• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Zetta

“You mean you can actually fly with those things?”

“Uhhh, yeah?” Rainbow Dash squinted at one of the many youngsters crowding around her as she trudged slowly through the lengths of Sanctuary. “You sure you can actually trot with those?”

A colt giggled, shuffling his hooves across the floor. “Could you do it now?”

“Do what?”

“Fly!” several of the nearby ponies all shouted at once. “Fly like a pegasus!”

“Hmmmmm...” Rainbow Dash tongued the inside of her mouth and eyed the torchlit ceiling of the corridor. “Well... I dunno...”

“Oh please? Please please please please?”

“Hmmm. Okay. But don't blame me if you collapse from the sheer awesomeness.” She held her breath, flapped her wings for the first time in hours, and levitated over the heads of the gasping lot of young Silvadelians.

Many of the youngsters cheered and squealed with joy. Older ponies from the far edges of the passing corridors smiled and waved at the sight. With or without meaning to, Rainbow Dash had once more become the center of attention.

“That's so incredible!”

“Can you outrace dragons?!”

“I bet you could fly above the smog!”

“Listen, kids.” Rainbow Dash smiled nervously as she passed corridors full of metalworks, marketplaces, and indoor schoolyards. “You guys are living down here for a reason. The world is pretty darn dangerous, even if you have wings.”

“But if things get really bad, you can fly away in a blink, right?”

Rainbow Dash lingered as she hovered past a steep cavern. “The key to having wings, guys, is being able to go places where other ponies can't. Even if they're places you don't wanna go.”

The ponies murmured with one another. In the meantime, a loud grinding noise wafted across the dimly lit corridor. Rainbow Dash swiveled in mid-air and gazed towards the far end of the cavern. She saw a deep, dark tunnel clustered with heavy metal equipment and hulking containers of bubbling liquid. Soot-stained ponies were rushing in and out of the thin strait, taking turns exploring the shadowed depths with weighted clusters of drilling tools.

“What... What are they doing over there?” Rainbow Dash murmured.

“You mean you don't know?” One of the foals remarked. The blank flank stepped up, sporting a pair of green goggles over his petite head. “It's the Grand Project! The one that the Council commissioned three years ago! It's almost finished and everypony is so excited!”

“Yeah, but what exactly is the tunnel there to do—?” Rainbow stopped, doing a double-take as he looked at the colt more closely.

The young pony blinked, a flare of torchlight glinting off his horn. “What?”

Rainbow's eyes narrowed. “You're a unicorn...”

The colt instantly blushed, biting his lip and smiling bashfully. “Yeah. Yeah, I am.”

“Why is that?”

“You know about unicorns, pegasus?”

“I've met several. I'm just not familiar with any of them living underground beneath an apocalyptic landscape full of murderous dragons.”

“There're not a lot of us. We live over in Sparklight, the unicorn district of Sanctuary. But the Silvadelians are cool with us and all!” He gasped and brightened. “You should meet Zetta! He's the one in charge of the Grand Project! He'd be totally jazzed to see a pegasus visiting us!”

“I don't think I'd mind, little guy, or should I call you...?”

“Uhm... My name's Lime Tech.” He smiled and slid his goggles down over his bright eyes. “But most everypony here calls me 'Limey.' Here! I'll show you Zetta's workshop!” He scampered away on little legs.

Rainbow Dash gave the tunnel one last look, took a deep breath, and soared after him. Several colts and fillies excitedly tried their vain best to keep up.

Limey led through several spots where the ceiling dipped until eventually bringing Rainbow Dash to a remarkably cubicle chamber filled with the smell of chemicals and echoes of whirring tools. A dozen unicorns were busily working around several tables cluttered with mechanical equipment and liquid containers. In the center of the place was a large basin—about the size of two ponies—and a lanky unicorn with buzzed mane was busy telekinetically applying a welding tool to its bolted rim.

“Hey! Zetta!” Lime Tech chanted, his goggles sliding loose. He shoved them back to his forehead and pointed at Rainbow Dash, beaming. “Look who I brought!”

The mane-less unicorn jolted, slamming his head against the partially-constructed basin. “Gaah! Grrrr... Sparkplugs! Ugh...”

Rainbow Dash winced.

Zetta glanced over, rubbing his horn and hissing. “What is it, Limey?! Can't you see I'm busy...?” He blinked and slumped back, exhaling hard. “Oh! The ponasus... er, I mean the Pegasy... Er....”

“Just call me Rainbow Dash,” she said, smiling nervously. “The one and only.”

“Aren't we all the one and only, feathered friend?”

“Erm...”

“Forgive my manners. I heard that a winged pony was visiting, but I didn't have any chance to break off from what I'm doing. They don't let me get out much.”

“Uhhhh...” Rainbow Dash glanced beyond the center of the workshop to see a filthy sleeping mat with several bowls filled with uneaten, moldy salad. “Yeah...”

“Zetta's a very important pony!” Limey exclaimed, hopping in place as all the fumes and sounds of the workshop billowed around him. “He's going to help the Silvadelians get their kingdom back!”

“Eh, one thing at a time, spark muncher,” Zetta remarked, twitching. “Assuming I can get this darn thing liquid-tight! I swear, half of this job is attempting to mold arcanium into a useful shape!”

“You've got actual arcanium here?” Rainbow Dash remarked in awe.

“Oh yeah. Totally.”

“How'd you get that?”

“Lots and lots and lots and lots of mining!” Zetta smiled, twitched, and rubbed a hoof over his buzzed mane. “Nnnngh... So much darn coal, and so useless. Had to fill some of the reserve latrines with the stuff just so I could get to some good nodes. Dragons don't care for the stuff: arcanium. So they're there for us to plunder and use against them! Ha!”

“So what...” Rainbow Dash finally touched down and rested her wings. “...is this 'Grand Project' thing?”

“She saw the tunnel that the Council had us build!” Limey said, excited and bubbly.

“Shhh... Simmer down there, buckethead.” Zetta looked at Rainbow Dash as steadily as he could. “This is a crazy time for you to show up, pegasus. The Grand Project is something the Silvadelians have been betting on for a while. Even Prince Sam the Rose digs it, and he hardly digs anything! Heh! Best tunnel I ever dug in my life. The only one that long and straight, come to think of it.”

“What's the tunnel for?” Rainbow Dash leaned forward, her face briefly bright and hopeful. “Is it an escape route for the ponies here?”

“Hah!” Zetta trotted around towards her. “Maybe if it was aimed in the other direction, it would be! Hahahaha—” He bumped into a cluster of discarged metal shards. “Augh! Sparkplugs! Ahem...” He smiled and held his hooves together as he explained, “The Grand Project is to build a corridor stretching directly from here to the Matriarch's lair, where her nest and hoard and magazines and whatever is stashed!”

“What?!” Rainbow Dash gawked, her ruby eyes widening. “What the hay would you build something like that for? Wouldn't she just send her minions back into Sanctuary and end everypony?!”

“We have several charges lined up along the corridor so that everything will seal itself with a single charged blast!”

“Then... I don't get it...” Rainbow Dash's brow furrowed. “What's the point in building the tunnel to begin with if you're only going to blow it to smithereens?”

“It's only gonna be open long enough to get THIS baby through!” Zetta exclaimed, wildly motioning towards the half-finished basin in pride.

Rainbow Dash blinked. “What am I looking at?”

“It's an arcanium container for Silvadelian Death Water!” Zetta exclaimed.

“Silvadelian Death Water...?” Rainbow Dash droned, staring at him with bored eyes.

“Heh. I made the name up myself. Um...” Zetta gestured wide. “Imagine a highly acidic, adhesive compound.” His forelimb smacked a nearby unicorn upside the head. “Ahem. Sorry.” He continued, “Upon contact with any form of matter, it'll latch onto the material and degrade it swiftly, spreading the burning liquid across other surfaces located nearby. Basically, anything the Death Water compound touches or comes into close proximity to will melt away! We're brewing enough of the stuff so that it'll take out a mountain's worth of mass and convert it into goo! Ha!”

“That... sounds really darn dangerous,” Rainbow Dash remarked. “How could you even carry this stuff around?”

“Arcanium is the only substance that resists the acid!” Zetta exclaimed, pointing to the partiaully finished container. “The idea is to brew the stuff in that, contain it, and deliver it to the lair!”

Rainbow Dash blinked. “The Matriarch. You wish to bomb her...”

“Heh... Well, the Council wishes to bomb her. And I really can't complain. I want this place to be dragon free as much as the next horn-less pony,” Zetta said, wringing his hooves together. “Unlike flammable bombs or explosives made to inflict shrapnel wounds, this stuff will cling to the mightiest of dragon scales and melt them as if they were tissue paper!”

“As soon as the tunnel's finished, we're gonna carry this thing to where she sleeps and KABLAMMO!” Limey hopped, almost bumping into a set of equipment. “No more brood queen! No more fire breathing baddies!”

“Wow, you guys must be... really hyped,” Rainbow Dash remarked. She gulped. “Still, sounds like a whole bunch of work for one single moment of stress.”

“Oh, I know a thing or two about stress,” Zetta remarked with a smiling twitch. “It'll all be worth it. I just know it.”

“The Council's lucky to have you unicorns around,” Rainbow Dash said. “Just... uh... why are there unicorns hanging out in the ruins of a kingdom that was once full of earth ponies?”

“Same reason you're here, I'm willing to bet!” Zetta exclaimed. “We were visiting! Er, well, our great, great, great, great, great grandparents were visiting. Then everything went to Tartarus, and generations of us got stuck here! Not that it's a bad thing, mind you. We've helped the Silvadelians build themselves a little paradise here in Sanctuary. They might be good at farming, but earth ponies absolutely suck at digging straight lines. Kind of ironic considering their names. Heheheh...” He leaned sweatily over and elbowed Rainbow hard in the wings. “You know what I'm saying?! Hahahah...”

“Er... Sure...” Rainbow Dash smiled nervously.

“So. Rumor is, you've come from the west!” Zetta smiled wide. “Tell me! Did you see the land of my kind?!”

Rainbow Dash bit her lip. “Uhhhh...”

“Did you see the shiny gray plateaus of Cylindrimane?”

“Cylindri... mane...?”

“Yes! With the gleaming spires of Ringfall and the immense clock towers of Understeam!”

“Uhm... You mean Ring City?” Rainbow Dash remarked. “The capital of Darkstine?”

“Darkstine?!” Zetta's face coiled up in disgust. “As in General Darkstine of the Holy Theological Army?”

“Uhhhhhh...”

“Pfft! That amoral despot had this crazy idea of molding all of society into an unemotional utopia that worshipped industry above individual freedom! It's because of that jerk that so many of my forbearers sought a lifestyle in Silvadel to begin with! Feh! I hope he got eaten by dragons along with all the morons who thought his idea was cool!” Zetta spat on the ground, flinched on a bit, and smiled once more Rainbow's way. “But seriously. How was Clyindrimane, my family's home province?”

“Uhm...” Rainbow Dash smiled brightly. “Oh! It was... It was totally awesome, dude! Like... I really digged those clock towers! They were really... uh... metallic...”

“Heeee!” Zetta swayed back into a workbench and fanned himself. “Ohhhh, I can't wait to get out of this place just so I can see them again! It makes this whole darn Death Water nonsense worth it!”

“Yeah. Uhm...” Rainbow Dash gulped. “About that...”

Just then, the sound of galloping hooves lit the air of the steamy workplace. Rainbow Dash and the others turned to look at a sweating earth pony in canvas armor.

“Are you Rainbow Dash?”

Rainbow Dash looked at everypony, then glanced at the earth pony. She flexed her blue wings out and smiled nervously, “I sincerely hope so.”

The earth pony gave a polite smile and spoke between breaths, “The Council is having a meeting. Unless you are predisposed, they would like to see you.”

Rainbow Dash glanced at Zetta and Limey. She looked at the messenger once more. “Yeah? When?”

“Right away.”

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