• Published 24th Nov 2017
  • 8,065 Views, 500 Comments

Who Told You This Was A Good Idea?! - Bender Alpha



After 1000 years of tyranny and despair, one mare attempts to unleash ultimate evil, in a desperate bid to save her people and lead them to a brighter future. What she gets is not quite as advertised on the box.

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Chapter 7 - Would you like some help getting off my goddamn lawn?

Of all the things that could have happened, of all the possible voices I might have heard, the last thing I expected was a personification of Clippy to pop up in my head. So, with my usual class and decorum, I blurted out the first thought in my head.

“What?”

<<Would you like some assistance in creating a new pair of eyes?>> The androgynous voice reiterated.

“Umm… sure?”

<<Very well. Carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen stores are at sufficient levels. Miscellaneous elements are at optimal levels. Loading ocular organ blueprints. One moment…>>

I felt something stir and froth up inside of me. Images of eyeballs, cross-sections, and chemical formulas flew through my mind. The odd, churning sensation continued for a few minutes, then the motions suddenly stopped.

<<Assembly complete. Eyes connected to network.>>

Everything was still black.

“I still can’t see anything.”

<<Please wait a moment. Your visual centers are still synchronizing and adjusting to local levels of brightness.>>

As “Clippy” spoke, shimmers of light fluttered through my vision. I began to register different shades of darkness, then muted earthy tones faded in. Soon, I could just barely make out the shape of the passageway, as my eyes finally adjusted to the dark. I huffed in equal relief and amazement.

“Wow. That was easier than I thought it would be.”

<<Of course. I am here to serve, Director.>>

“Ah… Director, huh. So, uh, what does that make you?” I pondered, trying to find the source of this voice.

<<I am you.>>

I rapidly blinked my new eyes, taken aback. “I’m sorry?”

<<I am you. You are me. We are a part of the Synthesized Microculture Of Omniformative Zooidic Engines. The Smooze. More specifically, your psychic signature is designated Director of this particular microculture, and I am merely your Adjutant subroutine.>>

I sunk back into a vegetative contemplation, overwhelmed by the sudden info dump.

“Synthesized Microculture of… Wait, subroutine? Does that mean I’m a… a gray goo?”

The Adjutant went silent for a moment.

<<Records of your memories show that there is some similarity between the Smooze and your world’s gray goo scenario, yes. However, we are green, and consist of billions of microscopic golems, rather than your gray “nanobots.” Additionally, we are powered by magically charged crystal, rather than by a contained chemical reaction.>>

I ran a hand over my shapeless head. “I have… so many questions.”

<<According to the timetable you laid out for the unicorn, Starlight Glimmer, we still have thirty-four hours, nineteen minutes, and forty-two seconds before the scheduled rendezvous. There is still time for questioning.>>

“Well, great. But, uh, let’s just… put that on hold for now. I should probably figure out how to make myself look like a pony first.”

<<A simple problem. You consumed more than enough sericin to be able to approximate pony hair.>>

“I still need to make sure I get the shape right.”

<<Would you like some assistance with that?>>

“I… yeah, sure. But you keep saying it like that, and I really will start calling you Clippy.”

<<You may call me whatever you wish, Director.>>

After that, the process of creating a pony body went swiftly. All the new mass I had accrued compacted into one small, very dense form. The shape of a stallion was fairly simple to mimic with input from the Adjutant. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a mirror, so I would just have to take it on its word. The Adjutant even went so far as to help me create false organs and taught me how to change the color of my goo. The process was more akin to mixing paint than anything else, which was why I wasn’t able to change colors the first time. My “skin cells” didn’t have the innate ability to change color. I had to give them something to latch onto first.

With the recent glut of material intake, especially the dyes, I had enough to change my outward appearance at least. Iron oxides helped me darken my overall color to a forest green, so I wouldn’t be immediately associated with the Smooze.

Luckily, the Adjutant assured me that I’d absorbed enough trace quantities of titanium for the sclerae of my eyeballs to be made white during creation. I got a little cheeky and asked it to adjust my iris color to hazel, using whatever gold and copper was left over. I’d be able to mock the nobleponies just by looking at them, and they’d be none the wiser.

Then, since I still had some undigested sericin proteins floating around in me from all the silk I’d consumed, so I synthesized a coat of silken fur in the same color as my “flesh.” I also gave myself a mane and tail in an extra dark green.

The only other thing I wasn’t so sure about was the butt tattoos I’d seen around. At first, I’d thought they were a fashion choice of sorts. But having seen them on the flank of almost every adult pony we came across in town, I began to suspect they might have some deeper significance. I wished I had remembered to ask Starlight when I’d had the chance. However, perhaps the Adjutant knew something.

“Adjutant?”

<<Yes, Director?>>

“Do you know anything about the tattoos ponies put on their butts?”

<<Records indicate that ponies refer to them as “Cutie Marks.” They are a magical phenomenon that occurs when ponies discover the set of skills in which they have the greatest potential for mastery, enjoyment, and/or fulfillment. The images represent these skill sets. Commonly, ponies receive them around puberty. If you wish to blend in with the populace, it would behoove you to choose an image to represent your pony persona.>>

“… Did… Did you just make a hoof pun?”

The Adjutant went silent, as if considering.

<<Ah… Yes, it would seem I did, albeit unintentionally. Forgive me, I shall make greater efforts to prevent such errors from occurring in the future.>>

“No, no, it’s alright. Kinda funny, actually, what with the deadpan delivery and all.”

If it responded again, I wasn’t paying attention. I was too busy thinking of what I would use as my image. There were so many possibilities. Did I want to use something that actually represented me? Make something up for my persona? Or maybe I could coyly hint at my true nature? In the end, I gave up and decided to defer to the corny, pretentious teenager I used to be. This was just a persona, after all.

I ended up selecting the same stupid image I had used in imageboards and forum avatars all throughout junior high and high school: an atomic model of a nitrogen atom, whose electrons were arrayed so that, were one to draw a Golden Spiral starting at the atom’s nucleus, the electrons would line up with it.

Now, let me just say up front, I am not a numerologist or any other kind of spiritual conspiracy theorist. Never have been. But… I did come dangerously close to becoming one in my impressionable middle school days. It is, perhaps one of my more embarrassing secrets. Let’s just say that I had that shit shamed out of me by someone close to me and leave it at that. I decided to use this as a reminder not to take myself too seriously.

<<You now have a complete disguise,>> the Adjutant commented. <<I believe all you need now is a name.>>

I took one look at my coloration and snickered. “What about Anon E. Mous?”

The Adjutant didn’t even try to laugh.

<<Sir, I may only be a limited artificial intelligence, but even I can tell that is a terrible idea.>>

“Pfft, fine.” I pondered for a moment before a fit of inspiration overcame me.

“How about Stark Raven?”

<<That is closer to pony naming convention, yes. Why that name specifically?>>

“Because you’d have to be mad to oppose the Masters! Eh? Eh?

Again, not even a single reaction.

“Well, you’re no fun.”

<<No, I am not. I am an Adjutant subroutine. I was not programmed with a sense of humor. But that name will serve adequately as an alias. Now, what do you wish to do next?>>

I looked down at my hooves.

“It’d probably be best to get used to moving like a pony before I go outside. I can ask questions while I practice.”

<<Very well. Would you like some instruction on pony walk cycles?>>

I spent the next few minutes practicing the sequence of steps necessary to not make a fool of myself. The clip-clop of my false hooves echoed through the sewers and my thoughts, the rest of my brain power spent focusing on not tripping and falling into raw sewage. I may not have had a sense of smell, but damned if I was going to set even a hair of my new disguise in that kind of filth. After a while, I felt confident enough that I could practice while also talking. There was still so much to ask.

“So, you’re an artificial intelligence?”

<<A limited one, yes.>>

“What does that mean exactly?”

<<I am intelligent enough to create plans, but flexible enough to react to changes in environment and circumstance. I do not, however, have a sense of empathy or compassion. In strictest terms, I am what your kind deems a psychopath. I can emulate emotion, but I do not understand it.>>

“I see. So was it you who moved my mind into the spare mass or… whatever that was a few minutes ago?”

<<No, that was not me. I did not have to intervene; your “mind” is spread throughout the entirety of the culture under your control. Having a localized center of thought is a symptom unique to creatures with brains. You may wish to acclimate yourself to the idea that you no longer have a head. It will be less disorienting the next time one of your subcultures is destroyed.>>

That was a dizzying thought, but not entirely untrue. During the entirety of my time in Equestria, I had thought of myself as a living creature. But if what the Adjutant had said was true, then I had become, for all intents and purposes, a robot.

“Does that mean I’m not alive?” I asked.

<<If, by “alive”, you mean “have a nervous system that is supplied by a network of other systems made of proteins, water, and trace other elements”, then no. However, you do still have an intellect, free will, morals, and even a thaumic signature, though the last differs slightly from those of the mortal races. You simply exist differently than others with a similar level of intelligence.>>

“Good gravy, I ask one question and four more pop up in its place,” I muttered to myself. “Alright, here’s an important one: you spoke earlier about ‘records of my memory.’ Does that mean you can read my mind?”

The Adjutant hesitated for a moment.

<<I do not understand what you mean by “my mind”. Do you wish to know if we are separate beings?>>

“I want to know if you’ve been mucking around in my head!”

<<Again, you do not have a “head” for me to access, as we are not separate beings. I am you. You are me. I refer to myself as an individual because I assessed that it would be more beneficial to your mental health, having recently been mortal. If you wish to know which intelligence has priority as far as processing power, the Director always comes first. If there is enough memory, the Adjutant subroutine starts up. I have access to the information in your intellect and can plan with and around that information, but I cannot alter it in any way. I am your subordinate in all things. I cannot take action unless you have commanded it.>>

“So, in essence, you’re just a voice in my head.”

<<That is greatly over-simplifying my function, but yes, I suppose I am that. At least until you give me directions to the contrary.>>

I would have continued with that line of questioning, but just then, I heard something off in the distance. When I stopped walking, the echoes of hoof-steps did not. In fact, they seemed to be coming closer, along with the murmur of muted voices.

“Ah crap,” I whispered, “the Guards’ve come looking for me.”

<<How do you wish to handle them?>>

“I don’t know, let me think.”

There were a few ways I could do it. If possible, I wanted to get away as bloodlessly as I could. The less I interacted with them, the fewer chances one of them could get away with information on me. So that left either trying to sneak by them or bluffing my way past the patrols. Both were risky, but I felt slightly more confident in my ability to talk my way out of it. I was already coming up with a plan.

<<I agree, deception will offer the most flexibility in the efforts of subterfuge.>>

“Yes, I know, now hush!” I whispered harshly. “I don’t want to give awwwaitaminute… Was I speaking out loud?”

<<No, you were not.>>

“Then how did you know…? Oh. Right. You can read my mind, apparently.”

<<Yes, I can. And if you wish to be stealthy, I would advise you to keep further communication on inaudible channels.>>

“I know-!” I started, before I remembered to think it. I know that, stop patronizing me!

<<I am not patronizing. Merely reminding.>>

I bit back a retort. I needed to focus on playing the part. To start, I made a horn pop out of my head, then covered it in a rippling blob of transparent goo. I made the blob glow, then practiced putting it out quickly, using fireflies as inspiration. The required chemicals differed slightly from those in a glowstick, but it meant that putting the light out was as simple as cutting off the oxygen supply. I could now effectively call myself a unicorn.

As the sound of hoofsteps came closer, so too did an array of multicolored lights bouncing off the sewer walls. One more reason I was glad I chose to bluff my way through: it was much harder to hide when the enemy had built-in flashlights. My plan cemented, I adopted a disgusted and thoroughly put-upon expression and walked towards the light.

“Is that the guard?” I called out in a posh voice as I rounded the corner. “Thank the Mas-”

I was cut off by a bolt of magic that sizzled through the air above my head. I yelped and ducked back around the corner. It took a moment to remember who I was supposed to be.

“Put your blasted horns out, you imbeciles!” I shouted at them from cover.

“Step forward and identify yourself,” one of them shouted back.

I peeked around the corner and glowered at the light. “Stark, of House Raven, first of my name and student of Silverglow Academy! Now point those damned things elsewhere! It’s bad enough I was coerced into coming down here, I don’t need a bunch of meatheads trying to blast me into next week!”

The exasperated groans I heard echoing towards me gave me a spike of satisfaction. They were already starting to buy my act. It wouldn’t be so easy to convince them to let me be, however.

“Why are you down here in the sewers?” The same pony demanded, pegging himself as the leader.

“Like I said,” I grumbled, “I was coerced. It’s not the first time I’ve been bullied into doing the senior class’ dirty work. ‘Oh, dear, somebody stole my precious hairpin and fled into the sewers! Oh, well, let’s just send Stark Raven down there, he’s mad enough to do it.’ Bah! Those cotton-brains couldn’t find their way out of a wet paper bag without their servants. But I’ll show them! House Raven will not be trif-”

“Yes, yes, as you say. Just get back up to street level, and leave this to us. We don’t need civilians getting in our way.”

I opened my mouth, pretending like I wanted to argue with him further. In reality, I was suppressing a fit of triumphant giggles. A moment later, I cleared my throat.

“Yes, well, I suppose you gentlestallions are much more suited to this sort of work than one such as myself. If you could just point me out of this hell-hole, I will gladly get out of your manes.”

The lead guard nodded at one of his fellows and then motioned me over. I walked over, still a bit wary of the guards watching me. But when I reached them, I made sure to turn my nose up, to really sell the act. Frustrated huffs reached my ears and I had to keep my mouth from quirking into a grin. I followed the hapless guard, as he muttered about being given the chore of escorting a bratty noblepony out of the sewers.

Fairly quickly, we reached a ladder to the surface. I paused, blinking up at the early-morning sunlight, wondering exactly how a quadrupedal species had developed something much more suited to tree-climbers. Not for long, though, as my escort called up the shaft to someone up above.

“Civvie coming up!”

The nameless unicorn turned to watch me expectantly. I huffed haughtily before turning to the ladder. I couldn’t hesitate here, or he might get suspicious, but I also couldn’t risk falling off. I wasn’t sure if the impact might destabilize my form. So when my pastern made contact with the first rung, I made a quick adjustment, turning my hooves sticky. The problem dealt with, I quickly climbed the ladder, eager to leave the sewers behind.

A grey hoof reached down to help me out as I reached the lip of the manhole—or stallionhole, or whatever it’s called here—and I quickly undid the stickiness. In hindsight, it probably wouldn’t have mattered much if the guard that pulled me out had noticed my hooves were sticky, having just come from a sewer. However, I was still in damage control mode and didn’t want to give them any reason to be suspicious.

“Thanks,” I offered curtly, expecting I would be faced with an inquisition before long. However, I wasn’t expecting the pony that began it.

“A civilian, hm?” A dangerous, feminine voice hummed. “And what might you have been doing down there?”

I looked over at the source and my fake blood ran cold.

Standing a few yards away was a beanpole of an alicorn mare, her crimson eyes watching me with the same calculating gaze of a hungry lioness. Alarm bells rang in my head. Even with the Adjutant administering stern warnings in the back of my mind, I already knew who I was faced with. Lady Ruby Drops had come to Ponyville, and was standing mere feet away from a creature that had been summoned to put an end to her reign, one way or another.

Of course, I knew this was neither the place nor the time for such a confrontation. I still didn’t have the kind of information I needed to deal with her. But neither could I pass up this chance. Whether it was from some suicidal lack of self-preservation or a desperate need to know my enemy, I found myself shifting into schmooze mode.

“L- Lady Ruby Drops, I presume,” I began, dipping into a deep bow. “It is such an immense honor to finally make your acquaintance! If I had but known that I might have the chance of meeting you today, well… I certainly would have made myself much more presentable, I assure you.”

Ruby Drops merely quirked one of her pencil-thin eyebrows a hair higher. “And your explanation?”

“Ah, yes, well… I am a new student at the Silverglow Academy, and, well… When I heard from my fellow students that some monster had ransacked their rooms and made off with their valuables, I felt it my duty to find and confront the beast. Unfortunately, I was unable to track it down. It appears to be quite crafty, despite being some sort of slime monster.”

The bluff was believable enough. I fervently hoped she was accustomed to noble ponies attempting to ingratiate themselves in order to curry her favor. As I stayed in the bow, I peeked up at her with one eye and noticed her own eyes had narrowed almost imperceptibly.

“What is your name, colt?”

“Stark, of House Raven, first of my name. Ever at your service, your grace.”

She studied me for a long moment, before speaking up once again.

“House Raven… I cannot say I am familiar with that name. Not in Ponyville or Canterlot.” Her voice lowered like a bull’s horns, readying for a charge.

“Ah… well, I cannot say I am surprised, your majesty. We have only recently been elevated to the ranks of nobility. We were primarily grain merchants based out of Baltimare. A rather fruitful trade deal allowed us to… grease the wheels, as it were.” I pulled the name out of my ass, remembering having heard it mentioned by some of the townsponies we had passed.

Her imperious eyebrow raised even higher. I couldn’t quite tell if she was buying it, but she hadn’t tried to blast me into bits yet, so I hadn’t drawn her ire, at least.

“I see,” she murmured. “I suppose Silver Song was feeling generous.”

Immediately, Adjutant spoke directly into the center of my thoughts.

<<Warning! All records and gathered data indicate that the city of Baltimare resides in the state of Gilder, under the jurisdiction of Master Gold Standard. I believe she is testing your story for holes. Proceed carefully.>>

I chuckled nervously. It wouldn’t be easy to wheedle my way out of this one without directly contradicting Ruby Drops. I got the impression that she wouldn’t be terribly impressed with a mouthy stallion.

“Perhaps, my Lady. I can’t pretend to understand the intricacies of the relationship between Master Gold Standard and Prince Silver Song. In any case, whoever decided we had done enough of a service to merit our inclusion in the ranks of the nobility also suggested they send me to Silverglow Academy. And so, here I am.”

I stayed in the bow, waiting anxiously of Ruby to pass her verdict. If I could have sweated, I would have been a one-man fountain. Her gaze drilled into the back of my head as though she was pondering the color of my brains. After several nerve-wracking seconds, she sighed disinterestedly.

“Very well. Leave me. You stink like a pig.”

“Of course, my Lady. I will be thoroughly washing myself the moment I have access to a shower. I pray our next meeting will be memorable for entirely different reasons.”

With that, I trotted off, eager to leave her line of sight. And yet, I could still feel her gaze still on the back of my head, even as I rounded the nearest corner.


Ruby Drops watched Stark Raven leave with some trepidation. Something about his appearance felt off, though she couldn’t quite place her hoof on it. As he disappeared from sight, she resolved to keep a close eye on him. But before she could send any of the guards to tail him, something else demanded her attention.

“Lady Ruby Drops, a thousand apologies, but we’ve received a call from Brother Odd. He wishes to speak with you.”

Ruby Drops groaned. As much as she wanted to believe his call was a coincidence, as the Minister of the Bureau of the One Truth, Odd Bodkins never sent for anypony without a reason. No one from the intelligence and inquisition bureau ever did.

“I suppose I should answer him, then. Very well, bring me the comm-crystal.”

The guardspony cantered off, quickly returning with the large, mirror-like crystal. He wheeled it up before Ruby, then ducked away, excusing himself from what would doubtlessly be a private conversation. Ruby took a moment to appreciate his shrewd decision, before casting a privacy screen around herself. The spell orb blocked all sight and sound into it, but let the user see and hear what went on outside. Useful for monitoring the progress of her search while still keeping prying eyes and ears at bay. She took a moment to compose herself before activating the runes on the crystal mirror’s wooden base.

A moment later, the gaunt, haggard visage of Brother Odd faded into clarity.

“Ruby,” he greeted emotionlessly.

“My dear Oddy-boy,” she purred, laying on the honey, “to what do I owe this pleasure?”

“I have received word that several unusual incidents have occurred within the walls of Ponyville. Shall I send intelligence officers to assist?”

“No need to put yourself out, Oddy-boy. I have things well in hoof here.”

Odd pondered her silently for a few seconds, before continuing in his fatigued monotone. “Need I remind you of King Argent’s orders?”

“No, you don’t,” she growled, the pleasant facade dropping like a house of cards. “I am well aware of the stakes.”

“Discord’s magic should not be underestimated.”

“And I am not,” she nearly snarled, patience wearing dangerously thin. “I am perfectly able to deal with these incidents myself. After all, don’t you have other, more pertinent issues to deal with?”

Odd frowned slightly.

“I am dealing with them. The possibility that the Mirthful Jester might capitalize on the confusion in Ponyville is not one I wish to overlook. I ask again: shall I send intelligence agents to assist you?”

Ruby’s eyes narrowed dangerously.

“Just because you are unable to deal with the oh so significant weight of your responsibilities,” she hissed, “that doesn’t mean the rest of us are as incompetent! Focus on rectifying your own failures before you go shoving your snout in the rest of our business. After all, you never know what might be waiting on the other side of the hole to bite it off!”

With that, she severed the connection, sorely tempted to simply smash the crystal out of sheer spite. They weren’t easy to come by, however, so she resolved to take her frustrations out on the simpletons around her. She dispelled the privacy screen with a sharp pop, startling everypony around her.

“Guards! Bring me the Captain!” She bellowed. “I need to have words about the speed of this investigation.”

As the guards scrambled to follow her orders, she snapped at them, almost as an afterthought. “And would somepony find me something halfway decent to drink?! I refuse to deal with these levels of incompetence without something to take the edge off!”


Leagues away, in the gloomy town of Hollow Shades, a weary stallion blinked at the blank screen of a communication crystal. He sighed heavily, dragging a hoof down his face. After a few moments of massaging his dark eye sockets, he called out.

“Pinkamena?”

A dusty pink mare with a straight mane of a darker shade peered into the small room.

“Yes, sir?” She droned.

“Have Inquisitor Kingfisher meet me in my office in ten minutes. I have an assignment for her.”

“Right away, sir.”

Odd listened to her hoofsteps echoing back to him as she walked down the hallway. Things were getting interesting. He hated when things got interesting. It always meant a pile of paperwork and a splitting headache for him. He only prayed that God would grant him the patience to deal with whatever came in a quick and efficient manner. Perhaps then, he might finally be granted a modicum of peace.

He chuckled wryly to himself, pulling his clerical collar loose. As if God has any power here.


Coloratura sat in her reserved spot on the couch, quietly sewing up a tear in one of their few tablecloths. Luckily it hadn’t been the nice one, the one with the soft lace embroidery. They only ever used that one on special occasions, after all. She wondered if it was time to take it out of storage to shake the dust off again.

The house was quiet, as usual. She could hear the muted sounds of their neighbors going about their lives and the occasional chirp of a bird sitting in the slight rustle of the nearby paper birch sapling. She took comfort in the sweet sound, and in the warmth of the morning sunlight on her face, shining through the living room window.

For a moment, she felt like humming, but the rasp of her voice quickly dissuaded her. Ugly sounds like that had no business mingling with those of the bright morning. Better if she just sat and listened. If she did, she could almost hear nature’s song.

Something interrupted the song, however. The heavy crunch of hooves on the gravel outside. At first, she thought Starlight might have returned early, but something was different. The sound was much heavier than she was used to. A stallion then? Who could have business with them?

The hoofsteps stopped just in front of the door, and she heard four steady knocks, polite but insistent.

“Just a moment,” she rasped, hoping he had heard. As she approached the front door, he did not knock again, but neither did he walk away. He must have heard, then, giving her a bit of relief. It was always distressing when the tax collectors pounded on the door as if trying to break it down.

She easily made her way around the furniture, having long since memorized their places in the room. Still, she walked carefully. Night Glider sometimes forgot to put chairs back in their place. This time, though, she made it without incident.

Slowly, she lifted a hoof to the latch and opened the door just enough to reveal her face.

“Hello?”

“Good morning.”

The stallion’s voice was rich, smooth, like finely stirred caramel. Neither high nor low, inoffensive and unassuming. The way he enunciated his words spoke of intelligence and a classical education. Coloratura felt her heart skip a beat. It wasn’t a voice she recognized.

“G- good morning. How can I h- help you?”

“You must be Miss Coloratura,” he said, his sweet smile easily blending into his voice. “Starlight Glimmer has told me much about you. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you in person.”

“I- I’m sorry,” Coloratura stammered, feeling the heat creep up her neck and into her cheeks, “you seem to have me at a disadvantage. With whom am I speaking?”

“Ah, my apologies. I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Some ponies know me as Stark Raven, but you may call me Eric.” She heard a slight shuffle come from him, like a single hoof sliding across the ground. It hadn’t come from any sort of clothing. Was he bowing? She felt her face grow hotter.

“Oh! Um, well, a pleasure to meet you, Mister Eric. I… assume you have business with Starlight?”

“Of a sort. She and I are going in together on a joint venture, and… well, this is something best discussed in private. May I come in?”

“Oh, um, well, s- sure, but-”

“Excellent,” he deflected, and then gently pushed the door open, brushing past her.

Coloratura jumped, both from the contact and the scent that wafted past her nose. Eric had a muted, almost sterile scent, as though he had washed with medical-grade sanitizers. And yet his coat was soft. Incredibly soft. Silken, even. But the strangest thing lay beneath that. An underlying scent of earth and metal, so faint as to be barely noticeable.

She stood at the door a moment longer as if waiting for some indication that she was being pranked. Then, slowly, she shut the door. As she did, she heard the rustle of a burlap sack, and Eric’s voice called out from the kitchen.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I brought the ingredients to make you all some supper, as a thank you for hearing me out! It’s been a while since I’ve had a nice ratatouille.”

Author's Note:

Not my greatest chapter, I'll admit. Next one will be much more exciting.

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