• 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.

  • ...

PreviousChapters Next
Camp Fire

"You've been the talk of the town, Belle," said Baxter, grinning wide as he tossed a twig or two onto the crackling campfire before him and Kenna. "Everyone is chopming at the bit to find out about what you've been up to."

To the southeast of the tiny cluster of cottages, there was a small clearing made out of a soft bed of leaves and crushed pine needles. Several of the neighbors sat on logs, gazing into the warm embers as the sun set over the mountainous edges of Blue Shelf.

Baxter continued, his black-tipped anteloupe ears flicking. "There've been rumors of a new subject in the facility being used for sequencing. Somehow I knew you had the horn for a job."

"Heh..." Belle curled her legs beneath her as she sat in the leaves next to Pilate. Her earthen brown mane blew in the gentle mountain breeze. "It's not exactly a job; more like a commitment."

"From what I hear, Professor Garnet's been holed up in his office a lot lately," said Great Stare, a stone-coated buffalo with a pair of brass-rimmed bifocals that glistened from the firelight. He gazed across at the group. "Something must have him scared if he's stuck doing paperwork."

A white maned unicorn named Felicity leaned forward and said, "It's all on account of that Enforcer who's been shoving his horn into everything as of late."

"What's his name?" Placid, her beloved, sat beside her and murmured, "Shard? Shackles?"

"Shell," grunted a ram with an angry, gnarled face. True to his name, Grinder dragged a hoof across the leafy earth and spat towards the flames. "And sooner than you know it, this village will be overrun by bunkers! It's just like what happened on the Xonan border!"

"Grinder, we are nowhere close to Xona," Great Stare's beloved, a petite buffallo with sparkling eyes, said. "This facility is all about scientific research."

"Not from what I heard, Little Breath!" Grinder hissed. The ram sat alone on his log, shaking as his lungs growled from deep beneath his shaggy coat. "My wife and I lived around here before Blue Shelf had a name! Before the fences and the military drills and the sirens and—"

"You've told us all this before, Grinder," Placid said, his smile soft as his name. "But you have to admit, the forces of Ledo have kept this place rather immaculate."

"That's a lot of hoo-hah coming from a unicorn who keeps his nose stuck in glowing runes all day!"

"Hey!" Felicity frowned. "What my beloved does for the Council of Ledo is his business only! When was the last time you or your wife did anything for Blue Shelf other than complain—"

"Darling, please," Placid placed a hoof on Felicity's shoulder. "We're here to relax and celebrate Bellesmith's return."

"Tell that to hornhead over there!"

"Grinder will be Grinder," Baxter said, rolling his eyes. He waved a cloven hoof before his antlers, smirking. "If you ask me, I'd say things have been quieter lately around here, and not just 'cuz of Belle's absence."

"Oh?" Bellesmith asked, cocking her head aside.

"Lots of the other neighborhoods have been clearing out," Kenna added.

"How do you mean?"

"The cottages are emptying," Great Stare said in a deep bass voice. "Villagers are being relocated. The community on the west side is silent, almost haunting."

"Reminds me of the yellow plains back home," Little Breath murmured.

Great Stare reached over to caress her shoulder. "I know, beloved."

"Just where are they being relocated?" Belle added.

"We figured that you would know," Felicity said. "You've been in the facility long enough. Have you received any newcomers."

"I..." Bellesmith gazed down at her folded limbs, fidgeting. "I-I don't know..."

"She's been entrenched in a singular project all this time," Pilate said, his face aimed at the center of the group. The middle of his forehead blinked with glowing runes as he spoke, "She only knows as much as she's told. It's the same with all of our beloveds who go to do their shifts."

"Not me!" Grinder hissed, his face twitching. "They're always telling me what a sorry sack of crap I am!"

Felicity sighed and gazed lethargically his way. "Maybe if you stopped headbutting them as soon as the elevator let you into the maintenance corridor..."

"That's my way of saying hello! Grrrghh... Unicorns are so weak and puny!"

Pilate's dark lips curved. "Not from my experience."

"Meep!" Belle blushed furiously and nudged him hard. "Pilate!" she hissed.

He merely chuckled.

"Back to the conversation—" Great Stare said.

Baxter grinned goofily at him. "We were having a conversation?!"

After a glare, the buffalo continued, "Shell of the Enforcers is no small fry. I hear he's led several fearless legions into battle with the fiercest of Xonan warriors."

"Then what's a blood and guts guy like him doing here?" Kenna asked, shrugging. "Did he do something horrible that Ledo's army had to punish him with such a boring post?"

"Dalton doesn't speak highly of him," Belle said. "But so far, he seems rather harmless. All he does is hover about the sequencing room, observing from—"

Felicity squinted at Bellesmith. "They put you in an sequencing room with an observation platform?"

Belle's chestnut eyes blinked. "Well, yes."

Felicity fidgeted.

"What is it?" Pilate asked, craning his neck.

"Well..." Placid scooted over and sat closer to his beloved. "They only conduct experiments in such chambers if there's a high risk of breakthrough." He swallowed hard. "Or failure."

"'Failure?'" Little Breath asked, pensively.

"They put me in one of those chambers once," Felicity said in a low breath, her gaze weak and frail. "I was comatose for nearly a month afterwards..."

Kenna exhaled heavily. "So that's why you were gone for so long..."

"I figured you were gone because of heavy research," Pilate said.

Placid was nuzzling Felicity gently. "We only wished that was the case. I'm just glad that I came back in one piece."

"Hmmm..." Felicity smiled bitterly. "One piece too many."

"The heck do you mean by that?" Grinder grunted.

Felicity frowned at him. "Meaning that I didn't have what it took to get the job done! On account of my horn being completely intact, my leylines weren't capable of handling the unbridled flow of mana!"

Pilate tilted his head towards Belle.

She blinked nervously at that. "You don't say..."

"Now they've got this new subject from Spark-knows-where, and they're trying to repeat the same sequencing experiments!" Felicity shrugged heavily, sighing. "I'd be envious if I wasn't so angry at Garnet's peons hooking me up to something that I had no right being attached to in the first place!"

"What matters is that you're here with me now," Placid said. He smiled. "And we can perform research for the Council of Ledo together, like we did back in our university days."

"I can't help but think that this 'Shell' guy is here because we've underperformed or something," Baxter said, leaning forward and propping his chin on his hooves. "Blue Shelf must be really tanking if the Enforcers have to bail it out."

"It's all a plan from the get-go!" Grinder hissed. "You think those noisy zeppelins are hovering over our heads just for sight-seeing? They've doubled in number in the last three months alone! I can't get any beauty sleep!"

"Which has nothing to do with how your beloved snore," Baxter said, leaning back with a coy smirk.

"Say that a little closer to my horns, bucko."

"I think I'll pass."

"Think you can do something about this fire while you're at it, honey?" Kenna asked with a heavy nudge.

"What? Not hot enough for you?"

"Come on...."

"Fine..." Baxter took a deep breath and concentrated. His eyes glowed red, and sparks of energy bounced between his two pointed antlers. An orb of orange flame levitated for a few seconds in front of him, then shot into the embers, sparking them to life. Soon, a glittering flame billowed between the group, warming them for the bitter cold hour left before curfew.

"I can never get over how loud you flamestarters are," Pilate said with a slight shudder. "Nor how hot."

"That's a compliment I wouldn't mind somepony else giving me." Baxter winked. Kenna swatted him in the shoulder. "Ow! Hey! I'm just spitting into the wind!"

Kenna sighed and smiled Belle's way. "Don't mind him. Sometimes I think he was born with three antlers?"

"Huh? But what does that hav—?"

Pilate leaned in and whispered in her ear.

Belle blinked, then blushed furiously. "I swear, they should build one of those mana fences between your cottage and ours."

"Hahaha!" Baxter leaned back and forth, clutching himself and laughing. "Then you two would get bored quick! Wouldn't you?"

"Yes, well..."

"Oh! Speaking of fences!" Kenna glanced over at her beloved and waggled her eyebrows. "Is now a good time?"

"Oooh! Thanks for being my brain and tongue!"

"On occasion..." Kenna began fumbling through a canvas bag full of lumpy objects.

Great Stare and Little Breath leaned forward, curious. "What is this...?"

"The score of the century!" Kenna pulled her forelimb out, holding bananas between her cloven hooves. "Ta daa! Who wants a nibble!"

"Gimme gimme gimme!" Grinder hissed, his hooves raking the dirt beneath him.

"Better do it, honey, before he plows a hole through your chest," Baxter said, winking.

"Here ya go!" Kenna tossed the fruit his way.

"What is it?" Pilate asked. His nostrils flared. "Do I smell... citrus?"

Kenna pulled out a pair of oranges. "Sure do!" She tossed them at the zebra. "Get some extra shine to your stripes!"

"Where..." Felicity was squinting hard. "How did you get ahold of fruit?! Fresh ones, no less?"

"We went for an innocent frolic by the perimeter!" Baxter said, passing pears to the two unicorns. "There was this big, smashed crate chock full of the stuff! A zeppelin must have dropped it during one of its trips!"

"Then that means it's Ledomaritan property!" Felicity exclaimed. "You shouldn't have been that close to the perimeter to begin with! What if you two got caught?!"

"'All Kingdoms of the Confederacy Bring Glory to the Queen in their Multiplicitous Ways,'" Kenna quoted. "It's in the pamphlet we were given when we were dragged here!"

Pilate gazed blankly towards Bellesmith. "Beloved...?"

Belle's face cracked a wry grin. "Trust me, Pilate. If there was such a document, I would have run it by O.A.S.I.S. in a heartbeat." She smirked towards the anteloupes. "Still, it's been a long, long time since I relished anything that wasn't processed by the Ledomaritan ration committee. Would you mind if...?"

"Hah!" Baxter cackled. "How far the meek have fallen! Demanding to have some of my melons!"


"Okay, fine, but maybe something else." He pulled an orb out of the bag and rolled it the unicorn's way. "There you go. Hope your teeth aren't so sensitive."

"Please, Baxter," Belle scoffed and grasped the fruit in her hooves. "I'm a pony. The last thing I could possibly be sensitive to is—" She looked at it, and her irises shrank. A sharp breath escaped her lips, sounding vaguely like a whimper.

Pilate's ears instantly twitched. "Honey?" I sat up straight, as if in alarm. "What is it?"

"I..." Belle's face was contorting in something between a grimace and a sob. She turned the red apple around in her hooves as the sniffles began. "I don't know. It's just..." Her lips quivered. The flames grew distant, like a cold gasp of yesterday. She felt something missing, as if a great vacuum existed between her limbs where instead she should have been holding onto something dear and warm. She looked up and saw every face gawking at her, including Grinder's. A tear streamed down her cheek, and she dropped the apple with a tiny thud. "I'm s-so sorry," her voice cracked. With a rustle of featherlike leaves, she darted up to her hooves. "I gotta go! I c-can't stay!"

"Belle!" Pilate called out, panicked and trembling. He stood up, but any vibrating hint of her presence was gone. The sound of her scampering hooves disappeared into the fall of night.

"Mmmphfff..." Grinder grunted between mouthfuls. "I wish I could swim in bananas."

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
PreviousChapters Next
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!