• Published 19th Oct 2012
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Eljunbyro - Imploding Colon



Bellesmith must perform experimental tasks in order to keep herself and her beloved safe.

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Even Braver

Belle and Pilate gasped as they were dropped onto their hooves along a dizzied Dalton. The three stood with swaying legs atop an outcropping of rock beside the dense forest. The red hues of the sun set split through the branches, casting a crimson kaleidoscope on their coats.

"Whew!" Rainbow Dash hovered before the group, adjusting the medal-studded beret on her prismatic scalp. "Aside from that freaky kerfluffle with the junk compactor and a brief scuffle with Shell the Army Guy, I'd say that went pretty smoothely!" A Ledomaritan bunker exploded in the distance, sending a shockwave over the landscape. Rainbow Dash winced and dripped forth, "Well, smooth enough. Ooooh! A pear!" She plucked a piece of fruit off a tree and shoved it into her mouth, scarfing down the juicy fragments. "Mmmmm-mmrmmff-Goddess! I'm so hungry, I could eat my own barf! Mmmmff..."

Pilate's ears twitched. He pivoted towards the sound of Belle's panting breath and shrugged with a smirk.

Belle gulped and turned towards the mustached stallion. "Well, it doesn't get much closer than that, but we made it." She stood still, blinking. "Dalton...?"

The aged unicorn was staring at the massive surge of ponies flocking around the trio of boats just five minutes' gallop away. He took a deep breath, his ears drooping in the scarlet sunset.

"Dalton..." Bellesmith trotted over and rested a hoof on his shoulder. "What's going on? Tell us what's on your mind..."

"It's not my mind that's being weighed down," Dalton murmured. He gulped. "It's my heart." He looked over with glistening eyes. "Things could have gotten a great deal more smoothely if I had just acted without fear..."

"You would have destroyed yourself if you defied Shell to his face," Belle said. "Trust me, I know how evil he can be." She gulped and gave a sympathetic expression. "As for your grandfoals—"

"They are no longer my concern," Dalton murmured.

"Huh?"

Dalton gave her a weary smile. "All the Enforcers who knew anything about me and my relatives are gone now, sealed away in the heart of that machine." He shuddered. "Or, if I play my cards right, I'm officially 'dead.' Either way, if there is any honor to be had in the souls of Ledomaritans, then the offspring of my offspring are safe. It's not how Mildred would have wanted to see it come about, but everything stopped being pretty long after she left this world. Well..." He chuckled breathily and stroked his hoof across Belle's bangs. "Most everything..."

She smiled weakly, then grasped his hoof in her own. Leaning forward, she spoke in a wavering voice, "What now, Dalton? Where is there for you to go?"

Dalton waved his horn towards the group gathering below. "Perhaps I'll leave it up to them. No doubt they'll wish to flee towards the land southwest of here. Blue Shelf has always acted as a barrier to Ledomaritan patrol. They'll likely make enough distance to spread out and hide amidst the rural populace before the Confederacy can catch up with them."

"What kind of a life would that be for you, Dalton?" Belle's brow furrowed. "Can you afford to be on the run at your age?"

"Do I have a choice?" Dalton gazed up at her. "Or you, for that matter, darling?"

Belle bit her lip. She gazed over at Pilate. The zebra's head was already hanging low.

"Face it. Shell and his lackeys may be gone, but if the Ledomaritan penchant for record-keeping is as zealous as ever, then the knowledge of our existence won't be wiped out so easily. The Queen will send meaner and uglier soldiers after us. Our days are numbered if we choose to stay in one place."

"He's right, Belle," Pilate murmured, lifting his head with a pale expression across his stripes. "We may be free, but freedom is a huge target in the Queen's land."

"Which is why I feel like I should be joining them," Dalton said, pointing once more at the crowd where the distant figure of Garnet could be seen. "They're not only free, but they're energized. And that's because they have something that they believe in. It's... been a long time since I believed in anything."

"Well here," Rainbow Dash said, tossing fruit down at their hooves. "Believe in pears. Your stomach will thank you." She took another bite and spoke with her mouth full, "Can't say the same about your ego though. Hrmmmf..."

Belle shook her head with a smile, then gazed lonesomely in Dalton's direction. "I'm sure that they'll do what they can to get you to safety, Dalton."

"And what of you, darling?" Dalton's lips persed as he squinted at the pair. "What of you and your beloved?"

Belle bit her lip. Pilate drifted over and held a hoof over her shoulder. "We... uhm..." The zebra fridged as he said, "We need to discuss that, Dalton. But..."

"But what?"

"...somehow I doubt that we'll be taking those ships with you and the others. As a matter of fact..." Pilate gulped. "You will all likely be safer without us."

Dalton stared for a few seconds, then thought aloud, "Because Bellesmith is a sequencer, and even with the subject unaccounted for, she's the closest link to the anomaly found in Aridstone."

"As long as I'm alive, I'm a bigger target than you and all the slaves will ever be," Belle murmured. "I'm so very sorry, Dalton." She leaned into Pilate and closed her tearful eyes. "But... but I can't go where you're going."

"Then just where will you go?"

Pilate and Belle said nothing. The couple leaned against each other, trembling slightly in the evening wind.

"Mrmmmf... Could life get any juicier?" an oblivious Rainbow Dash said as she hovered above with pears. A resounding belch wafted through the tree branches.

Dalton looked at her, then at the couple. He slowly smiled a knowing smile. "Hmmm. I see." He leaned forward and whispered, "Be it ever so awkward, I suspect you are in good hooves."

"We'll see about that," Pilate whispered back. "Dalton, I know what you may be feeling about yourself, but I want to thank you for being around when we needed you. Belle's depended on your support all those days in the facility..."

"One cannot help but cherish such a wise and gifted mare," Dalton said, shaking Pilate's hoof and smiling Belle's way. "Especially one in possession of a heart as exquisite as her mind—" He gasped, his eyes wide.

Belle was hugging him dearly, having thrown her forelimbs around his neck. She nuzzled him and spoke in a wavering voice. "You have been like a father to me, Dalton. There are no words to say how much I will miss you."

Dalton blinked. With a warm smile, he stroked her mane. "I'm sure you'll find the words, darling. And when you do, maybe you can share them with your children, and make future Ledomaritans that will bring righteousness to this landscape in ways I never did."

She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. "You have in more ways than you think," she said, then backstepped over beside Pilate. "I think Mildred would be proud of you."

Dalton's eyes watered, but he dried them with a lasting smile. "I'll be sure to tell her you think as much." With a gentle wave, he turned and trotted off into the sunset.

Belle shuddered, leaning against Pilate as he wrapped a forelimb around her trembling figure. "Oh Pilate... what's in store for us?"

"I don't know, honey," Pilate said, nuzzling her ear. "You've been such a brave pony as of late." He tilted his head towards the hovering pegasus above them. "You think you're ready to be even braver?"

Belle couldn't speak; she could hardly think. She looked at the image of Dalton walking towards the boats along the glittering river, and closed her chestnut eyes to the memory of Blue Shelf forever.

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