• Published 16th Jun 2020
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The Power of Two - Locomotion

A young changeling runs away from home, only to be attacked by timberwolves in the Everfree Forest. Fortunately, Locomotion is on hoof to save her - but little do they know that she has a spy on her tail...

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Chapter 30: Locomotion's Lazarus

“How I've longed...to hear that...”

Hornette's feverish sobbing began to abate as she lifted her head, completely taken aback by the weak, breathy whisper. In her distress, she had completely failed to notice Locomotion's chest beginning to move again...only very slightly, but he was definitely breathing. Her surprise turned to the faintest glimmer of hope as she looked towards his face – and sure enough, the red-furred unicorn's eyes had flickered open and were fondly gazing back at her, while a weak but warm smile adorned his lips.

“Loco!” cried Hornette in joyous relief, embracing him once again. “You're alive!”

Thorax's eyes widened in astonishment. “But...how's this even possible?!” he exclaimed, staring at Twilight. “All his vital signs had stopped...hadn't they?”

Lazarus syndrome.” All eyes turned towards Fluttershy, herself in awe at what had just happened. “I read about it in a medical textbook once. It's what happens when a creature...'dies', but then comes back to life a while later for no apparent reason.”

“Well, it ain't important right now how he came back ta life,” Applejack interjected gravely. “If he dies a second time, it'll be permanent. We gotta get 'im to a hospital.”

Hornette gazed up at the orange farm pony, her grip around Locomotion's barrel slackening as joy quickly turned back to fear.

“Yeah,” began Thorax grimly, “if only our infirmary was still intact...”

“Even that wouldn't be good enough, Thorax,” said Twilight tersely. “Our only chance is to get him to a trauma centre with complete modern equipment – and that means flying him all the way back to El Pinto.” She paused, looking up at the sky. “How long will it take to deactivate the forcefield?”

“We shouldn't need to worry about that – the casters will have dropped the shield as soon as we broke the Brainwashing spell,” answered Thorax. “If so, we should have a clear run all the way to Equestria...but if not...”

“We'll have to risk it,” decided Twilight. “See to it, Rainbow Dash – and take Hornette with you.”

Rainbow Dash shot her an incredulous double-take. “Hornette?! But the law...”

“No time for that,” insisted Twilight firmly. “I don't know what it was that brought Loco back to life, but I can't ignore the possibility of it being to do with Hornette. Just try to explain to the hospital staff as best as you can – I'll catch you up a little later.”

After a brief hesitation, Rainbow Dash nodded her consent. “Alright, Hornette, climb on and hold tight – I'm gonna really go for it!” she cautioned as she scooped up Locomotion into her arms, bridal style.

“Okay,” stammered Hornette nervously as she settled down on Rainbow Dash's back, wrapping her arms firmly around her barrel. “You won't drop him...will you?”

“Not on your life, Hornette. Hang on!” and before Hornette could say “Sonic Rainboom”, the cyan mare shot off into the air like a bullet from a rifle.

They rocketed across the arid wasteland, the air whipping through their manes and Hornette clinging on for dear life as they bore down on the fence that marked the northern border. Fearing a possible recoil, the young changeling shut her eyes and braced herself for the end – but it never came. As Thorax had predicted, the forcefield no longer impeded their progress, and they soared over the mountains without mishap.

Daring to open her eyes again, Hornette gazed anxiously over Rainbow Dash's shoulder, at Locomotion's delirious form. His own eyes were glazed over, his breathing shaky and erratic; and every now and then, his front hooves would twitch as if trying to fend off his impeding death.

“Hornette...” he wheezed breathlessly, “...help me...I...I'm scared...”

Gingerly, so as not to get tangled in Rainbow Dash's wings, Hornette reached over and ran a hoof through his mane. “Hold on, Loco,” she pleaded softly. “Just a little longer.”

But Locomotion barely seemed to hear her, and continued to mumble feverishly, “...don't...don't let me go...I need you...can't...live...without...”

“You're gonna make it, Loco,” counselled Hornette. “Just stay with it...please...”

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the distant glow of lights up ahead heralded their final approach to El Pinto.

“We're almost there!” called Rainbow Dash through the rushing of the wind.

“Hurry, Rainbow!” wailed Hornette desperately. “I don't know how much longer he'll last!”

“Got it!” Rainbow Dash dived swiftly towards the city centre, keeping her eyes peeled for any signs of the local hospital. At last, after only a few seconds, she found it – a white, circular sign bearing the red cross and four pink hearts of the Equestrian Health Service. Carefully reorienting herself in mid-air, she swooped towards the reception doors and knocked them open with an almighty kick, landing on her hind hooves and yelling out at the top of her voice: “EMERGENCY!!! LOCO NEEDS HELP!!”

The receptionist took one look at Locomotion, and immediately turned to the microphone on her desk. “Emergency at front desk! Prepare the ER, stat!” She turned back to Rainbow Dash, who was gently setting Locomotion down on a nearby bench; “What happened to this guy?”

Rainbow Dash opened her mouth to explain, but Hornette hastily beat her to it. “He was caught in a collapsing building – almost got crushed to death!” she said frantically. “Please save him!”

“And what's a changeling doing here in Equestria?” demanded the receptionist, staring coldly at the young insectoid.

“I don't mean any harm!” bleated Hornette. “I just wanted to find a new home outside of the Badlands!”

“That's as maybe, but our law says that the only 'new home' for your kind is in prison,” stated the receptionist warily. “I'm calling the police...”

Locomotion groaned weakly in protest as the grey Earth mare reached for the telephone – only to flinch slightly as Rainbow Dash slammed her hoof down over the receiver. “You're not calling anyone of the sort, sister!” she retorted sharply. “Hornette has as much right to be here as us ponies!”

“Look, ma'am, the Anti-Changeling Protection Act...”

“Damn the Anti-Changeling Protection Act! Do you even know who I am?!”

“A Wonderbolt?” asked the receptionist in deadpan, trying to maintain a professional stance. Privately, she was struggling to understand why a fellow pony would stand up for a changeling, even if she did turn out to be a Wonderbolt. Of course, that was just a lucky guess, so she was even more taken aback when Rainbow Dash confirmed it.

“More than just a Wonderbolt – I am Wing Commander Rainbow Dash, third-in-command of the team behind Wing Commander Soarin Starr and Captain Spitfire; and I also represent Princess Twilight Sparkle and the Ponyville Council of Friendship. In that capacity, I can personally confirm that, by Royal Command, Hornette is exempt from the Anti-Changeling Act,” stated Rainbow Dash sternly. “You call in the cavalry against her, and I'll personally see that you – and this whole hospital – are done for contempt of court! What do you say to that?”

The receptionist frowned inwardly. That Princess Celestia herself should grant legal citizenship to a changeling was too crazy to believe, even at Twilight Sparkle's insistence – for all she knew, the mare who called herself Rainbow Dash could well be a changeling herself! But then again, Rainbow Dash did represent the Element of Loyalty...so maybe...just maybe...she could be right about Hornette or whatever her name was. Either way, she didn't wish to risk incriminating the hospital and losing her job, so she tentatively answered, “All right – what do you want me to do?”

Thought you'd see it my way... “I wanna speak to your manager about letting her stay here,” said Rainbow Dash plainly. “As soon as Loco comes out of the ER, she's to stay by his side until he's back on his hooves.”

“I'm afraid we can't allow it without parental or guardian consent, ma'am. It violates our policy.”

“Look, Loco can't survive, let alone cope, if he doesn't have someone familiar with him at all times, and Hornette's practically family to him anyway! Now what would you rather do – break a few rules, or lose a patient?!”

At last, the receptionist relented, and turned back to her microphone; “Could the duty manager report to the main reception desk, please? Duty manager to main reception?”

Every minute felt like an age as Hornette sat and waited for news. She had tried to accompany Locomotion into the emergency room, but the hospital porters wouldn't let her, and Rainbow Dash and two nurses had to hold her back as they rushed him out of the reception lobby. Matters weren't helped when the manager arrived and immediately objected to having a changeling in the building; Rainbow Dash tried to be diplomatic with him, but the manager was so belligerent about the whole affair that their discussion soon descended into a heated argument. It wasn't until Twilight arrived and explained everything that he grudgingly agreed to let the young changeling stay.

That was over seven hours ago, and Hornette still hadn't heard back from the hospital staff. With no way of knowing what was going on with Locomotion, all she could do was sit and brood, occasionally getting up to pace anxiously around the waiting room. She had never felt so helpless in all her life – all she wanted was to be back in the warmth of Locomotion's embrace...to tell him just how much she loved him and why...to stay with him for as long as time itself would let her...to see him alive and smiling that warm, fond smile of his......and yet, no matter how hard she tried to reassure herself, she couldn't ignore the possibility that she might never see him alive again. Even her escape from home couldn't compare to the crippling stress she was enduring right now.

“How are you holding up?” asked Rainbow Dash from behind her Daring Do novel, breaking Hornette's train of thought.

Hornette gave a trepid sigh and closed her eyes, trying in vain to hold back tears. “Badly,” she faltered.

Rainbow Dash frowned. She too had been doing everything she could think of to pass the time, mostly reading and snoozing; but no matter what she did, she couldn't ignore the tiredness and distress in Hornette's expression. It was as if the poor changeling hadn't slept in over a week. “Hey, take it easy,” she said in an unusually gentle tone. “Loco's gonna be okay, and so are...”

“How do you know he's gonna be okay?!” burst out Hornette hysterically. “You're not the one treating him – you don't know what's going on any more than I do! All we know is that he could be dying in there!” She buried her face in her hooves, trembling with despair as her mental dam gave way again. “Why won't they let me in?” she wept quietly. “What are they doing to him?”

“Look,” murmured Rainbow Dash gravely, setting her book down on her lap, “I know this is hard for you, Hornette, but those surgeons have a really tough job. They can't afford any kind of distraction, no matter how slight – even the teeniest slip-up could damage Loco for good...maybe even kill him...” She regretted those words the moment she uttered them; for Hornette seemed to curl up in discomfort. With an apologetic smile, the cyan mare placed a reassuring hoof over hers and added, “Hey, it's alright. They know what they're doing – they won't let him die.” Her expression turned solemn. “You really do love him, don't you?”

“I do,” sobbed Hornette. “He's been so good to me...ever since he saved me from the timberwolves. I don't even care about finding the Promised Land anymore...” Her voice cracked as she struggled to finish her sentence, “...I just want Loco back...”

Sensing her heartache, Rainbow Dash swallowed her pride and drew the distraught insectoid into a gentle, meaningful hug, letting her cry into her chest fur. She could never have imagined that she, a Bearer of Harmony and a wing commander in the Wonderbolts, could feel any kind of sympathy for a changeling of all creatures. In her mind, they had been nothing but cruel, heartless monsters, as savage and dangerous as their deceased queen – but now, seeing Hornette so inconsolable, she felt angry and ashamed with herself for thinking that way...for letting Chrysalis' savagery blind her to the fraught, injured soul and the warm-hearted nature of the one changeling who had managed to escape her regime. “Hornette...I'm sorry I treated you so badly,” she whispered sombrely. “Loco was right about you all along – you never were a monster, and we all owe it to you for helping us take out the real one.”

Hornette's sobbing abated slightly. “You...you really think so?”

“I know so,” replied Rainbow Dash, gingerly rubbing her back. “No savage alive would've had the guts...or even the heart...to stand up to that overgrown scorpion the way you did. You were awesome, Hornette.”

With a light sniffle, Hornette glumly turned her attention back to the doors through which Locomotion had been carted. “I just...don't understand,” she murmured. “He was running for his life...just like the rest of us...and we found him where the throne room used to be.” She paused for a moment, trying in vain to stem the flow of her tears. “But why? What was he even doing in there?”

Rainbow Dash sighed heavily. “There's only one pony who can answer that one – and that's assuming they can save him.” Blinking back a small tear of her own, she gave Hornette a gentle squeeze as the young changeling buried her face in her chest once again. “Let it all out, Hornette. I'm here for you. It's alright.”

Barely a few seconds later, the door opened to reveal a light brown unicorn mare with a silvery mane. She was holding a clipboard in her magic, and her golden eyes bore the sympathetic glint of a pony who had borne witness to some tragic losses in her time. “Commander Rainbow Dash?”

“Yeah, that's me.”

“I'm Dr Cavell, one of the trauma surgeons here,” said the mare in a soft tone. “It's about the casualty you brought here a few hours ago – Locomotion, I believe you said his name was?”

Hornette looked up at her anxiously. “Is he gonna be okay?” she whispered, almost dreading the answer.

Dr Cavell responded with a small smile. “He's currently resting in the intensive care unit,” she replied. “We've had to sedate him so as to let him recover properly, so he'll be in a coma for...I'd say a month at least. To be honest, it's a miracle he's alive at all.”

“How bad was he?” ventured Rainbow Dash.

“We found a number of bone fractures and other internal injuries, including cerebral contusions both front and rear,” explained Dr Cavell. “He'd lost a gallon or so of blood before he got here, so we had to transfuse him even as we were operating; and during the X-ray scan, we discovered signs of acute magical exhaustion.”

Rainbow Dash shuddered in discomfort. “Sheesh, no wonder! With all that rubble raining down on him...you're right, Doc, he really is lucky.”

“But...he will recover...won't he?” stammered Hornette.

“Well...I can't make any guarantees yet,” answered Dr Cavell, “but as long as he stays on bed rest for the next two or three months, yes – I should think he'll be alright.”

Physically and mentally exhausted from her ordeal, Hornette slumped back in her seat and breathed a deep sigh of relief, her eyes moistening with tears for the umpteenth time that night. All that time she had been bracing herself for what could have been the biggest bombshell in all her life, and now it felt as if the weight of the whole world had been lifted from her shoulders. Only now did she realise just how much it had taken out of her, and how much sleep she had lost to boot.

“Hornette?” Rainbow Dash gazed into her eyes with mild concern. “Are you okay?”

“I...I'm fine,” mumbled Hornette, wearily rubbing her eyes. “Just a little tired.”

Rainbow Dash smiled sympathetically in reply. She didn't wish to say it in public, but if it had been Soarin or Scootaloo in intensive care...she would have felt the same way.

Blinking herself awake, Hornette looked up at Dr Cavell with a weak smile of her own; “Thank you,” she whispered with tearful gratitude. “I don't know what I would've done if he hadn't...” She broke off momentarily, trying to force the morbid thoughts out of her head. “...just...thank you.”

Dr Cavell smiled kindly. “That's quite alright, darling,” she replied. “All part of the service.”

“Can I......can I see him?”

“Of course you can,” and Dr Cavell led Hornette and Rainbow Dash down the corridor to the intensive care ward.

They found Locomotion in a private suite just outside the main ward area. His head, horn, chest and hind legs were wrapped in gauze and his right arm suspended above him in a plaster cast; while his left arm, miraculously undamaged, was festooned with cannulas. Numerous bags of medicine, blood plasma and nutritional solutions hung from a drip stand next to his bed. He had a mask strapped over his muzzle, with a long tube connecting him to a mechanical ventilator, and his chest was wired up to a heart monitor on his bedside table, which beeped softly in a slow, soothing rhythm.

A small tear trickled out of Hornette's eye as she gazed upon her stallion. Distressing though it may have been to see him so broken and fragile, she could see from the slow pulse on the monitor just how right Dr Cavell was – despite everything, Locomotion was still alive and his injuries steadily healing. She glanced tentatively at the brown unicorn; “May I?” she asked.

“By all means,” conceded Dr Cavell kindly. “Just try not to disturb him or the equipment.”

“Go right ahead, Hornette,” agreed Rainbow Dash. “Your lover needs you as much as you need him.”

With little more than a faint nod, Hornette stepped quietly into the room, placing her hooves as lightly as she could to avoid waking him up. Not that she could wake him up, she thought gravely; for even as she pulled up a chair and sat down next to him, Locomotion remained silent and inert. Glancing hesitantly at Dr Cavell one last time, she gingerly began stroking his left hoof.

“I know you probably can't hear me, Loco,” she whispered fondly, “but I'm still going to say it – I don't think I could ever be more grateful to you than I am now. You and Thorax...and the Elements of Harmony...even Pharynx, bless his soul...but especially you. It's all over now – all our kind are free, and Chrysalis can't terrorise us anymore.” She blinked away a few tears before continuing. “You really came through for me, Loco, and I'm truly sorry I ever doubted you. I could never have cancelled out that Brainwashing magic without your love – I may have been the one casting the spell...but you empowered my magic still further. I'm never gonna leave you again – when you wake up...I promise I'll be here for you.”

From the other side of the doorway, Rainbow Dash and Dr Cavell looked on with soft smiles, profoundly moved by the warmth and affection in Hornette's tone, especially when she began to sing a soft, wistful serenade to her beau. In that very instant, all memories of the ongoing stand-off between ponies and changelings seemed to fade away, until all that remained was an image of love and harmony across the divide, as touching and beautifully heartfelt as the young Romeo and Juliet who had made it happen.

Author's Note:

Dr Cavell is a tribute to the British nurse Edith Cavell, who helped around 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium during the First World War, and ended up being shot for it by the Germans. Long may she be remembered.

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