• Published 20th Apr 2020
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Disharmony: Gods Among Ponies - Mr-Astounding

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Intermission 3

Author's Note:

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “Hey, wasn’t (no spoilers)’s chapter supposed to be here?” And, you’re right: that is how I had originally intended for this to go, but as I was writing the chapter, I thought to myself, “You know, this doesn’t quite flow right: it feels like there should be something leading into this.” So after some careful consideration, and the remembrance that I wasn’t doing this exactly like the video game I was basing this story on, I set this up with the hope that it makes the next chapter mesh better with the rest of the narrative, though I apologize in advance if I didn’t succeed. Anyways, I hope you enjoy this.

Chapter 5.5

Back in the Equestria we all know and love, Princess Celestia watched as Starlight Glimmer and Sunburst assisted Sunset Shimmer put some finishing touches on the new Crystal Mirror. “How are we looking?”

Sunset wiped some sweet from her forehead with a sigh. “Good news is that Starlight, Sunburst and I have mostly finished with our efforts to create another portal. Bad news is that the required energy output is immense. Starlight and I would have to give it everything we had and we’d still might not have enough power to make this work.”

“Maybe I can help,” Pinkie declared. “I've been told I have more energy than almost anybody else alive, with the possible exception of Cheese Sandwich. Time to put that to the test. Just strap me to a treadmill and make with the magic and calculations.”

“About as good an idea as any,” Sunset declared. “Let’s get to work.”

Meanwhile, in the Lunar Republic’s base of operation, Lightning Dust approached the returning members, giving a nod to the container Twilight was carrying. “That the weapon I’ve heard so much about?”

“Yep, that’s the one, albeit in some need of some repairs,” Rainbow declared, not at all prepared for when Lightning brought her into a hug. “Whoa. Okay, you are definitely not our Lightning Dust.”

“Sorry,” she sniffled as she broke the embrace. “It’s just the last time you went out on a mission that involved getting something that would help in the war effort, you never came back.”

“You know, now I’m curious: what did happen the night Rainbow died in this world?” Ember couldn’t help but ask.

Lightning sighed. “It’s like this…”

Four years ago…

Lightning could only grumble to herself, having just barely managed to evade some of Celestia’s guards. While the notion of joining up with this new Solar Empire was tempting, she’d heard a few rumors about how some of the former “criminals” in their army had gone through a little “re-education”, and she wasn’t going to risk that happening to her: liked the thoughts she had just fine the way they were, thank you very much!

She was soon brought out of her musings, however, when she suddenly found herself running into a very familiar individual. “Rainbow?”

“Lightning?” Lunar Rainbow Dash barked back with equal amounts of surprise, as it had been a year since they had agreed to leave the other alone for the time being.

“What are you doing here?!” they both yelled out at the same time.

“Well, I was hoping to get these notes back to Twilight to see if the egghead could make heads or tails out of…” Rainbow declared gesturing a notebook she had swiped from one of the scientists that hung around the place before frowning. “Wait a minute: I’m still technically an undercover Wonderbolt agent for the Lunar Republic. You’re the one who should be answering me! Last I checked, you weren’t even interested in this war the Princesses have going on!”

“Actually, you both should be answering a few questions that I have,” Celestia declared, coming around the corner, the glare on her face showcasing that she had overheard the whole thing. “I've always suspected that I might have a spy among my ranks, but I never thought that it’d be you, Rainbow. Aren’t you supposed to be the Element of Loyalty?”

“I am Loyal,” was Rainbow’s immediate answer. “Loyal to Equestria. This new policy of yours is going to get a lot of innocent ponies killed in the crossfire. Twilight was the only pony I trusted to have enough integrity and intelligence to give the less-than-combat-ready citizens a fighting chance.”

“A noble sentiment,” Celestia admitted, “but I’m afraid your faith is misplaced. Twilight has proven that she has no interest in protecting the citizens of Equestria by not joining up with my Empire.”

“You mean the same Empire that drags ponies out of their homes in the middle of the night because they suspect a criminal might have been there?” Lightning couldn’t help but retort.

“Silence!” Celestia yelled out, quickly firing a blast at the ex-Wonderbolt trainee.

Lightning closed her eyes, readying herself for the searing pain...only to open her eyes in confusion when it never came. Said confusion turned to shock and horror upon noticing a large gash that now lay across the rainbow-haired Pegasus’s chest. “...why?”

“For once I have to agree,” Celestia remarked, her eyes similarly wide with shock. “You know from a year ago that she’d gladly let you die.”

“You said it yourself, Princess,” Rainbow growled out in pain and frustration, placing a hoof on the satchel Lightning had been carrying, before seeming to realize her blunder and raising it to her fellow Wonderbolt trainee’s shoulder and giving it a comforting pat. “I’m the Element of Loyalty: just because she’d let me die doesn’t mean I’d do the same to her. You used to know that before Sombra took advantage of your fear and managed to turn you into a worse pony than even he was!”

Before Celestia could make an angry retort about how she was nothing like Sombra, however, a guard ran into the room in a panic. “Empress: one of the citizens accidentally knocked a bee hive into an Ursa Major’s den. It’s currently approaching the city in a frenzy!”

“Evacuate the area,” was Rainbow’s immediate reply. “I’ll hold it off until Fluttershy manages to calm either the bees or the Ursa down or something.”

“Rainbow, you can’t!” Celestia yelled out in shock, all thoughts of the rainbow-haired Pegasus' possible betrayal now out the window. “With those wounds, you’ll…”

“Seeing how you’re the one who gave them to me, I don’t see why you’d care,” Rainbow declared, turning and making as if to take off, only to stumble into Lightning’s arms.

“D...Dash?” It was only now as the Pegasus laid there with what might well be her final moments that Lightning truly realized how long she’d foolishly spent holding onto a grudge against a pony who didn’t deserve it.

“Go to the statue garden just outside of Celestia’s castle,” Rainbow whispered in her ear, instantly grabbing her attention. “There’ll be a blue-haired Stallion waiting for you. Ask him if the clouds will clear out soon. He’ll tell you that it’s a bit early for stargazing. Reply with ‘The Moon arrives with Dusk.’.”

Lightning just barely had time to react to that before Rainbow pushed herself off of her and gained a determined expression. “Look after my daughter for me, okay?” That was the last thing Rainbow Dash, Element of Loyalty, was heard saying before she took off, just barely escaping Celestia’s telekinetic grasp as she performed her very last Sonic Rainboom.

Now…

“That was the last time I’d ever see the Element of Loyalty alive...until today,” Lightning declared while looking at the doppelganger of the mare she’d owed her life to. “A few hours after that - in which time Fluttershy would manage to calm down both the bees and the Ursa, and Rainbow would be found, having succumbed to her wounds - I would manage to run into Soarin. He’d later confirm that our Rainbow had managed to slip the formula for Celestia’s enhancement pills into my satchel while she was arguing with the Solar Empress.”

Soarin likewise wiped a tear from his eye. “Our Rainbow Dash made the ultimate sacrifice to keep the ponies of Canterlot safe, as well as set up the diversion for the delivery of what would be our best weapon to combat Celestia and her forces until we could get our hooves on Twilight’s weapon.”

Sweetie Belle, however, couldn’t help but shake her head in frustration. “Still, you’d think that this would snap Celestia out of her ‘might makes right’ mentality, but nope: not even a month later, she was blaming Lightning Dust, and Twilight, and just about everypony but herself for Rainbow’s demise. The worst part is that there’s actually a good chunk of the Empire that knows what really happened that night, but…”

“...they’re either like Chrysalis and don’t care, they’re too scared to speak up because of what happened to the other me, or have been trying to convince themselves that this all for the greater good.” Rainbow declared with an understanding nod, everypony else likewise affected by that story. “Still, going out in a blaze of glory. Sounds like something I’d do. And in any case, I suppose this answers an unspoken question I’ve had running around my head.”

“What: how you died?” Lightning asked.

“Well, yes, that, but also if I knew any of those candidates for the Element of Loyalty Soarin was talking about might have been,” Rainbow remarked, looking to her fellow Wonderbolt trainee with a smile. “From what I can tell, my counterpart’s kid has some potential, and I’m pretty sure I’ve already met one of the other candidates.”

Lightning merely blinked in reply. “Wait, me?!”

“She’s right, you know,” Soarin declared with a grin. “When the possibility of Sweetie Belle and Storm Chaser’s location being compromised came up, you didn’t hesitate to use yourself as bait to draw Celestia’s attention elsewhere. When you were given the choice to side with Celestia, your response was ‘No’ even before Rainbow sacrificed herself for you and the rest of Equestria. When you had the opportunity to walk away, you didn’t take it. It’ll likely be sometime before we’ll know for certain, but regardless, you’ve come a long way since the academy, Cadet.”

Lightning just teared up a little as Soarin and Rainbow gave her an honorary salute, one that she readily returned, her eyes focusing on the latter. “I know I’d never replace you, but if it turns out you are right about me, I’ll do my best to not let you down.”

“That’s all any of us ask of you,” Prince Blueblood, having arrived mid-conversation, said with a smile. “Anyways, Lightning, I need you to come with me: you’ve been on the frontlines longer than just about anypony here, so Twilight and I will need your input on how to draw away her attention while we look for possible ways to repair her weapon.”

“Sir, yes, sir,” was Lightning’s immediate reply.

To be continued