Princess Twilight Sparkle was thrown into the main chamber of the castle, landing face-first into the carpet.
“Well, well, well.” came a regal and evil voice, “Look at what we have here, another alicorn.”
Twilight looked up and saw Nightmare Moon towering over her, a fanged grin spread wide across her face. Twilight jumped up to her hooves and recoiled in terror at the impossibility of Nightmare Moon being real again.
“You can’t be back!” Twilight said, fear evident in her voice, “My friends and I released your hold on Luna years ago! How is this possible?” then she remembered Starlight Glimmer in her castle, she had cast a time travel spell and altered history to where she and her friends had never met. This must be the result of Starlight’s actions.
“Hey!” came a rough feminine voice, “You will address the queen properly.”
Twilight turned to see the soldier speaking to her take off her helmet, revealing it to be Rainbow Dash with her mane in a buzz cut. Twilight’s eyes widened.
“Rainbow?” Twilight held a hoof up to meet Rainbow’s face, but Rainbow craned her neck back, a sneer forming on her face. Twilight retracted her hoof.
Nightmare Moon lightly chuckled, “So, tell me little one. How is it that you managed to evade my knowledge for so long and survive in the wild too for that matter?”
Twilight returned her attention to Nightmare Moon. She wasn’t sure how to respond. Make up a story, she wasn’t really good at lying, especially after becoming friends with Applejack, or tell the truth, that she was now a time traveler from an alternate timeline and a relatively new foe had doomed Equestria like this. She decided to go with the latter.
“Ha!” Nightmare Moon scoffed, “This isn’t a doomed Equestria, this is a liberated Equestria! Under my rule nopony has to fear of the outside world coming to take away their happiness.”
Rainbow Dash had been listening to Twilight’s story, of which she went into great detail how different her timeline was. To Rainbow, this other timeline seemed more pleasant than the one she was currently in. Her mind went back to her foalhood, a time in which she could fly in the warm sun without a care in the world. Compared to now, she hardly flew at all, if so the air was always frigid and cold, as how the eternal night was. As for her cares in the world, it was mostly consumed with not pissing off the queen and keeping her pleased enough not to throw her into the dungeon, of which many ponies already occupy since the Nightmare’s ascension to the throne. Hope was beginning to return to her because of this time traveler.
Rainbow slightly turned her head away from the conversation between the time traveler and her queen that she tuned out as her thoughts ran.
“General.” boomed Nightmare Moon’s voice, snapping Rainbow back into the present and to attention.
“Yes, my queen?” Rainbow responded.
“Bring a contingent of soldiers as we escort our ‘Princess Twilight Sparkle’ to her time machine and our new weapon.”
Rainbow saluted, “Yes ma’am.” and she trotted off to gather her soldiers.
A timberwolf yelped as it scampered away, only to be shot to bits by a magic blast from Nightmare Moon’s horn, of whom was casually strolling through the overgrown Everfree forest followed by her general and a group of soldiers guarding the time traveler.
General Rainbow Dash occasionally stole glances to their prisoner, the chains around her clanking with every hoofstep, only to be returned with a look of sorrow and familiarity. Every time, Rainbow hardened her face and returned her gaze to the road ahead, her mind continually going back to Twilight’s description of the other timeline, softening her face and daring her to look back, look back to her sign of hope.
“We’re here.” Twilight said as they approached a crystal table set in the middle of the forest. Everypony stopped, in front of the table.
“Hmm.” Nightmare Moon visually analyzed the table, putting a hoof to her chin. “It doesn’t look like much, but looks can be deceiving. How does it work?”
Twilight nervously glanced all around her, Rainbow could tell she was sizing up a chance of escape but said nothing, now hoping she could find one without knowing that she’ll be on her side when she breaks loose.
“Uh... um...” Twilight said, ears pinned against her head.
“Well... Spit it out!” Nightmare Moon commanded as she slammed a hoof on the ground.
Twilight spared a glance at Rainbow Dash, who returned with a subtle but firm nod of her head. She was now going to act on her hope.
Twilight ears perked up, confusion as to what the gesture meant consuming her mind, but nevertheless found the opening she was looking for and took full advantage of it. She teleported out of her chains and behind Nightmare Moon, snatching the parchment used to bring her here in the first place and set off a magical charge that blew everypony away except for Rainbow Dash, who took cover behind the table just as Twilight teleported.
“Seize her!” Nightmare Moon commanded, and the soldier that got back up on his hooves the quickest lunged at Twilight, soliciting a gasp from her, and Rainbow jumped out from behind her cover and tackled the guard before he could reach Twilight.
“Go!” Rainbow said, as she and the other guard got back on their hooves again, “I’ll handle them.” and she punched the guard in the face knocking him out cold.
“Traitor!” Nightmare Moon growled, “Seize them both, at once!” and every other guard charged towards the traitor and the time traveler.
In the brief lull that was there before the guards were upon them Twilight placed a hoof on Rainbow’s shoulder, “Come with me.” she said.
“No.” Rainbow responded, “If what you say is true, and time travel works the way I think it does, then this timeline will cease to exist once you go back and fix it.”
Twilight opened her mouth to retort, but shut it and thought there was no sense in arguing, she had to go back and fix this, even if it was alone. She jumped up onto the table, and her horn glowed as she began casting the spell that would bring her back to the point where the timelines diverged.
“No!” Nightmare Moon yelled, “Stop her!”
A guard tried to lunge at Twilight but was quickly stopped by a swift kick to the gut in mid-air by his former superior officer. Two more charged head-first towards Rainbow as she delivered a roundhouse kick that knocked one into the other, toppling them.
Nightmare Moon grew tired of this game and jumped into the fray herself, pinning her former number 1 general to the ground, but not before Twilight finished casting her spell and successfully disappeared along with the crystal table.
“NO!” Nightmare Moon yelled.
“Heh.” Rainbow smirked as she now relaxed, expecting everything, including herself, to disappear from a change in the timeline, but nothing happened. Everypony just stood there in silence after the time traveler left.
Seeing that nothing had changed, even after half a minute of waiting, Rainbow’s face grew pale, her chest tightened, and her extremities grew cold. Her hope has become dashed.
Nightmare Moon, snarled like a savage beast, her throat getting hotter with each ragged breath. The queen snapped her head towards Rainbow Dash, both mares’ eyes as wide as they can be.
Nightmare Moon enveloped Rainbow Dash in an aura of magic as she violently threw her into a nearby tree, the Nightmare’s head swinging with equal force as the unfortunate pegasus being thrown.
“ONE MILLION YEARS DUNGEON!!!” she shrieked, “Take her away!” and Nightmare Moon stomped off towards her castle as the remaining guards surrounded and bound their former general, who gave no resistance and complied readily.
Rainbow Dash was thrown into a large cell in the dungeon, already occupied by dozens of other ponies. Two earth pony guards lifted the new prisoner up and tossed her unceremoniously into the cell. She landed flat on her face and flopped over to her side, where she resigned herself to lay for the indefinite foreseeable future.
The cell doors creaked and slammed shut before they were locked and the guards walked away without a word, their job done.
“Oh look,” came a mare’s voice in a sort of monotone, “another prisoner. I’m surprised that they found another one, I thought they had locked up the entire non-military population already.”
Rainbow heard a gasp after that statement and a set of hoofsteps coming closer to her.
“Rainbow?” came a meek voice.
Rainbow Dash barely shifted her head, still resting on the cold floor, as she centered the source of the voice in her line of sight. It was her old friend from flight school.
“Hey Fluttershy.” she said in a defeated tone.
“Oh my gosh. Are you OK?” Fluttershy said, kneeling down to inspect any injuries that Rainbow might have had.
Rainbow centered her line of sight to directly in front of her as she said nothing. Physically, she was fine, only bruised where Nightmare Moon tackled her to the ground; she didn’t put up much of a fight when she was arrested. Mentally though, she was crushed, she had one hope of living in a better world, and she screwed up horribly. Rainbow Dash began to think that she should have taken Twilight up on her offer to go with her, or stopped her from the very beginning. Now she was going to spend the rest of her miserable life in a dungeon, or a million years, whichever comes last.
Rainbow winced when Fluttershy found the bruise in her midsection and was dragged over to and propped against the wall opposite from the bars like a stuffed doll.
After several minutes of silence, a pink pony with flat pink hair walked up to the bars of the cell and looked from side to side.
“Alright,” she said in the same monotone voice from earlier, “There are no guards around.” she looks to Fluttershy, “Let’s do our thing.”
Fluttershy nodded as the pink pony lifted up a loose tile from the floor and pulled out a guitar and glowing light blue flower.
Rainbow Dash really didn’t care what was happening, but it clearly wasn’t an escape plan, and she could help but stare at the curious actions being taken as other ponies within the cell began to gather around in a large circular shape.
Curiosity eventually bested her depression as Rainbow Dash questioned what they were doing.
The pink pony lightly smiled as her mane slowly curled to begin resembling that of cotton candy. She held the guitar as Fluttershy held the flower.
“On the rare occasions where there’s a new pony down here, and there are sufficiently no guards around,” the pink pony began, “I like to sing a song. Well, have Fluttershy sing a song as I play this guitar.”
“But what’s with the flower?” Rainbow asked.
“It’s a light breed of poison joke.” said Fluttershy, “It has the same effects as normal poison joke but only lasts for about two to five minutes.” she said before ingesting the flower, swallowing and coughing her voice now a deep raspy voice, “It gives me the right voice for the song we plan to sing.”
Fluttershy nodded to the guitarist, and she began to strum some chords as other ponies in the cell began to bang tin cups against the bars in rhythm.
“...'Cause they say imagination is morally wrong~.”
Fluttershy finished the song and everypony in the cell lightly clapped their hooves in applause, and the crowd dispersed going back to their business.
Rainbow Dash hadn’t moved from her spot during or after the song, enjoying the tune and the fitting lyrics describing their situation very well.
The pink pony put up her guitar in the hole in the floor and covered it back up, her hair flattening back down. She walked up to Rainbow Dash with a weak smile.
“We haven’t been properly introduced,” she said with a tint of chipperness in her voice, “I’m Pinkie Pie. What’s your name?” she pointed a hoof to her chest as she said her name and held out her hoof towards Rainbow Dash when she asked for hers.
Rainbow stared at the outstretched hoof for a few seconds, before looking up to meet Pinkie’s eyes and placed her own hoof on top of Pinkie’s.
“Rainbow Dash.” she said as she slowly shook Pinkie’s hoof.
“I’ve got a feeling we’re gonna become good friends.” Pinkie said as she casually retracted her hoof after the hoofshake.
Rainbow huffed out a short laugh, “What makes you say that?”
Pinkie Pie then twitched and convulsed for a short period before grabbing Rainbow by the shoulders and quickly moving her out of the way of an explosion that came from the other side of the wall she was propped against, blowing a massive hole to the outside world.
When the dust settled a purple mare in a black light-armored jumpsuit, with a brown saddle bag, an eye patch, a white bandana and a blown back slightly singed mane. Standing alongside her was another mare in navy blue light-armor and helmet with a dark grey star on her chest and two broad grey stripes going horizontally across her chest and midsection to her hindquarters. She was wielding a circular shield which had three thin stripes on the outside of alternating red and white and the old symbol of the equestrian flag, two alicorns circling a sun and moon, set big on the shield. Where visible the fur of her muzzle and around her eyes orange, and her blonde mane and tail tied at the end with red ties.
The purple mare turned to the other and nodded her head towards the prisoners.
“Get the civilians out of here.” she said as more ponies in all black body armor flooded in and began escorting prisoners out through the newly blasted hole in the wall. “Bring back as many guards alive as you can while I initiate phase two.”
The blonde mare nodded then she walked up to the cell doors and bucked it off its hinges and began delivering beat-downs to oncoming guards.
Rainbow Dash sat with her mouth agape at the familiar purple pony. Hope filling her soul once again. She got up and came face to face with her current symbol of hope.
“Twilight?” she said, “You came back?”
The purple mare flashed a glare at Rainbow Dash. “How do you know my name? I don’t know you.”
Rainbow flattened her ears when she realized that this must not be the same Twilight from the other timeline, this one didn’t have wings.
Her hope was waning, but she resolved herself as she thought about what to do next. She could pretend to join her and turn her in to her queen and possibly regain her status as number one general, or she could actually join the fight, whatever that may be. Despite the odds, she chose the latter.
“I want to help.” Rainbow said with a determined glare in this Twilight’s eyes.
“You still haven’t answered my question.” Twilight responded. “But I suppose if we make it out of this alive you can tell me later.” and Twilight trotted out of the cell and down the hall.
“You go and back up Captain Equestria.” Twilight commanded Rainbow Dash, “I’ve got something else to do.”