• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Ember Speak drifted into the infirmary, her ears twitching at the sound of a familiar voice. She stuck her head in through the dangling curtain and gazed with curiosity.

“...so I got frustrated and felt it was time to end all the craziness! So I flew straight into the cave and kicked the dragon in the face with my hooves!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed.

Several foals murmured in amazement.

“Really? You kicked a dragon?”

“You smacked its face around and you lived?”

“How come you didn't get burned or anything?”

“It's simple, really,” Rainbow Dash said. Ember Speak trotted closer, seeing Rainbow seated beside Swirls and several foals who were listening with wide eyes of amazement. “I got my lousy flank saved by a good friend of mine. Heck, she saved all our butts. Her name was Fluttershy, and if it weren't for her, I'd be stuck in between a pair of dragon's teeth to this day!'

“What did Fluttershy do?” Lime Tech asked in a breathless voice. “Did she beat the dragon up?”

“Heh. Oh no... Nothing like that...”

Another foal bounced and uttered, “Did she drop a bomb of death water on the dragon's scales? Or set it on fire?”

Rainbow Dash smirked and shook her head. “None of the above, kiddos.” She leaned forward and said, “Fluttershy gave the dragon a stern talking to.”

“Huh?”

“You heard me right! She flew up, squatted right on the snout of the big red thing, and told it how mean it had been! Fluttershy stood up for me and the rest of our friends, and she made the dragon realize how rude it had been to have polluted Equestria with smog in the first place!”

“Awww...” A colt made a face. “That's lame!” The other foals giggled.

“Hey! That 'lame-ness' saved my neck!” Rainbow Dash said. “And it also taught me something: a special truth that I think about even to this day.” She glanced at Swirls and said, “Anypony can make a difference, whether strong or weak, brave or scared, or even awesome or lame.”

Swirls coughed and smiled gently. “This Fluttershy sounds like an inspiring individual.”

Rainbow Dash opened her mouth, but paused. She swallowed and nodded. “She was,” Rainbow eventually breathed. “It's been so long since I heard her soft voice. For what I'm about to do, I could use a healthy dose of kindness...”

“And what about luck?” Ember speak said.

Swirls and the foals looked up. Rainbow Dash turned around;she smirked. “What you call 'luck,' I call 'intestinal fortitude,'” Rainbow Dash uttered.

“Good.” Ember Speak nodded with a coy grin. “Then you're going to want to gather up your bowels.” Her face fell into a solemn expression. “Night has fallen. It's time.”

Rainbow Dash stared back. Slowly, with a flap of her wings, she rose from the edge of Swirls' bed. “Well, a dragon Matriarch won't talk itself out of killing ponies, I guess.”

“Awww! Rainbow Dash!” Lime Tech scurried over and gazed up at her. “Don't go!”

“Of course I gotta go, little dude!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed with a smile. “How else will I go about coming back?”

“But the place you're going is scary and dangerous and full of dragons—”

“Sounds like a good way to end the day,” Rainbow Dash said with a wink. “We've been through this, kid. Zetta and his fellow unicorns has his job to do, and I have mine. I'm hoping like heck that my job will trump his, but that's something only time will tell.”

“Rainbow Dash wants to fix things the peaceful way, Limey,” Ember added, trying to mimic Rainbow's daring grin. “This is her one and only opportunity before we go through with the Grand Project.”

Lime Tech shifted nervously, his eyes beginning to water. “But she has so many stories to tell. She's lived such an amazing life...”

“'Awesome!'” Rainbow Dash hissed. “It's an 'awesome' life! Why does everypony always use the wrong 'A' word?! Geez!”

A nearby filly's face scrunched up. “Geese?”

“Er. I meant 'jeez.' Whatever. Ahem.” Rainbow Dash touched down and straightened Lime Tech's goggles before brushing a hoof through his mane. “I don't blame you for being worried, kid. I'd also be scared if I thought the world was gonna end up a bit less cool overnight. But I totally have plans to keep on flying to wherever I need to go, and that's not gonna happen if I get gobbled to bits by a giant dragon queen, now is it? It just so happens that you guys really need a breather from all this 'living-underground-and-being-afraid-of-the-skies' nonsense and I happen to be the one pony with wings and a direct line to an alicorn. I gotta do what I gotta do, just like you gotta do what you gotta do.”

Lime Tech sniffled. “And what's that?”

Rainbow Dash smiled and tapped his chin. “Be there for Zetta. Make sure he doesn't trip over himself and ram his horn into a rock or something. Even if the bomb doesn't have to be delivered, he's gonna have to find a safe place to deposit the death water. You think that nutcase's got an even enough balance on his four hooves to do something like that alone?”

Limey gulped and gave a brave smile, “I'll make sure that Zetta doesn't hurt himself.”

“And I'll make sure that the Dragon Matriarch doesn't hurt anypony else.” Rainbow Dash winked. “I promise.”

“And then you'll come back?!” Limey exclaimed, standing on the edges of his hooves. “You'll visit us one more time before heading east and tell us more stories about Fluttershy?”

“Heck yeah!” Rainbow Dash's teeth showed in a smile that glinted in the torchlight. “I've got this whale of a doozey involving a scary forest and a huge manticore! Spoiler alert: Fluttershy totally cuddles it!”

The fillies and colts giggled. Above them, Swirls sat up slightly in bed and said, “It's good having you around, Rainbow Dash. I know you'll make us and the Council proud.”

“I'll sleep better at night knowing that I at least made Sam Rose soil his armor.” She winked, turned around, and walked out of the infirmary with Ember Speak. “So long and thanks for all the foals!”

They waved and chanted: “Good luck, Rainbow Dash!”

Outside, in the thin corridors of Sanctuary, Rainbow Dash paused to chuckle in Ember's direction. “Kids are wonderful, aren't they? Praise the alicorns I'm never, ever gonna foal one...”

“The guards have already cleared us for the northwest exit,” Ember said. She reached over towards a saddelbag propped up against a wall and started to strap it to herself, along with a crossbow and quiver. “We'll make good time if we stick towards the north edge of the crater.”

“Yeah, we'll uh... uhm...” Rainbow Dash's eyes narrowed on Ember's gear. “Just what in the hay are you doing?”

“Hmm?” Ember gazed at Rainbow curiously. “Oh.” She fiddled with her quiver and tightened it to herself. “I'm coming with you.”

“Uhhh...” Rainbow Dash shook her head. “No you're not.”

“Do you know where the crater that houses the Matriarch's nest is?”

“Well, no. I figured I'd just fly around in circles until I saw it and—”

“—get gobbled up by one of her many children in mid-air?” Ember shook her head. “That wouldn't do you or Sanctuary any good. I've performed the surfacing since I was a filly. I'm guiding you to the nest, but it'll be up to you to fly into it and personally bridge communication between your Princess Luna and the Matriarch.”

Rainbow Dash leaned her head to the side with a suspicious squint. “Is this some crazy attempt to protect me?”

“Hmmmm...” Ember Speak needlessly gazed down the corridor for several seconds, then glanced at Rainbow. “Yes.”

Rainbow's jaw tightened.

Ember Speak gave a soft smile, “Everypony who's ever served with Sam Rose has had family here in Sanctuary to protect.” She gulped. “Everypony but me.”

“Just because you don't have a direct family doesn't mean you need to risk your life,” Rainbow said.

Ember Speak stared back at her. “Do you intend on practicing that yourself?”

Rainbow Dash was silent.

Ember resumed speaking, “My concern isn't just for you, but for all of Silvadel. I know that makes me sound just like his royal majesty, Sam. But I'm not like him...”

“Do tell.”

Ember's eyes went soft as she said, “What you're trying to do here, what you're promising, is the first gesture of both hope and peace that this place has known for years. It's scary because it's different, and that's why Sam Rose isn't willing to support it. I uphold the values and the wishes of my prince, but I've come to discover that he isn't boundlessly courageous. He's frightened of change, and so long as he doesn't face that, I doubt any good will come to a place that has known nothing but horror for ages.”

Rainbow Dash slowly nodded. She tilted her head forward. “Does the high and mighty prince know that you're personally escorting me to the crater?”

“No.”

“So what you're doing here is essentially a huge slap in Sam Rose's face?”

Ember blinked a few times before nodding. “Affirmative.”

“Great!” Rainbow Dash grinned and nudged Ember along towards the exit. “Let's go, girl!”

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