Chapter 8: Mechanical Mayhem and Dangerous Dreams
“So are you ready to answer my questions?”
“That depends if you are ready for the answers,” came the expectedly vague reply.
Discord had been avoiding any mention of the bargain since tonight’s training had begun. At first I’d thought he was still paranoid that the Doctor might pop out of nowhere and bash him in the head again but it was something more than that. He brushed aside my questions and tried to draw my attention to other things but I could tell he was dying to tell me. What was he waiting for?
Tonight had been boring to say the least. I entered amidst a roiling black cloud that could only signal some monstrous form of me lurking nearby. Entering the world contained within the cloud had proved easy enough but there were difficulties inside. It wasn’t that it was hard to navigate the facility we had ended up in, it was the fact that it was incredibly tedious searching it for the smallest sign of life.
The facility’s halls went on for miles upon miles. The brief glances I’d taken out of the several windows had shown a spiraling palace of mechanical wonders. Pistons rose and fell in a mechanical rhythm, and gears and cogs whirled about in a frenzy, as steam whistled from the cooling towers. Whatever version of my life I was in, I’d apparently gone a little crazy with machines. It had been awesome to stare about the copper coated walls, at first, but the lack of finding anypony for several hours sort of grated on my patience. After a while I’d started nagging Discord for answers. He’d said he’d tell me during training and, for once, it wasn’t like I was constantly fighting for my life so it was a perfect opportunity.
“I am ready! How could I not be?” I snorted.
“Let’s just say extraordinary questions come with extraordinary answers. Answers you might not like, considering it labels you as a freak.”
“Huh?” I asked. That was a little strange. I mean, sure my parents left me in the care of probably the least responsible being to ever be created but how did that label me any sort of freak?
“You heard me. A freak, an outcast, something to be hated for the abnormality you represent. You are all of these things, just like me. Why rush to have me tell you these things?”
What an odd explanation. He couldn’t really mean what he was saying. I’d been sensing how much he’d been dying to tell me since I first started pestering him earlier.
“Come on! Tell me!” I said stamping my hoof.
“No, I think I’ll let him tell you.”
“You know, the version of you in charge of this little facility. The one you have to kill?” the master of chaos drawled, “So far every version of yourself you’ve faced has been of you after your training. I’m sure you could have learned loads from them if you weren’t so busy trying to kill them.”
“They were trying to kill me!” I yelled.
“So? Did you even stop to consider them as possibly being ponies instead of monsters? Did you even stop to look at their Cutie Marks, to see the little parts of you reflected in them that aren’t evil? If you hadn’t noticed, that one genocidal dictator version of yourself you put down had a family. You never noticed the family portrait with those two innocent little fillies there?”
This was getting a little weird. I had no idea how I was supposed to treat these monsters as ponies. They were all just so twisted. I let it go for now.
After a couple more minutes of wandering through the facility’s halls the tediousness of our search was finally broken as we came upon a door. It wasn’t just any door. It was the door. Towering at least thirty feet above me, a myriad number of pipes from the walls snaked into it. A sluggish rust-red steam burst from some of them at some points, and the multitude of gears spinning in place looked more like little blades than any sort of practical cog normally used for a machine.
As we approached the door my voice came from what I could only assume was some sort of communication device in the walls. It wasn’t like Discord, who made himself heard both physically and mentally. It was just plain old sound I heard.
“Ah… I wondered how long it would take you to find me. I suppose you’re here to kill me, right?” Well, this version of me was certainly odd. All the others had just skipped to the part where they tried to kill me. I suppose it was all just part of his plan to kill me. “I can’t make any promises about that though. Anyways, where are my manners? I haven’t even opened the door yet. Hold on.”
The pipes in the door began to spurt large amounts of the rusty mist. The whistles and shrieks rang through the halls, echoing off the walls. It was beautiful, mesmerizing even. A tune as haunting and lonely as the facility had been. It was fascinating. Not just the music’s beauty, but the fact that such beauty was the key to the door. As air rushed through the pipes I could hear it pushing and twisting mechanisms in the door. The organ that was the door twisted and shifted to the music, as if in a dance. Lights flickered on and off, distorted by the odd mist.
I opened my mouth in delight at the ethereal display, and then promptly shut it when the mist hit my tongue. The mist tasted like blood. All the wonder I’d felt at the little display abruptly vanished as I remembered just what was on the other side of that door, a monster.
Finally, the door finished folding up into the wall. Treading very carefully forward, I walked into the lair of the beast. Thousands more of the pipes darted every which way in the room, all of them connecting to the machine in the center of the room. The pipes ran into the top of the machine, and poured their contents, which I prayed to Celestia’s grave only tasted like blood, into a giant vat. Inside the vat it was murky and unclear, but something clearly stirred in the fluids inside. Screen after screen piled at the base of the machine, showing all sorts of info on them. Thousands upon thousands of numbers flashed on the screens, among other things, like heart rates, neural scans, and any other sort of biological info one could think of. At the very bottom of the machine, mashing furiously on some sort of pad, sat a unicorn. It was me to be exact, or, at least, the twisted version of me this offshoot of time had made.
He didn’t even bother to look at me. He wasn’t even paying attention. It would be so easy to just snuff him out now. It would save me all the trouble of actually fighting him. Why did I hold back then? After a couple of minutes of just standing there I walked slowly up to him. I looked at the screens for two seconds trying to figure out what he was doing and got a headache. Whatever he was doing was way beyond me, which was saying something considering how much I’ve read in the Dwair. Finally, with nothing else to do, I reached out to get his attention.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he said, “She’s watching us. Any attempt she views as hostile towards me and she ends our little conversation.”
“Who’s watching us?” I asked.
“I am,” purred a synthetic female voice. It came from every direction at once, and it was laced with outright hostility towards me.
“That’s BELLE, the Bio-Electronic Little Learning Emulator. Remember when I said I couldn’t make any promises that you’d kill me? That’s why.” The murky fluids in the vat stirred at his words. For a second I swore I saw a claw, or an arm, or something, try to scratch the surface as if trying to break free.
“Little?” I asked sarcastically.
“Once, she was little,” the surprisingly sane sounding pony answered somberly, “She is a living machine and my greatest creation. She is also my worst. It is because of her I became a monster. It is because of her I stay one.”
“You are NOT a monster!” hissed BELLE.
“Regardless of whether that’s true,” snapped my counterpart, “That is not what this discussion is about, at least not at first. I remember this part of my training, although, I admit, I’m saddened to be on this side of it, and it is my responsibility to tell this charming fellow here a couple of things about the bargain.” I sat on my haunches while my counterpart paused for a second, probably wondering where to begin. It was odd. There was no hostility coming from him. All I sensed in him told only of regret and a terrible mind-numbing sadness. Either he was an incredible liar, or he really wasn’t all that bad. BELLE on the other hand… I was scared of BELLE. Finally, he started to continue.
“We are, above all, a weapon. An abomination. We were made to be used to make and right the wrongs in our world.” This wasn’t the first thing I wanted to hear. I hate violence. That’s what weapons were for, violence. “Even our very birth follows this. It was our birth that created this cursed offshoot of oblivion. It was our birth that caused the Elements of Harmony to fail. It was our birth that upset the balance of this universe.” Okay. He had officially stopped making sense. “This is the first wrong you must right. Before you can do this, however, you must unlock your potential. That is why the bargain was struck. Discord would raise you, unlock your true potential, and then in return you must unleash him on the world.” If this little numb-skull thought I would seriously ever do that he had another thing coming. “This is what I failed to do. I couldn’t bear to follow through on the bargain, so I never left the Dwair. I couldn’t escape and let everypony who was left here suffer. So I relieved them of their suffering and became a monster.”
“You didn’t-“ I began, looking at the bloody liquid in the vat.
“No, no,” he hastily reassured me, “I merely trapped them in an endless dream. They live the lives they always dreamed of, or at least that’s what I wanted. BELLE unfortunately had other ideas.”
“There is nothing wrong with taking this opportunity to experiment,” the computer retorted.
“Quiet you!” my counterpart snapped back. “Manipulating the dreams of others to see what they’re capable of is just wrong. You put them through so many trials and tribulations. You are just as bad to them as Discord was to me.”
“You take that back!” The room shook as BELLE screeched her response.
“Umm… If I can interject,” I mumbled, causing them to look at me. “Before you pull the conversation in the direction where I’ll inevitably have to kill you and BELLE-“
“I won’t let you kill him!” screeched BELLE.
“Okay then…” I changed tactics. “Before BELLE tries to tear me to pieces can I ask you something?”
“I expect this is about your Cutie Mark and parents?” he asked, “My explanation of the bargain was exceptionally vague. I do apologize for that, but it is a requirement of the bargain itself. It is an annoying result of both makers of the bargain loving riddles. None the less, I feel I can answer your questions for a price.”
“I’ll answer your questions first and then tell you, if you don’t mind,” he said. Upon seeing my nod of assent he continued. “Since I know you’ll absolutely hate the answer to your parents I think I’ll answer that second. Your Cutie Mark is by no means special. In fact you don’t even have one yet. The reason others perceive you as having one is that they feel you should have one. Your friends project their own interpretations of you onto your flank. That’s why no pony you’ve met has ever been surprised or perplexed by your Cutie Mark. It’s simply what they expect to see. You don’t see it because you never earned it, and on some level you must have known this. As you can see, I have a couple of gears for mine but that could easily be a result of my particular offshoot of your life. You’ll have to figure out yourself what you’re truly good at.”
Well at least that solved one problem. As embarrassing as being a blank flank at my age was, I would rather be a blank flank then have a Cutie Mark that was different to everypony. I’d rather not have something that makes me even more unique from everypony than I already am. Being Discord’s charge was more than enough for me.
Of course, that thought just opened the door for everything to go to hell.
“As to your parents…” He paused for a while, as if he really didn’t want to say it. “You don’t have any.”
“I don’t have any? That’s impossible,” I scoffed, “If I didn’t have any parents how could I have been born?”
“Who says that you need parents to be given life?” whispered Discord, “Granted, it’s much more normal than the other ways, but it’s by no means the only way. What fun is there in an event that can only happen one way? It would be dreadfully boring if life worked that way. It’s good to know that, if you want, you can simply moonwalk the breath of life into a baby. Not that that’s what happened to you. I’m just saying it’s possible.”
Well that certainly opened up more questions than it solved. I hated when that happened. Still, my questions had been answered, now it was time to pay his price. He had paused to give me time to process his answers, and with a quick nod that I had done so, unsuccessfully I might add, he continued.
“My price is simple. It is, in fact, within your interests at the moment. My price is you must kill me.”
“WHAT?!?” everypony but my counterpart yelled. I don’t know who was more shocked, Discord, BELLE, or myself.
BELLE recovered before I could respond to him though. “No!” she screamed, “I won’t let you harm him!” With a screeching noise, every pipe in the room began spewing that foul red mist again. I felt my limbs turn to lead and my eyelids droop.
“Oh my… I was afraid she’d overreact.” My counterpart was surprisingly calm and collected as we drowned in this red miasma. My vision swam, and the world blurred. Finally, after what felt like hours, I succumbed to the mists.
As I woke in the Dwair the only thing I could think of burying my head back under the pillows and dying. I pushed my head under the blanket to try and shut out the light.
“Wake up sleepyhead.”
There was Discord bugging me again. Couldn’t he let me sleep for once? I pushed my head deeper under the pillows to block him out.
“Oh dear… Whatever are you doing pushing your head into the ground like that. You aren’t an ostrich.”
Ground, what was he talking about? Alarms began going off in my head. Pulling my head up, I looked around. Everything seemed all right. I was home in the Dwair. Why did something seem off? Wait a minute… Why hadn’t I woken up in my room?
In the split second after that thought I lunged to the side, alarms now fully blazing. Luckily, for me that is, this meant Discord’s lunge missed. Rising up, he looked at me licking his lips. Was he trying to eat me? He lunged again.
That was a yes.
I bolted from the room, desperate to get away. Something was seriously wrong. What had happened to me? Why had I woken up in the middle of the Dwair? Why the hay was my uncle trying to eat me? When I finally stopped hearing the demonic laughter from my hungry pursuer I stopped to catch my breath. I was in an unfamiliar part of the Dwair. That couldn’t be right. I’d seen every part of the Dwair. Granted, it was ever changing, but I knew my way around.
“Did you honestly forget that you can’t just run from me,” whispered Discord into my ear. Jumping, I tried to bolt, but he pinned me with his paw. “Oh come now… Did you really think that thing was me? I mean, honestly, I would never eat a pony, much less one that was still living. I may be a few sea cucumbers short of a vegetable basket sometimes, but I prefer to think of myself as a high class lunatic.”
Understandably I wasn’t very receptive to his assurances, seeing as he had just tried to eat me. I struggled with all my might to free myself, kicking and biting, while he shuffled around trying to keep a hold on me.
“Hold still, Baffle.”
“Will you please be quiet and listen to me?!?”
“That wasn’t me that was her!”
Finally, when he finally had me fully pinned, he sighed and tapped me on the forehead. The memory of what had happened to me burst back into life. My training, the facility, BELLE, it all came crashing back. Sagging to the ground I let out a very tired sigh.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
My uncle just shook his head. “Really… It should not have been that difficult to get you to listen. How could you honestly think I would lower my standards enough to resort to eating ponies to get a laugh? Couldn’t you tell something was wrong? Why didn’t you do something?”
I had done something. I’d run like the wind.
“I mean other than run.” Oh great, he was reading my mind again. “Do you know how much time we just wasted? I can’t stay here long. As soon as she figures out I’m here she’ll just block me out.”
“As soon as who knows you’re here?” I asked still completely clueless as to what was going on.
“BELLE!” Discord yelled, “Don’t you get it yet? You aren’t in the Dwair! You aren’t even awake! This is all a drug induced nightmare!” For once my uncle was in a near panic. He was shaking, and looking over his shoulder. This had to be bad. It took a lot to spook a creature as powerful as Discord. Unfortunately, I was a little slow on the uptake as to why.
“So?” I asked, “It’s not like dreams can hurt you.”
Discord laughed. “Do you honestly think that? Dreams are the product of our unfettered imagination. Anything can happen in a dream. This is where everything that is impossible can happen. There’s a reason ponies don’t remember their dreams very well. They aren’t meant to know of all the horrors that can’t exist. You think what I put you through is bad? Dreams can churn out things ten times worse, even more if need be, and BELLE is in complete control of this one. By controlling the flow of chemicals to her brain she can have you experience anything she wants at any time.”
Okay. I was definitely starting to panic now.
“What do I do?!?” I yelled.
“That’s just it!” Discord emitted a laugh, voice cracking, “You can’t do anything! Anything you do to stop her will only work once! Whenever you do something she can map the chemical reactions in your head and release chemicals inhibiting you from doing that action again. As soon as she gets the bizarre little activity going on in your head right now is communication with an outside source she’ll shut our conversation down!”
Okay. Blind panic had been fully achieved.
“Help me!” I screamed at Discord.
He reared back as if he’d been slapped, his own panic slowly slipping away, as he paused for the longest time before saying the only thing I couldn’t stand to hear.
“I can’t… This is your dream. I can barely even talk to you in it. You probably think you see me right now, but that’s just what your brain is making you see to fulfill your expectations. Dreams are one of the few sanctuaries I cannot touch. They are a safe haven for all from my chaos. Your only hope is to level the playing field. Sure, she can do whatever she wants, but you can too. This is your dream after all. Her true advantage over you is the ability to take your powers away. Even you will run out of ideas to stop her attacks eventually. You have to make it so she can’t block your powers.”
“So? How will that help?” I cried in frustration, “It doesn’t help me get out of this place!”
“True… True… I suppose you could fracture your consciousness, and control both your real and dream self simultaneously, but that’s a very risky business. To exist in two places at once is madness. But then again, what fun is there in being sane? It’s dreadfully boring.” Well, he was back to his smug old self. “Of course I am. I do have an image to keep up. I can’t afford to let that slip for too long, can I?” That mind reading was really getting annoying. At least my annoyance at him was starting to overpower my panic. “There we go! Think on the bright side of things! Now, it’s time to get back to business. How can you possibly level the playing field with BELLE? Oh! I know! You can-”
He was cut off suddenly. As soon as the voice stopped, the image of him vanished, and cold synthetic laughter filled the room. “So that’s what it was? Interesting… I had forgotten all about Discord in my calculations. It’s a shame he gave you your memories back. I was going to have so much fun messing with you until you remembered.”
“My uncle does have a tendency to ruin others' perfectly orderly plans,” I said with more confidence then I had, “What did you expect though? He was born to raise chaos.”
BELLE chuckled coldly. “You’re bantering with me? Are you feeling alright? I hold complete control over you, and you have the audacity to banter with me?”
“Well, you’re bantering with me, so if anypony needs medical help I think it might be you. Don’t you know that banter is the leading cause of death for villains? You better go get yourself checked out right away.”
She laughed at that. She actually laughed. “Oh, it’s been years since you’ve bantered with me like that,” she whispered, “If only the Baffle I was protecting was as witty as you.” That was a little creepy. The psychotic computer had a crush on me, or rather my future self. I suppose that explains why she was so protective of my future self. “Enough talk!” she continued, “I have a little game for you. It’s called Nyctophobia. The rules are very simple. Don’t let it get dark, and you don’t die. Do try to keep it lively. Normally, this game ends much too quickly when my other test subjects face it.”
With that my surroundings shifted. I was in a box. It was about ten feet by ten feet, and it was a dull eggshell white. It didn’t last that way for long. Slowly, inexorably, the box began to darken, and as it did the walls began to close about me. If I’d never been claustrophobic before I certainly had a reason to be now.
Desperate to avoid being crushed, I willed fire into being. As it appeared, the light drove back the walls. Suddenly, my ability to focus on it vanished. My flame wavered and then vanished. As the room began to darken, the walls began to creep forward again.
“Ooh! It’s not like summoning flame is the oldest trick in the book. I thought you’d be better than that,” BELLE cooed.
Oh, that’s right. She can stop anything I do. Guess that means I couldn’t channel my concentration into things like making fire. Sighing, I resorted to less impressive means of making light. I summoned wood and flint to light a fire of my own.
“Ooh! That’s a first. Surprisingly, most ponies aren’t smart enough to summon the materials to make fire. It’s astonishing how dull you can all be sometimes. I suppose this gives us a few hours to talk! I do hope you figured out how to factor in the fact you’ll be breathing smoke soon.” I don’t get how a computer could sound so chipper and psychotic at the same time.
Of course I hadn’t considered the smoke. I was about to put out the fire when I had a better idea. I created a secondary organ to attach to my lungs. I now had a filter system built inside me that would get rid of any toxic chemicals in the smoke.
“Very clever!” chimed BELLE, “That could work indefinitely, provided you kept coming up with ideas for fuel you could summon. Too bad it doesn’t solve the problem that eventually the smoke will blot out any light the fire provides leaving you in the dark. Then it will be game over.”
“Horseapples!” I swore. I couldn’t keep this up. There were too many variables to consider with every change I made. Eventually, I would run out of ideas. It was then I was struck with the most brilliantly stupid idea I’d ever had. It didn’t make a lick of sense. Then again, where’s the fun in making sense? Pooling all my willpower together I changed one last thing about myself.
“What did you just do?” BELLE’s confusion was well deserved. After all, to her it appeared as if I’d done nothing. The darkness continued to advance. Slowly, the light drained from the room. The walls sluggishly crept inwards with no sign of stopping. Eventually, I was completely enclosed. My breathing began to quicken as I feared I might have messed up.
The room was half-lit and the walls were beginning to crush me. I had to scrunch down to relieve the pressure. The walls began to grind on my body. I could feel my bones beginning to break under the pressure. Suddenly, the walls began to slow, and my entombment process inevitably ceased. It appeared I had finally started to glow strongly enough to stop the walls advance. Having granted myself the ability of bioluminescence, I figured I would stop the walls advance by simply giving off light myself. Unfortunately, I had miscalculated the change in body chemistry needed, and had almost not been able to give off enough light to avoid crushing myself. Now I was trapped in a box, with very little air, and still no way to beat BELLE.
“Hey BELLE, I beat your stupid game! I won’t be crushed anytime soon. Why don’t you ease up on the box?”
“Aww… But the cube you’re in is so convenient. You’re small, portable, and can easily be carried to the incinerator. I think I’ll just leave you like that until you plummet into the furnace.”
It was at this point I felt a large lurch. It seemed BELLE, like Discord, was just going to throw perilous situations at me until I died. How was I supposed to think of a way to stop her while I was trapped in her endless game?
“It’s all just another stupid game,” I muttered.
“A game…” Then it hit me.
“It’s just like the game! That’s how I beat her!” Summoning my strength, I willed the two things that were my only hope to occur.
“What did you just try to do?” Belle asked, “Your readings just went completely off the charts.”
“Oh… You know… I just felt like messing with your readings. I’m clearly going to die soon. It’s merely a last ditch effort to annoy you.” Even in my cramped little prison I smirked at what was coming next.
“That’s rather childish of you,” BELLE said, “I have to admit, after your little bioluminescence trick worked, I didn’t think you would just give up. It’s actually rather disappoint- WHAT DID YOU DO?!?”
There it is, she tried to stop me. It’s too bad she couldn’t do that anymore.
“I told you. I felt like messing with your readings. You never asked how I did it though.”
“WHAT DID YOU DO?!?” I don’t think BELLE was completely in control of herself anymore. The box was shaking, and her voice was starting to crack.
“Why don’t you figure it out yourself?” I chimed, opening a hole in my box, and dropping to freedom with the last of my strength. Finally free of the box, I shifted attention to the other thing I had done before. The world blurred, and suddenly my body opened its eyes in the laboratory. It was odd, being in control of two bodies at once, but I had to get used to it before BELLE realized what the first thing I had done was.
I stumbled around a bit, bumping into things, as I got used to my split conscious. I was seeing two worlds at once, and it was confusing as hell. Sure, I knocked over a couple of vats of the red stuff in the real world, and I almost walked off a ledge in the dream world, but I managed to learn the ins and outs.
“Fascinating…” Oh great, BELLE was back. It would seem I got a handle on things just in time. “I never would have thought something so brilliantly insane was possible. I’m still not sure my analysis is correct. It’s simply too bizarre.”
I had to stall for time. Slowly, I had my real body shuffle towards BELLE’s containment unit.
“Why don’t you tell me your theory and I’ll tell you if you’re right?”
“Well, I suppose the best way to describe it is that you made an infinite loop. From what I can see, you’re constantly replacing yourself with a memory. You keep resetting your brain to a point in time where I haven’t interfered. It’s astoundingly clever. This reset gives you full access to all of your powers again, and I can’t stop you because, even if I block what you did, another fresh restart is already underway.”
I was now level with BELLE’s control station. Surprisingly, the creator of the demonic machine was back at his keyboard, typing away furiously. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, considering BELLE’s obsession with him. She wouldn’t want him to experience any drug induced nightmare. I wonder if she saw the irony in that, considering I was a younger version of him.
Moving up to him, I tapped him on the shoulder. His response was to jump ten feet into the air and fall with what little grace was possible onto his face. He got up, with a bloody nose, and turned to me in shock.
“How are you-“ I shoved a hoof over his mouth to quiet him. This of course got my hoof all bloody, causing me to gag on some vomit before I began to whisper as quietly as possible.
“Quiet… All I need from you is information on how to kill her.”
I was exhausted from my ordeal, probably not even in my right mind. I could barely stand while channeling both my infinite loop and the split consciousness. I don’t know what possessed me to trust him, to think he’d help me. He was a monster, he’d said so himself, but not many monsters would actually admit it.
“A very apt deduction BELLE, you’re completely correct. It’s a simple trick, but it’s a very necessary one when you play board games with the mentally insane.” I really hoped she didn’t see my legs shaking while I said that. After everything I’d done tonight, I could barely manage this ‘simple’ trick.
“What are you talking about? We’re not playing a board game.” Was that a hint of amusement in BELLE’s voice? I guess she was enthralled by the prospect of more banter. It really was every villain’s weakness.
“So you deny we’re playing a board game, yet not that you’re insane?” I taunted. “Oh come now, you must know better. The best board games are those without the board. Why not use the world as your board?”
“An excellent point, Baffle, yet I believe it was you who told me insanity was simply creativity to the nth degree.” When had I ever said that? I suppose it was something the version of me who created her said. As much as I hated to admit it, there was a really nice ring to it. I’d have to remember it for later. “I suppose that it was a trick you learned from your uncle. You must tell me all about that. Well, not you, you’ll be dead. My Baffle will probably be just delighted to tell me all about it.”
“Are you sure this will work?” I asked my counterpart in the real world.
“Yes I’m sure. There is however an eighty-seven percent chance that you’ll fry your brain when you cut her free from the network. Are you sure you don’t want me to do it? You can barely stand as it is. In fact, you shouldn’t be standing at all. This is not at all how this portion of training happened for me.” He looked at me quizzically. “How are you doing all this? Everything you’re doing is way beyond what I ever did.”
I waved at all the machinery around us. “I could say the same thing about you, but if you want to know I’ll tell you after this mess is taken care of.”
“What if you die?”
I couldn’t help it, I laughed. That was such a stupid question. “Since when has death stopped us before? We’ve died thousands of times at Discord’s hands. What’s one more to add to the record, even if it is permanent?”
“Fine…” my counterpart reluctantly relented, “I still don’t get why you won’t let me do it. Aren’t you just going to kill me afterwards? Isn’t that part of the training?”
“Maybe I’m not going to kill you.” He looked at me completely flabbergasted. It might have been the drugs in my system, the mist was still pumping into the room after all, but I was feeling a bit philosophical. “Maybe I think you deserve a second chance? The funny thing about monsters is they don’t think they’re monsters. You know what you’ve done. You deserve a chance to make amends, even if you’re the only one who thinks you need to in the first place.”
“I suppose it’s time I finally killed you,” muttered BELLE, “I have enjoyed our banter, but all good things must come to an end. Do you have any last requests?” As she said this about fifty different machines popped out of nowhere. None of them looked very pleasant, and there was no way I could muster the effort to escape them. Refusing my body’s pleas to slump to the ground, I stood tall in the face of death and uttered one last quip.
“How noble, you’re gracing me a final request. I just have three questions. First, If a tree falls in the forest, and no pony is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
“As a matter of fact, it does. I was bored several months ago, and set out to solve many of the pointless questions like that you ponies came up with. I videotaped a tree falling, and, given that I watched the tape only after the event, making it so no actually sentient creature watched the event, and the tree made a sound upon falling in the video, I was able to answer that question beyond a doubt.”
“I suppose that works, assuming time was running linearly when you videotaped it. For all you know, time could be an illusion. Anything you do in the future, for you, could actually be coexisting with every other point in time. That would mean you were actually watching the tree as it fell, causing it to make a sound.” I couldn’t help it, even if it was the most ridiculous way to bring doubt on her answer. To a normal pony it wouldn’t make a lick of sense, but I couldn’t resist bringing it up because, to be fair, my life had no normal ponies in it. “Anyways, I’m getting off topic. My second question should be much more interesting for you than going on about how you could be wrong. Can you tell me the validity of the following statement? This sentence is false.”
“Are you really going to pull the old paradox trick on me?” She sounded disappointed. “I thought you were better than that. Very well, I will answer mediocrity with mediocrity. Since you asked me can I tell you, not what, the validity of that statement was, my answer is I cannot tell you. By the way, even if you framed the question correctly, it wouldn’t have worked. I am smarter than the average computer.”
“That may be, but are you smarter than the average bear?” I continued on through her confused responses. I think my uncle was rubbing off on me. I had no idea what made me say that. “I’m quite saddened, however you would think so little of me. My second question wasn’t about the paradox. I was merely curious if you’d notice that I was testing you by throwing in the word can instead of what. You picked up on that I said can, but completely missed the fact that I purposely screwed up to mess with you. I thought it was pretty obvious, but I guess machines haven’t learned to pick up the nuances of pony behavior.”
That was a bit of a stretch. I doubt many ponies would actually think to try something like that, but I was supposed to be distracting her. I was almost in position.
“My third question is my favorite however. You’re trying to kill me, correct? I am, by all rights, your creator from a younger point in his life span. If you kill me, won’t it kill him in the process? I won’t ever grow up to become him. He will not exist. He will not make you. Everything you ever knew and loved will be sent to oblivion when you kill me. I just want to know, how does that make you feel?”
That was when I made my move. BELLE may have begun to respond to me, but I didn’t hear it. I was too busy frying half of myself to death as I broke through the glass surrounding her. Cutting into the wires that connected her to the system, I sent thousands and thousands of volts of electricity coursing through my veins. I should have died, or at least turned into a vegetable. As luck would have it, all the drugs BELLE pumped in my system acted as an insulator. I was like a giant rubber chicken. It was still painful. Apparently, when BELLE lost control of the system, all of those carefully controlled drugs were no longer safely being controlled. Who would have guessed? The mental backlash caused by the sudden flux in the drugs was rather severe. Needless to say, I blacked out.
When I woke, I was covered in that horrible red stuff BELLE had been swimming in. It still tasted horribly like blood. Her broken husk lay on the ground. It was surprisingly fragile looking. Her creator stood off to the side. Discord had reappeared and was chatting with him. As I stood they paused to look at me.
“I’m surprised you’re holding up so well. Also, you may want to take a bath. You’re covered in BELLE’s blood. From what I’ve seen, you’re one of the versions of us that can’t stand the stuff. You know, it’s odd, every version of us I’ve ever met has had some sort of obsession with blood. Either they hate the stuff, like you, or they have a morbid fascination with the stuff, like me, It’s fascinating, really, all the things you can do with blood.”
Of course, I only heard the first half of that. Between being completely exhausted from dealing with BELLE’s mind games, electrocuting myself to kill her, and the fact that I had been not only been covered in blood, but, apparently, drugged with it too, I couldn’t help fainting again.
Thanks to John Perry for proofreading again.
Sorry for the lack of an update in forever. Between college finals, breaking my wrist, a small case of writers block, and trying to spiffy this story up for Equestria Daily, I was too busy to write more. On the bright side my two rejection letters seem to indicate that my only main problem is grammar. (Which I suck at) Hopefully after being psychotically picky before the third submission I can get it in. If not, it doesn't really matter. I'm fine with knowing it was just grammar that barred me entry to the holiest of pony places. Anyways, please give me feedback. If I'm pulling too many crazy or implausible ideas out, tell me and I'll try to cut back. Also was this chapter dark? It didn't feel anywhere near as dark as my other dark chapters. Was it too confusing? I could see that happening with all the weird things I tried to do. Or, if its not too confusing, are my ideas actually derivative? Do they seem weird to me, but are actually a commonplace thing? Maybe I focused too much on the banter? Oops... I'm rambling aren't I? I'll stop now.