• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Rainbow Dash swooped down over the two groups of ponies as they joined at the shoor, mooring their boats along the gravel beach.

“I can't see any other way out!” she exclaimed. “I think the rest of the water is—like—funneling through some tiny cracks in the walls. But, as far as we're concerned, the river stops here.”

“Then all of this travel was for nothing?!” a mare hysterically exclaimed.

“We should have tried burrowing our way back to the main minotaur corridor hours ago!” a stallion added.

The many escapees filled the subterranean cavern with worry and murmur. Eventually, Red Turnip Sr. whistled loudly and waved his hooves. “Hey!” he barked. “Settle down, everypony!”

“Yeah!” Rockspot's voice squeaked from the edge of a boat where he was perched. “What my dad said!”

“I've got this, Spotty,” Red replied, then glanced at the rest of the group. “Thanks to the minotaur camp we looted along the way here, we've got enough food to last us several days. Between twenty-four earth ponies, four unicorns, and a pegasus—I'm more than sure that we can think up a way out of here!”

“Yeah?! Involving what?” an old pony squawked. “A machine made out of four horns, two wings, and one hundred sixteen hooves?! We're surrounded by solid rock and Goddess-knows-what THAT wall is made out of!”

As the group grumbled and moaned, Astral was pacing along the wall, staring at the many fractured tools and shattered pieces of minotaur design. “It looks to me as though the minotaurs were trying feverishly to chisel into the surface of this strange metal.” He paused, squinting at the unblemished surface. “I don't think they even made a single dent.”

“Like that helps us any!” a mare squeaked. “We don't even have enough tools to dig our way into normal rock!”

“Perhaps digging isn't the key,” one of the unicorns said. “If we can find a structural part of the cavern that's weaker than the rest, maybe we can disassemble it with a thermal magic spell.”

“And bring the whole of the earth's surface crumbling down on us?!” a stallion shouted. “I don't think so! Leave it to a unicorn to think with his horn first and his guts last!”

“Hey!” Red Turnip Sr. growled in the stallion's face. “He's only trying to help, just like Miss Dash! What have you or any of our friends done this whole trip other than complain?!”

“I don't know about you, Red, but I would have been happy to have died at the minotaurs hands rather than deep in the center of the earth!”

“That can be arranged, you know!”

“Oh yeah?!”

Red and the other stallion came close to butting heads. The rest of the prisoners crowded around them, trying to pull the two apart. Rockspot was shouting desperately from his perch while the unicorns were attempting to keep enough light shining on the noisy debacle.

Astral sighed. He turned from the bedlam to gaze at the wall once more, but was surprised to see Rainbow standing closely before it. “Miss Dash...?” He cocked his head to the side, noticing a bright ruby glow wafting over the wall from where she stood.

Rainbow Dash was leaning so close to the shiny surface of the structure that her breath was beginning to codense over the strange metal. Her pendant was glowing more and more intensely as she studied a tiny section of the material.

Astral trotted up to her side. “You said you've seen this sort of a thing before?”

“Yes,” she said quietly with a nod. In spite of the ruckus and tense scene behind her, she was oddly calm, even meditative. “In another part of Wintergate—beneath Windthrow, actually.” She looked at the familiar pattern of a hoofprint on the left blended over a shimmering sun on the right. She glanced at Astral. “I'm guessing you don't see the symbol.”

“Symbol?” Astral's brow furrowed. “What symbol?”

“The hoofprint and the celestial crest.”

Astral slowly shook his head, speaking under the commotion behind them. “Sounds like you're describing hieroglyphics of some sort. But I can't see anything, Miss Dash. Do you?”

“And how,” she murmured. She raised a hoof. She felt a wave of dizziness overcome her. Astral tried to support her, but she gently brushed him off. “No. No, I think I can...”

“You can what?”

She said nothing. She merely raised her hoof to the wall, contacting where the left print was. As soon as she did so, the glow of her pendant flickered in a bright strobe. She saw the solar bands of the crest on the right lighting up one swirl after another, and then the symbol vanished. Rainbow Dash blinked.

Astral gazed in a curious stupor. “What... What just happened—”

The cavern shook suddenly. The scuffle behind them came to a stop as the many escapees turned and gawked at the wall.

The metal surface rippled, and then slid open like a mechanical door. A low humming sound filled the air above the underground lake. A massive entrance had appeared, through which a gigantic chamber could barely be seen from beyond the shadows.

“What in the sun goddess' name?” Astral stammered, staring up, up, up at the impossibly high ceiling just beyond the open compartment. “Is... Is it another cave? A temple?”

“Certainly isn't a squash court,” Rainbow Dash murmured. She looked at everypony, grinned helplessly, and took a step into the gigantic hollow. As soon as her hoof made contact, several grooves formed in the metal surface of the interior. The lines lit up as if from within, and slowly a silver glow rose throughout the insides, illuminating an impossibly large corridor full of immaculate pillars, ceiling struts, and walkways. The place looked like it had been carved out of solid marvel and melted over with liquid metal. What was more, in the far distance, coming alive with the unnatural light, the shapes of gears and machine parts became noticeable.

“What... What is this place, daddy?” Rockspot said with a tremble.

“I dunno, son,” Red Turnip said, gazing wide-eyed at the sight. He gulped and looked at Rainbow Dash.

Everypony was looking at Rainbow Dash.

She glanced back at them, and smiled awkwardly. “So, uhm. Anyone for open house?”

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