• Published 19th Oct 2012
  • 9,073 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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Integrity's Ashes

With a telekinetic wave, Shell opened the door to the cabin. He was almost instantly pelted with the flying leg of a shattered wooden table that ricocheted off the doorframe. He stopped in his tracks, gazing calmly into the lanternlit domain as the loud cacophony of smashing furniture rattled to a stop.

"Unnnngh...HIC..." Enforcer Josho was lying upside down, his portly weight wobbling back and forth. The air around him tingled with magical essence as his horn pulsed in a strobing pattern. "Heh... heheheh..." He rolled up onto even haunches, floating a half-empty whiskey bottle besides his muzzle. "That last one was a—HIC—doozy! Heheheheh..."

Shell took a deep breath. "Enforcer Josho," he droned. "May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

"Nnnngh... m-making a fool of my fat-flanked-self!" The older unicorn grumbled as he lumbered up to all four limbs.

"That much is evident," Shell said, closing the door and trotting into the room. He gazed lethargically at the piles of wooden debris and shattered glass across the floor. "Allow me to guess. Xonans are coming out of the walls?"

"Hah!" Josho belched, took a swig, and smirked at Shell. "I only—HIC—wish! Ohhhh by the Spark! What I wouldn't give to thrash a good few of those tattooed freak's skulls in! I'd make... unnngh..." He teetered back into a wall, slurring. "I'd make a friggin' necklace out of their horns..."

"A charming prospect, to be sure."

"Oh, for sure!" Josho grinned slyly. "And as soon as they'd show up, I'd teleport their butts into next year! HIC!" He coughed up a bit of sudsy bile and wiped the dribble off his bearded chin. "Y'know, I used to be one of the finest teleporter's in the Queen's Army! Did you know that?"

"I do not... recall that from your file..."

"Oh, but I was! During open combat, I'd blink into the fray, grab a Xonan nutjob, blink into the sky, drop him, and reappear on the ground in time to hear his screams from above! Ha!" Josho took another drink, belched, and grinned. "I was starting to wonder if I still have it. Looks like I do! Wanna see?"

Shell glanced at the carnage across the room, then squinted his one eye back towards Josho. "I do not believe that is necessary—"

"Watch and learn, hotshot!" Josho grinned devilishly, braced his hooves, and shot a pulse of light out from his horn. His body dematerialized as the strobing glow shot across the room and flashed in front of a bookcase. Josho reappeared—albeit upside down—slamming against the shelves and littering the ground with several books as well as his groaning body. "Unnngh..."

Shell closed his eyes, taking two or three deep breaths.

"Heh... heheheh..." Josho stumbled back up, grinning in mixed pain and rosy euphoria. "I'll get the hang of it. Just gotta flex my ethereal muscle, y'know? Heck, it was a bunch of crazy leyline entanglements that brought me here. Maybe this is the destined return of Josho!" He took a liberal drink, exhaled, and wiped his chin from where he sat on the floor. "Prime Enforcer Josho! Master teleporter and slayer of Xonan filth!"

"Did you..." Shell glanced across the room towards where a liquor cabinet hung open, its glass panels glinting in the lanternlight. "Did you take those from the Captain's private collection?"

"Hey, he never locked it up! You call that 'private?'" Josho frowned as he stumbled back onto his hooves. He tripped and leaned against the wall to his left. "Unnngh... friggin' zeppelin. Ahem..." Trotting a serpentine line, he made for the one table that was still intact, lying on its side besides a small cot. "Besides... Captain Filta's flying the ship."

"His stallions are flying the ship. He merely commands it."

"Same difference!" Josho grumbled, lifting the table up and sliding a rickety chair over. He sat down in a slump, groaning, his lavender beret a lumpy mess atop his crown. "Flying... commanding... it's all by the books air crap. No getting dirty... no getting blood on one's hooves... no real action, y'know?" He slapped the bottle down onto the table and leaned forward with a hairy grin. "Not like real work... the kind of work that made stallions out of you and me."

Shell's nostrils flared as he gazed into the corner of the room. "You and I do not have that much in common, Enforcer Josho."

"Pfft—heheheheh... well that much is certain!" Josho grinned drunkenly. "You have twice as many medals on your uniform than I take pisses on a Saturday night. But it doesn't the change the fact that the... that the grit..." He pointed with a hoof. "The real dirt we've gotten under our coats come from the same places... from marching the same lengths... from chasing after all the same crap and being forced to do all the dirty work that comes with defending this Spark-forsaken Confederacy." He squinted. "Does that bother you? The fact that the Confederacy is a bag of hoat air these days? Heck, you can have me in irons all you want for saying it, but you—HIC—y-you know it's true!"

Shell said nothing.

"Mmmmf... Bunch of stuck-up mudslingers who sit in the Council's seat when they could just as well be sitting in an outhouse." Josho levitated a glass over and tried pouring the contents of his bottle into it, only to find next to none. Frowning, he looked over his shoulder and telekinetically grasped a fresh new bottle from the cabinet. "All they do is bark and demand and bark and demand. They think that shouting a command at the top of their lungs is all it takes to get a campaign run. What do they know about killing? Have they ever gutted more than a fish?" He struggled a bit with the bottle, squinting one eye as he finally popped the cork loose. "Have they ever been beyond the front? Seen the villages of their enemies burning? Seen the bodies—both big and small—so that they know that even... even the f-foals have tattoos...?" He lingered, his mouth agape as he gazed at his bent reflection in the lid of the bottle. Swallowing, he started pouring a drink and muttered into the lanternlit recesses of the room. "Shell, I'm tellin' ya, when you and I die—and we will die—all that was strong in this Confederacy will die with us, and whatever remains is gonna have to find a way to stand against a whole lotta filth that's been piled up over a whole lotta years."

"The Queen's Kingdom is strong," Shell said in a neutral tone. He sat across from Josho, his one eye cold and emotionless. "The Confederacy has resources—"

"Hey, I've got tons of fat!" Josho said with a wheezing laugh. He leaned over the table, his rank breath wafting across Shell's face. "But to bodyslam the enemy, I gotta get within spitting range, ya feel me?"

Shell's eye narrowed. "Once our target is captured, the chaotic power contained with her will give us access to—"

"What? A bunch of underground canyons made out of gold? HIC!" He nearly dropped the bottle from the power of the ensuing belch. Recovering, he poured himself a drink and slurred, "I've been stationed in a rathole of a town for years, and still I don't have it nearly as bad as you."

The Prime Enforcer merely stared at him.

"What, you don't believe me?" Josho grinned drunkenly. "With all due respect, sir, you've become the Confederacy's whipping colt. I don't care how bad things may or may not have gone down in Blue Shelf, but they got you chasin' after a pipe dream! All of these weapons and airships and bombs they're tossin' at this stupid rainbow peacock! Hah! And then they toss you at her as well! I must say, it's been a glorious chase, but they're waistin' some pretty snazzy potential. You, after all, have a track record that burns my beard off. Prime Enforcer Shell! The slayer of Xonans! Did you or did you not lead the successful charge into Hazel Province?"

Shell exhaled, gazing down at the table. "I most certainly did..."

"So what if it was a hit and run maneuver?" Josho raised the glass to his lips, smirking. "You tore the Xonan military a new one! Their casualties outnumbered your battallion, three to one!"

"We had to perform a hasty retreat—"

"Mmmf!" Josho finished half the glass, swallowed, and pointed. "Yes. Following orders. Loyal to the last. Who cares if the offensive had to pull back? You gave the enemy a day that they wouldn't forget!"

"Certainly not the orphans," Shell said in a dull tone. He raised an eyebrow. "Tattooed at a young age, correct?"

Josho stared at him over a second sip of his glass. He swallowed, wiped his chin, and smiled. "I knew there was a real reason why I came here."

"Enlighten me..."

"At first, I was riveted... pumped up..." Josho's teeth showed in the glinting lanternlight. "Years of minding a dead-end post, I finally could see some action again. All that magical entanglement crap with my horn? It was my salvation! I was gonna see some action again! I was gonna start busting heads for the Confederacy again!" He sipped until the glass was empty, but paused in a sighing lurch before indulging in the next pour. "Well, it sure didn't last long. But it was worth it, sir." He winked at Shell. "I got to work with you..."

"Enforcer Josho, exactly what 'work' have you been up to?"

"Not the friggin' point! HIC!" Josho shuddered, then pointed with a smirk. "I got to function side by side with Shell, the one and only. Captain Filta's not half bad, but he certainly hasn't risked his neck for Queen and Confederacy."

"We all do our part, Enforcer—"

"But some of us more than others." Josho's face fell flat as his eyes rounded in the amber light. "You... You are one of a kind. You work to get the job done and to do it exceptionally. Casualties just isn't your bag. I mean, up until this blue pegasus nonsense, you had a great track record. But who's counting that much! Give it time, cuz the ponies who bought it at Blue Shelf will be avenged. I know this. I've seen stuff like this happen before."

Shell stared, and yet, there was the slightest hint of a twitch to his good eye.

"Everypony that has something to avenge is a legend in the making," Josho continued. "So what is that gonna make you? A stallion who's already a legend?" He grinned and sipped from the bottle this time. "Mmmf... Damn straight, it's nice to be workin' with you again. 'Cuz—HIC—it reminds me that I have something to avenge too. You lost most of your unit? I lost my whole Spark-forsaken life. And what does the Confederacy care for either of us? We're just burps in the leyline to them. They'll send stallions to replace us when we've given our all, but it won't be the same. We've got history on our sides, Shell. With all its glory and honor and crap. It's ponies like us that..." His eyes curved painfully for a brief second as he regarded his reflection in the bottle once more. "... ponies l-like us that make all of the ugliness worth it. Because in the end, we're preserving something, y'know? Working with you has reminded me of a lot of things... but I know that it is all worth it in the end."

With a cold breath, Shell murmured, "This..." He gestured towards the table, the bottle, and the two of them. "This is worth it in the end?"

"You betcha..."

Nodding, the Prime Enforcer glanced at the bottle. "May I?"

Josho smiled. He hoofed the object over. "Knock yourself out, Prime Enforcer."

"Much appreciated." Shell took the bottle in his telekinetic grip, turned it over, and smashed it savagely over Josho's horn.

"Mmmf—" Josho sputtered into his drink before dropping the glass and clutching his bleeding forehead. "Gaaah—"

Snarling, Shell flipped the table over and aimed his horn straight at the stallion. Josho was lifted up in a glittering field and slammed repeatedly against the nearby wall.

Josho writhed and sputtered in pain.

"Nnnngh—!" Spinning, Shell flung the obese pony across the cabin, towards the wide windows.

With a shatter of glass, Josho tumbled out onto the deck of the Steel Wing. Deckhands gasped and spun to look. Josho tried getting up, his shivering body overcome with dozens of cuts and bruises.

With a thudding sound, Shell stormed out of the cabin with his prosthetic. He made a bee-line for the ship's edge, all the while pulsing a beam of magic out of his horn. Without breaking his stride, he dragged Josho's gasping body along with him.

"Augh! Whoah—" Josho yelped as he was forced halfway over the edge of the ship. His beret fluttered loosely to the sea of moonlit trees below.

"You know what it is worth?!" Shell shouted into the windy night, his one eye flaring brightly. "Being a lone, battered corpse! Being abandoned to die in the wilderness like you are about to be, so help me Spark!" He shoved the gasping stallion even further over the edge, precariously. "Glory and honor?! That belongs to all our brothers we've left to rot behind enemy line because the Council changed its mind about the engagement!"

"I..." Josho hissed, clamping his hooves around the magic field ensnaring his throat. His mane blew in the wind as he stared wincingly at Shell. "I-I understand—"

"How?!" Shell spat, his teeth flashing in the starlight. "Because you've seen children?! I've murdered them, you insufferable coward! I've had villages burned to ashes in order to root out the enemy! I've interrogated my own beloved to death! I've sequestered dozens of our own citizens to become the fodder for a weapon of chaos! And for what? So that I can be shipped off to some Spark-forsaken pasture where I will waste away like you, a trotting pile of jaded dreams without the decency to take a mana-gun to his own skull?!"

Josho's face was wrenched in pain and confusion.

"Nnngh!" Shell flung his telekinesis.

Josho shrieked—only to strike the ship's deck and not the open air. A few crew members made to rush to his side, but stumbled back as soon as Shell trotted forward and pressed his metal prosthetic into Josho's quivering gut.

"You're right, Enforcer Josho," Shell growled. "I will die. But I'll be damned if the Confederacy I leave behind is one populated by fools who are cursed to carry the same burden I have, to bathe in the same blood that I still smell at night, all because I allowed the last fibrous strand of integrity to keep me from doing what everypony else in this fractured Kingdom is too afraid to do."

With a stumbling of hooves, Captain Filta rushed up to the hectic scene. "Enforcer Shell! What's going on? I heard noise—"

"Captain, wake all of your stallions!" Shell spun at him, snarling. "Prime every cannon with incendiary shells."

Filta and several other ponies did double-takes. "Sir? But that will—"

"Foxtaur is worthless," Shell grunted, trotting off of Josho and towards the ship's edge. "It's a piece of the same wasteland of war, the wasteland that comprises everything around us. It's time to stop holding the machine back. Even if every tree becomes a cinder today, it will be Ledomare's paradise tomorrow, so long as our children have the power to call the ashes theirs." He spun about, his glowing horn highlighting an iron-wrought frown. "Arm the cannons! We'll flush the enemy out in pieces if we have to!" He slapped his metal hoof-brace down with finality. "Burn it to the ground!"

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