The nurse mares. Adam had to pass through a room to get to them, past cages. Where nurse mares were healing from a check out, in time out, or punished. Adam stopped by one cage of a crying lavender mare with a blue mane. She was in the ‘upsies’ pose, and Adam saw way. A pair of rubber cleaning cloves were secured to the cage bars by clothespins. Since they faced the fluffy, her instincts kicked in. She would remain in the upsies pose until picked up or the hand shapes were taken away. It had to be excruciating for the fluffy, her back legs bent like that, her front ones outstretched. Tears soaked the fluff of her face. “Huu-huu… Fwuffy sowwy. Awm huwties…” she sobbed.
Adam read what she’d done. Apparently tried to demand upsies now that she was a nurse mare. Some of them got like that. They were given an inch, and tried to take a mile. Not being in the cage and forced to pump out foals wasn’t enough for them. Caring for little foals wasn’t enough for them. That was why they had to test these mares so vigorously. Even then it didn’t work out at times.
Snickering, Adam went into the testing room. Fluffy mares milled about. Each one had at least one litter, and recently enough to lactate. The foals were taken away from the mother so she couldn’t see them, and the nurse mare’s sense of smell was chemically dulled so they didn’t go favoring their own children when they eventually arrived from the chirpy room. While pregnant, they were kept away from the other nurse mares to prevent jealousy. Only one case happened that Adam knew about, but that case caused thousands of dollars to be lost so the company wasn’t taking the chance that it was a one off thing. Like Adam thought ‘leave it to fluffies to mess everything up’.
He took a whistle off the wall, and gave it a few loud tweets to get the attention of the fluffies. “Fluffies, line up.” He pointed at the bright red line on the padded floor. It was made by a few strips of duct tape and had held up longer than anyone expected. The fluffies hurried to line up, waddling up to the line, a few taking a while to figure out which way to face. How the hell did they pass the general intelligence test? Yes, fluffies were dumb, but to be a nurse mare they had to have some level of intelligence. Enough to remember the rules and what specifically to teach. They had to make a judgement call when a foal misbehaved. A bop, a scolding, or a time out box. It sounded so much more complex than it was. Basically mothering on a big scale. Good mothering. Any fluffy could mother, unfortunately. Many were not fit to.
“Alright, ladies. You’re all here to become nurse mares. It means you feed foals that come here, and teach them how to be good fluffies. You will also behave yourselves. This will be your final test.” Adam smirked as he got the paper of questions. They were asked randomly to mares. He found a good question. “Nurse Mare number 3.” He said, looking at the grey mare pegasus with white swirls. “A foal is bullying another foal because he doesn’t like his colors. What do you do?”
The pegasus seemed to be deeper in thought. “Teww babbeh tu nu du dat.” She said with a nod.
“What else?” Adam asked.
Adam sighed. “It’s not enough to tell the foal not to do that. They need to be punished.”
“Buh…is onwy widdle babbeh…” the mare said, looking aghast at the idea of punishing them.
“If you don’t correct them, the foal will grow up mean and be a smarty.” That drew gasps from all the mares. They knew smarties were treated badly. The females had it beaten out of them, and all precautions taken. The males…unless they were exceptionally pretty, they were terminated. “You don’t want the foals to be smarties, do you?” He asked, looking at them. He got a varying amount of shaking heads from side to side to say ‘no’. “What you do is put the foal in time out.” He said.
A shame that Number 3 wasn’t likely to make it. She should know all this already. They were taught. If she couldn’t retain it, she couldn’t be a nurse mare. But they removed them at the end of a test. “Nurse Mare Number 17.” Adam directed this question at a cream colored unicorn fluffy with a chocolate brown mane. “A foal has fallen and hurt his leg. What do you do?”
“Gib huggies!” Was the immediate answer.
Adam shook his head. “No.” He said. “Hugs are good, but it doesn’t help the foal. It might even hurt them more.” He looked over all them. “What you do is call a worker for help.”
The questions went on longer, and finally the mares remembered their training. What they had to do to care for the foals. Luckily a good amount of them would pass…but Number 3 wasn’t going to. She failed two major questions.
Next was the practical exam. They used stuffed toys for some of the practicals, and runts for the rest. No matter how pretty they were, they couldn’t sell runts. They had too many health problems, but they made for great foal stand ins. Adam brought out foal plushies, making sure each mare had one. They were sold in the store too. ‘My Little Babbeh’ it was called. Made from real fluffy fur! Supposedly donated, but Adam was pretty sure they just took dead foals, and skinned them, making a stuffed toy of the foal. It was for fluffys that wanted a babbeh, but weren’t responsible enough. The babbehs looked lifelike, but required none of the responsibility of an actual foal.
“Okay. Show me how you feed the foals.” He told them. Most of the mares obeyed right away, some even giving soft pats to the foals. Many sang to the foals, but instead of a mummah song, it was adapted into a ‘nuwse’ song. The one who wasn’t… Number 17. She was looking at the toy with distaste.
“What’s the problem, Nurse 17?” He asked, approaching her.
“Babbeh nu am pwetty…” she said, poking at the stuffed foal. Which was brown.
Adam sighed. The foals came in all colors, and some of their best sellers around Easter were brown to represent chocolate. Especially 17, who was a sort of cookies and cream mix. It remained Adam of Cadbury eggs. “It doesn’t matter that you don’t find the toy pretty. It’s not alive. And all the fluffies here are pretty.” He said.
“Nu wan gib miwkies tu nu pwetty babbeh.” Number 17 pushed away the toy. Had it been a real foal, there’d be peeps of distress.
“Then it looks like you won’t be a nurse mare. I guess you’ll just have to be an enfie toy.” Adam said.
Number 17 looked up in alarm. “Wha? Nu! Nu am enfie mawe!”
“Well, we have no use for nurse mares who won’t give milk. You also got some questions wrong.” He said. He lifted her by the scuff of the neck, as well as Number 3. He carried them out, and stuck them in cages near the one being punished, still huuu-huuing from the pain in her upraised arms.
Adam came back in to silence. They were sad for their companions, of course. Adam put on a smile, then got two foals. “Okay. Pretend these two got into a fight.” He said. “Number 45. What do you do?” He asked.
Number 45 puffed up with pride. She was a pretty unicorn. Purple with a dark blue mane and a cream horn and hooves. She quickly got between the foals, having to nudge them. “Nu! Nu fiting! Dat am bad ting tu du.” She exclaimed. She gave each foal a bop on the nose. “Whewe time out cowner?” She asked.
Adam grinned. “We don’t need one. But that was good work.” He praised her, and gave her pets on the head. “That’s exactly what you should do. Tell them it was wrong, and give them a bop. If its bad enough like fighting, they go into the time out corner.” He said.
He chose another foal, and laid it down. “Number 67. This foal ate something he shouldn’t. What do you do?”
Number 67 was an alicorn who was a soft cerulean all over. She was older than most of them. She approached the fluffy, and pretended to open its mouth. “Mista! Babbeh am huwt! Nee hewp!” She called.
Adam nodded. “Very good. If you can’t see what the foal has in its mouth, you call us.” He told her, petting her head.
The rest of the tests went pretty well. The questions had weeded out the unworthy and reinforced the training. Now…he had to bring in actual fluffies. Actual little peeping beings to distract them, but nothing that would lose them money if they died. He went into a separate room, and came back with a box of runts. He knew they’d been raised a certain way so they remained blind and peeping, even if they were full grown runts. They were like eternal foals. Apparently Hasbio tried this. Making the runts have a stunted growth so they’d stay at the cute foal stage for life. It hadn’t gone well.
He passed out the ‘foals’. “These are real foals. Be careful with them.” He warned. “First test. Bring them to the auto feeder.” He gestured to the next wall. It had some auto feeders, but they were old ones that no longer worked. The mares had to maneuver the foals onto their back and take them to the feeders, unloading them safely. The key was indeed safety.
The mares at least knew how to load the foals. “Gud babbehs.” She said. Each mare had two to look after. Though one mare was a bit too excited, and began to trot towards the feeder. There was an alarmed peep as a green runt slipped off the mare’s back, then landed on the floor with a ‘crunch’.
“Babbeh?” The mare looked around, then gasped to see the broken green foal. “BABBEH!” She dove for it…and the pink foal on her back fell and crunched on the ground. “NU! Nuuhuuhuu! Am bad mummah!” She sobbed, covering her eyes with her hooves.
Yeah, that was a fail. Adam sighed. “That wasn’t good.” He said. He put the dead foals into a biohazard bucket, and watched the rest of the mares, who were suddenly far more careful with the foals. They made it back safely. Adam took a moment to take the new failure out. The mare was wracked with guilt over killing two babbehs. He put the mare in the cage. When he came back into the room, he was assaulted by the sounds of raised high pitched voices and peeping.
“Nu! Am pwetty mawe’s babbeh!” One mare yelled, stamping her hooves. The two babbehs she started with were behind her. She was trying to claim other babbehs.
“Nu am youw babbehs…haf tu gib back tu mistah…” the meeker one claimed, afraid of the aggression. She got a sorry hoof to the face.
Adam felt like sighing, but cleared his throat. The mares all froze.
The aggressor tried to act like a saint. “Mistah! nu pwetty mawe twied to take babbehs!” She said, waddling up to Adam, who’d crossed his arms.
“Really now? Because it looks like you were trying to take foals from others. You know these aren’t your foals. You don’t get to keep them.” He said.
The mare looked shocked. They didn’t get to keep the babbehs!? But…babbehs were for wuv and huggies! The mare screed, and turned, stomping on the runts. If she couldn’t have them, nobody could!
Adam rolled his eyes. More of a mess… He reached over, and hauled up the mare by the scruff of the neck.
“Nu! Bad upsies!” The mare screamed. She let out a torrent of sorry poopies, but she had been held at arm’s length. Adam scowled. He looked over the other fluffies. “Behave while I’m gone. Or else.” They shook at the dark tone in his voice. He took her into the next room, and found the tail hanging rope. He clamped it nice and tight around the nurse mare’s tail, and let her dangle upside down over the sink. Adam filled the sink with only a few centimeters of water to scare her, and smirked as the mare peed in fear, getting it all over her ‘pwetty fwuff’. Adam found the off white color to look dirty, though the black mane and tail were cool. “Enjoy your punishment.” He said.
At least when he came back, the mares were behaving. If not sobbing over the crushed foals. Adam put those ones in the biohazard bin as well. “As you can see, it’s hard to be a nurse mare. You have to be smart and kind.” He said in a gentler tone. “I want you all to comfort your foals. They’re all scared and peeping.” He said.
The mares knew how to do this, at least. They scooped the runts to their chests, cooing and comforting the little foals. The peeps and chirps slowed until they were contented coos, the runts cuddling up to the mothers.
Finally, they could end on a good note. Adam led them to the room they came out of. The nice warm rooms with toys and such. “Next bright time, you’ll be put into the mare pen.” He said. They gave them a night to adjust. Grieve their friends and the babbehs lost. Adam went back into the room, and disposed of the rest of the surrogate foals. He grabbed one of them in his hand and flicked his thumb up. The head snapped backwards, the foal’s delicate spine snapping and killing it instantly. The rest died in a similar fashion. They were free to dispose of the foals in any way, so long as they cleaned up after. Adam knew someone liked to stomp on the foals, but Adam found it meant he’d have to clean his boots too. And if he did this technique, they’d empty their bowls over the biohazard bin when they died. He used some cleaner and paper toweling to clean up the smears left by the other foals killed by unfortunate training, and left, dropping the contents of the biohazard bin into the chute before the empty bin was sent for sanitizing.
What was his next task? He checked his list. Incineration duty. Bleh.