, sitting himself in it, scooting up next to you to get a front row’s seat of his work. He crosses his legs and folds his arms, looking on in abject fascination. You turn away from him and return your gaze back to Colin.
  905.  
  906. Colin, you now notice, is standing alongside Daniel with a clipboard in one hand. He pulls off Daniel’s blindfold off with a hard tug. Daniel immediately recoils from the bright light, but is soon frantically darting his eyes all over the room. When they cross over you, you immediately see a look of pure, unadulterated hatred. He freezes and stares intently at you with the look of someone who wished you harm.
  907.  
  908. “Subject name is Daniel Cohen.”
  909.  
  910. Colin begins reading off the clipboard over Daniel’s general biographical information.
  911.  
  912. “Age 25. Male. Stands at five feet, eight inches. Previously weighed approximately 180 pounds, but is now down to 145 pounds. Previously employed as a hedge fund manager at a branch of Fidelity Investments. Has no known siblings, but was engaged with his local secretary, Briana Smethwick. No children. Born in Los Angeles, California. Possesses an MBA in finance and was actively pursuing to earn his CFA. Subject has repeatedly been hostile when questioned, and routinely threatens others.”
  913.  
  914. Colin then undoes his gag and pulls it out of his mouth. Daniel immediately begins shouting while Colin moves to undo Justin’s and Grady’s blindfolds.
  915.  
  916. “ANON YOU SICK FUCK! I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU FOR THIS FUCKING SHIT YOU DEGENERATE SUBHUMAN PIECE OF GARBAGE!!!”
  917.  
  918. As soon as their eyes adjust, Justin and Grady immediately eye you as well with looks of pure hatred; however, Colin does not undo their gags. They cannot speak.
  919.  
  920. “Oh-ho, when I get out of here, I swear I’m going to torture you and make you wish you could fucking die Anon. Don’t worry, I’ll kill you…slowly. I’ll make you scream, I’ll make you writhe in agony, I’ll watch you suffer, I’ll laugh at your pain, and I’ll savor every single fucking second of it. Just you fucking wait!”
  921.  
  922. Without warning, Colin immediately grabs hold of Daniel’s right arm and pulls up his sleeve, dropping the clipboard in his lap. Colin reaches for a small orange syringe sitting at the edge of the counter and quickly injects it into the upper right side of his arm. Daniel’s pupils quickly shrink as his look transforms from murderous hatred into absolute terror. Colin picks up the clipboard and looks at both of you through his smiley face mask.
  923.  
  924. “Subject has been injected with a solution of pancuronium bromide, which is designed to inhibit motor coordination as a muscle relaxant, but is not a general anesthetic. Subject will be unable to move or communicate, but will be consciously aware of everything that is occurring. Per Dr. Money’s orders, the subject will be able to feel everything.”
  925.  
  926. Much as you disliked Daniel, you turn to look at Dr. Money in horror. You see him cast his malicious grin again.
  927.  
  928. “Excellent. Wonderful news Colin. You may begin with the experiment.”
  929.  
  930. Colin nods, placing the empty orange syringe and clipboard on the counter, then moving towards Daniel. Daniel quickly stutters as if he’s ready to fight back in defense.
  931.  
  932. “D-Don’t yuhou putshes your hanshes onn meeee!”
  933.  
  934. His speech quickly becomes slurred as you see the tension in his muscles relax. Colin undoes the binds from his wrists and legs until he’s completely free. As soon as he’s free, Daniel tries to swing forward, but simply stumbles and falls to the ground. You can hear him speaking in a rushed frenzy, but his speech becomes so slurred that you can’t make out anything he’s saying. Colin simply grabs him across the floor and rests him in the center of the room, with his face facing both you and Dr. Money. He’s soon unable to make any form of noise aside from a gurgle or a faint whine, becoming motionless. His eyes, however, are still able to move around. He blinks repeatedly and looks directly at you, both in fear and hatred. You turn away and look back to Dr. Money, who seems to be thoroughly enjoying what he’s witnessing.
  935.  
  936. “Why the heck are you doing this to him?!? This is sick! This is so utterly wrong!”
  937.  
  938. Dr. Money looks at you with glee, excitement building up in him as he turns his gaze from the glass window to you.
  939.  
  940. “Is it now? You saw just as I did that he was threatening to torture and kill you physically. He was very honest. He wants to murder you and he wants to enjoy your suffering. How ironic that the tables have turned. Of course, we’re not going to kill him or the other two. Oh no. You had that option back then, and I’m keeping true to my word. All three will live, and by the time everything is all finished, they’ll be happy souls living their lives with brand new identities!”
  941.  
  942. “Whu-What?”
  943.  
  944. You can’t help but feel a chill cross down your spine by those last few words.
  945.  
  946. “What do you mean by brand new identities?”
  947.  
  948. He points back at the glass window for you to look. You see Colin pulling out a very large clear syringe from a drawer; probably the largest syringe he had in that room. He walks back up from behind Daniel and turns him so that he’s laying on his back. Colin carefully pulls off all of Daniel’s clothes and tosses them in a corner of the room. Part of you nearly gags seeing him naked, but that gag quickly disappears as he sticks the needle to that huge syringe half-way across his right arm. He presses down on it until all of the fluid flows into Daniel, and then slowly removes the syringe from his arm. He walks back over to the counter to place the empty syringe on it.
  949. You see Daniel’s eyes frantically dart around in a panic, though you can’t tell if he’s in pain yet. All he makes are low gurgling sounds. Justin and Grady, who sit at the corner of the room, look on in morbid fascination. They begin trying to mumble inaudible words through their gags. Colin wheels his stool in front of you and Dr. Money, but a few feet away from Daniel. He grabs for his clipboard and pencil, passively sitting down onto the stool. Pencil in hand, he patiently watches for whatever is to come.
  950.  
  951. “New identities you ask?”
  952.  
  953. You turn back to Dr. Money, observing how focused he is on both you and the events occurring in the other room.
  954.  
  955. “Do you remember our conversation back when you were in my Virtual Dream Machine Marra? Do you also remember feeling urges and compulsions to act more and more like Radiance? Like something was indirectly suggesting you to behave a certain way?”
  956.  
  957. You try to think back, recalling how affectionate and feminine you were around Nullity before you encountered those silhouettes. You remember being in that shower, wondering why you were acting so very effeminate and affectionate. You then remember everything Dr. Money spoke of with trying to influence you to make you believe that virtual world was real. Before you can even respond to him, he continues.
  958.  
  959. “That is essentially what our friend Colin is doing here, but on a much more direct and powerful scale. You see, Daniel isn’t Colin’s first experiment. He’s done this with countless others. As a matter of fact, it turns out Colin is quite the professional with this. I’m sure Zephyr herself has told you about some of his work.”
  960.  
  961. You and Dr. Money immediately turn back to the glass window as animal-like screaming echoes along the walls of both rooms. It’s loud enough to make you want to put both of your hands over your ears. Dr. Money immediately presses both buttons on the microphone, instantly silencing the room you and he were in.
  962.  
  963. “That’s better. Apologies for that Marra. From here on out, we can watch on without all of the distracting sounds coming from that room.”
  964.  
  965. Though you could no longer hear anything in the other room, you could see Daniel’s eyes staring wide-eyed straight at the ceiling as he was trying to violently jerk his body around. He’s able to shift around a little bit, though not much. You wince at the display, turning back to Dr. Money instead.
  966.  
  967. “Not a fan of the show I take it? That’s certainly alright Marra. I promise what you’ll go through will be far less painful, and will be far more pleasurable than what Daniel is going through. Now, where was I?”
  968.  
  969. He pauses for a moment, scratching his chin trying to remember, though you can also tell that he’s distracted by what was going on in the other room.
  970.  
  971. “Oh yes! Of course, we were talking about Colin’s work and crafting new identities. You see, Colin’s work on all of the people he’s turned into ponies has in some way or another also given them new personalities and identities. Yes, he can physically turn them into ponies, but he also alters their minds to a significant extent. Not only do they forget their old names, but they can also forget portions of their memories, especially if they experienced something traumatic. They also adopt new mannerisms and behaviors in order to help them transition into new lives. Colin’s creations are neurologically programmed to love what happens to them, and to love and embrace their new identities. What you are seeing with Daniel is exactly what he’s done on others.”
  972.  
  973. You briefly turn back towards Daniel and notice something mystifying transpiring. What looks like a mist or a steam of some sort begins rising from Daniel and into the air. It’s a clear mist, but readily visible. It grows and starts to cover some portion of the room inside, with parts of the glass window beginning to fog up. However, you’re still able to see what’s going on in the other room.
  974.  
  975. “Whu-What’s going on?”
  976.  
  977. “That, my dear Marra? That’s Colin’s invention. That’s his nanotechnology fast at work in transforming Daniel into an adorable little filly who’s expected to be loving, kind, obedient, affectionate, and every other bubbly term you can think of. As we speak, Colin’s nanobots are beginning to eat away at his flesh, pouring through his bloodstream and central nervous system, and straight into his brain. They’re small enough to penetrate through his blood-brain barrier and directly rewire his mind. In a matter of time, he’ll no longer look or be Daniel mentally. He’ll have an entirely new identity and body altogether!”
  978.  
  979. You freeze in both absolute disgust and horror. You watch as Colin calmly takes notes on his clipboard. Justin and Grady’s eyes are huge. Both are shaking frantically, like they’re about to completely lose it. Daniel, you can’t even read his expression anymore. The skin on some parts of his body begins to contort and bulge, as well as shrink. It’s so horrifyingly sickening, yet you struggle in bringing your eyes off of Daniel.
  980.  
  981. “Don’t be so surprised Marra. Daniel is certainly not the first. Zephyr went through this, as did Autumn, as did countless others too. However, unlike Daniel, the vast majority of them had some form of anesthetic that rendered them unconscious through the transformation. While it might seem cruel to you that I’m making Daniel be awake to experience all of this, I have to have him awake in order to ensure the experiments with the others will work. This is the first time that I am witnessing this myself, and based off of all of my research, data, work, and experience, I needed to run the first experiment exactly how Colin normally transforms others into ponies.”
  982.  
  983. “Whu-What do you mean?”
  984.  
  985. Your gaze once more shifts away from the glass window and back to him.
  986.  
  987. “Remember, I’m wanting to integrate my virtual reality technology with Colin’s transformational nanotechnology. It’s all about the Technological Singularity and bringing about a new world of happiness…where machine and man merge…and where man can live and pursue any dream he so desires. That was what Colin and I were originally working on. You remember that, don’t you Marra?”
  988.  
  989. You slowly and silently nod.
  990.  
  991. “Nanotechnology is the key ingredient to merging man and machine. I cannot separate one’s consciousness through my Virtual Dream Machine. If the body dies, so too does the consciousness that is within cyberspace. My inventions are not enough, and as was seen through your own experiences in the Virtual Dream Machine, they also failed in completely changing you and making you happy. Colin is the only one who possesses the ability to integrate nanotechnology within one’s mind. The biological brain, the nervous system, the skeletal structure, and all of the other vital organs are completely altered by his nanotechnology into one of these obedient pet ponies of his. Now, mix some of my virtual reality technology into his nanotechnology, and what do we get? Do we get purely biologically reconstructed bodies, or are they mechanical bodies that simulate biological functions and appearances? Is consciousness still attached to this mechanical or biological body, or can it be free of it and become an artificial consciousness itself? Does said consciousness also have the ability to alter its physical body on a whim? That’s what we’ll find out with Justin and Grady. And after that, trust me when I say you’ll be in for a real treat Marra.”
  992.  
  993. You shudder and gulp, refusing to look back into the other room. Your eyes dart around Dr. Money, and then back down into your lap. You’re not even sure what to say to that other than that you hoped deep down you could find some way out of here before the day was over.
  994.  
  995. “Still not willing to look, are you? That is alright, if it makes you feel any better. Nothing special will happen to Daniel other than becoming another one of Colin’s brainwashed pet ponies. However, like I have said, it is necessary for the first experiment to go like this so I can personally observe how all of this takes place, and study through Colin’s notes on how exactly he is able to alter and affect the conscious mind of an individual. Consciousness is such a fascinating subject.”
  996.  
  997. He pauses for a few moments watching on at whatever was going on in the other room before returning his gaze back to you. Although curious, you didn’t want to see whatever deformities Daniel was going through. It was sick, disgusting, and wrong on so many levels. Much as you hated staring at Dr. Money, it was better than looking at the nightmare fuel in the other room.
  998.  
  999. “Speaking of consciousness and how it can be manipulated, would you like to hear a story on how I was able to find Colin again Marra? You remember there was a time where he dropped off the face of the Earth, right?”
  1000.  
  1001. Despite not wanting to be here talking with this monster while horrific things occur in the other room, if it could help past the time faster, you figure it’d be best to just go ahead and play along. Any distraction besides the horror going on in the other room would be gladly welcomed. You nodded for Dr. Money to continue.
  1002.  
  1003. “You also remember my fascination in psychology in watching people go about their everyday lives, right? I too had that same fascination with watching how individuals socialized online. I must say, things are quite different in the cyber world than in the real world. Far wilder, and a lot more dangerous. Several years back, around 2012 or 2013, I stumbled across a story online that very quickly captured my interest. It would be one of my first direct exposures into the community that was increasingly becoming obsessed with the My Little Pony fandom. Although never originally given a title, many called it Zephyr’s Tale, written by none other than Zephyr herself.”
  1004.  
  1005. He stops and eyes you carefully, curious of your reaction. A part of you is unsure of what to say, though some part of you is confused. How the heck can Zephyr write and post a story online?
  1006.  
  1007. “How’s that possible? She can’t type on a keyboard with hooves! That doesn’t make sense.”
  1008.  
  1009. “That was what I thought too Marra. And while it could arguably have just been any old story posted in the giant sea that is the internet, something about it was special. The man she called her Master in that story, while his name was never directly mentioned, he sounded far too similar to Colin. And then, when she wrote about some of his professional background, it matched exactly with what I had remembered Colin doing with our old employer. There was simply no way it could have been coincidence. No, there was much more to this story. Zephyr began writing it in 2012, and finished it by the end of 2014. Since then, almost no word from her or her Master has been heard from either of them. Silence.”
  1010.  
  1011. You say nothing in response as he continues.
  1012.  
  1013. “When Zephyr finished her story, it was revealed she had been using a voice-to-text software program that Colin would later edit. This was confirmed by my workers when we brought that computer, Colin, Zephyr, and Autumn here. That story was very real; in many ways I could have never begun to have imagined. That story, Marra, has had many far-reaching effects on others. Not just on Colin’s transformees, but on many other individuals outside of his transformational targets.”
  1014.  
  1015. “What do you mean?”
  1016.  
  1017. “What I mean is that whether intentional or not, that story was written in such a manner as to induce strong desires to be a pet pony like one of his transformees. Some have argued there was hypnotic subtext within that story, while others have said there’s something more to it than meets the eye. I choose to look towards both being equally viable possibilities. I became obsessed and fascinated with this story, closely following the community that was born out of it.”
  1018.  
  1019. Dr. Money pauses once more, trying to carefully decide on his next choice of words.
  1020.  
  1021. “While I could not get in contact with Zephyr or Colin at the time, I was able to indirectly observe many individuals who were affected by that story. Many such individuals developed strong cravings to want to be a pet pony, while others experienced notable personality drifts in their desires. Simply reading that story alone has influenced people to radically change their lives into something else. Of course, no one was transformed into a pet pony physically by reading that story, but mentally, it induced some form of change in them. I’m not entirely sure if Colin or Zephyr ever realized the effect this story was having on so many others, but it eventually brought out two other communities; the pet pony community and the pony hypnosis community.”
  1022.  
  1023. Suddenly, something within your memory dawns on you like a ton of bricks. You remember back in the virtual world with that whole incident with Times R. New. Something about an eggy farts guy and a black box…that was…that was from another community. Pony Transformation General. Blackbox was a writer who sometimes spoke on there with some random person making terrible jokes about that writer. And Zephyr’s Tale, that was…that was considered a historically famous story for that community. That’s right! You heard so many rumors about that story. Warned to stay away from it because it could make you want to be the pet pony. You never read it for whatever reason, but you remember how famous and infamous it was. Whatever happened in that story, all of this is a direct byproduct of that with Dr. Money. It has to be. A huge part of you wishes you could read it right now, but maybe you could ask Zephyr more about it tonight.
  1024.  
  1025. “Although I had hoped to find more within the pet pony community, I managed to uncover so much more in the pony hypnosis community; oh so much more. Zephyr’s Tale was long known to many within the community. Crazy as it might sound, this was when I began actively studying hypnosis so much more in depth; carefully observing every little thing in the shadows. One of my key goals was to find and observe those who were affected by that story, and to study their psychological states over time. I also learned so much more about the mind and consciousness in general. You know what hypnosis is, right Marra?”
  1026.  
  1027. Although you weren’t an expert at it, you knew what it meant in general. You never really believed in that sort of thing, thinking it to be nonsense. You say yes to Dr. Money, gesturing for him to continue.
  1028.  
  1029. “The manipulation of the mind through suggestions to change an individual’s set of behaviors. Sometimes such suggestions can be minor, while others are much more powerful. Some can be helpful, while others can be malicious. What I saw fascinated me on a profound scale. Hypnotists, through audible files you could listen to or through words that could be read on a digital screen, could hypnotize others into wanting to be ponies. As years passed, I observed individuals write journals of their experiences; noticing how their writing patterns gradually changed. I researched more and more into the history of this pony hypnosis community, which would later branch out into separate pony hypnosis communities. ‘Where am I going with this?’ you might be wondering. It’s simple really. Zephyr’s Tale was at the center of a myriad of issues these communities were experiencing.”
  1030.  
  1031. You again say nothing, waiting for him to continue.
  1032.  
  1033. “In the early days of the original pony hypnosis community, a hypnosis file was created to pay tribute to Zephyr’s Tale to help individuals truly experience what it would be like to be a pet pony without Colin’s nanotechnology. Many initially reported great success with the file, but they also got far more than what they bargained for. Long rumored to be the infamous pet pony file, it has resulted in many lives and minds being ruined. Some truly believed that Zephyr or Colin utilized some form of text-based hypnosis within that story, and others were hoping to get that same form of hypnotic emulation through that now-regarded forbidden hypnosis file. That file, quite frankly, changed others on a much more powerful scale than Zephyr’s Tale ever did. And with that, all sorts of corruption and malicious individuals began entering the scene.”
  1034.  
  1035. You almost blurt out “Like you?” to Dr. Money, but you manage to continue remaining silent.
  1036.  
  1037. “Cults of personality, slave trades, sexual exploitation, predatory behaviors, and many other horrendous actions took place. People from these communities began regularly spying on each other, threatening one another, and performing all sorts of atrocious unethical acts. More still, individuals were continually desperate to want to be a pony, especially a pet pony. They wanted to achieve what Zephyr got through Colin. That forbidden hypnosis file, and the continual development to try to produce something more potent with turning one into a pet pony mentally only received further condemnation from many. Individuals in these pony hypnosis communities who sought to achieve what Zephyr got, only through hypnosis instead of nanotechnology, often times experienced very strong personality drift. In fact, I would go so far as to say that these individuals had the most success with becoming permanently altered through hypnosis. They erased their own memories, created new ones, developed new identities, as well as destroyed old identities. Some sadly became suicidal and ended their own lives from going mad or being filled with utter depression with not getting to have something like Zephyr had. While some had joy in mentally perceiving themselves as a pony or a pet pony, very few could get the mental success, let alone the physical success, that Zephyr had obtained. No one could perfectly mimic the kinds of mental changes that Colin has enacted on so many of his transformees.”
  1038.  
  1039. “Why?” is all you can manage to say.
  1040.  
  1041. “Because Marra, while hypnosis can alter your mental states, it cannot completely rewire your neurological wiring. No one within these pony hypnosis communities has ever actually become a physical pet pony like Zephyr or the other transformees. Hypnosis can only go so far, though I will say it is incredible with how far it can go. I’m always watching and observing those communities from the shadows, noting every little thing that transpires in them. I would personally regard those communities as dangerous, as there have been many malicious individuals who have inflicted great harm on so many others with wanting to be a pony or a pet pony. In fact, I could probably write a whole book on all of the corruptions and shadowy politics that go on behind closed-doors within these communities, though perhaps that’s better reserved for another time. All told, I have learned so much from these communities, and with those observations, a better understanding into the psychology of Colin’s transformees and how it is he is able to alter them on a mental level with their new physical bodies. And you of course remember my whole spiel on how our perceptions dictate our realities, right Marra?”
  1042.  
  1043. You nod, remembering all of his rambling while in the virtual world.
  1044.  
  1045. “Despite altering personalities and memories, nearly all hypnosis subjects could still perceive their human bodies at one point or another, as well as the world around them. That desperation for a life of happiness, the possibility of living a happy loving life like Zephyr had with simply being an obedient pet pony, continually haunted and forever changed those seeking that form of pet pony hypnosis. Truthfully, that hypnosis file has brought far more harm than it has good. These pony hypnosis communities sought to bring people happiness in allowing them to become themselves, but as I have said, that could only have gone so far. I tried to do the same thing, only with virtual reality technology. As a matter of fact, I tried to incorporate some of what I had learned through those suggestive voices that were implanted into your mind, Marra, to be more feminine and bubbly, back when I was trying to turn you into Radiance. That was a taste of what happened in those pony hypnosis communities, and yet that still did not work.”
  1046.  
  1047. You look at him both with fear and with anger. He tried to hypnotize you and alter you like those malicious hypnotists did. He…He tried to convince you to be someone else!
  1048.  
  1049. “You…You tried to change me into something I wasn’t! How…How dare you!”
  1050.  
  1051. He looks at you taken aback in surprise, and then quickly casts a malicious grin at you.
  1052.  
  1053. “I wasn’t entirely successful with you, sure; however, you would also not be here right now speaking with me if I had been completely successful. Still, it seems I was partially successful, right?”
  1054.  
  1055. He chuckles at you, waiting for you to respond.
  1056.  
  1057. “You…You tried to mess me up like one of those poor souls.”
  1058.  
  1059. “Not really. Truthfully, I was trying to give you something like Colin was able to give to Zephyr. You should actually feel very honored that I chose you instead of someone else for this. I know hundreds of other individuals who would gladly take your place right now.”
  1060.  
  1061. You look at him incredulously, not sure of how to respond to that. You…You remember your old life before all of this, sure…but, you never were Anon in the first place. That may have been you beforehand, though you knew deep down you wanted to be a mare. You still want to be a mare, right? Of course! That’s who you are! You’re a girl, a mare. You were never Anon. Your name is Marra. That’s right. That…That…
  1062.  
  1063. The color drains from your face as you realize that he may have already changed you to a significant extent. Before all of this, you remember…you used to be so depressed and suicidal. You hated everything. The desire to live a life like the other ponies in that show, living a utopian lifestyle, was just wishful imagination. Yeah, the lake memory was always with you, but you can’t even tell if this world is real any more than the virtual world, or that other world with Farra. You identify as a mare, as one of those Kuby creatures that Farra is. You’re Marra, even though you used to go by Anon. You’re a lot more loving, and so much easier to scare, than you were before coming across Dr. Money. He’s changed you. Somehow, some way, he’s caused some form of personality drift in you. You aren’t who you used to be.
  1064.  
  1065. “Why the long face Marra? You look as though you came to a disturbing realization. I can almost read your thoughts simply by your expression. If I had to guess, I’d say you’re correct. While not as successful as Colin, I have been able to change you too. I can assure you, you are far different than when I first brought you here. What makes you unique compared to the rest of my test subjects is that you can see through my illusions; the rest of them have been unable to successfully do so. Like I said, you are the only one to have been brought out of my Virtual Dream Machine. While I can alter your identity to some extent, I cannot completely alter your perceptions. That’s something Colin can do, and I know he's much more qualified than I am to give you the shot at life you always wished you could have had.”
  1066.  
  1067. He taps his chin in thought for a few moments before continuing.
  1068.  
  1069. “I have to say, it makes me wonder if I had written a story about your experiences through your eyes. If I had, would I have created a story like Colin and Zephyr have with altering the reader’s sense of perception? Would I alter someone else’s identity into wanting to be Radiance, or to be a happy affectionate mare? If I could affect you Marra, I have a feeling I could pull something similar through writing a story alone. Though, no offense, your story so far has not been as bubbly and happy as I had hoped it would have been. It was a lot happier and positive before you started seeing through my virtual illusions, but alas, the original life I tried to give you simply did not work out. If I ever write something like that, maybe I’ll need to rewrite some of it to make it more convincing and believable. After all, people crave happy loving stories with happy loving endings. And to all of those individuals out there that so desperately crave to be a pony, I know they’d love to see your story end with you happily becoming one entirely. Speaking of which, Daniel is coming along quite nicely.”
  1070.  
  1071. He points to the other room with a giant smile, admiring Colin’s work. You reluctantly turn back to look. Your jaw nearly drops. Where Daniel was in the room is now nothing more than an ever-shrinking blob of flesh and fur. The glass window was still steamy to some extent, but you could still see clearly what was happening to Daniel, or rather, whatever’s left of him.
  1072.  
  1073. You still heard no sound from your side of the room, but from what you can see, portions of him were already appearing more and more like a pony. You notice hooves nearly in their final stages of development, along with a small tan tail at his rear. The blob of his half-formed body is so much smaller than what it was at the start of this experiment. Actually, maybe it’s better to not call his body a blob. It looked increasingly more like a small pony than a blob of flesh. His coat was coming in nicely as a beautiful golden yellow hue. You saw the markings of a sun appear near his rear. He also had a small tan mane that had already grown out. Though, his face is still in the process of changing. It looks so deformed, with one eye huge and the other small. A muzzle is beginning to extend from his face as more and more of that golden fur begins creeping up around his face.
  1074.  
  1075. You quickly turn back to Dr. Money at the sound of him chuckling.
  1076.  
  1077. “Look at that. His transformation is almost complete. It’s even going a lot faster than in Colin’s previous experiments. From my research and what I have learned of through my associates, such a transformation would take hours on end. This has progressed much faster, and I have to say, Colin has gotten even better at what he’s done. When Daniel wakes, if there is any fragment of his old personality, it will soon be erased as Colin’s nanomachines make Daniel love being Sunshine; an adorable little filly who’s positive and as happy as can be.”
  1078.  
  1079. You again turn back towards Daniel, both horrified and fascinated yourself. As Daniel’s new little muzzle finally settles into place, you now notice both eyes possessing a beautiful greenish hue, also in correct proportion to Daniel’s new body size. Even more fascinating is watching a new pair of golden eyelids slowly forming themselves across those green eyes. It’s not instant, though you notice them gradually appearing into existence over the eyes.
  1080.  
  1081. “Ah, the magic of nanotechnology. So small to the naked eye, but so very powerful in completely altering life and reality as we know it. Being able to erase things and rebuild them, being able to manipulate matter and consciousness, being able to bring about a whole new scientific revolution to science and mankind…I admit, I’m very eager for the future.”
  1082.  
  1083. Dr. Money begins laughing with a malicious tone in his voice. You slightly turn your gaze to him and notice frenzied excitement on his face. Through Colin, he wielded a very dangerous power that could seriously harm so many innocent souls. He shouldn’t have this power. In the wrong hands, nanotechnology could become a very terrifying weapon.
  1084.  
  1085. “Look Marra! It appears Sunshine is now awake!”
  1086.  
  1087. He nearly jumps up out of his chair in excited joy. Looking back to the glass window, you see Colin carefully picking up this new pony, holding her gently in his lap while he lightly pets her fur. You notice her slowly wake, casting her beautiful green eyes towards you and Dr. Money. Her expression is confused at first, though she soon greets both of you with a warm smile and begins moving her mouth. You can’t hear her, though Colin immediately makes a gesture that you assume means it’s safe to go inside the other room.
  1088.  
  1089. “Now Marra, before we go in, I must advise you to remain calm around Sunshine. If there’s traces of Daniel’s old identity within her, it might surface out and create a particularly unpleasant experience for Sunshine. Though Colin’s nanomachines will soon fully erase everything that was once Daniel, I want her to be happy as can be. She deserves nothing less. I have been told by Colin that you should never mention Daniel’s name again for it could trigger whatever’s left of Daniel to come out. Do not ask Sunshine if she remembers you or anything of her past. Treat Sunshine as you would a young child. Watch what you say, and most importantly, watch what you do.”
  1090.  
  1091. Dr. Money stands up, pushing his chair underneath the table. He walks over to the vault door and opens it with the most awful ear-piercing screech. He then walks behind you to wheel you into the other room.
  1092.  
  1093. As soon as you enter it, you’re hit with a repugnant odor you can’t even begin to describe. It smells like burned flesh, though it’s something far stronger. Regardless, you are wheeled in and stationed at an angle towards Colin and Sunshine, with Justin and Grady watching on in the background in silent fear.
  1094.  
  1095. “Hi! I’m Sunshine! What’s your name?”
  1096.  
  1097. You hesitate to reply, dumbstruck with how different Sunshine’s voice is compared to Daniel’s voice. It sounded like a happy little five-year-old girl greeting a friendly stranger.
  1098.  
  1099. “Uh…I’m Marra.”
  1100.  
  1101. “Marra? That’s a girl’s name! You’re a guy!”
  1102.  
  1103. You flinch a little from her words, looking down at your human male body. It looks and feels so utterly wrong. It didn’t match who you were at all on the inside.
  1104.  
  1105. “Sunshine,” says Colin, “Marra is someone special who will one day be someone like you.”
  1106.  
  1107. “Oooooh! Is Marra gonna be my mommy? Eeeeeeeee! Marra’s gonna be my mommy!”
  1108.  
  1109. You lock up instantly. You’re going to be a mother to what was once Daniel? Even if Sunshine is someone else, there’s no way in heck you could be in a familial relationship with that murderous sociopath. Before you even respond, however, Dr. Money speaks.
  1110.  
  1111. “Actually Sunshine, Marra will not be your new mother.”
  1112.  
  1113. You can faintly pick up on Dr. Money’s growing predatory tone, though can also tell that he’s trying his best to mask his excited intentions. He points directly towards Justin and Grady. Colin carefully stands up, delicately holding Sunshine in his arms as he turns towards the two future transformees.
  1114.  
  1115. “It will be one of them! They will soon be your new parents. One will be your mother, and the other your father. I haven’t decided yet, but which one would you like to be your mother and your father? I’ll let you decide!”
  1116.  
  1117. At this point, Justin and Grady begin shaking violently, desperately trying to scream through their gags. The only thing you can see in their eyes is pure terror. Despite what they did to you in your past, you truly feel sorry for them.
  1118.  
  1119. “Aww…they look so scared! Don’t be sad Mommy and Daddy! I just wanna make ya both happy. I uhm…lessee…”
  1120.  
  1121. Sunshine ponders for a moment before continuing.
  1122.  
  1123. “Will you be able to make them happy Mister?”
  1124.  
  1125. She turns to Dr. Money, who casts her a small, loving smile. He looks so weird trying to appear friendly and good-hearted. Part of you is more bewildered by that than everything else going on in the room.
  1126.  
  1127. “Of course, Sunshine. It is my number one goal to make everyone happy. They might be sad now, but I promise I’ll be able to give them true happiness as a happy family with you.”
  1128.  
  1129. Sunshine happily smiles and quickly points her small right forehoof right at Justin.
  1130.  
  1131. “That’s my mommy, and…”
  1132.  
  1133. She then points towards Grady.
  1134.  
  1135. “…that’s my daddy!”
  1136.  
  1137. You can see Dr. Money just barely able to contain his predatory excitement over his next victims.
  1138.  
  1139. “Excellent. So it shall be! Shall we get them ready Colin?”
  1140.  
  1141. As Colin begins to nod, you suddenly notice Justin successfully spitting his gag out of his mouth.
  1142.  
  1143. “WHAT IN EVER LOVING FUCK HAVE THEY DONE TO YOU DANIEL?!?”
  1144.  
  1145. Dr. Money immediately looks at him with a furious glare. Colin quickly sets Sunshine on the ground, by which point you can see her taken aback by Justin’s yelling. Tears almost start to well up in her as Dr. Money immediately rushes to Justin with a hidden syringe in his coat pocket. He instantly slams it into Justin’s upper thigh and presses down on the plunger. He speaks in a dark, low tone.
  1146.  
  1147. “You damned idiot! Look at what you’re doing to Sunshine, and my work!”
  1148.  
  1149. You stay frozen in fear as Justin’s terror soon washes away into a deep slumber within a matter of seconds. Grady, for his part, looks at him in silent horror, beads of sweat dripping down his forehead.
  1150.  
  1151. Dr. Money loudly sighs, soon reattaching the blindfold and gag to Justin, and then the blindfold onto Grady. He pulls out the syringe from Justin and sets it on the counter, then faces you.
  1152.  
  1153. “It is with great regret that I am afraid to say we must stop for today. I was hoping to continue this experiment with both of them, but it must wait for now.”
  1154.  
  1155. All you can muster out is a weak “Why?”
  1156.  
  1157. Dr. Money dourly points to Sunshine, who’s looking back and forth between each of you. Her gaze then settles directly on you. Fear, and what you can only guess is anger, begin to form over her face.
  1158.  
  1159. “Whu-What did you do to me?!?”
  1160.  
  1161. Although Sunshine’s voice, you can tell it’s Daniel speaking.
  1162.  
  1163. “I…I can’t remember my name or anyone else’s. I don’t know who anyone is. Who am I? Where am I? You though…wait…Anon…YOU!”
  1164.  
  1165. Sunshine tries to stumble over to you, but Colin quickly scoops her up back up and starts patting her.
  1166.  
  1167. “You did this to me you bastard! You killed me! I’m forgetting everything. I can’t remember what I used to do, or who I was, but…I can still remember you, you piece of shit!”
  1168.  
  1169. Colin quickly escorts Sunshine out of the room in his arms, but before they completely leave the room, you can hear Daniel shouting in Sunshine’s voice.
  1170.  
  1171. “I hope you remember what you did to me you sick fuck! I hope this moment haunts you for the rest of your life Anon! And when I see you in hell, I’ll…”
  1172.  
  1173. You hear another door opening in the other room as Colin and Sunshine disappear from audible range. You look at Justin and Grady like a zombie. Justin is unconscious, while Grady quietly mumbles to himself; sweat soaking into his shirt.
  1174.  
  1175. “I am terribly sorry about that Marra. You didn’t deserve to see that.”
  1176.  
  1177. “Whu-What the hell was…was that?”
  1178.  
  1179. Dr. Money slowly paces around the room in front of you.
  1180.  
  1181. “You remember when I told you not to mention Daniel’s name? Justin shouting it in the air like the dirt bag that he is caused portions of Daniel’s identity to resurface. It takes a little more time for the nanomachines to completely alter a transformee’s mental state. Currently, they are eating up all of Daniel’s memories, his core identity, and his personalities. By the end of the day, he will be wiped away from existence. Sunshine will be the only identity in that new body.”
  1182.  
  1183. You’re taken aback by those words. Although not physically dead, they…they murdered Daniel!
  1184.  
  1185. “I know, I know. Judging from that expression of yours, I can tell you’re thoroughly upset. I am too. As much as I hate to say it, we may have to wait even longer for you to get what you want Marra.”
  1186.  
  1187. “You and Colin killed him.”
  1188.  
  1189. You look at him with a fearful glare, with fear quickly turning into rage.
  1190.  
  1191. “Not quite. Daniel will live on happily in a loving new life as Sunshine. However, what you are referring to is something individuals within the hypnosis communities call egocide. In layman’s terms, egocide is the death of a person’s core identity, or personality. The body doesn’t die, but the person inside the body does. Individuals in the past have gone through various forms of egocide within the hypnosis communities, though I’d go so far as to say that egocide is mental suicide, not physical murder.”
  1192.  
  1193. You say nothing as rage quickly boils all throughout your body. You find yourself biting your lip, trying hard to contain it.
  1194.  
  1195. “Don’t look at me like that Marra. I did not kill Daniel, I simply induced a form of egocide into him through Colin’s nanotechnology. Keep in mind, Colin has done this to nearly all of his transformees. In effect, I’ve partially succeeding in doing that to you, what with changing who you are and everything else, though you are able to retain all of your memories.”
  1196.  
  1197. He looks at you with a frown, though he slowly begins casting a small grin.
  1198.  
  1199. “Sometimes, to truly make a person happy, you have to remove everything negative from them. And for those who are depressed, who are suicidal, or who wish harm on others, sometimes the only way to change them is to forcibly erase everything wrong with them. And sometimes, that calls for erasing their original identities so that a healthier and happier identity can emerge.”
  1200.  
  1201. Dr. Money pauses and stands right over you, looking down on you, curious to see what you might do.
  1202.  
  1203. “Besides, Daniel wanted to murder you. He tormented you throughout much of your life. I’d say giving him a new happy life as Sunshine is far less than what he truly deserves. We’re showing him mercy. In my opinion, he deserves death. And while I promised that I would not murder him, I’m at least erasing his mental existence into oblivion. It’s what those nanomachines are doing to him. Don’t worry Marra, he’ll be nothing but a bad memory that you will soon forget too.”
  1204.  
  1205. Suddenly, you furiously jump out of your wheelchair and lunge at Dr. Money. He yelps in surprise as you raise a fist and punch him as hard as you can across the face. You both fall over, with him repeatedly cursing.
  1206.  
  1207. You quickly hear footsteps rushing in from outside. Frantically, you try to search for a key or something similar on Dr. Money that can help aide you in your escape. However, he’s still awake, and he soon forcibly grabs you by your wrists. He looks at you enraged, blood beginning to drip out of his mouth and down his chin.
  1208.  
  1209. Soon after, you feel arms grabbing at you. You desperately try to resist, shouting at the top of your lungs. A needle soon punctures into your neck, with a warm-like fluid quickly coursing through your body. You quickly grow weak and lose control of your muscles, sleep fast approaching.
  1210.  
  1211. The last thing you see before dipping down into unconsciousness is Dr. Money slowly standing himself back up. Blood and a discolored bruise readily evident on his face, he looks down at you in rage.
  1212.  
  1213. “You will thoroughly regret that Marra. If you thought today was bad, wait until you wake up. I guarantee things will be much worse when you do.”
  1214.  
  1215. Blackness soon flashes before your vision; your mind fading out into a never-ending sea of darkness.
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