Twenty eight days passed. Twenty eight days of her sentence down. And an extra twenty eight days knocked of her sentence with her daily wins. One more day remained on the clock and she stood to shave it off with one more win that day. By all rights that win was already hers. She knew that day would be her last day.
But Rainbow Dash didn't feel quite as awesome. Being ahead in the race, leaving her competition in the dust, winning, all of that just didn't feel as great anymore. Which was weird as buck, 'cause there's nothing Rainbow winning Dash loves more than winning.
Except...it feels like with each win she's losing something. Thinking about it, all she's really losing are the days on her sentence. And that's a great thing, right?
Then why does she hafta work real’ hard to convince herself of this?
'I'm probably just getting bored. I just need to win today and end this once and for all.' She thought to herself, hotly. She attacked the snow piling atop town hall’s roof with a vengeance, clearing the rooftop in ten seconds flat. ‘Just need to clear up Sugarcube Corner’s roof and I’m done with this. Forever. Maybe if I finish quickly, I can still make it to the Pony Tones carols thing at town hall.’ She thought to herself angrily as she prepared to take flight.
Except a sudden punt to her rear sent her flying a little early. "Wh-whoaaaaah!" The force sent her careening off the roof and into a snow pile on the ground below before she could even spread her wings. “H-hay! What gives?!” She cried, digging herself out of the pile. Before she could recover a fierce downpour of freezing rainwater drenched her from mane to hoof. The sudden chill took her breath away. Her chest seized up, refusing to allow her to breathe. Before she knew it, she was a victim of a pegasus’ worst enemy; Frost. “H-h-h-heeeelp, s-s-somepoonyyy…” She could barely cry out as cold, blood-chilling fear suddenly gripped her.
To her dismay the town was deserted. Everypony must still be at the Pony Tones carol recital. Nopony would be able to hear her cry.
“Hay, Rainbow Crash! Don’t bother screaming for help. The Factory made sure nopony will be able to hear you. We even paid the Pony Tones to sing extra loud. Just so happens the rest of your council buddies are out of town too. What a shame, huh?” Rainbow would’ve sworn the grating voice belonged to a warthog if only she didn’t recognize it so well. She looked up. Her heart fell. Sure enough, hovering above her was Dumbbell, the bane of her flight camp days scaled up to pain-in-the-plot size. Rainbow had always suspected there was a brick somewhere in his ancestry, except that’d be an insult to all bricks everywhere.
“Thought you needed some help chillin’ out. But you’re lookin’ as cool as ever down there.” The burly pegasus stallion laughed at her plight. On either side of him were his two bulky flank accessories, Hoops and Score, whose grins were surely stolen from some poor bullfrog somewhere. They joined in Dumbbell’s laughter, if only to avoid having to think of something witty of their own.
But to her dismay there was a fourth face she recognized, one that still haunted her with regret. She loomed high above Rainbow, her forehooves gripping a pitch black raincloud, the very same cloud raining ice cold water down on Rainbow’s frozen wings. “L-L-Lightning D-Dust?!” Rainbow rasped, her chest seizing up with the effort alone.
The turquoise pegasus mare snarled at Rainbow’s recognition. “Didn’t think you’d remember me at all, Rainbow Dash.” Rainbow winced at the bitterness in Lightning’s voice.
“What’s wrong, Crash?” Dumbbell laughed. “Too cold for you? Gimme a second. Lightning, why don’t you warm it up for her?” He waved a commanding forehoof at the turquoise pegasus.
“With pleasure.” Lightning growled, giving the raincloud a firm stomp. An explosive bark of thunder filled the air. Rainbow gave a squeak of fright as she ducked for dear life, only to land in a frosty puddle of slush. The frost on her fur burned. She couldn’t even feel her wings anymore. She gave them an experimental flap. She couldn’t help but give a squeak of terror as she found her feathers had begun to freeze. She was well and truly grounded. And for a pegasus that was a step short of death. Humiliation and terror competed for tears, but her eyes were too frozen for either.
“So, you’re probably wondering why we’re doing this, right?” Dumbbell asked, casually. “For old times sake, I’ll give it to you straight, Crash. You know the score. You dirt-sniffing pegasi have one job — stay in line and do as the Weather Factory tells you to. It’s easy, Crash. Do the job right and the Weather Factory will leave you to whore yourselves to the ground pounders or whatever it is you dirt-sniffers do. But you flocked up, Crash. Oh, you flocked up baaad. Do you know how much profit the Factory was supposed to make out of supplying the winter for all of East Equestria before you bucked everything up? I’d give the value in terms of your life, Crash, but you ain’t worth the cirrus in my tail.” He sent Rainbow cowering to the ground with another roll of thunder. “Think you can get away with anything now that you’re a bigshot council member? Think you’re above Cloudsdale and the Factory? Well, think again Dash. Karma’s a bitch and we’re the pound keepers. Let’s start with poor little Dusty here. Once she’s had her fill of payback, we’ll show you how rainbows are really made at the Factory. Take it away, Lightning.”
Lightning clenched her teeth as she glared down a sight she has long been waiting for; Rainbow Dash cowering at her hooves. But to her surprise she found Rainbow gazing up at her with a sorrowful look.
‘I just think leaving it up to somebody else like prisons, moons or big random numbers is a really half-assed way of saying you don’t care. If you’re gonna help someone, help’em. Don’t leave it until it’s too late’
There are days when Rainbow wondered if she did the right thing at the Wonderbolt Academy. If she knew the instructors would outright expel her friend rather than help put her back on the straight and narrow, she might have taken matters into her own hooves. She had sought out her friend to try and make amends since, but Lightning Dust had quite literally disappeared off the face of Equestria. Now she had suddenly returned and it looked like it was all too late. And it was all her fault.
No. The fastest pony in Equestria is never too late. Not even time can outrun Loyalty.
“L-Lightning Dust…” Rainbow fought to smother her fears as she looked up at her former friend in grim defiance. “I-I’ve been l-looking for you for a while, y’know.”
Lightning’s eyes widened noticeably. “Wh-why?” She seemed taken aback. “So you could rub in that cadet badge you stole from me? Is that it?” She demanded, stomping the raincloud. The icy deluge doubled in an instant. To Lightning’s dismay, it failed to turn away Rainbow’s gaze, even as she trained her eyes against the frosty downpour.
“N-No. B-Because I wanted to say…” Rainbow gulped as she forced out the most difficult word in her dictionary. It took every bit of loyalty she had in her to force it out against what was left of her pride, “...I’m sorry.”
“You think you get to play the Element of Loyalty? After all this time?!” Lightning demanded.
“N-No. I b-b-bucked up the first time, Lightning.” Rainbow growled. “But I’m not g-gonna buck up this time. I’m not gonna let my f-friend do something she’s gonna gonna r-regret. Not again. And this time I’m gonna do it myself. No Spitfire, no Wonderbolts, just you and me. Don’t do it. N-not for me, for you.” Lightning almost flinched at the dead certainty in her voice.
“What’s the hold-up, Dusty?” Dumbbells growled. “Do I need to remind you that Wind Rider’s promising you your whole life back for this? Now do it.”
“You seriously think I’m just gonna let you off for smearing my name and ruining my life just because you’re flockin’ sorry?!” Lightning demanded, wings flaring angrily. “Well, buck you, Rainbow Dash!” She reared up, preparing to cloud-buck the lightning bolt to end all lightning bolts.
The sane bits of Rainbow Dash was screaming for her to crawl away, duck for cover, at least brace herself. But a strange, fierce, right feeling compelled her to stand by her friend, especially now when she needed her the most. It was stupid. It was crazy. But she wouldn’t leave her, not this time.
“Grrrrrr….” Lightning growled before rearing up on her hind hooves, “Buuuck you, Rainbow Daaaaaash!” she screeched.
She leapt up high into the air with a powerful flap of her wings before suddenly dropping down in a hammer-dive. On top of Dumbbell, specifically his face, flattening him into his cloud. A deft roundhouse kick scythed Hoops in the neck, slamming him down alongside his boss. Lightning spun around to finish with a body slam on Score. But a sudden supplex grab from below her stopped her mid-lunge. With a single supplex throw from Dumbbell, Lightning was sent crashing down into the slurry alongside Rainbow.
“Stupid whorse.” Dumbbell growled from above, nursing a bleeding lip. “You’re that deadset to be a loser, huh? Well if you’re that desperate, I’m sure we can fit both you and Crash in the same ice cube.” He waved his cronies up to flank him as he took control of the lightning cloud.
“L-Lightning?” Rainbow gasped at the darkening bruise forming around Lightning’s left eye.
Lighting spat slush out as she peered up at Rainbow. “Dammit, Rainbow Dash. You’re a bad influence, you know that?” She chuckled bitterly. “You’re the expert at this whole hero business. What happens now?” She rasped, looking up at Dumbbell. The burly stallion was rearing up, preparing to stomp down on the lightning cloud above them, ending it once and for all.
“Pants.” Rainbow murmured, sounding half-dazed.
“What?” Lightning blinked.
Dumbbell and Score suddenly crashed down into the slurry ice next to them with all the force of a falling star, their bodies bound together by what looked like a Zebrican bola that may have been a very familiar pair of pants in a past life. Hoops was quick to join them with a crash of his own, his face blinded by
a very elastic pair of underpants the Element of Modesty. For three stallions wearing pants derivatives, they were screaming very effeminately under their own frosty deluge.
Just as Rainbow was about to
run away check their masculinity with a good kick, something grabbed her around her barrel. She was surprised at how easily she recognized them as a pair of hands by their warm touch alone. They lifted her up with effortless ease. She suddenly found herself cradled against an all-embracing heat that felt like a touch of heaven against her freezing fur. She snuggled tight against it, digging herself as deep as she could into that life-giving warmth. Something thick and warm wrapped around her numb wings. She just about registered that it was a fluffy jacket big enough to pitch a tent in before its owner suddenly lifted her up further. She was hefted onto his broad back, her head resting on top of his. She felt a soft blush warm her cheeks as she realized he was putting himself in between her and her attackers, a very protective gesture that...that...she totally didn’t care about, the i-i-idiot!
With her safely stowed on his back, he reached forwards and just as easily picked up Lightning Dust from under the rain. The turquoise pegasus was so cold she barely put up a token fidget as he tucked her under his left arm, wrapped in what could have easily passed for a sail if it wasn’t shaped like a shirt.
“Huh, who the fuck littered this shit all over my town?” Marshal growled below her. “Did I screw over some butt-ugly slugs in a past life for them to come haunting me now? Well, I’ll tell you the same thing I told you then, y’all still look like ass. So much so that I can’t tell which bit of you I should throw those pants at. At least it made aiming shit easy.”
"M-Mars, y-you're kinda out of ammo to aim." Rainbow pointed out how he had kinda run out of clothes to toss about.
"Heh, ammo?" Marshal grinned his usual shit-eating grin. "A real man keeps his ammo in his heart." He thrusted his hips out, sending the stallions flinching in fear. "And saves the big cannons for last." He guffawed.