• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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It was in the middle of her daredevilish backflip when Rainbow Dash realized that she wasn't moving fast enough. She spread her wings and barreled out into a forward glide just as a stream of rusted metal tools pelted the wall of the bunker behind her. Before she could fly out of danger, the magic of the panicked children's lifted the wrenches right back up and flew them after Rainbow's tail.

“Oh for the love of—!” She seethed through her teeth, spun around, flew in and out of the metal supports of bunkbeds, and even swirled up to glide along the flat surface of the ceiling. No matter how swiftly she moved, twirled, or dodged, the tiny room of frightened occupants were flinging objects at her from all angles.

“Come on, Whitemane...” She hissed, rubbing her pendant and struggling to beckon the alicorn's recharged field of translucent energy. “Come onnnnnn Whitemane—Daaugh!” She gasped as a heavy tool flew over her skull, ripping a few mane hairs loose. Wincing, she skidded to a stop in mid-air and made a face. “What the heck?! Nnnngh—They're friggin' wrenches!”

With a thud of her hooves, she landed on the floor before a bed, ripped the mattress off with her teeth, and held the cushion up in front of her. Fearlessly, she braced herself and absorbed wave after wave of pelting instruments, all the while snarling:

“Look, I'm not here to cut you into unicorn meat or nothing! I'm concerned about you all and I was looking for a filly's younger brother!” Her hooves skidded back about two feet as a severe wave of objects slammed into the mattress. “Nnnngh!” Her ruby eyes burned as she snuck a frown around the edge of the mattress. “I'm here on behalf of Flower Gears! Do any of you know her?! I swear to Luna, you're worse than a bunch of flight kindergarteners—”

A single wrench whalloped her upside the head.

Her eyes crossed, and a crooked smile flashed across her face. “Heeee... apple sauce...” Rainbow's body tilted over. With a dull thwomp, she landed on the mattress and was out like a light.

Her head swum into nebulous chasms of murky thought and numb pain. She couldn't be sure just how long she had been suspended there, treading water across the dull, muted kaleidoscope of colors. Seconds? Minutes? Days? There was a flash of light, billowing across her mind in tune to a jagged, hoarse voice, and it was around that time that her eyes opened.

“Nnnngh...” She instantly winced from a throbbing whelt along the top of her crown. “Did somepony get the license plate off of that migraine?” She sat up, or at least tried to. Her already aching skull immediately slammed into the metal rungs of a bed support. “Augh!”

“Shhhh!” whispered a voice. Dizzy, Rainbow Dash looked to see a tiny foal looking at her from where she stood on the side of the bunkbed. Rainbow realized that she was lying, hidden, beneath one of the bedframes. The light was still on in the bunker, and beyond the several sets of young, anxious hooves, she saw the silver plated limbs of a pair of Darkstinian adults.

“Industrial necessity: we who would be Duke Zaap Nator's brethren require ten of you to accompany us to the training facility.”

A colt's voice stammered in response, “But it is so late in the evening! Please, take me and my friends here. We're older than the others. The young ones need their sleep if they're to concentrate on their training during the daytime.”

“Negatory. Those who would be the youngest in age are required, for the industry is still sparkling and malleable within their spirit.”

“But if we could just—”

“Intimidating assertion: This is not something that is open for debate, you who would be New Ring's salvation. We who would be Duke Zaap Nator's brethren shall be taking ten fillies and colts immediately.”

The pony's voice sighed. With a scuffle of hooves, he spoke to the rest of the group. “You heard the overseer, guys. Sorry about your sleep. Just do what they say, and we'll resume our activities tomorrow, okay? Try to keep your horns up for the good duke! Let's move!”

There were groaning and whining sounds from the bunker's occupants while ten sets of hooves filed out from just beyond the edge to Rainbow Dash's bed. She watched, squinting, as they were accompanied by the heavy march of the two stallions, and then escorted out of the bunker. The door to the building shut tight, fastened by what had to have been a new lock.

“They had to have seen that I burned it off,” Rainbow Dash murmured to herself. “Surely they know a trespasser is around. Just what's their hurry to do some 'training' at this hour?”

The lights went out.

Rainbow Dash blinked. Fidgeting, she finally pulled her aching self out from beneath the bed. When she stood up, she wasn't alone. At least twenty young ponies were standing around her. They bit their lips with shame and embarrassment.

“We're sorry that we threw stuff at you,” a tiny colt said. “We just never seen anything like them before.”

“Nnnngh...” Rainbow Dash rubbed her skull. “Seen what?”

“Them!” a filly squeaked, pointing at her wings.

“Oh, these...” Rainbow Dash gave a weathered smiled as she brought a hoof down from her throbbing skull. “Well, they're not sold discount to unicorns. Becoming an alicorn ain't cheap; that's for sure.” She cleared her throat and trotted in a circle among them. “And about the whole 'wrench incident,' I think you've already earned your forgiveness for hiding me. Just what's up with those stallions?”

“The overseer sometimes has us practice drills overnight,” said an older colt who must have been the one speaking earlier. “In a test of our industrial aptitudes, we are summoned at night to perform feats of magic and engineering.”

“That sounds... kind of lame,” Rainbow Dash remarked. She squinted out a window at the lit courtyard still stained from the autoturret fire. “I dunno, guys. Regardless of whatever it is you all do here—or are forced to do—I feel like there's something wicked strange about tonight.” She turned to look at the group. “I raised royal Tartarus just getting here, and yet these bozos are a lot more interested in 'training' you guys in the middle of the night than looking for me?”

“They're not bozos!” the colt growled, making his younger associates squirm nervously. “They're interested in the future stability of New Ring! They freed us from the linguistic age of ascension so that we may free our minds to become better unicorn workers!”

Rainbow Dash stared at him. Slowly, she paced over until she could rest a hoof on his trembling shoulder. “This 'Duke Zaap Nator' and his army of whackjobs took you and all these other kids from their families. I don't care how important industry is for you guys, but nopony—and I mean nopony—has the right to stamp their hooves down on your life, family, and friends. Do you hear me?”

The colt tried to frown, but his lip was trembling. He gazed down as a shudder raced through his form.

Rainbow Dash leaned in. “Hey... Emotions aren't all that bad. Heh... Even I've warmed up to sappiness in my life as of late.” She smiled gently. “It's okay to feel bad about all this...”

The colt sniffled, bit his lip, and rushed forward into a flinching Rainbow Dash. He sobbed and clung to her, whimpering, “I don't understand what they want fr-from us! They m-make us train d-day in and d-day out! I try to be st-strong for the little ones, but I-I just have no answers...”

Rainbow Dash gulped. Seeing the eyes of all the other foals gazing up at her, she strongly wrapped an arm around the colt and smiled assuredly. “Hey, I may not have the answers for ya yet, but I'm working on it. Maybe you can be of help to me, y'know?”

“Help?” The colt sniffled and gaze up at her with teary eyes. “H-Help you, how?”

“Well, for one thing...” Rainbow Dash sighed and gazed at the locked door. “You can tell me about this 'training facility' thing.” She winced and rubbed her skull again. “And then, just maybe, you can help me get out of here...”

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