Rainbow Dash wanted desperately to get into the "infected zone" somehow, to see what had become of her friends. She didn't want to just vainly hope that they were alright, or, years after this disaster was over, hopefully assume that they had died dignified deaths. She wanted to know what actually happened. She didn't care what (though them still being alive and her bringing them to safety would be nice), she just wanted to know the truth. No matter how much it hurt, it wouldn't hurt as much as never finding out what happened.
She flew into the Everfree Forest, hoping that maybe the areas around it were less heavily guarded than the rest of the perimeter.
As Rainbow walked through the thick, stout trees which blocked out almost all Sun-light, she got a bad feeling that the overall creepiness of this place was nothing compared to whatever was going on in Ponyville. Ponyville could have real horrors, true monsters. And those would be far worse than ordinary fear, or the queer aversion Rainbow Dash felt as she watched a snake slither in front of her.
She noticed a faint pink glow from in front of her, obscured by the thick brush. She was getting close to the barrier.
As she walked up to the barrier, she heard a scream. She didn't know if it had come from inside the barrier or just around a bush, or what. She became worried and her ears swiveled to find the source. She heard another frantic yell, distinctively male, coming from about twenty meters to her five o'clock. She trotted more curiously than cautiously in that direction.
She was about halfway there and had seen some rustling in the bushes in front of her when she came across a white rabbit, tail to her. It had a caricature-like, round head, had the general physique of a buck, and he had a subtle but noticable swag, or maybe it was better described as a 'tude. This looked to be Fluttershy's bunny, Angel.
"Angel?" Rainbow Dash tried.
The bunny ran away and jumped fiercely into the bush. Out burst a stallion in a quarantine suit, screaming and trying to pry the bunny off of his mask.
"Get it off, get it off, get it off!" He looked like he was fighting for his life. This confused Dash. After all, it was only a bunny.
The bunny looked straight at her. It had sunken eyes that glowed with a strange shadowy light.
Being able to see his eyes would have made it easier to identify the rabbit as Angel. But as it were, Rainbow Dash still assumed as much. This only made her jump back more.
The possessed rabbit launched itself from the hazmat's face and flew through air toward Rainbow Dash with axe-like teeth and claws like nails. Rainbow Dash did the very first thing that came to mind when problems like this arose; she frantically swung her front hoof at nothing in particular in the general direction of forward.
Her hoof connected with the bunny and it was flung to the left. It got up again quickly and ran in between Dash's legs almost as fast as she had flown to the scene. The possessed rabbit then bit her back right leg before she had a chance to respond. A sharp, cringing pain shot through her leg as she blindly kicked it about in the air in a desperate effort to buck off the creature.
Putting a bit more thought into her maneuverings even through her singing pain, she rolled sideways and dug the offending leg into the dirt, rabbit and all. The thing finally let go of her leg and she spun around, barely thinking and more doing whatever thought crossed her stream of consciousness next, and pommeled the bunny's head with her front hoof.
The rabbit just wasn't dying. It got back up and Rainbow Dash steeled herself for another sharp bout of searing pain. But the rabbit didn't do much more than hobble toward her in a disoriented daze for its next attack, and Rainbow Dash seized the opportunity. She bucked it into the dirt with her good hind leg and finished it permanently. Blood drained from the body's nose and escaped the corners of its mouth.
The hazmat, still in full protective uniform, trotted up alongside Rainbow Dash and observed her hoofwork.
There was an uncomfortable silence as the pegasus mare began walking off with a slight limp away from the magical barrier. "I guess I'll be leaving now... I guess."
"Aren't you that chick that wanted to get into the infected zone through base camp? You said you had a friend named, uh... Twilight Sprinkle, I think it was?"
"Right, right. They've told me about you. They said you really wanted to get inside. Said you were kinda loco in the coco."
She shot a glowering leer at him. "Hey, I just want to know what happened to my friends!"
"That's what we're trying to figure out."
Rainbow Dash feebly lifted up her bitten leg and said "Well, apparently you don't become a freaky zombie thingy when you get bit, so..." She wasn't sure exactly where she was going with that observation. She just felt like pointing it out to some sort of invisible audience.
"Well, you've just answered one of the questions we've been trying to figure out. But then again, you weren't bitten by a pony. There might be differences between the two."
Rainbow Dash gazed inside of the quarantined area. She saw nothing but abandoned houses, empty streets, and a stray news paper.
The G-man then said, "My friends on the force told me you talked about special permissions."
"Special permissions that I don't have so I'll be leaving now and bla-bla-bla. I know."
"You might have just saved my life. You have special permissions now."
She looked at him optimistically. "Really?"
"Yep. Unofficial special permissions, that is. Don't tell anypony."
"Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye," she said, going through the motions of her friend Pinkie Pie's "Pinkie Promise".
"... Yeah, whatever. Now come here," he said, indicating the dirt near him. Rainbow Dash walked up close to him and the hazmat summoned a mobile dome of pink energy around him. He and Dash walked seamlessly through the barrier isolating Ponyville and Canterlot from the rest of the world. Once they were through, he put down his shield and backstepped, motioning Rainbow Dash to go do as she pleased. "Are you sure this is what you want to do?"
"Whatever floats your boat, pal. Now don't go dying on me. I'd be bucking myself for years if that happened."
"Me? Die? 'Cause of a bunch of stupid zombies? Hay no," she said confidently - or maybe it was arrogantly - as she burst into the air.
The hazmat threw up a shield again and walked to the safe side of the barrier.
"Why the hay would you do that?!" Twilight shouted as she and Pinkie Pie ran away from a crazed horde of the possessed.
The two vagabond survivors turned a corner and tried to get wind in their lungs again. Twilight nudged her spiky mane out of her eye and Pinkie adjusted her black jumpsuit.
Pinkie tried to defend herself by saying, "I needed to get a clear shot at them!"
Twilight turned to Pinkie from looking around the corner. "So you shouted 'who wants some of this' while shaking your plot?!"
"I needed to get their attention so I could get at a good angle!"
"Well, you got their attention alright! Thanks a bunch for going into gung-ho mode and getting thirty of those buckers on our tails!"
"You're one to talk!"
Twilight stared at her companion dourly. "That was cold."
A possessed one turned its head around the corner to growl for no reason at Twilight and Pinkie. "Ugh, horseapples," Twilight swore through clenched teeth as she bucked it in the face.
Pinkie suddenly got a look of unprovoked surprise on her face as she exclaimed, "Twi, I have an idea! We need to find a small alleyway to hole up in!"
"Are you trying to get us killed?!" Twilight said as another of the possessed beasts revealed its head and made a horrid growling noise. "SHUT UP!" she shouted without missing a beat as she throttled it impatiently with her crowbar.
"Trust me, I read it in a book once! Come on!" she shouted triumphantly as she galloped off to find a narrow back alley to serve her needs.
"Pinkie, what have I told you about splitting up?!" Twilight yelled as she galloped after her hyper pink friend.
Twilight found Pinkie Pie in a small alleyway, perfect for her plan. "Get out of there! You'll be trapped!" she shouted to no avail.
Pinkie put a reversal on Twilight's words. "Get in here! You'll be eaten!"
Twilight grabbed Pinkie by the forehooves with her magic and began to drag her out of the alley when she felt something tug at her tail. The unlucky offender got a muzzle full of Twilight hoof and was launched back. The possessed one had managed to break Twilight's concentration and she let go of Pinkie, who backstepped down the alley as the not-zombies crowded together into a sea of glowing black eyes, refusing Twilight any chance of escape. With a furious screech and a stomp of her hoof, and just a bit of deathly panic, Twilight galloped into the alley with Pinkie.
The possessed phalanx began slowly moving down the alley. Twilight said, "If we die here, I'm going to kill you."
Now that they were right where she wanted them, Pinkie elaborated. "This alley is narrow, right? That means only a few of them can try to eat our brains at once. We can just go 'no thanks, man' and pick them off one by one, and after a while we'll have killed the whole crowd! It really depends on how fast we can reload. Bet I can get more head shots than you!" Pinkie exclaimed cheerfully as she picked up a rifle in her teeth and aimed at the first possessed one.
Twilight had to admit, it was a pretty solid plan. But she would have none of it. "Nuh-uh, we're not stealing stuff from another story!" She lowered her head and her horn began to glow.
Pinkie fired the first shot. A massive discharge of bright light blotted out the alleyway and the entire army of the possessed flew back and were strewn about the street. "Did I do that?"
"No," Twilight said smugly as obligatory smoke wafted from her horn. She trotted confidently to the street, now littered with incapacitated monsters.
A popping sound cracked through the air as a whizzing bullet flew by Twilight's head. She looked at the direction of the bullet's trajectory and saw a squad of police officers. They had sunken eyes. They were possessed.
Twilight looked in the other direction and saw an arrow-shaped sign at the end of the street, not too far from Sugar Cube Corner. She couldn't read the words on it, but she remembered what it said. "DON'T GO THIS WAY".
Twilight galloped behind a dumpster and checked the ammo in her pistol. Pinkie Pie shot at the possessed police at the end of the tightly packed dirt street from her vantage point around the corner of the alleyway.
"How incredibly inconvenient," Twilight said to nopony in particular.
The fire fight had lasted sixty action-packed seconds. There were now three demon police left. They were shuffling down the street to get better shots at the purple unicorn and the pink earth pony. Twilight was on the horizon (the time of day, not the protagonist).
The protagonist Twilight reloaded her pistol for the fifty-kazillionth time as she intended to put another bullet through the battered form of this one not-zombie that just would not freaking die.
She managed to get a shot right between the eyes of one possessed creature and it fell down for the last time.
Pinkie had run out of ammo some while ago and had galloped to Twilight's position behind the dumpster. Twilight turned her head to round the corner of the metal barricade and pointed her gun at the nearest possessed one.
BLAM BLAM click click
The first bullet missed, and the second one dug into the right forehoof of the offending possessed one. It raised its weapon with its unicorn magic, turned a sickly gray by the disaster that had blasted Ponyville into a bleak, empty waste a little over twenty-four hours ago.
"More ammo," Twilight ordered of Pinkie for the umpteenth time.
"We're all out of ammo," Pinkie reported grimly.
Twilight made a peeved tsk. "Well, horseapples." She turned behind the cover of the dumpster and tried plotting their evasive maneuver, which presently consisted of "run".
She heard a thumping sound and the fluttering of wings. She turned to look at the scene and was greeted by the lifeless body of one of the not-zombies landing a meter in front of her with a solid whump.
Twilight beamed at the site before her. "I can't believe you're alive, too! Oh, this has been such a great day! Well, not counting the fact that I woke up and found out that Ponyville is now a complete sack of schnitzel and at least one of my best friends is dead. But... but you're alive!"
"Yep! No way am I gonna let some dumb zombie things stop me from finding my friends!" Rainbow Dash then furrowed her brow and added, "Wait, what was that about somepony dying?"
Twilight's smile faded. She fixed her gaze on the grass at her hooves. "Rarity. I found her body in the Boutique."
Rainbow couldn't think of anything to add. "Oh."
Twilight got back to the questions in her head. "So, how did you survive? Is Cloudsdale unaffected or something?"
"Actually, the only places that are like this are Ponyville and Canterlot."
"What? You mean everything outside of the Ponyville/Canterlot zone is okay?" Twilight said, relieved.
"Yep. Cloudsdale is alright, Appleoosa is alright, Fillydelphia's alright. I was in Baltimare when the news first said that all of this had happened."
"If we're the only place that's been possessed, then how come the whole sky is pink?"
Rainbow Dash looked up to find that her coat no longer matched the color of the sky. She was confused at first, but then remembered. "Oh, that. The Hazmat Force threw up a giant shield over the infected zone."
"You mean they just threw up this great big magical shield and trapped everypony inside?" Twilight said, not happy with the news.
"Well, they put it up at first because they wanted to stop the black fog stuff from going anywhere else. Now they're keeping it up to keep everything contained. They're inspecting everything and seeing if it's okay to repopulate the area. They're taking all of the uninfected--"
"Unpossessed," Twilight clarified, with that correction realizing that the officials didn't fully understand what had happened. She got the idea of finding some hazmats and telling them that this plague was supernatural and not biological, but she figured that would just be a hindrance in their quest to get to Canterlot and undo the whole thing in the first place.
"Long story short, I blew up Cerberus and his magic guts went everywhere."
"Oh. Well, anyway, the hazmats are finding all of the unpossessed ponies that they can and bringing them outside of the zone. All of the infec-- all of the possessed ones are kept inside and I guess they're just gonna wait 'til they all starve to death."
Now that Twilight was a bit more enlightened on the matter, she let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. With a heavy sigh, she said, "That's better than just dropping the shield and letting everypony run, I guess. How many ponies have they rescued so far?"
"Umm... like, about three."
Twilight quickly gasped. "Were any of them our friends?"
"Oh..." Twilight looked toward the ground and kept walking.
"Everypony in Ponyville is my friend!" Pinkie Pie chimed in. "Three friends of mine saved is better than none!"
"Yep," said Rainbow Dash unenthusiastically.
"Dash, there's something I should explain to you," said Twilight. She proceeded to explain her ultimate plan to Rainbow Dash. To get to Canterlot. To prevent her past self from going into gung-ho hero mode. To prevent this whole thing from ever happening. To make things right again.
The Sun had fallen ten minutes ago and it was getting quite dark. Twilight saw an abandoned house and called her two surviving friends into its main room. They went up a flight of stairs to a bed room with two bunk beds. "Everypony is going to sleep in one room for obvious reasons," Twilight said.
"Ooh, it's gonna be like a slumber party!" shouted Pinkie. "Yay, slumber party!"
"No, Pinkie, no slumber party. We need rest, not partying. Besides, romping around in our room with the lights on will attract attention."
"Who said the lights need to be on?"
"Uh..." said the gutter-minded blue pegasus.
"Pinkie, I'm sorry, but we need to get a good night's rest without calling attention to ourselves. That means no sniping monsters in the middle of the night."
"Aww, man! I was hoping we could see who could shoot the most zombies!"
"No. We sleep. We work our way to Canterlot in the day. We repeat as necessary. We can party when this is all over. We'll party like we've never partied before when we're all out of here. But for now, we have to focus on surviving and getting to Canterlot to reverse all of this. Okay?"
"Fine..." Pinkie said, deflated.
Twilight closed the door and locked it. The three of them shimmied into their own beds.
"G'night, guys," said Rainbow Dash.
"Good night, everypony," said Twilight.
"Don't let the possessed demon spawn bite!"
"Pinkie, you seem to have acquired a darker sense of humor in the past twenty-four hours."
"No, I just have a funny sense of humor." She reservedly giggled at her own joke.
Twilight turned off all the lights and hoped her first proper rest since the fog had consumed Ponyville would be a halfway bearable one.