• Published 13th Dec 2012
  • 1,629 Views, 47 Comments

Kickin' Flanks - Xtralife



You see them saving Equestria. You watch them learning about friendship. You might even worship one as your immortal royal sun goddess. You think they're ponies just like you. You're wrong. Dead wrong!

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3 - All Out of Hay

Rainbow Dash slumped against the inside of the closet, using a mop as a makeshift pillow. The train’s wheels rattled loudly as it sped down the tracks, providing a perfect cover for the pegasus’ snores. Every now and then the whistle blew, but Rainbow only rolled over in her sleep. It was in this way that the entire trip into Manehattan passed: passed out.

Suddenly the whistle blew sharply three times, bringing Dash back to consciousness. She shook her head to clear the fog from her mind and counted the number of whistles. She faintly recalled the last time she was on the train, and it seemed to her that it was some kind of signal.

“Three, huh?” she whispered to herself. “What was that again...?”

As she gave it some thought, she noticed the train begin to slow down. There was a screeching sound beneath her cupboard, and Rainbow abruptly realized what those whistle blows meant.

“Oh no.”

With a resounding crash, the cleaning solvents and rags on the shelf above her toppled forward and she was peppered by spray bottles of air fresheners. The train continued to judder, throwing Rainbow across the closet. As she slammed into the other wall, she felt the sunglasses slip from behind her ears and clatter against the bottom of the closet. Rainbow twisted around to catch them in her mouth, but the train finally came to a stop and she was tossed one more time. The rest of the janitorial supplies rolled off the shelf, and both Rainbow and the sunglasses were effectively buried beneath them.

A single hoof rose from the pile of bottles, and the rest of Rainbow Dash followed. She gulped for air as her head broke the surface, then dove right back under. Plastic containers flew around the cupboard until finally the pegasus found the sunglasses. They had miraculously survived the train’s abrupt halt, entirely unscathed. Sighing with relief, Rainbow tucked them into her mane again and put an ear to the door. When she heard nothing, Dash pushed it open and scrambled out.

The pegasus stretched her wings, then flapped them in place a few times. She grimaced as she rotated them, but she got the cramps and stiffness out. With that matter over, she trotted over to a window of the train’s car and looked out.

“Whoa.”

While Ponyville could hustle and bustle with activity during peak market hours, and events in Canterlot drew some big crowds, Manehattan was busy round the clock. Ponies of all professions and social status galloped through the streets with somewhere to be, and carriages hurtled past even faster. The few ponies that were still were either waiting at the train station with hooves tapping in impatience, or young toughs at street corners, acting as cool as they could with facial acne. What was clearly missing from this mass of ponies, though, were all of the guards that had been aboard the train.

In seconds, Dash was out of the car and on the platform, looking around wildly for any sign of Twilight and her captors. It wasn’t until she had traveled the length of the train three times on the ground and in the air that she had to conclude that they had left while she was extricating herself and the sunglasses from the storage closet. The pegasus kicked at a lamppost in frustration and walked away, treading a little lighter on her hoof but satisfied that the pole was dented.

Rainbow Dash trotted away from the platform and followed the sidewalk alongside an iron fence, broken every now and then by an ornamental brick pillar. As she passed through the gate she was immediately cast in the shadow of the high-rise apartments and office buildings. The pegasus followed a veritable pony herd moving through a street crossing, which was swallowed by the rest of Manehattan’s population as she entered the city itself. In the shade the temperature was still a little too warm, with the concrete and sheer number of ponies generating body heat. In an attempt to get a little more room, Dash jumped into the air to hover about, but stopped herself after a few feet.

“Shining Armor said to lay low for a while, didn’t he?” she said aloud. She came back to the sidewalk gently and continued onward. “This sucks,” she added, slowing her pace. “How is this ‘agent’ gonna find me, anyway? And how are we supposed to break into a jail?”

Dash continued to worry as she made her way down the sidewalk. Her mind cycled through the same thoughts again and again, and in the back of her mind she wondered whether she would be able to stop herself. Finally the pony ocean thinned and Rainbow spotted a small carrot-dog stand from the corner of her eye. Realizing that she had skipped breakfast and it was now lunchtime, the pegasus slid into the line of other ponies, drooling with anticipation. After a few agonizing minutes, Dash was next to order.

“Two dogs, everything on them!” she blurted out.

The portly, gritty-looking cook gave her a weird look, but complied, lifting a carrot from the grill. “New to town, kid?” he asked, dripping relish from one end of a bun to the other.

Rainbow Dash nodded. “Yeah, how’d you know?”

“Ya just got this look about you, if ya don’t mind me sayin’ it. Glassy eyes, slack jaw, all o’ that. Seen it a million times, but you’ll grow out of it after a while.” The vendor squirted a line of ketchup down the dog, and proceeded to start on the second. “It’s nothin’ ta worry about, of course. Manehattan will do that to a new pony, old an’ young! They come in lookin’ fer some answers, can’t think straight and their life’s a mess, then bam!” The street cook rapped his hoof on the tiny counter, startling Rainbow. “Manehattan just makes you forget it all! But I guarantee you’ll remember my food!”

“Er, heh,” said Dash at length, trying as hard as she could to not look at the stallion while he was laughing uproariously. “You really sound like you know this city, man.”

“Well, I’ve been here for years, miss! Ya know, back when this place was all made out of bricks and it was, whaddaya call it, rustic.” The stallion finished with the second carrot-dog and dropped both into a paper bag, which immediately began to leak grease. “But now I’m just an old stallion. What do I know, eh? Anyway, that was my two bits, but now I’ll need some bits from you, too.”

The mare dropped a few coins and took the bag into her mouth. “Fanksh… I fink.”

“Just fuggedaboutit, a’ight? Enjoy the franks, and don’t worry about my being frank. Oh, and welcome to Manehattan, kid!”

The pegasus grinned and trotted off through the crowd to find a place to sit and eat. Eventually she came across a bench at the edge of a decorative planter filled with flowers, and she plopped the bag down on an empty spot. After swallowing both of the dogs whole (and rubbing her stomach when it gurgled in protest), she felt a little more relaxed than before, and her mind finally was in a state of relative peace and quiet.

Now that she had a moment to spare, Rainbow Dash’s eyes began to wander around Manehattan’s concrete scenery. From the smallest restaurant to the largest office building, the pegasus was dwarfed by the advertisements strewn across them all for fashion lines, upcoming movies, and vacation getaways to exotic locales such as Neighcaragua and the Palomino Canal. Every boutique along the street had a glass window showcasing items and their sale prices. The streetlights were draped with banners touting cultural events, like the museum’s collection of Ponyolithic-era artifacts or Octavia’s upcoming performance at the Hoofodrome Theater. Dash craned her neck, wishing to see the city from an aerial view and restraining the urge as best she could.

“This place is huge! Applejack told me it was big, but Manehattan must have been built up since the last time she was here. I wonder if there’s anything fun here to check out. I don’t have anything else to do until that ‘agent’ finds me.” The pegasus sighed and stretched her wings out.

“And coming up next is the merchant square, where the fine and fashionable ponies of Manehattan do their daily shopping!” buzzed a loud voice from behind her, and many noises of wonder and a few shutter clicks immediately followed. Dash whirled around and leaped onto the planter, just in time to watch a bright red trolley race down the center of the street. A stallion with a microphone and a fancy conductor’s cap was operating the vehicle, accompanied by a throng of tourist ponies with cameras and souvenir drink mugs. Rainbow felt a grin spread across her face as she read the words “MANEHATTAN TROLLEY TOURS” emblazoned on the side, and she burst into exuberant laughter as she ran to catch up with it.

Soon enough she boarded the trolley and dropped a few bits into the conductor’s open hoof, who responded with a smile and offered her a bright lime green baseball cap with ‘I Love Manehattan’ emblazoned on it. Adjusting the hat, Dash grinned broadly and grabbed herself a nice window seat, then stuck her head through the window to look around. As the trolley made a turn, the pegasus’ mouth dropped open at the sudden, abrupt change of scenery.

To their left and right ran a series of decorative trees, planted in small circular pits of dirt and protected by little iron fences. The sidewalk had been replaced with marble, and the skyscrapers were no longer visible. Instead there were rows upon rows of shops, with glass doors and huge window displays with revolving dummies draped in upscale fabrics and shimmering jewelry. High above the four floors worth of these shops was a glass ceiling, arcing in a half-dome and segmented into small triangles. The merchant square was effectively a district crossed with an indoor mall.

“A recent addition to Manehattan, this new merchant square has replaced the old and tiresome shopping center from days gone by,” said the conductor. Again on cue, the ponies around Rainbow flocked to the best windows to take their photos and point at one marvel after the next. Dash couldn’t help but be equally enthused, and found herself wanting to get closer looks at every passing store.

The trolley braked gently and came to a complete stop, and the conductor stood up. “Fillies and gentlecolts, Manehattan Trolley Tours is pleased to offer you chance to stretch your legs and the opportunity to explore the merchant square on hoof!” He pulled a lever and the doors swung open as he continued speaking through the microphone. “We thank you for joining us on a tour of our lovely city, and if you wish to see more, please return in precisely one hour!”

Rainbow Dash and the tourists veritably exploded from the trolley and scattered across the floor. Some were gone in seconds, clearly knowing what they wanted to see. Others stood around near the trolley, boggling at the ceiling’s magnificence, taking even more photos, and searching their fanny packs for extra bits. Still captivated, Dash began to saunter deeper into the mall, her hooves clacking against the floor as she brushed past shoppers, bored colts in black coats and studded bracelets, and fellow tourists.

If being outside the shopping center was like a stream consisting of billboards and posters, the inside was where the dam burst and subjected ponies to a bombardment of consumerism. The advertisements hanging from every shop’s sign weren’t about upcoming events and new locations in town, but things occurring right then and there. Percentages off clothing racks, deals for card-carrying members, and once-in-a-lifetime sales ending by closing time were the order of the day, and Rainbow Dash found herself observing one and then the next with great interest. But out of the blue, a familiar symbol caught her eye far up on the third floor: a lightning bolt with wings.

“A-a-a Wonderbolts shop?” she stammered, and squeezed the sides of her face. “I-I-I’ve gotta see this right n-n-now!”

She kicked herself off the ground and rocketed up to the floor, barreled into the shop front and ground to a halt, floating directly in front of the huge Wonderbolt logo above the door. She descended to the floor slowly and entered the store with great reverence and respect, as if she was trespassing on the holy ground of a Coltholic church.

“Do you need some help, miss?” asked a mare by the entrance, clad in a Wonderbolts t-shirt.

“No,” squeaked Dash, “I’m alright. I’m more than alright.”

The employee smiled at her. “Well, just let us know if you need anything, alright?”

Rainbow didn’t hear her. In her mind it was like the entire mall had closed, and she was the only pony inside the shop. The walls were painted in the colors of the uniform, and the logo was emblazoned on everything from the “SALE” signs to the cash register. She drifted further inside and approached a wall covered in shelves of t-shirts, from re-prints of what had once been sold at early shows to designs exclusive to the store. She took the cap off her head and slowly brought it over her heart in respect.

Fifteen minutes later, Rainbow Dash exited the store wearing a shirt with the Wonderbolts team posing dramatically on it. In a bag firmly clasped in her mouth she had a poster depicting all the current and old members in a fly-over above Canterlot and a set of socks with their logo scattered across them. Grinning from ear to ear, she strode down the pathway and continued onward.

As her shopping spree continued, the hour came and went, and so did the trolley. When she finally decided to take a break, she had visited countless stores and blown a staggering amount of bits on things for herself, her friends, her family, and even ponies she barely knew. In her extra bags were necklaces for Rarity, work boots for Applejack, books for Twilight Sparkle, and other such gift items. Struggling under the weight of the various goods her shopping spree had wrought, Dash took a seat on a bench and spread the bags next to her. The pegasus began to search through them, pulling out products and smiling broadly at the purchases she had made.

Her hoof brushed something cheap and plastic, and she paused briefly. Rummaging around further, she eventually found the item and brought it out. It was the pair of sunglasses.

“Huh,” she said, turning them over and over in her hooves. “Why did I hold on to these things?”

Rainbow Dash was silent for a few minutes and then stood up. After gathering up her bags again, she strode to a large modern fountain with a wide pool and jets of water arcing from side to side. Placing all of them down beside her, she located the sunglasses one more time. The pegasus looked at her reflection in the water and smirked.

“Maybe I’ll look good in these.”

She flicked open the sunglasses with a whipping motion of her hoof and slid them over her nose.

“Awwww yeah!” she exclaimed. “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

Dash froze. “Wait...”

The pegasus smoothly removed the sunglasses, blinked a few times, then placed them back on.

“These things make everything look black and white! That’s so rad!” She jumped on top of the short marble wall and reared up on her legs, sneering and jabbing her front hooves. “You’ll never take me alive, coppers!” she said in a nasally faux-Manehattan accent.

“He-heh, I bet I look ridiculous,” she giggled, and turned her neck to view her reflection.

Rainbow Dash inhaled sharply, and with the grace of a rock, fell in the pool. A splash accompanied her descent, as well as many confused looks from shoppers. Ignoring their stares, the pegasus scrambled out as quickly as she could, then pulled off her water-logged shirt and examined it. The Wonderbolts were missing. Instead, in thick black lettering, it read one word: “OBEY.”

She raised a hoof to her face and lifted the sunglasses. As they were removed, the color in the world burst into being and the Wonderbolts came back into view, just like they had never been gone. Carefully she lowered the sunglasses again to watch her surroundings gray out once more, and the Wonderbolts faded away under the simple text.

The shirt slipped from between her hooves and fell to the floor as she grabbed the cap off her head. Dash fidgeted with the hat and turned it around to see the front. The slogan instead said “CONSUME.” She frantically ran her hoof over the text, tracing the letters and feeling the embroidery. As she pulled the sunglasses off, the original statement returned, and she tried touching it again. The stitching was back to “I Love Manehattan.”

“Excuse me, ma’am, I saw you fall into the fountain. Are you hurt?”

Rainbow jumped and turned around, tossing the cap behind her. “What? Nah, I’m fine—“

Dash gulped hard and quivered. Standing before her in broad daylight was a changeling. Its wings flicked about and a clear strand of saliva was strung between a top and a bottom tooth, but it was wearing a white polo shirt and a baseball cap that said “SUBMIT.” Nopony around seemed to question this, let alone be scared or even acknowledge its presence as being abnormal.

“I said, are you hurt?” asked the changeling again. It licked one of its huge canines absentmindedly and scratched at one of its leg holes.

Rainbow slowly removed her sunglasses, her hoof shaking slightly. The changeling now appeared to be a green pony with brown eyes, no leg holes, and the cap now read “SECURITY.” Dash opened her mouth and tried to say something, but all that came out was a drawn-out, barely audible squeak.

“Okay, I think you’re fine. If you need anything, ask us, alright?” The security guard walked away, rolling his eyes. As soon as his back was turned, Dash donned her sunglasses again and saw the thin wings of the annoyed changeling buzz.

The pegasus burst into a canter away from the fountain and soared up to the glass dome, stopping just short of shattering the ceiling. As she flapped in place and scanned the mall, she felt the squeak rise up, and her breath was suspended painfully with no signs of release. No matter which way she turned, the view was the same. The words were everywhere, impossible to escape from. The jewelry shop she had bought necklaces for Rarity from gave an explicit decree to “MARRY AND REPRODUCE”. The mall’s directories shouted at her to “WORK EIGHT HOURS, PLAY EIGHT HOURS, AND SLEEP EIGHT HOURS”. Shoppers descended upon the bags she left behind, shredding them apart, and then ran to their signs, gazing at them in idolatrous worship with Rainbow’s purchases clutched tight in their hooves. She saw an order to “LOVE YOUR QUEEN” stationed above the Wonderbolts store and felt herself fight and reject the command on physical and mental levels, but only just barely.

With a piercing crash, Rainbow burst through the glass and the aching squeal exploded into a primal scream. Her lungs deflated as she roared in anger and frustration until there was no air left in her, but the need to let it out remained. She continued trying to yell, but nothing came out and she wobbled around above the dome as a sudden dull pain in the back of her head reminded her she was out of air. Dash forced herself to take a breath, but it came in much too fast and she coughed violently.

It took a few minutes for the feelings of hacking up a lung to subside. Shoppers below gathered around, scratching their heads and tip-hoofing around the edge of the pile of glass to get different views. The pegasus looked down through the hole and stared at the mall, holding back the feelings of revulsion as best she could. It was like she had been forcefully and swiftly cured of a deadly toxin she hadn’t even known she’d had, and now seeing the world anew was bringing back the symptoms.

As fast as an electrical pulse from a switch to a light, Dash snarled and dove back through the hole, her trademark rainbow following behind. The shoppers scattered and ran for safety or their precious bags as she plunged. Inches from the ground, Dash shifted her wings, contorted her body and flew parallel to the tiled floor. The glass was kicked up into a dangerous glimmering cloud and then fell again as Rainbow made a beeline across the mall to the Wonderbolts store.

The pegasus skidded to a halt just inside the entrance, panting and wheezing.

“Welcome back!” said the greeting mare at the door. “Do you need any assistance?”

Rainbow glanced over through the sunglasses and saw a flittering wing.

“Maybe,” said Dash. “I need to make a return!”

“We’re sorry-“ was as far as the greeting changeling got before Rainbow slammed her hoof into its face. The few other employees screamed and dove for the storage room in the back as Dash kicked down a cardboard display that said “NO THOUGHT.” Dash briefly peered over her sunglasses and grimaced at Spitfire’s likeness, then shoved it aside.

“See, your merchandise is defective!” she yelled as she grabbed a rack of jackets and toppled it over. The clothing spilled everywhere as it clanged against the floor, and Dash immediately leaped onto the counter to sweep off the cash registers, which burst open and shot bits everywhere. “I demand a refund!”

The pegasus grabbed a coin from under her and examined it closely. Around the edges, she could see the words “THIS IS YOUR GODDESS.” Scowling, she gathered up the coins into a pile and flicked them as hard as she could at a row of hat racks, knocking off their caps and embedding the money deep into the foam display heads. Still not satisfied, she jumped up and began to scale the wall of shelves, dumping out t-shirts and breaking each row as she climbed to the top.

Suddenly the storage room door slammed open and a portly, cream-colored earth pony burst through. He immediately spied Rainbow in the middle of her vandalism and his jaw dropped wide as he clasped the sides of his head with his hooves.

“STOP!” yelled the stallion. “What are you doing to my inventory, you crazy mare?” He saw the scattered shirts, jackets, and other damaged merchandise, and then grabbed at his balding mane. “Do you know how much those cost?

Rainbow paused. She removed her hoof from the last pile on the top row of shelves and turned her head ever so slowly towards the shop’s manager. Dash saw his wings buzz frantically and his pupil-less eyes expand. There was a moment of silence, and the pegasus’ eyes narrowed.

The manager changeling raised its leg as quick as it could and pressed a button on a golden watch around its hoof as Dash rocketed from the top shelf. Inches away from tackling it, Dash was blinded by a bright flash and then slammed into the wall. She turned around, but all she saw were little dancing sparks in the air that fizzled out. The changeling was gone.

“Where’d you go, you rotting Swiss-cheese bug?” panted Dash. “I’ll grill you into a motherbucking sandwich!” She fell back onto her haunches and surveyed the veritable warzone she had left in her wake. “You’ll be sorry!”

There was a squeaking noise from behind her. Dash leaped off the floor and whirled around in time to see two of the cashiers coming out from the back room. They froze and squished together as the pegasus lifted and dropped her shades a few times, viewing them with and without their filter. Sure enough, neither of them were changelings.

Rainbow exhaled with relief and pushed her sunglasses up onto her head. “Hey, you’re safe!” She stood erect and began polishing a hoof on her chest. “No need to thank me, I was just doing what anypony would have done.”
Neither of them responded.

“Don’t worry! You’re both safe now! That manager guy was a changeling in disguise. He would have sucked out your love if I hadn’t shown him who’s boss. Ha, boss! Get it?”

The cashiers stayed mute. One of them raised an eyebrow.

“Okay,” said Dash, flicking her mane out of her face, “fair enough; I guess I’m just too impressive. But seriously, I’ll need you to put on these sunglasses. It’ll clear this up.” She lifted the sunglasses off her head and offered them to one of the workers. They bit their lips and stared wide-eyed at her, quivering harder as she extended her hoof.

“Really,” uttered Rainbow with some annoyance, “they’re not just cool-looking.”

“Just… just go away!” yelled out the other cashier. “Leave us alone, you weirdo!”

Dash recoiled at the insult. “I’m a ‘weirdo’? Oh no, you’re the weird one!” She stepped forward, and the cashiers inched away the exact same distance. “How did you not notice that guy was a changeling? I mean, duh, right? And you’re calling me weird? As if! I mean, really, what’s so weird about saving your lives? Oh, right, nothing!”

Dash felt her head being forcibly pulled back by her mane as she was thrown to the floor. She grit her teeth in pain as she was dragged off by her unseen assailant, and she flailed around trying to land a punch. As the pegasus slid across the fake wooden floor, she saw a stallion in the navy uniform of a police officer waltz over to the cashiers and flash his badge. As soon as they were placated, the cop turned around and grinned wide. Dash slid her sunglasses on and caught a glimpse of his shining, drooling teeth before she was pulled out the door.

Her captor rounded the corner and dragged her for a short distance down a small tiled hallway between the Wonderbolts shop and the store next to it. There was a loud slamming noise, and Dash was pulled again for a few feet. She felt a metal object scrape her wing and winced. Through her squinted eyes she could see an open heavy door leading back to the mall as she was dragged farther away. Suddenly they stopped moving. Rainbow felt the slack in her mane and immediately pulled herself back. A chunk of hair was torn away as she skidded backwards, but before she could get away the sunglasses were removed from her face.

“Think you can answer a few questions for us, Rainbow Crash?” asked the police mare. She removed her aviators and replaced them with Rainbow’s pair. “Like where you got these, for example?”

Dash snapped her tail angrily. “Don’t call me that.”

“Or what?” asked a voice from behind her. “You’ll hit an officer of the law?”

The pegasus whirled around and saw the first officer. It began to close the door slowly as magical bands of green fire formed and swirled slowly from the bottom up, shining light down the plain concrete corridor. The bug-like wings appeared first, fluttering about with excitement. Holes in its legs spread wide apart, and its fangs grew down from his upper jaw. Dash shook in disgust as a green mass began covering its eyes and turned away, but saw that the second police mare was going through the same process.

The door closed and the fully transformed changelings looked at each other quizzically.

“Huh. We were hoping you’d cry out for help or something as we left that door open. Then we were gonna pull it closed and laugh at your pitiful attempt to attract attention to us.” The changeling at the door scratched its small horn-like protrusion absentmindedly.

“Then we were going to toss your sunglasses back and forth in a game of keep-away as we grilled you until we found out where you got these.” The other changeling took off the sunglasses and rubbed its eyes. “Man, those things give me a headache,” it grumbled.

Dash grinned wide. “I don’t need to call for help when I can take you chuckleheads on myself.”

The second changeling stuck out its lower lip and its eyes widened. “What’s wong, Dashie-washie? Isn’t fwiendship magic?” It continued to pout as Dash ogled blankly.

“I… uh… what the heck are you talking about?” asked Rainbow. “Why would I be your friend?”

“See? See?!” shouted out the first changeling emphatically. “The first thing out of her mouth is either a threat of violence or something hurtful!” It turned to Dash, closing in swiftly. “Can’t you form a sentence that isn’t mean or intimidating, Rainbow Crash?”

“It’s not a threat, it’s a Celestia-damn promise!” snarled Rainbow, wings raised in anticipation of a brawl. “You and your queen aren’t welcome in this town, or in this kingdom!”

“Oh, but we already are!” the first changeling exclaimed, lifting into the air on its gossamer wings.

“Aaaaa-men! Preach ‘er the truth!” The second changeling pumped a hoof in the air with gusto.

Dash’s eyelids lowered. “Yeah, I know. It’s an expression.”

“Your ignorance and your capacity for hiding it are truly astounding,” said the first changeling. “If you know so much—”

“I never said I did,” butted in Dash.

“As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted,” continued the first changeling with a feigned hurt look, “We’ve already made ourselves at home here! We’ve brought business to this community, and we keep the streets clean from trouble-makers such as yourself!”

“Of course,” added the second changeling, “what he means by ‘trouble-makers’ is ‘those who make trouble for us’.”

“And look! You’re all so happy and satisfied! Well, almost all of you.” The first changeling dropped back to the ground and looked Dash in the eye. “You know who I’m talking about, right?”

Rainbow gasped. “You don’t mean… you can’t mean her!“

“We’re talking about Twilight Sparkle!” yelled out the second changeling with annoyance.

“You know,” said the first, “She doesn’t actually have to say it out loud.”

The second changeling fell back onto its haunches. “Oh yeah. Never mind.”

“But that doesn’t make sense! Celestia wouldn’t be in league with…” Dash stopped herself in mid-sentence. She stared at the concrete floor with wide eyes as the changelings looked on.

“And there’s the epiphany,” said the second changeling. “You’re right; she didn’t have to say anything at all. It’s actually more fun this way.”

“Isn’t it just lovely?” asked the first changeling, holding a hoof over its mouth. “Ha! Get it? Lovely? Love-ly?”

Dash barely heard them burst into uproarious, derisive laughter. She wasn’t even aware of the concrete. Twilight’s face was all she saw in her mind, and the last words Twilight had said before she was arrested echoed again and again.

“It was a warning,” Rainbow whispered. “She tried to tell us… ‘You’re no princess of mine’ was a warning…”

“What’s that?” asked the second changeling, hoof to its ear. “Speak up, we want to hear every detail of your breakdown and suffering!”

Dash clenched her jaw tight, spun around on her front hoof and bucked the second changeling in the stomach. It wheezed as it hit the wall and slid down it while Rainbow tackled the first changeling, then pinned its arms to the sides. It strained under the pegasus’ strong hold, trying to reach the gold watch on its arm, but it was too far away. Rainbow smiled big and raised her head up, preparing to head-butt its lights out.

“Wait! Wait!” screamed the changeling. “You can’t do this! If you hurt us, you’ll have a whole army on your tail! You can’t fight us all off!”

Dash paused for a second. “You mean you freaks weren’t already after me?” Her voice squeaked as if punctuating the question.

“What? No,” said the changeling. “What gave you that idea?”

“Nobody knows?”

“Nobody knows what?”

“Nobody knows I broke into Twilight’s house and looked for—“

“Ah-HA! You’ve been tampering with evidence!” The changeling giggled frantically and glowered into Dash’s shocked face. “These watches have been recording our conversation since we caught you, Rainbow Crash! Now you and your friends will really get it if you don’t surrender, you aging nag!”

Rainbow smirked and closed her eyes, but didn’t loosen her grip.

“Didn’t you hear what I said? I said you’re screwed! Now let me go or you’re dead meat!” shouted the changeling, with some panic in its voice.

“I guess I just gotta rescue Twilight first, don’t I?” thought Dash aloud.

The changeling suddenly snarled. “Too late, pony!”

Rainbow heard a crackling sound from behind her and turned her head to look. The second changeling was raised up on a front leg, straining to keep its body straight. There was a bright green glow around its horn, and it extended to a silver snub-nosed revolver floating in the air. The hammer pulled back. Reacting instantly, Rainbow grabbed the changeling she had beneath her and pulled it up. It screamed in shock as the bullet hit it, and the pegasus felt its body slump to the side. The second changeling gasped and pulled the hammer a second time, rotating the chamber once.

Dash’s eyes snapped to a black leather satchel on the back of the first changeling. Her teeth tore it open and her eyes widened as she pulled out a shotgun with a wooden stock. Her jaw grasped it by the pump and she ripped it from the case, tossing the body away as she hurled herself to the side just as the second changeling fired again, hitting the wall where she once had been.

The pegasus skidded to a halt and violently shook her head, using the momentum of her swing to pump the shotgun. She jammed her hoof into the large trigger guard and slammed it back as the changeling screamed and pulled the hammer a third time. Rainbow winced as the shotgun bucked, shooting pain through her neck and forcing her to drop the weapon
.

She stood there and panted in exhaustion with her eyes closed for some time. Eventually she came to realize that she was still alive, and relief washed over her in an awesome wave. Then it hit her that being alive meant she was the victor. With much effort, she picked up the shotgun in her mouth once more and made her way to the body of the second changeling, trying not to look at how it had landed on the floor or where she had hit it.

The pegasus closed her eyes again and pulled off its belt, then reached about blindly for the revolver. Once she had acquired both, she went in the direction of the first changeling. Dash knelt down and felt around for the sunglasses it had taken from her earlier. She felt something wet on her hoof, and opened her eyes. Teal blood was smeared across it, and she quickly shut her eyes again, pretending she never saw it. Dash reached out once more and found the glasses, then set about the task of getting the shotgun’s satchel removed from the changeling’s body.

Once she had finished the repugnant task of looting their corpses, she stood up and immediately turned away to open her eyes again. The fluorescent lights blinded her for a moment, but Dash recovered quickly. She fastened the belt to her own waist and under her wings, making sure that the holster wasn’t in the way of her ability to close them. She then swung the satchel over her back, checking that it didn’t hinder her movement. Suddenly she saw the teal blood smeared over her hoof, and grimaced.

“So,” she said, gazing at her stained coat, “you geldings die just like we do.”

Without looking behind, she broke into a canter and sped down the hallway. Her hooves clopped against the concrete, echoing up and down the corridor. It diverged to an offshoot on the right, and she took it without thinking. The lights above flickered a little, darkening her path for a moment, but as the hallway was empty and clear of obstructions, she didn’t falter or stumble. When they flicked back on, Dash noticed that the walls now had three lines painted on the concrete: red, blue, and green. They stretched on before her, and then went diagonally downwards until they ran before her on the floor. Up ahead the passageway and lines diverted; this time straight forward was red, to the left was green, and to the right was blue.

“What the hay,” said Dash, “green means ‘go’!”

Rainbow turned the corner, using her wing as a counterbalance, and sped off to the left. It went on and on, and as she went further, she went through areas devoid of any light but had no options to turn in other directions. The green line continued to run forward.

After a long time running through a particularly lengthy dark section, Dash saw a light ahead. As she neared it, she slowed to a stop. Here was where the hallway ended, at a metal door with a push bar and a big glowing sign above that said “EXIT.”

She shrugged, put a hoof to the bar, opened the door and walked through.

The light here was much brighter than the sporadic fluorescent bulbs from the maintenance passageway. Rainbow shielded her eyes and wondered if she had made it outside, so she unfolded her sunglasses and placed them on her face. Figuring that she could see now, she brought her hoof down again and looked about properly.

Ponies were standing in lines clearly marked out by red velvet ropes, leading up to a brown marble counter. Some of these velvet ropes blockaded staircases leading up to a second floor with short walls accented in wood around the sides, and the lights attached to the ceiling were bright enough to illuminate both floors.

Suddenly one of the ponies in line looked over and his jaw dropped. He tapped his neighbor in line, who did a double-take and gulped in shock. Very quickly, everypony fixated on Rainbow standing in the corner, framed by a pair of fake decorative plants and the words “FIRST MANEHATTAN BANK” in gold lettering on the wall behind her.

Rainbow looked around at the crowd. She saw a black curved horn here, a translucent wing there, and many watches stretched over cavity-filled hooves. The pegasus narrowed her eyes, and in one fluid movement undid the snap on the satchel on her back and removed the shotgun with her mouth. Ponies and changelings alike faintly stammered swears or stepped back a pace in dread.

“I’m here to eat hay and kick flanks, and I’m all out of hay.”

Author's Note:

In deference to the episode "Rarity Takes Manhattan", I have gone back and changed the scene where Rainbow Dash orders and subsequently consumes a hotdog. In hindsight, it was obvious a pony wouldn't eat meat in the first place.

Also, I just slightly changed the transformation sequence that the two officer-changlings go through. It wasn't... show-accurate. Still isn't, but they're doing it slowly on purpose.