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Wheels: Not to be Trusted

by TheBandBrony

Chapter 1: Hydrous Silica



“Uhh—huh—nyuhhh!

The Great and Powerful Trixie—or more accurately, the sweaty and dirt-caked Trixie—trudged dejectedly over the beaten path encircling Ponyville’s not so scenic rock country. Each step she took forced her already-depleted spirits deeper and deeper into the gutter.

“F’nuh... stupid hills, always making traveling an inconvenience. What Trixie wouldn’t give for some nice prairies to walk over.”

Struggling against the weight she bore on her back, Trixie ground her teeth and skittered up the mild rise in front of her, groaning with every torturous step. Pausing at the apex of the bump to catch her breath, the mare grimaced as she attempted to stand upright and stretch.

“Ow—ow, stupid harness.” Frustrated at the metal coupling that constantly dug into her sides, Trixie stiffened awkwardly as she attempted to bludgeon the protruding bits into submission. Unfortunately, all the repeated blows managed to accomplish was turning her withers into a polka-dot pattern of black and blue bruises.

Growling, she craned her neck in a sorry attempt to pinpoint the source of her discomfort. Trying to visually inspect the faulty element, though, got her alsolutely nowhere. With her semi-morose mood officially downgraded to dreadful, she finally gave up searching for a quick fix and lit up her horn, feeling for the clasps to release her from the torture device cleverly disguised as a harness.

Sighing in relief as the poking pain fell away from her along with the rest of the straps, the mare let her shoulders pop in appreciation of the lost weight as she rolled them around in their sockets. “Ah, much better. Now, to tackle the more pressing issues...”

Having sufficiently worked the kinks out of her weary muscles, Trixie went to work on adjusting the harness she so despised.

Or... she would have, if she knew how.

The jumbled mess of leather straps and metal rings all seemed to do nothing but jingle mockingly in her face flaunting her incompitence in her face. “This harness is hopeless. Maybe if Trixie were to—no, that’s not it. What if she—no, that’s not it either.”

Despite her best efforts to straighten out the offending straps, all she seemed to do was complicate the knots further. Groaning in frustration, she grabbed the hopelessly tangled yoke in her magical grip and flung it weakly against the wagon it was attached to.

Fuming, Trixie grumbled, “Hmph, this carriage is stupid.” Her nose scrunched up in unbridled frustration. “In fact, this road is stupid, this hill is stupid, this demonic bridle is stupid, and everything else in the whole wide world of Equestria is stupid!"

Having adequately vented her frustrations into the wind, Trixie huffed dejectedly into the dirt and slumped in place. "First I'm ousted from that hick town Ponyville, now the Goddesses decide to torture me for their own satanic pleasure." Raising her snout to the sky, she trumpeted, "I hope you're happy, you mouth-breathing sham of a diarch!"

All this shouting into space did nothing to ease the saddened showpony's pent up angst. Defeatedly, she tossed a fierce glance at the wagon she called her home. Once vibrant and alive with bright colors, the faded wooden siding was stained with traces of graffiti and dried bits of egg from her disastrous performance-turned riot in Manehatten. Even after months of continuous scrubbing and buffering, the demeaning images of the Ursa she failed to defeat were still clinging to the sides of her mobile home in bright green ink.

She sighed. “This could not possibly get any worse.” Anguish and anger overtaking the rational side of her brain, Trixie rocketed to her hooves and lashed out at the cart as if it were the sole source of all her troubles, bucking it square in the sides.

And then things got worse.

Her kick, while not intended to do any real damage, caused the wagon to shake on its axles. The brittle bolts that held the wheels in place, worn out from months of exposure and rust, rattled loudly as the unicorn’s blow put undue amounts of stress on their weakened bodies.

“Oh—oh no, no no no!” Too late, Trixie realized her mistake and dove under the wheel well, fruitlessly attempting to coax the broken bearings into holding out for just a few hundred miles longer. “Don’t break now, your master still has use for you! Do not fail me now, you simple hunks of metal!”

Unfortunately, her “tough love” approach only made the bolts whine louder. Finally, with a resounding ping, they separated from their housings and shot into the dirt, missing Trixie’s visage by mere inches and throwing a cloud of debris in her eyes.

As she flinched away from the small explosion of dirt, the cart above her began to wobble unsteadily on its unbraced supports. Before Trixie had time to recover from the stunning shower of dirt, the entire cart above her rocked violently to the side. Only a quick burst of magic saved the poor pony from being crushed under her own now-less than mobile home.

As Trixie attempted to collect herself, she heard a creaking groan above her. Opening her dust-crusted eyes, she got a one-of-a-kind view of the entire front axle snapping in two, separating the right wheel from the rest of the cart and sending it rolling down the hill.

Trixie’s eyes went as wide as dinner plates. Without that wheel, she would be forced to all but carry her crippled carriage to the next town—a downright impossible task, considering how far away she was from any outlying traces of civilization.

Worming her way out from beneath her broken wagon, the unicorn forced her hooves into motion and took off after the lost wheel, now picking up speed as it bounced down the hill and towards a nearby ridge.

It only took a few moments of chasing the runaway spoke for Trixie to realize how futile her attempts at manually retrieving it might be. She hadn’t even begun to gallop before she found herself breathing hard, and by the time she reached the bottom of the hill her sides were imploding.

Maybe Trixie should have done more running than just escaping from towns that disliked her, she thought in between choking gasps for air. Her (in)famous magic would serve no use either—mere minutes of running had already taxed her stamina to the point that she couldn’t properly cast spells.

“Trixie... is going... on a diet,” she struggled as she followed the wheels’ wobbling path onto a slight incline. Wheezing and sputtering dramatically, she began to slow her frantic pace. Surely, gravity would smile upon Trixie and halt the wheel’s escape attempt before it had a chance to fly over the edge and into the unknown.

But the wheel had other plans.

Defying gravity without so much as a wobble, the wooden circle bounced off the edge and flung itself into the great beyond. Perhaps it was the lack of oxygen making her hallucinate, but for a split second Trixie could have sworn she saw it spin in jubilation before depositing itself onto the earth below.

“No, come back here!” Desperate and still heaving, the mare clamored to the parapet and stuck her head out over the edge. Thankfully, the fall was minor, and while still being too far for a pony to fall without risking serious injury, the wheel appeared to be in one piece. She bared her teeth angrily at the spoke far below.

“Why? Why? Why must you continue to test the Great and Powerful Trixie like this? Is it something she said?” Not receiving an answer from her new nemesis only made the tired unicorn more angry. Snarling, she added, “I hope all your ancestors get termites!”

Apparently, Trixie had not learned her lesson on how kicking things out of anger only led her to trouble, for she jammed her hoof into the rocky ridge with all the force of an angry, sweaty manticore. Not noticing the spidery cracks that began to emerge from the impact site, she let her head fall to the cold rock in frustration.

Does this entire world hate me? No, of course not, everypony loves Trixie. Perhaps it’s a conspiracy. Yes, I’ll bet it’s that rat Twilight Sparkle following me, possessing my cart’s wheels just to get back at me for nearly destroying her town. I’ll bet she’s watching me right now, yucking it up with all her friends as she watches me suffer.

Her internal rant was interrupted by a violent quaking, coming from right under her. “That’s unusual, Trixie didn’t realize there was supposed to be an earthquake today.” Too late, she realized that earthquakes were not akin to rainstorms in their predictability. She jumped up from her perch just in time to see the entire cliff face under her splinter and crumble.

“Oh, drat.”

In the blink of an eye she was tumbling through space, screaming her lungs off over the din of the collapsing rock around her. The fall was brief, but painful. Thankfully, though, she managed to catch the sloping base of the rise and roll to safety out of the path of the falling boulders, sliding to a stop a few feet away from the mischievous wheel that had started it all.

Trixie lay there for a long minute, attempting to gather her cluttered conscience as the last of the rocks crashed down to earth in disorienting waves of noise. “Ow...” she finally sputtered out, limply raising a battered hoof into the air deliriously to be sure that it was not crushed under some nearby boulder.

Once she was absolutely sure that her limbs were still firmly attached to her body, she rose shakily to her feet and surveyed the damage she had caused. The ridge was no more, its foundation disintegrating into dust under her blows. The miniature landslide carved out a massive, U-shaped hole in the face of the cliff.

"Huh," she mumbled, still dazed from the fall. "That rock must have been pretty brittle for it to crumble like that."

"Hydrous silica." Trixie spun on her hooves as the new voice piped up behind her, sucking in a raspy, startled breath. "Them rocks there got little bits of iron and aluminum in 'em. They're real valuable... when they're whole, at least."

Staring down Trixie with the intensity of a cockatrice was a solidly-built earth pony stallion sporting a sharp set of greying sideburns. Most of his face was hidden beneath a dark, wide-brimmed hat, save for a fierce scowl sitting just under the brim. The pickaxe on his flank told Trixie that he must have been the owner of some nearby rock farm.

"Err—yes, that is good to know, farmer. Trixie was just—uh, looking for a lost wheel." Spying the missing object lying still near a cluster of half-broken rocks, she scuttled over to it without haste, effectively distancing herself from the obviously-irate stallion. "Ah, here it is, how convenient. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must be getting back to my travels—"

"Hold it right there, missy." The sole stallion spoke with the strength of an entire army, forcing Trixie to freeze where she stood. "I saw that whole little escapade of yours, right down to you throwin' a hissy fit and causin' that little rock slide there." His legs bowed as his razor-sharp words sliced through Trixie's veil. "You better be able to pay for all them rocks you just smashed—unless you want to pick up a hammer and work off your debt here on the farm, that is."

Confound it, Trixie thought, turning her mind inside out, searching for something clever to say to worm her way out of this conundrum. "You see, mister, Trixie was just venturing through this dump—ah—I mean, this wonderfully bland landscape on her way back to Manehatten. She didn't mean to cause any troubles for you, rest assured."

The deadly stare she received in response didn’t exactly encourage her. "Assurances don't pay for them boulders you just smashed."

Not good, Trixie is losing him. "Well—don't worry, sir," she hissed through clenched teeth. "Trixie has more than enough bits back in her wagon to pay for that little rock collection of yours. It’s just over that ridg—err, where that ridge used to be, I mean.” Trixie’s blushing, bashful smile did nothing to move the crotchety old pony in front of her.

“You mean that old wagon up yonder that just fell apart?”

"Huh?" Trixie recoiled in confusion. “What are you yammering on about? Trixie’s wagon is still almost fully operational, thank you very—”

Trixie cut herself off as she followed the stallion’s gaze to the exposed hill in the very center of the ridge’s new divot, focusing her gaze on the crest of the rise just in time to see the remaining axle on her precious cart, already strained under the weight of both ends of the wagon, snap and send the body of the cart to the ground.

Trixie’s eyes bugged. All she could do was stand stiffly in disbelieving silence as she watched glorious mobile home come to rest on the ashen dirt, splaying the remaining wheels and any other parts not firmly attached out to its sides.

“My... my house!” Blinding rage finally knocked Trixie out of her stupor. “No no no, this can’t be happening to me!” Unconsciously, she took a shocked step backwards. In yet another cosmic stroke of misfortune, her retreating hoof landed directly in the spokes of the previously-forgotten wheel.

Before she even realized that she was in fact falling, she felt the burning sting of pebbles impact themselves into her back. Her vision swam, and she growled out in pain. “Gah, this stupid wheel!”

Believing the wheel to be a plausible scapegoat for her misfortune, she scrunched up her nose and let the poor thing have it. “You insufferable waste of a tree! Do you know how worthless you are? There are whole warehouses dedicated to selling hundreds—no, thousands of you! Your existence has no meaning other than to turn in a circle, and you can't even do that correctly! In fact, I think I’m going to replace you the instant I get out of this Celestia-forsaken ashtray!”

The farmer, previously distracted with chuckling at the mare’s uptight attitude, now furrowed his brow in annoyance. “Hey, watch your mouth there, missy. That ‘ashtray’ you're slammin' is my home.”

“Yeah, well your home smells like a fire pit,” quipped Trixie as she clambered back to her hooves. “And you—” She turned the brunt of her fury back towards the wheel. “I am going to build a nice campfire as soon as I recollect my things and burn you to a crisp. Want to know why? Because you’re a worthless, pathetic, stupid, wheel!”

Her shout echoed through the valley, followed by the distinct sound of hoof meeting wood. “...And that is for not calling me ‘The Great and Powerful Trixie’ even when I asked you nicely to!” Having finished her abusive tirade, Trixie staggered back and blinked heavily. Her gaze travelled from the farmer, still staring wide-eyed at her, to the decimated pile of splinters that used to be a wheel at her hooves, to her demolished cart in the near distance.

Her gaze lingered on her traveling home, though. Something seemed to be moving around it, though her vision was still too murky to identify what. Wiping her eyes furtively with a bruised and battered hoof, her eyes finally started to focus in on the formerly-mobile carriage.

As soon as Trixie saw just what was moving around the cart, though, her eyes shrank to mere pinpricks, until all she could see was the wreckage of the murdered wheel in the ash in front of her. She didn’t even bother looking up again as the remaining wheels, seeing the cold-blooded destruction of their brethren, shot up to attention and began to roll towards Trixie menacingly, picking up speed with each second as they crested the ridge and approached their new target.

Trixie tried to sigh, though all that came out was a choking sob.

“Stupid, stupid wheels.”

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