• Published 21st Jan 2017
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The First Wonderbolt - Essay Jay

When an unnatural phenomenon sends Rainbow Dash back in time, she must adapt to an Equestria at war while all the while looking for a way to get back home.

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Issue 3.4 - When The Shield Falters

“So what you’re telling me is that one specific tribe of Zebrica is being attacked by Hydra?” Rainbow asked, frowning at Colonel Bellum.

“Yes, Captain Dash, however hard to grasp that may seem to be. Hydra Seems to be isolating a single Zebrican tribe nation and, if my sources are correct, without the proper approval from King Sombra himself.”

Rainbow Dash looked at Colonel Bellum with scrutiny. “They’re doing this… without Sombra’s permission?”

“Yes,” Bellum said. “And if what little we know of the tribe is correct, then they’re doing it because they’re trying to get some sort of powerful metal from them.”

“Do you know what kind of metal?” Rainbow asked.

Bellum shook his head. “Remember, we only know so much of Zebrica already, what more could we know about an obscure tribe apart from what spies have told me?”

Rainbow began pacing in front of Bellum’s desk. A look of contemplation and anger plastered all over her face, she closed her eyes. She could still remember the first time she had met a zebra and how kind Zecora had been to her. The thought only served to make her breath hitch a little and she clenched her jaw, turning to face the Colonel.

“So what do you want me to do?”

Bellum smiled. “Time for your first mission, Captain.”

“Alright Ember,” Rainbow said, adjusting her cracked goggles and sliding her shield onto her back. "Firefly all tight and ready on the other side?”

Ember smiled, putting his own pair of goggles on before tapping the radio on his chest. “Ask her yourself.”

The radio crackled with magical static before a voice broke through the fuzz. “Hey Rainbow! Hey Dad! Me and Sky read you loud and clear!”

Ember sighed, looking at the radio with joy. “Well, squirt, you might read us loud and clear, but we can’t. The distance is already making our end all staticky-like, and we’re almost there so I have to shut it off soon.”

“Not yet, though,” Rainbow budged. “We’ll keep listening to you until we can’t!”

“Whoo!” the radio blared, both fillies shouting at the same time.

Meanwhile, the other passengers on the transport vehicle watched on in silent amusement. Even though they themselves were separated from their families, just hearing the bright naive voices of children and seeing Ember’s bright face was enough. Ember noticed their looks and nodded, a soft expression crossing his face.

All the ponies in the current car were ponies that Ember trusted with his life. For Rainbow, that was enough. Sitting beside Rainbow herself was a pony named Guffin. Donned with a red beret, he had striking silver eyes and a soft smile, always ready to crack a joke. A pony that could make a dire situation into nothing more than a nuisance with his well-plaved wit.

Sitting beside Ember was a zebra who wore several rings similar to those she’d seen Zecora wear, but not quite as many or as well crafted. Bearing a distant face that lingered with a smile from seeing Ember happy, Deseret stared into nothingness, her soft amber eyes laced with worry and stress. Rainbow frowned as she noted her size compared to some of the others. She couldn't have been older than Firefly by three or four years.

Beside Deseret was a pony who went by the name Jaydock. Rainbow had no idea what the name might imply, but she knew that this pony was not somepony she would’ve liked to mess with, enhanced or not. Sure, he was still one of the friendliest ponies she’d been surprised to know after being introduced by Ember, but she knew his stocky build and silent countenance could place fear into the hearts of the damned. Either way, he reminded her of Big Mac, save for the sky-blue coat and yellow mane.

Next to Guffin was a pony Rainbow still didn’t know the name of. With a curved horn and a pure-coloured mane, Rainbow suspected she must’ve been oriental in some way. Especially with the floral pattern of the bandana on her forehead. She looked shifty. Untrustworthy. Analytical. But Rainbow saw past all that and all she saw was somepony who wanted the war to end.

She pursed her lips as she figured that out.

Sitting right next to Jaydock was a smirking mare that nodded at Rainbow. Sharp Spark had a spiky blue and seafoam green mane and an eye that could match a hawk’s. Ponies called her Goldeneye because of it; the sharpshooter of the group. To Rainbow, she seemed the pony easiest to talk to next to Ember. Rainbow smiled and nodded back.

Last but not least, driving the vehicle was a pony she knew by the name of Puff. She knew it was a nickname by the way he averted his eyes for a split second when she asked him his name, but nopony had yet to actually reveal his real name. What she did know? He was strong. Very strong. Nowhere near as strong as her, of course, but if Rainbow had met him while she was still normal and gotten into a fight, she might’ve lost.

“Hey Puff, what’s the ETA on Checkpoint Alpha?” Rainbow asked.

Puff glanced back at Rainbow before nodding. “Only a few more minutes, Captain.”

Rainbow giggled lightly. “Everyone here knows I’m not actually a captain, right?”

Smiling, Puff rolled his eyes. “Of course we know. That doesn’t stop us from following you, though. You saved us and many other POWS. I saw the moves you busted out to save our friend Ember. If there was anypony more deserving of the title, it’s you.” Puff returned his full attention to the road before adding “Plus, Ember trusts you, and you saved him. That’s good enough for me.”

Rainbow nodded, smiling. “Thanks a lot dude. I really appreciate that.”

Puff tipped an unseen hat. “Anytime, Cap.”

Nodding again, Rainbow turned her attention back to Ember who was busy chatting up Firefly and Skylark. For her, Firefly and Scootaloo were so much alike. They both had the same fire in their eyes to do more than they could do at the time. They were both headstrong and passionate. Both had parents who were just… absent, but this time, for a good reason. Ember was serving his country alongside Rainbow herself. At least this time, she could take care of both of them.

As the vehicle slowed to a stop, the convoy behind them did as well and Rainbow jumped out the side of the truck. Trotting around to the front, she adjusted her goggles and turned to face her squad along with the other soldiers filing out of the vehicles behind. She adjusted her goggles and banged a hoof on her shield as she slid it off of her back.

“Listen up!” Rainbow shouted, silencing everypony. “In the next few miles is the treeline is going to begin thinning into the savannahs of Zebrica. About five miles after that, we’ll be reaching the battlefield, and the tribe of Wakanda.” Rainbow waved to the forest around her.

“As you can see,” Rainbow began, “The trees are already beginning to thin and the grass is shrubbery receding and turning yellow. What this means is that we’re going to have to start watching each other’s backs because our cover will start disappearing quickly. Buddy up and shout if you see any signs of the enemies, because we will be spotted sooner or later, so we have to be ready. Got it?”

Receiving nods and murmurs of approval, Rainbow nodded herself. “Alright, team, let’s move. Quiet, stealthy, and maintain our cover until it breaks on its own. Go go go!”

Waving a hoof, the majority of the platoon began to move. Holding a hoof to stop her troop though, Rainbow trotted closer to them. “When all hell breaks loose, I want you all to stick close to me, okay? If we work together, we can maximize our damage as a small group while everypony else sticks to each other. That way, they can’t pick us all off one by one. Got it.”

“Roger that, Captain,” Ember saluted. Tapping his radio, everyone got to say their hellos and goodbyes to Firefly and Sky before he shut it off.

As they started marching, Rainbow found herself looking at her surroundings with intense scrutiny. Her heart was racing as she listened closely, every single noise around her, the crunching of leaves and small whispers heard by her enhance hearing. If anything, Rainbow almost wished for the action to start already so that she didn’t have to keep anticipating it.

The sense of a presence beside her startled her for a second and she almost swung her shield until she realized who it was. Also finding out that Rainbow herself was the one who sneaked up on Deseret was just a minor shock. Blinking, Deseret met her eyes before averting them just as quickly.

“Hey, Deseret,” Rainbow said. “How are you?”

Deseret widened her eyes as she realized Rainbow was speaking to her. “Me?” she asked.

“Yeah. What’s up?”

The decorated zebra sighed as if she didn’t want to talk about it. “I’m just… nervous, you see. This particular endeavour is making me feel a bit dreary.”

Rainbow nodded, though somewhat puzzled as she was now questioning if all zebras rhymed. Shaking the unnecessary thought away, she tightened her shield’s straps. “Why would you be feeling nervous, though? You have your friends, and you have me here!” After being met with some silence, Rainbow faced forward.

“You have family in Wakanda, don’t you?”

Deseret looked at Rainbow with surprise before quickly hiding it. “I truly hope it isn’t that obvious,” she whispered, “And I hope nopony or zebra else is as curious.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, did you?” asked Rainbow. “I won’t fault or court martial you for running away, I just want to know.”

“No! I would never do anything wrong like that,” Deseret said, “But my family was disappointed in me, like a rotten apple to a fruit bat.” After pausing, Deseret sighed and continued. “So run, away I did, to escape my shame, and leave behind my family I did, who must certainly put me to blame.”

“What did you do to make you feel ashamed enough to abandon your family?” Rainbow said, shaking her head and not expecting an answer. “Even when everything falls apart, your friends and family have your back. They won’t ever betray you like that. Even if it seems like it.”

Deseret merely shook her head. “Your kind words mean many things to me, Captain Dash, but I cannot express how-”

“Shh!” Rainbow suddenly hissed, putting a hoof against Deseret’s mouth, muffling her. Motioning for everyone else to lie low, Rainbow glanced at Deseret and shook her head before crawling a little ways away and lying flat. Closing her eyes, Rainbow focused on what she could hear.

After hearing the last of her platoon come to a stop, she ignored the rustling of the grass and the whistling of the wind. She began to isolate what couldn’t possibly be natural… and she could hear it in the sound of crunching leaves just to the right of their group. Gripping her shield in both hooves after carefully sliding it off, she sat up.

“Hey!” a pony shouted, his accent clearly indicating he was neither a normal Equestrian or Zebrican. “Who are you? What are you doing out here? Put your hooves where I can see them!”

Breathing in sharply, Rainbow felt the world come to a crawl. Despite that fact, Rainbow could move as fast as she normally would. Without even looking, Rainbow spun once before shooting her shield as fast as she could in the direction of the voice. Releasing her breath, the rustle of the wind could be heard again, the breathing of Deseret, and the painful grunt of whoever she had hit with her shield.

Opening her eyes and snapping her head towards where she knew her shield went, she saw the soldier she had heard just before he fell to the ground. Quickly shaking her head at everypony as she saw them beginning to get up, she quickly and quietly flew to the soldier in a flap. Picking up her badge shield, she prodded the soldier with a hoof.

Feeling for a pulse, Rainbow almost sighed with relief, but kept that to herself. Steeling her face, she scanned the area and listened for anything else out of the ordinary. Seeing nothing, she turned around and motioned onwards.

“Let’s keep moving, but we’re in enemy territory now! Remember, Zebrica is under some Imperial influence, even if we’re saving one of their cities. All we can do is protect them from Hydra and get out.”

As the platoon got moving again, Rainbow was on even tighter strings, ready to pounce at any sign of foreign aggression. At this point, the trees were truly beginning to disappear, giving way to acacias and tall yellow grass. It was here where Rainbow could see the assault that had already begun on Zebrica.

She didn’t know whether her platoon or troop could sense the change in the way the air felt. She didn’t know if they could understand why Rainbow straightened herself up just a little more than normal, even for her. What she did know was that there was no time to waste.

And it looked like Hydra had similar ideas.

As the first shots from outside the group were fired and shouts began to be heard near and far, Rainbow shouted at the top of her lungs. “Alright everypony! This is where we make our stand for Zebrica! This is where we protect Wakanda! We fight! We protect! We defend! Move onward to the fronts of Wakanda! We cannot fall here!”

With that, the fight began. Though the soldiers were sparse this far from the battlefield, their seemingly superior firepower was a challenge. As they began galloping across the savannah to Wakanda, the hellfire began to grow more and more until it could no longer be shrugged off as a nuisance. Bullets and mana and lasers of all kinds began raining around Rainbow and her platoon, but they stood their ground, taking out as many as they could without suffering too much themselves.

Rainbow continued to deflect the artillery facing her with her shield, but she swore she could feel her shield beginning to heat up. Not just that, it was already beat up from her use of it on her tour as well as her impromptu rescue mission just couple weeks prior. Using it now was like wearing a pair of rusted horseshoes she knew weren’t good to keep but used anyways for luck.

As she ran forward as a hail of shells rang against her shield, Rainbow slammed into the pony in front of her barrelling over them and rolling up. With a grunt, she quickly threw it at the next pony ready to aim a gun at her before bursting forwards with a quick flap of her wings. As the shield knocked the next pony to the ground, Rainbow was there to grab it before it fell and brought it to her face just in time to block a stray ray of magic.

Pushed back by her momentum, Rainbow rolled and came to a stop in a small divot in the ground. Holding the shield above her head and peering at the battlefield around her, she bit her lip. It was not going as well as she’d hoped.

Her buddy system was working. With two ponies working together in sync, they were able to mostly protect each other, but they were slowly falling. The troop that Ember had assembled for her seemed to be holding up, the most formidable force on the battlefield save Rainbow herself and… and-

Rainbow blinked as she saw a trio of beings clad in black… armour? Fabric? Rainbow couldn’t tell from where she sheltered for the moment, and she knew her eyesight was as good as an eagle’s. She watched with awe as they began to take bullets and magic and shells to their body, but continued running, left unfazed. Remembering that she shouldn’t stay in one spot for too long, she jumped and rolled out of it.

With a running start, Rainbow got one good wing flap in and launched into the skies, throwing her shield down like a knife and embedding it into the ground upright. She needed something that could distract the enemy enough to give her side an advantage. Something bright and flashy. But she needed to warn somepony first. Flying as high as she could while avoiding shots aimed at her from below, she burst through a cloud and slammed the radio on.

“Ember! Jaydock! Deseret! Puff! Wonderbolts! I’m going to perform a sonic rainboom!”

Rainbow didn’t even notice her slip-up before the radio crackled and Ember’s voice came on. “What? A what now?”

“Where are you, Captain?” Goldeneye asked her, “I don’t see you!”

“I’m in the clouds, and I’m going to perform a ‘sonic rainboom’! It’s when-”

A large explosion rocked the ground below and caused an audio feedback loop that threatened to burst the mana pathways of the radio. Gritting her teeth for a second, she heard Jaydock pipe his voice up.

“Holy buck nuggets!” he cursed, “They have those tanks we saw when were escaping their prison!”

“We need backup!”

“No! We have to stop them here ourselves!”

Rainbow ripped her radio off her persons and shouted into it “LISTEN UP! I recognise that the situation is going to crap but I have a trick up my sleeve and I need you to tell the platoon as quickly as possible not to be alarmed and just keep fighting the good fight!”

“What the hell is this trick then, it better be friggin good!” Ember cried.

“I’m going to break the sound barrier, and when I do, a large wave of rainbow energy will explode from the sky in a circle. Don’t mind it! Tell everypony that! Now!”

“Wait, what!? What the hell do you mean you’ll break the friggin sound bar-”

Rainbow shut the radio off and tossed it aside, adjusting her goggles. “No distractions. Gotta do this right.” Frowning heavily, Rainbow stretched her wings fully and sighed as she didn’t realise they weren’t getting the full air they deserved. Determined to grant their wish at that moment, Rainbow stared down. Down at the flashing lights of bullets and magic. Down at the carnage of Wakanda’s siege and her platoon’s stand against Hydra.

She fell.

Down, down, down.

Rainbow could already see the cone forming.

She flapped her wings as hard as she could.

She got to two before she could begin feeling the pressure of the sonic rainboom.

Three flaps before she was on the verge.

One… more…

Stretching both hooves out, she made a sonic rainboom, and her speed doubled, tripled, quadrupled. In an instant, she shot down to the ground, but Rainbow was processing it at a speed as if it were normal speed. She could see herself grab her shield with a thought before she shot horizontally and began slamming into as many Hydra soldiers with her current momentum.

She ricocheted off one soldier and toppled over another. She slammed into another one and demolished a group of them with one blow. She punched and kicked and utilised her sonic rainboom to her advantage before she could see the magical effects beginning to wear off and she began slowing down to her normal… still fast speed.

That’s when she saw him.

The pony she knew was behind all of Hydra.

The pony she had seen at the factory when she was saving all of the POWS.

The pony called Insomnia.

Aiming straight for him next, Rainbow shouted with all her might before she flew straight past him. Using her wings to break, Rainbow tucked them in and went for a hard forward roll. Sliding to a stop, Rainbow slammed her shield down and dragged to a stop. Breathing heavily, all sounds of the battlefield seemed to mute as she looked up from her breathing and her eyes met with Insomnia’s.

“Remarkable. Beautiful. Stunning,” he said, coughing and laughing as he picked himself up and brushed himself off. “Nothing short of perfection.”

“Why are you attacking Wakanda?” Rainbow growled. She slid her shield onto her one foreleg and stared at Insomnia. “You already watch over Zebrica with the Crystal Empire like a hawk. Some of it is under your control. What’s the point of laying siege to a city like this?”

Insomnia chuckled, his laugh echoing across the distance between them with menacing ease. “Ohoho, this is just one city, Captain. One of many in the nation of Wakanda. Or wouldn’t you know? You’re fighting to protect them, aren’t you?”

Rainbow gritted her teeth, but remained silent, calm as she could possibly be in the situation.

He laughed again before shaking his head. “It’s funny how much you do not understand. This is really good to see, though. Goldheart really did succeed, didn’t he? Not exactly an improvement, I must truly say, but still very impressive-”

Rainbow sneered and crossed the distance in a split second, slamming a hoof into Insomnia’s jaw. “You have no idea," Rainbow hissed as he stumbled back a little. She spat to the side. "That was for Goldheart.”

Laughing, Insomnia rubbed his jaw a bit and wiggled, smiling. “Oh, I don’t, do I?” Rainbow then saw him lunge forward with his own punch and Rainbow brought up her shield.


Rainbow felt something pull away before she peered over her shield… and saw the hoof-shaped indentation in her solid metal shield. Frowning with disbelief and annoyance, Rainbow swung her shield forward. Insomnia dodged it and stepped back, completely missing the swing. Rainbow growled and swung her shield like an arrow-

And he deflected it with his thick-gloved hooves.

She wouldn’t allow this. Galloping up, she began to throw punch after punch, and Insomnia did the same. Rainbow could actually feel these punches, as if she were just a normal pony. Screaming, she headbutted him and bucked him back.

“Get. Out. Of. Zebrica!” Rainbow shouted, rushing up to Insomnia as he got back up.

At that point, it was too late for Rainbow to see that he was charging up a complicated spell. As Rainbow pulled a hoof back, Insomnia cast it on her, and they both collapsed to the ground in pain.

Rainbow’s mind was on fire. She screamed in pain as her vision began blurring and returning in waves of nausea. But she tried to remain focused. She tried to remain conscious. Her temples pulsed like drums. Her mind was ablaze. Through it all, she could see the hazy outline of Insomnia walking up to her.

“I… must say, you are a lot more competent than I took you for,” Insomnia smiled. “Of course, this spell will just be another test to see if you’re really as strong as Goldheart said he could make me.”

In tears of physical and emotional pain as random memories of Rainbow’s past began resurfacing, she was able to make four coherent words. “You. Will. Never. Win!”

Insomnia chuckled, his horn glowing a little once more. At that point, Rainbow realised her vision was fading, blackness beginning to creep in slowly, steadily.

“Maybe, or maybe not. Either way, I think we’ve lost Wakanda… thanks to you. Cherish your victory here today, Captain. You’re on the losing side…”

Finally, Rainbow began slipping into oblivion as Insomnia began walking away, her consciousness only barely catching his last words before the blissful world of purgatory claimed her.

“...Sweet dreams.”

And all was nothing.