• Published 11th Nov 2016
  • 9,266 Views, 216 Comments

This Isn't War - QueenMoriarty



One year after the Crystal War came to an end, Rainbow Dash takes a moment to reflect on what has happened.

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"I'm not haunted by the war, Your Majesty. I miss it."

Life used to be very easy.

You wait for the signal. When it comes, you go. You tear whatever part of the world that you've been pointed at apart, and you do your best to aim for the people who aren't on your side. You stick to your orders, whatever they might be. Today, you might not feel the ground beneath your hooves for any more than a few minutes at a time. Tomorrow, you might carry a box that shouldn't feel this heavy to a place that you haven't dared go before. Yesterday, you became very intimately acquainted with the sounds that the dead and the dying make, as you lay in the trench with blood seeping through your uniform in places where you suspect it shouldn't be seeping out.

Sometimes, the world changed. Only in small ways, of course, but it did change. The armorer would issue new weapons. Ponies would shift to different roles. Limbs would turn to metal, or perhaps crystal, for any number of reasons. And ponies would die. Sometimes, they were important, and sometimes they were only the best friends you had ever had in the past ten years. Every day was different than the last.

When I was the Iron Wing, I thought that I understood change. That I embraced it, that I could adjust to any new version of reality. I thought that whatever new twist or turn the future held, I could weather it.

But I am not the Iron Wing anymore. I'm just Rainbow Dash. And the world has changed so much, and I don't fit in where I used to.

Life is very complicated now. There are taxes. There are houses. There's this thing called money, and you have to give it to ponies so that they'll give you things like food and water and advice on whether or not you're allowed to punch ponies in the face anymore. And some of it is paper, and some of it is bits, and paper is a lot easier to carry around but bits are a lot harder to lose.

I have a job. It's a very good job, and I'm happy to have it, but it's also really weird. I'm a Wonderbolt. Like, a full-fledged Wonderbolt, and not the soldier kind, like what they were before all of this. I'm a stunt flier, doing shows for all the ponies of Equestria, and most of the other nations too. I work with a lot of my old war buddies, like Spitfire and Soarin, and a lot of the formations we do are based really closely on the attack patterns we used in the war. Some might say too closely.

At every show since the war ended, we've buzzed really close to the audience. More often than not, one of us gets closer than the others. We forget where we are, and what we're supposed to be doing, because flying now is too much like flying then. If not for the constant ducking that ponies do when a pegasus does any kind of fly-by, I know we'd have taken off heads by this point. And no, it's not always me. Sometimes it's Spitfire. Sometimes it's Soarin. Sometimes it's Fleetfoot. Some of the Wonderbolts actually make regular bets on which of us will lose focus this time. I don't like it when they do that.

Flying is easy. The war was easy. But life is hard, and complicated, and every time I fly it just seems to bleed away for a few seconds. For a few precious moments, if I close my eyes and don't think about how good the world smells these days, it feels like I'm back in the war.

And the fact that the thought of that makes me smile is horrifying.

When ponies wake up after dreaming of the days when they fought on the battlefield, they aren't supposed to wake up smiling, or regret that they set their alarm clock. When I remember the feeling of a pony's skull cracking under my hoof, I shouldn't feel a rush of excitement up my spine. I shouldn't keep looking at myself in the mirror, expecting to be covered in blood.

But I do. Because the war was easy. And every time I think about what my life has become, one of the first things I think about is how complicated it is. I think about how I have to remember all these complicated routines in their entirety instead of just knowing the general gist. I think about how I have to remember who ponies are instead of just checking their sleeve to know which of us should be listening and which of us should be talking. I think about how the food tastes so good these days, and how the only food I can identify by taste anymore is applesauce.

I wasn't born into war, like some fillies and colts. I grew up in an age where the word 'war' was barely understood by most children, and the average adult would probably mangle the meaning somehow. We knew what weapons were, and we knew what combat was, but that was all fairy tales and ancient history as far as we were concerned. Playground disputes were settled with races, not gladiatorial combat. I was born into peace.

But damn, if I wasn't born for war.

The war gave me everything I ever wanted. It gave me a purpose, where before I was a layabout cloud-bucker. It gave me friends, ponies who valued me, when before I just had my co-workers. It gave me hope, and security, when all it would have taken was a slightly more qualified up-and-coming pegasus to put me out of a job before. It even gave me my cutie mark, when I had been a blank-flank my entire life until then. The Crystal War was my destiny.

I'm supposed to be glad that it's over. I'm supposed to be celebrating today. There's parties, and festivals, and a whole frickin' carnival in one or two towns. The only quiet places are the places where unicorns have put up quiet-spells, for those who'd rather mourn.

I'm supposed to mourn the loss of our soldiers. I'm supposed to mourn the loss of our civilians, or our land, or just all the wasted potential of those years of misery and bloodshed. But instead, I find myself raising a glass to toast the Crystal War. I mourn the end of the bloodiest, most brutal, most depressing conflict that Equestria has ever seen.

I'm supposed to be happy that the war is over. Supposed to be happy that I still have most of my friends, that I still have my wife, that I can stand to sleep at night. But all I can think about is how I never had to grow up when I was a weatherpony, because it was just like having more chores, and I never had to think too hard in the army, because they only needed me to hit stuff.

And now, I need to understand marketing. I need to know the science behind popularity instead of just knowing I'm popular. I need to be able to give interviews. I need to be able to speak my mind and show emotion without having to get roaring drunk first.

I'm not the Iron Wing anymore. I'm just Rainbow Dash. Once upon a time, I saved the world, but now, I do stunts. Ponies write books about me, and what I did, but all their interviews don't make it any easier. They just remind me of everything that's changed.

Don't get me wrong, I love Equestria. I love what it's become. I love how just a year after the Crystal War, we've not only been able to throw off the looming shadows of war, but embrace glory and harmony like never before. I love to see children smiling, and laughing, instead of having to wear specially fitted uniforms and marching in disorganized rank.

If you actually gave me the choice between the Crystal War and this world, I would choose this world every time. Not for my sake, but for theirs. I may have missed my shot at destiny, but I wouldn't wish such a fate on them. I'm a soldier, not a monster.

But I do miss it. The thrills. The excitement. The beating of my own heart, louder in my ears than any war-drum. I don't know if I'll ever be able to capture that again.

Hmm. Maybe if I fly faster.

Faster still.

Faster than I ever flew during the war. My body's starting to ache from the strain.

Now, aim for the ground. Yes.

I can feel the wind peeling away around me. I can almost hear the earth screaming in fear that I might actually hit it. Reality blurs, and my eyes stream with tears. So close. So near to that old thrill. Just needs that little extra...

push.

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Comments ( 216 )

Even as the world and her outward personality changes irreversibly, there remains an important part of her mind and soul that makes her who she is. Her need for thrill.

Well done.

Edit: There, I made feedback! :raritycry:

What's the point of all this? I mean, Why?

I don't know sir. I don't think anybody knows. But I do know is that someday, this War's gonna end.

Then what? We're Soldiers. What happens to us then?

Captain Rex and ARC Trooper Fives after the battle of Umbara in Star Wars: The Clone Wars

That was really sad! But very good. :fluttercry:

-o-

Aaaaaah I really liked and enjoyed this despite it's sad ending :raritystarry:

This is a very good one-shot.

I love to see children smiling, and laughing, instead of having to wear specially fitted uniforms and marching in disorganized rank.

Well. There's an added layer of disturbing, desperate darkness...

In any case, an excellent look at the mentality of a different iteration of Rainbow Dash. I especially love how you didn't take the easy, Flash resource-conserving route with her cutie mark. Despite the dark themes, this is the timeline with the most hope to it; fitting that she triumph in the end.

Well done, and well timed. Coming from a military family, I can relate to this. While I never got to serve myself, I have seen that haunted look in the eyes of my family. PTSD is no joke.

Very nicely done, and well done on the picture, captures it perfectly.

What follows may be the most insensitive comment I have written, and I am a terrible person

*splat*

Damn 0.0

Brilliant story!

"Sometimes, I wish I was back there again. Maybe for no other reason than to wish I was back here." - anonymous Vietnam veteran, quoted in John Keegan's Soldiers: a History of Men in Battle.

Nailed it. Thanks.

7713205
7713418

Sad? There is no Sad or Tragedy tags in this story. Reality blurred, she gave just that little push... She didn't kill herself, she did what she was born to. She went beyond anyone and anything and broke the barriers that hold firm even the best ones, and become the fastest pony alive.
Such is a Sonic Rainboom.

That does make the ending that much more powerful, as I see it. It's a message for the future, not to the past. :rainbowdetermined2:

Also curious about who her wife is, though :rainbowwild:

7713436 Possibly Fluttershy.

It really depends on the author, though

Maybe the author is military?

It seems like this really came from the heart, and he knows what he is talking about. It's simultaneously sad and a little dark.

Feels hurt mission complete!

Wow, this is deep. I like it.

"Remember back in The Empire, Soarin? Before things got bad? We were talking... About nothin', really. I said somethin' about goin' home, and you... You said-"

"Home? We can't go home. There's a line ponies like us have to cross. If we're lucky, we do what's necessary and then we die. No... all I really want, Rainbow, is peace."

7713205

the earth screaming in fear that I might actually hit it.

She's not trying to hit the ground. She's looking for an adrenalin rush by going faster than ever before. Aimed towards the ground, faster and faster to the point that tears are filing her eyes, and to just give that one last push...to do the Sonic Rainbow she missed doing as a child

This was a fascinating insight into what post-Crystal War RD would be like. Nice work.

The war gave me everything I ever wanted. It gave me a purpose, where before I was a layabout cloud-bucker. It gave me friends, ponies who valued me, when before I just had my co-workers. It gave me hope, and security, when all it would have taken was a slightly more qualified up-and-coming pegasus to put me out of a job before.

The really scary thing here is that this happens in real life, and not just for the 'good' guys. People often ask, "How could they choose to join (insert evil faction here) of their own free will?"

Well... this is one common reason.

You don't need me to say it, but this is an excellent little story.

Beautiful short fic, in many ways it does capture how a soldier returning from battle can feel. A lot of emotion packed into this and you've earned an upvote.

Dayum, thats deep

The deepest wounds are always to the soul.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Dang. A very good one-shot.
While am not deluded enough to even pretend to talk like I'm an expert in military mentality, especially those who have seen actual combat, I think I know enough to recognize how real this actually is.

Nice job here. Love this story. It was beautiful.

Excellent emotion is inherent in this story throughout. Considering the time of year it's been released during it's especially poignant. Very well done.
T

I have nothing to say except that I know my fair share of veterans. Most of them with one form or another of PTSD. My Grandfather was among them.

Rest in peace Iron Wing.

Bout Time she got to do her sonic Rainboom.

This has to be one of the better representations I've seen of a soldier recovering from war on this entire site. I'm probably missing a few other stories, but you've executed this very well.

Excellent job!

*Stands and salutes* My infinite respect to those that keep moving through this every day, and my congratulations for capturing it so realistically.

Like a expertly made cupcake. Small, sweat, and a feeling of sadness that you could only had one, yet itmakes you happy that there was no overindulgence. A regualer cupcake might fill you, but one that- even a small one, that is expertly crafted will sometimes leave you with a greater fulfillment.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Very interesting and thoughtful read.

I would point out that The Hell's Angels motorcycle gang was started by WWII vets & some of the most famous Wild West outlaws were Civil War vets (including most of the James Gang). WWI vets founded the Nazi party in Germany.

Dear writer,
This f***ed me up. A great deal in fact. I love you for posting this, because as a veteran, I can attest, this is EXACTLY how I feel. To that aspect I must also hate you, or at the very least this story. I didn't know what I was going into reading it, and I damn near cried by the end. I can only assume that Rainbow either was wanting to commit suicide, or actually succeeded. I don't know how often I've been there in the past. I'm better now, but by god... I miss war. I miss being overseas where food is served four times a day, for free. I miss my room being there, with no worries for bills. Money I got was spent on bathroom necessities, the occasional haircut, and entertainment. My clothes were provided. The only care I had was whether or not I was going to die. Even though I never fired a gun at anyone, even though I never directly saw combat, after a while, the indirect fire attacks on the base became... exciting, once I got over my fears. Eventually it becomes something you look forward to. I worked as a counter-fire radar operator. IDF comes in, we send the point of origin to HQ, and they "deal with it." Whether that was sending out a team to neutralize the threat, sending out our own IDF, calling for a drone strike, or a plane taking them out, I felt I was doing something important. I helped save lives, by helping end others. I've been a vet for a few years now, but I went back as a civilian for nearly two more years. Almost 3 in Afghanistan, and one in Iraq total. As a civilian though I saw far more action. I didn't have a weapon but I got shot at. Being in danger, and living through it is an exciting thrill after the fact.
Back home, I have to deal with bills, and god they have stacked up for me. I'm in debt up to my eyes, and even got served last month for a court date for collections. I have very young kids now and I have to worry about them. My truck got repossessed, and for a time there, I was damn near homeless. If it wasn't for staying with a friend I would have been. I've been in therapy for suicidal thoughts, and am now on anti-depressants. I used to write on this site, twilight sparkle/shining armor fic so don't read unless you're into that, but I haven't written anything since I came home. It was all done overseas, where I was happy and felt free. As a civilian, I had to buy more things, clothing, internet access, but still free food, free living, free power, free water. Now, I am a college student with a very part time job, a disabled vet, and just trying to keep my life together.
Some days are good. Some days not so much, and some days, some days are bad. I don't like the bad days. My family doesn't like the bad days. But I'm a recovering alcoholic! I quit two years ago and only have a single beer or drink every now and then! I used to drink heavy, get to sleep by drinking til I passed out. So I'm getting better. I hope others can keep their lives on track too.

Are you a veteran? A family member of a vet? Or a close friend of one? I'm curious because this was so damn spot on that it is terrifying. Sorry for the long post, I just needed to vent feelings I got from this.

7714071 First off, she didn't commit suicide. She did a Sonic Rainboom.

Second, I am a twenty-year-old Canadian, and the closest I've ever gotten to a war zone was being two streets over from the site of 9-11 in New York while on vacation. My grandfather was a tank commander, but he's never said a single word about what the war was like. Two friends I've had decent-sized conversations with have seen active duty as combat medics and army journalists, but unsurprisingly, they don't talk about their trauma and such. I functionally know nothing about what I just wrote down.

When I submitted this, I expected to be inundated by vets like yourself decrying this story as woefully inaccurate, deeply disrespectful, trivializing of a struggle I don't understand, and any other variety of things. To hear you and others describe this story as anything but what I expected is perhaps the most surprising thing that's ever happened to me on this site. I have no experience, no frame of reference, no anything for what this sort of shit feels like. I'm probably one of the least qualified people to ever write a story with this subject matter.

7714132
Well thank you for clearing up that she didn't off herself. A vet dies by suicide every 65 minutes in the United States, or around 20 daily. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_veteran_suicide It wouldn't be a stretch to think she did too. Yeah, you hit the nail on the head for me. To the T.

It was so accurate I wanted to give you the number for the suicide hotline right away and remind you people are there for you.

That said, any vet in the states reading this, http://www.suicide.org/suicide-hotlines.html please talk to someone. You can get help.

That. Was. Excellent.

You jokingly called me senpai once, but your use of prose is far above my own, in my opinion, and I'm not empathetic enough to write something like this I don't think. I try to understand other people as best I can, but I don't think my mentality could ever truly fit. I'm the Mimikyuu to everyone's Pikachu.

I hope to see more stuff like this!

This was a lot better than I expected it to be. It's always kinda interesting to see stories that focus on a soldier or warrior missing war.

I am not a man of many words, but I am one who enjoys reading them. Especially if they are arranged in such a way like that of this story. So, though I may not have many words to say, I do have one that you may like: bravo.

7713570 Yep.. though whether it ends good or not is not said.. It could of ended with her crashing and dying, or succeeding and living.. That's why it's equal parts sad and happy.

In war you have some very big concerns. Your life and your comrades lives hang in the balance. But at the same time you have so many less concerns then in civilian life.

Literally you don't have to worry about social standing, family obligations, taxes, money, politics.. Your path in life is simple and with purpose you do what your supposed to, you complete your necessary tasks be that vehicle maintenance, weapon maintenance, guarding an entrance point.. whatever. And you get positive feedback when you do things right, and negative feedback anytime you mess up.

In the civilian world, you don't get that feedback consistently, nor do you get clear directions, You have to think for yourself again and without support or direction its easy to look back and lament the war. And decisions just don't seem to matter that much without the threat of death looming over you to motivate you to do your tasks.. Your tasks often just seem pointless.

Well. Another chilling and impressive story. I'm glad that Iron Wings/Dash finally got her Sonic Rainboom, and it- coming from a person who has zero experience in the military- is very believable. I actually hadn't thought of things in this light before.

I haven't served in the military, but I've read accounts of people coming back, either from leave or from the war entirely and not being able to fit in. Often, soldiers in WWI were relieved to actually get back to their trenches, home life becoming strange to them.

Once I saw that image and who wrote it, I knew I had to read it. I'm not disappointed in the very least. Very moving and accurate. The other pieces of this timeline were good but this one is on an entirely different level. The improvement from then to now shows as well.

Recently, I've been finding it difficult to find something I actually wanted to read. I thought I was tiring of this site. Thank you for reminding me why I'm here. Top Shelf for you sir. You deserve it.

Also, thanks for showing stories for this timeline can still be relevant. Makes me feel better about the one I'm working on.

This needs a sequel.

I get you Rainbow Dash. I get your desperation. I get your angst. I understand your want and need. I know what you are feeling.

I ... I need a minute.

Wow :raritystarry:

This is a masterpiece. After reading the first paragraph I could only continue in awe. It's emotionally engaging, beautifully written, and throughout I found myself entranced. Thank you for writing this.

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