This Isn't War

by QueenMoriarty

Chapter 1: "I'm not haunted by the war, Your Majesty. I miss it."

Life used to be very easy.

You wait for the signal. When it comes, you go. You tear whatever part of the world that you've been pointed at apart, and you do your best to aim for the people who aren't on your side. You stick to your orders, whatever they might be. Today, you might not feel the ground beneath your hooves for any more than a few minutes at a time. Tomorrow, you might carry a box that shouldn't feel this heavy to a place that you haven't dared go before. Yesterday, you became very intimately acquainted with the sounds that the dead and the dying make, as you lay in the trench with blood seeping through your uniform in places where you suspect it shouldn't be seeping out.

Sometimes, the world changed. Only in small ways, of course, but it did change. The armorer would issue new weapons. Ponies would shift to different roles. Limbs would turn to metal, or perhaps crystal, for any number of reasons. And ponies would die. Sometimes, they were important, and sometimes they were only the best friends you had ever had in the past ten years. Every day was different than the last.

When I was the Iron Wing, I thought that I understood change. That I embraced it, that I could adjust to any new version of reality. I thought that whatever new twist or turn the future held, I could weather it.

But I am not the Iron Wing anymore. I'm just Rainbow Dash. And the world has changed so much, and I don't fit in where I used to.

Life is very complicated now. There are taxes. There are houses. There's this thing called money, and you have to give it to ponies so that they'll give you things like food and water and advice on whether or not you're allowed to punch ponies in the face anymore. And some of it is paper, and some of it is bits, and paper is a lot easier to carry around but bits are a lot harder to lose.

I have a job. It's a very good job, and I'm happy to have it, but it's also really weird. I'm a Wonderbolt. Like, a full-fledged Wonderbolt, and not the soldier kind, like what they were before all of this. I'm a stunt flier, doing shows for all the ponies of Equestria, and most of the other nations too. I work with a lot of my old war buddies, like Spitfire and Soarin, and a lot of the formations we do are based really closely on the attack patterns we used in the war. Some might say too closely.

At every show since the war ended, we've buzzed really close to the audience. More often than not, one of us gets closer than the others. We forget where we are, and what we're supposed to be doing, because flying now is too much like flying then. If not for the constant ducking that ponies do when a pegasus does any kind of fly-by, I know we'd have taken off heads by this point. And no, it's not always me. Sometimes it's Spitfire. Sometimes it's Soarin. Sometimes it's Fleetfoot. Some of the Wonderbolts actually make regular bets on which of us will lose focus this time. I don't like it when they do that.

Flying is easy. The war was easy. But life is hard, and complicated, and every time I fly it just seems to bleed away for a few seconds. For a few precious moments, if I close my eyes and don't think about how good the world smells these days, it feels like I'm back in the war.

And the fact that the thought of that makes me smile is horrifying.

When ponies wake up after dreaming of the days when they fought on the battlefield, they aren't supposed to wake up smiling, or regret that they set their alarm clock. When I remember the feeling of a pony's skull cracking under my hoof, I shouldn't feel a rush of excitement up my spine. I shouldn't keep looking at myself in the mirror, expecting to be covered in blood.

But I do. Because the war was easy. And every time I think about what my life has become, one of the first things I think about is how complicated it is. I think about how I have to remember all these complicated routines in their entirety instead of just knowing the general gist. I think about how I have to remember who ponies are instead of just checking their sleeve to know which of us should be listening and which of us should be talking. I think about how the food tastes so good these days, and how the only food I can identify by taste anymore is applesauce.

I wasn't born into war, like some fillies and colts. I grew up in an age where the word 'war' was barely understood by most children, and the average adult would probably mangle the meaning somehow. We knew what weapons were, and we knew what combat was, but that was all fairy tales and ancient history as far as we were concerned. Playground disputes were settled with races, not gladiatorial combat. I was born into peace.

But damn, if I wasn't born for war.

The war gave me everything I ever wanted. It gave me a purpose, where before I was a layabout cloud-bucker. It gave me friends, ponies who valued me, when before I just had my co-workers. It gave me hope, and security, when all it would have taken was a slightly more qualified up-and-coming pegasus to put me out of a job before. It even gave me my cutie mark, when I had been a blank-flank my entire life until then. The Crystal War was my destiny.

I'm supposed to be glad that it's over. I'm supposed to be celebrating today. There's parties, and festivals, and a whole frickin' carnival in one or two towns. The only quiet places are the places where unicorns have put up quiet-spells, for those who'd rather mourn.

I'm supposed to mourn the loss of our soldiers. I'm supposed to mourn the loss of our civilians, or our land, or just all the wasted potential of those years of misery and bloodshed. But instead, I find myself raising a glass to toast the Crystal War. I mourn the end of the bloodiest, most brutal, most depressing conflict that Equestria has ever seen.

I'm supposed to be happy that the war is over. Supposed to be happy that I still have most of my friends, that I still have my wife, that I can stand to sleep at night. But all I can think about is how I never had to grow up when I was a weatherpony, because it was just like having more chores, and I never had to think too hard in the army, because they only needed me to hit stuff.

And now, I need to understand marketing. I need to know the science behind popularity instead of just knowing I'm popular. I need to be able to give interviews. I need to be able to speak my mind and show emotion without having to get roaring drunk first.

I'm not the Iron Wing anymore. I'm just Rainbow Dash. Once upon a time, I saved the world, but now, I do stunts. Ponies write books about me, and what I did, but all their interviews don't make it any easier. They just remind me of everything that's changed.

Don't get me wrong, I love Equestria. I love what it's become. I love how just a year after the Crystal War, we've not only been able to throw off the looming shadows of war, but embrace glory and harmony like never before. I love to see children smiling, and laughing, instead of having to wear specially fitted uniforms and marching in disorganized rank.

If you actually gave me the choice between the Crystal War and this world, I would choose this world every time. Not for my sake, but for theirs. I may have missed my shot at destiny, but I wouldn't wish such a fate on them. I'm a soldier, not a monster.

But I do miss it. The thrills. The excitement. The beating of my own heart, louder in my ears than any war-drum. I don't know if I'll ever be able to capture that again.

Hmm. Maybe if I fly faster.

Faster still.

Faster than I ever flew during the war. My body's starting to ache from the strain.

Now, aim for the ground. Yes.

I can feel the wind peeling away around me. I can almost hear the earth screaming in fear that I might actually hit it. Reality blurs, and my eyes stream with tears. So close. So near to that old thrill. Just needs that little extra...


Return to Story Description


Login with