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My clock struck eight in the morning. I sat on the bed in the Mallow’s office. She was gone behind a closet door. My left ear was still bothering me. I still swear, yes to this day, that the little things are the most important. Like, for instance, the sound of rummaging and Germane curse words, floating through my hearing as I put those freaky, life saving claws to good use tending to my left ear as the sun rose in the window behind me.
I guess it would be worthwhile to mention (since Mallow was digging around in that closet for quite some time) that we had, after creeping up the mountain for three hours or so, passed Levitation on the way to Mallow’s office. We were lucky; the guards only knew of Vinyl. Did they give me funny looks? Yes. Did they try to arrest me? Thankfully, no (though it may have helped that we took the back alleys, and the darkness of it all concealed my more... notable features). But they were crawling all over Levitation. The club itself was already under heavy demolition; scaffolding covered the charred ruins, with guards and workers crawling over it like conniving spiders on their web.
I suppose it would also be worthwhile to mention that Mallow was already aware that I was going to explode like a popper soon, which made her apathy earlier that morning... irritating. Still, I ignored it for now, and continued to put those little things to good use massaging and soothing my ear. It felt good, too; there was something about these little things that let them do what hooves couldn’t, and finally, for once, the itch was gone. Perhaps there was an upside to being a machine.
Of course, exploding did a number on my hopes. Still, I kept them, or, I at least registered that they were still in a temporary slot in my emotions processor. Sighing, I looked over at the closet, just in time to see Mallow finally yank something free of a little safe in a corner. She looked over her shoulder, grinning at me. As she came out, she said, “Here it is, ya! Alright Octavia, I need you to roll onto your stomach, and lie zhere, perfectly still, okay?”
“Right,” I mumbled, doing as she said and sprawling out on the thick, hard examination bed. “So... this thing. Is it going to stop the outbursts and such?”
“Ya, I zhink so,” she said, standing above me. I could see in amber magic was a little rectangle, about the size of an Equestrian bit, and it was glowing dimly, probably thanks to the magic around it, I mused. “It vill also let you shrink in zhese ‘ports’ on ze back of your head and spine. Zhe lines on your body, too.”
“So... I’ll look like a pony again?”
“Ya, eyes and all. Now hold still. Ze port should be in ze back of your head,” she muttered, pushing my head down and parting my mane. I closed my eyes and tried to relax, and it wasn’t too hard, I supposed. Until, that is, she said, “Vinyl did tell me to be very careful vith zhis. Somezhing about your defenses being online.”
“My defenses?” I repeated. My eyes flickered, and of course, here came the little blip displaying my defences in a circular border. Yes, they were online. Quite so, actually, and I began flipping through them (I was getting rather good at this) quickly. Everything, everything was online. Sarcasm defenses, martial arts, threat defenses... port defenses too. Eyeing them over, I decided to crack open the operating files. When I did, a little needle greeted me, spinning slowly and dripping some strange purple liquid from its tip.
“Um, Mallow dear, I’d advise waiting.” She cast me a glance, shook her head, and went back to work searching for my port, once again holding my head firmly to the bed. “Mallow, I’m serious. I’m seeing a needle here, but nothing on what’s inside it. You may want to give me a moment to find that information before--”
“Hush!” she said. “You vill feel much better vonce zhis is in you. Trust me; I am ze doctor.”
“Shh. I found it.” I felt a knot in my stomach as her hoof brushed a little slot at the base of my neck. “Alright, you may feel a slight pinch, I zhink, but just hold on. Here ve go. Zhree. Two. Von...”
I felt it. I lived it. The ports in my back sunk into my spine in a fit of agony and pain that swallowed me like a twister. Lines of blue raced all through my body, and my eyes flashed a vibrant blue, then a stark purple, blinding even me. Yes, I blinded myself, quite literally! In the midst of agony, a small alarm sounded in my mind. Nothing more than a tiny beep, but I heard it, loud and clear.
Then it happened. The big crescendo of this... event. My tail whipped and thrashed, as if it had a mind of its own. Beside me, Mallow was urging me to hush, to calm myself, to quit my thrashing and writhing, but I had lost control of myself. Around my body it went, like a snake to its prey, and bit into Mallow’s foreleg.
She shrieked, and I barely caught a glimpse from my unblinded eyes, of my tail glowing a bright voilet, the same color as the syringe. Then it hit me; my tail was the syringe, covered in fur and doubling as an antenna! Furiously I tried to yank it free of her foreleg, but it overpowered me, and Mallow, as she hit and beat it fervently.
Soon the glow stopped, and it popped itself free of her foreleg on its own accord. She quickly backed away, clutching the spot. I watched, in horror, with wide eyes and a trembling lip, as her foreleg began to glow that bright violet. She, too, saw the glow, and screamed as loud as I have ever heard a pony scream before in my life. “Z-zhe cabinets! Zhe medicine! Octavia, help me!”
I tried to stand, but as my hoof touched the floor, I felt a jab of pain in the deepest part of my cortex--brain, actually. The pony lingo was returning, piece by painful piece. Clutched eyes made it hard to see, but through a tiny slit, I scanned the room in a gridlock pattern, spotting the medicine quickly. One hoof at a time. One. Hoof.
The pain was eating me alive. “I-I... it hurts!” I screamed.
Mallow’s entire torso glowed now. “You zhink you are in trouble? Do you see zhis? I am being painted! It is so cold... Octavia! Ze... ze medicine! I... cannot zhink. Look for ze pero... per...”
A loud thump echoed through the room. I didn’t have to even glance her way; I already knew she was sprawled out, glowing, still, and cold. I could go no further, either, and now on the floor I made myself comfortable as yet another spell of darkness ensued. My last thoughts, my only thoughts, as I finally put on the guise of a pony again, was on Mallow and that fluid. Mallow and the fluid...
I awoke to not a cry, nor a mess, nor anything of the sort, but rather, a recalibration message. I read it quickly; it stated the obvious, that I was now calibrated as a pony. It blinked away at my command, and slowly, ever so slowly, I stood. The pain was... gone. Completely gone. No thrumming of agony in my head, no needles in my hooves. I still felt the... the burning, deep inside me, the strange feeling of magic that had no place in an earth pony. It was empowering.
On the topic of power, my systems were powering up. A little list began to scroll on the side of my vision, running through another system scan, and listing my systems in bright green. The only red that I saw, and I plucked it from the group, was the defense tank. It was empty. I shrugged it off and continued to let the scan run.
Defense tank... I scuffed at the ground for a moment, pondering the words. I was in Mallow’s office, and things seemed to be tidy... Mallow, and the defense tank. It hit me. I had injected my defenses into Mallow. Nearly choked, I cried, “Mallow? Mallow, can you hear me? Are you alright?”
A crash. A crash from inside the closet, no less. I whipped around to face the tall, slender door, and carefully hoofed up to it. Now, it was silent, even when I gently pressed my ear to the wood. Nothing. Not even a breath. I held mine tightly, while my mind brought up a screen. Poison, poison, poison... I couldn’t find the information on it.
Sunlight skittered through the window, creeping across the floor. I’m not sure why I thought it was important to note, but it was at the time. My clock (when I called it, this time, instead of on its own) flashed before my eyes. It was high noon.
“Mallow? Are you--”
The door was kicked open with fury, sending me scattering back to the bed. Papers were flung everywhere from its lash, and little models of pony anatomy on the desk beside it were sent crashing down. But that was nothing, nothing compared to what came out of the closet. Orange mane, ruffled and sharp. White fur, encased in a tight labcoat. Purple eyes. Not blue. Purple, a poison, toxic purple. And a grin.
“Octavia! Dear, you are finally avake!” she cried, stepping out. There was something wrong with those eyes; they were too wide, too awake, too alive. She placed a hoof under my chin and threw my head around like a kickball. “And looking good, ya! Very good! Ze chip has worked, of course it would, it was engineering. Ach! You must be hungry! Are you hungry? I zhink you are hungry.”
I tried to smile; it seemed the labcoat was cutting off her oxygen. The buttons were rather tight, drawing the latex flaps close around her chest. “N-no thank you, I-I’m rather fine. Perhaps in a little while we--”
“Nonsense!” she shouted, puffing her chest out. “I have created a kitchen in ze closet!” Again she took my head and twisted it to see inside the closet. What I saw wasn’t a kitchen, per se. It was actually an unplugged bunsen burner beneath a plate of glass with... crayons on it. She was trying to melt crayons.
“Ach! I see it in your eyes, you say vith zhem, ‘Vhy do you melt crayons?’ Vell I vill tell you vhy I melt crayons, I melt crayons because meals must be colorful, ya, and crayons are colorful! A very colorful meal for ze cyborg, I will prepare it and it vill be tasty, you shall see!”
She darted over to the glass and glared at it, her huge grin morphing quickly into a scowl. “Crayons! Vhy do you not melt faster! I already told you vonce, if you do not melt, I vill be forced to destroy you! Do you vant to be destroyed?” She cocked her ear to listen to the colorful wax. “Vhat’s zhat, crayons? No? Zhen melt!”
My haunches were glued to the floor, soon joined by my jaw as it dropped like Vinyl’s bass. I couldn’t move; I just couldn’t fathom why my doctor was melting crayons. It... it had to be the poison. That was it, it must’ve been! My memory chip buzzed to life as I ran a scan through it, eventually calling forth a memory to my screen. Mallow was glowing, brightly so, and I could just see the light spilling into her eyes. That was the last thing on record.
Shutting it down, I tentatively stepped inside the closet. Mallow snapped her gaze back to me and smiled. “Ze vill melt, ya. Give zhem time, zhey need time to melt. Good...” Her hooves conked together and began grinding against themselves. “Yes, very good...”
“M-Mallow,” I said, slowly, articulating each syllable. I rest my hoof on her shoulder, and she nearly twitched out of her skin. “I think, and do listen to me. Are you listening?”
She turned her wide, violet eyes up to mine. “Ya, of course I am listening, I listen to everyzhing, because I must know, ya, I must know for ze science!”
“Umm...” I bit my lip and pressed my ears flat. “Well, I think that that poison had some... negative effects.”
“Vhat? Oh, ya, of course it did,” she said, waving a hoof. “But zhats vhat you get vhen you play vith neurotoxins, ya? It vas interesting, though, very interesting... it vas science...” Again she began to grind her hooves together.
Neurotoxin? Yes, it was! I could see the data strand now. Cracking the strand, I inspected the contents before my eyes. A weak, non-lethal neurotoxin had been stored in my... ballast? Whatever that was. But it was there, with “mind-altering effects” and a “very tangy taste”. I blinked. “How did you figure out it was neurotoxin?”
“Vhat? Vhat vas neurotoxin?”
Stare, that’s what I did. I stared at her, and she returned to glaring at the crayons. “T-the poison inside of you.”
“Zhere is poison inside of you?” she asked, looking suddenly pale. She leapt to her hooves and gripped mine, yanking me out of the closet and slamming me on the bed. “Vhen did you drink a poison, and vhy, vhy vould you drink ze poison? Didn’t your parents varn you about drinking neurotoxin, zhey should have, ya!” With a hoof she knocked me left and right. “Don’t drink ze poison! It is bad for your complexion!”
“Ow! Quit that! I didn’t drink the poison! It was injected into you!” I said, thrusting a hoof at the injection spot.
She looked down at her foreleg, which was mostly covered by the latex labcoat. “Silly girl, very silly, zhat is a labcoat, zhat is not a poison.”
I sat there, mouth agape but saying no words. What was I supposed to say? Mallow had gone mad! Think, I had to think. Vinyl, she would know. Perhaps I could establish an... uplink, yes, that was the word. Get in touch with her. Despite the many near-death experiences she put me through, she’d still know what to do.
Calling up my comms, I tried to call Vinyl. And tried. And tried. Three little dots blinked in succession on the side of my vision, a sort of loading bar, but after almost five minutes of watching the climbing light and listening to Mallow ramble on about how “ze crayons are disobeying orders”, I cancelled the communication and sighed. “Mallow.”
“Ya?” she asked from within the closet.
“Could you come--” She dashed to my side.
“Are you alright, you seem a bit pale! Do you feel dizzy, can you feel your hooves, how is ze chip back zhere, everyzhing alright? Ach! Is ze disease still zhere? Did you run a systems check, run a systems check Octavia!” she cried, gripping my shoulders and violently shaking me.
“I did!” I said, pushing her off. “It’s gone! I’m going to live, but only for a few days! I can’t find what Vinyl was talking about, everything is showing green, but I definitely feel something! I. Don’t want. To die. Mallow, please, calm yourself for a moment, we have to think!”
“Me? I am calm,” she scoffed. “And I am zhinking, too! I have been, ya, zhinking hard and wide and long, and you are right, exploding is bad! Zhough if you do, um, blow up, be sure to keep a log of it, yes? Science!”
“Mallow!” I boomed (the box in my throat was almost an amplifier). I leapt off of the bed and stomped down onto the floor, shattering it into hoof-craters. Steam pistoned out of my legs, hissing up menacingly as my sight narrowed down like a bullseye on her. “Think!”
There was a moment of silence, her staring at me, me staring at her. Then she laughed, and quite hard too, falling to the floor and rolling around on the shattered tiles. “Octavia! Ze explosion, it is not far off! Look, you are blowing up already, ya!”
I turned as red as a sun--I would know. My scanners told me so. “Listen, please!” I implored, lowering my volume output. “Vinyl said we have to meet up with Princess Luna. This is important! How are we supposed to meet with a Princess?”
The laughter died instantly, and Mallow bounded to her hooves. Her face, now, lost its jovial grin and lightheartedness in its eyes, replaced with a determined squint and a devilish grin. “Octavia,” she whispered, leaning close to my ear; so close, it brought a searing blush to my cheeks. “Vinyl said ve must find her. She did not say... how.”
“What are you imposing...”
“Ah, I said I vas zhinking, no?” she whispered. I could already feel a chill bite into my steel framework. “Come into ze closet. Vith me, yes... come.”
She turned and, rather slowly and calmly, to my surprise, sauntered into the closet, glancing back only to urge me forward. Tediously I took the first step, then the second, and made my way into the makeshift crayon-sepulchure. Mallow was glaring intensely at a little box on the shelf, unlabeled, plain, and surrounded by nothing more than some empty test tubes.
“What... what is it?” I asked.
She grinned, taking it down from its perch and gently setting it before us. As if it was a chest of pure gold bits finally found at the bottom of the Equestrian sea, she unlatched the tiny bolt on the front of the plain wooden thing, and opened it. Instantly I could feel my framework locking again.
Darts. Three green darts. “Sedatives,” she whispered. “If ze Princess vill not see us... ve vill take her...”