• Published 8th Sep 2012
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One Mare's Worth - Equestria Buck Yeah

When Rainbow Dash's speed during a new trick turns out to be too much for her own good, she comes to realize how important she really is when she finds herself in a war-torn version of her old home.

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Chapter 15

She had been aware for roughly five days that over forty years had passed since she left home. Once she accepted this fact, it wasn't going to be a surprise to see that anypony she met that she recognized will have changed a bit. Upon entering the war room, that notion was simultaneously destroyed and reborn all at once.

It wasn't a huge shock to see one of the four mares who stood in front of her. Spike did tell Rainbow that Pinkie had her own little group that she led into battle from time to time, and he said they were exceptionally good at what they do. It was the others that caught her a bit off-guard. Either way, though she wasn't showing it, Rainbow was thrilled to run into more of her old friends.

Oddly, Pinkie physical appearance looked almost no different than she did when Rainbow last saw her. Her outfit told a different story, however. She was wearing a thick, black vest over her torso and a weapon-laden belt around her waist. A small ankle band housed a knife, evident by the handle sticking up, and around the entirety of the vest were a pair of crossed straps, one carrying several grenades in a row and the other a long chain of bullets.

There were two things that threw Rainbow's focus off her garments. One was the lack of any evidence of aging. She had no grey hairs in either her poofy mane or tail, and she had no wrinkles anywhere that she could see. The second was her cutie mark. Her trademark balloons were still there, but now, branded into both her hips, there was a circle with a line through them.

The other three mares in front of Rainbow were no longer the young fillies she knew in the past who seemed to get into more trouble than the rest of their old classmates put together. Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, as well as their leader, stared at the blue pegasus as if they had seen a ghost. For all intents and purposes, they had.

Their gear was similar to Pinkie's. The most noticeable difference was that Scootaloo was wearing an olive drab vest that didn't look thick enough to keep rain off her coat and a black strip of fabric around her head, presumably to keep sweat out of her eyes.

Apple Bloom's tail was styled similarly to her older sister's but was not quite as thick, and her shoulder length mane almost resembled Rainbow's. There was a hint of grey streaks in her hair. The large pink bow she always wore as a youth was gone. A small scar ran across her right cheek. She almost looked ratty and worn, but given the violent circumstances she and her friends purportedly found themselves in, that wasn't a surprise.

Sweetie Belle appeared to be the least changed of the three. Her mane and tail were as striking and vibrant as Rarity's used to be, not a single grey to be seen. The short curls she used to have were longer now and were still just as full and bouncy. Not a single bit of make-up was on her face and frankly didn't need to be. In spite of the war, she could easily be considered what most stallions, and probably some mares, would call naturally beautiful.

Scootaloo surprised Rainbow the most out of all of them, once she caught herself looking over her number one fan. Her tail was even shorter than Big Macintosh's used to be, and her mane was buzz cut, barely an inch high. In her mouth hung a thick hay cigar that the cyan mare could smell across the room. Her wings had grown to a normal size, giving Rainbow hope that she finally learned how to fly, and she was rather muscular for her size, similar to how the cyan pony still looked thanks to her training before she vanished.

What separated Scootaloo the most from her friends was her flank. Apple Bloom's cutie mark showed a hammer with an apple behind it, signifying something in construction, Rainbow reasoned. Sweetie Belle's was a microphone with a pair of notes next to it, obviously indicating Sweetie becoming a singing sensation. However, for Scootaloo, instead of any design on either side, there was a large scar on her left that ran from halfway down her ribcage to the back of her rump. Another scar crossed down the side of her back leg, stopping a few inches above her knee, forming an X.

After examining her friends, Rainbow took a few steps forward and smiled. "Hey, guys. Been a while, huh?"

The first to react to her attempt at a lighthearted joke was Scootaloo. She spat out her cigar and stomped up to her former idol with an angry snarl, punching her square in the jaw and knocking her hard to the ground. The others ran up and tried to restrain the infuriated orange mare.

"Loo, stand down! That's an order!" Derpy barked at the pegasus.

"Where the hell have you been?! Why did you abandon us?! Why did you abandon me?! I thought you gave a shit about us, you scum-sucking piece of trash!"

No tears leaked from her eyes as 'Loo' went on her tirade. Only rage and hatred poured forth. Derpy stepped up to the struggling group and took hold of Loo's top, spinning her over and slamming her into the dirt.

"Calm down, or I'll throw you in a cell until you do!"

Her heavy breathing began to slow as she and her Commander stared each other down with Loo eventually acquiescing. Derpy authoritatively tossed the shirt from her grip and allowed Loo to stand up again. She may have calmed down on the outside, but it was obvious to her friends that she was still fuming on the inside. The pegasus turned around and angrily sat down in front of the table in the center of the room, glaring at her old hero.

Rainbow rubbed her jaw and found a red spot on her hoof. She licked her lips and could taste the blood pooling up where Loo split her open. Slowly, she lifted herself up and looked past the others to her former admirer. She felt the weight of six stunned eyes glaring at her, but two others in particular upset her the most. They stared daggers into her soul from halfway across the room. Rainbow wasn't sure which hurt worse – the punch to the face or the words.

"I.. I can't believe it's really you," Pinkie whispered in amazement. She blinked when she caught a glimpse of her manufactured limbs. "Your wings! Good Luna, what the hell happened to you?"

Loo chuckled spitefully, noticing Rainbow's sides when Pinkie spoke up. "The world's best flier is probably grounded. Sorry, but that just makes my day."

Pinkie's eyes exploded in anger. She marched over to the pegasus and slapped her across the face. It stung, but nothing Loo couldn't handle. She shot to her hooves and got nose to nose with her commanding officer.

"What was that for?!"

"You of all ponies should be sympathetic!"

"Knock it off, both of you!" Derpy yelled with a stomp. Pinkie took a calming breath and returned to the others. Loo plopped back onto the ground and leaned up against a leg of the table. "There'll be time to discuss what happened later. Right now, you've got a two-part mission."

"Two-part?" Sweetie Belle asked.

"Yeah, what does that mean? Plus, well.. we just got back. What could be so important that we gotta head right back out again?"

"You're going back to Baltimare. Apparently, Celestia had the air strip rebuilt, according to some of our scouts," Derpy explained.

"How long has it been operational, Commander?" Pinkie asked.

"She must have started fixing it back up from scratch soon after you left the first time, so probably a short while. Not sure myself what's so important about it. But, we still have to take it down. Think you can handle it?"

"C'mon, Commander. Who do ya think yer talkin' to?" Apple Bloom smirked. "But, that's only one part. What's part two?"

Derpy looked at Rainbow, who noticed her gaze from the corner of her eye. She met the officer's stare and cocked an eyebrow, wondering what Derpy was thinking.

"As you know, Dash here has been.. MIA for quite a while. She hasn't been out in the field yet, because.. well, frankly, she just appeared on our doorstep about only a week ago. I'll let her explain things later if she wants."

She took a deep breath, fully knowing what the party was going to say, and continued, "The main thing is that I'm adding her to your team until we're ready to attack Celestia directly again."

"What?! No!" Loo shouted, jumping to her hooves. "There is no way in hell I'm working with her!"

"I'm afraid I have to agree, Commander, though not as.. eloquently as Loo," Pinkie interjected. "We've got a system. Adding another pony into the mix could throw things off."

"Sorry, Colonel, but she needs to see some action, and I can think of nopony better for her to see it with. I need you to not only carry out your missions, but keep her safe at all costs. If the Doctor was telling the truth, she's important to our ultimate victory."

The pink pony looked away defeated and smirked. She knew she wasn't going to win the argument. "Yes, ma'am. We'll do whatever it takes."

"Ya can count on us, Commander," Apple Bloom said with a proud salute. Sweetie Belle followed, and finally, after much obvious protest, Loo did the same.

Rainbow scanned over the room. Aside from the six of them, there was nopony else there.

"Soooo, where's the rest of the team?" Rainbow asked.

"You're looking at it, kid. They haven't been the Cutie Mark Crusaders in a long time. Now, they call themselves the Party Crashers," Derpy said with a coy grin.

"Wait a minute," the blue mare blurted, "your whole most elite squad is four ponies?! That's.. how?"

Pinkie smirked, "Come on Dash, you know how prone to destruction these three were back in the day. Now, they're putting it to good use. Go figure."

Sweetie and Apple Bloom snickered and looked at each other, a bit embarrassed at being reminded of their ridiculous adventures. Loo rolled her eyes and snorted.

"So, Commander," Pinkie said, "when are we heading out?"

"Thirty-six hours. Figure that'll give you some time to rest up a bit, clean your weapons, gather the necessary supplies, all that happy crap."

"Roger. Girls? Come on, let's go get something to eat. I don't know about you but I'm starved. And Rainbow?" The pegasus looked at her old friend. "I don't know what happened to you. We can talk more about that on the way to Baltimare. But, it's still great to see you again." She smiled genuinely for the first time in a long time.

Apple Bloom and Sweetie each gave Rainbow a hug on the way out. Pinkie had to visually assault Loo to get her off her flank and join her friends. Fluttershy would have been proud of the pink pony's stare. The orange pegasus rose and growled as she stormed out the door, aggressively bumping into Rainbow as she left.

"Don't mind her, Dash," Pinkie assured her friend after Loo was out of earshot. "She's been a little annoyed at the world for a long time. We'll meet you outside the control room when we're ready to go, alright?"

"Sure. Tell me though," Rainbow paused, "it's all because of me, isn't it? I mean, she said it herself, y'know."

Pinkie frowned and looked awkwardly at her before shifting her gaze to the floor. Rainbow got the hint and hung her head in sorrow. Add another one to the long list of ponies that had suffered thanks to her.

The one-time party mare rested a comforting hoof on the pegasus' shoulder. "I'll see you later, OK?"

"Yeah," she whispered, rubbing her friend's hoof.

Derpy and Rainbow stood alone in the large, silent room for a moment after it had cleared out. "Try not to think about it, Dash. War is hell on everypony. Just remember, in a day and a half, you're not going to have much time to worry about anything other than keeping yourself alive. It's several days walk to Baltimare, but a lot can happen between here and there."

"Commander, didn't you want to talk to me about some things before I went under the knife?"

"I did, but Applejack told you enough of it. The rest of it is learned out in the field. Just listen to Pinkie when you're out there. Trust me, you're in good hooves. They won't let you down and I suspect you won't let them down either, even if.. some of them don't quite feel the same. What they think of you ultimately isn't important. Winning this war is."

Derpy extended a hoof, letting Rainbow leave first. "Go ahead and talk to the ponies in the weapons depot. They can help you get more familiar with what you're going to need. After you."

As they left the war room, a previously unnoticed crack broke open on the wall, an ominous white glow leaking out.


Pinkie, the Party Crashers, and Rainbow had gathered the necessary stuff for their trip east: Food and water, numerous guns, ammunition, binoculars, walkie-talkies, a map and compass, a launcher with a hoofful of rockets, a dozen and a half small explosives, a few detonators, and Apple Bloom had her personal favorite, her bow and various arrows. How her four companions were carrying so much boggled Rainbow's mind. All she had on her was a similar black vest to what Pinkie wore, two straps around her chest with ammunition attached, and a belt. Most of the explosives were in her saddlebags.

They'd been traveling without interruption for two days now. There were mostly dried up plains where they went, scorched by an unsetting sun and a complete lack of hydration. They considered themselves lucky that they hadn't come across any patrols. However, Twilight made it a point to teach all unicorns in the base various offensive and defensive spells that she knew, and Sweetie managed to learn a camouflage spell that got a lot of use during their travels between missions, hiding them from many planes overhead.

Rainbow had told them about what she had experienced up until when she came face to face with them. Finding herself misplaced in time, the fights with the jets, running into Spike and Rarity, the surgery, everything. The Party Crashers shared some of their war stories in return. Hearing them talk about their exploits took the pegasus back. It almost felt she was listening to their crusading all over again.

Unfortunately for Rainbow, Loo was unsurprisingly quiet during most of their trip. She had already made it perfectly clear she didn't want her old idol around. Even after hearing that her disappearance was a complete accident, Loo felt no sympathy towards her or remorse for punching her. Rainbow desperately wanted to break through her coldness and try to fix things, but Loo had absolutely no interest. To her, there was just the next mission and nothing more.

Pinkie's ears suddenly turned to the north. A familiar, distant sound broke through the air. She hushed her friends and they froze in place, listening intently. The faint roar of engines was coming their way.


"On it! Rainbow, scoot in."

"Ugh, and I was hoping for a bit of action," Loo snorted.


They huddled together and her horn glowed a light blue, just like her older sister's. After a spark, a small blue dome formed over their bodies. The pair of jets glided overhead, seeing nothing but an empty, beige sea of dead grass. They continued on their flight path and once they were out of sight, Sweetie lifted the spell.

"Come on, you know we could have wrecked their shit," the anxious orange pegasus said.

"We are not wasting supplies on a patrol, Loo. You know better than that," Pinkie scolded.

"It's just so boring, these trips."

"Maybe so," Apple Bloom added, "but we have our orders and we really can't delay. Besides, most of the war has been spent walkin' from one place to another. Just the way it is. Maybe if you joined us in the conversations, you wouldn't be so bored. You ever think about that?"

Loo squinted angrily.

"I have nothing to say."

Rainbow trotted up next to her fellow pegasus. "Come on, Scootaloo, I've been trying to get you to talk to me for a few days now. I already said I was sorry a hundred times, what more do you want? I mean, Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom don't hate me for what happened. Why do you still?"

She came to a sudden stop and glared at Rainbow. The others took a few more steps before they realized the pair of pegasi were in each other's faces.

"First of all, it's Loo, A.B., and Belle. Get it through your head. Second, I still hate you because I eventually came to realize that everything you did before you disappeared, everything you said, was all about you! About inflating your precious ego! Even that damned Rainbow Ring thing was all about outdoing yourself as much as possible! Nothing you did was ever really for me or your friends or your fans, it was for you! 'Hey, look how wonderful and great I am!' Pfff! Yeah, loyalty. Right."

"Except I was loyal before I vanished! Ask anypony! Besides, I did all those cool tricks and stunts for you because you seemed to like them!" Rainbow's last nerve was started to get rubbed raw.

"And yet not once did you ever stop to ask what we really cared about. Just hanging out with us would have been more than enough. But, all everything ever was to you was another chance to show off, and guess what? It came back to bite you, and now the world is at war, all thanks to you."

Loo turned and continued walking after twisting the knife. A.B. and Belle grimaced at their friend's words, knowing it was something Rainbow didn't need to be reminded of. It was an extremely low blow. Rainbow stood motionless, astounded that the filly who used to worship to sky she flew through would have ever sunk to such a level. Once the initial shock wore off, the cyan mare glared at Loo as she strolled away.

"Nice cutie mark, Loo," she said sarcastically. A part of her couldn't believe she just stooped to her level, but at the moment, Rainbow didn't care. If Loo was going to act like a jerk, she was going to return the favor.

"Girls.. "

The orange mare stopped short again. She craned her neck back and shot Rainbow a cold yet unconcerned look.

"It is, isn't it?" she responded, pointing to her wound.

"That's a scar."

"I earned it all the same," Loo said, marching again.

Rainbow was a bit surprised that Loo didn't try and come at her like she had before. When she was young, hearing something like that from the bullies in school would have sent her into a small fit of rage.

"OK, drop it, both of you," Pinkie commanded. "You're acting like foals. Let's just forget this conversation ever happened and move on already. Celestia's the enemy, not each other. Take it out on her and her troops if you must."

Belle and A.B. walked up next to Rainbow with apologetic looks and sighed softly.

"Ah'd just let 'er be for a while, Rainbow. She'll blow off some steam once we get to the air force base."

"Is she always like this?" the cyan mare whispered.

"She's usually kind of aggressive, but not like this. She's only been acting this way since you came back to us," Belle confirmed.

A.B. and Belle trotted ahead, catching up with Loo and Pinkie. Rainbow stood there for a moment, pondering Loo's words in the forefront of her mind. She always did tell her friends that no matter what, she'd be there for them. But, she also knew that she could grate on their nerves sometimes with her arrogance. Was Loo right? Was her ego really that out of control back then and she didn't even realize it? Was it possible that deep down, the others maybe had a touch of resentment for her, too? The idea quelled Rainbow's anger but transformed it into uncertainty and gloom.


The next six days of travel were thankfully quiet, especially after the fight the two headstrong pegasi got into. Nopony really wanted to deal with another outburst. Most of the way, Rainbow silently focused on the exercises Dr. Neurocell had shown her. She wasn't sure how much good she was doing, but she hoped almost six straight eighteen-hour-days worth of training were doing something.

She had forgotten to ask the doctor how often patients in the past saw him for during the week regarding their own ailments or for how long per session. All she could do at this point was shrug it off and push herself as hard as she could. Every day she couldn't so much as move the artificial wings felt like a monumental punch in the gut.

Pinkie began to see the base in the distance. It was several miles south of the main city to cut down on the noise, mostly for the soldiers who stayed there. Clear communication channels were important and having jets constantly flying right overhead would have been a stupid move on Celestia's part.

The pink pony laid on the ground and began to crawl. The rest of the party followed suit. Though Rainbow wasn't aware, the others knew that if they could see the base, the base could potentially see them. It was getting close to time for them to work their magic.

Belle's horn lit up and cloaked them in her camouflage spell again as they slowly made their way closer. Even with her enchantment, getting up and dashing for the front door wasn't a good idea. It only took one time for them to learn that staying back and studying patrol routes, scoping for cameras, and examining the external layout of the base was a more effective way to spring a surprise attack.

The building itself looked like an extremely large hangar. Outside were easily two dozen jets lined up in an angled row directly in front of them and to the far eastern side of the building. On the north side was a pair of long asphalt strips with tiny yellow lights lining the sides, obviously for where the planes took off and landed. The northwestern side of the hangar, near the landing strip, had a communications tower with a radar dish spinning around on top of it directing aerial traffic. A tall radio tower stood overlooking the entire structure from the southwest corner of the base. Large stacks of crates were against the long southern wall and smaller ones by each of the jets outside.

It took about a half hour of crawling before the party reached a small cluster of decaying trees in an otherwise empty field south of the base. Pinkie and the Party Crashers ducked into the shade and pulled out their binoculars. Rainbow followed suit and fell in behind A.B. and Belle, studying the group's tactics with profound curiosity. She dared not ask questions or make any sudden movements. She may be there to help them fight, but she was out of her element and didn't want to risk doing something that could potentially give them away.

A sudden realization hit her as she glanced over the enemy's territory. There was a distinct possibility that she would be forced to kill somepony face to face. She knew that the plane she blew out of the sky with Spike had a pilot, but she didn't actually watch him die. Her stomach dropped and a wave of nervousness overtook her.

After what felt like an eternity to the cyan mare, Pinkie lowered her binoculars.

"You girls look over everything?"




"Alright. Here's what we're gonna do."

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