• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Hacking

Foggy mists fell over the four bunkers within the west district of New Ring. Cold lanternlight poured over the courtyard and surrounding alleys as autoturrets hummed overhead. Suddenly, there was a loud clanking noise from one of the bunkers, then silence. Several seconds later, another loud ring resounded. Thirdly, a pair of hooves kicked out a grated window that rattled to the ground. The autoturrets above swiveled to face the item, beeped neutrally, and rotated back towards the dark heavens.

Rainbow Dash peered her head out from inside, squinting.

“Hmmmm... Yup. Still miserable and ugly outside. How do you unicorns even bear it?”

“Huh?” The young colt stared out next to her. “I don't understand. It's a beautiful night!”

“Shhh!” Rainbow Dash hissed, staring out towards the descending stairs beyond. “So, that's the way down to the training facility?”

“Mmmm... More or less.”

“I'm listening.”

“First you go down four flights of metal steps, then you take a left and proceed down a long hallway. Then, about forty paces through the basement corridors, you'll find a large round door. Through that is the training room where we spend most of the day practicing magic and industrial aptitude tests.”

“Okay, one last question.” She glared at the colt and the group of anxious foals surrounding him. “What was all that crapola your overseer was spouting earlier about you kids having 'sparkling, malleable spirits' for the 'salvation of Darkstinian industry' or wutnot?”

“There has been a break in industry,” the colt said. “The obelisk that grants our city its power and inspiration has receded into the earth. Duke Zaap Nator feels that industry must be reinvented if we're to be successful as Darkstinians again.”

“Yeah? And what do kids have anything to do with that?”

The colts and fillies exchanged nervous glances.

Rainbow Dash frowned. “You don't have a clue, do ya?”

“The Duke is wise and he cares about our province.”

“He's also full of hot air. I should know.” Rainbow Dash smirked. “I've seen that elephant trunk he wears around all the time.”

A series of giggles billowed from the crowd.

“Heh...” Rainbow Dash smirked. “So Darkstinians do have a sense of humor. It's just buried beneath all the metal and monotony.”

“The Duke is right about many things, though,” the colt said, fidgeting. “We need the obelisk if we wish to prosper.”

“Well, why not just build a new one?”

“There's no building a new obelisk!” A filly spoke up, wide-eyed. “There's only ever been one!”

“You mean that crud was here when Darkstinians first set hoof to wrench in this place?”

The children merely nodded.

“Ugh...” Rainbow Dash looked out the window and sighed. “As always, I'm late to the party. Well...” She stood up and mounted the window. “Not for much longer.”

“Wait!” The colt grabbed her tail. “Wh-what about the turrets?”

“I think I figured it out.” Rainbow Dash smirked and motioned towards them. “Gimme those wrenches.”

The fillies and colts hesitated. Eventually, half of them shuffled forward and hoofed them to Rainbow Dash. She grabbed them with both forelimbs and hovered with the weight of the collective tools in her grasp. “Check this crud out. I'm gonna hack them.”

“Hack... them...?”

“You heard me.”

“But what about when the guards come back?” A filly whispered. “What about if they see this window knocked out and all these wrenches gone?”

“Kiddo, I get the feeling that once I get down to this 'training facility' of yours, I'm gonna blow the lid off this place, and you're not going to have to worry about boring ol' 'industry camp' or whatever the heck this is ever again.”

“Really? You mean we'll get to see our parents again?”

“Oh, absolutely!” Rainbow Dash grinned, struggling to keep all the wrenches from slipping. “You'll get to hear them utter 'Amorous sincerety: I love you, junior' just as if you never left them!”

“That's spectacular! Thank you, ma'am! You're so... so...”

“Yessss?” Rainbow Dash leaned down. “Here it comes! It starts with an 'a'...”

“Authoritative.”

Rainbow Dash sighed. “Nnngh... frickin' eggheads.”

“Wh-What was that?”

“Nothing!” Rainbow Dash took a deep breath. “Okay, everypony. Stand back. Time for me to... uhm... hack.”

The ponies parted ways like a living sea.

Rainbow Dash swung her legs forward, kicked against the window frame, propelled herself backward, planted her rear limbs against the opposite wall, then bucked off with full strength. She shot out of the bunker like a blue cannonball, creating a burst of concussive air as soon as she rocketed out of the small building. The gasping children fell back on their haunches.

In the meantime, the turrets were spinning wildly in mechanized confusion. They struggled as one to zero in on the one source of the sonic noise.

But Rainbow Dash wasn't giving them any time to get acquainted. Holding her breath, she spun up, spiraled about, and dove low along the walls of the courtyard. With merciless efficiency, she leaned herself sideways and murderously flung a wrench at each turret right as she blurred past it.

“Hacked!” The turret exploded. “Hacked!” Another turret exploded. “Hacked you!” A third. “Hacked you too!” Shrapnel and metal gizmos filled the air. “Hack-Hack-Hack-Hack-Hack-Double hack!” She finished the cyclonic path with double wrenches swung like clubs against the last standing turret. The floor was littered with bits and pieces of metal debris as she slowly descended and touched down directly in front of the descending stairwell. “Whew!” She dusted her body and saddlebags off, smiling. “Good thing I'm so smart, or I'd be screwed by now—”

Her hoof slipped on the first stair.

“Darnit-Gaaaah!” She tumbled, rolled, pratfall, and slid jaggedly down the winding stairwell. She landed upside down in the basement corridor below, her main frazzled and her head injury aggravated. Staring up past two pairs of stiff legs, she moaned and collapsed sideways in a shuddering heap. “Nnnngh... Industry hurts.”

Slowly, she pulled herself back up to her hooves. She paused to stare at her surroundings. The hallway was insanely long; Rainbow Dash could barely see the opposite end. The corridor was old, rusted, with grime and sediment formed thickly around the corners of the walls and ceiling.

“Whew...” She whistled. “If this is Darkstinian summer camp, I'd hate to see winter camp.”

She trotted slowly down the corridor, squinting past cold red lanternlight. A crimson glow danced through random puffs of cloud from flanking steam vents.

“Forty paces... Forty paces... Forty paces....” She murmured aloud to herself. “Just gotta find there the other kids went and then—”

She froze upon hearing a muffled exclamation from the door immediatley to her left.

“This isn't the training facility?! I don't understand! Where's my sister?! What did you do with Flower?!”

Rainbow Dash's eyes twitched. “No flippin' way.” She turned and faced the doorframe. It was a circular entrance, much like the young colt had described. However, there was a bright crack of light showing through the edges. Applying the firm grip of her hooves, Rainbow Dash was able to slide the seal open by a sliver. She peered through the curved line to look inside.

There, she saw Flower Gears' little brother, or at least whom she asssumed was him. A stone gray little foal stood at the far end of the claustrophobic compartment, his blank flank shivering in fright. As Rainbow Dash watched with baited breath, she soon found out why. A dark, towering Zaap Nator was marching towards him, forcing the colt to back up into a dark panel that occupied the centermost column of the wall.

“Solemn confession: she who would be your blood sibling has left the flock. She is a shame to the purpose of industry, and will suffer in aimlessness just the same as she who would be Governor Mintelle. Righteous affirmation: you who would be Darkstine's salvation shall be the first of many to bring restoration to the industry, for your spirit is pure and full of sparkling creativity.”

Rainbow Dash made a face. “What in the hay is this joker going on about—?” She stopped in mid-speech, for her eyes were scanning through the thin sliver to make out the rest of the room. She saw several heavily armored guards standing side by side with sparkling poles fused over their horns. Between them, trembling and nervous, was a solid cluster of youths. “What are they lined up for...?”

“I don't care about Darkstine or industry!” the colt shrieked, tears streaming down his face. “I just want to see my family again!”

The Duke reached a hoof out, forcing the colt to flinch with a gasp. A dark hoof carressed his mane and chin. “Shhhh...” The stallion hissed through his gas mask. “Be grateful that you who would be innocent are making this sacrifice for the good of that which used to be your family.”

Rainbow Dash's eyes twitched. “Sacrifice?” She heard a loud groan of metal. Her vision darted in time to catch two armored stallions yanking at a series of levers. The panel in the far end of the wall opened wide, and Rainbow Dash was immediately assaulted with an ethereal beam of lavender energy.

She winced, panting, then blinked. She saw the lavender energy more clearly now, running straight down a black compartment just beyond the freshly opened panel. “Wait a second, is that...?” Her face paled. “It's a door to the pit!”

The colt was being shoved straight towards the open panel. “Divine declaration,” Zaap Nator seethed. “The obelisk must be summoned back. For the sake of the industry, become that which would be the spark!” That said, the Duke spun, lifted his heavy hooves, and bucked the shrieking foal straight into the gaping abyss.

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