Kickin' Flanks

by Xtralife

7 - You're My Hero, Rainbow Dash

The walls inside Manehattan Correctional Facility were a sickly cream color, and the hallway was lit with a yellow tinge. The floors were pale blue linoleum that squeaked when stepped on the wrong way. Periodically along the corridor were doors, all white, with small vertical windows. Spike, who was sitting on Applejack’s back, counted them on his claws as they strode as calmly as possible. Finally, one with a small placard that read “STAIRS” came up on their left. Rainbow casually backed up into it, pushed the door open by a crack with her rear leg, and then they all swept inside. The metal grating clattered underhoof as Applejack ran up the winding stairwell, craning her neck to the floors above them. Rainbow opted instead to stretch her wings through her stolen uniform’s rips and flap vertically to the top.

The pegasus’ mind began to cycle through what Spike had said, back in the cramped storage closet that reeked of artificial scents. Manehattan Correctional Facility was five stories high, and its top floor was devoted to the prisoners that were deemed the most dangerous, and also was divided into three sections for each form of pony. Of course, Twilight Sparkle would be in the unicorn wing. However, between how long it took Princess Cadance to find any information on the prison, Shining Armor’s strategizing and logistics, and the last-minute special delivery by ‘Derpy’, they had absolutely no idea which cell she’d be in, let alone which hallway.

Applejack paused at the top of the staircase, right at the fifth floor, and Dash gently landed next to her. Spike hopped off and began to detach both saddlebags from both ponies, who wriggled about not only to help, but to shake out the tension in their backs. Once removed, the baby dragon swung them over his own back and hopped up onto Rainbow’s back. Gently, she lifted herself into the air as Spike clung on, until she reached the ceiling. Here along a wall was a vent, small and expelling cool air into the room. Dash kept herself as steady as possible as Spike extended a claw and began to twirl one of the screws counterclockwise. While he worked away, Rainbow used her vantage point to watch the staircase for anypony, or any changeling, heading up.

According to Spike, Shining Armor had a brief stint in the police force, and had been involved with penitentiary security. Apparently, each prison was outfitted with magic detectors at various checkpoints. Manehattan Correctional Facility was no exception. They had done very well in bypassing the initial ones on the first floor when they snuck through the sewer system, but upstairs was another story—there was no way further into the prison without going through them. As the sunglasses were magic, and there weren’t many of them left to use, having any of them taken away would have grave and unforeseeable consequences. Thankfully there was an exploitable flaw in the system.

The baby dragon finished unfastening the vent and passed it to Rainbow, who took it in her mouth. Spike hefted both saddlebags inside the opening and hopped in after them. A pony would definitely not have fit inside, but he was able to stretch all of his limbs out. Spike shifted himself around to face the gap again and grabbed the vent from Dash. As he pulled it back into place, Rainbow trotted back over to Applejack, who was listening intently at the door. She immediately pushed the door open, but the farm pony stuck out a hoof and blocked her. Above the entrance to the stairwell was a security camera, slowly panning from side to side, bleeping at each sweep and blinking a little red light.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash would have to pass through the magic detectors, and head for another supply closet in the hallway ahead. Spike would then crawl there, pass the sunglasses through the vent, and then they’d at least know which of their foes were honest ponies and which were dangerous. But between having to wait like a sitting duck for Spike, the many cameras around the floor, their sheer lack of precise direction, and the likelihood that a majority of the officers in Manehattan Correctional were changelings, they didn’t have much time at all. In fact, they had a limit: Shining Armor estimated they’d only have an hour to spend combing the top floor before the guards would compare their employee records against security footage and notice that they weren’t supposed to be there. If that were to happen, regardless of whether they had found Twilight or not, they were instructed to put the escape plan into action. Unfortunately, that part of the scheme was dubious at best.

When the camera swung fully to the side, Rainbow shimmied out and trotted forward down the three-way intersecting hallway, with Applejack hot on her hooves. Spike, watching from the ventilation shaft, grinned grimly and twisted himself back around. Grabbing the blueprints from a saddlebag, he opened his mouth wide and lit a small fire inside, just enough to see by the glow. He scanned the page dedicated to the air ducts, wound the straps of each bag around his other arm, and began to crawl his way through.

Spike didn’t divulge much about the breaking out part of breaking out, which made the ponies incredibly nervous. All he would say is that they had to reach the exercise yard, and then from there they would just have to wait and see, and he seriously didn’t want to say anything more, and “Please, please just let me have this one moment of mystery and coolness!” None of those statements did anything to persuade Applejack or Rainbow. However, they eventually just figured that if they had this much of a plan already, then there had to be a conclusion. The squabble was dropped, even though they didn’t have a satisfying answer.

Rainbow and Applejack fell in step with each other and trotted forward through the passageway as casually as possible. Ahead of them seemed to be two small lines of officer ponies (or officer changelings, but who could tell) waiting in front of a magic detector. They slowed to a halt at the end and both sidled into the back of the queue. A few more ponies entered the line behind them, and they were effectively boxed in between the cops and the walls. Every few seconds the line advanced as a cop passed through the detector. Both of the mares shuffled forward inch by inch and didn’t dare to look to either side. The wait only lasted a minute, but it was agonizingly long for Rainbow, who wanted nothing more than to plant her hooves in every pony around and make a break for it.

“Next!” said the completely green-hued unicorn officer at attendance, who was sitting inside a small booth along the wall. Through the windows they could see a pen hovering tentatively in his magic field over a clipboard, and he looked back and forth between Rainbow Dash and her list. Ahead was an intersection of hallways, with the same drab walls and the same pastel floors.

Dash stiffly strode through the magic detector. The light on top didn’t flash and no alarms were rung, but the officer held out a hoof. The pegasus glanced back at Applejack, who stayed silent but shrugged as minutely as possible.

The cop pushed at a small button at the counter on his side. “Officer… Light Bright?” he asked, his voice crackling through a speaker situated in the middle of the glass pane. “It doesn’t look like you’ve been assigned to a morning shift up here. Do you have some business on this floor?”

Rainbow’s eyes drifted to the nametag on her stolen uniform, golden and shiny with black lettering. It read ‘Light Bright’, just as the policestallion had stated. She began wracking her brains for something to say, some kind of excuse, but came up entirely empty. Instead her mind flashed back to just the day before, when Shining Armor had bailed her out of a very similar situation. It didn’t help.

The officer sighed and flipped through a number of pages on the clipboard. “Don’t tell me that they updated the schedule without telling me again,” he muttered.

Dash swallowed a hard lump in her throat. “Yeah!” she choked out.

Again the officer scanned some more pages, and then looked at Applejack next in line. “It figures. They didn’t put you on here either, Officer Ginger Snap.”

The farm pony also checked her own nametag and looked back as she walked through the magic detector. “Well, I can’t reckon why that’d be,” she commented, but her voice wavered slightly.

“This always happens,” said the officer, rolling his eyes in what looked like a well-practiced motion. “It’s not like this is the most dangerous floor of Manehattan Correctional, with the greatest need for security, and therefore requires the utmost care in escape obstruction or infiltration prevention.” His tone was dripping with sarcasm.

Applejack and Rainbow carefully nodded in agreement.

“And it’s not like communication is essential to running an entire prison, right? I mean, why, it seems completely unnecessary!”

Applejack and Rainbow made an “mm-hmm” noise together.

“You know what? I don’t have time for this nonsense.” The officer tossed the clipboard and pen to the side, which clattered against the counter. “You’re both going on full morning shifts, okay? Light Bright, you take the west side to the left here, and Ginger Snap, you take the east here to the right,” he instructed tersely, jabbing with a hoof at each pony and then the indicated hallway. “Find the supervisors on duty and they’ll tell you what’s to be done. Just mark it out on your timecards, it’ll get sorted out later.”

Both mares froze and their eyes locked to the ceiling. Somewhere up there, Spike was crawling through the air vents, preparing to meet them up ahead and pass them their sunglasses. Splitting up would delay their search, or worse. Dash instinctively began to unfurl her wings, her fight-or-flight response bringing itself to the forefront of her mind.

The officer reached underneath his desk and pulled out two small black pouches with silver metal hoofcuffs inside. He then slid them through a gap under the window. “Well? Get going!” The officer tapped his hoof on the counter impatiently. “There’s a line here, you know!” He then turned back to the line and directed the next pony through.

Applejack shook her head at Rainbow, and the weathermare quit spreading her feathers. No words were needed—their plan was already hitting complications, and they just would have to deal with it. They each snatched a bag with their teeth, affixed them to their belts, and plodded to the center of the intersection as a handful of other officer ponies passed around them. Rainbow pointed ahead down the center hallway, the direction Spike had told them to head first. The earth pony nodded, and took a few tentative steps towards her hallway.

“Hey, uh, ‘Light Bright’?” Applejack asked, turning about and winking.

Rainbow chuckled weakly. “What’s up, ‘Ginger Snap’?”

“Stay out of trouble, you hear me?” The cowpony tipped her pilfered police hat. It didn’t have quite the same physical or symbolic weight her Stetson had. “I want y’all comin’ back in one piece.”

The pegasus raised a wing to her forehead in a salute. “You got it. Let’s, uh, meet up after work’s done, okay? We’ll get all our friends together. It’ll be nice to have a break.”

Smirking at their little coded jokes, they turned around and began to take their separate pathways. A small number of officers grouped around them both, and they found themselves following their own crowds, farther and farther away. Soon, neither of them could see each other when they glanced back.

Applejack followed the other prison guards down the hall, watching as they individually split up and headed down various branches. When nopony seemed to be bearing towards one particularly short corridor with double doors at the end, Applejack held her breath and began to trot in place. The herd entirely swept past her, and the moment they were a safe distance away, the farm pony stopped and exhaled. Wiping the sweat from her brow, Applejack took a left into the hallway and pushed the doors aside to peek through.

The room beyond was square and filled with small round tables and stools bolted into the floor, where ponies in orange jumpsuits sat, faces nibbling at oatmeal and apples on plastic trays—the unicorns too. Spinning fans and florescent bulbs alternated across the ceiling. Along one wall were frosted glass windows that allowed light inside; Applejack reckoned it must be morning by now. The other wall had a stainless metal counter with small troughs of food, and ponies in aprons and mane nets doled out ladles of slop to a line of prisoners slowly inching past. Behind that counter was a steel door, and as it swiveled open, more ponies bustled back and forth with pots to be washed or serving dishes to be filled. And striding up and down between the tables were more prison guards, watching their charges idly.

“If these inmates are already filling up on breakfast,” Applejack softly whispered to herself, “then it stands to reason Twilight could be in here.”

Slipping inside as quietly as she could, Applejack began to walk along the edge of the room, towards the food servers. When she got a reasonable distance away, she flattened against the wall and began checking out both the line of waitponies and the latecomers to the meal line out of the corner of her eye.

“Let’s see… no, those two are earth ponies. That one’s a unicorn, but she ain’t the right color. No, no, and that one’s Fluttershy, and…”

Applejack’s head jerked in a double take and she briefly forgot how to breathe. Sure enough, there was a yellow pegasus with a massive pink mane and watery teal eyes, serving tray gripped tight in her teeth as a heavily tattooed inmate shoveled a mound of oatmeal into her bowl. The farm pony had to slam her hoof into her chest to get herself to inhale again. As soon as she had caught a gulp of air, Applejack inched along the wall, attempting to get closer. Luckily, Fluttershy soon reached the end of the line and morosely plopped down at an empty table in the nearby corner.

“Fluttershy!” Applejack breathed, sidestepping her way towards the pegasus. “What’re you doing here, sugarcube?”

The yellow pegasus looked up, blinked, and choked out a sob.

“Shh,” said Applejack soothingly, giving her a one-legged hug and muffling her sniffles. “It’s alright, it’s alright.”

After a moment, Fluttershy pulled back and took a deep breath. “I never, never expected to see you here, Applejack. I mean, I knew you’d be coming to visit Twilight, but I didn’t think you’d find me… and especially not in a police uniform!”

“The feeling’s mighty mutual,” Applejack responded, looking about carefully and taking a seat. “And I’m not here to visit, really. We’re breaking her out.”

“You’re doing what?” Fluttershy asked, eyes widening. “But that’s dangerous! That’s really, really dangerous!”

Applejack nodded. “I know. But we ain’t got a choice in the matter anymore. And besides, you’re coming with me.”

For a moment it looked like Fluttershy was about to protest, but she shook her head. “…Alright. I know you won’t listen to me, anyway.” She sighed and finally dipped her muzzle into her oatmeal. After a deep gulp, she continued. “And the others are somewhere around here, too.”

The cowpony bolted upright. “Hold on a moment, ‘the others’? You mean Rarity and Pinkie Pie are here? How did you even all get thrown in the big house in the first place?”

Fluttershy shifted her wings about awkwardly. “The taxi cab Rarity and I were in was pulled over by the police, and suddenly we were pushed into their cart and brought here. They didn’t read us our rights, or let us make a phone call, or even tell us what we did wrong,” she murmured. “And I don’t know how—oh!”

The pegasus looked back at the breakfast line and Applejack followed her gaze. Coming out of the queue was a perfectly pink pony with a straightened mane, blue eyes cast down at her hooves, and a food tray clutched in her mouth. She raised her eyes to scan the room for an empty spot and saw the nearby corner where Fluttershy and Applejack were seated. Like a balloon slowly inflating, her mane began to naturally curl and poof bit by bit as she started to trot their way. By the time she reached their table, it had completely expanded to full size, and Applejack swore she could see her eyes turn to the size of dinner plates.

“Oh my gosh… oh my gosh… oh my goshohmygoshohmygoshohmygoooosh—” began to exclaim Pinkie Pie, but not before Applejack raised a hoof to her own lips. Pinkie nodded, and settled instead for sitting down and vibrating in her seat with pure excitement.

“Perfect timin’, sugarcube,” Applejack whispered.

Pinkie Pie continued to jiggle.

“…You can talk, you know,” Applejack stated. “You just can’t get all wildly jumpy and make a ruckus.”

“Oh!” the party pony said. “That’s a relief! I haven’t been talking to anypony since I got here! It’s all rules and hoofcuffs and silence and nopony wants to talk to me because they’re all gruff and hardened and there’s no parties going on and if I had a few streamers or something the place would look much nicer and maybe they’d stop asking me to join a gang—”

“I think we get the picture,” Fluttershy commented.

Applejack took one more look around. The guards hadn’t noticed her sitting there yet, but there was no guarantee that would last for long. “We can’t stay here much longer,” she said. “Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, do either of you know where Twilight or Rarity would be right now?”

Pinkie Pie nodded. “Mmm-hmm! I heard somepony say Twilight’s in solitary confinement. And I passed by the block where Rarity’s cell is, but they were being led downstairs. I think they’re headed for the exercise yard.”

Applejack scratched her chin. “I reckon we could do this. We’re s’posed to meet down there anyways. But we’ve gotta find Spike, too. He’s got…”

“What?” Fluttershy asked, noticing the farm pony pause.

“It’s a long story, sugarcube, a mighty long story.” Applejack shook her head, wondering where she’d even begin explaining the situation when they got the chance. “We ain’t got the time for it, but we still have to meet up with him.”

Pinkie’s hair slightly compressed again. “But we don’t know how long Rarity will be in the exercise yard, Applejack!”

“She’s right,” Fluttershy admitted. “We can’t lose this chance to help her escape… even though it’s going to be very, very unsafe.” Her eyes widened. “There is an escape plan, right?”

Applejack closed her eyes and took a deep breath. They were expected to head for the exercise yard once they had found Twilight Sparkle anyway, and they had agreed to meet up there whether or not Spike had handed off the sunglasses. And with the other friends locked up inside Manehattan Correctional, something definitely had to be done. It was just complicating the situation further than necessary. The mare exhaled. Slowly, Applejack got out of her seat and put her back to the wall again.

Rainbow stifled a grumble as she trotted down the hallway, guards around her heading for their posts and locked in casual morning conversations. She had done absolutely nothing since her fight with Applejack except hiding and sneaking through an entire city and the prison. Furthermore, she hadn’t had much flight practice. Floating vertically upwards was about all she had done recently, and that didn’t count at all. Bare minimum, she wanted to slam one of these officer ponies (or changelings, she secretly hoped) right into a wall and really cut loose.

Everything was taking too long, she thought.

Dash saw one of the guards diverged down a hallway out of the corner to her eye, waving to a coworker as he went. The pegasus briefly wondered if she could get away with following him and administering a serious thrashing, but shook her head to clear the thought away. The cyan mare suddenly looked up, squinting at the florescent lights. Spike was still up there, crawling, with no idea that she had been separated from Applejack. Rainbow wondered if maybe he’d go looking for them once he realized that they weren’t there. Maybe, she thought, that baby dragon would try to search the prison himself. The pegasus exhaled and stood back up straight. She’d have to stick to the plan, even if it would be less satisfying. Spike definitely wasn’t capable of handling himself.

Another guard swept away from the herd. Dash’s ear twitched in his direction as he opened a door and disappeared from sight. Maybe, Rainbow considered, she could get one of these guards to talk. After all, she couldn’t just politely ask one of them. Sure, Spike was adamant about not blowing their cover, but time was even more important. Even though they only had an hour, Rainbow was certain there was no way she’d leave Manehattan Correctional without Twilight.

Rainbow watched with bated breath as one more officer, a silver-coated male earth pony with a salt-and-pepper curled mustache, paused at a door and took out a ring of keys. The guard had it slid over a hoof, and was using his muzzle to idly flip the small metal keys one at a time. His back was turned as all the other policeponies trotted on past… except for Dash, who had slowed down to a stop. The pegasus stared, biting her lower lip, boring a hole into the back of the guard’s head with her eyes. Rainbow shuffled around her wings and inhaled sharply. Slowly she slid her back legs into a charging stance and lifted a front hoof in preparation.

But Rainbow didn’t move. Somehow, the image of Applejack floated into her thoughts, galloping through the prison, wrestling off changelings as they jumped on her. Dash fleetingly considered whether any brash actions would put the farm pony in danger, too. If she acted impetuously, and an alarm was sounded, that cowpony would also be caught in the crossfire. That train of thought didn’t last very long. Rainbow knew, and especially from first-hoof experience, that Applejack was a strong scrapper. However, she felt herself stand back up again. Somehow, whether or not Applejack could fight off any attackers wasn’t the real underlying issue; it was that it wouldn’t be right to potentially put her in that sort of situation at all. And yet, it seemed to her that the earth mare would gladly welcome a brawl.

Dash briefly wondered why the door was open and the guard was walking through it, right in the middle of her dilemma.

“Oh no, you don’t!” the pegasus yelled, eyes narrowed and ears flattened. “I’m still thinking!”

The policepony spun around, key ring in mouth, an eyebrow arched. “What the… who the hay are you?”

Dash kicked off the ground, punching a dent in the linoleum. The pony guard attempted to scream, but the wind was knocked from him and his eyes widened to the circumference of dinner plates as she met the full force of Rainbow’s tackle, trademark multicolored trail streaking behind. The door whipped aside and banged shut again as the pegasus shot forward with the velocity of a rocket, scraping the officer along the floor until they came to a violent stop against cell bars.

“Ahhh…” Rainbow sighed contentedly, as if she had scratched a hard-to-reach itch and massaged a swollen muscle simultaneously. “That feels so much better now.”

The guard shifted uncomfortably and winced, held down in place by the weight of the gratified pegasus. “I… I landed on my keys,” he moaned.

Realizing her opportunity, Rainbow leaned her face in until she was snout-to-snout with the officer, who met her piercing stare with almost equal fervor. “Alright, talk!” Dash’s eyes narrowed. “Where the buck is Twilight Sparkle?”

The officer wriggled again, but this time his eyes drifted down to the walkie-talkie pinned to his chest. In a flash, Rainbow swung her head back and then slammed her skull right into the officer’s forehead. The guard’s eyes rolled up and he slumped over, knocked out cold. Dash tilted her neck from side to side, letting it crack a few times, and stood back up.

Suddenly the hallway erupted in a raucous cheer. Rainbow’s wings extended in surprise and her ears shot up. All around her, ponies clad in orange jumpsuits, locked in their cells up and down the aisle, were hollering and roaring with glee and disbelief. But none were screaming more than the cocoa unicorn stallion with a white short mohawk in front of her, who couldn’t stop gaping at her disbelievingly, or more accurately, behind her. Dash craned her neck back and saw that her multicolored tail had slipped out from under the uniform, and the hat had fallen all the way at the other end of the hall.

“Holy Luna in stockings, it’s Rainbow Dash!” the prisoner screamed.

Rainbow felt herself involuntarily grinning, and she flew up to the ceiling and pulled off the remnants of her stolen uniform with gusto. She thought the racket couldn’t get much louder, but the inmates amped up the volume with hoof stomping and clanging stolen spoons against their cell bars. As they yelled and cheered, she spun around slowly in the air to get a better view of her jailbird admirers.

“You’re my hero, Rainbow Dash!” called out the unicorn ecstatically around a pencil in his mouth. “You’ve gotta sign my leg!” He thrust his foreleg through the iron rods, his sleeve already pulled back in anticipation.

“Sure thing,” the pegasus responded, dropping down again and peeking through the bars. The cell wall was covered in scratched tally marks and choice profanity, and a particularly chubby gray earth pony with a magnificent purple beard lay on the top bunk, covered by a blanket and somehow fast asleep in spite of the din. “Anything for my fans, you know? I didn’t know so many ponies knew about my awesomeness.”

“Aw, righteous!” the convict exclaimed, passing Dash the pencil. “I can’t believe I’m getting to meet you!” He quivered in excitement until Rainbow finished scribbling down her signature, which unfortunately came out very shaky. Unfazed by the sloppy result, he trotted in place like an excited filly, and when Dash gave back the pencil, the pegasus had to suppress a snort of laughter when he squealed at a high-pitched tone.

“Oh man, oh man, oh man! You’re just, like, the best ever!” The inmate gazed at the signature longingly, completely starstruck.

“Yup! Yes! It’s true.” Dash tittered a little. “So what’s the coolest thing about me, huh? It’s gotta be my sweet moves,” she asserted, rearing up onto her back legs and boxing the air. “I mean, the Sonic Rainboom is the best thing ever, isn’t it?”

“Your what? Oh, sure, I guess it’s decent or somethin’. Hey! Hey!” the unicorn yelled at his snoozing cellmate, jumping up and poking him with a hoof. “Do you still have that needle? I want Rainbow Dash’s signature tattooed so it stays forever and ever and ever!”

The pegasus blinked, dropped back down on all four hooves, and slowly backed up a couple of steps. “Oooooookay then, you’re weird.”

Dash immediately took to floating in the air again, passing by more cells, each with two ponies inside. As she drifted along, every eye followed her and every hoof waved about, trying to catch the attention of their celebrity.

“Don’t let the system bring you down, Rainbow Dash!"

“Never have, never will!” the mare said.

Another pony with foreleg tattoo sleeves thrust a rusty metal cup through the bars. “Hey Rainbow Dash, try my prison wine! It’s the best in Manehattan Correctional!”

The pegasus just kept on flapping. “Sorry, I’m more of a cider fan,” she apologized. She felt a pang in her chest when she saw the felon’s dismayed expression, until the mare saw him turn away and dip the cup into the toilet. All of her repentant feelings were immediately squashed and her lower eyelid twitched in revulsion.

Suddenly her ears swiveled to the side. A soft sound had somehow caught her attention. Somepony was, of all things, almost whispering underneath the clamor.

“One of you ponies needs to cheer louder!” Dash said, continuing to float down the hall.

“Rainbow Dash!” The same faint tone came again, but this time at least she could hear it. It was definitely her name. Still, it wasn’t loud enough.

“Okay, better,” she conceded. “Now really put your lungs into it!” Dash pumped a hoof into the air. “Aaaand… now!”

“Let me try it this time! Hey! Rainbow!” a very high-pitched voice squealed over the din.

Applejack looked around at the patrolling officers, brow furrowed in thought. It had been a complete stroke of luck that she had strolled in without any resistance or questions. It would be much harder to walk out of the cafeteria with two prisoners in tow. The earth pony scanned the walls until she found a clock. It was 7:20. Knowing that the sun must have fully risen above the horizon by 7, Applejack reckoned there was only 40 minutes to somehow find Rarity, Twilight, and Spike before their ambiguous escape plan had to be put into motion.

One guard stood a few tables away, surveying the now dwindling breakfast line. Applejack straightened her police hat. That policepony was much too close, and something had to be done about that. But, she thought, maybe she could be used to their advantage.

“Do either of you know if there’s a bathroom around here?” she asked.

Pinkie Pie nodded. “It’s super-duper close! Why, is nature calling? I think it has everypony’s number on speed-dial.”

Applejack scratched the back of her head, choosing to ignore the quip. “I’m going to distract one of these cops, and you’ll slip through the doors and head over there. Just follow behind me, and stick to each other like molasses, okay?”

Fluttershy looked at Pinkie Pie a little askance through her mane, but she was still grinning wide as usual. “We can certainly try,” the pegasus conceded. “Just be careful.”

Walking briskly, the farm pony moved away from the wall and towards the policepony. “‘Scuse me,” she said, albeit a little faintly.

“You’re Ginger Snap, yes?” asked the officer, trotting over. She was a pale blue earth pony and her dark mane was bobbed short above the collar of her uniform.

The orange mare opened her mouth to say something, but found that her throat had tightened and run dry. Instead, she pointed right at the nametag affixed to her chest.

“Perfect, we were told to expect you. Have you worked the cafeteria before?”

Applejack felt her esophagus loosen up. “No,” she admitted.

“Well, we’re about to wrap up here and bring these inmates back to their cells. Just hang tight for a few minutes, okay?”

“Actually,” Applejack said at length, “is there a bathroom around here?”

“Oh, sure,” the policepony said. “It’s out the far door on the other side, down the hall to the left, and it’s the fifth door on the right. You’ll have to jiggle the key a bit too; it doesn’t quite work right the first time.”

“Uh…” Applejack murmured.

“Sheesh, you really haven’t worked the top floor, have you?”

“Well, not exactly,” Applejack replied, forcing a grin.

Sighing, the officer started to walk towards the door and motioned to follow with a head jerk. Applejack stiffly strode between the tables, and snuck a peek backwards as the policepony exited, catching just the top of Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie’s manes as the ducked underneath the table. Satisfied, the cowpony turned forwards again and followed her escort into the hallway and to the left.

Applejack and the other mare stopped at the fifth door, labeled “MARES (Staff Only).” The officer yanked a key ring off her belt, selected one, jammed it in the lock roughly, and pushed the door open with a hoof. Looking inside, Applejack saw it was a general run-of-the-mill bathroom, with tiled floors, mirrors and sinks to either side, and stalls in the back.

“Okay. Go ahead.” The officer coughed. “Just make it quick. I’ll be in the cafeteria.”

“Uh…” Applejack looked up. There was a security camera situated directly above the door. The cowpony crossed her front and back hooves and leaned against the wall.

The officer continued to stare blankly.

“Why don’t you mosey on in here with me?” Applejack asked.

“Excuse me?” The policemare’s voice was monotone.

“Well, erm, you know… aaaah…” Applejack felt her lips dry up, and her eyes drifted over to the side. “I’m just, well…”

The policemare smirked. “You make an interesting proposition, Officer Ginger Snap.” She winked and began to sidestep slowly into the bathroom.

Applejack forced herself into a grin and winced as her chapped lips cracked. Her eyes snapped up to the camera as she slowly plodded forward. They were now fully out of view of it, but the officer was still looking directly at her as she swung her head and flung her cap off, which landed right on a faucet.

Letting the door slam closed behind her, Applejack lightly stepped into the bathroom. The officer was backing up slowly and unbuttoning her uniform with her teeth. The cowpony tried to look anywhere else, but unfortunately with the mirrors to either side, avoiding seeing anything was entirely impossible.

The moment the officer had fully stripped her uniform away, the cowpony took her chance. Whirling on her front hooves, she rammed both of her back legs into the policemare, who wheezed as she sailed through the open door into the handicap stall. Applejack charged in after the unsuspecting cop and whipped one of the sets of hoofcuffs from her belt pouch. They were four hinged metal circles, one for each hoof, with chains leading to a much thicker but smaller center ring.

The officer attempted to roll over off of her back, but she wasn’t quite fast enough. In a matter of seconds, Applejack had snapped one of the bracelets to her back leg. The cop scrambled and twisted about, and Applejack had to bite harder into the chain and yank. Straining to pull the weight of her quarry and avoid her frantic panicked kicks, the farm pony looped the chain around the handicap rail and slapped the rest of the braclets onto the cop's other legs. Suddenly the bathroom door creaked open.

"Howdy hi, Applejack!" echoed Pinkie Pie's voice. "Everything come out okay?"

"Heavens to Betsy, Pinkie Pie, I didn't need to use the bathroom!" Applejack wheezed, exasperated and exhausted.

The cop wriggled about on the floor and struggled to remove her hooves. "Help! Help! She's trying to--" she yelled, until she was muffled by Applejack ramming a toilet paper roll into her mouth.

"Goodness," exclaimed Fluttershy, as she and Pinkie trotted into the handicap stall. "Is she alright?" She placed a hoof on Applejack’s shoulder. “Are… are you alright?”

Applejack slid past them and snatched the guard's shirt and hat from their resting places. “No, sugarcube. I’m pretty bucking far from okay. This went from weird and foolhardy to..." The farm mare paused. "I'm plum out of words."

Pinkie and Fluttershy just stared at the restrained cop, who was hopping around in furious frustration and attempting to scream vulgarities through a jaw full of two-ply.

"She sure isn’t,” Pinkie Pie said. “In fact… she’s a total potty mouth!”

Rainbow sputtered and looked over to the side. Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy were locked inside one of the cells, both clad in prisoner’s uniforms. The pink party pony had her face shoved into the bars, the fat of her cheeks squishing around and through them. Fluttershy was hiding behind her, trembling with anxiety, but as soon as Dash galloped up to the bars, her eyes almost shimmered with hope and relief.

“Wha—wha—what the hay are you doing here?!” the pegasus stammered. “Just… seriously, what!?”

“Well, we followed you into Manehattan to try and calm you down a teensy bit,” Fluttershy explained, fiddling with her sleeve cuffs and stepping out from behind Pinkie. “But the police pulled our taxi over.”

Pinkie pulled her face away from the bars and pouted slightly. “I was in another taxi with Applejack, but I got one of my Pinkie Senses and I knew they were in danger. But when I found them, the police said I was ‘obstructing justice’ and took me away with them. Some help I was.”

Fluttershy inhaled as she delicately put a leg over Pinkie Pie in a side hug, who was staring at the floor. “I don’t think I would have been much help, either. That is… had I done something.”

Rainbow briskly performed a loop in the air. “Okay, stand back girls. I’m gonna kick this down!”

Pinkie and Fluttershy quickly stepped aside, giving the cell gateway a wide berth. Dash dropped to the ground again, took a few paces back, lowered her head, and scraped at the ground with her hoof.

“Jiminy Hearth’s Warming Eve! Rainbow Dash is putting somepony on jackrabbit parole!” screamed a prisoner somewhere nearby. Dash seized up and spun around on the spot, looking for whoever ran their mouth. She didn’t know the precise definition of ‘jackrabbit parole,’ but something told her it meant a breakout. Yet somehow the entire block had quieted down in a millisecond. It was, in fact, completely silent.

And then, like an angry and excited choir, the local prison population exploded in a roaring symphony of statements of disbelief, Rainbow’s name, and a plethora of expletives. Fluttershy cowered and covered her face with a wing as Pinkie wriggled her head into the cell bars and looked about, almost excitedly, but more in wonder. Dash just fell backwards on her flank and groaned.

“This is actually starting to annoy me,” Rainbow stated, eyes up at the ceiling. “I never thought screaming, excited fans would get on my nerves.”

“Horseapples, he’s wakin’ up!” the strange cocoa-colored unicorn yelled, his voice echoing from his cell. Almost instantaneously the entire block calmed down again, though there were a few murmurs of confusion and gossiping.

“One second, girls,” Rainbow said, excusing herself and flying back down the hallway to where the unfortunate guard had been laid out. Sure enough, his eyelids were slowly cracking open, and he was attempting to roll onto his stomach.

“Oh yeah, the keys!” Rainbow gave the cop a good shove, turning him over a little farther. Grunting, she placed a hoof on top of the key ring, pulled them out from under him, and grabbed them with his teeth. “There’s gotta be one that’ll work!”

Cantering back, keys in her mouth, Rainbow skidded to a halt in front of Pinkie and Fluttershy’s cell and began to try key after key. It only took a few tries, but soon she was able to slide the door open. Pinkie Pie took a few tentative steps outside and gave the pegasus a hoof-bump, but Fluttershy had skittered to the back of the room.

“Oh… oh dear,” she said, voice trailing off. “I’m sc-sc-sc-scaaaaared.”

Rainbow lifted her wing up and buried her face in it. “Oh brother. What is it, Fluttershy?”

“That officer!” Fluttershy said, kneeling on the floor and trembling. “He’s still out there!”

“That’s it!” Pinkie Pie swung a front hoof and it made a snapping noise. Dash wondered how the hay that was possible. “He’s out there, so let’s put him in here!”

Fluttershy slunk to the cell door very slowly and nodded. “Well, I-I-suppose that’ll keep him from doing anything, like calling for more policeponies.”

The group trotted back to where the officer was continuing to stand, but he was struggling very feebly. The tubby bearded earth pony that had been sleeping before had finally woken, and had a heavy hoof placed on the cop’s cranium. It was just enough to keep the weakened guard from getting up. Simultaneously, the prisoner was holding a small sewing needle covered in what looked like ink in his mouth, and was slowly dragging it over the cocoa-collored stallion’s leg, right on top of the signature Rainbow had made on his coat. The cocoa stallion kept wincing during the tattoo process. Rainbow did, too.

“Thought we’d keep an eye on him, you know?” The unicorn grinned.

“That’s not an eye, that’s a hoof,” Pinkie commented.

The chubby earth pony released the cop, who was now breathing very heavily. Pinkie Pie bit at his shirt collar and began to drag him away, with Fluttershy following behind but keeping at a fair distance. Dash watched them for a moment and turned back around.

“So, like what’s the deal, huh?” Dash asked, swinging her tail from side to side. “Nopony’s asked me about the secret to a Sonic Rainboom, or what it’s like to save Equestria, or about being an Element of Harmony! I mean, what do all of you love about me?”

“It’s simple,” the fat pony stated. His voice was a rotund and deep bass. “You’re the real deal.”

“Well, duh,” Rainbow replied. “But what exactly am I the real deal for?”

The unicorn prisoner thought for a second. “It’s like this, okay? You’re like a symbol to us. You don’t let the law push you around, man.”

“Oh, okay then! I’m just such a rebel that you look up to me, right?” Rainbow reared up on her back hooves and flapped for balance. “That totally makes sense now.”

“Somethin’ like that.” The unicorn inmate looked down at his leg as the fat pony pulled the needle away. “Whoa! Like, totally excellent!”

Dash dropped back down to her hooves and looked closer at the prisoner’s leg. The signature had been tattooed on, but there was also a small profile of Rainbow Dash’s face next to it, grinning wildly. For a job done in jail, it didn’t look too bad.

“You know what?” said the unicorn. “I’d like you to have something.” He walked over to the bunkbed, stuffed his muzzle underneath the bottom mattress, and pulled out what looked like a neon pink toothbrush in his teeth.

“I’ve had this for a while, and been in many a dance on the blacktop with it, if you know what I’m sayin’. But it’s high time I passed it on… to you!” The unicorn strode over and pushed the toothbrush through the bars, offering it to Rainbow.

The large stallion’s eyes widened. “Are you certain about this?”

“Yeah, are you certain about this?” Dash asked too, but for completely different reasons. Now that she could see it up close, she could see that its torn and messy bristles rendered it useless. Furthermore, the handle was covered in bite marks and the tip was roughly filed down into a very sharp point. The unicorn wriggled it slightly, and Rainbow gingerly snatched the toothbrush in her teeth.

The cocoa stallion did his little trotting in place thing and squeaked. “Oh man, oh man, oh man! This is like the best day ever!”

“Uh-huh,” Rainbow said around the brush. “So… what is this thing?”

“It’s called a shiv,” the chubby pony said.

“And why would I want this?” Dash asked, still completely lost.

The unicorn grinned wide. “You’re pullin’ my leg, right? Of course you want it! You’re a hardboiled killer just like us, Rainbow Dash!”

The shiv clattered to the floor as Rainbow’s jaw dropped open.