• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Canyon

“Hey! Hey you who would be a trespasser!”

“Nnnngh...” Rainbow Dash muttered, lying upside down with all four limbs spread in the must undainty fashion possible.

“Imperative command: wake up and identify yourself this instant!”

“Mmmmff...” Rainbow Dash's eyes opened and immediately regretted it. A bright stab of golden sunlight burned their way through her lids. She hissed, rolled over in the dirt, and sat up besides the smoking remains of her bonfire. “Unnngh... Feels like... morning after Cider Fest...”

“Authoritative intimidation: get up this instance or I who would be a faithful sentry shall unleash righteous magic upon you!”

“Ugh... I thought I was done with you hornheads—” Rainbow Dash's eyes finally fluttered open, and she barked, “Whoah!”

A mana rifle was being aimed straight between her eyes by a young stallion who was doing his best not to tremble. A hazy desert landscape loomed behind him as he gulped and aimed the rifle once more at her with glowing telekinesis. “Do not ignore the power granted to me by the purveyors of industry—”

Rainbow Dash planted her forelimbs behind her into the dirt, kicked up her rear limbs, yanked the rifle out of his telekinetic grasp, and smacked him across the face with the butt of the weapon.

“Oooof!”

With a flap of her wings, she stwirled up into the air, tossed the gun away, and pounced upon him. Slamming him into the dirt, she now snarled—fully awake—into his quivering face. “What's the big idea?! I was just trying to sleep!”

The sound of a cocking manarifle lit her twitching ears from a dozen feet away.

“And he was only doing his job,” a gravelly voice said. Rainbow Dash looked aside to see an elder unicorn with a raggedy gray mane glaring at her from behind a glowing weapon. “Greetings, outtrotter. Welcome to the edge of Darkstine.”

Rainbow Dash blinked at him, then at the shivering stallion beneath her. Without relinquishing her weight, she stammered, “And you are?”

“Eh... Ponies sometimes still call me 'Cold Canter.' And that poor unfortunate soul you're squatting on is 'Desert Light.' However, if you don't get off him, he's gonna turn into 'Desert Bulb.' So, would you mind doing us a favor and cooling it?”

“Why should I trust you?”

“Cuz I haven't shot a hole in your head yet, filly.”

Rainbow Dash took a deep breath. Calming down, she backtrotted off of Desert Light. The stallion hopped up, trembling all over.

“Shocked statement: she pounced me!”

“Take it easy, Desert,” Cold Canter groaned, shouldering his rifle with a flicker of his horn.

“Necessary exclamation: we must hoofcuff her and bring her to the authorities immediately—”

“She's not from around here. Just take it easy. It's not like we're being invaded by fruit-haired pegasi or nothing. Now why don't you go and clean your gun? I know how much you love your gun, boy.”

Desert Light was obviously fuming. Muttering something under his breath, the young unicorn trotted over, picked up his gun, and wandered towards a wooden shack that turned out to be just a few dozen feet away in the morning sun. He cast several angry glances back at Rainbow Dash, until the weathered sight of Cold Canter stepped in the way.

“Where you from, kid?”

“Uhhhh...” Rainbow Dash blinked, settling down to stamp out what remained of her bonfire. “Equestria.”

“Equestria... Sounds vaguely familiar...”

“I've got an even better question,” she remarked, grabbing her flint and steel and slipping it into her saddlebag. “Why aren't you talking in... y'know... normal Darkstineese?”

“Mmmf... When you're my age, and you've been away from technology as long as I have...” The elder smiled a dirty grin and shrugged. “'Cow Cookies,' you know?”

“Heh... Sure, I guess.” Rainbow Dash stood up. “I'm sorry for—like—trespassing and stuff. I was just tired and I needed to warm myself up. The desert's really dang cold.”

“Don't I know it?” he said hoarsely, turning and marching towards a stretch of wooden platforms. “Still, you picked a really strange spot to bed for the night, outtrotter.”

“Why do you say that?”

Cold Canter paused, swiveled about, and gave her a thin-eyed glance. “You really don't see very well for a flying pony, now do you?” That said, he gestured towards the rickety old railing beyond him.

Rainbow Dash trotted forward, and with each foot she approached the platform, her breath was stolen from her in larger and larger gasps.

As it turned out, she was at the crest of a huge canyon, larger than any ravine she had ever seen. She could very easily have fit four Ghastly Gorges into the thing. The deep trench stretched from north to south as far as she could see. The gash was sliced cleanly too, as if by means that were anything but natural. She judged from the edge of the platform that it had to have been a kilometer drop at least. The air was hauntingly still, and she could hear random echoes of falling rocks from unknown sources throughout the gaping fissure.

Glancing at her immediate surroundings, she realized she was at a sentry post of sorts. A wooden shack older than time rested on the cliffface of the canyon, bordered by wooden platforms that stretched north and south along the west face of the abysmal drop. Several tall, wooden poles stretched along the ridge, equipped with raggedy red flags that danced limply in the barest hint of wind.

Beyond the opposite end of the ravine—which was difficult enough to spot with the naked eye—Rainbow Dash saw nothing but dust and sediment with no sign of any pony-built structure. She was, for all intents and purposes, standing on the very edge of civilization. It was a very familiar feeling, and yet—leaning precariously into a huge ravine—she felt peculiarly vulnerable, even though she had wings.

“Well, that's something you don't see everyday.”

“Mmmf...” Cold Canter rolled his eyes. “I beg to differ.”

Rainbow Dash smiled sheepishly. “My bad.”

“Dare I ask if you're actually planning to cross the ravine?”

Rainbow Dash scratched the back of her neck. “Uhm...”

“Cuz it would be foolish without eating something worthy for the journey ahead.” He motioned for her to follow him as he scaled the worn wooden steps to his shack. “Come. You can tell us of your travels in the meantime.”

“Hey...” Rainbow Dash shrugged and followed him. “The day I turn down food is the day I forget how to backflip.”

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