• Published 19th Oct 2012
  • 9,042 Views, 9,535 Comments

Eljunbyro - Imploding Colon

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

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Blue Shelf

An eight hundred foot, cylindrical spire of concrete was all that remained visible of the facility from the surface. Otherwise, all was mountain and greenery as far as the eye could see. Buzzing zeppelins with lateral propellers glided up to the spire to dock, loading and unloading supplies through the mana-powered lift that ran down the length of the spire and fed its way into the underground depths of the Ledomaritan installation. High above, towards the south, another spire loomed, positioned at the topmost peak of Blue Shelf. Most of the zeppelins were clustered there, refueling on gas and supplies as they made for the furthest reaches of the country.

Bellesmith wasn't looking at either of these behemoths of construction. Instead, she trotted briskly forward down a beaten path, her hooves crunching over fallen pine needles. Birds flittered through the tree tops as a brisk mountain wind blew at her brown mane. She reveled in the natural sensations, inhaling the forested scent along the high altitude breeze.

Gazing to her right, she saw a clearing before a series of wooden bunkers nestled in a cleft of forest. Several unicorns were exercising in regimental formation while a drill sergeant in a beret shouted orders to them. To her left, she heard the thudding noise of several hooves. She side-trotted to her right in time to avoid a thick line of jogging unicorn soldiers. All of them had their eyes forward; nopony gave her so much as a single glance. She was used to it.

Trotting down a curved slope that hugged the west end of the mountain crest, Belle could gaze beyond the concrete barrier and see a pearl blue lake joined to many sapphiric tributaries. Boats with thick hulls were pulling up to a distant dock. In many ways, the Ledomaritan vessels resembled their aerial counterpart, albeit with twice as many armaments. Equine laborers carried wooden crates full of tools from the vessels and into a tunnel that led to another underground compartment of the facility.

Belle heard a loud buzzing sound. She spun and glanced to her right, just as a tiny burnt smell lifted in the air. She saw a blue songbird lying on the ground, its legs twitching in repeated jerks. Smoke trailed from its feathers as it slowly died on the side of the mountain path.

With a somber sigh, Belle gazed up. Beyond the immediate line of trees, a blue field of energy had just finished fluctuating. She spotted—as she always did—metal spokes rising up out of the sloping earth of Blue Shelf in succession. A discreet hum emanated between the posts as they continually formed a magical barrier between the surface of the facility and the wilderness beyond.

Picking up her pace once more, Belle trotted onward. The winding path broke from the mountain's edge and led deep into the forest. Mana lanterns hung on wooden obelisks that flanked the path, illumating the road as it carved its way into the shadowy trees. Squirrels darted past her as she began passing tiny houses and log cabins. Soon, a tiny community appeared out of the woods. She approached a junction of six intersecting paths. There was a large two story town hall, a general store, a registry office, and several shacks that served as miniature warehouses for supplies. Wagons hovered with glowing mana crystals, carrying lumber and mulch and gardening tools. Several ponies were trotting about their business here, engaging in pleasant conversation and gossip in the cool shadow of the mountain pine.

She passed by a middle-aged stallion shoulder-deep in digging an irrigation trench. He wiped his brow and—upon seeing Bellesmith—waved pleasantly at her. She waved back at him, as well as two mares carrying laundry towards the nearby watering hole. She glanced up in time to see two young stallions fixing the sign on the registry office. She marched up onto the front patio, passing under their ladder carefully so as not to ruin their work. Once inside, she slid past a hurrying pony or two and trotted up to a machine. She placed her hoof before a mountain crystal. The device flickered from red to yellow to green, then buzzed lightly. A slip of paper slid out, which she promptly lifted with her mouth and placed into a pocket of her saddlebag.

Marching back out of the office, Belle strolled past a bulletin board flanked by two guards standing at grim attention. Several messages and placards hung off the onyx surface for the sake of public perusal, the largest of which boldly declared the nightly curfew as well as the consequences for failing to abide by it. There was the loud, grating noise of a mana siren. She looked in front of her, gasped, and jumped back in time to avoid getting run over by a large, metal vehicle hovering swiftly across the instersection via mana streams. The driver barked at her and accelerated down the mountain road. In the back of the transport, several young equines of different races sat in nervous, huddled droves. Four soldiers stood in the back with hovering tasers, overshadowing the emaciated newcomers. The ponies' eyes stared out at the village, and their gaze caught Bellesmith's.

Belle shuddered. The mana engines of the departing vehicle dwindled, and it took another thirty seconds for the villagers to start moving again, murmuring between each other in a muddled attempt to regain their spirits. Turning from the scene, Belle took a thin road through the woods and traveled south.

Her path ascended slightly, rising through a cleft of pale, exposed rock. A fallen tree acted as a low bridge over her a bend in the path. She ducked, easily lowering her stubby horn beneath the petrified bark. She breathed with relief as she came upon a straightaway where several tiny cottages rested in the sundered sunlight that was scattered through the trees. She counted her way past the stone gates and wooden doors until she came upon one. She smiled at seeing two hoofprints plastered to the brown finish of the entrance—one in black, and another in blue. It wasn't much of a marker, but it was what they had been flimsily allowed to bear on their dwelling—and for that sake it meant the world to her to see it upon coming home.

Pushing the creaking gate open, she marched up to the front door of a three-room cabin and opened the unlocked entrance. Biting her lip and attempting to stifle a foalish squeal, she snuck into the dwelling on catlike hooves.

The familiar smell of the place electrified her, but that wasn't what she looked forward to. Gazing left and right, she crept into the living room/kitchen, her heart beating heavily. She blinked several times in bright anticipation, and just then her ears twitched. She turned around a corner and looked into the sun-lit study.

"Mmmm... No, that's not quite right. O.A.S.I.S., try scanning it again." A striped form stood before a desk with thick black hooves mounted upon the side. A dull blue orb hovered above his dense mohawk, and it cast a stream of manalight that swept over the pages of an open book. As the beam of illumination washed over the text, the zebra nodded his head slowly, murmuring aloud, "Yes. Now that's more like it. The first Xonan king rose to power fourteen hundred years ago, not four hundred. Then that would make the coming decade from now the anniversary of the eastern kingdom's linguistic revolution. Hmmmm... Then what would explain the verbal disconnect between the warrior class and the laboring class?"

Belle exhaled gently. She leaned against the wooden corner of the room, simply gazing at him with a warm smile. She watched as the sun settled on his white and black coat, giving him an otherwordly glow.

Just then, he lifted his head. The hovering sphere lost its glow, became inert, and fell limply to the pages of the book. It rolled towards the edges of the desk, only for the zebra to stop it with a hoof. He physically lifted the ball until it clasped onto the front of a choker fitted around his neck. Turning around, he gazed blankly with clear gray eyes across the study, his ears twitching above a metal plate of glowing runes that lay affixed to his skull.

The zebra's nostrils flared once, twice, and then his face grew long. "Belle...?" he murmured, unblinking. "Belle, is that you? Are you... Are you home, beloved?"

Her eyes glistened as her teeth showed in a cracking smile. "Every time I see you, Pilate, I feel like I'm falling in love all over again."

Slowly, he shuffled towards her. It was a labored effort, with one hoof constantly waving in front of him at every third step. She closed the distance between them, clasping his forelimb in two of hers. His breath left him, and he smiled instantly, plunging forward.

"Eeep!" Belle shrieked, but caught his heavy embrace. She giggled into his ear and nuzzled him close as the two warmly reunited.

"Belle, I'm so glad that you're home," Pilate said, his voice wavering.

She closed her eyes and hid her face in his striped shoulder. "So am I, beloved. So am I..."

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