“Furious disdain: you who would be a blind hero are an overzealous fool of a pegasus to have brought such anguish and confusion upon New Ring!” Duke Zaap Nator grumbled through his mask. A rifle loaded with glowing bullets levitated beside his battered figure at the bottom of the cylindrical pit. The scars of having struggled with Steelteeth were evident across his mask and cloak. “Rhetorical inquisition: what possible wealth of knowledge could an outtrotter have concerning the prosperity of those who would be Darkstinians?!”
“Ya know...” Rainbow Dash squinted at him as she stood with her back to the lavender-shimmering emblems etched into the wall of the chamber. “You can color your actions in this place all you want; you're still nothing more than a murderer of foals.”
“Righteous rebuttal: I have sacrificed what I had to in order to assure the salvation of Darkstine!”
“Doubly righteous rebuttal: kiss my flank, you backwards yahoo!” Rainbow Dash hissed. “Obelisk or no obelisk, this city didn't start going to crap until you raised an angry rebellion against Governor Mintelle! Just cuz you've got a bunch of starry-eyed unicorns doing everything you command doesn't make you the savior of Darkstinians everywhere!”
“Those who would benefit from the power of industry need my guidance. Surely you who would be an outtrotter could stand to pause and think about the promise I am offering.”
“Hmmm... You know what? You've got a good point there,” Rainbow Dash said with a nod. “Let's just cool our jets and let me think for a moment about what you mean to this city.”
His breath came out softly through is mask. “Calm assurance: You have made the right decision.” He lowered his rifle. “Perhaps it is not too late to—”
Rainbow Dash's rear hooves flew across the Duke's skull as she launched herself across the pit. “Ooops!” She grinned wickedly. “Did I forget to mention that I don't think very well?”
“Nnnngh!” The stallion stood up, cocked his rifle, and aimed it. “Message of doom: you are doomed!” With delicate telekinesis, he fired bullet after bullet. The projectiles surged after her, flickering bold crimson light across the tiny spaces between the wall and the vertical spoke of the obelisk.
Rainbow Dash effortlessly flew around the pointed structure. Bullets danced and ricocheted off the black metal around her. She dipped up, down, and circled about for a low swoop. Spinning upside down at the last second, she snatched the gun out of Zaap Nator's telekinetic grip with her teeth.
The stallion reeled, looking up to see her bring the weapon over the topmost point of the obelisk and snap the thing to metal ribbons over the tip. Snarling, the Duke unsheathed two scimitars, gnashed his teeth beneath the mask, and disappeared in a flash of crimson light.
Rainbow Dash blinked, hovering awkwardly in place. Suddenly, the air directly behind her crackled with static. Gasping, she spun about just as the Duke rematerialized with a downward swing of both swords.
Rainbow barely dodged, losing a lock of prismatic hair on both her mane and tail. She flew backwards, dodged two more swings as the Duke leapt off the obelisk tip, and planted all four hooves against the pit's wall. The Duke landed beneath her, twirled, and flung one of the scimitars like a spear. Rainbow Dash easily dodged it, but not so easily escaped its velocity as it telekinetically chased her like a homing missile. Breathless, the pegasus resorted to flying loops around the pit, desperate to shake the blade off of her rear.
The Duke timed himself, held his breath, and teleported in a puff of crimson. He solidified directly in front of Rainbow Dash, swinging his scimitar up high. Rainbow Dash twirled, dodged the blow, and flicked her tail at the last second. Her hairs wrapped around the Duke's horn. With her forward momentum, she yanked his skull at an awkward angle, forcing him to stumble into the path of the sword chasing after her figure. The blade sliced through the hose connected to his gas mask, and suddenly he was hissing and venting steam from the breathing apparatus fastened to his torso.
The scimitars rattled to the floor on either side of him as he stumbled to the bottom of the pit, wheezing and gasping for breath. He fumbled with a toolbelt tied to his left forelimb. A length of rubber adhesive tumbled out, but it rolled away from him. He sputtered, coughed, and crawled ineffectually towards the one tool that could fix the leak in his mask. As he came closer to it, a set of hooves landed directly in front of him.
He looked up, his goggles fogged over.
Rainbow Dash gave him a prolonged glare. After a few seconds, she muttered, “You depend so much on this 'industry' of yours, and yet you don't have the guts to look deep enough and see that there could be more answers than just one.” She placed her front hoof down onto the rubber adhesive. “Life can be tough, crazy even. Sometimes the easiest answer is the quickest one, the chaotic one. But that's just cutting the surface.” She kicked the adhesive graciously into his trembling grasp. “The hardest solution is always the best one.”
“Hckkkt...” He hoarsely stammered while desperately repairing his damaged mask. “Snnkkt—s-sacrifiiiice...?!”
“Did you ever once think—just once—that the only pony you should be sacrificing is yourself?” Rainbow Dash asked with a bored expression. With a deep exhale, she turned and trotted towards the two emblems that glowed before her in the wall. “The world can very well slip out from underneath you. But not even a million obelisks shrinking into the ground can change one simple fact.” She planted her hoof on the omega symbol besides the solar crest. “The only pony you will ever be accountable for is yourself.”
The pit lit ablaze with a fountain of light. The skulls of foals and young ponies leered around Duke Zaap Nator. The stallion shuddered, surrounded by an impermeable wall of death. He shuddered and curled up in a fetal position, whimpering into his mask. And, just like that, the glow ended. The glaring bodies of those ended by his hoof disappeared, for he was once more cast into darkness. Shivering, he looked up towards the wall where Rainbow Dash had been standing.
She was gone.