-Preword: Ah, faithful readers, how many of you left there are. Whilst the admittedly poor first chapter received a whopping 440 views as of this note, my latest one, “The Stallion in the Red Dress”, received as low as 100 by comparison.
The abysmal first chapter appears to be scaring people away from reading past that point, though I understand why.
Well, let’s just say to how ever many of you left: thank you for reading this far. I can only improve and you’re the only reason this is still going at all, but I have some rather histrionic news for you:
This will be the last chapter of The Maretrix..
Don’t worry, it won’t be gone forever: I’m completely redoing the first chapters from scratch, completely overhauling it and rewriting it, now that I have a lot clearer goals and settings and tone and PLOT in mind for how I want to write this. Being a better writer now sort of helps too, I will admit.
This means that it will technically be The Maretrix 2: The Maretrix ReUploaded!
This means taking it down completely though, due to website glitches for me.
The ultimate goal is to get this worthy of publishing on Equestria Daily.
Now, the show must go on.
Twilight’s life flashed before her eyes.
She made a decision right then and there: if she somehow survived this, she was going to do far more reckless and stupid things, just so the next near death experience wasn’t so overwhelmingly BORING.
When Twilight finally caught up to the present day, she finally found the fun reckless bits, namely hanging out with her friends, fighting Nightmare Moon, the pie-fight at Appleoosa, the sonic rainboom, and all the other amazing things she and her closest friends had accomplished recently. But every silver lining has a cloud behind it.
Being chased by the Guard Ponies. Pinkie telling her she gave messages to give to herself. Being caught by the Guard Ponies and held in that tiny interrogation room.
Being broken out again by Pinkie and an incredibly confused Rainbow Dash. Riding back to Sugar Cube corner, away from the danger of the tiny, destroyed, room.
Next she realized she really, really should have chosen that blueberry muffin when she got the chance.
She remembered the horrible egg she had apparently been suffocated in her entire lifetime, the chute and the NeverForever plucking her from the abyss.
‘Why didn’t I take the blueberry?’
The prickling pain of physical therapy, meeting Sepia Tock, Spike’s happy face as he mashed buttons, Pinkie resplendent in captain regalia.
What lingered in her rapidly flashing mind most though was lying on the ground being flicked by rubber bands before bucking the flank out of that stallion and sharing a passion for horror movies with aforementioned pony.
Maybe the red velvet cupcake wasn’t so bad a choice after all. It gave some interesting new quirks to her life…
That thought lasted as long as it took for Truth Hurts to take it’s job a little too literally and remind Twilight that she was, in fact, about to be bucked to death, snapping the unicorn back to reality.
She stared at the unmoving hooves, suspended in mid-air, and waited for time to start again.
After a few seconds, Twilight decided time, in fact, was not starting back up again and glanced back questioningly to Pinkie.
Pinkie’s face was suspended in a look of shock and horror. Twilight just stared as all around her Ponies stood stock still, not moving. The normal background ambiance of busy ponies was completely gone and a deafening silence reigned.
Then Twilight just glared at Pinkie, whose face she had noticed was getting slowly redder than her usual trademark pink.
‘HHHHUUUUUUURRRRRRRKKKKKKKKKK,’ Pinkie suddenly inhaled rather violently, the red draining from her face.
She then expended all the new oxygen rolling around on the floor giggling.
A million times drat. Twilight had come back into the dreadful machine to get away from Pinkie laughing at her. Instead she just found a new reason, and that just wasn’t fair, Twilight mentally pouted.
This had to be solved, ASAP.
Twilight trotted over to the front of the Guard Pony and levitated the pony’s brass and reflective eyewear and top hat off of the violent, yet dapper, anything-but-a-gentlecolt.
Pinkie Pie, who was still chortling, the only sound besides the quiet twinkle of Twilight’s magic in the complete silence, slowly sat up to watch.
Twilight gently placed the top-hat above the Guard’s Tail, on top of his flank. She then fashioned the reflective spectacles to rest upon the tail.
Pinkie started rolling around giggling again as Twilight fashioned the Guard’s tail into an impromptu, ridiculously proportioned, moustache.
As Twilight cantered back to admire her hoofwork, Pinkie reared up and rested a camaraderie foreleg over Twilight’s shoulders.
“And THAT, Twilight,” Pinkie exclaimed delightedly, “Is how you giggle at the ghosties.”
There was a loud ‘Clop!’ as Pinkie slammed her hooves together. Then the colour fell back to the world and time started again.
Where the Guard Pony was before was once again a Sepia in a red dress; albeit now, he had a delightful little top hat on his rump. Much to Twilight’s delight, he didn’t seem to notice as his figure grew smaller and smaller in the crowd.
As Twilight cracked a grin from ear to ear she finally heard tell-tale sounds, a few clopping and wheezing sounds behind her. She turned around to find Pinkie Pie standing on all four hooves once more.
“Now I really hope you’re The One, Twilight! I sort of expected them to be real grumpy pants!”
“The one what, Pinkie?”
“The one ring to rule them all of course Twilight!”
Twilight just stared a hole through Pinkie’s head.
“Oops, sorry, crossed wire there, I think. What I meant was “The One” as in "The one to save the real world.” Weren’t you listening at all?” Twilight involuntarily glanced in the direction ‘Sepia’ had gone.
“Oh right! Well. Long story short…The Alicorns are dead. The world was put into life support until a powerful pony protégé powered the planet again. You’re the ‘princess’s’ protégé and REALLY powerful! If anypony could do it it’s you. Anything else?”
“Dead?! How did they die?”
“ Welp…Uh…I dunno, honestly. I think it had something to do with Princess Luna leaving Equestria in grief forever or something." Pinkie Pie tapped her chin thoughtfully, "For all we know she’s still alive in space! I’m not sure of that, though, or else the sun would be back and Equestria could go back to normal…back to what it’s like in the not-real world. Everypony sort of misses cupcakes….I even tried throwing a “Welcome back from the endless emptiness void of space Luna!” party but nothing worked!”
Meanwhile in her brain Curiosity found an interloper. ‘Oh, hello Truth hurts. I know this must be difficult for you but…Truth, what are you doing?' Curiosity felt panicked all of a sudden. 'Put…Put that down…Get back to the subconscious where you belong and…No, don’t do that!’
Twilight went completely rigid as the world spun around and around again, only stopping when the ground finally rose to meet her.
Twilight's subconscious rallied into a makeshift parliament. At the front were the President and Vice President: Curiosity and Friendship. Behind them, they had Happy Thoughts, Good Wishes, Clear Thinking, Rationality and Logic. Leading the opposition were Truth Hurts and Sarcasm, being aided by Guilty Pleasure, Deadlines, Regret and Appetite.
Things started out calm and orderly with the President’s address, leading such issues as how they could help fix this wrong. Happy Thoughts painted images of Alicorn Twilight, saviour of ponykind.
Sarcasm’s biting rebuttal about Pinkie Pie silenced Logic who went into the corner to cry. Logic was tended to with Rationality the best it could, but Rationality could only do so much.
Deadlines demanded that a verdict should be reached before Consciousness came back to clear the floor. Happy Thoughts promised a fair decision. Sarcasm declared they’d love to see that one happen.
All hell finally broke loose when Regret informed everyone else that they’d lost their Appetite.
Twilight opened her eyes. If she closed the left one all she could see was beige. If she closed the right one all she could see was purple. She experimented for a few blinks before Spike offered Twilight a bowl of…’Food’.
Twilight swore she was hungry, but for some reason she didn’t feel she could eat anything.
Twilight realized that through the buzzing in her ears she could hear voices.
“She’s n…t.….oken...j…st…lit….conc…ssion….ne...d….to….her up."
A quick sharp pain raced up her shoulder.
Her awareness slammed back into her like a carriage into a particularly ripe watermelon; that is to say, suddenly and rather messily. Her Subconscious exploded into the back of her mind once more. “Eurghhhhh”
“Good thinking, oh assistant of mine, but, erm…I really sort of wanted to do that.”
A quick flash of red rubber screamed across her periphery and hit Sepia high in the chest.
“OW! Hey!” Sepia cried helplessly.
Spike turned to face Twilight as he grinned devilishly, with four fully extended rubber bands stretched talon-to-thumb, the red rubber on them turning pale and creaking slightly. There was a barrage of smacks and four red welts emerged on Sepia Tock as Spike unloaded his bounty.
At least that explained what woke her up so much.
“He got me with those, too, when I first got here. I didn’t get the chance to buck him, though.”
“Wait…When you first got out, why didn’t you learn hacking how I learned Buck Choy?”
“Because programming the programming into him would have created a feedback loop that would have melted his brain out his ears,” came a faltering voice from the floor. “Besides, Spike doesn’t fit in the machines, remember?”
Spike flexed and grinned.
“Nothing can contain these bad boys!”
And then the world exploded in Pink.
Twilight didn’t know how she got into this mess.
Captain Pinkie and Sepia had mentioned something about ‘Combat training’ and then something about Sepia being ‘More her skill level.’ Not that she could remember most of the ‘conversation’ as she had been rather rushed back into the brain-sucker-outer machine as soon as Spike had saluted to the group from the control terminals.
She had never thought it possible, but she was actually getting used to being pulled in and out of her own body.
A shiver racked her body as she realized she was actually getting used to being temporarily lobotomized.
That’s not something even a normal-not-normal day in Ponyville could ever equate to.
Twilight opened her eyes a crack and found herself in a Japonese setting. A dojo with head-high wood paneling and sliding papyrus screen doors surrounded a large, cushioned floor. Her hooves sank softly into the somewhat plush matting, and her skin warmed as sunlight poured through the breathtaking skylight high above.
The porous nature of the walls allowed a faint breeze to course through the room, billowing through the mane of a stallion before her. The identity of the stallion was hidden by the shadows, but he appeared to be dressed in a white Kimono which was faintly swaying in the ghostly draft. ‘Or Zephyr,’ spoke up Twilight’s inner thesaurus, ‘when do we ever get to use a word like that, huh?’
The mysterious Dojo Master stepped forth from the shadows, and Twilight let out a dramatic gasp. “Why, hello there, miss.” Sepia said cheerfully. There appeared to be a full second delay between moving his lips and the sound emerging.
Twilight tried to reply, woefully. “Hey, Doctor, what are you…Why isn’t my voice coming….Wait there it is why is…Wait, now I'm speaking over myself, this is so confusing.”
Twilight’s losing battle against her own voice frustrated her more than usual. She was used to thinking faster than her mouth would let her, but this was just ridiculous.
“I recommend silence,” Sepia disjointedly spoke. “This program maximizes your ability to channel the chaos of the Spell Matrix…But it causes a little intermission, a bit of lag, sometimes with the low priority, erm, stuff.”
Twilight counted a full three Mrs Sippie’s before his lips finally stopped moving.
“I’m here to buck your flank, little lady, and that’s the only real priority this thing's worried about.” Sepia smirked while making a grand sweeping gesture with his left fore-hoof.
Twilight suddenly felt something deep inside her. The feeling started deep in her gut and tickled warmly up across her chest. Finally, the feeling roared and billowed out Twilight’s throat. She collapsed to the floor clutching at her sides from the all-consuming laugh that ensued.
“Hey,” Sepia sounded hurt, wounded, “You may be better at Buck Choy, but I’m faster than you, mare.”
And with that, Sepia charged Twilight and bowed his forelegs as if to pounce. He stopped completely on his front hooves, but his back hooves kept going forwards at the speed of, well, a charging stallion. His hindlegs twisted up behind his flexing back as Sepia uncoiled his arms and pushed off like a powerful spring with his fore-hooves. The result was a slamming somersault that arced his rear half gracefully, as if learned from a complicated dance move, completed in under half a second.
The unicorn would have been far more impressed if the jump hadn’t just connected with her chest, sending her flying into one of the rear walls.
“Az..wha….” Twilight’s voice finally caught up with her lips, “What? What the buck was THAT?!”
“Well,” Sepia said smugly, “It was a double reversal of a traditional-“
“No, not that pathetic belly flop of yours,” Twilight cut Sepia off, who had the decency to act offended. “I meant the whole ‘I just defied the laws of physics and flew across the room instead of having my chest caved in’ thing that I was curious about.”
“Oh,” Sepia deadpanned, “That”. Sepia mumbled a little and kicked his hooves at nothing,
“Well, since you can get hurt under the Spell…Well…I sort of…programmed the room to absorb the force meant for a little bit of your body and then ‘bounce’ it slowly across your entire frame. It can get a little, erm, ‘whooshie’ I think the term may be, ma’am.”
The program sped up and slowed down as Sepia talked. It looked as if he were trying to speak a completely different language but somepony had put Sepia’s voice over the top of it.
Twilight’s jaw seemed to fall closer to her knees than it was to her nose.
“That’s amazing, Sepia!” Twilight breathed in admiration. “That must have been so hard to come up with,” Twilight cocked an eyebrow skeptically, “So why, dear doctor, do you appear to be embarrassed?”
“Embarrassed?” Sepia blurted defensively, “I’m not embarrassed! No, I’m not getting defensive, you’re the one getting defensive, I’m just-“
It was at exactly this moment in the tirade that Spike’s disembodied voice drifted tinnily, clunkily, metallically through the Dojo. “He based the entire program off a jelly he saw Pinkie Pie make. Pretty much just copied and pasted most of it, says here.”
Sepia facehooved hard, Twilight thought, solely to hide his mortified expression. The smack of his hoof against his head did little to hide his embarrassed wheeze.
“I thought I encrypted the dev notes, Spike!” Sepia yelled at the skylight pointedly.
“Maybe,” Spike started slowly, even Twilight could hear him grinning though the machine and the distortion, “You shouldn't have been such a good teacher”.
Twilight grinned viciously at Sepia, who somehow only just realized he was just about to teach her how to efficiently kick his plot. Apparently this was something he would be rather good at.
“Oh, buck it,” he declared, “only live once.”
Sepia let out a piercing battlecry and charged Twilight.
Twilight found the ensuing melee a lot like the games of ‘Twisted!’ she used to play as a filly. The only notable difference was that it was a lot faster. Instead of playing on a polka dot mat Twilight found herself trying to artistically place “Front Right” on “Face” and “Rear Left” on “Kneecap”.
It didn’t seem to help that whilst playing on this organic mat of hers that she felt as if she were being jerked and flung around on a bungie cord. The soft whoosh and whump of a blow connecting was immediately followed by gravity finding better things to do.
She felt herself losing ground fast. Sepia was sloppier than she was, displayed less finesse, but his blows were far more efficient than her more artistic methods. She once again was relying on theoretical knowledge against a tried and tested competitor.
Her blows landed far more often than his did but Twilight found that Sepia’s blows were far more effective, despite making contact far less often. Her comparatively nimbler blows were eventually blocked and brushed aside almost contemptuously in the face of the veteran opponent, after a few minutes of constant brawling.
Backed against the wall, Twilight found a way to use this to her advantage though. Propelling herself on one of Sepia’s more direct hoof blows, she rocketed up the wall behind her, kicked off from the sheltered roof, and landed directly behind Sepia. Twilight twisted to sweep his legs from behind him, but Sepia was still faster.
Twisting around his hips like a ball-bearing, Sepia unleashed a brutal chop-jerk thrust, stopping just inches from Twilight's throat.
“Looks like I win, missy, not that you didn’t put up a decent fight,” Sepia stated clearly. Twilight, by stark comparison, was breathing deeply and rapidly, the cool air catching in her rasping throat.
Sepia cocked his head in confusion. “Why are you breathing like that?” Sepia drawled.
“Because. You. Idiot. I’m. Exhausted.” Twilight rasped each laboured word.
“I think the better question would have been ‘Why are you breathing?’ then.” Sepia concluded.
Twilight refused to dignify that obvious jibe with a response. Talk about a bad sport.
The self-proclaimed ‘Good Doctor’ must have figured out what she was thinking by her expression. Sepia checked to make sure he hadn’t literally been cut by that sharp, pointed scowl.
“You’re the egghead here, genius, think for a second. Your lungs ain’t real because the air ain't real because the entire world ain't real, right? So, simply put, ma’am, why breathe? It’s obviously just holding you back.”
Twilight thought about it and decided that anything was worth trying once.
She held her breath and counted to thirty. She thought she was doing rather well until she felt rather light headed. Twilight glanced at herself and realized she’d gone completely purple, and gasped in a deep breath.
Sepia grinned maniacally. “T’ain’t as easy as it looks, is it?”
“I turned purple you homicidal maniac,” Twilight squealed in protest. “That isn’t healthy!”
“…Ain’t you always purple, lady?” A tinge of confusion touched upon his question.
Twilight opened her mouth in reply. Then she thought better of it and closed it again. Changing her mind again, she opened it once more for a biting remark. Finding none came, her mouth snapped shut with a clack once more.
“That’s what I thought. Mighty fine impression of a goldfish, by the by, but it can be hard to adjust to the whole 'not breathing' thing, I get that. After spending so long getting so good at breathing and all that, years of practice gone to so much waste, it gets a little weird. Sort of like, well, forgetting how to breathe, I guess.”
Twilight closed her eyes and held her breath again. And held it. And held it.
When she finally started to think that maybe the stallion was right, she felt that familiar nagging that meant ‘Yeah, breathe now’ coming from her lungs. Instead of obeying, she imagined a healthy pair of lungs full of air and willed it to be.
The feeling vanished almost as fast as if Twilight had just taken a deep breath.
“Well, we do have a fast learner on our hands,” Twilight slammed her eyes open to find that Sepia had disappeared behind her, “but you still don’t know why I whooped you just now."
Twilight shook her head as grumpily as possible. Rainbow Dash might have hated losing more, but Twilight couldn’t stand a bad sport.
“Yes, I do, Doctor,” Twilight grated, “It’s obviously because you’re bigger and faster and stronger and more stallion-ier than me.”
Sepia stood perfectly still. He then seemed to channel Pinkie’s ‘zen’ expression. Twilight found the expression was much wiser when she wasn’t looking directly up at it delicately balancing on her facial features.
“Why would you think me being faster, or stronger, would have anything to do with me being bigger in this place?” Sepia spoke profoundly. He then proceeded to kill the mood with his next line.
“But yeah, I’m more of a stallion than you’ll ever be, little lady” he winked.
That was cause for pondering. If lungs weren’t required, she mused, why would size, or muscles, have anything to do with speed or strength? It would be down to willpower, like how she imagined breathing, and…oh Celestia have mercy…who could think fastest. Every Hearth's Warming wish was coming true, and Twilight felt more than a little warm and fuzzy at the thought.
‘Brain,’ Twilight internally commanded, ‘Activate late night cram session procedure Pony Joe!’
Her brain complied with the demand and suddenly Twilight felt a mental rush hit her as if she had suddenly eaten a dozen sprinkled donuts and ingested about a gallon of black coffee. It was a practised procedure Twilight had learned after years of late night cram sessions as the Princess's personal student.
Just like all her kicks, she knew she would pay for this burst of mental machinations later, but for now one thought played in her mind.
“I might not be able to be more of a stallion than you, Sep, but I know one way to make you less of one,” Twilight gloated before wondering if she’d accidentally said that part out loud.
Sepia’s horrified look confirmed the worst. Whoops.
With her newfound temporary brain burst one option clearly stood above all the rest. It was graceful. It was elegant. It would clearly deal with the situation put before her. It was, simply put, a masterpiece of mental and cognitive processing.
Twilight bellowed her own almighty battle cry and charged Sepia with the force of a speeding train. She indeed put the ‘Loco’ into locomotive. Sepia turned a little paler and gulped.
‘Why, oh why, am I such an amazing teacher?’
As Twilight slowly emerged from the machine back into the NeverForever, she had time to look back on what had happened in the moments after.
Sepia had been pushed back this time, which had forced him to fall back on quick jabs, rather than the expertly placed power blows as he had the first time. Twilight’s brutal onslaught had defied several laws of anatomy and a few laws of physics. Just as the battle started drawing to a climax, Sepia matching her blow for blow in a desperate attempt to reverse the situation, and Twilight had learned a few things.
She had learnt that in that world, when she put her mind to it, she could do amazing things. She learned that running up walls was amazingly fun.
And, as the final blow was struck, she also learned what Sepia Tock sounded like a few octaves higher.
With the fight over and the adrenaline ebbing away, Twilight ran over to assist the fallen Sepia Tock as he, too, came out of his own stasis. As Sepia knelt on the ground and wheezed a few times, he felt a gentle purple foreleg wrap around his shoulders. Spike was desperately trying not to laugh, and failing, as Sepia leaned into Twilight’s comforting embrace, momentarily forgetting why he needed it in the first place.
It was in this rather awkward moment of comfort that Captain Pinkie strolled in.
“Righto, lovebirds and lazy bones,” She bobbed her head cheerfully at Sepia and Twilight, their muffled protests cut short as Pinkie continued, “I think we’re about ready, ladies and gentleponies. Spike seems to have zilcho problems running the controls, and Twilight seems to be able to handle this right at the moment and all that rubbish so…Pip pip, tally ho, into the Spell Matrix, here we go!”
Sepia tried to add a word in edgewise again, but all that came out was a highpitched squeak.
“Awesome-sauce! Let’s go find our friends, before somepony else catches on.”