• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Duke

“Is there something in your eye, Miss Dash?”

“You mean besides this whole dang city?” Rainbow Dash wheezed, practically lurching ahead as her lungs heaved and wheezed with the smoggy air filtering through the metal-laced streets. “I've flown through volcanic ash clouds that were cleaner than this.”

“I assure you that the fumes are relatively harmless,” Steelteeth said as he strode easily ahead of her. “The Darkstinians have been living around factories for centuries. They've discovered fuel sources that give off very little exhaust.”

“Koff... Nnngh... You call this very little?”

“The life expectancy of a normal New Ring citizen has increased by three hundred percent in the last decade alone.”

“Just why the heck do they need all these smokestacks and grinding gears and conveyor belts and all the other crap anyways?” Rainbow Dash glared at the sky with a frown. She and Steelteeth weaved through streets of thick traffic. Unicorns in leather and brass outfits strolled past them in solitary lines, paying heavy attention to their pocketwatches. “I can't for the life of me figure out just what they're building, and it's not like the capital is expanding any.”

“That's because more than half of the stuff they build is destroyed within a year and broken down into raw materials to make newer and more refined contraptions.”

“What?!” Rainbow Dash coughed again and limped after him. “That's stupid! What the heck for?!”

“You're a pony of agricultural roots, if I'm not mistaken...”

“I guess you could say that, yeah...”

“And don't equines where you live repeat the same process of farming and harvesting every season of every year?”

“Well... uhm... Pfftchyaaa. But that's not the same!”

“Is it not? Equestrians life off the land. Darkstinians live off of industry. Why not make a life out of it when it becomes something affordable?”

“Only, back where I come from, ponies don't split up over petty politics when there's a surprise shortage on irrigation,” Rainbow Dash said with a sigh. She looked up at the high walls of improvised metal slabs serving as a barrier that separated the east and west sides of the huge concrete circle lying in the center of the capital. “Forgive me for being something of a female dog, Steely. I guess it's just my pegasus roots, is all. Nature is something worth making a fuss about cuz it's something that's harmonious. But industry? Meh. It's something invented by ponies, and ponies very rarely make thinks peaceful or healthy when they attempt to do what nature does... uhm... naturally.”

“You srtike me as a mare who knows a thing or two about harmony.”

“Yeah, and you strike me as a stallion who knows what it means to have his mouth welded shut.” Rainbow Dash made a face at a thick crowd of grumbling, unhappy unicorns who were gathered densely around the walls that lined the pit. “What in Luna's name is happening up here?”

“Doesn't take a Constable to know civil unrest when he sees it,” Steelteeth muttered. “The citizens here are experiencing a literal schism of ideas, politics, and geography. It seems fitting that many of them would be less than happy.”

“We ARE talking about Darkstinians, right?” Rainbow Dash gave Steelteeth a crooked glance. “Seems hypocritical for unicorns without emotions to get in a hissy fit with one another.”

“I never said that they lacked emotions,” Steelteeth droned. “But, much rather, they endeavor to hide them behind a highly industrialied speech etiquette.”

“So they experimented to see if their boredom could overpower their anger,” Rainbow Dash said with a smirk. “I could have predicted something like THAT failing in a heartbeat.”

“Aside from this most recent development, they have always struck me as a civilized group of individuals.”

“That's only cuz you've been around them for too long!” Rainbow Dash groaned. “Yeesh, Steely! That had to have been the trots! Poor little you, lying in the hospital, and then the nurse walks up, and she's all, 'Coy Femininity: Shall I who would be a nurse deliver a sponge bath unto you who would be a hunk of muscular horse flesh?' And you're like, 'Sure, whatever, babe.' And she says, 'Inappropriate advancement: My, what a fine posterior you have my handsome outtrotter who would be a quadruped, shall I who would be your prize tonight proceed with the rinsing of your midnight flank?' And then young Steelteeth says, 'Fine, just try not to let anything rust.' And she's like—”

“Might I do you the favor of aborting your maliciously fictitious anecdote before it carries on for another five minutes?”

“Goddes, I'd give a million bits just to get you to try and punch me or something, ya stick in the mud.”

“You wouldn't survive the experience.”

“I've survived giant lizards to the face... inside a cave... TWICE.” Rainbow Dash came to a stop when the crowd had become so thick that she couldn't advance anymore. “So, like, what are they saying, anyway?”

Steelteeth coolly replied, “Perhaps it would benefit us to listen.”

“Yeah. Just perhaps.”

Training her ears, Rainbow Dash began picking up on the voices of those around her. They were all training their metal-laced horns onto one part of the wall. In repetitious fashion, the Darkstinians hissed and snarled, “Righteous fury: relinquish the west! Righteous fury: relinquish the west! Righteous fury: relinquish the west!”

For the longest time, it looked as if they were shouting at the wall itself. But then, a tall stallion appeared within a cleft of the tall barrier. He bore a black headpiece with a nozzle liken unto a gas mask. Long, curly black threads fountained around the rear of his helmet like a lion's mane. Despite the constant barrage of angry words, he stood proudly along the west border of New Ring, staring down at the masses as a group of guards protectively flanked him.

“So who's the mouth breather?” Rainbow Dash remarked. “Literally...?”

“I would venture to guess our mysterious Duke Zaap Nator,” Steelteeth remarked.

“Ew, really?” Rainbow Dash made a face. “I was kind of hoping he'd be bigger.”

“You have a singular imagination.”

“I think you smell too.”

“Shhh... Let us listen...”

Just as Steelteeth uttered that, Zaap Nator spoke boldly to the crowd, his voice echoing through a shoulder mounted speaker that crackled with magially funneled sound waves. “Sincere plea: I who would be Darkstine's salvation entreat you once again, those who would be my brothers and sisters! Come to this side of the wall! Come to the true New Ring!” He gestured a leather-clad hoof towards his chest and continued, “Epiphanous message: I who would be transcendant have breathed of the fumes of the deep well. Righteous declaration: There is more to the darkness than chaotic anomaly! We are being robbed of industry because of our neglect! Message of conviction: we must give more than our labor to the industry! We must give our essences! We must sacrifice what we selfishly cling to if we who would be Darkstinians wish to rise above the imperfections that plague us!”

The majority of the unicorns merely droned their disapproval. It came across as a monotonous hum of disgust, as hundreds upon hundreds of citizens fumbled to express their negativity without losing temper. Steelteeth hardly batted an eye. As for Rainbow Dash...

Her eyes were trained on the deep pit between the walls of the city. She squinted at the black space yawning within, and all she saw was a cyclone of lavender light flowing down it, like a tributary of bright liquid. With every second she spent staring into the abyss, she felt the irresistible urge to dive in. Regardless, she coiled her wings tightly to her side, all the while sighing at the image of several auto-turrets looming dangerously above.

In the meantime, Zaap Nator was still speaking. “Words of warning: Do not give into the deception of she who would be Governor Mintelle. She who would be New Ring's leader is far too enamored with orthodox redundancy. Pivotal truth: revolutionary change is what Darkstine needs. Those who would be ponies of industry need to look within and eliminate the last vestiges of equine frailty if the perfect machine is to be harnessed! So long as she who would be Governor Mintelle is in power, there will be no single New Ring; there will be New Ring and her defunct East New Ring!”

“He's much more radical than I had first feared,” Steelteeth remarked.

“Really?”

“Haven't you thought the same?”

“I'm still reeling over the fact that he can throw his voice that far while wearing a gas mask.”

Steelteeth sighed, pulling the brim of his hat further over his face.

A dainty hoof tugged on his trenchcoat. “Uhm... excuse me?” a filly's voice remarked.

Steelteeth and Rainbow Dash turned to see a teenage mare standing before them, clutching a cloak to her trembling body.

“Are you really outtrotters?”

“Do not mind us, citizen,” Steelteeth said. “We are not in league with anypony but Queen Whitemane, and she is a diplomat of pure motive. You needn't fear our presence.”

“It's not that. I don't fear you two. I was wondering if you could help me.”

“We are only here for a short visit,” Steelteeth dismissively grunted. “Royal business...”

“Hey, Steely, hold it.” Rainbow Dash trotted closer to the young mare. “I think we should let her speak.”

“Miss Dash, I think it would benefit us to listen further to what Duke Zaap Nator has to say—”

“Dude, just open your frickin' ears!” Rainbow Dash hissed. She leaned forward and pointed at her. “Can't you hear? She ain't talkin' like the rest of them!”

Steelteeth raised an eyebrow. As if coming out of an apathetic stupor, he turned and looked down at the frail pony.

She gulped and stared up at the two of them with emaciated eyes. “We have to talk. But not here. Please... take me somewhere safe...”

“Safe?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“From him,” the pony remarked, pointing up at the wall where the masked Duke was orating. “I'm awfully frightened that he'll see me if we stay here too long.”

“And why is that, young one?” Steelteeth remarked. “What is it that you've done?”

“I... I've lived...”

“Lived?”

She nodded in a trembling matter. “I'm from Zaap Nator's New Ring. I snuck in from the other side of the wall.”

“You? From the other side?” Rainbow Dash gasped. She scratched her neck behind her mane and cast the lavender glow of the hole one last look. “Hmmm... How about we get something to eat somewhere? My treat...”

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