• 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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End Boss

"Hold it right there!" Shell shouted, raising a hoof.

The procession of Enforcers stopped dead in their tracks. Dalton shifted nervously while Pilate trembled in the company of the two guards holding him telekinetically in place. They stood in the heart of the machine, which was barely illuminated by a faint aura being given off by O.A.S.I.S. Below, above, and beside them, the golden arrangement of dormant pulleys, conveyor belts, and gears remained frozen in glistening silence. They had ventured at least four hundred meters into the subterannean labyrinth, and only know did the commanding unicorn issue an order to stop.

"Shell, I don't know what you have in mind," Dalton spoke. The stallions all around him twitched anxiously, gazing at the surrounding shadows. "But we cannot simply linger in here." The aged unicorn gulped and leaned forward. "The orb around Pilate's neck is dimming. Whatever power the subject imbued it with, it will fade sooner than later. We cannot depend on it lighting our path much longer, nor can we make a return trip through the door if we allow it to lose energy altogether—"

"Shhh!" Shell exclaimed in a shrill breath. He leaned over the edge of a platform and pointed straight down. "Funny that you should speak of energy, Mr. Dalton. I do believe I've found the heart of this ancient place."

"What in Spark's name is he going on about?" Pilate murmured.

Dalton whispered back. "I don't know, old friend. I suspect that—" He flinched, his eyes narrowing. "Wait..."

A hushed murmur rose through the group of soldiers as they all followed Shell's gesture. Below them, at a thirty meter drop, was a pulsating plume of red light. It mimicked a flame in the way it flickered and danced, but it also gave off an ethereal quality, like a sacred magic untouched through time.

"I knew that there would be secrets down here," Shell remarked. His brow furrowed. "I do believe we're at the beginning of something grand, gentlecolts."

Dalton frowned. "We'll be at the end of something ridiculous if we don't get out of here soon."

"Most of us will get out, Mr. Dalton."

Dalton's lips parted. He stammered, "What d-do you mean...?"

"You're a scientist. You've channeled countless types of magic throughout your years." Shell turned to gaze coldly at him. "I do believe you're best equipped to do one last experiment." Shell nodded his head.

Two Enforcers gripped Dalton on either side. The mustached stallion gasped, struggling in their grip. "What is the meaning of this?!"

"Please, Mr. Dalton, do not make a scene," Shell muttered as he motioned for the two stallions to bring Dalton to the edge of their high platform. "I've always assured the safety of your grandchildren. You, on the other hoof, are forfeit." He adjusted his beret and squinted towards the top of Dalton's brow. "However, not your horn. I suppose I'll at least have to take that back to Blue Shelf once you've absorbed the red flame."

"You can't just do blind experiments with this ancient mystery and expect some fantastic results!" Dalton exclaimed.

"Actually, I can," Shell droned. "All I need is more bodies. It's worked in my favor so far."

Dalton's jaw was agape. He gazed over at Pilate. Pilate said nothing.

"Let's find a way down, soldiers," Shell said, yanking the zebra over to his side so he had control over O.A.S.I.S.' illumination. "And if we can't, we'll simply toss him into the flame."

"Wait!" Pilate hissed.

Shell sighed. "Please, Mr. Pilate, you are the last equine here who can issue commands—"

"Do you hear that?!" Pilate whispered, his ears twitching.

The stallions all froze in place, even Dalton. There was a deep, resonating sound of gargantuan proportions. It was subtle at first, like a low bass rumble. But then it increased, bringing along with it a cacophony of whirring noises and hissing bursts. Shell and the others spun to see a faint light growing from the way which they came.

"What the devil...?" Dalton stammered.

"Something's been following us!" a guard exclaimed.

"No," said another. "At the rate it's coming, it must have accelerated from the point of origin just recently."

"Is this old place not vacant?!"

"Prime Enforcer Shell, what do we do?"

Shell's one eye narrowed. Then he twitched as an alarming thought ripped through his system. He grabbed Pilate and hoisted him in front, pulling out a taser and aiming it at the gasping zebra's neck. "Stand your ground, soldiers," Shell grunted. "We're no longer the only source of power in this place."

"Source of power?"

"Another O.A.S.I.S.?"

"Is the flame alive?"

Dalton gulped as his features softened. "It's her..."

Finally, their entire portion of the labyrinth lit up with golden brilliance. They turned out to be standing in the middle of one of many bridges stretching across a platinum cavern of frozen machinery. As the bright light engulfed everything, those frozen apparatuses came to life. Pendulums swung into motion. Gears spun and shiny lengths of chain ran vertically through the incalculably deep reaches of the place.

All of this served as a hearty welcome to the arrival of a blue pegasus with a frazzled unicorn in her grip. The two landed with a burst of air. As the inner atmosphere of the place settled, Rainbow Dash coiled her wings, adjusted her beret, and grinned devilishly at the gawking group of Ledomaritan guards.

"Sorry for being late to the party. The line outside this place was horrible!"

"The subject!" a guard gasped.

"She's wearing the pendant!" Another exclaimed.

"How in the Queen's name...?"

"Shhh!" Shell hissed, levitating the fiery end of the taser closer to Pilate's throat. "I told you to hold your ground..."

"Remarkable," Dalton gawked, the edges of hid dumbfounded lips curved slightly. "How in Spark's name did you get through the blockade of soldiers?"

"Hmmm?" Rainbow Dash blinked. "Oh. That." She reached over and unclasped a satchel of the saddlebag on Bellesmith's body. She then proceeded to dump twenty-two berets onto the surface of the golden platform. "Ta daaa! There's plenty for all of you—" She winced. "Ewww. You're all wearing them already. Well, most of you..."

"Rainbow... Dash...?" Pilate whispered. His face paled, and a tear trickled down from his grayed eye. "Belle? Beloved...?"

"I'm here, Pilate!" Belle exclaimed, her voice cracking as she smiled painfully. "Don't you worry!"

"Which one's Pilate?" Rainbow asked, leaning in. "The one behind the zebra?"

"No!" Belle hissed. "He is the zebra."

"Ohhhhh..." Rainbow Dash squinted. "The hay kind of a name is 'Pilate?'"

"Belle! Don't do something heroic!" Pilate sobbed. "I don't want you to die down here! I—hckk!" He winced all over as Shell zapped his chin with the taser.

Belle stomped her hooves and shrieked, "Don't hurt him!"

"I'm hardly the one hurting him, doctor," Shell said. "You should have accepted your fate when it was given to you."

"Wow, is he full of it," Rainbow Dash said with a frowned. She smirked aside to Belle. "Can I tell him that he's full of it?"

"And you," Shell spoke, his one eye glaring at the pegasus. "Your arrival here is anything but fortuitous. You think you have any worth? You think you mean something in the grand scheme of things?"

"Well, the word 'awesome' was pretty darn lonely until I came along and married it."

"You're only special because I made you special," Shell said as he held Pilate in his iron grip. "You were a hair's length from death, a bleeding meatbag of a corpse that the Council of Ledo chose specifically to nurse back to health."

"Only because it took a chamber of ancient metal to do it!" Belle exclaimed with a frown. "You used her accursed taint of chaos against her! You took something that was innocent and corrupted it, against her will!"

Shell's head icily pivoted. The tone in his voice took on a false cadence. "Is that what she told you?" He gazed back at Rainbow Dash. "Did she somehow convince you that you weren't responsible for all of the carnage your very own hooves wrought?"

Rainbow Dash gnashed her teeth and took a bold step forward. "That's it. I'm gonna—"

"What? Rip me in half? Spill my entrails across the golden lengths of this holy place?" Shell's eye narrowed. "When the Council of Ledo found your body, there was nothing worth corrupting. You had done all of the damage on your own."

Belle bit her lip.

Rainbow Dash's face twisted in confusion. 'What do you mean...?"

"Simply that you were discovered with your pendant having been taken off by the locals. We realized this only because we found the golden object beneath a mountain of bodies. The entire township of Aridstone, where a massive dragon deposited you, had been consumed by a bloody massacre." Shell's nostrils flared. "You see, my little pony, we did not need to do anything to you. You were always... always a monster."

Belle trembled. She gazed nervously aside at Rainbow Dash with a wincing expression.

Rainbow's face had paled. She stared numbly into the golden depths of the place.

"R-Rainbow Dash..." Belle murmured.

"What?" Shell leered. "Did your new friend not tell you this? Did she not inform you of the carnage you've made before you ever became a test subject? I daresay she's the one who's been using you, not me."

"Prime Enforcer—" Dalton began, only to be silenced by a hoof smack to the face by one of the guards.

As Dalton collapsed, Shell continued, loudly. "As a matter of fact, you should be thanking me! I took over the project here in Blue Shelf! I made sure that your body was preserved! I found the right kind of metal that could reflect your chaos energies inward and keep it from poisoning your body! As a result, your bones and muscles mended, and you survived an otherwise agonizing death!" Shell's voice lowered to a breathy hiss. "Don't you see? I can give you the opportunity to live forever. Who's given you that chance before? I suspect that you come from a land that is magical and mysterious to all of our perspectives. But even there, in your home, did you have any chance of avoiding death? Of cheating annihilation."

Rainbow Dash gulped. Her voice limped out of her, "I never wanted to be a monster..."

"And yet you are one," Shell said. "That is a fate that nopony can changed. But I can give you purpose. You can have a future in the Ledomaritan Confederacy. Your chaos energy just needs to be channeled in the right direction. Only I can grant that to you: a long life spent in finding meaning and redemption, for there are enemies who deserve to face the wrath that you can bring, and I will aim you in their direction and theirs alone."

The air was silent, save for the sound of whirring and grinding machinery.

"Rainbow..." Belle reached a dainty hoof over and touched her blue shoulder. "I'm... I'm sorry I didn't tell you about Aridstone." She gulped and said, "But you weren't yourself then. Whatever may or may not have happened there: it wasn't your fault."

"According to you, a lot of things aren't my fault," Rainbow muttered.

Belle's eyes glistened. "Rainbow Dash, please. Don't—"

"I don't even know what I'm doing here," Rainbow said in a cold tone. She turned around, flexed her wings, and took off in a cold hover... back towards the entrance from which she came. She flew alone. "I... I have some thinking to do, Ding Dong."

"Rainbow! You can't let this creep get to you—!"

"I'm sorry, Belle. I've failed everypony; I'd only fail you too."

Belle reached for her, but it was too late. In a defeated hover Rainbow Dash was gone. The golden glow and animation retreated with her. The place returned to a dim, ghostly aura, centered upon the twitching zebra's mana sphere.

Belle slumped to the platform, her ears drooping as her eyes welled with tears.

Dalton looked up from where he too had collapsed. A sad sigh escaped his lips.

"Hmmm..." Shell exhaled, sheathing his taser. "Remarkably predictable. I would very much have liked to see if she could bleed."

"I hope you're pr-proud of yourself," Pilate murred through gritted teeth.

"I'll let the Council of Ledo decide whether or not my victory deserves pride." Shell turned and pointed at his soldiers. "You three, restrain the doctor. You two, bring Mr. Dalton down to the red flame so that we can proceed with the experiment—"

"Just kidding!" Rainbow Dash's jubilant voice soared straight back, followed by her wings as she rocketed violently through the entire line of soldiers. Bodies, berets, and tasers went flying everywhere. The place lit up with gold and screams as her blue form drop-kicked into Shell's skull. "Eat gravity, cyclops!"

"Gaaaah!" Shell shouted as the two of them plunged down into the depths of the labyrinth. They were accompanied by the flailing bodies of several soldiers as they collapsed onto the criss-crossing platforms below. Gasping, Pilate slumped to the floor—unhurt—as his ears took in the maddening chaos around him.

Belle and Dalton stared in breathless shock as only a few soldiers remained on their bridge, and they were preoccupied with gawking at their fallen leader in the gold-glowing abyss. "Commander!"

"Ooof!" Far below, Shell landed on a rolling conveyor belt. Swinging pendulums and thrusting pistons came to live all around him as the source of the golden light landed just a few feet away.

"Whew!" Rainbow Dash touched down, grinding her hoof against the conveyor belt's surface. "I'll give you one thing, buddy! You sure know how to take a bump!"

Shell gnashed his teeth. He stood up on the moving platform and growled, "You stupid, ungrateful little—Mmmph!" He struggled with a beret flung into his face.

"Eye front, soldier!" Rainbow Dash giggled, her mane blowing freely in a magical wind. She adjusted her pendant and squatted into a fighting position. "So how do you wanna do this?"

Shell ripped the beret out of his face. Frowning, he pulled a glittering taser out from a holster. The groaning air of cacophonous machinery hissed with his electrical fury.

"Ugh..." Rainbow Dash rolled her ruby eyes, then smirked at him. "It's only fair to warn you. The last time I butted heads with a unicorn end boss, it didn't fare so well for him—"

Acrid smoke filled the air as Shell unsheathed three more taser swords. He spun them around his body with agile telekinesis, then sliced a swinging pendulum in half before glaring Rainbow's way.

A drop of sweat formed along the pegasus' temple. "Oh. Well... then there's that."

"Hnnngh!" Shell galloped towards her, jumped, and spun a cyclonic flurry of electrical blades straight at her.

Rainbow Dash's vision filled with lightning. She bucked the moving platform, fell back, and flattened her spine against the floor. The swords swung over her. Breathlessly, she jumped back up, flipped, dodged the swords on their return, and landed awkwardly on the conveyor belt—

Shell slammed his shoulder into her side.

"Aaaugh!" Rainbow Dash flew violently towards a series of grinding gears. Gasping, she saw a length of chain in her peripheral vision. She reached out, grabbed the length of metal, and swung her body back onto the platform with a sailing kick.

Shell floated the butts of his tasers together in front of his chest to block her hoof, then shoved back. Rainbow Dash backflipped away from him, then had to dodge and juke as he came at her with a series of lightning-fast swings and stabs. Rainbow Dash stole any heart-skipping opportunity she had to dive at him and swing a hoof at his face, but the soldier expectly anticipated her moves and swung with retaliatory strikes. With each progressive sword-slash, Rainbow Dash was dodging by merely a hair's width. It didn't help that at one point, the conveyor belt moved them through a dense forest of dangling machinery. She grunted and jumped, flew, and side-strafed her way around jutting pistons, slashing pendulums, and lengths of chains. Shell dove fearlessly through the mess, spun about, and slashed all of his swords at her at once.

"Haaauchkkt!" Rainbow shrieked as one of the electrified blades made contact, spilling blood from her shoulder. She hobbled back on the platform, limply facing him with a pained expression.

Shell's hoof came down thunderously as he aimed all swords at her sweating face. "You're energetic, I'll give you that," he droned, glaring through the brimming electricity. "But every wreckless head only deserves to be cut off."

"Pleasant words to lame by," Rainbow hissed, clutching her wounded shoulder. "How'd you lose your eye, handsome? Did one of your monologues backfire in your face?"

"You know nothing of sacrifice," Shell hissed. "That's why you'll never be a hero. The only thing you'll ever amount to is a monster."

She glared back. "The only monsters are the ponies who don't know that they are one."

"Know this," Shell said. "When I'm done ripping holes into your flesh, I'll be the one to drag your carcass back into its cage. As we both know, death can't stop you from serving Ledo."

Suddenly, Rainbow smirked. "I don't need you of all ponies to preach to me about cheating death." With that, her wings stretched out.

Shell's eyes narrowed. "What are you—?"

"So let's cheat it together!" she hollered as she flew straight towards him.

Shell flinched. With a grunt, he tilted his glowing horn forward. All four blades converged on her suicidal figure. They made contact, but only managed to slice off the last inch of her tail hairs. "Unnngh!" the Prime Enforcer shouted as his body was plowed into by Rainbow Dash.

Together, the two toppeled off the edge, and plunged fatally into the screaming depths of the machine below...

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