• Published 23rd Nov 2013
  • 4,148 Views, 190 Comments

A Kingdom Divided - Samey90



For many years, Elements of Harmony were responsible for keeping peace in Equestria. But sometimes, magic of friendship is not enough...

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6. Rainbow Dash

A friend who dies, it's something of you who dies.
Gustave Flaubert


Rainbow Dash was walking slowly down the corridor of the hospital wing in her squadron’s base. According to the clock it was almost morning. The events of that day made problems with falling asleep worse – every time she managed to fall into a shallow slumber, she had been woken up by a nightmare in which her wing was wounded in the same way as Lightning Dust’s – and she decided to ask Nurse Redheart for some sleeping pills.

“Hi Rainbow Dash!”

She lifted her head to see Flitter, who was standing by the wall, holding some strange-looking gun, and examining it carefully.

“Hello,” she said. “What are you doing here? And what’s this?”

“I’m waiting for my sister. She’s gonna be discharged from the hospital today. You know, they put a metal screw in her thigh, but said that she wants to be discharged at her own risk. And this is my Jackhammer.”

“Jackhammer?”

“Yeah, it’s a prototype of an automatic shotgun.” She whisked the dust off from a barrel, and shown Dash the cylinder-shaped magazine. Its outer surface resembled a gear wheel, meant to be pushed by the action rod during every shot, rotating the cylinder. “I felt that I needed to upgrade my old weapon. Now I can shoot ten rounds quickly, and change magazines easier.”

Rainbow Dash remained unfazed, not sure about the reliability of the prototype. Instead, she was wondering what happened to Flitter, whom she knew as a fun-loving young pegasus, over the course of the last few days.

“Listen, Flitter…” she said. “What exactly happened in Cloudsdale? I heard about the riots but without any details.”

“Well, there were some workers in the Weather Factory, who were showing much support for Princess Luna… It all started after the group layoffs, they fired Parasol... We decided to form a militia, just in case. You know, groups of five to ten pegasi, walking around the streets, watching everyone who seemed shady. They also started to gather in similar groups, often accompanied by a bat pony or two.”

“Really? Bat ponies were involved in that?”

“Well…” Flitter paused, trying to recall these events. “I’ve never actually seen one, but Crafty said that there were smuggling weapons to Cloudsdale… Ironically, they shot him first, when they started to occupy the city hall.”

“They started the riots?”

“Seriously, I have no idea. Maybe ‘Chaser would know something more. Many of them were unarmed, but there were also the others that seemed to have a military training.”

“So you shot them all?”

“They were threatening the stability of Equestria! Imagine what would happen if Cloudsdale was in Luna’s hooves too!”

Rainbow Dash wanted to say something, but suddenly the door opened, and several ponies wearing white lab coats entered the building, carrying wounded patients. She recognized Doctor Stable who was levitating a stretcher with Lightning Dust lying on it.

“What happened, Doctor?” she asked, seeing the bags under his eyes and a slightly charred mane. She looked at the rest of the group – tired faces, dirty clothes and the solemn expressions. To her surprise, she saw a small, maybe eight or nine-year-old unicorn filly carried by one of the nurses. Her lower body was covered in bandages, her hind legs hung limply, but in spite of that, she was sleeping peacefully.

“Sweet Celestia, Dinky…” she muttered, looking at her closer and realising that she knew her almost from the day she’d been born.

“Our field hospital was attacked,” Doctor Stable said. “We managed to evacuate most of the patients…”

“And where’s Fluttershy?” Rainbow Dash asked, not seeing her friend among the ponies.

Doctor Stable looked away from Rainbow Dash for a moment, not wanting to meet her concerned gaze. He stared down at his hooves as he struggled to find the right words to say.

All he could think of were two. “I’m sorry…”

***

The door to Twilight’s chamber bursted open as Rainbow Dash flew in, landing clumsily on the floor. To her surprise, she saw that all her friends were gathered there, watching her without a word. Twilight was sitting behind the desk, examining a stone orb lying in front of her.

“Fluttershy…” Rainbow Dash gasped.

“We know,” said Twilight, her face looking as if it was carved in stone. “Her Element changed at night.”

Rainbow Dash’s ears drooped, and she sat down on the floor, swallowing her tears.

“That… that’s not all…” she muttered. “Applejack… Rarity…” she sobbed, and continued in an emotionless voice, “Before Fluttershy died, somepony bombed the convoy with children who were going to the refugee camp.”

She couldn’t look at their faces, hearing only a loud thud, when Rarity passed out. Applejack approached her, putting her hooves on her shoulders.

“How?” she asked. “How did it happen?”

“Scootaloo was first,” Rainbow Dash continued in the same flat tone. “They haven’t transported her to the hospital, so she probably died on the spot. And after the hospital was burned, they… they couldn’t find Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle.”

Applejack hugged her, but Rainbow Dash backed away. She had decided to spare her friends the details Doctor Stable had told her, like Sweetie’s amputated legs, or Apple Bloom’s torn-off ear. And, above all, she had decided not to tell them about Lightning Dust.

***

“Dust, are you okay?” Rainbow Dash asked. Lightning half-opened her eyes, trying to focus on her.

“Try to guess,” she said slowly, gritting her teeth.

“Wing?”

“It hurts like fuck, but that’s not the thing,” her voice started to tremble. “Rainbow Dash… I killed them…”

“Who?” asked Rainbow Dash, feeling her brain protesting against hearing yet another bad news.

“All of them… Remember that colt and that paralysed filly they brought here with me?”

“Yeah, I was wondering what they were doing here…”

“There were more…” Lightning Dust was now sobbing openly. “That deaf filly… that small white unicorn who was calling for her sister before they had to cut her legs off… Snowflake’s brother…”

“Dust, what are you talking about?” asked Rainbow Dash, feeling cold despite the high temperature in the room.

“They were hiding in the forest when my shrapnel bombs hit them,” Lightning Dust whispered, and suddenly hit her head against the bed’s frame.

“Dust!” Rainbow Dash shouted, trying to contain her, but Lightning Dust pushed her away, tearing the port from her foreleg. She raised from the bed, but the she staggered and fell on the floor, panting heavily and trying to get on her hooves.

“Doctor Stable!”

***

Applejack almost never cried. Rainbow Dash knew that she had only cried once, after her parents had died – but even then she recovered quickly. Hard work helped her forget about the pain.

Today there was a second time. When Rarity regained consciousness, it got even worse. Of course, she saw Rarity crying many times, but this time it wasn’t her usual, over-the-top wailing, but honest tears shed for Sweetie Belle, whose life ended in such a violent way.

Finally, Applejack and Rarity both withdrew to their rooms to mourn their sisters and a friend in solitude. Rainbow Dash wanted to follow them, but to her dismay, she realised that she felt empty. The death of Scootaloo and Fluttershy didn’t make her sad – all she felt was an anger and a will to take revenge. The subject of it wasn’t important yet – this could be Luna, some random bat pony, or even poor, mutilated Lightning Dust.

Lightning Dust – Rainbow Dash couldn’t get the image of her sleeping after Doctor Stable’s tranquilizer injection out of her head. Another victim of the civil war. In her current state, Rainbow Dash thought, killing her would be a mercy.

After Rarity and Applejack’s departure, she said to Twilight and Pinkie that she had to go back to the pegasi’s base – she couldn’t even look them in their eyes, or stay with them at this time. She needed to get out of here, lest her anger cause more problems for her friends.

After leaving the castle, she didn’t fly straight to the air base. If she recalled correctly, there was a small pub near it, and she thought that a glass or two of something that could be used either as a drink or a bleach would help her to clear her mind.

The pub was indeed there – the sign above the door, being a variation of Quills and Sofas’ logo and its name Booze and Coffins attracted Rainbow Dash’s attention. The interior wasn’t very welcoming; it was filled with smoke from numerous cigarettes smoked by the patrons. It was also crowded, hot and dirty. In the corner, an old pony wearing a creased hat and a denim jacket was playing a sad piano tune, accompanied by a similar-looking saxophonist and a gray, earth pony mare with big, sad eyes, playing double bass. When Rainbow Dash entered the pub, the pianist started to sing with a raspy, worn-out voice, which, surprisingly had some charm. She noticed a large silhouette of a pegasus at one of the tables.

“Hi, Snowflake,” she said, sitting next to him.

For a moment she considered asking what brought him there, but she remembered that his brother also perished in the bombing. A large glass of some orange-tinted drink stood in front of him, and by the look of his face she guessed that it wasn’t the first one.

“Life sucks, huh?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“Wait a minute, I’ll pick my poison.”

“Yeah.” Snowflake’s expression remained indifferent.

Rainbow Dash shrugged and trotted through the crowd. It was hard to do – some of the patrons were too drunk to notice her and before she reached the bar, she got prodded and poked several times. One particularly atrocious stallion tried to put his hoof on her flank, but she saw that in time. Her expression and a few words about what she’d do to him managed to scare him off.

Finally, she got to the bar. The counter was dirty, just like the rest of the pub; the dry remains of spilt beer created an interesting abstract picture on it, but she didn’t have time to watch it closer.

The only thing she wanted at the moment was to get drunk and forget about everything.

The bartender was a bit more talkative than Snowflake, but it didn’t mean he was more bearable.

“We don’t have any whisky or cider,” he explained. “War shortages.”

“Already?” she groaned. “What do you have then?”

“A mandrake booze,” he lowered his voice to a whisper.

“Ain’t it ille– actually nevermind. Give me the whole bottle.”

“Bad day?” he nodded his head understandingly.

“Understatement of the century,” she sighed, dropping the bits on the counter.

“Soldier?” the bartender asked, pointing at the dog tag still hanging from her neck.

“Yeah…” she said absent-mindedly, devouring the bottle in front of her with her eyes.

“I have a special discount for the soldiers…”

“Colour me interested.” She smiled half-heartedly at the bartender, who levitated a tape-measure.

“Oak or pine?” he asked. “Unfortunately we don’t have metal ones in stock…”

“What?” she gasped in shock. “Thanks for caring, but I’m not making so detailed plans at the moment…”

“Are you sure? It’s never too early to think about the future...”

“No, thanks, just the booze for me,” she said, taking a bottle of an orange-tinted liquid and a shot glass with her, and going back to the table. Meanwhile, the pianist took a guitar from behind his piano and started to sing another song. Its lyrics, if she heard them correctly, spoke about drinking and a pegasus whose house was on fire.

She opened the bottle and poured herself a glass of the mandrake booze.

“Goodbye, brain cells,” she muttered, raising a glass and drank it in one go. The mandrake booze almost melted her throat and stomach, causing her to choke. Snowflake only shrugged seeing her coughing, and downed his much larger glass.

“Was that a challenge?” she glared at him from underneath her eyebrows, pouring herself another glass. This time it went much smoother, as her oesophagus was still numb after the first one and her taste buds were probably permanently damaged.

After another three glasses, she suddenly found that although Snowflake wasn’t very talkative, he made a great listener and they spent some time reminiscing their lost siblings, getting increasingly louder. Even the old pianist stopped playing and started to listen, apparently gathering ideas for a new song. A gray mare from his band went even further: she ordered a glass of wine, and sat with them, introducing herself as Octavia. Rainbow Dash didn’t acknowledge that.

“Aaand… then I a-asked ‘What were you doing out here in the middle of the night?!’ And she said… like… that she wanted to hang out with me… and ssshhe wanted me to see how c-cool she was… Aaaand that Prin… cess… Oh fuck it!” she banged her hoof against the table, and downed another glass of the shady-looking alcohol. Octavia was wiping her eyes with a napkin.

“Actually, my partner went missing in Manehattan…” she said. “And, as many ponies from Canterlot Orchestra went to war, I have to sit there… alone… playing double bass, because nopony needs a cellist…”

“Yeah,” Snowflake nodded his head, and made an attempt to pat her head, but reconsidered it.

“Octy, sweetheart,” said Rainbow Dash, for a moment focusing her vision on Octavia. “D-do you know w-why this here son of a skunk and a jackal t-tried to sell me a coffin?” She pointed in general direction of the bar.

“He says that alcohol and coffins sell well during the war,” Octavia explained. “And I’m afraid he’s right…” she blew her nose.

“Yeah,” Snowflake muttered philosophically. Rainbow Dash only took a sip from her glass.

***

“D-don’t you thhhhink that it’s fu-funny that there’s ‘cess’ in ‘Princess’?” Rainbow Dash asked them after another drink. She had stopped counting them long before, but she felt that she almost reached the bottom of the bottle. Most of the other patrons had already left the pub, leaving only the three of them and a bartender who was sitting by the counter, apparently enjoying the show.

“Never thought about it,” Octavia said, “Although I’m sure Vinyl came up with that at least once.”

“I’ve… never… like… told her… stuff… you know, that stuff I should’ve told her…” Rainbow Dash mumbled.

“Me neither,” Snowflake added solemnly, and raised his glass. “The last thing I told Featherweight was that there’s no place for him in our base.”

“And I…” Octavia sobbed, “Well, nevermind…”

“D-don’t worrrry…” Rainbow Dash pulled her into an awkward hug, almost knocking her down with her breath. “You’re among… like… friends… and stuff. Y-you c-can tell usss…” suddenly her voice was reduced to incoherent mumbling, and she fell off her chair, for a moment hanging with her hooves around Octavia’s neck, before they went limp, and she finally landed on the floor. Snowflake stood up, seemingly unaffected by the mandrake liquor.

“I’m sorry for her,” he said, lifting Rainbow Dash effortlessly and placing her on his back.

“Don’t worry, I have some experience in curing drunks,” Octavia replied. “If you need any help with her…”

“Thanks, but I need to take her to the base, and they don’t allow civilians to go there,” he said.

“Okay… see you then,” Octavia replied, as he left the pub, carefully avoiding hitting Rainbow Dash’s head against the door frame. She then sighed and went to pack her double bass.

***

Cloudchaser was a skilled pony not only when it came to flying or shooting, but also when it came to saving fallen comrades. In this case, one particular comrade. After the late arrival to the barracks, Rainbow Dash was seated on a chair, her gaze wandering unfocused from one element of the scenery to another.

“Opens eyes, four points,” Cloudchaser muttered to herself, “How many feathers do you see?”

“whtrfthrs?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“Two points then… Can you lift your hoof to your nose?”

Rainbow Dash made a wide movement, hitting her forehead, and almost falling from the chair.

“Close enough… Obeys commands, six points. That makes twelve points together. Not bad, but also not good. Ok, now it’s time to remove the undigested alcohol from the system. Flitter, bring me a bucket.”

“Why don’t we just take her to Nurse Redheart?” Flitter asked.

“She’d have to write a report, and Dash would be in trouble.”

After a few minutes which Rainbow Dash spent watching the comeback of the mandrake booze mixed with some remains of her lunch, she was again seated in a chair, and given a cup of tea by Flitter, while Cloudchaser was washing the saliva off her hoof.

“Ok, I think we’ll just wash her and put her on her bed in a recovery position. I’ll stay here to look after her,” she said, “Flitts, take the bucket out.”

“Why do I have to do all the dirty work?” Flitter asked, groaning with disgust, upon seeing the bucket’s contents.

“You weren’t so reluctant about getting your hooves dirty in Cloudsdale, Flitts…” a shadow of threat could be heard in Cloudchaser’s voice.

“You’re gonna hold that over my head till the end of my life, sis?”

“No, only till you’d learn your lesson…” said Cloudchaser and took Dash to the showers, ignoring the pain in her leg.

Rainbow Dash didn’t object while being taken care of, and soon promptly fell asleep in the middle of the shower. Cloudchaser didn’t want to overexert her injured hoof and made Flitter carry her back to the room.

After her sister left them, Cloudchaser closed the blinds and lay on Lightning Dust’s bed. She put a bottle of orange juice on the nightstand in case Dash wanted something to drink, and opened her copy of Story of a Real Pony – while their base’s library consisted mostly of flying guides or biographies of the famous pegasi, Story was probably the only novel it had in stock.

While reading about Maresyev learning to walk on prosthetic limbs, she subconsciously looked at her bandaged hind leg. Well, having two pieces of bone connected together with a surgical screw wasn’t exactly the same thing as losing a leg, but she still felt that she had something in common with the protagonist. Walking was still difficult from her, so she preferred to fly instead, proud that she was the first pony in their squadron wounded in action.

Next to her, Rainbow Dash started to toss and turn in her bed. She opened her eyes, gazing into the dark corner of the room, where something was moving in the shadows.

“Who are you?” she muttered.

“You don’t recognize me?” a small pegasus appeared in a circle of light from Cloudchaser’s bedside lamp, causing Rainbow Dash to jump away in horror.

Scootaloo seemed not to pay attention to the fact that her left wing was completely torn off, leaving a bloody stump. A large wound was covering her left flank, the charred remnants of her tail covered in clotted blood. She was smiling menacingly at her, most of her teeth visible through a gash in her cheek. Although her left eye socket was empty, and there was a hyphema in her right eye, Rainbow Dash had a feeling that Scootaloo saw her perfectly well.

“Look, Dash,” she smiled even wider, causing her wounds to tear further, “Why are you hiding from me? I’m your sister, and sisters occasionally give one another a makeover, right?”

“M-makeover?”

“Yeah, makeover. You don’t like it? Well, usually they don’t do that with a shrapnel bomb, but I guess you had a reason, sis…”

“It wasn’t me!” Dash shouted, “It was Dust…”

“But who told her to drop the bomb? You’ve never thought that somepony could be there… You know? I have a feeling that you’ve never loved me, sister…”

“What? Of course I loved you!”

“Yeah… this whole taking under the wing thing? Please.” Scootaloo gave a little laugh, spraying blood on her chest and spitting the broken tooth out. “A week later, you went to the Wonderbolts’ Academy, not even inviting me to visit you. Thunderlane took his brother to Canterlot when the war started. Why didn’t you?” she jumped on the bed, losing some feathers, and causing her damaged hind leg to snap in half.

“If you love me so much, why don’t you hug me, sis?” she asked mockingly, when Rainbow Dash dodged her. “Or maybe we’ll just sit together and wait for Fluttershy?”

“STOP IT!” Rainbow Dash shouted, “You’re not real! It’s just mandrake…”

“Umm… hi, Dash.”

Rainbow Dash turned her head to see Fluttershy. Or rather a charred skeleton that was once her friend, standing behind her.

“You’d attacked them, so they came to attack us,” she said. “It’s all your fault, Dashie…”

“What? No!”

“When you kick an anthill, the ants fight back, you should know that…” Although Rainbow Dash knew it was impossible, she could swear that Fluttershy smiled at her.

“You know, Fluttershy, ants having sniper rifles and napalm make as much sense as makeovers with a bomb, but, as you can see, my sister is fond of both of them,” said Scootaloo. “Hmm, maybe I’d get my cutie mark in making pointless analogies?” she looked at her flank.

“Well, either your cutie mark looks like a pelvis, or you’re missing your superficial gluteal muscle…” Fluttershy commented. Rainbow Dash hid under her bed, only to find out that Scootaloo was already there. She wrapped her hooves around her neck and kissed her, smearing blood all over her face. Dash jumped back, hitting her head against the bed frame.

“Hey, Scootaloo!” Fluttershy shouted. Scootaloo didn’t hear her, she was too busy trying to reach Dash. “Maybe your friends will join us too? We’d make a nice little sleepover with Dashie, telling stories about how our life was before she killed us?”

“I didn’t kill you!” Rainbow Dash cried, “It’s not my fault!”

“It is yer fault!” another voice called. Rainbow Dash turned back to see a badly burned, hairless filly, whose skin was peeling off her, revealing the roasted muscles. Only her accent and a red bow on the top of her skull allowed Rainbow Dash to identify her as Apple Bloom.

“It’s your fault!” somepony called from her bed. Rainbow Dash closed her eyes and put her hooves on her ears, cowering on the floor. She immediately felt tiny hooves grabbing her, high-pitched voices shouting “it’s your fault!” repeatedly.

“Stop it!”

“No, Dash.” Fluttershy’s voice was cold, much colder than when she was alive. “You’ll pay for what you did to us. You’ll go with us and spend the eternity in our company...”

“NO! STOP!” Rainbow Dash yelled, jumping off the bed and bucking blindly, hoping to crush the skeletal caricature of her dead friend.

A sound of breaking glass and somepony’s surprised scream brought her back to consciousness. She looked around to see shards of broken bottle lying in the puddle of orange juice, and Cloudchaser rubbing a quickly forming bruise on her chest.

“What happened to you, Dash?” she asked.

“I don’t know…” she said, alcohol still buzzing in her veins. “I guess it’s just a mandrake trip…”

Cloudchaser shook her head.

“I’m worried about you, Dash,” she said. “Do you want to talk?”

“No, thanks. I’m just a bit down.”

“Are you sure? I thought you’d wake up everypony with your screams…”

“Listen, ‘Chaser…” Rainbow Dash waved her hoof dismissively. “In one day, I lost a friend and a sister. I guess you’d act similar if… if something happened to Flitter. And now excuse me, I have to visit the little filly’s room,” she said, and marched out of the room, staggering slightly.

When she closed the bathroom door behind her, she rested herself against the sink, looking at her reflection in the mirror. With a pale face, dishevelled, greasy mane and bags under her eyes, she looked at least thirty years older, and felt much the same way. Her own smell, a mixture of sweat and alcohol, was making her sick. She washed her face and drank some water from the tap. A dull pain in the back of her head and series of shivers running through her body from time to time were the first symptoms of incoming hangover. She examined her face in the mirror once more, and for a moment she caught a glimpse of an orange filly behind her.

“You’re not real,” she said flatly. “Dead ponies can’t talk with living ponies, it’s a simple logic.”

“How do you know you’re alive?” Scootaloo whispered. “You can’t talk with Cloudchaser without thinking of me… You’re trying to scorch your feelings with booze, all you want is to lie somewhere, numb… Dead...”

“I’m gonna show you.” Rainbow Dash glared at her angrily. “I’m gonna show you how alive I am, squirt…” She opened a cupboard under the sink, and took a small box from it.

“You said I don’t want to feel anything?” She fished the paper package from the box, and tore it open, watching Scootaloo, who sat on her haunches in the corner of the bathroom. “Then how do you like that?”

She took a razor blade from the package, and slashed it through the stitches Nurse Redheart had applied her after she’d crushed a glass with her hoof. Then she cut through the half-healed wounds several times. The pain awoke her, she felt like a large weight was lifted from her heart, allowing her to breathe freely. For a moment she watched the drops of her blood dripping into the sink.

“Now I feel I’m alive!” her shout echoed from the bathroom walls. She waved her hoof, spraying red drops on the floor and the mirror. “What will you tell me now?”

Scootaloo said nothing. When Rainbow Dash examined the bathroom, she found no trace of her. She threw the razor blade at the wall, watching it bounce and fall on the floor, disappearing in an uncovered drain hole. She began jumping around the bathroom and waving her wounded hoof, laughing, like a hyperactive foal who was given a new toy, before she fell on all fours, panting and weeping.

Author's Note:

Pancor Jackhammer. Looks cool, can theoretically reduce an opponent to shreds in two seconds, and usually jams after firing about four shells (of ten). Makes an ideal weapon for Flitter.

Also, the name of the protagonist of "The Story of a Real Man" is one of those names that simply don't have to be ponified – Alexey Maresyev.