Author's note: Sorry this took so long to produce, future chapters will hopefully be faster. I have been working on a creative project for an online and physical miniatures game played with the mlp figures that can be found on my dedicated DA profile: ponyfiguregame.deviantart.com I am also looking for artists to commission and improve the layout of these alpha cards
“You’re a pathetic excuse for a Pegasus!”
“Consider yourself lucky you’re an orphan, no parent wants to see their kid grow up to be a loser.”
“Talk about my family like that again and I’ll end you!”
“Help! Someone help! She’s killing him! HELP!”
The shadows swelled, looming overhead and screaming from their ethereal mouths a cacophony of voices. I cowered, huddled in a foetal ball with gritted teeth and hooves clamped over my ears. The faces of these ethereal beasts writhed and contorted into shapes I recognised: the face of Gnasher, howling in agony; the frightened fillies and colts screaming for help; and the furious faces of the orphanage overseers.
“No! You can’t just kick me out!”
“Scootaloo, if it weren’t for the many eye witness accounts solidifying the justification of the attack, you would be charged with first degree malicious assault and be sent to prison. Consider yourself lucky you are only permanently evicted from the orphanage. I’m sorry Scootaloo.”
The faces melded together, swirling and forming into those of my parents. Their forms were fragmented, bits and pieces of detail scarcely remembered from an undeveloped mind all those years ago. In other dreams they had smiled down at me, reaching out to me. As if they were just out of foreleg’s reach to touch and embrace. Those dreams had always comforted me. But now, they were scowling.
“Look at her! She is no daughter of mine!” the shadow bearing my father’s face spoke. “Homeless, jobless, she’s nothing but a burden on society!”
The other shadow bearing the face of my mother shook its head despondently, “We had such high hopes for you, Scootaloo,” she said, looking down at me with sad, hopeless eyes. I felt my stomach sink even lower. “Now you’ve become a parasite. No one will ever want you.”
I snarled. “No!” I shouted. “You’re wrong! Rainbow Dash...”
“Do you really think Rainbow Dash wants to baby you for the rest of her life?” my mother retorted. “She’ll be rid of you when she realizes you’ll just slow her down!”
“You’re a stupid Earth pony in pegasi clothing, a sick joke on all Pegasus kind. You haven’t, and never will amount to anything!” my father shouted, stomping his hoof.
Anger flared through me, I never asked to be a flightless cripple. “Stop it...”
“Rainbow Dash never cared for you, you’re nothing but a nuisance!”
“And now she’s taken you in because she pities you!”
My eyes fluttered open at the gentle touch of a hoof on my shoulder. For a moment, I expected to feel the familiar stiff mattress of my bunk bed back at the orphanage under her back, hear the banter and laughter of the orphanage fillies, and be back in that place like as if my time with Rainbow Dash yesterday had just some surreal dream.
When I looked into those eyes, when I saw the genuine concern and care in them, it evoked memories of me as a little filly being held in my mother’s arms; cradled and loved. I knew she hadn’t just taken me in out of mere pity. “I am now,” I said, hugging her.
Rainbow sighed in relief, “I’m glad, you were shouting in your sleep.” She hugged me, her embrace warm and motherly. “You must’ve had a terrible nightmare.”
I stared at the floor, embarrassed. “I’m sorry.”
Rainbow Dash looked me in the eyes, “do you want to talk about it?” she asked, gently. My ears flattened against my head, would she understand? “Come on, Scoots. You can tell me anything.”
“I... I dreamt that my parents were ashamed of me,” I said solemnly, turning my head away. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her. “They told me I was nothing but a parasite...”
Rainbow Dash ruffled my mane affectionately, “kid, does it really look like money is important to me?” she asked with a sympathetic smile. “You’ve always been good to me. You even started up a fan club in my honour, and all I did was avoid you like a nuisance.”
Rainbow Dash put a gentle hoof on my mouth, silencing me. “Let me finish. You were always there for me, you supported me when nopony else did, and I basked in all the praise you gave me. I did nothing to earn that. I should be the one feeling guilty here.”
I smiled a little, knowing how hard it was to get any semblance of an apology out of Rainbow Dash. “Thanks. I really needed that.”
Rainbow Dash hugged me. “Well, I’ve gotta get ready to leave. My shift at the Rainbow Factory starts in an hour.” My ears flattened, she was leaving already? I couldn’t fly so if she left, I’d be stuck in the cloud house, alone, while she was gone. She wouldn’t have time to drop me off at Ponyville since that was in the opposite direction of the rainbow factory from her house so she wouldn’t make it to her shift on time. Rainbow Dash looked thoughtful. “Would you like to come with me?” she asked.
My eyes lit up in excitement, I had always wanted to see the weather factories and how they worked. “I’d love to!” I exclaimed. “But, are you allowed?”
Rainbow Dash smiled. “As long as you don’t fall into a vat of spectra, it won’t be a problem,” she chuckled. “Go downstairs and have some breakfast, I’ll wait for you in the lobby.”
I slid out of bed onto my hooves, and over the next twenty minutes ate my breakfast (a delicious dandelion and sunflower soup, much better than the cuddy, grassy slop they fed us at the orphanage), brushed my teeth (with a new toothbrush! Back at the orphanage we had to use the same brush until the bristles had worn down to a frayed mess), and combed the frizz out of my mane with a horseshoe-mounted hairbrush. Looking better than I had in months, I trotted downstairs to the lobby of the cloudhouse where Rainbow Dash was waiting, and we took to the air.
The air was pristine, the sky empty save for the two of us. I hugged Rainbow Dash’s neck, bracing myself against her back as she soared through the morning air. My wings sat tucked against my sides, instinctively begging to be unfurled and feel the wind beneath their feathers. Oh how I envied her: how she flew with the acrobatic mastery of an aerial goddess above crowds of onlookers stupefied with awe, the freedom to go anywhere she pleased unrestricted by muddy roads, rainy weather, and populated city centres. I felt honoured to fly with her.
“Say Scoots, I’ve been wondering,” Rainbow Dash said. “You’re reaching adulthood, but you still can’t fly.”
I sighed, she was bound to ask sooner or later.
“I wish I knew,” I said, ashamed. How strange that the greatest flier in all of Equestria had adopted the worst flier in the country. “The colts and fillies at the orphanage used to tease me about it all the time. They used to try plucking my feathers out, claiming that I had no use for them.”
Rainbow Dash looked back at me with wide eyes, and scowled. “Ugh, kid’s can be so cruel. Back in flight school I had to protect Fluttershy from her share of pluckings,” she hung her head. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t always be there. Did you give them the what-for?”
“I gave them a fair share of bloodied noses and broken teeth,” I said, smiling. Those were actually some of the fonder memories of my time at the orphanage, when their smug grins and jeering laughter became a mess of bloodied teeth and painful whinnies. “After awhile they left me alone, save for that one colt named Gnasher.”
“That’s my girl,” Rainbow Dash said, grinning back at me. I swelled with pride. “Anyway, I get the feeling that whatever’s stopping you from flying isn’t natural.” She mused to herself, rubbing her chin with a hoof. “It’s clear your wings aren’t broken since I’ve seen you propel yourself on your scooter with them and I don’t think it’s a weak muscle issue either.”
“Do you think that Twilight would know?” I asked.
“That’s not a bad idea,” Rainbow said. “It couldn’t hurt to ask her after work.”
Soon, looking like the gates of heaven itself, the gates of the rainbow factory loomed overhead. They were made of the finest gold, sculpted to perfection. Rainbow Dash alighted on the cloudbed, and I hopped off her back. Standing by the gates was a pair of Pegasus Royal Guards. The sight of them made me uneasy. In the past, I only saw them around the palace and areas vital to Equestria’s protection. Rainbow Dash trotted ahead of the two of us towards them, a grin on her face. I didn’t share her enthusiasm, meekly averting my gaze from their suspicious eyes.
“Hey boys,” Rainbow Dash called to them as she approached, as if they were friends. When she stopped by them, I realized that the guards were at least twice her size.
“Good morning, Miss Rainbow Dash,” one of guards said pleasantly. He looked down at me, huddled behind Rainbow Dash. He frowned in suspicion. “Who’s your friend? I don’t recognize her.”
“Oh, this is Scootaloo,” Dash explained, sidestepping out of the way. I felt my heart sink as the guards scrutinized me. “Straight from the orphanage, I adopted her just last night.”
“Oh, well, congratulations,” he said, his expression softening. He nodded to his subordinate, who promptly pulled a lever. The gates shuddered, and with a loud whirring of gears they swung aside. “Enjoy your day, miss.”
Rainbow Dash wished them a good day and trotted through the gates, myself gingerly trotting behind her. The gates slammed shut behind us, and I looked up at the awe inspiring sight of the factory.
We were standing on a cloudbed that formed a courtyard that looked so prestigious it could have been mistaken for something taken out of Canterlot’s royal gardens. Dozens of factory workers, who I guessed were on their break, were congregating around several fountains that produced not water, but a beautiful blend of a glowing chromatic liquid (which I was fighting down the temptation to taste). At the end of the courtyard was the facility, and to say it was awe inspiring would be a grave understatement. It was huge, watching over the little workers below like a benevolent giant. At the head of the structure was a large, squat building which I assumed was where the rainbow materials were gathered and stored. At the centre of this building was an ornate spire wreathed in rainbow coloured fumes billowing from the lower smokestacks.
“So, what do you think?” Rainbow Dash asked. A knowing smile was on her face.
I struggled to find the words. “It’s... beautiful,” was all I could say.
Rainbow Dash chuckled. “It has that effect on me too, sometimes. Follow me, I’ll show you around.”
We trotted through the courtyard, taking in the sights of the factory, the colourful and happy workers talking and laughing amongst themselves, and the rainbow liquid pouring from the fountains that I was fighting the temptation not to taste. Overhead, a flock of Pegasi were carrying an enormous metal container; the words “DANGER: RAW SPECTRA” were printed on it. But there was one thing I couldn’t shake from my mind.
“I was wondering, Dash. What are Royal Guards doing here?” I asked her quietly.
Rainbow Dash frowned, her expression serious. “The last few months have been rough,” she explained. “See, every Pegasus city has their own way of making rainbows and controlling the weather, Cloudsdale’s the most prosperous because we’re the best at it. Other cities would kill to discover our secrets, and the last few months we’ve had our fair share of saboteurs and thieves posing as regular workers.”
“They seemed awfully suspicious of me,” I muttered, getting the feeling that I wasn’t going to be getting the warmest reception.
“Ah, don’t worry about Brutus,” Rainbow Dash said, smiling reassuringly. “He’s just doing his job.”
Another pair of Royal Guards were standing at the end of the courtyard, before the doors leading into the facility. After going through the same awkward and suspicious introduction again, we were allowed on through.
The inside of the facility was, contrasting with its colourful outside appearance, a dull shade of grey. We were standing in a large room, around us, dozens of pegasi workers were carrying more of those containers of raw spectra into a large chute that I guessed transported them to the spire. There were conveyer belts carrying curious-looking pony-sized capsules. The only colour in the room came from its most impressive feature: seven vats, each the size of a house. Each of them was pouring a stream of colourful liquid into coagulating pools that were being stirred by pegasi workers carrying enormous oar-shaped objects. Standing atop these vats were pegasi workers, who were meticulously pouring the colourful liquid into their top.
I could imagine it would be easy to get lost in here, even with the roadmap of signs and arrows on the floor directing workers to their appropriate jobs.
“I work in the upper spire,” Rainbow Dash said, pointing a hoof to a flight of stairs. “It’s up this walkway.”
I obediently followed her up the stairs that led to a small room where the workers put on their gear before heading up into the spire. The room was crowded with the morning shift’s newly arriving employees, all putting on one of the strangest uniforms I’d seen: a full-body suit with thick boots and padding that contained thermal magic to keep them insulated. Adorning their heads was a round, reinforced glass helmet. Rainbow Dash trotted over to what must’ve been her locker and pulled out a thick pair of work clothes, one in her teeth the other in her hoof.
“Here, put this on,” she said through the uniform in her mouth. “Spectra combusts at high temperatures, so we keep the spire ice cold.”
I slipped on the uniform and set the fishbowl like helmet over my head. The getup reminded me of one of those spacemare costumes I’ve seen a few times in science fiction novels and movies. “What’s all the protection for?” I asked her.
“Raw Spectra’s hallucinogenic,” Rainbow Dash explained, trotting towards the elevator. “One whiff and you’ll get the greatest high you can imagine.” As tempting as that was, I made sure my helmet was screwed on tight before I followed her into the lift.