• Published 20th May 2017
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Brightly Lit - Penalt

The village of Brightly, British Columbia is a small, isolated place where everyone knows everyone, with a strong sense of community. A community that starts to include colourful little ponies.

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Chapter 13: Neighsayer

“I just wanna find me

Some magic somehow

Oh don't be a neighsayer now.”

- Neighsayer, Lukas Nelson

“It’s Death,” Shield Maiden whispered in horror. The pony-shaped being drew closer to the group around Shield Maiden’s terribly hurt friend. It was more than twice the size of any of the transformed ponies, the horn of its star-filled body easily reaching as high as the shoulder of John Vatten, who stood in the path of the creature’s approach.

“I said,” the fireman growled out, holding his fire axe across his body like a medieval warrior, “you are going to have to come through me to get him.”

The Tantabus stopped just out of what it judged to be axe range of the biped in front of it and considered its next action. On the one hoof it had a mission, and it could tell that the pony lying on the ground needed its magic. The Tantabus easily had the power to remove the creature barring its path, or to ignore the being and walk around him.

However, that was the kind of thing it had done as an instrument of punishment and self-loathing. Luna had given it a chance to do something better, to be something better, and the Tantabus also recognized the protective stance of the biped. It instead turned itself sideways and lowered its head so its horn was pointing towards the ground in a display of non-aggression. It then took two measured, sideways steps toward the creature, putting its vulnerable flank in range of the axe and inviting attack to further show it meant no harm.

“Huh,” Vatten said, puzzled as the creature simply stood sideways in front of his half-raised axe without making any attempt to defend itself. “Wait a sec. Are you here to take Bi... Iron Hoof away?” The night pony shook its head in the negative.

“Can you help him?” Vatten asked, and wild hope surged in his breast when the creature nodded. “Then do what you can for him, okay?”

He lowered his axe to the wet ground and the night pony lifted its head and stepped past him, nuzzling his hand in passing. Vatten thought he saw one of the stars from the pony’s body slide into his hand at the point of contact, and a sudden vast warmth washed away his perception of the cold and the rain. A comforting strength wrapped around his core, like a mother’s hug on a cold day.

“Hey!” Ernie protested. Ignoring him, creature stepped around John and slid between the paramedics, who backed off in surprise.

“Is okay, Mister Harding,” Seeker said, her eyes distant and her voice slurring slightly. “Is a good faerie. Wants to help.” Arnold looked up at the Tantabus as he heard that, his face covered in an equal mix of tears and rain.

“Help him,” he said, still pillowing his son’s head in his lap. “Whatever it takes, whatever the cost. I’ll pay it. Just help him.”

The Tantabus slowly lowered its head, softly laying its horn against the soft, wet fur of the injured pony. It could sense the fading life force of the child as it lay in its father’s arms, and it could also tell that if something was not done, and soon, that force would fade completely and a young life would come to its conclusion far before its time.

But all the Tantabus had to do was what it had been sent to do. It focusing on the power the Diarchs of Equestria had given to it, streaming that energy into the broken body of the boy, and those looking on saw star after brilliant star pass from the rippling body of the Tantabus and into Iron Hoof. The transfer took only moments, and the Tantabus felt a surge of satisfaction as it took the opportunity to share more of its power with the others who were in physical contact with the wounded pony on the ground.

Its immediate mission accomplished, the Tantabus turned away to seek out the other two ponies it could sense.

“Hey!” John shouted, having managed to pull himself out of the Tantabus’s soul-hug. “You haven’t done anything. I thought you were going to—”

John’s words died in his throat as a great light came into existence behind him. He turned, and saw Iron Hoof’s body wreathed in a corona of light. An angelic chorus rose up around the group, and the young pony rose up and away from his startled father’s arms. Rippling rainbow light ran up and down his limbs, and where that light touched his shattered rear legs, a miracle occurred. Bones, broken under frightful impact, returned to their rightful place, knitting back together and becoming one again. Flesh, torn and sundered by the breaking of the framework beneath, fused back together as the torn cloth of skin and fur became whole and vital again.

For some immaterial and unknowable time, the power of Equestrian magic manifested itself as those present watched in awe. The Tantabus paused a moment to bask in the joy around it, then used the distraction to leave unnoticed. There were other ponies and perhaps future ponies who had need of the power Luna and Celestia had given it, and it vowed to make sure those creatures had what they needed.

After what seemed an eternity, but in truth could only have been mere moments, the chorus and light faded away and Iron Hoof lay on the ground once more, only to quickly push himself up to a standing position—on all four of his legs.

“Billy!” Arnold shouted in joy, wrapping his arms around his son’s neck. “You’re okay! It healed you. Oh, thank God.” Arnold knew in the back of his mind that he was blowing his son’s superhero “cover” wide open, but at that moment he didn’t really care. Jessica, the fire department’s paramedic, started running her hands up and down Iron Hoof’s rear legs, searching for any signs of the life-threatening breaks that had been there only a minute before.

“I don’t believe it,” she said, amazement and wonder in her voice. “I don’t freaking believe it. I saw the breaks, I felt them. Arnie, I don’t want... hang on, was that there before?”

“Was what where before?” Iron Hoof asked, unable to move with everyone trying to hug him at once.

“Your hip,” Jessica said, pointing. “Whatever else that thing did to you, it left its mark.” There, on the flat portion on the side of both Iron Hoof’s hips was a mark. An emblem a few inches across of a wooden barricade being broken asunder was etched through Iron Hoof’s fur and clear down to the skin.

“Look folks,” Montcalm, the fire chief, said. “I’m as happy as anyone that it looks like you’re going to be okay, Iron Hoof, but we’ve got to get going.” The rest of the group, people and ponies alike, leaped into motion, getting into vehicles or putting away gear. Everyone, except for Arnold, who broke off from the others, and before anything else, carried his son back to his truck and deposited him on the bench seat.

“Dad,” Iron Hoof said in protest, as his father secured him to the truck seat with not one, but two safety belts. “I’m fine, honest. That magic pony fixed me up great. I can walk and everything.”

“You just sit and stay put,” Arnold said. “I almost lost you just now, and if you even think about moving off that seat without my say-so I swear I... I... I’ll hogtie you and see if you can fit in that animal carrier Jess has in the rescue truck.”

“Daaaad,” Iron Hoof said plaintively, before his father silenced him with a look and a raised finger that brooked no argument.

“What happened?” Ben, the firefighter already at the dam with the two pegasi of the team asked over the radio. “Who did we almost lose?” Arnold looked down at his radio and saw that he had accidentally keyed his mike when he had leaned forward to strap Iron Hoof in.

“Don’t worry about it,” Montcalm said over the radio. “Everyone’s good and we should be there in about five minutes. Any luck finding the problem?”

“Yeah, the microwave tower got knocked down,” Ben said, as he and the ponies with him huddled underneath the partial shelter of a large wooden map meant for tourists. “What are we gonna do, boss?”

“Don’t worry about that for now,” Montcalm said, reassuringly. “We’ll put together a plan as soon as I get there and can have a look at things.” The convoy of emergency and personal vehicles quickly set off down the remaining stretch of road to the failed dam.

True to his word, Montcalm and the rest of the team arrived at the dam five minutes later. The firefighters all headed over to talk to Ben and get briefed on the situation he had encountered while trying to manually operate the dam’s controls. The ponies, however, all clustered around Arnold’s truck where Iron Hoof remained strapped in.

“C’mon Iron Hoof,” Darter said, trying to make his point. “Your Dad won’t know if you step out of the truck. Besides, I wanna see it.”

“No way,” Iron Hoof said, shaking his head. “My dad is ticked. Really ticked, big-time. I’m not allowed to step out of the truck, but you can hop in and have a look.” Darter and Skylark needed no further invitation and climbed into the cab of the truck, oohing and ahhing over the mark on Iron Hoof’s flank. Seeker and Shield Maiden stayed out in the driving rain, having already seen the mark while sharing a happy hug with their friend.

“What’s it mean?” Seeker asked her sister, wiping rain out of her eyes.

“I dunno,” Shield Maiden said, shrugging her furred shoulders. “Maybe he’s levelled up or something. Evolved, like a Pokemon maybe.”

Meanwhile, the firefighters had made their way to the top of the small hill where the downed tower that held the microwave receiver had stood. Montcalm cursed sulfurously as he looked at the rusted stubs where yet another wind blown tree had snapped off the tower at its base.

“There is no flippin’ way those struts should have been allowed to corrode to that state. Hydro should have been up here years ago to replace that tower,” he growled, pawing at his belt and coming up with an oversized satellite phone on which he pressed a preset button. “Brightly VFD to BC Hydro Control. Brightly VFD to BC Hydro Control, please respond.” A bright and much too cheery voice for the weather came from the device.

“Hello Brightly VFD, this is BC Hydro,” the cheery voice responded immediately. “Remote Tech Shaushka here, how can I help you?”

“Ya, we’re at the Carmanah Lake dam and we’ve got big problems,” Montcalm said over the phone. “The microwave tower is down and the manual controls are so rusted they’re useless. We’ve got no way to raise that floodgate.”

“Are you sure you applied enough torque to the manual control?” the tech said back. “Sometimes it takes—”

“Look lady, my man twisted that wheel so hard the axle actually deformed and broke!” Montcalm exploded at the satellite phone. “I need some real solutions right now or my town is going to start flooding sometime in the next thirty minutes.”

“Sorry mate, I had to ask,” Tech Shaushka said, her old British accent slipping out as it sometimes did when she was under pressure. “Okay, emergency procedures then. First, try to create a makeshift dam across the spillway entrance. Logs, or even full trees will do. Anything to slow down the flow rate.”

“Okay, we might have something that will work for awhile,” Montcalm said, his eye falling on Shield Maiden down by Arnold’s truck, as his mind played back the image of the orange planes of force the pony could create. “But it won’t hold forever.”

“No worries, love,” Tech Shaushka said in a calm voice. “It just has to last long enough for you to raise the tower back into place. Are the connecting data cables still intact?”

“I think so,” Montcalm said, trying to shield the phone a bit from the rain and wind. “But the tower itself completely snapped off at the base.”

“Use lines to secure it in place, weld it if you have access to the equipment,” Shaushka said, trying to sound reassuring. “There’s a fair bit of leeway with the beam path. I only need fifty percent of the data packets to get through, and that only long enough to raise the gate itself. Get that tower up for me and I’ll get that gate closed for you, Sir.”

“Right, we’ll get it up. You just be ready to raise that gate,” Montcalm said, closing down the phone and cupping his hands so he could be heard down to the truck. “Shield Maiden! I need you and the rest here with me right now!” He pointed to the ground at his side in emphasis. He saw Shield Maiden nod, gathering her four friends together to head his way.

“Are you nuts?” Arnold said, gripping Darrell’s arm tight. “That’s my son down there. My son who almost died a few minutes back.”

“No, that’s Iron Hoof and his friends,” Montcalm replied as he met Arnold’s eyes with every ounce of authority he could muster from twenty-five years as mayor and fifteen as Brightly’s fire chief. “When this is over, you can ask for my resignation if you want. I won’t fight you over it because I feel guilty as hell that my decisions nearly caused the death of a child. But right now, God help me, we need every resource I can lay my hands on. Hate me later and I’ll understand, just help me save the town first.”

“Fine,” Arnold said, not happy in the slightest but understanding the pressure Montcalm was feeling. “But if I say call them off, you call them off.”

“Fair enough,” Darrell said, as Shield Maiden came pounding up with her fellow ponies in a wedge formation through the rain and the mud.

“How can we help, Sir?” Shield Maiden asked.

“How strong are those shields of yours, and how long can you hold one?” Montcalm asked, looking down at the pony leader.

“Um, they’re pretty strong,” Shield Maiden said in earnest reply. “But I’ve never held one longer than a minute. That doesn’t mean I can’t hold one longer though.”

“I need you to use one to block the water going out through the spillway,” Montcalm said, looking down at the young pony. “Every minute you can hold back the water gives the rest of us that much more time to raise the tower back up. Can you do it?”

“I don’t know, Sir,” Shield Maiden said, before taking a deep breath that filled her with confidence, “But I promise to try as hard as I can.”

“Good girl,” Montcalm said, before turning back to the rest of the crew. “Okay folks, the little lady here is going to buy us some time, let’s use it well. John and Ernie, get out as many lines, winches and come-alongs, as you can and get them to the tower. Arnold, you and Ben get the arc welder and the gennie up the hill as well. Kevin and Jess, give them a hand as much as you can. After that, you two are on medical backup.”

“Power Ponies, to me!” Shield Maiden called out, her voice ringing out in childish imitation of the tones she had just heard from the mayor. Iron Hoof hesitated before leaving the truck to answer the call, but his father just nodded, and it took only seconds for the five to be together again.

“Okay ponies, listen up,” Shield Maiden said. “The mayor wants me to try to hold back the water using one of my shields. In the meantime, Darter, Skylark and Seeker, you help the firemen get their stuff up to the top of the hill.”

“Um, what about me?” Iron Hoof asked, still shooting occasional nervous glances at his father, who seemed to be shooting equally nervous looks back. Which was impossible, because Arnold Kye never looked nervous or unsure.

“You’re on... medical backup,” Shield Maiden said, as Iron Hoof raised an eyebrow at the copied phrase. “We don’t know if the Night Horse fixed you all the way up or not, and I might need someone to keep me focused if things get really tough. Okay?”

“Okay,” Iron Hoof said. He was fairly sure the job was just to keep him busy, but he would still help out in any way he could.

“Right guys, this is why we decided to be ponies again,” Shield Maiden said, smiling to her friends. “Go go, Power Ponies!” The group split up to their assignments as Shield Maiden belted out their adopted catchphrase, none of them noticing Ben’s struggle to keep from laughing in recognition. As the other three went over to the trucks to help the firemen, Iron Hoof and Shield Maiden carefully made their way onto the walkway that traveled over the surface of the dam itself.

“All right,” Shield Maiden said, stopping at the halfway point. “This should be just about right. Whatever you do, Iron Hoof, don’t let me fall.” She turned to look down at the rushing water, an emergency lamp lighting the spillway and she felt something brush along the center of her back at the same time as she heard a clicking sound.

“I grabbed a safety line from Dad’s truck,” Iron Hoof explained, clipping the other end of the line to the front of his own harness and connecting the two of them together. “We’re really gonna have to thank Mrs. Harding for making these harnesses for us.”

“Yeah. Anyway, here goes nothing,” Shield Maiden closed her eyes in concentration. A breath or two later an orange wall of force covered the open spillway, stopping the outward flow of water, and Shield Maiden opened her eyes. She smiled for a moment, but then the first waves hit the wall and she realized where her true battle lay.

The gap being covered was roughly ten feet across by two deep, and rising slowly. Putting up and holding the wall in place of that wasn’t terribly hard for the magical pony, but it was a constant, draining effort. The real danger lay in the waves of the storm-tossed lake striking the wall. Carmanah Lake was typical of many of its brethren in British Columbia. Gouged out during the last ice age, the lake was narrow, deep, and very long, which gave waves a very long distance to gain both momentum and power.

Each wave struck the wall with the impact of a sledgehammer, and while Shield Maiden could hold her construct against that kind of impact, the improvised dam was being struck every second or two and the battering waves quickly drove Shield Maiden to her knees.

“It’s okay, you can do this,” Iron Hoof whispered to her. “Just focus on your shield. You can keep it up forever because we all believe in you.” Shield Maiden’s smile briefly touched her lips again, as she closed her eyes and reached deep inside of herself for reserves of determination, courage and power she didn’t know if she had, applying herself fully to the fight to keep the wall up.

“Pull!” Montcalm shouted at men and ponies alike as they dragged the arc welder and the generator to power it up the muddy hill. Where boots slipped, hoofs dug in and kept their grip, allowing the combined force to get the equipment up to where the base of the tower lay. Everyone paused at the top, panting as they caught their breath.

“Okay, Arnie,” Montcalm puffed to the mechanic and metal worker. “How long do you need us to hold the tower in place for you to weld it solid?”

“I can have tack welds in place on all three legs inside of a minute,” Arnold said, as he started to check his equipment. “But to weld things solidly, at least solid enough to last more than a couple of minutes in this weather, I’ll need about five minutes a leg. Give or take.” Montcalm nodded and turned to the others.

“Good, because I don’t know how long that little pony down there can hold back all that water,” Montcalm said, looking down toward the dam significantly. Arnold followed his gaze and then hurried to get his gear set up.

“What can we do?” Skylark said, standing beside Darter, her brother. “We aren’t strong like the other—” Her words stopped as she felt a warmth settle over her back, strength and confidence seeming to flow into her.

She looked to her brother but instead of seeing the wry smile Darter usually had, her gaze ran into the flowing body of the creature that the others had called the “Night Horse.” It had deftly landed itself between the siblings and had draped a wing over each of them. As it looked at each of them in turn, Skylark got the feeling that the creature somehow approved of what they were doing, and why they were doing it. Darter was about to try to say something when the creature suddenly extended its wings, leaped upwards and began to fly off.

“Was that the Night Horse?” Darter asked, out loud to the others.

“Yeah,” Ernie said to his son. “That’s what brought Iron Hoof back from two broken legs. I don’t know if it’s an angel, if God sent it, or what. I do know that it means well, and that I owe it. You kids okay?”

“Yeah Da—” Darter began, clapping his mouth closed before he finished saying “Dad.”

“It do anything to you?” Ernie asked, equal parts curiosity and parental worry.

“It kinda... ” Skylark began, before walking over to lean against her father’s leg affectionately. “I think it wanted to say ‘hi’ but it can’t talk, so it kinda made us feel warm and fuzzy instead. Like when Mom tells us we’re doing something good.”

“Ernie, we need a hand over here,” John called over from where he was rigging a crude pulley system to multiply and redirect the force of the rope intended to pull the tower back up.

“Be right there,” he called back, before looking back to his transformed children. “You two just stay here in case we need you.”

“What about me?” Seeker asked, her rain-streaked coat glinting in the flashlights.

“You’ve got strength like Iron Hoof does,” Ernie said, smiling down encouragingly toward his neighbor’s child. “We’re going to need you on the pull rope.”

“Okay,” Seeker said, cheerfully, and walked toward the increasingly complex tangle of ropes, chains, cables and equipment around the base of the tower. The men and women of the Brightly Volunteer Fire Department might not have been professional fire fighters, but each and every one of them were comfortable thinking and acting independently, which gave them a wide variety of skills. Skills such as how to raise a pole, or in this case tower, using nothing but ropes and pulleys.

Less than ten minutes later every thing was rigged and ready. One member of the fire crew stood on each side, in case the tower slewed off course, with a third to keep the tower from going to far. The rest, save only Arnold Kye who was getting the welder ready, prepared to pull the tower up through a 120 degree arc and back to the vertical.

Arnold brought the power unit to life with a few quick pulls of the starter and he aimed a built in light at the broken base of the tower. A moment later, the arc welder was switched on. and Arnold quickly adjusted settings on the machine and made sure he had a ready supply of the correct welding rods. Assured all was good to go, he made a quick thumbs up sign to the fire chief.

“Okay everyone!” Montcalm yelled out to the group. “On three. One... Two... Three!” On the count he and every other person there pulled with everything they had, and with agonizing slowness the tower began to rise up off the ground. Five feet, ten, then twenty. The tower swung up the needed arc, but as the tower rose past the forty-five degree mark, the top of it cleared the surrounding tree tops and the microwave dishes were once again directly in the path of the storm winds.

“Oh no!” Skylark exclaimed, as she saw the top of the tower twist and spin to one side as the twin dishes on the top acted like sails in the wind, pulling the tower off course. The firemen on the guiding ropes did their best to counteract the forces they were dealing with, but nature had both the wind and leverage on its side.

“It’s gonna fall!” Darter exclaimed, and clutching his sister close. “We gotta do something.”

“Quick, you do your weather thing. Stop the wind pushing at the tower,” Skylark said, urgency slurring her words as they blazed past. “I’ll catch it. Go!” Darter needed no further urging, and he streaked skywards. His sister was only a second slower in getting off the ground, and the air shrieked with her passage as she zoomed to the tower’s peak.

“We’re losing it!” Montcalm cried, his eyes glued on his crew. “Arnie! Get clear!” Arnold scrambled away as the pulling crew finally lost their grip, falling to the ground as the torquing tower pulled the hauling line free. Only Seeker was still attached to the pulling rope, crying out helplessly as she was dragged back up the slope by the falling tower.

The tower fell back earthward, only to stop with a sudden thrum of tension as Skylark stopped the tower by its tip, some twenty feet off of the ground while her silver tipped wings pounded at the air. The beats of her wings sounded through every person there, even over the wind of the storm, and as the amazed fire team looked on, the speed of each beat increased as the pegasus reached inside herself and found a core of power and determination within.

“I don’t believe it,” Vatten said in a hushed breath. “That’s gotta be five tons of reinforced iron and steel.”

“It’s not going to mean much if she can’t control it when she gets above the trees again,” Montcalm said. “Hey where did the other pegasus go?”

“Look up,” Ernie said, and everyone could hear the pride in his voice. For there, high above the hill in mid-air was the pony who called himself Darter. Like his friend and his sister before him, need gave him the ability to reach inside and grab hold of the gift the Tantabus had given him when it had touched him. Flaring his own silver-tipped wings wide, he reached out to the storm around him, asking it to be calm.

They say that all prayers, to all deities are answered, but sometimes the answer is “No.” So it was this time. The storm around Darter heard his request, as much as a force of nature can be said to hear something, and ignored him. Skylark was nearing the tops of the trees in her slow steady ascent, her wings glowing like fiery coals with the effort of channeling her power and magic through them. Darter saw her climbing higher, and growling he set his jaw in determination and once more sent his will out through his wings and into the storm around him. Only this time, he wasn’t asking.

Zak was known around town as a boy who leaped wholly into things. It was one reason why he had been able to adapt to becoming a pegasus so easily. It was also a reason why he was able to take an even firmer hold of that warm power inside of him and fling it outwards. As the pulling crew grabbed onto their line again, the light from Darter’s wings went from red, to yellow, then blazing white, as he threw furious power at the storm to calm the winds for his sister. As she climbed over the trees the winds around dam died, the clouds parted and the skies cleared. A single blazing star shone high above the hill, in the form of a charcoal pegasus.

“Holy crap,” Ben said, looking up. “That’s in-freaking-credible.”

“Less talk, more pull,” Montcalm said, knowing that their success now depended on not one, not two, but three supreme efforts. Unimpeded now by wind, the tower swiftly swung up to the vertical and the broken off bottom of the tower stood beside the stubs they had come from.

“I’m on it!” Arnold yelled, arc welder blazing to life as man-made lightning in the form of ionized plasma began to join metal to metal. “Okay, tack welds are on, hold it steady as long as you can.” Darter kept going with his effort, holding back incalculable tons of air and water vapor, forcing back the fury of nature through a combination of magic and determination.

Skylark, though, was no longer in the air. Exhausted and drained of every reserve of strength, the enervated pegasus lay on the ground. She lay there, unnoticed and unmoving, as the greater drama revolved around the others now at the fore of the effort.

Minute by minute the snap-hiss of the arc welder continued. Arnold Kye might not have been a pony, he might not have had access to the magic his son did, but he had a sorcery all his own. Metal moved and shaped to his will, like a living thing as it obeyed him and he now used every ounce of that skill and art, ruthlessly using every shortcut and scrap of knowledge to make the welds faster and more solid. After what seemed an eternity, it was done, and he shut off the welder. The tower was again one with its base, only a little shorter than it had been before.

“Darter!” Montcalm yelled up at the star-bright pegasus. “You did it! You've done your job, now come on down!”

“Gotta hold... gotta keep it back...” Darter replied, his voice echoing oddly, everywhere and nowhere at once

“It’s done! Get down here!’ Montcalm said, and then he noticed that the sky was short one pegasus. “Crap, anyone seen Skylark?”

“There she is,” Seeker said, running over to her friend and lifting her up. “You okay?” Skylark opened her eyes, looking up at her friend.

“Did we do it?” the black furred pegasus asked, her body completely limp but still managing a smile as she looked at her friend. Her black coat was muddy and soaked from the events of the night, and her wings felt like they were made of lead. “Please tell me we did it.”

“Ya,” Seeker said, smiling. “You did —” Seeker’s reply was cut off as gasps of horror cut them off and she looked up. Darter was falling toward the ground, the will and magic that had kept the young pony aloft and in command of the elements utterly drained by his herculean effort. With no power to keep him in the skies, he had begun flopping gracelessly towards the earth.

“Coat,” Montcalm ordered, spearing Arnold with his gaze and knowing they had only seconds to act, and he ran through the same chain of thought that Montcalm had in a fraction of a second. Darter would hit the earth in a few seconds, and if anyone tried to catch him directly, those involved in that collision would break bones, if they were lucky. However, if Montcalm and Arnold could string something between them, something that had some give to it, something like a fire coat held between two strong firemen, Darter could be safely caught like a ball being caught by a glove.

Arnold rose, his movements smooth and fluid, casting down his welding gear with his left hand, he swept up his coat off the top of the arc welder with his right. Two swift strides took him toward Montcalm and his right hand continued in its arc, sweeping his jacket out in front of him. Montcalm caught the end of Arnold’s jacket, gripping it tight, and roughly a second later Darter flopped onto it, driving both men to the ground as with his falling momentum.

“Hey, kiddo,” Montcalm said, leaning over and unfolding part of the coat that had flopped over the pegasus. “You okay?” A groan came from the dark furred body in front of him.

“Out of the way,” Jessica said, elbowing aside the men. “Let me check him out.” The paramedic began quickly going over the fallen pony, looking for injuries as the storm closed back in, the wind and rain returning.

A series of snapping, sparking sounds came from the arc welder, and with a final crack of sound the main fuse of the device blew. Without Arnold’s jacket to shield it, the welder had been shorted out by driving rain entering its top vents. Montcalm and Kye stood up, the dying welder having first drawn their attention, then looking around to see Jessica’s partner, Kevin, examining the fallen body of Skylark with Seeker beside him.

Kevin felt their gaze on him and looked up at his chief, giving them both a thumbs up to indicate that Skylark was not seriously injured. Jessica did not seem to be overly worried about the Darter either and Montcalm took the opportunity to pull the satellite phone back off of his belt.

“Brightly VFD to BC Hydro Control,” he said into the device. “The tower is up. Brightly VFD to BC Hydro Control, I say again. The tower is up. Start raising that floodgate.”

“I read you, Brightly VFD. Sending the commands now,” the cheery voice of the remote technician said, but a minute later the voice returned with a less confident tone. “I have no function from the gate. No response at all from the remote systems. Please check to see if the data cables are intact.”

“The cables aren’t the problem,” Ernie Harding said, tracing the data cables up to the top of the microwave tower by eye with a hand-held spot lamp. “Look at the dish on the tower.” Everyone who had heard his voice looked up to where the dirty microwave dish was mounted.

“Oh, hell,” Ben Thompson cursed. “How did we not notice that?” Montcalm realized that Ben was right. As the tower had fallen, it had rotated under the pull of the guide ropes on the side. When Skylark had powered the tower back up again it had retained its new orientation because everyone had fallen off the guide ropes. Once she had the tower standing, no one on the ground had really been able to see up into the dark sky to notice that the tower had rotated 120 degrees. One strutted face of the structure being fairly identical to the others.

The dish pointed in the wrong direction now, and there was no possible way it could receive any commands to close the gate on the spillway and keep Brightly from being flooded.

Author's Note:

Sorry for the long delay in getting this out. One of my editors had their computer go "kaboom" and I had to beg an old friend to step in. Which they did, and combined my editors trawled out over 100 errors of mine from my drafts.

Treat your editors like gold, people. They are just as precious.

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