• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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“If there's one thing minotaurs are obsessed with, it's ancient architecture,” Astral said. “No matter what geographical region you're from, you're bound to find minotaurs digging into the ground in packs. They're convinced that there are structures hidden beneath the natural surface of the world.”

“Structures?” Rainbow Dash remarked, all the while keeping guard at the cell's wooden door. “Like what kind of structures?”

“Things of intelligent design,” the frail unicorn remarked. He struggled to stay upright as he murmured, “Labyrinths, machinery, dungeons, weapons—things that belong to ages before history was written. They have a veritably spiritual need to find these supposed relics, even if there's very little evidence leading to their existence.”

“So it goes without saying that they'll sacrifice anything to get what they want,” Rainbow Dash muttered. She motioned towards Rockspot's dad and the other ponies. “Even if what they want sucks for ponies like us.”

“They've threatened over and over again to take our lives,” Astral said. He gulped and stared sadly at the floor. “They've made true with their word on several occasions. I've lost many friends...”

“Well, you're not gonna lose anymore,” Rainbow Dash said with a snarl. “Not if I have something to do about it.”

“You seem to be a courageous type,” Astral spoke. “But you're just one pegasus.”

“Yeah. Stinks to be the minotaurs. They're gonna need a few tanks before they can call it even.”

“Don't be coy.” Astral frowned. “Even if you could buck two dozen of them across the head, it doesn't guarantee all of our safety. If we're to get out of here, we need a plan.”

Rainbow Dash groaned. “Ughhhh... But I did so much planning just to get here!”

Astral glanced at her flimsy blanket of a disguise. “Yes.” He cleared his throat. “I can see that...”

“Perhaps if she made a distraction?” Rockspot's father spoke up. “Something out of the blue that will throw all of the minotaurs into a frenzy? After all, there're still six more of us at the Machine.”

“Just what 'Machine' is this?” Rainbow Dash made a face. “Does this have something to do with the minotaurs and their fetish for weird underground stuff?”

“I've only seen parts of it the last few times I worked down the tunnel,” Astral said. “I have no idea what it is. Probably some leftover contraption from proto-Wintergate. It doesn't matter. It's important to the minotaurs, and they're working us to death over it.”

“Then maybe I should do something to drag all of the minotaurs out of the tunnel,” Rainbow Dash said. “Then I can get you guys out, fetch the six, and find us a way out.” She looked at the group. “Is there another exist besides the quarry?”

“There are several service shafts along the way. The minotaurs themselves built vertical escape routes in the event of a cave-in,” Rockspot's father said with a shuddering breath. “They may be cruel creatures, but they're not stupid.”

“Cool beans. Here's what we'll do!” Rainbow Dash grinned at the group. “I'll go and pull off a wicked crazy distraction at the quarry. When the minotaurs run out, I'll fly back here, yank the door open, and then we'll head down the tunnel. The minotaurs won't even remotely expect that. Then we'll grab the other six of you guys, find a hatch—”

“And then what?” A mare asked in a hoarse breath.

Rainbow Dash blinked. “We... uhm... gallop?”

Another stallion muttered, “I don't think this is a good idea. Those minotaurs will sick the monsters on us in a flash. We wouldn't make it to the nearest village.”

“Hey.” Rainbow Dash looked at Astral. “You said something about...” She bit her lip, then uttered, “Ch-chaos strips?”

“Yes.”

“What do?”

“Huh?”

“Tell me all about them, ya horn-head.”

“Oh.” Astral cleared his throat. “They're leftover relics from the Chaos Wars, when Discord ravaged the world.”

Rainbow Dash sighed. “You don't say...?”

Astral nodded. “They were used to summon abominations that Discord had crafted in the nether. Rumor is that it's made out of his special, regenerative bone. It emulates how the great Lord of Chaos was capable of creating matter out of seemingly-nothing. He was merely reaching into an alternate dimension of discordant energies. The chaos strips function in the same way, but each one of them is enscribed with the ability to only summon one thing.”

“In this case, ugly-as-tartarus bat creature thingies.”

“Erm... That's a poetic way to put it,” Astral remarked. “Regardless, there are always two strips and—”

“Two strips?”

“Yes. It's how they maintain equilibrium. If a single one of them is destroyed, then he other one replicates another. The only way to eliminate them from this realm of harmony is to shatter them both.”

“I'm guessing this Thunderhorn guy has them both?”

“Most likely he just has one,” Astral said. “If he's smart, he would have given the second strip to another worker or overseer. If you want to ensure that the creatures don't attack us, you have to fetch both of them.”

“Well, that sounds like fun,” Rainbow Dash grunted. “Alright, so, lemme get this straight. I gotta get both chaos strips, make a distraction, fly back here, free you guys, and get us down the tunnel before any minotaur discovers either me or the mess I've made of the door's lock right here.”

“Mmm...” Astral winced. “Yes...”

“Whew! And I thought my morning was gonna be boring!” Rainbow Dash cracked her joints and approached the door. “Well, guess I'm off to continue doing my one-pony-sneaking-mission.”

“Wait!” One of the ponies exclaimed. “How will we know that it's okay to run out of here?”

“Duh! I'll have come back!”

“At least give us a signal of some sort.”

“Pfft!” Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “Just listen to my voice.” She whipped her cloak back onto her blue features. “Seriously, you ever heard another pony whose voice cracks half as much as mine?”

For some reason, that was enough for the many prisoners to nod in agreement.

“Miss Dash!” Rockspot called out.

She paused before the door. “Yeah, squirt?”

He smiled, his cheeks red. “Thanks for being so awesome.”

“Save it for when I've ruined the minotaur's day, huh?” Rainbow Dash shoved against the door. “And I'm off! Nnnngh... Nnnnngh! Nnnngh—Horsefeathers! Why won't this thing—?”

“You... uhm...” Astral fidgeted. “You have to pull.”

“Oh. Uhm. I knew that. Ahem. I'm off!”

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