• 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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Charging In

Grinder gave the signal with a grunting noise, which he had to repeat in order for Bellesmith to tell it apart from all his usual grumblings. With a gasp, she leapt bravely out of the back of the wagon and stood on sore legs before a large service elevator with a heavy door. A metal sheet lined the wall of steel reinforcement, and on it was a keypad glowing with faint manalight.

"Now would be a good time to do your magic, girl," Grinder said, then shifted nervously as he cast a wooly glance at her stub of a horn. "Or the next best thing. Whatever."

"Right..." She gulped and glanced behind her. Grinder had pulled the cart so that it acted as an obstructing barricade between them and the rest of the cavernous expanse of Black Level. The slaves and overseers trudged beyond view. Belle wasn't about to waste anytime.

With a deep, meditative breath, she shuffled up to the keypad and slapped her hoof over the numbers, one by one. "Two... Three... Four... and Zero..." She bit her lip and sat on her haunches. "Oh please. Oh please oh please oh please oh please—"

The console flickered, then brightend with a green hue. A loud his emanated from the elevator, and the doors icily slid open.

"Yes!" Belle squeaked, smiling with bright yellow dimples. "Praise the Spark! Garnet's code still worked!"

"Lukcy manure, if you ask me," Grinder hissed, then nudged Bellesmith forward. "Let's not celebrate for too long, girlie."

"R-right," she stumbled into the elevator. As swiftly as he could, Grinder pulled himself and the wagon in along with her. There was room for everything, but the hard part was doing it without making too much noise. Belle was already slapping her hoof repeatedly over a button to close the doors by the time Grinder was completely inside. The doors slid shut before any Enforcer could glance their way.

Belle exhaled a heavy breath of relief and entered a series of combinations before yanking at a lever. With a dull hum of mana, the elevator began its ascent.

"Where are we headed?" Grinder asked. He squirmed for a moment. "Department Blue?"

"No," she said, then gulped. "Not yet, at least. While I wouldn't mind getting so many Ledomaritans out of here, it's not exactly in my power to do. I need to get to my beloved."

"And then what?"

Belle sighed. Her moist eyes reflected the flickering lights between the metal grooves of the elevator car. "I don't know..."

"You don't even have a friggin' game plan or—"

"I don't know! I just don't know, Grinder, okay?!" Belle's voice cracked, and she ran a pair of hooves over her eyes. She gnashed her teeth as lights flickered under her tight lids, like rows of orchards that coalesced into circling piles of ash. The pear blue gaze of Whitemane was there and gone in a blink, and she opened her eyes to a teary world. "I just need to be with my beloved," she whimpered. "I need to be with the pony I love. Everything else will work out... somehow..."

Grinder gazed quietly at her in her moment of delicate vulnerability. "Harumph. You're a friggin' idiot."

Belle sniffled, then produced a weak smile. "I guess I'm just not used to doing stuff like this."

"Why, because it's dangerous?"

"Because it's impulsive." She took a deep breath and stood solidly on four legs. "But it's never too late to start." She reached deep into the back of the wagon and rummaged around.

Grinder squinted at her. He spoke above the hum of the ascending elevator. "What the heck are you doing now?"

"Just because there are so many Enforcers down below in Black Level doesn't mean that there'll be none guarding the facility." She produced two pick-axes, examined both of them, and discarded the more blunt tool. She felt the weight in her hooves, hiding a nervous shiver. "If I really want to get to Pilate, then that means I need to be prepared to do things more... impulsively."

"Have you ever even hurt a single insect in your life, much less a Spark-forsaken unicorn with taser weapons?"

"That's not for you to be c-concerned about, Grinder."

"Like the Queen's crap, it's not. Gimme that."

Belle gasped as Grinder effortlessly yanked the pick-axe out of her grasp. He spun it like an expert soldier and rested it across his horns.

"Grinder," she murmured, squinting quizzically at him. "You've done enough to help me this far. I can't ask you to go in there and risk life and limb for something that doesn't concern you."

"I can and will risk my sorry-flank if it means saving a mare from becoming dead meat in a second." He gazed at her with a remarkably calm expression. "Or do you think I'm unqualified?"

"I-I didn't say that. It's just—"

"What? You think I was sent to this crudhole of a place because I had smarts?" Grinder exhaled heavily and muttered, "I was a soldier, just like that bastard Shell. I know what it means to bust some heads, and then re-bust them into dust."

Belle gulped. "Then... then why were you brought to Blue Shelf in the first place?"

"The General of the Northern Brigade had a problem with me."

"Why?"

"I couldn't stop charging into battle, war time or peace time."

Belle stirred nervously. Still, with a brave smile, she said, "That... doesn't seem so awful."

"Even when one of the battles took place in his wife's tent?"

Belle's features went pale.

"Needless to say..." Grinder sharpened the pick axe with his horn. "Ledomare still hasn't won the war with the Xonans."

"Well... uhm..." Belle shrugged. "I'm sure you won many battles, at least."

The edge of Grinder's wooly lips curved. "The general's wife seemd to think so."

Belle blinked at him. She looked like she was going to throw up, but a high-pitched giggle came out instead.

Grinder joined in with a deep bass chuckle. The elevator car rang with brief merriment.

And then the hum of mana came to a stop. The lights flickered; they reached the main level of the facility.

The laughter ended. Belle and Grinder exchanged glances. Grinder brushed Belle aside. Belle nodded.

With a hiss, the double-doors slid open. Grinder slid out on scraping hooves, the pick-axe fitted in his mouth. He glanced left and right down the hallways. All he saw was concrete corridors and the sweeping strobe of blue manalight, faint but persistent.

After a few seconds, he tapped the pick-axe against the wall and motioned forward with his head. He trotted along, and a shivering Belle limped after him.

Compared to the heated cacophony of the Black level, the facility was dead quiet, a virtual cemetery. Hallways that used to be full of thick, marching troops were now quieter than selpuchers. There were no signs of lab technicians, no evidence to suggest that anypony had been there in the last few days.

Belle would have been feverishly checking each door for a sign of Pilate's whereabouts if only she wasn't preoccupied with the stillness of the place. "I don't get it. Did Shell send them all to Department Blue as well—?"

"Shhh!" Grinder uttered, slapping himself and Belle up against a wall. They remained perfectly still as something lifted in the distances, increasing in resonance. It was hoofsteps, and it was coming closer.

Belle bit her lip, the hairs on the back of her neck standing up.

Grinder's teeth gritted hard against the handle of the pick-axe, and just as the hoofsteps came around the corner, he pounced.

The target fell to the ground without protest. There was a raspy sound, that of an elder voice gasping for breath. Grinder hissed and raised the pick-axe to strike hard.

"No, wait!" Belle shrieked. Grinder froze in mid-swing as she rushed over to the pony beneath the ram's straddling figure. "Dalton?!"

"Nnnnckt..." The elder unicorn looked up, wincing. At the sight of her, his expression paled. "Bellesmith..." He gulped. "Bellesmith, darling. You are alive!"

"Why wouldn't I be?!" Belle said with a bright smile. "You've no idea how happy I am to see you!"

"Erm... y-yes..." Dalton wheezed again, a sheen of sweat blanketing his mustache as he glanced nervously between the unicorn and the ram on top of him.

Belle bit her lip. She tapped Grinder's shoulder and the ram backed off.

"Ptooie!" Grinder spat the pick-axe out and glared. "What gives, old stallion? Are you the CEO of the department of dust now or what?"

"I am happy to see you, Belle," Dalton managed as she helped him up to his trembling hooves. "Though I cannot say the same about your present company."

"We snuck in here, Dalton," Belle said. "We couldn't risk anypony discovering us."

"And I doubt you have to any longer," Dalton said in a low voice. "There are very few ponies left on this floor. All of Shell's Enforcers are elsewhere... d-doing tasks for the Council of Ledo." He ran a shaking hoof through his gray mane. "Or so Shell says..."

"That stallion is full of something," Grinder exhaled. "And it ain't mana."

"Dalton, what's going on here?"

"Everything... nothing..." Dalton's tired gaze fell to the floor. "All the experiments have been halted. All of the previous tasks under Garnet's administration is no more. And then anypony who pretends to put up any sort of resistance is sent to Department Blue."

"Dalton..."

"They barely stock us up on supplies. I haven't eaten in two days—"

"Dalton, Pilate is here," Belle said.

Dalton was silent.

She leaned forward. "They brought him here, and I need to find him. He has to be in one of these rooms, because if he's in Department Blue too..." She winced, clenched her eyes shut, and muttered, "I need to find him. I will do anything."

"I have no doubt of that, darling. It's just that..." Dalton lingered.

Belle opened her moist eyes. She and Grinder stared at the unicorn.

The elder stallion took a deep breath. He reached forward and caressed her chin. "You deserve to be away from all this madness. You and Pilate deserve your old lives back."

"I have to find him first."

"I may be able to help with that," Dalton said.

"And just how is that?" Grinder asked with a glare.

Dalton stood up straight. "Because I know where they put him." He motioned with his head and galloped down the hallway in a gray blur. "Follow me."

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