• Published 18th Oct 2011
  • 29,536 Views, 356 Comments

The Monster Mash - FredMSloniker

Six characters. Six encounters with the supernatural. Happy Nightmare Night.

  • ...

Rainbow Dash: The Big Battle

The Manehattan docks. Dawn. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the city that never slept, two ponies worked to unload a sensitive cargo from one of the ships in the harbor onto a sturdy cart.

"So what's in these barrels, anyway?" one of the two, a lime-green pony with a pink mane, wondered, reaching for a lid. The other pony, yellow with a sea-blue mane, swiftly moved his own hoof to intercept the gesture.

"Don't open that, newbie! You want your hooves to melt off?" He glared at the first pony, who drew his hoof back with a wounded expression.

The younger pony protested, "I wasn't gonna open it! I just wanna know what's in it. I've never seen so many warning stickers!"

"You know that whole mess we had with Discord getting loose and running around a month ago?" the older, and senior, pony said as he took hold of the barrel. His trainee took the hint, grabbed the other side, and helped him push it into the cart.

"How could I miss it?" the younger pony replied. "That was one crazy day! Or week. Or whatever."

"Well, this is a little parting gift from his ugliness," the veteran teamster said. "A bunch of chaos goop they scraped off the bottom of who knows where."

The younger worker nearly dropped his end of the next barrel in shock. "I-I thought the Elements of Harmony got rid of all of that!"

"Almost all of that," his supervisor corrected him. "They've been finding little puddles of the stuff all over the place. Real nasty, too. We have to move it by hoof because it does crazy things if a unicorn so much as sneezes on it."

"Why are we even touching the stuff, then?" The green pony was handling his end of the barrel like it would explode at the slightest nudge. "Why are we shipping it into the middle of Manehattan?"

"The Elements have better things to do than find every little ditch that's got some of this stuff in it," the yellow pony replied, muscling the barrel into place on the cart with no such care. "We've been gathering the stuff up for weeks, putting it all in one place. The Elements come into town, they can do their rainbow magic thing, clean it all up at once, and go do whatever they do when they aren't saving our flanks."

The rookie shook his head disbelievingly, pushing another barrel closer to the cart. "This is nuts," he said. "I can't even imagine how bad this could go."

The veteran chuckled dryly. "Best not to think about it too hard, kid. Besides, this is just about the last batch. By this time tomorrow, it'll all be done and dusted. Now c'mon, let's get this over with."

The two fell silent, then, focusing on loading the cart, but the younger pony couldn't help but frown. He just couldn't shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen, like one of the barrels falling off the cart or leaking or something. And he was seldom wrong about feelings like that, as his cutie mark, a bright yellow hard hat, could attest. He just hoped it wouldn't wind up being his fault somehow.

On a small island far from Manehattan Harbor, charted only because it presented a hazard to shipping and populated largely by birds and lizards, a curious set of tracks led out of a deep rock crevice. At first, they were just little three-toed tracks, slight indentations in the dirt and soil around the rock. As they progressed, however, they began to grow and deepen, twice their former size, five times, ten times. They were headed in an unusual direction as well, straight as an arrow into the sea... and pointed at the heart of Manehattan.

Rainbow Dash was in good spirits as she and her friends got their first sight of the city of Manehattan. It was huge! Not just horizontally, but vertically, with buildings that practically scraped the sky! Not that she'd trade life in Ponyville for anything, but the idea of trying some high-speed maneuvers at height with actual obstacles was making her wings twitch. How did the weather here even work? She'd have to hook up with the local weather patrol and ask some questions.

Granted, it wasn't a leisure trip. Princess Celestia had asked all of them to come to the city to deal with the leftovers of Discord's... discordiness. The weight of the necklace around her neck was reminder enough of that. Still, how long could that take? They'd go to whatever warehouse the stuff was locked up in, do their super cool light show, and send the junk back where it belonged. Then she could get some flying in, maybe check out the local restaurants. The others all had sights they wanted to see, so it shouldn't be a problem.

"Hey, AJ, you know any good places to eat around here?" she wondered, looking at her fellow passenger. (That was the only downside of the trip in her opinion, having to sit in a chariot instead of getting to wing there herself.)

"Well, I didn't stay here too long," Applejack replied, running a hoof nervously along the side of the chariot; she wasn't exactly thrilled to be this high up, but she was handling it like a trooper in Dash's not-so-modest opinion. "And it was a long time ago. You could ask Uncle Orange if he knows a good spot."

"Nah, I'll just look around myself," Dash said, waving off the idea. Hang out with Applejack's folks when there was flying to do? No thanks. "Twilight, what's the schedule again?"

Twilight Sparkle looked up from a carefully planned itinerary designed to maximize her opportunity to take in the important locations of Manehattan, like the library, the museum, and the Hall of Magical Science. "We're going to land around 10:15 at the holding facility," she replied, raising her voice so Rainbow Dash could hear her from the next chariot over. "They should have confirmation of the last delivery by 11:00, but I've allowed thirty minutes in case of delay. We've got a fifteen-minute block to use the Elements of Harmony and recover, and then I'm going to get lunch at—"

"Bored now," Dash replied, turning away from Twilight and Fluttershy (well, she assumed Fluttershy was still in there somewhere) and looking over at the chariot on the other side, where Rarity and Pinkie Pie were sitting. Rarity looked as bored as Dash felt, slumped over the side of the chariot, mane fluttering in the breeze yet somehow not misplacing a strand. She was probably eager to get her hooves in one of those fancy froo-froo shops she'd been talking about when they'd been planning the trip. Or maybe she was just tired of sharing a carriage with Pinkie Pie, who, as far as Rainbow Dash could tell, hadn't actually stopped talking since they lifted off.

Just as Rainbow Dash was about to turn her attention back to the city, she saw something that jolted her awake instantly. Pinkie Pie had started vibrating worse than that time she'd been a little too enthusiastic about a bottle of syrup labeled 'shake well' and bounced herself halfway across Ponyville. As there wasn't a bottle of syrup anywhere in sight, that could only mean one thing.

"Twilight!" she bellowed, turning to face the unicorn and pointing in the other direction. "Looks like we've got a doozy!"

It didn't take long to locate the 'doozy'.

Ponies screamed, running in all directions, as a giant lizard hauled itself up on the docks, knocking barrels and boxes into the water and sending birds scattering. It was at least fifty feet long, but other than that, Rainbow Dash didn't think it looked so tough; it was really spindly, looking more like a snake that someone had stuck skinny legs to, and those legs ended in rounded, harmless-looking toes. Its face featured huge bulging eyes and a long slit of a mouth that almost looked smiling. Okay, it had pointy teeth, but they were pretty short; it probably ate bugs or something. Really big bugs.

"Oh dear!" Fluttershy shouted, which was to say Rainbow Dash could hear her, even as the chariots raced to the scene. "That's a moss-backed salamander!" Dash could see why it was called that; it was mottled green and black, rather like a mossy rock. "They're extremely rare. I've never seen one before!"

"What's it doing here, then?" Dash demanded. Fluttershy shook her head.

"I don't know! And I don't know why it's so... big."

"I think I know," Twilight Sparkle said, frowning at the sight. The creature's slick, wet hide was covered with a strange sheen, like a thin coat of liquid rainbow, but it was shifting and moving in disturbing ways.

"It doesn't matter what it's doing here," Applejack said, hitting the chariot's railing with a hoof. "What matters is, what're we gonna do about it?"

"Land us there!" Twilight replied, calling to the pegasi pulling the chariots and pointing to the spot where the wharf transitioned to the city. "We'll figure something out!"

The chariots had some difficulty landing because of all the panicked ponies—Rainbow Dash saw a strangely familiar pony yelling, "The horror! The horror!"—but managed it somehow. The six jumped out, and the pegasi immediately took off again, headed back toward the center of the city.

Twilight watched the giant creature as it began to plow through stacked crates, having cleared the dock and getting into the waterfront. "Okay. Fluttershy, you see if you can get it to turn around and go home. Rainbow Dash, go with her; if that doesn't work, maybe you can distract it. Rarity, let's try making a big net to catch it with. Applejack, you make sure nopony gets hurt."

"Ooo! Ooo! What do I get to do, Twilight?" Pinkie Pie interjected, hopping up and down. Twilight turned her serious look on the party pony.

"Pinkie Pie, you do... whatever it is you do." She wasn't sure Pinkie could make a difference, but she'd been surprised many times before.

"Okie dokie lokie!" Pinkie responded, hopping off.

Rainbow Dash grinned, crouching in preparation for takeoff. "You heard her, Fluttershy! Let's tell that big lizard to go home!"

"Um, actually, it's an amphibian—" Fluttershy began to say, but Dash didn't hear it; she was already in the sky.

Operation Big Lizard Go Home started well. Fluttershy eventually joined Rainbow Dash in the air, fluttering forward to look it in one of its bulbous eyes as Dash hung back a bit to watch for trouble.

"Um, excuse me, mister salamander—" she began, then choked as that bulbous eye blinked, her distorted reflection showing in the fluid coating its eye. She took a deep breath, forcing herself to go on, reminding herself that no matter how big it was, it was just an amphibian at heart, far from home, probably scared. "You can't go this way. There's an awful lot of ponies here, and things that might hurt you. Maybe you could show me where you came from, and—"

The salamander, as it turned out, was incapable of hearing a sound so quiet. It began to advance again, and Fluttershy squeaked and locked up, only not falling because Rainbow Dash darted in and caught her.

"I don't think the subtle approach is working, 'Shy!" she said. "Lemme give it a try. You!" She pointed at the 'lizard' with a hoof. "Yeah, you! Listen up!" It came to a stop again, tilting its head to peer at her.

On the ground below, Applejack paused to look up. "Rainbow Dash, what do you think you're doing?" she said to herself. Then a pony screamed, and she resumed herding the frightened ponies down side streets, away from the line of the salamander's advance. "Hold on! I'm coming!"

Twilight Sparkle was running around too, frantically gathering anything that might serve her purpose: netting, tarp, fabric if it was strong enough, looting destroyed crates and intact storehouses. Rarity was right behind her, stitching the hovering fabric together as swiftly as she could. "Oh, these seams look terrible!" she lamented.

"They just need to be strong!" Twilight shouted back. Where was Pinkie Pie? She hoped the pony didn't wind up making things worse, like in Appleloosa.

Then Twilight saw something that gave her a new surge of hope. Royal guards were making their way down the street toward her group, earth ponies in tight formation, pegasi flying overhead, unicorns in the rear. She hoped it wouldn't come to that, but if Fluttershy couldn't persuade the beast to turn back, they could help keep things under control while she and Rarity caught it.

Rainbow Dash continued her diplomatic approach. "You can't just walk in here like you own the place! Don't you have a big rock to lay on somewhere?"

"Actually, uh, this particular salamander only lives in shady rock crevices in cliffs and other—" Fluttershy tried to interrupt.

"Go on, shoo! Go bother somepony else! There aren't any bugs here for you to eat!"

"Nopony really knows what they eat, though small invertebrates are the most likely—"

"Are you even listening to me! Hey! Look at me when I'm talking to you!"

"I think it is looking at us, Rainbow Dash—"

Then the salamander opened its mouth and snapped at them. Rainbow Dash darted backward, Fluttershy squeaking in fright, half at the bite, half at the sudden maneuver, and throwing her forelegs around Dash's neck. The bright blue pegasus started to choke, drifting away from the salamander as she did.

"Too... tight..." she protested, wriggling to try to get Fluttershy to loosen her grip.

Twilight and Rarity were hurrying back along the waterfront, their improvised net largely completed. "You're doing great, Rarity," Twilight said, glancing up at the salamander, which was advancing again, but more slowly. "Just a few more pieces, and we should be ready to—"

"The civilians are clear!" a voice barked; Twilight looked ahead, seeing a burly earth pony at the lead of the royal guardsmen. "Let 'em have it, boys!" Twilight looked confused, then gaped as she saw the unicorns stepping forward, focusing their attention on the salamander, horns glowing bright.

There was a reason she'd planned on using a big net rather than casting a levitation spell.

"No, don't! It's been exposed to Discord!" she shouted, but she wasn't close enough, or they didn't listen. A flare of magical energy appeared around the salamander.

Then the flare seemed to suck itself into the salamander's skin, which began to glow with a sickly rainbow light. "Oh, this can't be good," Twilight said.

It wasn't.

The salamander immediately began to grow even further, skin bulging with new muscle. Frills and fins sprouted on its body, giving it a more lizard-like appearance. Its toes swelled up, then burst like pimples, revealing long, jagged claws. Its mouth lost its smiling appearance, hanging open, displaying sharper, longer teeth. Its eyes sunk into its body, becoming fierce and predatory.

It lunged at the royal guards, scattering them and forcing them to fall back, then grabbed hold of the buildings on either side of the street they'd come down and hauled itself upright, crushing handholds into them in the process. Twilight gaped as she looked up; she hadn't gotten a real feel for its size before, and now it seemed ten times the size.

It was small comfort to realize that, based on the buildings next to it, it was probably only a bit over a hundred feet tall.

The royal guards immediately set to work again, the earth ponies rounding up civilians, the unicorns protecting them from falling rubble, the pegasi flying at the beast and trying to either drive it back or lure it away. It roared and snapped at them, but continued to advance, smashing its way down a street just barely wide enough for it.

Applejack, relieved of her duty, ran up to Twilight and Rarity. "I don't think there's a lasso big enough to corral that beast!" she called, eyes wide.

Twilight let the giant net drop somewhere out of the way, frowning as she looked at Applejack. Then brightening as she saw the necklace the earth pony wore. "Of course! The Elements of Harmony! We'll purge Discord's influence and turn it back to normal!" She turned to the sky, where Rainbow Dash had regained breath and stability. "Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, new plan! Get down here! Pinkie Pie!" She paused, realizing the obvious. "Pinkie Pie, where are you? We need to use the Elements of Harmony!"

"Awww," a familiar voice cried, "and I just finished the frosting!" Rarity, Applejack, and Twilight Sparkle turned to look at what looked for all the world like the world's largest cupcake. With tank treads. And Pinkie Pie sticking her head out of a hatch with a giant cherry on top.

"How did you—never mind," Twilight said, shaking her head as Rainbow Dash landed nearby, easing Fluttershy to the ground. "Just come here! We need to purify that thing!" She turned to look, only to be surprised that it had dipped behind the nearby building already; she could still hear its footsteps, but they were farther away than she had expected them to be.

"We've got to get ahead of it!" she decided, looking around and spotting the nearest parallel street. "Hurry!" She and the rest of the little ponies galloped off.

It was headed straight toward the warehouse. Of course.

General Ironside frowned as he watched the great lizard work its way down the street. The pegasi had begun whipping it with winds, and one had even gathered together a great thundercloud and hit it with a bolt of lightning. That just made its dorsal fins start glowing. The unicorns had been gathering up the rubble and hurling it at the beast. That just got it mad. And the earth ponies were too busy evacuating buildings and clearing panicked civilians to do anything else.

Suddenly he noticed a commotion at the edge of the perimeter, a group of ponies trying to get into the street and being held back by his guards; recognizing one of the faces, he headed in that direction, face stern.

"For your own safety," his lieutenant was saying, "we need all ponies to clear this street!"

"We're the Elements of Harmony!" the frustrated unicorn he'd recognized replied. "Let us through!"

"Step aside, son," General Ironside barked, smirking inwardly as the lieutenant jumped before quickly backing out of the way. "Don't you recognize national heroes when you see them? I hope you have a plan, miss Sparkle, because we're running out of ideas."

Twilight Sparkle nodded confidently, leading the other five ponies to the center of the street, facing the enraged monster. "All right, girls, let's do this," she said, taking her stance, feeling the magic of friendship beginning to fill her heart.

General Ironside watched intently (though at a safe distance) as, one by one, Twilight Sparkle's friends began to glow with color-coded energy. He was distracted, however, when the lieutenant yelled, "Sir, the monster's reacting!"

Turning to see what his lieutenant meant, he gaped. The big lizard had stopped in its advance, mouth open, filled with flame. Even as he cried, "Look out!" the fireball became a lance of flame, shooting down the street, bursting windows with the shockwave, forcing his troops to the ground or out of the street entirely... and impacting directly where the Elements of Harmony stood. For a moment, he could see a shimmering soap bubble holding the energy back—and then it burst, thankfully only a second before the flame blast stopped as well.

The six ponies were scattered across the street, burnt and battered, in a shallow crater the force of the blast had created. Slowly they struggled to their feet, looking around groggily. All but one.

"Oh no!" Pinkie Pie said, rushing to Fluttershy's side, nudging her urgently. "Fluttershy, wake up!"

"Without her," Twilight said, her stomach sinking, "we can't use the Elements of Harmony!"

Rainbow Dash looked from her fallen friend to the monster, which was once again moving down the street, then to Twilight. Her thoughts raced. How were they supposed to beat that thing? If it kept going the way it was going, it'd be at the warehouse, with all that Discord gunk, in no time, and who knew what would happen if it got its slimy paws on more of the stuff?

An idea popped into her head. It was a horrible, suicidal, insane idea.

Just the kind she liked.

"Try to hold it back!" she told Twilight, her liftoff a touch wobbly, but good enough. "I've got an idea!"

"What idea?" Twilight said, turning to look at Rainbow Dash—or rather, at the rainbow trail where the pegasus had been. "Wait, Rainbow Dash!" But she was already gone.

A window shattering startled Professor Zeta, the unicorn overseeing the workers at the warehouse where the toxic Discordium (as he'd named the stuff in his latest paper) was stored, causing him to lose his magical grip on his clipboard and drop it off the catwalk he stood on. He turned to see a vaguely familiar pegasus with a violently colored mane shake glass off her body, then move to hover next to him with an alarming suddenness.

"Is this the stuff?" she yelled at him, pointing a hoof at one of the many barrels. He nodded, unable to speak.

"How do you get this thing open?" she continued, sweeping over the edge of the catwalk and landing next to one of the barrels. His mane stood on end at the question.

He stammered, "Open it? You can't possibly open it! The risks of exposure a-are unimaginable! You could be killed, or worse, you could—"

"Never mind, I got it," the pegasus said, grabbing the barrel and hauling it up to the ceiling... then, to his horror, piledriving it into the concrete floor as workers ran for their lives.

Twilight Sparkle was doing her best, but it just wasn't good enough. They were trying a diversionary tactic, attacking the creature from behind instead of ahead, throwing debris and launching blasts of hail and even running up and kicking the beast, but it was slowing down at best. It had paused briefly at an intersection, only to turn and start breaking through a warehouse—the warehouse next door to the storage facility, she realized, feeling sick. It was as if it were being drawn to the discordant fluid like a magnet, and when it reached it... Chaos. Absolute chaos.

Pinkie Pie was down, having been whipped off its tail into a building, and Applejack was walking with a limp from having been yanked into the air with her own lasso. Rarity was panting with exhaustion as she tried to levitate objects large enough to have some effect on the creature, and Fluttershy was still unconscious. And Rainbow Dash was still nowhere to be seen.

"Whatever you're going to do, you need to do it fast," Twilight said, wondering if the situation had become dire enough to try casting a spell on the beast and causing it to mutate further, possibly into something less dangerous.

Then the side of the storage facility blew up.

Twilight gasped, then frowned, as she realized two important things. One, the creature was still working its way through the other warehouse, and two, the blast had been outward from the storage facility, followed by the sound of another impact on the far side of the warehouse. Something had punched its way from one building to the other, but what?

She got her answer in short order, but she wasn't sure she believed it. A head pushed its way through the building in front of the creature, completing the destruction, and continued to rise, followed by a body that grew up... and up... and up. It looked like a pegasus pony, wrapped in silver and striped with bold sky-blue slashes with jagged edges, like lightning bolts running all over it. Its face was nearly featureless, with only a small hole where the mouth should be and almond-shaped eyes, glowing white. At its throat, a brilliant blue light shone; she had to squint, but it looked like it was bolt-shaped as well.

And for a mane, it had a dangerous-looking fin, running over its head all the way back to its tail... striped all the colors of the rainbow.

"Rainbow... Dash?" She gaped.

Then the giant pegasus kicked the salamander in the face.

Rainbow Dash could hear the screams from far away, like little panicked mice, but she couldn't focus on them. Everything was so small! And weird-looking, like she had eyes on the sides of her head and goofy glasses. But that was nothing compared to the weird sensations churning in her gut, the urge to crush and break and destroy, to leave nothing but chaos in her wake.

She could feel a light burning in her heart, holding back the chaos, the power of the Element of Loyalty... but she couldn't fully embrace it. If she did, the power she'd been given would go away, and she needed that power right now, to save her friends. So she lashed out at the big lizard, driving it back, wincing a little as it crushed another warehouse. "Sorry!" she said, or tried to; she didn't seem able to speak in this form, just grunt.

The lizard had gotten faster, or she'd gotten slower. Even as she moved forward to hit it again, it was bracing itself, and when she tackled it she only slid it back a bit, ruining more of the landscape before it got its feet under it and charged her in turn. She met the charge, held it back, but when it bit at her face she had to let go and step back.

The lizard's spines began to glow, and another ball of flame gathered in its throat. Rainbow Dash stood up, finding the gesture easier than she'd expected, and raised her forelegs to block the blast; it poured over her legs and chest, dizzying her, but not doing any real damage.

Okay, she thought, my turn. She moved forward and began pummeling the lizard with everything she could think of, sharp karate chops, kicks to the legs, even a headbutt when she was feeling particularly saucy. The lizard gave way with every blow, moving further and further from the storage facility and its dangerous contents, and Rainbow Dash began to feel rather smug about how easy it all was.

Then the lizard stopped flinching when she hit it.

Huh? she thought, right before it rang her bell with a right cross. Dazed, she stumbled back, beginning to spread her wings and take to the air, only to realize too late that she'd been lured into the business district, filled with buildings as tall or taller than her. Her wings impacted unpleasantly on glass and steel, sending shards raining down on panicked ponies below and forcing her to draw them closed again.

Distracted by this, she failed to avoid the beast grabbing her forelegs with its hands, then falling backward, dragging her on top of it. She didn't know what the point of that maneuver was until it put its foot to her belly, bracing her as the lizard crashed to the ground, then kicking, flipping her up and over only to land much more heavily herself on the city street. She was dimly aware of concrete breaking and fire hydrants bursting, but mostly she just felt pain.

Slowly and carefully, she staggered to her feet, only to be met by the lizard again. When did this thing learn to fight? she wondered as it continued to punish her, clawing and raking and biting. She tried backing away as quickly as she could to get a chance to regroup and charge it, only to be met with another blast of flame, this one even hotter, temporarily blinding her.

The chaos in her was reacting, pulsing faster and faster. She let it run, charging forward as the flames died and delivering a headbutt to the creature. It fell, and then she was on it, beating it with her hooves, tearing at its flesh. It tried to rise, but she ignored the feeble slaps of its arms, punching the same spot on its chest again and again and again, aiming to punch through its ribcage and shatter its heart—

No! she thought, drawing back in horror at her own actions. The lapse cost her, the lizard taking the opportunity to shove her off with all four limbs, sending her back to the ground as it began to rise. She staggered up as well, but her stomach lurched, the chaos lashing at her brain, trying to replace every thought with anarchy and hate. She looked down at herself and realized the light at her throat, symbolic of her element, had faded from sky blue to an angry red.

This fight couldn't go on. She had to stop it now, before she became as great a threat as the monster itself. But how? She wasn't sure she could get up to enough speed to perform a Sonic Rainboom, and at this size it might level the city. What else could she try?

An idea popped into her head.

She turned and ran the other way.

Twilight had watched the whole battle anxiously, seeing the momentum shift back and forth, helpless to help her friend. Now she watched Rainbow Dash apparently fleeing the battle, pausing as soon as she was clear of the skyscrapers to spread her great wings and take to the air, going upward startlingly quickly for something so big.

What was she going to do? She couldn't be thinking of a Sonic Rainboom; even Rainbow Dash wouldn't be that careless. And much as some might suspect her of running away, Twilight knew in her heart of hearts that Dash would never abandon her; if the transformed pegasus was backing off, she had a reason.

And that meant Twilight had to give her time. Without a sparring partner, the salamander had turned and begun walking down its own path of devastation, set once more on reaching the storage facility. The royal guard had been forced to turn all of their attention to evacuating survivors, which left only her, Applejack, and Rarity to stand in its way.

Looking grimly from Applejack to Rarity, then to the monster, she spoke. "I'll grab everything I can and bring it here. Applejack, you buck it at that thing. Rarity, try to guide it to vulnerable spots. Maybe we can blind it or hurt its knees."

The two nodded grimly. They knew the stakes and the odds. Neither would back down.

Twilight Sparkle blinked away a sudden wetness in her eyes. "Rainbow Dash," she murmured, "hurry."

Rainbow Dash was running out of time.

She'd flown as high as she could, higher than she'd ever dared, so high the air would barely support her weight. (Strangely, the cold and the thin air didn't bother her at all.) The jewel at her throat had begin pulsing, each throb a little faster than the last, and with each pulse another spike of hate lanced through her. She figured she had maybe thirty seconds before she lost it completely.

It was time. She shifted her weight, pointed toward the speck of Equestria that was Manehattan, and dove, flapping her wings as hard as she could. At first, they hardly helped, gravity doing most of the work, but as the air got thicker she was able to power forward harder and harder.

The wind resistance grew stronger and stronger as well. She could feel the cone of air forming in front of her, and for once she didn't try to punch through it, riding right on the ragged edge where it was as strong as possible. She needed to be fast, but not too fast... just fast enough.

The ground was coming up faster than she'd expected; her vision was still distorted, making everything look too small, throwing off her sense of speed. She began to pull up, and it was an agonizingly slow process, turning her momentum degree by degree. The turn had to be sharper, she realized, pausing a moment, gathering her strength. If it was too gradual, even if she pulled out in time she'd be over Fillydelphia by the time she leveled off.

She spotted her target, over halfway back to the warehouse and closing fast. It was now or never. Throwing everything in her body into the turn—her loyalty, her rage, her very spirit—she brought herself level over the city, a hurricane wind in her wake, the great buildings looming ahead, too close together by far for her to fly.

So she folded her wings.

Twilight Sparkle had been forced all the way back to the street near the ruined warehouse. The thing had used its fire breath on them again, and though she'd been able to shield Applejack and Rarity, it'd spent almost all the magic she had left. She'd tried to face it anyway, only to be forcibly dragged away by Applejack, led with Rarity back to where Pinkie Pie had regained consciousness and was watching over Fluttershy with anxious eyes. Fluttershy was awake as well, thank Celestia, but still not strong enough to stand.

Twilight looked at her friends, then back at the monster, just now emerging from the skyscrapers. They'd thrown everything they had at it, and it hadn't been enough. They had nothing left. They'd have to withdraw, try to find Rainbow Dash, prepare to try the Elements of Harmony again. Manehattan would be destroyed, but maybe they could save the rest of Equestria from this thing that moved without fear or pity, this product of their own carelessness.

For a moment, she thought of looking away, the sight of her failure too painful.

Then a blur of rainbow light hit it from behind.

As she, her friends, and the royal guard watched in shock, the light carried the creature closer and closer to the warehouse, only to bend at what seemed the last second and carry it up into the air. Debris caught in her wake shot past, leaving Twilight intensely grateful that she and her friends were standing somewhat to the side, and the wind buffeted her mercilessly, though not nearly so strongly as a true Sonic Rainboom.

As they watched, the creature seemed to shrink smaller and smaller, soon almost a dot in the sky. Is she going to throw it into space? Sweet Celestia...

Even as Twilight thought it, though, the rainbow light suddenly went out.

She couldn't fly anymore.

Rainbow Dash's wings had seized up, the muscles and joints unable to cope with the strain. She was still rising, but she was rising slower and slower, well short of where she had hoped to be. Then again, she hadn't really thought past 'throw it into space'.

She was thinking about it now, though. Exhaustion had given her brief clarity, even as discord continued to claw at her heart, the jewel at her throat throbbing achingly. She needed more oomph. If she just let the lizard go now, it'd just fall back to Equestria somewhere. If she was lucky, it'd land somewhere unpopulated and be splattered by the fall. If she was unlucky...

No. She needed more. And she had it. Her flesh had tired, but she could feel the magic of every pegasus still thrumming in her body, and alongside it the chaos energy that she could still, barely, command. She let the lizard go, the motion slowing her just a fraction relative to it, and as she begun to drift away, she focused that magic, feeling it burning in her flesh, seeing a glow building in her body. Strangely, it seemed to be concentrating in her forelegs, not her wings.

It didn't matter. All that mattered was this one last act, to protect her friends and all of Equestria. Even if she fell and never rose again, she could die happy knowing that they were safe.

She brought her forelegs together in front of her and screamed in her head, then gave it everything she had left—

—and Twilight Sparkle gasped as an impossibly bright light appeared in the sky, expanding in both directions now, one end carrying the giant monster higher and higher, the other driving down toward the ground. A few seconds later, the upper end exploded, a rainbow-colored cloud spreading in all directions, hanging in the air as the light blazed down. Then the light faded again, and she was left blinking, afterimages burned into her vision.

As a result, she very nearly missed that the light hadn't entirely faded. Like a meteor, Rainbow Dash descended to earth, crashing into the street dangerously close to where Twilight and her friends were resting. "Rainbow Dash!" she screamed, leaping up and galloping over, her friends following at their best pace. All she could see when she reached the crash site, however, was billowing smoke, and she lacked the strength to push it away.

Thankfully, Rarity still had some reserves. She brought a large fan out and used it to flap at the smoke, which cleared to reveal a large but shallow crater, trickles of water from a busted main—and a bruised, battered, but very much alive, and normal, Rainbow Dash. The pegasus groaned, shifted fitfully, and mumbled, "Did anyone get the number of that chariot?"

Her friends charged into the crater, heedless of their injuries, and clustered around her, holding her close.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of the story.

When the six of them had finished laughing, crying, and alternately congratulating and scolding Rainbow Dash for her reckless endangerment of herself and others that had, nonetheless, won the day, they were able to return their attention to the original reason they'd come to Manehatten. Carefully they walked over the rubble in the street, only vaguely paying attention to the royal guards who were just beginning to restore order, and made their way to the warehouse that held the dangerous cargo they'd all fought so hard to save.

Which made it a little hard to take when they showed up to find the entire warehouse empty.

"Where could it all have gone?" Rainbow Dash protested. "There was tons of it here!" She gestured futilely at dust marks on the floor.

Twilight Sparkle had managed to regain some of her strength, and her horn flickered. She looked shocked by the results. "Teleport magic was used here. Somepony took it all away!"

"Who would do such a thing?" Pinkie squealed, raising her hooves to her mouth.

"And why?" Fluttershy added.

"And how?" Rarity added. "Not even you could move that much so quickly, not on your best day." She gazed at Twilight Sparkle as she said it.

"Uh, guys?" Rainbow Dash said, suddenly feeling extremely guilty. The others turned to look at where the only remaining barrel of Discordium sat, crushed like a soda can, its contents sprayed over the floor, wall... and mesh catwalk. There was a silhouette on the wall behind it that resembled a rather surprised unicorn.

"I think I may know what happened to the Discord juice," Dash sheepishly admitted.

Rainbow Dash sighed, sulking on her cloud.

"It's just not fair," she groused. Oh sure, they'd all saved the city, and everypony'd been happy about that, but so much of it had been torn up during the fighting that they hadn't exactly been in a mood to throw a party. The group had been pressed into disaster relief instead of getting to see any of the Manehattan sights, not that any of them were open anyway after the attack. Combine that with Rainbow Dash's little screwup, and it hadn't exactly been a happy group of ponies that limped back to Ponyville.

Then they'd found out what happened to the stuff. Dash groaned, rolling over. Three times this month—three times!—another giant something or other had popped up and set out for the nearest major city to start wrecking the place. Twilight said she was making progress on the spells being used by the once-Professor Zeta to move the stuff around, and she was hopeful she'd be able to find his base of operations so they could shut him down. Dash didn't hold out much hope for that happening soon, though.

"How much longer am I gonna be stuck with this thing?" she complained, looking down at the necklace still around her neck. They'd discovered the hard way that she was still contaminated by chaos, and while wearing the Element of Loyalty kept that under control, if she took it off she'd transform once again. The obvious answer, to use the elements to purify her, had been put off at first by Twilight, who wanted to study the transformation—and then the first monster showed up, and they decided they'd be best served leaving Rainbow Dash on monster-pummeling duty until they found a solution that didn't involve dragging all six of them hither and yon.

As if summoned by her thoughts, a rolled-up scroll appeared in front of Rainbow Dash's nose, bearing Princess Celestia's seal. She unrolled it, reading with no surprise that another monster had appeared, this one some sort of flying bug, headed directly for Canterlot itself.

"Aw man, Sunday already?" she whined, standing up. And this one could fly, to boot. Well, maybe that would be okay. If she could fight it in the air, at least she wouldn't be trashing everypony's stuff. She'd personally made at least four construction companies filthy stinking rich, she figured.

"Might as well get it over with," she continued, but to tell the truth, she wasn't feeling as bad as she sounded, not anymore. At least it was something to do. And it was pretty awesome to be able to punch out some mutant freak and not have to feel guilty about blowing it up afterward. Heck, the last one, she'd figured out how to throw a shockwave from her mane somehow, and it'd been cut in half and then exploded!

Mental note: don't do that in city limits again.

She reached for her necklace, pulling it off and holding the gemstone up to the sky. It wasn't strictly necessary—technically, she could just will the thing to stop holding the chaos back—but it felt right somehow to add a bit of flair to the proceedings. Which was why, just before she started to grow and felt the silver skin slide over her body once more, she shouted:

"Let's go! Ultradash!"

Recommended listening: Ultraman the Next: Main Theme