• Published 29th Aug 2014
  • 4,476 Views, 176 Comments

Rainbow Dash: Re-Animator - JawJoe



Rainbow Dash's loyalty extends beyond the grave. Whether society and the laws of thermodynamics permit it or not.

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Screaming at a Cottage. Rarity's Gonna Think I'm Such a Burnout

Rainbow Dash

I had a lot of questions, of course. How did Opal die? What was the cadaver's condition? And why was she so important? Sweetie Belle wouldn't say. The more I pushed, the angrier she got. She stomped, she yelled, she went red in the face – there was no reasoning with the kid.

“Bring Opal back,” she demanded, again and again. “Bring her back!”

She threw a tantrum something fierce, kicking up wires, flinging phials, banging her hooves on the desk – she seemed to have fallen into a different plane of consciousness altogether. After a while, she wasn't even responding to me, she just screamed and crying for the life of Rarity's cat. I was afraid to even go near her.

Just when I was beginning to contemplate taking out the axe, something snapped in Sweetie Belle. As suddenly as the storm had started, she fell silent, wheezing, gasping for air. She lost her balance, managing briefly to catch herself with a hoof before falling over for good.

Me, well, I panicked. I may have had stray, joking thoughts about the axe, but I never wanted to harm the kid. I had no idea what came over her, and I certainly don't know what I'd have done if I had another dead friend on my hooves. The little ones, as they say, always weigh the most.

I quickly picked her up and checked her pulse. Her heart, while frantic, was slowing down, and her breathing grew softer by the second. Touching a hoof to her forehead, I realised she was burning up. Only now did I notice how beaten she looked – mane and coat soaked wet, mud eating itself into her white hairs everywhere.

How or why she ended up in the library in the middle of the night remained a mystery. Yet I knew it must have been quite the trip.

I carefully put her onto the floor and propped up her hind legs with a chair – I recalled Twilight lecturing me about reviving a fainted pony. Something to do with circulation. I hoped for the love of all that was holy that she would be alright. After a few minutes, Sweetie's heart and breathing calmed, but her head was still far too hot.

No wonder she got sick. Some goodie-two-horseshoes like Sweetie probably never stayed up late – not under the watchful eyes of Nanny Rarity, at any rate. The shock of the night's events – whatever they had been – must have tipped her delicate, pampered body over the edge.

So the details regarding Opal would have to wait. I had instruments to wash, dried blood to scrape, a body to bury, and a kid to put to bed. Well, all in a night's work.

First things first: Sweetie Belle. I took the kid to Twilight's room above the library and hastily tucked her in. I made sure to lock the windows and the door behind me as I left. On the off chance she woke up, I didn't want her to go mucking about while I was gone. She caused enough trouble already.

Second on the list: the body of the old stallion. Or what was left of it. I collected the bits and pieces, looking under every last overturned table and behind all the heavy machinery. I spent an hour scraping the splattered bits of pony from various surfaces.

Dead bodies, I was used to. Apples and rats were a bit a bushel. I'd experimented on severed pony appendages, on guts and livers and brains and lungs – really anything that I’d managed to mine from the Ponyville cemetery. I don't think there was a single intact grave there by now. As far as I knew, the townsfolk only ever noticed the first one; I'm nothing if not a quick learner in times of need.

That, or they knew about them all, but didn't care. I preferred the first possibility.

As I diligently scrubbed away at one last stubborn giblet under a desk with a toothbrush, my mind wandered. I chopped up this pony, and I didn't notice until it was over. Have I really gone crazy?

The bit of viscera just wouldn't come off, and I found myself pounding the toothbrush at it in sheer frustration. So yeah, probably.

Tearing the shred of meat loose, I finally flicked it into a garbage bag, and the brush after it. I wiped my forehead, examining my work.

One, two, three bags by the wall, and one stallion divided evenly in them. Better to use more bags and not have them break. With a thick piece of yarn, I tied the bags together. Taking one into my mouth, I pulled the rest along.

Subtlety be damned this time; coming outside, I rocketed into the air, using the dark skies for cover. Normally, I returned whatever I scavenged where I found it. In this case, I opted to hide it in the Everfree. Even I had standards in what passed for a pony.

As I zipped over the town, I passed over a sizeable crowd. Among the many ponies, I saw the whole gang: Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie; at the lead, Rarity. I wondered what they were doing out at this time of night. Looking into an alley, Rarity yelled Sweetie Belle's name. There was my answer.

The group combed the town meticulously. To my fortune, their prying eyes were fixed on the streets, not on the sky, checking every nook and cranny where a little filly might fit. Lucky that they didn't know I was in town. Had they known, I bet that Rarity would have come knocking at my door, too. And then we'd have had a problem.

I flew as fast as my wings could carry, making the trip in minutes. Avoiding the crowd in the streets, I carefully sneaked back into the library.

Come morning, nopony would've been able to tell there was anything out of the ordinary at the Golden Oaks Library. It was just your everyday, run of the mill, boring library. No necromantic experiments of any kind in the basement, that’s for sure. ...okay, so the place still smelled a bit, but that wasn’t my fault. It’s hard to air out an entire tree.

After a careful check of Sweetie Belle's forehead, I noted her fever seemed to have gone down. Still, figuring the kid would be grumpy when she woke, I prepared a plan to catch her off guard. I'd make a good impression before she remembered who I am and what I did.

I set up a dining table in her – Twilight's – room, and brought in the freshest bread I could find in the house. If the newspaper ads were true, the fragrance of hay and butter sandwiches in the morning would make any kid smile. Pattering my hooves on a plate, I managed to wake the traumatised filly up.

“Hey kid.” I threw on a finishing slice of bread to complete a sandwich. “Thought you might be hungry.”

Sweetie Belle looked at me, blinking sleep away and letting loose a wide yawn. Her gaze danced around the room, finally settling on the blanket. With a deep breath, she pulled it up and turned towards the wall.

My brows furrowed. “Come on, now.” I picked up a plate and sat onto the bed, stroking her shoulder with my other hoof. “Eat up. You'll need the strength. Big day today.”

Her ears perked for a moment, turning towards me. Then they went slack again. She breathed in deep, blanket rising with her expanding chest. Just as I reached a hoof to nudge her again, Sweetie stirred. Slowly – and without looking at me – she folded the blanket off and sat up.

“So it wasn't a dream,” she muttered, softly patting a hoof on the bed.

I offered her the plate. “Afraid not.”

She took the sandwich but not the plate. She took a small bite, munching quietly and turning her eyes to me. “Can you really do it?”

“Of course I can,” I reassured her – and myself. Truth is, I'd never tried cats.

She turned her attention to the sandwich and nibbled wordlessly for a while.

“What happened?” I asked.

Sweetie looked at me, confused, stopping chewing for a moment.

“I know what you saw last night was... something. But how did you get here? Rarity, and practically the whole of Ponyville was out hunting for you last night.”

Sweetie swallowed, probably a bite too big, making her tear up and gasp for breath. “Rarity was looking for me?”

“I bet she still is.”

Sweetie dropped her sandwich, jumping up to press her muzzle against the window, eyes frantically searching the streets.

I picked up the half-eaten sandwich without a word, brushing crumbs from the bed. “I take it you don't want to be found. Best come off the window, then.”

She sat back down, but stretched her neck to keep peeking.

Looking over her shoulder, I saw a lonely Rarity crossing the street with her head hung. She slowly turned her head towards the library, sighed, then shambled the other way.

“Don't worry,” I said. “I'm out of town this week, remember? They won't come here.”

As Sweetie stared out the window, I couldn't see her face, but I heard her sniff. A tear-drop rolled down her cheek, glistening in the morning light.

“Oh, kid...” I reached for her, but she shook my hooves off, casting her gaze down.

“I did something bad,” she whispered, throat dry. “I killed Opal.” She swallowed. “It was an accident.” She shuffled away from the window, turning to me, face screwed and lips shaking. “I didn't mean to. I didn't.”

I fetched a tissue and wiped her eyes. She let me.

“I ran away,” she continued, struggling against heavy breaths. “I tried to hide her, but Rarity found her, and I ran away. I saw the light here, and...” She choked on the word, turning away.

I sat down beside the bed, my head coming level with hers, putting my hooves under her cheeks. She looked into my eyes.

I'd never seen a child cry before. Not like this, up close. She wasn't bawling, kicking or screaming – no tantrum this time. She breathed spastically, tears swelling in her eyes one after another.

As I leaned closer, I let her put her head beside mine, muzzle buried in my mane. She wrapped her legs around my shoulder, and I patted the back of her head. Her little chest throbbed with her quiet sniffles at my ear.

Is this what being an adult feels like?

“Can you make Opal okay?”

She wasn't crying any more. As she settled, a calmness came over me, too. I could do it; I had to do it. With Sweetie in my embrace, I felt confident – content, even. I hadn't felt like that in a while.

“Yes, Sweetie,” I said. “Yes, I can.”


Sweetie Belle

If it had been a nightmare, I'd have woken up already.

It was weird, finding relief in Rainbow's hooves. Last night, I was convinced she wanted to kill me. I thought she was crazy. Now, she just seemed confused. Maybe even more than me. She needed a hug as much as I did, I think.

Rainbow inhaled slowly, legs going slack. Her chin weighed heavier on my shoulder.

“Dash?”

She jerked her head up with a snort. “Yes, I can.”

By the wrinkles under her eyes, she hadn't had a wink of sleep days. “Have you been up all night?”

Rainbow responded with a long, wide yawn and a theatrical stretch. “Lucky me, huh? We left a hell of a mess down there. But don't worry about me, I'm used to it. I just need my...” She stood up. “Actually, would you stay here for a minute? I need to take care of something. And avoid the window, would ya'?”

She turned around without waiting for an answer.

“Where are you going?”

She made her way to the door. “Have to prepare, you know, for tonight.”

“Are you talking about Opal? I don't know what Rarity did with her after... I don't know where she is.”

“We'll figure something out. Now, if you'll excuse me.” With that, she left the room. I considered going after her, but then again, I didn't want to drop in on something I wasn't supposed to. Didn't want to make the same mistake twice.

I'd been in Twilight's room once or twice. It didn't seem to have changed much, if at all. If I hadn't known Twilight was gone, I wouldn't have told. Well, there was one tell-tale sign: the bedsheets, decorated with various Wonderbolt insignias and symbols. Definitely not Twilight's. But apart from that, the room appeared untouched.

Rainbow must have been serious about bringing her to life. In her mind, the library was still Twilight's.

Against Rainbow's advice and my better judgement, I turned to the window. Rarity meandered with her head hung, stopping at every corner for a peek. Fluttershy walked beside her, a wing over my sister's shoulder.

Was she out all night, looking for me? As if I needed more to make me feel horrible.

Rarity looked up, at the library. She turned to Fluttershy, and Fluttershy shrugged. They both looked this way, but Fluttershy didn't seem enthusiastic. She tugged at Rarity's side, nudging her the other way. Rarity didn't budge. She eyed the library up and down, stretching her neck this way and that.

All until she froze, jaw dropping, gaze set on my window. Gasping, I threw myself down.

She didn't see me. No way. She didn't...

I crept up for a quick peek, and saw Rarity stomping this way.

Dropping back, I set my back against the wall and breathed in deeply.

Well then.

I burst for the door and down the stairs. I had to tell Dash. I ran a circle in the library, looking here and there, but Dash was nowhere. Carefully lifting a curtain before a window, I saw Rarity closing in, eyes set on the upper floor. I turned, rushing into the basement.

I found Rainbow Dash sprawled out in a chair, an empty syringe between her teeth and its needle in the bend of her leg. Glasses and phials filled with differently coloured liquids and ingredients cluttered her desk, connected by wires and tubes.

She noticed me as she pulled the syringe out, jumping in her seat. “Not a good time, pip.” Her voice sounded weak, and her words gurgled in her throat. She sneezed and she coughed, shaking her head, then pointing a shaking hoof to the stairs. “G-get out, s-shoo.”

I didn't know what she did to herself, but I didn't have time to care. Suddenly, the idea of being found by Rarity was much more frightening than being helped by a drugged-up Rainbow.

“Rarity saw me. She's coming here.”

Rainbow rolled her eyes, groan through clenched teeth. “Oh, she'd do that, yeah. Okay, alright.” She climbed out of her chair only to fall over like a stringless puppet. She flipped over to her back and her eyes shot up, to a point where I could almost only see the whites. She gaped and arched her chest up, drawing throaty, heavy breaths.

“Rainbow!” I rushed to help her up, but had to jump away to avoid her incoming hoof.

“Leave it,” she gurgled.

She put her hooves on her temples and rubbed her head, blinking quickly, groaning and moaning. She froze up for a second, breathing out, then her whole body went limp. A moment passed, and Rainbow came alive with a jerk and a deep breath. She jumped to her hooves, rubbing her nose and sniffing before turning to me.

I took an uncertain step back. “Are you okay?”

She looked at me blankly, jaw hung, and blinked one eye after the other. “What?”

“What what?”

“What did you just tell me? Tell me again.”

“It's Rarity. She saw me and she's coming here. Do something!”

A shiver washed over Rainbow, making her shake, starting at the head and ending at her hooves. She did that weird blink again. “What? No. No. I get it. No. Don't tell me.” She turned around, cracking her spine. “I got it. Stay here. I'll handle this. I got it.”

With a single flap, she blasted off, stopping right before she hit the ceiling. There she slapped herself, strong enough that I heard. “Booyah!”

She shot towards the stairwell in the back and disappeared. The library's hidden door clacked and slammed shut within a second.

I spent a moment collecting my thoughts. I had no idea what I witnessed there, but at least Rainbow seemed to know what she was doing... and I couldn't help being curious. Climbing into her chair, I inspected her workdesk. Looking at the syringe, I found some blue stuff drooping from the needle.

Behind the clutter, I also found a thick tome, lying open. I hopped onto the desk to read it. The open page was titled “Sans-Sleep Serum – SSS.” There was a long explanation as to the workings of the serum, ingredients, details on production and use, and probably a lot more. I skipped most of it.

What grabbed my interest was a short scribble at the bottom of the page. Where everything else was written in impeccable writing, that bit was skewed and barely legible. If the tome was Twilight's research, the scribble must have been Rainbow's contribution. It said something about the SSS making you crazy.

The ceiling creaked. Somepony entered the library.

I tip-hooved up the stairs, as quickly as I could without making noise.

“You've no idea how grateful I am,” said Rarity. “How fortunate you arrived right now. If I couldn't get past the door, I may have...” She brushed aside a loose lock of mane. “I may have done something I'd have regretted.”

Keeping my head down, I took cover on the staircase at about halfway, just around the bend, pricking my ears up.

“Yeah,” came Rainbow's voice. “What a crazy random happenstance.”

“I'm convinced I saw Sweetie up there,” Rarity said.

“She's gone missing last night, you see,” added Fluttershy.

“Well, as you've seen, I locked the door,” Rainbow said, accompanied by the sound of the door creaking open only to be slammed shut again. “Couldn't have got in.”

“Just let me check, please,” Rarity said.

“That way upstairs,” Rainbow replied. “Say, apart from the missing child situation, you've been alright?”

The voices were getting quieter. I moved a few steps up, peeking into the library. The upper stairs creaked, and I caught a glimpse of Fluttershy's long tail snaking upwards.

“No,” Rarity said. “Not at all, in fact. This past day has been a disaster.”

“How come?” asked Rainbow.

I heard them move about the bedroom upstairs, but no words came for a while.

“Maybe she saw me coming,” Rarity said. The stairs creaked again. “We should check the basement, just to be sure.”

I took a few steps down.

“We've been out all night looking for her,” said Fluttershy.

“Yes,” Rarity chimed in. “We barely had time to... oh, she has to be in the basement.”

As the trio came down, Rainbow was looking curiously at Rarity's hooves. The white hair on her fetlocks was clumped together with old, dried mud.

“Been digging for gems?” Rainbow asked.

“Something like that,” Rarity said.

Oh, Opal...

They turned for the basement stairs. That was my cue to scurry further down. I needed a place to hide.

The basement was a lot cleaner than last night, but there was still plenty of clutter. Hide under a desk? Too obvious. There was a bookcase with broken shelves in a corner, with a huge pile of books under it. Probably been like that since the thing broke. I thought about burying myself in that pile.

Hoofsteps. The pile was in the far end. I didn't have the time.

The closet! A huge machine stood where I remembered the freezer to be. Under it, a whole lot of scratches. Bingo.

I set my back against the machine and pushed with all my might. Which wasn't all that much, when you get right down to it.

When I saw just enough space to squeeze in, I did, climbing onto the freezer and cowering to be as small as possible. I couldn't push the machine back from the inside, but at least that gave me space to peek out. But that also meant somepony could peek in. I hoped the freezer's buzzing wouldn't give me away.

Rarity appeared first, followed by Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy. She pinched her nose. “Stars, what is that smell?”

“Is that rat droppings over there?” Fluttershy asked. She seemed more excited than disgusted.

“Okay,” Rainbow said, “I get it, place's kind of a mess. But I'm telling you, Sweetie isn't in the library. Even if she was, I don't think she could stomach hiding in the basement.”

Sounds about right. As I quietly inhaled, I remembered how the basement had been the previous night. The old stallion, Rainbow with the axe, the rats, the guts... and Twilight. The only thing between me and her dead body was the thin door of the freezer. The memories made the air smell that much worse.

Rarity scowled at Rainbow. “Do you think I'm imagining things?”

“You do get neurotic when you're sad,” Rainbow replied.

“For Sweetie's sake, I'll ignore that remark. Now help me find her. She's in here, I just know it.”

Rarity paced up and down the room, checking under tables, desks, and even rummaging through that pile of books.

“Why'd she run away, anyway?” Rainbow asked.

Rarity froze. “She... I did something.” She went on to check behind the broken bookcase. Her back was turned to Rainbow, but I could see her grind her teeth.

“I get that you want to find her,” Rainbow said, “but she isn't here.”

Fluttershy also walked a lap, looking her and there, but luckily not into the closet. With a sigh, she put a hoof on Rarity's shoulder. “Rainbow's right. There's no use in working yourself up. But we'll find her, don't worry.” She turned to Rainbow. “I'm sure Dashie will help.”

When Fluttershy said her name, I saw Rainbow quickly shake her. When Rarity looked, the shaking blended into nodding.

Rarity sighed, shoulders sunk. “I'm sorry. But can you blame me? I hope she's okay. I just want to hold her and tell her that it's alright.”

That's all I wished, too. I wanted it all to be alright again. I had the urge to step out of my hiding hole. To tell Rarity everything.

Rarity craned her neck, taking another look through the room. When her gaze passed over the closet, all my courage dissipated. Because it wouldn't be alright. I couldn't stand to look at her. I pulled myself in as much as I could, burying my face in my legs.

“Rainbow,” Rarity said. “What's behind that thing?”

I opened an eye and peeked. Rarity was pointing here.

“Er, nothing?” Rainbow mumbled.

“Rarity, please...” Fluttershy put a wing over Rarity's shoulder, but she shook her off.

Rarity started moving my way. “No, there's definitely something.”

“Anyway, how's your cat?” Rainbow asked.

I knew about Rainbow's prankster nature, but I've never been told about her expertise in subtlety.

Rarity stopped. She stood still for a moment, then slowly turned to Rainbow. “My cat?”

Fluttershy said nothing, but waved a hoof at Rainbow and shook her head with a worried look.

“Yeah,” Rainbow said. “How's the little furball?”

Rarity's eyes went wide. She stared at Rainbow, and after a second, she gulped. “Opal's dead.”

Rainbow put on a horrified expression. “No way.” She skipped into the air with one flap on her wings, landing between Rarity and the closet. “How did that happen?”

Rarity stepped back, saying nothing.

“S-she was in an accident,” muttered Fluttershy.

Really?” Rainbow asked. She put a hoof over Rarity's shoulder, flipping her around. With her other hoof, she grabbed Fluttershy and pulled her close too. She unfolded her wings, pressing them against her friends' rumps, in the stairs' direction. “And where is she now?” Rainbow asked.

As Rainbow herded them to the stairs, Rarity kept her eyes on the floor. “Fluttershy will take care of her.”

“I have to do these things from time to time,” Fluttershy explained timidly. “I took Opalescence already, but we didn't really have the time to do much, with Sweetie Belle missing.”

“Fascinating,” Rainbow said. “I mean, in a sad way. Sympathies for the little fiend, Rarity.”

Rarity sniffled. “Thanks, Rainbow.”

“Opal will receive a proper burial today,” Fluttershy said. By this time they were walking up the stairs, and I couldn't make out anything else clearly.

There was some walking around above, a few more muffled words, then the sound of the door closing. Rainbow Dash came down the stairs with long, victorious steps. She walked straight for the closet and looked through the gap, straight in my eye. I gave a short, embarrassed giggle. Rainbow scoffed, then pushed the machine aside with one huge slam.

She stuck a hoof in my face. “You dense little filly. They could've found Twilight. What would I have done then, huh? Why were you even in the basement, anyway?”

“I warned you about Rarity?”

Rainbow stepped back, looking away and rubbing the side of her head. Her eye twitched. “You did. Huh. Yeah, you did.” She shrugged. “I take it you heard all that, then. I kinda had to promise to look for you, but now we know where Opal is.”

She grinned. Her grinning always crept me out. She pulled me up and touched her nose to mine.

“Tonight, we're bringing Opalescence back to life.”


Rainbow Dash

I expected the kid would be over the moon. She wasn't.

From what Rarity has told me, Sweetie Belle was a ticking bomb of bad decisions. Well-meaning, but unpredictable. I've spent more afternoons than I liked to admit posing for some flamboyant dress at the Carousel Boutique, listening to Rarity drone on about the crusaders' newest, craziest shenanigans.

Yet mentioning Opal seemed to make Sweetie more reserved, and she looked under the weather already. Probably for the best. I promised to help Rarity find Sweetie, which wasn't an obligation I could get out of. That meant leaving the kid alone. Better have her sit in a corner in some self-induced stupor than walking around causing trouble.

I told her the plan, set her up with a pile of books, and left the library. I hoped, for the love of all that was sacred, that she kept away from windows.

Like a mutual trust exercise, I had to trust her not to blow her own cover like a silly pony, and she trusted me to make Opalescence all better. This was appealing at first, but I couldn't shake the memories of the last time somepony put her implicit trust in me.

Rarity had me check every corner of Ponyville. She made me fly up and scan this side of the Everfree. At the rate she pushed me, it was almost more exhausting than it was boring. It gave me an opportunity to collect a few things, at least. Let's just say that Poison Joke wasn't the only useful – and possibly lethal – thing that lived in the forest. 'Oh hey, I think I saw Sweetie in the bushes over there. Let me check...'

I started feeling bad after a while, breaking Rarity's heart every time I came out not with Sweetie Belle, but a hoofful of flowers, berries or pods.

By the end of the day, Rarity had to concede that even I couldn't find her sister. This admission happened early evening, near the library, and resulted in her breaking down right on the doorstep.

Rarity hunched over a table, sobbing and burying her face in her hooves. I slid a box of tissues closer, and she picked one out with her magic.

“First Opal,” she cried, “and then Sweetie. I can't take this.” She wiped at her runny make-up before blowing noisily into the tissue.

Me, I was busy sorting through a fresh basket of Mean Face Oak acorns. “Don't worry. I'm sure they'll be fine.” Not that Rarity's condition wasn't heartbreaking, but giving up and crying never helped anypony. That, and I knew certain things she did not.

I picked out an acorn, and found it far too tiny. You get the most juice from grinding all the biggest ones.

Rarity kept her gaze down, twiddling her hooves. “I should never have let her out of my sight. I knew something might happen, I just did.”

“You're overreacting.” I threw aside another tiny acorn. What remained would have to do.

Her breath caught. “I'm over—!” She looked up, inhaling deeply. “Rainbow Dash, I've not mentioned it so far, but what's wrong with you? You've been like this all day. You think I didn't see, you picking flowers when I asked to check the Everfree? Now, what's that in your hoof?”

I turned to the furious Rarity, hiding a patch of Ursa Major fur behind my back. “Er, nothing?”

Rarity eyed me up and down, nose scrunching with disgust. “You don't even care.”

That made me freeze. Keeping my cool, I put the patch of fur down and counted to three in my head. “What do you mean, I don't care?” I pushed off the ground and flew right up to Rarity. “You think I wouldn't bring them back if I could? I'm terribly sorry about Sweetie Belle. And the cat. I looked for Sweetie. I didn't find her. So it's back to the drawing board. We gotta keep going. There is no use in breaking down.”

Rarity looked away. She clenched her teeth and blinked a few tears away.

Okay, maybe I did lose my temper for a moment. I landed at her side, calming myself with a sigh.

“What if she's gone?” Rarity asked. “Like Twilight? What if I never see her again?”

I put a hoof over her shoulder. “Right now, the best thing would be to go home and have a good night's rest. Sleep on it, you need it.”

“How could I sleep?” Rarity asked. “I should write to Celestia. Surely she'll help. Send out the Royal Guard. I mean, we're the Elements of Harmony.” She sniffed. “Or we used to be.”

I wasn't at all comfortable with the idea of Celestia's goons sniffing around Ponyville. “Look,” I said, “there's no need to involve Celestia. I'm sure she's super busy, doing... princess things. Just give it another day. We'll come up with something. But there's nothing we can do tonight.” I put a hoof under her chin. “Hey, maybe Sweetie's gonna show up on her own.”

She kept her eyes on her hooves, fiddling. “M-maybe a personal audience with Celestia...”

I slammed a hoof onto the table. “Snap out of it.”

Rarity jumped, finally looking at me.

“Tomorrow, Rarity. I promise. Tomorrow, everything is going to be fine.”

It took a while, and a lot more consolation, but eventually Rarity managed to calm down – and, if I'd played my cards right, I managed to make her forget about that crazy Celestia idea. As a parting gift, I sent her home with a fresh box of tissues. That oughta keep her occupied.

Locking the door after her, I made my way into the basement. I met Sweetie about halfway down the stairs.

“Listened to all that?” I asked.

Sweetie sat quietly, and nodded without looking.

“Come on, pip,” I said, patting her head. “It's time.”

Down in the basement, I prepared all that we would need. Jars of pickled ingredients lined the desk. I packed syringes, vials, a burner, and enough fuel to last a whole night. And, of course, the tome full of Twilight's work.

When I picked up the fire axe, Sweetie raised a brow.

“Better to have it and not need it, right?”

Although Ponyville was usually quiet by night, after the commotion yesterday, I didn't want to move around too much. It would be better to dig Opal out and operate on the spot than risk being caught in the streets.

This was the plan: considering I've never done cats, there was no guarantee the current formulas would have any effect. Rather than bring Opal back into the lab, we'd bring the lab to Opal. If we got lucky, we'd be done in no time. If not, well, we had a long night ahead of us.

We packed everything up in those large, black garbage bags: one for me, and one for the kid. Double-wrapped, naturally. By the number of bags I went through every week, the stallion I bought them from must have thought me some kind of crazy pony.

I opened the freezer to pluck a bunch of feathers from Twilight. Her left wing didn't have enough – it had gone completely bare.

I'd have to finish the pony formula soon.


Sweetie Belle

We hurried through open areas, keeping to narrower, darker alleys when possible. Opal, so Rainbow had been told, was buried at Fluttershy's. It was close enough for Rarity to visit, but far enough that she didn't have to see it every time she walked out the door.

Fluttershy's cottage was right at the edge of the Everfree. When we arrived, the lights were still on inside. The trees of the Everfree gave us a good place to hide and prepare. We put our bags down and lay low.

Rainbow squinted her eyes. “Now, where could it be?”

I pointed to a silhouette of an unusual outcrop in Fluttershy's garden. “I think that's that.”

“Since when do pets get gravestones?”

“Since they're Rarity's.”

A shadow passed by a window, and we kept our heads down.

“While you were out,” I said, “I kinda read into that book of yours. With all the potions, you know?”

“Pretty cool, huh?” Rainbow asked. “Twilight's work, most of it.”

“There's so many things in it,” I said. “I saw one that said it's... 'highly volatile.' That means it explodes, right? How did Twilight come up with these? And more importantly, why would Twilight invent a bomb?”

Rainbow shrugged. “Don't ask me. I joined pretty late. The explodey-thing? That was supposed to be an air freshener. It's got flowers in it and everything.”

“Uh-huh,” I mumbled. “And what's with the blue stains all over the book?”

Rainbow waited a moment before answering, eyes set on the cottage. “A... minor lab accident.”

The lights went out on the lower floor. Just as Rainbow got up, they came on upstairs, and she threw herself down again in a fit of grumbles.

“So how are we doing this?” I asked. “Are we just going to do this out in the open?”

“Don't worry, kid.” Rainbow fished a tiny flask from a bag. A transparent liquid sloshed around inside. “I got it all figured out.”

“I don't suppose that's water.”

The upper room's lights went out. Rainbow waited a moment, and when the cottage stayed dark, she bit down on the mouth of her bag. “Time to move.”

She started for the grave, and I followed with my bag in tow. By the time I caught up, Rainbow had her spade out. The gravestone had no words on it, but a brilliantly cut opal was embedded in the middle. Rainbow took one glance at it before driving the spade into the ground.

I watched the cottage anxiously. No lights. Rainbow's grunting was the only sound to be heard.

Uncovering a wooden casket, Rainbow prodded the spade at it. “Get that, would you?”

I closed my eyes and concentrated. The casket lit up and slowly floated upwards.

“Nice,” Rainbow said, snatching it from the air. “Now, come on.”

Rainbow clutched her teeth around the spade, curled a wing around the casket, and took her bag in one hoof. She cocked her head towards Fluttershy's chicken coop, around the corner. With that, she started running, bag clattering.

The coop itself was in some kind of animal pen. Goats, sheep, cats, dogs, and who knows what else slept within. Little holes in the ground marked the homes of rodents and snakes, and a variety of birds snoozed in nearby trees.

Rainbow jumped the fence effortlessly, bag crashing as she landed. A dog sniffed the air nearby, making me freeze. Finding the dog's eyes closed, I climbed over the fence, gently lowering my bag behind me. We'd barely even begun, and my heart was racing already. Rainbow quickly disappeared behind the coop.

Turning the corner, I found Rainbow with her back to the wall. I poked my head out, peeking towards the cottage. Still no lights. So far, so good.

Rainbow put the casket down and brushed off the remaining dirt. Licking her lips, she opened it up.

A purple bow ornamented Opal's pristine, freshly brushed fur. Her jewel-studded collar hid the injury on her neck. If I hadn't known, I wouldn't have had a clue how she died.

Rubbing her hooves, Rainbow stuck her head into a bag. After some fumbling about, she emerged with two of those small, transparent flasks in her hooves.

She held them up, one flask in each hoof, moving them up and down, gaze alternating between them. I think she was weighing them. “Okay, here's what's gonna happen.” She put down one of the flasks and clutched the other one. “Twilight called this the Sleep Serum. Used it to study, well, sleep. To prepare for the Sans-Sleep Serum. It's supposed to be injected, but thanks to a... minor lab accident, I know it works in a different way, too.”

“Wait, who are we putting to sleep here?”

Rainbow turned into the coop, throwing the flask. The glass shattered, and Rainbow pulled out.

Before I could ask anything, she put a hoof on my mouth, then pushed down my head. “Head down, kid. Cover your nose.”

After about a minute, Rainbow poked her head into the coop and sniffed around. She then stepped inside, beckoning me to follow.

“Look at these things,” she said, tapping a chicken on the head. It didn't react in any way. “Out cold. You can play ball with 'em at this point.”

“Rainbow...”

“Right, yes, the cat.”

We emptied the bags by the walls. Rainbow lit the burner. I laid Opal out on the floor, feeling the break in her neck.

“Get that off her,” Rainbow said, pointing briefly at Opal's collar before going back to sorting her things.

With a gentle tug, Opal's bow came off. As I raised my head, Rainbow pushed the tome into my hooves. Then she threw a quill at me, followed by a small glass of ink. Thankfully, she'd sealed it properly.

“I'll be doing the hard work here,” she said. “So make yourself useful and write everything down. Open at the very end. Work backwards. See a blue smudge, skip over it.”

At the end of the tome, I found Rainbow's scribbles. Lines were slanted and words were barely legible, often forced into much smaller places than they had any right to be. Cross-outs and overwrites ran rampant.

As I was trying to make sense of it all, Rainbow picked up a vial that radiated a faint green glow. She filled a syringe from it, then showed it to me.

“This is a variant of the Re-Animation Potion,” she explained. “The one I use for rats. We'll begin with this. Yeah, just find an empty page and write down what we're doing. Note the time of administration, and I'll inject. No reason to sit around.”

At the tug of my magic, the quill took on a faint green glow, dipping itself in ink. I needed to practise fine movements anyway. “What's the time again?” I asked.

Rainbow groaned. “What do you mean, what's the time? It's... okay, no clue, doesn't matter. Got everything else? Rat formula, Opal, yada-yada?”

The quill scraped on the page. “Yeah.”

“Here goes nothing, then.”

Rainbow jammed the syringe into Opal's neck and pressed the plunger. The green glow dissipated into the body.

For a while, I didn't even breathe. My eyes were fixed on Opal's body. Seconds passed, and then a minute more. Remembering the rat, I prepared myself for Opal's wake-up groans and hisses, but nothing came.

Rainbow Dash pursed her lips. She took a large, round glass and hoisted it above the flame. From a bottle, she poured water. “Doing it the hard way, then. Turn to the Re-Animation Potions. At the end somewhere.”

I flicked the pages until I found the entry. There was one marked 'rodents.' Another entry was marked for 'fruits,' crossed out, with the word 'apples' above it. The 'ponies' entry followed. Rainbow snatched the tome from my hooves, putting the tip of hers into it, and began comparing the entries.

“Are we going to be here all night?” I asked.

Rainbow didn't look up. “The more you talk, the longer we'll be here.”

I sat down, hooves crossed. For a summer night, it was rather chilly out. The burner's tiny flame quietly crackled away, but it did little to help with the cold. Hens and roosters sat on perches or in piles of hay, snoozing, unaware. The more I thought about it, the louder that snoozing sounded.

Turning to Rainbow, I saw her with her back was against the wall. A limp hoof hung at her side, some kind of flask in it. Her mouth opened for a long snore.

I poked her side. “Dash.”

Rainbow perked up, the flask falling from her hoof and rolling away. “Yeah, huh?” She rubbed her eyes. “Sorry.”

“Haven't you slept at all last night?” I asked.

“No,” Rainbow said. “I'll be fine.” She stuck a hoof into a bag. “Just let me get my...” She pulled out a phial of blue liquid. With her other hoof, she reached for a syringe. Opening the phial, she stuck it inside.

I recognised the liquid as her Sans-Sleep Serum, and remembered her seizure-like episode right after she used it. “You sure you should do that?”

Rainbow held the syringe in her jaws, feeling for a vein in her leg with her other hoof. “Uh-huh,” she mumbled. “You wouldn't like me screwing up 'cause I'm sleepy.”

“I wouldn't like it if you messed up because of that thing.”

She looked at me for a moment. Then she craned her neck, moving the syringe to her leg.

As she moved her hoof to press the plunger, I grabbed her leg. “Please, Dash.”

Rainbow pulled her hoof up to shake me off, but I refused to let go, getting onto on my hind legs. Our eyes came level. For a moment, Rainbow stared at me. She then lowered her hoof, and spat out the syringe with a sigh.

“You're gonna be the end of me, kid.”

She emptied the syringe by squirting the serum all over the floor. And a little bit on me. I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she didn't do it on purpose.

Putting the syringe down, she pointed at a little brown packet. “Now give me that.”

I handed it over, feeling some kind of dust inside. Rainbow mixed it into the brew. She added I don't know how many things, mixing, stirring, always checking labels twice. She was silent throughout her work, barely looking at me. I could barely keep up with the writing. The brew's colours and shades shifted with each addition.

From a long, sealed tube, she picked out a bunch of purple feathers.

“Is that Twilight's?” I asked.

“Alicorn magic,” she replied. Catching herself, she put a hoof on my mouth. “No talking. Have to pay attention here.”

Rainbow dropped the feather into the potion, and it dissolved in seconds. She sat back. A spark lit up inside, and the glass glowed green. She filled the syringe again and held it out proudly.

“Note it,” she said. “Try number two. Kind of a mix between the pony and the rat formula. And some other stuff.”

As I penned the last lines, Rainbow injected Opal again. I found myself tapping on the floor.

Movement. Opal's mouth opened with a hiss.

“Opal...” I reached for her, but Rainbow stopped me.

She put a hoof before her lips. “Shh. Wait it out.”

Opal's neck contorted. There was a crack, and her head jolted. Her eyes snapped open, and she gave a pained whine.

“What's she doing?” I asked.

Rainbow grinned. “Beautiful, isn't it?” she asked. “That's her neck mending. She'll be better than new in no time.”

Opal made unearthly sounds, like she was being skinned alive. It was quiet at first, but quickly got louder.

“Okay, that shouldn't happen,” Rainbow said.

Rainbow scrambled for the tome, searching the text frantically. I rushed to take Opal into my hooves. She wouldn't stop screaming. Her eyes turned to me. I wondered if she recognised me. After she swiped her claws at my face, missing by an inch, I figured she must have.

The sounds she made! Imagine a cat with her tail in a grinder.

Rainbow cast the book aside. Hooves now free, she started tearing her mane. “No, no, no. She's gonna wake up every animal here.”

Opal swung at me again, making me drop her. She fell on her side and writhed, twitching and moaning. She swiped at anything in reach, raking the floor with her claws.

“Don't you have some kind of painkiller? Can't you brew one?” I peeked outside, looking for light in the cottage. So far, nothing. “Or, or use that sleep thing. Anything.”

Rainbow shoved me aside. “Oh, I'll show you anything.”

She seized Opal by the neck, and Opal dug her claws into her legs. Rainbow clenched her teeth, hissing in pain. She lifted Opal above her head, then swung downwards. Opal's head crashed into the floor, and the whole coop shook.

My jaw dropped. I couldn't make a sound. By the ensuing silence, neither could Opal.

Rainbow wiped her forehead. “Whew.” She glanced towards the cottage, and seeing no lights, a relieved smile appeared on her face. “That could have ended badly.”

Opal lay silently on the floor, one leg twitching. I watched Rainbow take the glowing brew outside and pour it all out. The earth radiated green for a short time. She casually walked back inside, looking down at Opal. She pulled up the cat's head, then let go. After it collided with the floor again, the leg stopped twitching. Rainbow put up another glass of water to boil.

I just stared. Rainbow waved a hoof in front of my eyes. “Hey, you alright?”

I closed my mouth. My gaze shifted to Rainbow, then to Opal, then back again at Rainbow.

She added a familiar dust to the new brew. “What? What's the worst that could happen?”

So Rainbow Dash made a new potion, and tried to raise Opal from the dead. Again.

And again, and again.

It took three new formulas before I could speak.

After the fifth, I was properly desensitised.

With each altered formula and subsequent horrible death, Opal came closer to the cat I knew. And who knows? I thought. Maybe the lasting brain damage will make her easier to handle.

“Okay,” Rainbow whispered, filling the syringe. She yawned. “What's this? Twelfth try?”

I could feel myself falling asleep. I put the quill to the page with my eyes closed, hooves under my cheeks, barely keeping my head up. “Thirteenth,” I sighed.

Rainbow put the needle to Opal's neck. “Try thirteen. This one will do the trick.”

“Just like the previous three?” It was getting late. Mentally, I was preparing to bury the cat again. “Why'd you kill her this time, again? I thought she was pretty good.”

“Yeah, good, except her heart wasn't beating.”

“How does that even work?”

Rainbow shrugged. “Magic?”

As I awaited our newest failure, I looked through the notes on the previous ones. It was a gradual change, but by now the new formula barely resembled the old ones. I don't think there was a single ingredient we didn't switch out and back at some point.

There was one constant, though: the purple feather. Rainbow said that Twilight's alicorn... ness... was important. I remembered how Rainbow preserved her, but I didn't think she was growing these feathers back. Rainbow had a limited supply. She was wasting it on that dumb cat, on me, just to prove a point.

Opalescence stirred. She didn't scream now. I wondered if the newest formula was more merciful than the previous ones or she'd just got used to it. I didn't like the cat one bit, but I wouldn't have wanted to be in her place.

Opal stretched her paws, and gave a long yawn. She rolled onto her stomach, cracking her back along the way. I extended a hoof towards her. She hissed in anger and swiped at me, arching up her back and slinking away.

“You think that's fine?” Rainbow asked.

I reached for Opal again, getting the same swipe and hiss. “Yeah. That's her alright.”

Rainbow threw herself on the cat and pinned her down. Opal struggled to break free, clawing at her hooves, but Rainbow held firm. “And what's that I feel?” Rainbow asked. “A heartbeat. Bit quick, but, yeah.”

The realisation was slow to sink in. “You... you think we did it?”

“Oh yeah.” Rainbow grinned. She lowered her head to Opal's level, who in turn gave an angry hiss. “Welcome back to life, Opalescence. You cost us half of Twilight's feathers, so don't go wasting that extra life.” She looked back to me. “I'll hold on to the furball. Pack up, would you?”

I began putting away the half-empty jars and bottles. The newest potion still sat hoisted above the flame. Figuring that I needed the light, I decided to leave it for last. Carefully sealing every bag, phial, and what not, I packed up in the garbage bags.

Rainbow grunted. “Little pest just bit me. Doesn't like being held, does she?”

“Not unless you're Rarity.”

Filling one bag, I turned to pack into the other. I heard another yelp, Rainbow's cursing, then the sound of paws on wood. When I looked, Opal was on the floor, backing away from Rainbow.

Backing right into the open flame.

Before I could reach out, the tip of her tail touched the fire. Opal jumped and let out a blood-curdling shriek before bolting across the coop, flaming tail trailing behind her. I tried to grab her, but I only got my hoof scorched.

Opal jumped into a haystack. As she leapt out, that side of the coop went up in flames.

Rainbow grabbed the full bag and threw it outside. Then she turned for the equipment still unattended, distancing them from the devouring flames. Anything she could get her hooves on, she threw it into the empty bag. The tome was the first to go in.

In the meantime, the shrieking Opal found the door and burst outside. I ran right after her. “Catch her!” As if the fire wasn't enough motivation to get out of there.

Outside, every animal was wide awake and making terrified sounds. No way Fluttershy's going to sleep through this.

A creek flowed through Ponyville, arcing right by the cottage. Opal darted right for it, and I was hot in pursuit. Then I realised I couldn't hear Rainbow. Looking back, I caught a glimpse of a rainbow tail flicking about inside the coop. It was going to collapse at any moment, and that insane pony stayed in there.

Opal jumped into the creek. I jumped after her, but she stayed submerged. No matter which way I turned, I couldn't see her. I felt through the dark water, to no avail.

Back at the cottage, there was a loud crash. Half the coop collapsed. Something bumped under the smouldering debris. Fallen planks burst outwards, letting smoke and embers float to the sky. Rainbow emerged, axe in mouth, dragging the bags behind herself. Coughing, she stuffed the axe into a bag. Taking one bag into her mouth and the other between her hooves, she rocketed into the air.

She swooped over me, nodding her head towards the far bank. There, Opal crawled from the water to shake herself dry. I started swimming for her, but her ears flicked, and she took off running again.

As I stepped out of the water, a black bag crashed down before me. “Grab it.” came Rainbow's voice. Looking up, I saw her speeding straight at me. I barely had time to pick up the bag before Rainbow wrapped her legs around me and carried me into the air. “Time to leg it.”

“Don't lose Opal.”

Rainbow did a quick turn in the air, scanning for the cat. I saw her, pointed, and Rainbow began the chase. I took one look back. The cottage's door burst open, the flooding light silhouetting a stiff figure in the doorway. Fluttershy's scream echoed through the town.

Opal ran, crawling under fences, crossing streets and private gardens. She must've heard us coming for her. Or she went crazy.

Rainbow didn't care about being noticed now. She must have figured that if anypony got up, they would be drawn to the fire anyway. Or she went crazy, too.

With all the weight she lugged around, it was a wonder she could even keep up with the mad cat.

Opal eventually slowed down, probably from exhaustion. As we closed in, she jumped on a tree and hid between the leaves. Rainbow elegantly slammed us into the trunk. She, too, must have been tired.

Rainbow jumped up right away. I, on the other hoof, enjoyed the simplicity of lying in the grass. It hurt less, not moving.

“Opal!” she yelled, putting her hind hooves against the tree. “I'm gonna get you, and then you'll be sorry.” She bucked the tree, and the kickback planted her face in the dirt. She spat a mouthful of grass, grumbling. “Applejack makes it look easy.”

Collecting myself, I got to my hooves. Opal clung to a long branch. The branch grew by a nearby building, right under an open window. I took a step back for a better look. That's when I realised: we'd landed right beside the Ponyville Hospital.

Rainbow shook a hoof at the cat. “Don't even think about going through the window.”

Opal went through the window.

Rainbow stomped. “That's it.” She crammed a bag in my hooves. “Sweetie, bag.” She took the other one in her mouth. “Rainbow, bag.” She clutched her hooves around me, and lifted me to the air. “Opal, dead.”