• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Turrets

Rainbow Dash hadn't realized how dark it would be until she was surrounded on all sides by Darkstinian shadow. Muttering under her breath, she stuck close to a thin alley wall, her ears twitching as she slid past steam vents built into the metallic struts that supported the tall buildings on either side of her. With the power having flickered off in her immediate vicinity, she found herself navigating a cold district of dormant mechanical parts and floating industrial vapors. She had imagined that some thing or another within the city would be giving off a light; this was home to mechanized unicorns, after all. However, as the minutes of sneaking bled into half an hour, she was still surprised to be piercing clouds of thick black nothing.

Her only aids were the sounds and smells of the place, and neither turned out to be all too pleasant. If it wasn't the trace fumes from underground engines, it was the stench of cycled garbage within the framework of the urbanscape all around her. Rainbow Dash couldn't imagine what would possess ponies—unicorns or not—to actually live there on a year-round basis. Holding her breath, she paused as the sounds of various stallions galloped through the street past her, rushing towards backup generations in a desperate attempt to bring life and illumination back to the city. She thought about Steelteeth, about where he might have been at that time.

“He'll literally burst a pipe once he sees I'm gone,” she muttered. A slight smirk crossed her lips. “With my luck, he'll have powered down too.”

She blurred across the street bravely and slid into another alleyway. Pressing up against a wall, she exhaled with relief upon hearing no sign of anypony spotting her. With liquid movement, she pressed on towards the center of East New Ring.

For a moment, she was tempted to reach up and summon a glow from her neck pendant. She restrained, however, fearing that doing so might give herself away. She was used to doing impulsive things, but almost always the only pony she had to be concerned with was herself. This time, the very reason for her leaping out into the streets was to find out about Flower Gears' family, or so she had convinced herself.

It perplexed Rainbow Dash that ponies like the Darkstinians of New Ring could live so close to each other in such densely packed conditions and yet not know a single thing about one family's peril just beyond the barriers of a few skyscraper walls. Then again, Rainbow grew up in Cloudsdale, a skyborne city that definitively mocked the concept of “living in a glass house.” Pegasi had very little trouble—much less need—in keeping secrets from one another, especially when there were dire problems at hoof.

But these Darkstinians, Rainbow Dash felt, were the utter epiphany of what had always bothered her about unicorns. Their library of ideas weighed far more heavily than the substance of themselves, and she could never quite sit right with the philosophy of most magic ponies because of it.

“Besides, horns are just too pointy and annoying,” she muttered as she reached a source of light. Tilting her head up, she gaped at the size of the lanternlit wall that split the city of New Ring down the center: the west from the east. “Yeesh. There's not enough spray paint in the world for this thing.”

Carefully, she glanced over her shoulder. There were no ponies around. Not a single horn was to be seen. With a smirk, Rainbow Dash flapped her wings and lifted up.

Immediately, a series of high-pitched beeping noises resonated around her. Hissing through her teeth, she dropped down to the metal street and squatted low, sweating.

The beeping stop. Rainbow Dash became aware of tiny shadows lining the walls high above, tilting left and right in mechanical precision.

“For Pete's sake!” she grumbled hoarsely, gazing up at the looming threats. “How come the turrets aren't powered off?!” She glanced between them and the flanking lanterns. “Hrmmm... Must be a secondary power line or something. Well, gosh darn it...”

She looked around the immediate street, still anxious about being seen. She spotted a loose chunk of metal on the ground beneath her. Briskly, she snatched it up in her jaws, flexhed her muscles, and chucked the item straight up in the air. With a bicycle kick, she spun and bucked the item savagely towards the smoggy night.

The high-pitched beeps sounded off again, followed by the whirring sound of swiveling turrets. Not half a second later, eight completely separate barrels went off from the edge of the wall. The airborne metal shard was vaporized from multiple angles. The bright flash of the weapons' discharge filled the nearby streets with noise and an orange glow.

“Holy tap-dancing Luna,” Rainbow Dash muttered, her ruby eyes wide. Just as she murmured this, she heard the stampede of several hooves. “Awww crap. Night guards!” Biting her lip, she looked every which way and darted into a nearby alley... only to slam muzzle-first into a metal wall nearly two feet deep. “Oww!” her voice cracked as she rubbed her nose. The suspicious Darkstinians ran up and scraped to a stop directly behind her. “Uh oh...”

“Imperative exclamation: halt! You there, she who would be a citizen!” a unicorn shadow shuffled up, levitating a sparkling blade of energy as his fellow cohorts flanked him in silver armor. “Swift inquisition: did you see that which would be the target of the auto-turret fire?!”

“Uhhhh...” Rainbow Dash squirmed.

She realized that the shadows of night were cloaking most of her figure, including her wings. Something glinted in the corner of the metal niche. Looking down, she saw a rusted baton that must have once been the handle to a broken lever decades go. Nimbly, she kicked the thing up so that it flipped into the air and landed—balance—on her forehead.

“AHEM.” She spun around, her head tilted skyward so that the pole stood at just the right angle from her brow. “Uhh... Totally innocent answer: I haven't seen anything flying around here. Friendly suggestion: Have you... uhh... tried somewhere closer to the wall and those evil westerners?”

“Furious agreement!” One stallion hissed to his compatriots. “It must have been a weapon from he who would be Duke Zaap Nator!”

“Mildly veiled threat: let us go and launch refuse over the wall to that it might strike that which would be his flank!”

“Exasperated dismissal...” The leader of the guards groaned. “You are those who would be delinquets. Authoritative command: swiftly, let us search the nearby streets for sign of fresh debris.”

“Affirmative.”

“Aye.”

The guards ran off, leaving Rainbow Dash standing with her head tilted up as if she had a nose bleed. After a few seconds, the lever handle fell off her skull and collapsed onto the metal street.

“Whew...” She slumped against a nearby wall, stretching her wings. “Achievement unlocked: Darkstinians are gullible as dirt.” She looked up at the wall, making a pouting face. “I hate walls. They're like the licorice gumdrops of cities.” She glanced around. “Just how the heck do I get over it—” She paused, squinting.

About thirty meters away, caught in the glow of an orange lantern, a ventilation shaft was pouring steam out into the night sky. As close and as densely as the puffs of vapor wafted towards the auto-turrets, not a single one of the weapons moved or beeped.

Rainbow Dash blinked, her ruby eyes reflecting the delicious clouds of sting. Soon, she smiled, and her wings twitched. “Unicorn city? Get ready for a taste of pegasus country...” She trotted firmly forward beyond the edge of shadow...

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