• Published 19th Aug 2016
  • 6,594 Views, 315 Comments

The Undesirables - DEI Caboose



Princess Luna assembles a team of Equestria's most undesirable inhabitants in order to deal with the problems too dangerous to risk the lives of the Elements of Harmony.

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2. The Wild Card


“How many times do I gotta tell you, Lining? Ponies ain't gonna take kindly to you if you keep getting up in their faces like that!”

“The name’s Lightning, jerk off!” Lightning Dust slurred out as she was hastily forced out the swinging doors of the saloon. “And if they don't want me up in their faces they should learn to keep their traps shut!” Lightning shouted out, making sure to direct her voice over the shoulder of the bartender pushing her out the door.

The stocky and greying stallion held his hooves out to block Lightning from re-entering his establishment, budging back as the turquoise mare occasionally tried to force her way back in, elected to feraly pace about once she realised the stallion had no intention of letting her do so. “Just take a breather, kid,” the stallion harshly quipped. “Ain't no reason to cause a ruckus.”

Lightning huffed, ready to retort and berate this stupid stallion for all he was worth. But as her hoof rose to point towards him accusingly her chosen words of response proceeded to simply die in her throat, her hoof reluctantly swinging back to the earth as her head limply did the same, a sudden sense of dizziness overcoming her.

The bartender was thankful for the gesture, but this scenario had become such a regular occurrence that he was beyond impatient at this point. Every other day Lightning, or Lining, whatever her name was would come on down to his bar, down some drinks and proceed to cause a ruckus amongst his customers until he told her to take a hike. At first he tolerated it, she was good for business after all, but after several weeks of the same thing he was just too tired to keep doing this every time she reared her head. This had to stop, one way or the other.

“Listen, kid,” the stallion began, his hooves steadily lowering to the floor while Lightning tried to concentrate on what he was saying. His frown held steady as he spoke, he knew he didn't really have much choice other than to do this. “Kid, I don't want you coming round here anymore alright? I can't have you picking fights with my regulars all the time. We aint into that kind of thing. You want drama? Head on down to the Canterlot slums cause I can't have you doing this. We clear?”

Lightning was either was too intoxicated to listen or didn't care to respond, but the stallion assumed she knew what he was saying. He pitied her to an extent, her story wasn't exactly a happy one from what he'd overheard and from what she'd told him during one of her drunken ramblings, but he had his own problems to worry about and this mare, whether he liked to admit it or not, was starting to get on his nerves.

But as he looked to her, her head held low and her wings sagging at her sides, that well of pity he felt began to swirl once again and against his better judgement he found himself speaking once more. “Just let the heat die down a bit, kid. Give it a month or two and I'll think about letting you back in, but only if you clean up your act first, comprende?” He said with evident authority.

Lightning Dust murmured out something that sounded like a “yes” before she turned her back to him and walked away, the dirt crunching beneath her hooves as she directed her blurred vision towards the path ahead. She wondered for a moment if the stallion was still stood there watching her, judging her just like the rest of them, whispering behind her back, subconsciously alienating her, knowing full well that she didn't belong.

Who needs ‘em, was Lightning’s only thought on the matter as her hooves carried her away.

The night air was crisp and cold and Lightning ruffled her feathers as a chill spread along her back. The winds had picked up for the coming winter, she was pretty sure that the snow clouds would be dispersed soon. This was a problem for Lightning, her home wasn't exactly ideal for this time of year.

But it wasn't like she had much choice in the matter.

After losing her position as Lead Pony whilst at the Wonderbolts Academy, her career as an aspiring Wonderbolt had been on a fast descending spiral of failure. Having alienated the rest of her fellow recruits ensured that she had no support when it hit the fan. She was constantly given the most menial tasks as reparation for her ‘blatant disregard’ as Spitfire had called it. Scrub the floors, iron the uniforms, grease the dizzitron, wax the asphalt!

That one had to have been a cruel joke.

The rest of the ponies wanted her gone, constantly trying to get Spitfire to discharge her for something. Lightning showed them. She showed Spitfire. She showed that Rainbow Dash. Lightning was always the fastest, she pushed herself harder, she won those races fair and square. Just to see the looks on all their faces made all that labour worth it.

Spitfire approached her one of those days, on one of the day's Lightning had beaten yet another academy record, the biggest academy record; the twenty mile endurance race. Lightning had beaten the previous record by eight whole minutes, a feat never before witnessed in the history of the Wonderbolts. When she crossed the finish line they just stared at her in disbelief, she appeared to had barely broken a sweat.

Lightning remembered the aftermath well; Spitfire stood tall, gave her a smile, said how proud she was that Lightning had improved herself so much, how she wasn't going to let her past actions impede her future, how she looked forward to seeing what Lightning would do in the Wonderbolts a few years down the line.

Lightning told her to stuff it. Then she quit, then and there in front of the crowd.

The looks on their faces were glorious.

Lightning had waltzed away, picked up her pre-packed saddlebags and flew off on her way without so much as a goodbye to anypony. Rainbow Dash had been resilient however, chasing after Lightning for a few moments. Lightning had lost her in the clouds, locking her wings to her sides and allowed for gravity to do the rest.

That was a day the Wonderbolts would never forget. She heard the gossip occasionally, how some lone cadet had beaten the most renowned record known to pegasi before proceeding to tell the Captain of the Wonderbolts to her face to stuff it, though accounts vary as to what was actually said with some being more obscene than others.

One aspect of the story however was a secret that Lightning would take with her to the grave. For if it ever became known any and all glamour and triumph associated with her 'victory' would be lost forever.

That twenty mile race? Lightning had cheated.

That thought alone made her burst out laughing.

Beating the record by eight whole minutes? How stupid could they all possibly be! Lightning had lied in waiting, going off course once she gained enough of a lead that she wouldn't be spotted, the course had been circular so a detour was easy enough. Nopony was none the wiser, the idea that somepony would go rouge during a race went completely against the honour system!

“The honour system, ha! Fat lot of good that's done any of them!” Lightning spurted out to herself, her voice providing her own company. Lightning knew her time as a Wonderbolt was done the second she had been demoted, but she refused to allow the others the satisfaction of seeing her discharged despite how much they tempted her to force Spitfire's hoof. Instead, she bided her time and left a legacy that won't soon be forgotten.

There was one downside to that legacy however, one which caused Lightning to slow her pace and sag her shoulders. Cursing the famed Spitfire to her face? Good for a story, terrible for credibility. No pegasi east of Cloudsdale was going to hire a ‘wild card’ like Lightning Dust after a stunt like that.

Still though, Spitfire’s face… Her grimace, her shock, her rage.

It was so worth it.

Right?

Her vision cleared as Lightning subconsciously recognised her surroundings. The dirt path widening into a more ordained cobblestone road, directing up towards the Canterlot Spire visible overhead. Lightning had elected to live outside the city, the surrounding land far too expensive for an unemployed pony such as herself to enjoy. Yes that was right, Lightning was without a job, her dream was crushed, everypony had deserted her and for all intends and purposes her life had been ruined, probably by her own doing despite how much she liked to shift the blame.

Hence why she drank, it made it easier to cope.

A shadow blocked the moonlight above and Lightning looked upwards. A little cloud house floated there, a destitute mixture of greys and whites cobbled together to make something that neither resembled a cloud nor a house. Yet it was Lightning’s and Lightning’s alone and there was nothing anypony could do about it. Upkeep was simple and it was comfy to sleep in, plus whenever tensions grew too high where she was, Lightning could just saddle up and tow herself to some place new. Lightning had nothing to answer to and nopony to please.

Another reason why she drank.

Her wings flapped lazily and Lightning drifted upwards. Tomorrow she was going to have one heck of a hangover, but she'd earned it. She was probably going to have to drag herself some place new tomorrow, somewhere along the Baltimare range perhaps, the docks along the Horseshoe Bay are always looking for keen workers, or so Lightning had heard.

Kicking in the fluffy doors, Lightning stumbled inside, her hooves sinking into the foamy floor. She waltzed around in a daze, her legs swinging as if she was in a dance, a dumb smile refusing to leave her features. She almost made her way into her bedroom when she noticed something peculiar. Something about her living room was different, it was a lot brighter than usual, had Lightning forgotten to blow out the lantern? The lantern was on so that must have been the case. Maybe that pony on the couch knows what's going on?

Wait… Pony on the couch?

Lightning jumped high, the dark figure sat upon the cloudy cushions of her couch reeling back at Lightning fright, which quickly morphed into anger at the intruder and then shock once she became aware just who the intruder was. The dark blue, flowing mane, sparkling coat and piercing eyes being quite recognisable.

“Princess Luna!” Lightning shouted out in fear, unevenly falling to her knees as she attempted to bow. “I um, wasn't expected you! Should I have been expected you? Because I wasn't,” Lightning rambled out, staying on her knees as she grew confused by her own words.

Luna would have smiled if not for the condition the mare was in and the evident intoxication she was displaying. It was saddening to say the least, she had had much higher expectations based on what she had heard of this Lightning Dust. Perhaps her assumptions were unfounded? There was only one way to find out.

“Ms. Dust,” Luna began, regally rising from her seat, her tone steady and firm. “I apologise for my unannounced presence, but I wished to-”

“Oh there's no problem! Unannounced! Who cares who's unannounced? I don't!” Lightning carelessly interrupted.

Luna was not amused, clearing her throat in order to start again. “As We were saying, I-”

“Who's We?”

“Me.”

“You?”

“Aye!”

“I?”

“Yes!”

“... Me?”

“SILENCE!”

Lightning fell to her haunches as Luna stood towering above her with a angry glare, clearly annoyed by the ditziness of this pegasus. “I think in your present state everything I say will go in one ear then out the other. You leave me little choice, Lightning Dust, but I need to talk to you in manner in which you'll understand!”

“Lady, you take forever to say nothing!”

Luna grumbled incoherently and tapped her glowing horn against Lightning’s forehead, who fell into a blissful sleep within seconds, gently snoring with a smile upon her muzzle. Luna took great care as she grasped Lightning in her magic, carrying her into her bedroom and placing her upon her bed, where Lightning proceeded to hug her cloud pillow. Luna sat at the bed's side, her horn glowing once again and her eyes turning white. A steam of magic flowed out towards Lightning, who dribbled onto her pillow none the wiser.

Luna awoke into a sea of clouds, covering the ground as far as the eye could see. She spotted Lightning Dust soon enough, the mare was flying about aimlessly, confused by everything going on around her. Upon catching sight of Luna flying towards her, Lightning dropped to the earth, her mind clear and her vision focused on the princess. “Princess Luna, what's going on? A second ago we were in my house and then I woke up here, now you're here… I don't get it.”

As Lightning was evidently more in control of herself now that she was unburdened by her physical body, Luna smiled at her warmly, happy to explain now that Lightning was willing to listen. “There's no reason to fear, Lightning Dust. We are in a dream, yours specifically, though I have procured it for myself for the time being so that I may speak with you.” Luna snorted. “I'm afraid you're physical being was rather… Inebriated.”

Lightning grasped her head in her hooves, groaning at Luna’s words. “Ah crud! I got drunk again didn't I? I didn't embarrass myself did I? Or… Say things?” Lightning said with a glint of remorse.

Shaking her head no in reply, Luna smiled as Lightning exhaled in relief. Luna was not here for small talk however and had already expended more time and effort than she had anticipated. Her purpose here needed to be met and Lightning was apparently ready and willing to listen. “Now that you're… Able, Ms. Dust, I would like to tell you why I am here. I have a proposition for you that you may find most intriguing.”

Tilting her head, Lightning relaxed into the clouds while Luna stood tall above her, her ethereal mane flowing around her neck. Looking upwards, Luna spoke her rehearsed words. “Equestria has a problem, Ms. Dust, one which few care to admit and even fewer care to recognise. Evil and darkness lurk, and on more than one occasion some sliver through the cracks. I do what I can to combat these threats but even I am capable of error, which is why I have come to you. You have a very particular skill set which drew me here today, one which holds certain esteem. You skills of flight and strength are commendable, I've read Captain Spitfire’s reports on you, she held you in high regard.”

Lightning felt herself blush, rubbing her neck at Luna’s praise.

Then her tone turned cold. “And how did you return her respect? You insulted her in front of her comrades and threw away a life many would have clambered for. You turned your back on a esteemed position and career for what? Pride? Revenge? Spite? I'm eager to hear so do tell,” Luna eerily spoke, her voice shaking Lightning to her core.

“I- just-” Her fear was quickly overcome, the smug faces of the newbies flashing in her sight. “I couldn't let them win! I couldn't let them think I was just some upstart who got knocked down a peg! I was better than them and they all knew it!”

Luna saw an opening and she seized it. “And yet they are now Wonderbolts, and you are not.”

Lightning had no retort, her breath left her and her shoulders fell the same as her head. She refused to look the Princess in the eye, her own snapping shut as she attempted to bore out the laughing faces that plagued her so. The faces of those who were living her dream.

Lightning wondered if you could cry in a dream.

Something touched her then, something soft and warm. Lightning looked to her side to find a blue hoof perched upon her shoulder, the calming voice of Princess Luna soon following.

“Whatever your past actions were no longer matters, I'm not here because of what you've done, Lightning, I'm here to ask what you're willing to do from now on. I'm giving you an opportunity to gain back the respect, the prestige that you so carelessly threw away. All that remains is your answer, but choose wisely! My offer holds great danger and-”

“Yes!” Lightning abruptly burst out, standing proud towards the startled Luna. “I'll do it! Whatever you want! You can count on me, Princess!” Her smile was bright and wide, with Luna almost thinking that her coat had brightened along with her words.

Regardless, Luna smiled in response, her smile only growing as a new thought came to mind. “I haven't even gotten to the best part yet.” She paused as Lightning let out a gasp of delight. “I need you close at hoof for when the time comes and I require you, so I have taken the liberty of securing you a job at the Canterlot weather factory, it is nothing glamorous but-”

Luna couldn't finish, the air rushing out of her lungs as the pegasus practically leapt at her and held her tightly. Luna couldn't see Lightning’s face, but if she could she would be sure that she was smiling wide. But the embrace was ended quickly by Lightning, partly from embarrassment but mostly from the formation of a question that pestered her enough to force her to ask. “Wait, what did I just agree to? What exactly do you want me to do?”

Her head held high again and Luna spoke her words with pride and conviction. “One day, perhaps one day soon, I will call upon you to protect Equestria and all who inhabit it. I am asking this of you because I believe that you will be a valuable asset when that time comes, Lightning Dust, and I assure you, your loyalty and effort will be rewarded if you are up to the task. So tell me…” Luna leaned forward. “Are you sure?”

As if by instinct, Lightning’s hoof shot up in a salute. “You betcha, Princess. I won't let you down!”

She had never been thought of as a valuable asset before.

With that, Luna had nothing more to say. The task had been met and the agreement had been made. Now she would leave Lightning to the peacefulness of her slumber, or she would have if Lightning didn't call out one final time to Luna’s vanishing form.

“Hey wait, Princess! How come you chose me? How'd you even know about me?”

Turning back, Luna decided that explaining the existence of a friendship report credited to Rainbow Dash explaining the actions of one Lightning Dust at the Wonderbolts Academy would only raise further questions, as would Luna telling her that she had spoken to Rainbow some time ago about the impression Lightning had left, who gave a balanced report of both the commendable and derogatory aspects of her character. Instead Luna left with some final encouraging words of wisdom.

“You've proven your worth before, Lightning, all that I ask now is that you don't squander your efforts. One day I will call for you, you just make sure that on that day you're ready for what I ask of you.”

From there, Luna vanished from the dream space and Lightning decreed to herself that she was never going to be a disappointment again. She set out to Canterlot the next day and never took a second glance at any tavern, bar or saloon the entire way.

Author's Note:

Image source

Just so it's clear, last chapter happened just after Slice of Life, and the next few are going to be spread over the rest of Season 5 into Season 6. I thought it would be a bit convenient for Luna to find everypony she wants within days, and for the circumstances that's they meet under to occur. I'm also going to spread out just how much Luna explains what's going on, Lightning agreed pretty quick, others might not be so prompt.

So yeah, comments appreciated!