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“On three... one, two, three!” Grunting, Scootaloo pulled with all her might, even flapping her wings to add strength. “Come on, only a few more...” said Wrenches as she too forced crazily, the mare’s horn glowing brightly as she shoved upwards from below the tank.
With another strangled grunt Scootaloo forced the fuel tank up. Inch by slow inch it rose, until, finally, the two mares succeeded in pulling it out of the Expedite’s engine casing. The heavy orange tank tipped over the edge and fell to the ground below. It landed on the metallic floor with a loud bang. “Well, that was easy...” panted Scootaloo as she wiped her forehead.
“Yeah, easy,” responded Wrenches as the blue unicorn began levitating her tools back to their respective places. “I can’t believe that your fuel tank was made of brass.... Brass, really? The hay were you thinking?”
Scootaloo flew off the side of the Expedite, landing with a gentle thump on the grated metal floor of the Furtif’s hangar. Trotting over to the discarded fuel tank, Scootaloo tapped it with a forehoof. “Brass is harder than copper. Figured it would armour the tank a bit more than a copper one; wouldn’t want a stray bullet hitting a highly explosive fuel tank right behind the pilot’s seat,” she said defensively.
“Yeah, maybe... It’ll also double the weight of the damn thing. Really, who talked you into this?”
Scootaloo’s brow furrowed in indignation. “Nopony did! I just knew that brass is one of the few strong metals that won’t interfere with the Sparkle Generator... So what if it’s a bit heavier.”
“Fine by me. Your ship, your problem!” The unicorn mare floated up an identical tank, only this one had a much lighter bronze sheen to it. “This one is a bit lighter, bit softer though. you’ll have to be careful not to overheat the engine too much. Melted copper is a bitch to clean up, ‘specially when half the ship blows up along with it.” The mare smiled innocently to Scootaloo. “Pass me that ratchet,” she deadpanned.
Scootaloo huffed before looking at the rest of the hangar to the Expedite's left. It was mostly empty except for three large, tarped over forms. “It’s not under those tarps!” said Wrenches. Scootaloo looked at the mare who had somehow read her mind, seeing that she was halfway in the Expedite’s motor housing, only her flank sticking out.
With a sigh. she trotted around the Expedite, intent upon avoiding the piles of spare parts and the random assortment of tools, to reach one of the many boxes that were laying around the cavernous garage. “I really appreciate the help... not that I can’t handle it myself... it’s just that Apple Bloom used to take care of that sorta thing...” Scootaloo glided up and landed on one of her ship’s small wings, hoofing the ratchet over to Wrenches.
Wrenches patted Scootaloo’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get some news from them soon. Now, help me pop the headers off the engine; cylinders are all seized up.” The mare swiped a hoof along the edge of the Expedite’s engine block, coming up with a thick swab of rainbow-hued goop. “Literally... didn’t anypony tell you to be careful with this stuff?”
“Yeah, Apple Bloom sorta did... often.” Scootaloo turned away from the mare, “so, what do you guys do on here,” she spun her hoof in a circle, indicating the entirety of the ship. “for fun. I mean.”
Wrenches giggled inside the housing. Her laughter was muffled by the metal housing and sounded as if it were emanating from the insides of a tin can “Well, I fix things. That’s enjoyable in its own way. The capt’n tries to keep us outta trouble while making trouble for others but causes even more trouble himself. Kami Kaze... well, lets just say that I spend most of my time fixing his stupid mistakes. Not much to do on here. Hey!” she exclaimed suddenly, pulling her head out of the engine’s side. “Can I change your guns?”
Scootaloo shook her head at the sudden change in subject. “Change my wha?”
Wrenches sighed then pointed at the two long cannons that protruded out of the Expedite’s front. “Your guns. Can I change them?”
“Why would you want to change them, they're perfectly fine the way they are!”
Wrenches scoffed. “Common, I’ve got a few arcano cannons from Kami’s... last few ships. I’m sure I could fit them on here in a jiffy.”
“Last few ships? And why the sudden urge to mess with Expedite?” asked Scootaloo.
“He goes through a lot. And the capt’n told me that you were part of the crew.That, and I needed to make sure you didn’t crash yourself dead like the others. Oh, and I just noticed a really nice addition under your ship. You have a class six arcano battery under there. The hay you get one of those anyway? They’re reserved for special Imperial ships only. Even the Furtif only has a dozen class five’s. And goddess knows Arnaquer put only the best in his bab--” Scootaloo motioned Wrenches to shut up.
“One at a time alright. I got the ship from my old mentor... well I guess she was my idol? Anywho! It had plenty of weird things in it. I mean, she was really addicted to speed. Best flier I ever met too. Ever since she gave it to me I’ve been fixing it up, adding parts here and there to replace the older and weaker ones.” Scootaloo petted the ship's hull as she beamed proudly at Wrenches.
“Right, then why didn’t you replace those old cannons.”
Scootaloo hesitated. “Er... well, I sorta like the feel of them when I fire...”
Wrenches rolled her eyes then playfully shoved Scootaloo off the side of Expedite. “Go on, get outta here. I’ll rif this baby up so hard that next time you pull the trigger you won’t have ears!”
Scootaloo glided to the ground, then turned to stare up at the busy mare. “What? What should I do? I don’t exactly have a job on here...”
Wrenches’ grease covered face appeared over Expedite’s wing. “Find Kami, I’m sure he’ll find something useless for you to do.” Her face disappeared only to pop up again a few seconds later. “Oh, and if, when you find him, he isn’t steering the ship could you politely bash his head in? Don’t worry, just use something hard and sharp, that way you won't hurt yourself.” Wrenches flashed Scootaloo a winning smile before disappearing for good.
“Alright then,” said Scootaloo, before turning away from Wrenches and her ship and beginning to trot away. “Off to... somewhere.”
The orange mare looked around. She spotted the thick metallic door that led from the hangar to the rest of the ship, and walked to it, head held high at the prospect of some peace and quiet. Opening the door, Scootaloo found herself in a long narrow corridor, dotted every few meters by pulsating light bulbs. They shone brightly against the sky-blue walls.
Scootaloo passed the doorway and walked into the corridor. In the past few days she had spent on the ship it had become familiar. Scootaloo aimlessly chose a direction and started marching, her hooves lightly tapping on the grated floor. The sound ringing throughout the narrow passageway. “Hi Scoot!”
Scootaloo bounced upwards. Her head smacking against the ceiling as she tried to take flight. She landed with a thump. The shook her head and looked around, clutching her chest and beating heart with a forehoof. “What the hay!?” She turned around to be greeted by Kami Kazes' grinning face.
“Sorry Scootaloo, didn’t mean to scare ya.” Kami Kaze smiled gently at her and helped her up with his mechanical limb.
“Yeah, right.” she huffed. “Isn’t that thing supposed to be noisy?” Scootaloo pointed at the gear-filled brass limb.
Kami Kaze looked at his artificial forelimb in surprise. “Oh, this old thing? It can be quiet when I want it to, very well made. You wouldn’t believe the amount of near-fatal accidents this thing has survived!”
“Un huh.” Scootaloo leaned in and inspected the device. “Where'd you get it?”
Kami Kaze blushed as he lifted his forelimb for her inspection. “Got it when I lost my real leg. I crashed a ship while my mom and dad were trying to teach me how to pilot. Got my cutie mark that day. He glanced at the mushroom cloud symbol that adorned his flank and smiled childishly. “They were so proud!”
“Proud?” Scootaloo began to walk again as Kami Kaze followed at her side.
“Yeah, my mom’s name was Banzai and my dad was called Seppuku. They were some of the best mecha pilots that ever lived, or died, on the line of duty!”
Scootaloo looked at the proud stallion skeptically. “So you’re from an Imperial family?”
“Hmm? Oh no, they died well before the Empire was formed. They piloted mechanized robots; that was before warships and planes ruled the war. They taught me to pilot the same mechs as them. Then I moved on to planes. I really liked flying...” He looked up wistfully, a small smile plastered on his lips. “So... why do you love flying?”
Scootaloo turned and looked at him suddenly, her hair swishing around as she faced him. “What?”
“Why do you love flying. It’s no secret that you do. I’ve seen the look on your face when I was in your ship, pure fear and jealousy. You love that plane. You’re also always wearing that vest... a pilot’s vest might I add...”
“Yeah, I guess I do love flying. I am a pegasus. We all do... well, most of us.” A silence stretched over them, their hoof beats struck the metal floor in time with each other, the sound only broken by the occasional hiss of a mechanical hoof. Every few meters Kami Kaze would lead them down another corridor or part of the ship. Suddenly Scootaloo started talking again.
“My idol, when I was a filly, was an awesome flyer. When the war began, she and her friends played a super important part in it. She really pushed the creation of planes and the likes, combining the thing she was best at, and the war effort. She really wanted everypony to taste flight... Meanwhile, I was rubbish at flying.” Kami Kaze looked at her and arched an eyebrow. “It’s true, I was a horrible flyer. Stubby wings and all.” she swished her now full grown wings, sending a small draft down the corridor. “Then she took some time to teach me." She trailed off, staring at her hooves. "How was it having parents?" Scootaloo asked suddenly, looking up at him.
Kami Kaze hesitated at the unexpected question, his head low in thought before he answered. “It was great; while it lasted. Then they died and it was horrible... at least you had friends, and a mentor; I was lost until Arnaquer found me.”
“Yeah, I had friends...” Scootaloo felt a cold brass hoof on her shoulder. Turning, she looked into Kami Kaze’s bright eyes.
“You know, we could always be friends, or, more than friends.” Suddenly his ears dropped and his eyes widened. “That’s not what I meant. I swear!” The yellow pony turned a bright red.
“You remind me a bit of Pipsqueak.” she tapped him on the shoulder playfully. “Don’t worry, I’d be happy to be your friend...”
He beamed. “Really?! Great, I never really had friends before.... well, Wrenches and Arny don’t count.”
“Arny?” she deadpanned. A small smile crept along her muzzle.
“Arnaquer sounds so pretentious... not that he isn’t.”
“Where is he anyway?”
“Hmm, oh! He’s in the radio room. Damned nice machine; can hack into just about every network in Equestria with it. He uses it to talk to his... customers.”
“That good huh? Do you think I could use it to... you know, maybe intercept the Imperial database? Try to find out where Sweetie Belle is, and whether or not Apple Bloom is alright?” Scootaloo smiled in turn at the prospect of learning of her friend’s fate.
“Well, we’re really not supposed--” Scootaloo batted her eyelashes and gently bit on her lower lip in a saucy manner. “But I guess it would be alright,” he improvised quickly. Kami Kaze gulped.
“Thanks Kami!” Scootaloo wrapped a wing around his back, pulling him into a quick hug before releasing the distraught stallion. “I really appreciate it!” The mare ran forward, a mischievous, poorly concealed grin on her face until she reached the edge of the next corner. Turning, she looked at him, placing a hoof on the back of her head as she did so. “So, um, which way is it?”
Sighing, Kami Kaze ran forwards and pointed the way, murmuring something about bad influences under his breath as he did so. The pair trotted down one pristinely clean corridor after another, Scootaloo aimlessly reading the signs over the doors they passed. From bathroom number three, aux-Sparke-Gen Two, bunks, until they finally reached a door labeled ‘Main Comm Room’.
“Here it is,” said Kami Kaze, suddenly eager to be in the tight quarters with her. “Maybe I should go in with you, you know, to help you with the complicated dia-”
A voice from the room interrupted him. “Oui, Oui. j’ai compris. Mais pourquoi?”
Scootaloo leaned up against the door, pressing her ear against it. “Um, I don’t think we shoul-” Scootaloo plugged her hoof into his mouth, shushing him.
“I don’t know Arnaquer,” said another, this one very much female, regal with a Canterlot’s elitist accent.. “My first reports were just before the actual unveiling. I still haven’t gotten much on what it’s like on the inside. We need more information than this. The only thing accounted for is the cannon, and even Pinkie doesn’t know how they got it in their hooves. Goddess know how they got that thing flying.” the voice huffed haughtily.
“Actually,” said yet another voice, this one calm and composed, sounding much like a teacher would. “I do know where that engine is from.”
“S'il vous plait, expliquer,” said Arnaquer.
Slowly, Scootaloo shifted her weight against the door. Grasping the handle with a hoof, she twisted it until she heard the light clicking that accompanied the latch releasing. She opened the door until a tiny sliver of light crawled across her face. Inside Scootaloo could make out the form of a hunched over unicorn facing three glowing squares.
The calm voice sighed. “It’s a Sparkle Generator. A very, very powerful Sparkle Generator.”
“Oh please darling, we knew that much. Something that big couldn’t keep to the air without a few dozen... but you said ‘a’ Sparkle Generator. Do you mean to say that there is only one?” the haughty voice replied.
“En effect, that there only is one, it must be a newer more powerful model, non?” The hunched over form straightened its back as it spoke. Scootaloo marked him as Arnaquer.
“No, it’s the opposite. It’s one of the original Generators,” began the calm voice again. This time Scootaloo inched her head forwards just a little, peeking at a lavender blob on the screen before it faded away.
“When I built the first Sparkle unit it was intended to draw power from a unicorn's magic. The problem is that most unicorns don’t have enough raw power to keep it going for hours on end. Imagine the amount of ponies you’d need to keep even a simple ship going for months, days even? On a tight rotation you’d need a few dozen capable unicorn. And so we created generators. They convert fuel into a quasi-magic like substance. That way you can run the Sparkle unit without a unicorn around at all times.”
“I see, so are they using one of those old Generators on the Sol Scorcher?”
“I... I think so,” she said uncertain. “That odd way it pulses through... I don’t think it’s being powered by unicorns.”
“Mais la, you contradict yourself....” said Arnaquer.
“No, not quite. From the few reports I got from my agents, as well as Rarity’s, there aren’t enough unicorns on board, let alone ones with enough talent. I think they are using a new fuel. Something immensely powerful, but those bursts. Judging from the reading I got off their radiation, there are unicorns regulating it. They are dampening the bursts. That fuel source, whatever it is, is so powerful that it is giving off a constant stream of energy. The unicorns on board are serving as dampeners.”
Scootaloo pushed the door open another inch, wincing as it creaked slightly.
The haughty voice spoke again, “Goddess, what could possibly be so powerful”
“Je pense que tu l’as deja dit.”
“Yes, maybe, however unlikely it may be... Arnaquer?” This time the calm voice was filled with worry. Behind her movement could be heard, like that of a very powerful engine starting up. Scootaloo strained to concentrate on both what was being said and what was happening in the foreground.
“I have to cancel that order. The Imperials are getting ready for something, I don’t know what it is; but it’s big. Half my informants have disappeared, and suddenly my stocks of engines are missing. Even my best customers seem to be getting ready for something...”
“Indeed,” added the haughty voice. “I received an order recently, from the Empire of course. Uniforms. And yes, I know I’ve received plenty of orders in the past. But the sheer quantity they want, it’s staggering!” A glass clinked, then sipping was heard. “Quite distressing.”
Arnaquer seemed to consider something for a while. Then he turned to the screen with the lavender blob. “I have... two questions. First, what do I do with the... possessions I have?”
The blob nodded. “Bring them to Cloudsdale; Rainbow will take care of them.” Scootaloo’s ears perked up and she smiled. She was going to meet Rainbow Dash! “What’s your second question, Arnaquer?”
“What should I do about the two idiots that have been listening in on us since the beginning?” With a quick glow of magic the door was wrenched open, sending Scootaloo and Kami Kaze tumbling into the room in a mess of organic and mechanical limbs.
“Umph.” Scootaloo’s lungs were crushed by Kami Kaze’s weight. Slowly, the orange mare look up and into the three disapproving faces that stared down at her. “Hi... guys... how are you doing?” She smiled unconvincingly.
“Is that... Scootaloo?” asked the haughty voice. Scootaloo turned to the screen that spoke to see the surprised face of Rarity staring down at her.
“Vous la connesaier?” asked Arnaquer, turning to look at the monitors with a raised eyebrow.
“Yes, we know her.” said Twilight Sparkle with an exasperated sigh. “Hello Scootaloo.” Twilight’s image on the screen turned to face Arnaquer. “What is she doing there?”
Arnaquer stared at Scootaloo. “I picked her up after she lost her companions to the Imperi-”
“What!?” interrupted Rarity. Her face changed to one of concern as she alternated between looking at Arnaquer and at Scootaloo. “What happened to your friends?”
Scootaloo’s face lit up with sudden realization. Rarity could save Sweetie Belle! Charging forward into the dimly lit room, Scootaloo grasped both sides of the screen, making Rarity back away in surprise. “Listen to me, Sweetie Belle was taken by the Imperials. The ship was called Conformity. You need to help her. I don't know what happened to Apple Bloom. You need to tell Applejack!”
“Oh no, not Sweetie Belle! She always loved helping me around the shop...” said Twilight, a look of genuine sadness crossed her face before being replaced by anger. “The Imps knew. That’s why they are moving like they are... They must think that Sweetie Belle will be a good hos-”
Suddenly a loud alarm went off in the ship, a piercing whine that made all those in the room, as well as those listening in, cringe. “What’s that?” asked Scootaloo turning to Arnaquer.
“Guys, we’ve got an incoming Imperial fighters. Bearing north north-east!” screamed the distorted voice of Wrenches through the ship's PA.
Aldecry nodded then turned to the two screens. “I am sorry ladies, we will have to continue our conversation at a later date.”
The crowd roared as one when the four blurs streaked by them, elating young and old alike in their magnificent display of skill and talent. Even Blueblood couldn’t suppress his childish, almost immature smile as the pegasi below raced around in a wide circle. The fact that he was seated in one of the best locations in the stadium and that everypony in the flying auditorium had to pay their respects to him just added to his joy.
The six colourful boxes that faced his from across the arena insulted him in a silent fashion. Only one had anypony in it. The yellow and pink, butterfly decorated box was filled with sick and dying foals. The fact that they shared a view as good as his own irked him, but he put it aside, best to enjoy this while he could.
Blueblood’s eyes followed the lead racer, Imperial Decree, as he took the last turn before the finish line, trailing golden smoke from the harness as his goggles were squashed against his face by the turbulance. Behind Imperial Decree was the fan favorite. A rainbow streak punctured the golden smoke in a fury of wingbeats, catching up to the larger male as the two racers began to fight for the lead.
Blueblood clutched the ticket that he held in his hoof. The sum he had placed on Imperial Decree was paltry, and yet he urged the racer that bore his marks forward, willing him to, at the very least, defeat the rainbow-maned pegasi.
He knew that his racer didn’t stand a chance from the very beginning: Rainbow Dash was, after all, the fastest flier in Equestira, hooves down. But the idiotic mare had stopped to sign some autographs, losing her some precious time where Imperial Decree had rocketed forward, nabbing the first spot and a considerable head start at once.
Blueblood leaned forward, his eyes fixated, not on the racers, but on the floating black finishing line that was oddly contrasted against the cloudy skies below the enormous, round, airship stadium. Two streaks blurred past the line, one gold one multihued.
Twisting his head, Blueblood looked at the giant scoreboard tied to a small blimp in the centre of the arena. The crowd held its collective breath as the image slowly appeared. Two forms were on the screen. One the black and gold Imperial Decree, and the other the cyan form of Miss Dash. The cyan hoof was just one tenth of an inch ahead of the black one.
The crowd erupted in cheer as their favorite won once more. Blueblood watched as the thousands of ponies that made up the tightly-packed crowd rose as one, screaming and hollering their love and adoration of the rainbow-maned pegasus. Rainbow Dash flew around the circle once more, spinning around and hooting along with the crowd, a big smile plastered on her face just beneath her goggles. At times she would dip into the crowd and hoof-bump enthusiastic fans. Then the mare shot upwards as hundreds of sparkler and firework launchers lit up the sky with multi-colored explosions and bright flashing lights.
Blueblood fumed. They loved her, genuinely loved her, while he stood here, alone in a gilded box, forced to look at his own defeat and be courteous about it. Just as he prepared himself to stalk out he felt and heard a presence at his side.
Turning, he saw the shape of a unicorn mare wearing the elegant armour of the royal guard appear. “My liege, a letter from one ‘lord Chronos’,” the mare said as she bowed, two letters floating at her side.
Blueblood huffed impatiently; he wanted out of here. Shaking his head, he thought better of it: Bunnyhelm always looked out for him, best to pay attention. “Read it,” he said as he trotted over to the well-stocked bar at the corner of the box and began to pour himself a drink.
The mare coughed once then began:
“My dear friend and Emperor Blueblood,
For many years I have watched as you shook in fear of a certain six mares.” The mare gulped as the Emperor glared at her, but she read on.
“Don’t deny your fear, for I too share it with you. For a long time I have searched for evidence, neigh, proof, of their treachery. My Emperor and friend, I daresay I have found it. Enclosed is a copy of a letter sent between two of these mares, and within you will find proof of not only their treachery, but of their will to... do away with you. Preparations have been made, act as you will it.
Your faithful subject: Bunnyhelm Chronos.”
The mare finished and gently closed the letter with her magic.
Blueblood looked at the letter that hovered in the mare’s magic. What could possibly... with a shaking hoof he pointed at the letter, “Read it,” he ordered.
The mare looked at the letter then shook her head. “My Emperor, it indicates that it is for your eyes only, my clearance does no-” Blueblood cut her off as he ripped the letter from her magical grasp with magic of his own.
Quickly, he tore it open and read it, a wicked yet worried smile spreading across his lips as his eye scrolled down the page. “Make sure the Sol Scorcher is at battlestations alpha. Evacuate all military personnel and noble ponies from this filthy arena and make sure that my transport is ready!”
With a nod, the royal guard mare blinked out of the room, teleporting away to do his bidding. Still wearing his wicked smile, Blueblood trotted over to the room’s unique door and into the hallway beyond, where dozens of guards lined the corridor. To his surprise, a cyan pegasus stood at one end of the corridor, grinning at him.
“Hiya Emperor,” she said his title in a voice filled with sarcasm and venom. "I wanted to congratulate you, that pegasus of yours was almost able to make me sweat out there!”
“Oh, I am certain I can make you sweat, Rainbow Dash,” he said with an even greater amount of venom. Doubt flashed across the mare’s face. Blueblood addressed his guards. “Ponies, capture that mare, alive or dead...”
Rainbow Dash had spent the greater part of her life training to be fast; this wasn’t lost on the first three royal guards that she knocked out with quick bursts from her hooves. In a flurry of movement, the mare ducked below the swing of one large earth pony, dug her hooves into the thick carpet and pushed herself away, beating her wings frantically as she made her escape.
“Orders, my liege?” asked one of the guards.
Blueblood scoffed. “If she makes it out of the arena, chase her down... Use the Vanquishers,” he said, enjoying the irony. “Now get me off of this dump!”
Rainbow Dash weaved between the supports and brackets that made up the skyport surrounding her arena. Hundreds of airships, from buses to private transports, were stuffed on thin long ramps that connected to the Spectrum Skies Flying Arena of Awesome. Behind her, two gun-wielding Imperial pegasi flew, the fuming rocket packs on their back giving them the needed propulsion to keep up with the fast mare.
She would have enjoyed it, the rush of wind, the uncertainty of what would lay around the next curve or strut. The bullets pinging against the hulls of nearby ships. Even the sound of a thousand Sparkle Generators humming while they spewed dark smoke into the air. But the thought that Blueblood had finally snapped worried her. He had done it, he had ordered her death. And he could do it. From the corner of her eye she spotted the enormous looming form of the Sol Scorcher, hovering idly a few kilometers from the arena that the Emperor attended. She had to get out of here, she had to warn her friends.
Swooping around one particularly large airship, this one with the butterfly emblem of Empathy Medical on its side, Rainbow Dash came face to face with half a dozen gun-toting pegasi, all of whom smiled viciously and aimed at her.
Without thought she blasted forward, slamming into the first, and nearest, one. Five shots were fired, ringing and echoing off the ships around them. Rainbow Dash felt blood splatter against her coat as the pegasi she fought with went limp. Looking into his blue eyes she saw the life fading from him as blood poured freely from the entry wound on his chest.
She stalled there, hovering silently as the pony she had been fighting with moments before bled out in her hooves. The sounds of cannons reloading kicked her back into action. Stealing his still un-fired weapon with a quick swipe of her hoof, Rainbow Dash let the body fall as she took off once more, this time the bullets missed her by a long shot as the mare flew as quickly as she could away from the stadium.
Rainbow Dash closed her eyes and flew, weaving and bobbing, but trying her best to keep to her path despite the oppressive weight of the gun in her muzzle. Soon she opened her eyes once more and glanced behind her. She was alone, the forms of the Imperial soldiers were but little specks in her goggles as they too bobbed up and down in a vain attempt to catch her. Rainbow Dash almost smiled to herself. The blood that stained her cyan coat quickly quelled her cheery mood.
For a moment the mare hovered where she was, contemplating her choices and what she should do. Her thoughts were cut short by a loud, and quickly approaching hum. Turning around, Rainbow Dash looked up in horror at the three sleek fighter planes painted with the typical Imperial insignia on their sides. More disturbing were the cannons that jutted out from the fore of the fighter ships.
With a sharp, whistle-like sound the planes fired. Pale green beams of energy sprayed out from the ships mounted cannons, hurtling towards the hovering mare. On instinct she folded her wings and dove, narrowly avoiding the searing beams. “Assholes!” she yelled at them as she began to maneuver out of their way. The three Vanquishers blasted past her, forcing her to beat her wings furiously, lest she be injured by the strong drafts created by their passing.
Rainbow Dash hurriedly reversed direction, desperately trying to gain altitude as the planes circled around for another pass. “Come on! Leave me alone,” she begged. The irony of the Imperials using planes she designed to try and kill her was not lost on her as they circled around towards her, firing again and again, illuminating the cloudy sky with green flashes and loud zaps.
Twisting around, she froze in midair as her entire body flipped head over hooves to face the ground, executing a perfect stall turn as the quickly approaching Vanquisher’s fired at her continuously, their beams getting closer and closer after each shot. Rainbow Dash felt a hot, searing pain against her flank as one of the beams grazed her. “Oh, you want a fight?! You’ll get one!” She swore as the three aircraft blazed past her, hitting her once more with a powerful gust of wind.
The three planes curved upwards, slowly maneuvering to once again point at the diving mare. She Beat her wings as quickly as she could before tucking them into her sides, forming an almost perfect aerodynamic shape, were it not for the heavy gun on her back. Rainbow Dash flew towards the ground far below, steadily gaining speed until a small cone of wind pressure formed ahead of her. Soon she heard the buzzing of the three right on her tail as they tried to follow her quick descent. At that moment, she unfurled her wings, cringing as the sudden air pressure threatened to tear her tendons and muscles from the bone. The sudden deceleration took the pilots by surprise.
The arrowhead formation of the Imperial fighters broke up, as each went in one direction, intent on regrouping and chasing her down once more. She wasn’t going to let them get away with it again. Hovering on the spot she lifted the heavy gun, pressing it against her shoulder and waited. Twisting her head from side to side, Rainbow Dash picked out one of the planes, the first of the three to turn and face her.
As the plane adjusted her in its sights, she too readied her weapon. Aiming down the long barrel of the gun, she placed the crosshairs right in front of the cockpit and waited. The Vanquisher fired. Bolt after burning bolt blasted past her as she breathed calmly, in and out, patiently waiting for the right moment. “May Luna’s will, guide my strike,” she whispered.
The moment arrived.
With a twitch, the mare’s hoof pulled on the trigger. The weapon discharged criving the stock into her shoulder painfully as it recoiled. The bullet arched forward, slowly, peacefully, spinning through the air before piercing through the Vanquisher’s glass cabin and wedging itself in between the wide eyes of its pilot.
The plane shook as the dead pilot’s body rammed haphazardly against the controls, spewing blood on every surface within the plane. Not waiting to give the two other pursuers a chance at her, Rainbow Dash dropped the heavy gun with contempt and disgust before diving towards the falling vehicle. Matching its speed and calculating its twisting trajectory, she pulled up alongside the craft and, with a few loud grunts, ripped open the cabin.
Pulling herself into the aircraft, she gave the now dead pilot a quick ‘I’m sorry’ before detaching him and throwing his body out of the plane. Strapping herself in, she looked over the bloodstained controls with a quick, experienced eye.
Pulling back on the yoke, the mare twisted her head from left to right. She spotted the two other planes before her own righted itself. Pushing against the rudder controls, Rainbow Dash began to steer the powerful warbird.
A female issued from the comm. “Alpha F-One to Alpha F-Three, I noticed a disturbance in flight, confirm.”
It was soon followed by another voice, this one of a male, “This is F-Two, I lost sight of the target.”
Rainbow Dash looked down at the comm unit tucked on the edge of the Vanquisher’s dashboard and contemplated what to do. She didn’t have time to decide as one of the fighter’s pulled up alongside her. Quickly wiping the blood off the glass with a hoof, Rainbow Dash looked into the ship beside hers. The shocked eyes of the pilot gazed disbelievingly back at her. " F-Two to F-One, You aren't gonna' believe this; but the target is in F-Three..."
Rainbow Dash cut the mare off as she slammed on the airbrakes. All along the Vanquisher’s solid wings, small panels popped up with a pneumatic hiss, catching the wind and rapidly decreasing her airspeed. Rainbow Dash was propelled forward in the cabin, the straps digging painfully into her coat as she applied weight on the rudder. The Vanquisher snapped to the side as she made small adjustments, aiming at the back of the other fighter plane. With a yank, she pulled the trigger, unleashing a barrage of green bullets into the back of the Imperial fighter.
The ship wobbled once before disintegrating into a thousand little pieces of shrapnel and debris. “F-One to F-Two! Are you alright?!” screamed the male voice over the intercom. Rainbow Dash looked around quickly, far to her left was the stadium and the hundreds of ships anchored to it. The few Imperial airships around the stadium were all quickly pulling away towards the massive form of the Sol Scorcher.
The other fighter plane moved within her peripheral vision, obscuring the sun as it moved in towards her. Jamming on the yoke and shifting her weight along the well-oiled rudders, Rainbow Dash spun out of the way of a blast of green bolts, twisting her ship as to spin around the lethal beams.
Placing her hoof on the trigger, she slowly pulled the mechanism back. Before she could fire however, her ship was battered aside by a strong gale. Forcing her to tug and pull against the controls. “The hay is going on?!” she screamed in panic as another wave hit the rear of the sleek fighter plane. A wall of heat battered the aircraft, increasing the temperature within the cabin to the point where the fit mare had to pant for breath.
Turning her head she looked in the direction of the blast.
Where the stadium was only seconds ago, was now a blindingly white beam of pure arcane energy that traced its way back to the Sol Scorcher. The beam had pierced a hole the size of a large airship. And hadn’t stopped there. The beam stretched on all the way to the ground, disintegrating everything unlucky enough to be in its path.
The screams of tortured metal and the grinding of the destroyed colosseum could be heard clearly, despite the distance she was from the scene. From her seat, she could see the sign that proudly proclaimed ‘Spectrum Skies Flying Arena of Awesome’ catch fire and melt away in the wake of the Sol Scorcher’s destruction. Airships began to fall from the sky as their gas bags bloated from the superheated air and burst like oversized party balloons, sending debris flying everywhere as the huge forms fell to earth. One of the last to go was the yellow and pink Empathy medical ship as it raced away from the skyport, only to have the deadly beam sweep over it, turning it into yet another charred wreck.
Slowly, almost peacefully, the arena dropped from the sky. The monstrous stadium began to tear itself in half with its own sheer bulk. Shards of burning debris spiraled around it like stray ash from a campfire. One after another, the Sparkle Generators failed, as the ship rent itself, the sound a cacophony of screaming metal, Rainbow Dash watched in horror as hundreds, possibly thousands of tiny, pastel shapes fell to their unavoidable deaths.
She was brought back to reality as the loud pinging of energy beams against her fighter’s hull. The Vanquisher shook as bullet after bullet pierced the tail, then the engine housing. Above her, the remaining aircraft pulled up as smoke began to billow out of hers.
“Oh, come on, come on!” she screamed while pulling back on the yoke, straining her back and hooves against the resisting joystick. The needles in the guages of the Vanquisher’s dashboard fluctuated wildly as system after system failed. Taking a peek from her squinting eye, Rainbow Dash saw what was left of her tail section. Where the tail once ended as a stubby lump, was now a gaping hole. Half of the rudder held on by only a thread before it snapped apart and was whipped away by the wind.
Looking ahead, she saw the quickly approaching green fields. Gulping, she let go of the yoke, using her hooves to punch and jab at the seat straps.
She was stuck.
“May Luna guard my night, may Celestia save my day...”
This chapter was both a pain and really fun...
Editing by... Sorren, and Eustatian Wings and... er... Dammit.
If you haven`t read my blog post yet (On Fimfic) I`ll be on "Vacation". Basically I`ll be taking a short break from speed writing, concentrating rather on editing old chapters and fixing some of my stories up for EqD.