She noticed the pony for the first time when she was young, not long after she’d received her cutie mark. He had been sitting quietly in the back row at her mother’s funeral, noteworthy only in his utter lack of noteworthiness.
After the service, after the mourners had filed quietly out of the room, after the last of the well-wishers had extended their condolences for her loss, the filly noticed he was still in the rough stone chapel. She watched, peering from around the door with her family behind her, chatting amongst themselves in low murmurs, as the pony approached the casket at the front of the room.
There was something insubstantial about him that she couldn’t quite put her hoof on. A thinness that didn’t match his stocky body, a definite sense that he was far off in the distance yet right in front of her.
He delicately lifted a hoof, resting it on the lid of the polished wooden box, and gazed down at the wizened matriarch’s face. It was a severe fac
Dash stumbled – that’s getting old – as the ground changed from slick smoothness to rocky unevenness beneath her hooves. She tried to look around, but it was pitch black.
Lavender light sparked up to her left, illuminating a horn the same shade, and she shielded her eyes; a moment later warm yellow light filled the room. Room might be the wrong word, Dash thought as she blinked, looking around.
She was standing in a chamber hewn from blue-black rock, the surfaces rough, a contrast to the sleek surroundings of the Grid. Beside her stood a unicorn wrapped in a skintight jumpsuit not unlike her own, with channels of pale yellow tracing over her body that reminded Dash of sunlight.
“I’m afraid not, Rainbow Dash... but I can understand your confusion.” Purple eyes twinkled back at her; Dash stared, her mouth hanging open. Despite the coloration, this was definitely not her Twilight. The outfit was one thing, bu
The two rainbow-maned, blue-coated pegasi stared at each other. Dash couldn't believe what she was seeing. She'd always felt she was unique: not just the tripe parents fed their foals about "everypony being special in their own way", but because ponies with naturally many-colored manes were fairly rare, and she had never met another pony that shared the same shades that were her namesake. Even worse... even worse, this pony was her – the same face, the same coat, the same rose-hued eyes she saw every morning in the mirror.
A wave of vertigo swept over her, as though she'd been riding a thermal a mile up and lost it suddenly, plummeting down; she scrambled to regain control, to stay calm, to figure out what the hay was going on.
This wasn't her. This... other self looked grimmer than she ever had: there was a hard set to her jaw, a tightness around the eyes, and the eyes themselves, well... she knew she'd never looked so cold and calculating. There was darkness there
Twilight slid to a halt against the base of one of the computational stacks, groaning as the rough-hewn stone floor scraped her hide. She looked up to scold Dash for her rash behavior but saw nothing – her friend was gone.
Luna looked horrified. "That device – it fired a blast of energy and she... she dissolved." The princess turned to Twilight. "It would have hit you, had she not intervened. What is this? Some new teleportation spell?"
Twilight pushed herself to her hooves. "Celestia’s notes didn’t say anything about this... but there’s no way Celestia would create something that destroys ponies, so Rainbow must be safe, wherever she is." She moved back to the master console, inspecting the display, mentally retracing her steps. "I had been running through the Princess’s commands, re-entering them one at a time to see what they did. There was no indication in her available research that a comp
Rainbow Dash surged forward, glaring at Applejack’s tail bobbing just in front of her. "Come on, Rainbow... show ’em a little Dash!" she muttered to herself as she put on an extra burst of speed, pulling abreast of her challenger. Red, orange, and yellow leaves rained down around them as they pounded down the dirt path that snaked through Whitetail Wood. As Rainbow came up alongside Applejack, she glanced over and their eyes met for an instant – hard determination gleamed in each – and suddenly Dash was in the air, catapulting forward, watching the ground spin beneath her as she tumbled, a confused AJ looking on, landing flat on her back, wings spread, looking back the way she’d come at a gnarled tree root that had broken through the surface of the dirt.
With a start, Dash tumbled out of bed, landing flat on her back, wings spread, and groaned. "That... is getting really old." Ever since their first grudge match years ago,