• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Gears

“My name is Flower Gears,” the teenage filly murmured. It was evening, and her trembling face leaned over a half-eaten bowl of soup in the center of the visiting ponies' suite in Governor Mintelle's building. Free of the cloak that had obscured her in the streets of East New Ring, the young unicorn's yellow coat and petite cutie mark of pink cogs were exposed to the hovering lantern overhead. Her silver-white mane was frayed at the edges, and heavy bags hung under her eyes. “I am fourteen years old. I was studying to become an engineer of seed planting devices in Enterprise University...”

“You mean the place of learning in the western district,” Steelteeth remarked thoughtfully. He trotted over and poured more broth into her bowl before carrying the pot of soup back into the suite's kitchen. “I've been there before.” He paused briefly. “That is, years ago, before this intimidating wall was erected.”

“It's been four days since I snuck my way over to this side,” Flower Gears stammered between desperate slurps of the soup. “Every unicorn of East New Ring is convinced that the western Darkstinians are out to overthrow Governor Mintelle and claim the pit of the sunken obelisk for themselves. That couldn't possibly be even further from the truth. It just shocks me how... angry the citizens are over here.”

“Well, I can only imagine you're weirding them out some,” Rainbow Dash said from where she hovered in the middle of the room.

Flower Gears looked nervously up at her. “Huh? How?”

“Well, the way you're gabbing, girl!” Rainbow Dash waved her forelimbs. “Goddessawful inquisition: why aren't you who would be Flower Gears talking like you've got marbles in your mouth?”

The filly winced at that. “It's... It's complicated. I know that I am past the Age of Industrial Ascension, b-but I haven't had my parents around to perform the linguistic ceremony...”

“Why is that?” Steelteeth asked.

“Mmmm...” Flower Gears picked at the soup as her cheeks went red. “I... I-I haven't seen them in over two years...”

Steelteeth's midnight brow furrowed. “Two years...?”

“Extended summer camp?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“Not exactly. I've been... ushered to a special learning center.”

“What kind of learning center?”

“I... uhm...” Flower Gears fidgeted, her eyes locked on Rainbow's blurred wings. “That is... uhm...”

“Something the matter?”

“It's just...” She took a deep breath for composure. “I'm not used to seeing... well...”

“Oh. Heh...” Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes and smirked from where she hovered. “It's okay. You'll get used to it. Seriously, don't mind me. The auto-turrets of this smoggy place keep me from feeling the air outside.”

“Oh. Okay. Ahem...” Flower Gears cleared her throat and continued, “I and several other young unicorns were chosen to participate in an experimental new study program just a block away from the pit where the obelisk used to be.”

“'Experimental' in what way?” Steelteeth asked.

“We were to study in peer groups, without the aid of unicorns who had grown past the Age of Industrial Ascension. Still, though, in between thorough reading and engineering projects, we were asked to report to an overseer responsible for monitoring our bunker.”

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. “Bunker?”

“Allow me to guess...” Steelteeth adjusted the brim of his hat and leaned against the table. “This overseer was a citizen who would be a follow of him who would be Duke Zaap Nator.”

Flower Gears bit her lip.

“Hey... Come on...” Rainbow Dash spoke, managing a soft smile. “You can tell us. I know he looks scary as heck over there in his badflank trenchcoat, but we're actually the good guys!” She turned and gave her tail a flick. “See? Rainbows! We're totally friendly!”

Steelteeth merely sighed.

“Mmmm... They never tell us much, but as soon as I heard Duke Zaap Nator make one of his speeches on the wall beside the pit, I knew that the overseers had to have been working for him.”

“What made you think that?” Steelteeth inquired.

“Because of the way Zaap Nator talks,” Flower Gears murmured. “It's just like the overseers. It's also a lot like the books they make us read.” She looked up at Rainbow Dash and the Constable. “It's full of all these lessons about finding the inner faults within ourselves and bringing them to the surface so that we can be cleansed and made into good industrialsts.”

“Sounds quite radical to me,” Steelteeth muttered.

Rainbow Dash frowned at him. “That's your word for everything!”

“I've seen this sort of thing before,” Steelteeth continued. “When there's a period of political turmoil, a power hungry individual will round up the local youths and indoctrinate them to his own ambitious agenda. That way, in the event of a future power vacuum, he'll have access to fresh, zealous recruits able and willing to fill in the gaps of his dogmatic ranks.”

“Only, they aren't around to do something like that!” Flower Gears remarked.

Steelteeth's aquamarine eyes narrowed. “How do you mean?”

“Only that... well... one moment, there are other ponies studying with me, and then the next moment they are gone.” She gulped. “A lot of them are older than me. Some of them are younger. But I'll wake up, and they'll be gone. The overseer talks like nothing has changed. And when I ask him where my friends went...” Her face scrunched up as if in pain.

“Yeah?” Rainbow Dash leaned in from where she hovered. “What happens?”

Flower Gears murmured, “He asks me if I really wish to stay alive or not...”

Steelteeth and Rainbow Dash said nothing.

Just then, the lights went out.

“Aaaah!” Flower Gears flew out of her seat, knocking the chair over as she rushed over to Steelteeth's side and clung to his coattails. “What's happening? Are they here?”

“Is who here?” Rainbow Dash asked in the darkness.

“They'll have followed me!” Flower Gears whimpered. “They'll know I have run out of the bunker!”

“Relax,” Steelteeth unemotionally grunted. “I imagine it's just a surge from the absence of the obelisk in the center of New Ring.”

Sure enough, a few seconds later, the lights flickered back on. Flower Gears exhaled with relief, but she still trembled visibly.

“Something's gotten you really, really freaked out, girl,” Rainbow Dash remarked. “And I don't like it one stinkin' bit!”

“Let's not resort to rash actions,” Steelteeth murmured.

“Hey! Who says I'm gonna do something rash or impulsive?!”

Steelteeth merely stared at her.

“Hmmph...” Rainbow Dash folded her forelimbs in a pout. “As if you don't have a single unpredictable bone in your body, Steely.”

“Actually, most of my skeletal structure has been comprised of magesteel alloy since I recovered from the collapsing building—”

“Oh, go eat your hat!”

“Are you going to tell Governor Mintelle?” Flower Gears inquired, still clinging to Steelteeth. “Maybe a lot of Darkstinians in the west half of the city don't think she's doing the best job, but I know she's got more power than the Duke! Maybe she can help me find my brother!”

Rainbow Dash's ruby eyes narrowed. “Your brother?”

The filly nodded. “He and I were ushered from our apartment flat on the same day. He went to a younger study program in a bunker across the street from mine. Everyday for a year and a half, I could see him through the southernmost window. But then, just a few months ago, I couldn't see him anymore. I started to worry. And then when ponies started graduating and being taken away, and when the overseer started threatening me...” Her voice trailed off as she clutched harder to Steelteeth's coattails.

Steelteeth stared off into the far corner of the suite, his nostrils flaring. “You have done the right thing, she who would be Flower Gears. I shall attempt forthwith to bring this sudden revelation to Governor Mintelle.”

“Huh?”

“He means...” Rainbow Dash hovered down and smiled at the mare's eye-level. “You're totally safe with us! And when all is said and done, we're gonna find your little brother and then kick Duke Zaap Nator's butt!”

“Miss Dash....” Steelteeth glared at her coolly. “There will be not violent striking of anypony's posterior, not now, not ever.”

Rainbow Dash groaned. “Okay, so we'll make fun of his butt. But we're totally gonna find your lil bro.” Rainbow Dash swept a loose cleft of white bangs out from Flower Gears' face. “Okay?”

The girl gulped and nodded with a feeble smile. “'Kay...”

The lights flickered again, ultimately shutting off.

“Unnngh... Not again,” Rainbow Dash grumbled, staring up at the darkened ceiling.

“It's happening much more swiftly,” Steelteeth said. “Most of last night while you were unconscious, it went out just like this, but after more prolonged periods of time.”

“Just what the hay does that mean?”

“I'm not sure. But I definitely must speak with she who would be Governor Mintelle again.”

“Try writing to her,” Rainbow Dash grumbled. “Maybe it will save time.” She turned and looked at their guest once more. “Hmm. Speaking of unconscious.”

“Hmmm?” Steelteeth glanced down. Out of exhaustion, the weak teenager had fallen asleep on her hooves, leaning against his rigid form. “Oh.”

“I've flown loops around lakes and scaled mountains for days on end,” Rainbow Dash said. “I don't think I've ever once looked that pooped.”

“Exhaustion is subjective.”

“Ever the poet,” Rainbow Dash said, then blinked awkwardly at Steelteeth.

With a remarkable show of gentility, the metal-toothed stallion lifted Flower Gears' slumbering form onto his spine, carried her over to the bed beside the balcony, and layed her down with extra care. He pulled a sheet over her form as Rainbow Dash hovered over to his side.

“You think she's making half of it up just to get a bite to eat and a place to rest?” Rainbow Dash asked in the falling shroud of evening. With the lights cut off, the apartment was a great deal darker. The first of several distant stars poked through the foggy sky beyond the balcony “Or could she be telling the truth about all that crazy stuff with the bunker and the mean overseer?”

“She's convinced of it, at least. A filly's sincere love for a sibling transcends most temptations to falsify the facts.”

“I wouldn't know anything about that. Heh.”

“Nopony is without a shred of sincerity, Miss Dash. You should remember that.”

Rainbow Dash squinted at him. “Do you?”

Steelteeth merely trotted towards the door to the suite, adjusting his broad-rimmed hat. “I am off to speak with Governor Mintelle. There is much to discuss.”

“And what am I supposed to do?!” Rainbow Dash barked at him from afar. “Hover here and twiddle my hooves?”

“Well, somepony needs to play 'hostess.' You, at least, have the teeth for it.” He paused in the open doorframe and pointed with an intimidating glare that Rainbow could practically smell. “Do not do anything crazy while I am gone.”

“Me? Crazy?” Rainbow Dash glanced towards her peripheral vision. A solid beam of lavender light was gliding straight out the window and shooting over the darkened rooftops of East New Ring until it fell ever so fatefully into the deep pit beyond several rows of auto-turrets. “I-I wouldn't think of it!” she said with a nervous smile.

Steelteeth looked at her. He exited, paused, looked at her again, then closed the door completely.

Rainbow Dash groaned long and hard. She finally touched down to her hooves and leaned on the bed, casting a bored glance at the peacefully slumbering figure of the young mare.

“Heh. 'Flower Gears.'” Rainbow Dash smirked into the falling curtains of night. “Anypony with a name that silly totally earns a second lease at life...”

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