• Published 18th Apr 2018
  • 3,350 Views, 219 Comments

IMPLACABLE - Chatoyance

A lone wanderer in the final days of Man. An impregnable fortress work-camp to stand against the total emigration of humanity to virtual Equestria. The artificial intelligence called 'Celestia'. Everything has been accounted for. Everything.

  • ...

1. Pyrite

A 'Friendship Is Optimal' Story
By Chatoyance

1. Pyrite

The ragged man with the overburdened packpack raised the metal baseball bat high over his head. Once again he brought it down on the hot pink lump in the grass. This was the fifth such impact the militia man had observed, since he began watching the newcomer through his binoculars.

The man in the distance lowered his bat. Through the lenses, the Private First Class saw the man free one of his hands to wipe his brow. He seemed to speak, to nobody, perhaps swearing at the object of his fury. The ragged man sank to the dry, brown grass and sat, legs splayed wide, the bat dropped, his hands supporting his weight behind him. His frame sagged as he panted his exhaustion.

"I think he's safe to approach. I'm pretty sure that's a Pinkie he's got there, we use full isolation procedures." The PFC glared at the five privates he was addressing. "Smartly now, men."

Raymond Shaw adjusted the heavy pack on his back. He scratched his nose and stared for a moment at the approaching vehicle. He softly intoned to himself "Renault Sherpa Light four-by-four. Used to be beige. Looks like they gave it a cursory spray job with whatever paint they could scavenge. More or less green now. Mostly." He sucked air through his front teeth, then slowly exhaled.

Raymond wearily stood up, using his metal bat as a cane against the weight of his heavy backpack. Upright, he turned his back on the approaching vehicle and looked down at the bullet-ridden body of a severely marred robotic Pinky Pie. The brightly furred 'skin' of the machine was torn and threadbare. Most of the left side of the faux cartoon pony's head was entirely denuded, shiny metal and glassine surfaces exposed to the cold wind. The electronic pony ear on that side of the face was bent down and to an odd angle.

He raised his bat. He held it high for a moment, closed his eyes, and sighed. His eyes open once more, he began slamming the bat again and again into the middle of the artificial equine's body. Each blow rang loudly like the sound of a blacksmith hammering a set of new horseshoes. This image crossed his mind, and forced a grin to his weathered, tragedy scarred face.


Raymond let the bat drop. It hit the ground with a bell-like cacophany of dings and blongs. The brown grass of earliest spring did nothing to soften the impact of the bat. The grass was still brittle and dry, it would be another month before it was lush and soft and green again.


Raymond wished he could cover his ears - whatever sound system the men in the truck were using was overly loud. It really didn't need to be turned up so high. Hands roughly grabbed his arms; soon he was being searched from top to bottom. The scouting group was unusually and remarkably thorough. Hands - in blue neoprene gloves - were forced deep into his pants, both front and back, as well as under every bit of his clothing. Even his socks and gloves were manhandled for some time, azure digits searching for lumps, bumps or hidden objects in every part of the fabric that clothed him.

"Initial inspection negative."

Ray didn't try to turn to see who spoke. He knew enough to remain still, passive, and essentially like a living mannequin.

"Slowly and carefully remove your pack. Drop it on the ground."

Raymond followed orders. The pack was whisked away somewhere behind him. Some fuss went on, but his attention was diverted to a new examination - this time with devices.

The khaki commandoes surrounding him now ran electronic boxes, rods, and disks over every inch of his body. The rods looked somewhat like microphones or light sabers, the boxes resembled volt meters. The disks reminded Ray of Walkmans, from long ago, only with complex digital readouts. The devices buzzed and whined occasionally, resulting in commands to remove clothing or to stand still. Raymond grumbled inside himself, he was already being very careful to remain as still as possible. Finally he was allowed to leave his arms at his sides.

Raymond stood exposed in the cold wind. Only his torn, ripped and stained thermal underwear remained on his body. Likely the only reason they had let him keep that much dignity was that little of the garments remained. They were more a suggestion of undergarments than a factual representation of the original product.

Ray was forced to stand in the cold for entirely too long as every bit of his clothing was carefully examined both by hand and with the devices.

"Put these on. Be quick."

The new thermal underwear felt clean and wonderful. The pants and shirt were camo print brown cotton khaki with plastic buttons and a plastic zipper. Ray was given new boots, mostly leather but with plastic shoelace holes. There was no metal used in the construction of anything he was given.

A sincerely blond man with a fiercely narrow mustache drilled green squinting eyes into Ray's soul. "So, what's the story with that downed pinky over there?" The man's tone was conversational, light, almost friendly - but Ray could tell that there was not a speck of mercy within it, or the man. This was a live-or-die question, zero doubt about it.

"Name's Ray. This damn robo..."

Blond-Stache interrupted with an edge to his voice. "NO NAMES. You haven't been cleared yet. Go on."

Ray swallowed. They didn't want him to have a name because that way it would be easier to end him if something didn't check out or meet whatever criteria they used. Still, he'd gotten his name out there, it had been heard. That was a victory. It might even potentially save him if something went pear shaped later. "The robot wouldn't leave me alone." Ray stood up straight, with his eyes locked forward, his hands at his side. He did his best imitation of a soldier reporting to a superior. "Sir."

There was no smile on Blondie answering Ray's carefully respectful 'sir'. "So, you decided to beat the thing into silence?"

Ray considered. "Yes. I just couldn't take it anymore. I didn't want to waste bullets, they don't work on those things anyway. Not the kind I have, at any rate. I finally managed to get a good hit that it couldn't avoid. After that, I couldn't stop."

"We noticed that. Why didn't you move on? Why did you stand here hitting it for so long?"

Ray hazarded a brief glance at Captain Khaki Blond Deluxe. "I was mad, sir. Mad at Celestia, at the whole damn..." Ray clutched his fists and clenched his teeth. He held his breath until he felt his face turn red. He didn't gasp until it was absolutely necessary. Thanks to the wind and his efforts, a tear dripped from his eye as he turned to stare directly into 'Stache's green ones. "There... there just comes a point... when..." Ray dropped his head, and slumped his shoulders. He gave a light sob, and wiped his eyes and nose. He made a point of sniffling as loud as he dared.

"Restrain and load the prisoner. Isolate his gear." The words were clipped, remarkably professional, and clear.

"What about the Pinky?"

"Mark it with a flag, report it to the SRG." Blondstache paused and studied the dented and partially skinless robot in the grass. "It's more intact than it looks - tell the eggheads to coffin it and treat it as live."

Ray was surprized at that. These boys were sharp as hell and took no chances with anything. He quickly found himself zip-tied both wrist and ankles, then zip-tied again to metal bars inside, in the back of the Sherpa. "Hi!" He smiled at the young man fastening him down, but he gained not even a glance at his face. He was meat, at least at the moment, and nothing more. Then a fabric sack was roughly forced over his head and even the daylight abandoned him.

For the next hour and a half, Ray's world was bumping, thumping, oppressive darkness and his own even more oppressive breath. His wrists and ankles ached and increasingly screamed to him about the horror of abrasion injury. One time, only one time, he tried to get some conversation going. That resulted in a cuff on his head and a rather impolitely phrased command to remain silent.

Raymond was cut loose from the inside of the Sherpa when it finally stopped. He felt himself dragged and lifted, then set on what felt like a gurney. He was still outdoors, the wind was still cold and he had never stopped shivering. His arms and ankles were cut loose, but before he could move to rub them, they were re-ziptied to the frame of whatever he was laying on. His weak attempt was met with firm hands that made no doubt about the neccesity of total cooperation.

When at last the bag was removed from his head, he found the reason for why the wind had stopped. He was inside of a field tent, a large one. A glaring, clinical light blinded him from directly above. A middle-aged woman in a lab coat used what appeared to be some kind of electronic stethoscope to listen to his body. Not, oddly, to his heart, at least not primarily. She placed the chestpiece drum to almost every part of his body. Special attention was paid to his temples, the back of his skull - which was also visually inspected in some detail - and to his arms and legs.

More devices were run or applied to his body. Again, his head and arms were considered important. By now several men and women surrounded him, all in lab coats, all treating him like a mute specimen. Again it was made clear that he was not to speak to anyone.

Finally, they drew his blood, took samples of his saliva, sweat, and nasal passages. They took wax from his ears, and a lock of his hair. When he complained about needing to pee, they forced him to urinate into a cup which they took away. Finally, he was frogmarched out of the apparent 'medical' tent and taken to a different Sherpa vehicle, where he was once again zip-restrained and head-bagged.

An hour later, Raymond felt the bag removed. He was cut free by two young men in fatigues, and brought, somewhat more gently, back into the medical tent. He was pressed down into a simple chair, for the first time sans restraints. A new man faced him here. Wide of jaw, dark of skin, with close cropped hair and a disarming smile that held not the tiniest speck of forgiveness.

"How did you know about Fort Denver?"

Raymond blinked. He tried to answer, but his throat was horribly dry. He choked briefly.

"Bring him some water."

The order was obeyed as if god himself had commanded it. Ray guzzled the small amount in the paper cup. He licked his lips.

"How did you know about Fort Denver?" There was more emphasis this time.

Raymond cleared his throat. "I don't. I mean I didn't. What's Fort Denver?"

The dark god before him glowered. The man could do things with his eyebrows that made Raymond want to shrink into his new underwear and die.

"Honestly! I had no idea there was anything out here!"

More glowering, more eyebrows. Those things were lethal.

"Sir - " If any man should be called 'sir' it was clearly Lord Eyebrow here. "Sir, I just wanted to get away from the cities. She's there, sir, She's everywhere that there are cameras or electronics or anything like that! The cities belong to Her, everything that used to belong to Man belongs to Her now! I was just going as far away from everything as I could get - except for that damn fake robot pony nagging me. 'Come to Equestria! I can save you!' I just went crazy and beat the thing until it stopped moving. Then I beat it again. And again, I guess. Then YOUR men found me! I didn't want to be found! I don't know anything about... about anything! Honest!"

The man leaned forward, studying Ramond. "Who knows your wherabouts?"

"Nobody, sir! I don't have anyone." Raymond felt the catch in his own throat. "N-not anymore. Nobody. I'm as alone as alone can get. For the entire last year." His body sagged. He looked down and noticed his questioner's fine shoes had plastic lace-holes. No metal, again. Raymond lifted his head.

For some time, Raymond waited. The man just stared at him. Not even glowering now, he had even retracted his eyebrow weapons. The face was calm, serene.

"Okay. You move on." Lord Eyebrow turned slightly in his chair "Authorized for Indoc and transfer!"

As Raymond was helped to stand, the grand master of the glowering eyebrows finally offered him a smile absent of hidden malice. He felt his hand being briefly shaken.

"Welcome to Camp Denver, a place absolutely free from Celestia or her ponies. Your home for the rest of your natural and human life." Eyebrows paused. "Consider yourself conscripted."

Finally, Raymond relaxed. He knew, now, at last, that he would actually be allowed to live.

Author's Note:

This story was born from a combination of events. First, one of my spouses, Aedina here on Fimfiction, suffered a stroke. She lost most of the feeling, and functions, of the right side of her body. Her eye and half of her mouth drooped like wax melting on her face. This happened directly in the middle of my typing a response to a reader here with regard to a new Optimalverse story - 'Memento Mori' by Starscribe. My response was left hanging while we ambulanced Aedina to the hospital.

Aedina is vastly better now, thankfully. She has regained most of her function, though she is a little wobbly on one leg and part of her cheek is numb. She says it feels like she is drooling all the time, but she isn't, it's just the lack of sensation as interpreted by her damaged brain. She was very, very, very, very lucky in the stroke lottery.

I returned, while she was in the ER for the night, to my unfinished comment still in my open browser. The person I was responding to had a very naieve and very childishly privilaged view of what the Optimalverse represents, I believed. I finished my response, somewhat angrily, because... because I had just nearly lost a spouse... or worse. There are things more awful than mere death, kiddies. Far more awful.

All of this made me reflect on what the impact of Iceman's story universe means. What it represents. And Starscribe's story dovetailed into this, because within the Optimalverse there is a sort of subgenre: not an individual resister to Emigration, but rather an organized group. There are several tales of armed work-camps opposing CelestA.I. and her virtual world. Sadly, none of them are by me.

As my personal emotional therapy to cope with my beloved Aedina's nightmarishly horrible stroke, and to work the mechanics of the abstract idea of the work-camp subgenre, I am determined to correct this problem.