• 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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Good Signs

Pilate winced slightly as the runes on his forehead flickered from the injection of pure mana. O.A.S.I.S. strobed under his chin, pulsed, then settled to a dim glow. The zebra exhaled long and hard, relaxing on his haunches as Crimson levitated the now-dull manarod away from him.

"There. All finished." The tall stallion narrowed his eyes. "How do you feel?"

"Like my blood is full of electricity," Pilate hoarsely stammered. He took a swig from Rainbow Dash's canteen, gulped the cooling water down, and relaxed. "But, for better or for worse, that's par for the course."

"It's a remarkable device that you have to aid you," Crimson said, discarding the drained rod into a corner of the torchlit basement of the ruins. "Have you had to use it all your life?"

"Oh, hardly." Pilate dryly chuckled. "Bellesmith, my beloved: she designed it, for the most part. Oh, I may have contributed here and there..." He tilted his head up as the manasphere detached and effortlessly flew an elliptical orbit around his striped head. "Especially when it comes to fine control and laser-guidance, but it's still her baby." His blind eyes twitched upon that, and he chuckled even harder. "Heh. Would you imagine that? Now there's a charming metaphor if I ever heard one..."

"I wonder if you two have ever needed a winged pony to get you across forbidden lands in the first place." Crimson managed the tiniest of smirks as the two stallions strolled down a crumbling, vine-strewn corridor of the hollowed-out castle. "You both appear to be awfully resourceful on your own."

"Resourcefulness and tenacity are two different things in my book," Pilate said. "And trust me, I've read a lot."

"Through the aid of yonder sphere, no doubt."

"Indeed." Pilate raised the orb between them with a flickering skull plate. O.A.S.I.S. lit the path ahead of them, alerting for any obstruction or break in the granite floor. "It's been the third hemisphere of my brain, for lack of a more apt description. I can't count how many lonely days I've spent with just this thing..." Pilate's nostrils flared as he raised his head towards the unseen ceiling. "Waiting to hear again from my Beloved."

"You two have dealt quite extensively with Ledomare, I take it."

"How appropriate that you would ask that, Captain Crimson." Pilate tilted his head towards him. "I think now is as good a time as ever to fill you in on—"

"No," Crimson grunted.

Pilate made a face. "No?"

"It is not necessary."

"Captain, if I may beg to differ..." Pilate shuffled up so that he blocked the muscular stallion's path. With the aid of O.A.S.I.S, he aimed his head in the unicorn's general direction. "Do you care for the soldiers under your command?"

"Absolutely."

"Then it would behoove you to know a bit more about my beloved and I." Pilate gulped and added in a lower tone, "You've sacrificed so much as it is. Wouldn't you like to know just what you are risking the lives of your stallions and yourself for?"

"I see a pair of distraught citizens running away from oppressors, in desperate need for a new lease on life." Crimson brushed past him. "The rest is of no importance."

"Sir..." Pilate turned and spoke towards the stallion's flank. "As noble as your aloofness is, it borders on ignorance."

"I can see why you would think that—"

"It's a matter of experience, Captain!" Pilate said with a frown. "Belle and I allowed ignorance to cloud us, to comfort us, to distract us for so long. And when it was almost too late to do anything about it, we learned that the wool hanging over our eyes was keeping a secret too dark for us to believe, a secret that consumed the lives of our closest neighbors and nearly destroyed us as well."

Crimson shuffled to a stop. He leaned a hoof against a moonlit crack in the wall and hung his head, sighing.

Pilate smiled weakly. "Blindness has its many forms, Captain, some blacker than others. I may not look it, but I've learned to see more than the average pony. The same goes for Belle and Rainbow Dash. There is a great deal of ugliness in this Confederacy, and all of us want out. Now, I know you and your stallions want out too. The difference is, the route that my beloved and I are taking is far longer and more perilous than the journey of these four mercenary deserters who have saved our skin today, but that will not stop the forces of evil from punishing you and your three companions just as severely as Belle and myself if they are to find all of us together."

"Rainbow Dash has distracted them," Crimson muttered, tilting his head back over his shoulder. "We should be safe here at Site Beta."

"You underestimate the passion of our pursuers," Pilate stammered, trotting slowly towards the Blades Guild officer. "Yes, I imagine Rainbow Dash has done a fine job of throwing our enemy off, but even if she has gotten away safely to carry me and Bellesmith along for an extra fifty miles, our pursuers will simply come back, this time in double the numbers, and eventually in triple... quadruple. For you see, Captain, they spy in Rainbow Dash—and in O.A.S.I.S. and in my beloved—a source of great, exploitable power that means more to them than simply winning the war with Xona. Now, remind me just what it is that you are fighting for and if your crimes—however heavy or noble—could possibly stack up against the weight of what my companions and I represent?"

Crimson bit his lip. With a clenched jaw, he glanced back at Pilate and eventually muttered, "I'll schedule a meeting. I'll have all three of my soldiers assembled to talk our mutual destiny with you, Bellesmith... and Rainbow Dash, should she be lucky enough to return."

"Oh yes?" Pilate leaned forward with a furrowed brow. "When?"

"Soon."

"How soon?"

"Soon enough," Crimson muttered. "Don't mistake my motivations, Mr. Pilate. I have nothing to hide. I only fear that you and your mate have everything to hide, and the less involved my stallions and I are, the better."

Pilate gulped and nervously said, "But you are involved... aren't you, Captain?"

Crimson said nothing. A gust of cold, forest wind blew in through the crack of the ruins. A series of leaves rustled past their hooves, settling against a patch of white wall.

Just then, O.A.S.I.S. flickered. Pilate jerked back as if assaulted by a sudden migraine. "Whoah! Where did that little burp come from?"

"Hmm?" Crimson raised an eyebrow and looked over. "Is something the matter?"

"I just had an unusual case of deja vu..." Pilate rubbed his temple as the manasphere flashed a tiny white laser left and right, sweeping across the granite floor. "Which—you must understand—in my case means anything but a coincidence."

"Are you detecting some sort of an anomaly?"

"More like a pattern. A recognizable one."

"Are you mimetic?"

"When I feel like it—Ah!" Pilate leaned down low as soon as his sphere's laser honed in on a series of scratches in the pale masonry of the nearby wall. "Here are we. Do I know you? Yes... Yes, by the Spark, I think I do..."

Crimson trotted over, squatting beside the zebra. "What is it, if I may ask?"

"So now the captain of the Franzington mercenaries is actually curious, hmm?"

Crimson's nostrils flared.

"Simply this..." Pilate planted a hoof down and blindly circled a patch of stone that the manasphere was previously illuminating. "A symbol is here, one that we've seen before—chiefly starting a few days ago when Rainbow Dash, our guide, discovered it on the body of a long-dead pegasus in a deep cave."

"A pegasus?" Crimson blinked quizzically. "You mean there are other winged ponies in Ledomare besides her?"

"This one was dead, mind you, and for a good long time too. I was willing to guess that it was a sign that pegasi had once populated this land. Until now, it was just a desperate hypothesis..." Pilate's words trailed off as he stood up, ears twitching, and flickered the laser of O.A.S.I.S. left and right down opposite ends of the crumbling passageway. "Tell me, my dear Captain: does this pattern repeat elsewhere in this ancient place?"

"I can't say that I've seen it before," Crimson said. He stroked his chin. "At least not this particular symbol."

The zebra's ears flattened. "You mean..." He leaned forward in earnest. "There are more?"

Crimson nodded. With a slight smile, he rested a hoof on Pilate's shoulder and nudged him towards a distant, descending passageway. "Here. Let me show you..." The two trotted evenly together.

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