The smoke in the cell corridor had become so intense that it was difficult for Celly, Rainbow Dash and Big Macintosh to pick their targets. Fortunately for them, the stormponies at the other end were having the same problem. Every so often one of the soldiers would attempt to move closer, only to stand exposed as she penetrated the smoke. Under the accurate fire of the three ponies, the trooper would rapidly retreat back to their comrades or risk joining the slowly accumulating mass of motionless figures on the rampway.
Energy bolts continued to ricochet wildly through the block as Twilight Sparkle moved close to the cerulean pegasus.
"There isn't any other way out," she shouted over the deafening roar of weapons fire.
"Well, they're closing in on us. What do we do now?"
"My, this is some rescue," Rarity complained behind them, "When you came in, didn't anypony have a plan for getting out?"
Dash looked back at the new arrival and nodded towards the purple unicorn beside her, "She's the brains."
Twilight managed an embarrassed grin and shrugged helplessly. She turned to cast a spell, any spell, before hearing the sounds of metal flash-melting behind her.
"What was that?"
Everypony turned to see that Celly had melted off the grate covering a small chute. "Everypony, in here!" she called as she dived headfirst into the opening and disappeared.
Rarity carefully walked up to the opening and sniffed. "Ugh, what is that dreadful smell?" Her companions sniffed at the now noticeable odor.
"Well, it is a garbage chute," Rainbow rolled her eyes as she turned to continue firing up the corridor.
"But that's so icky," the princess complained, "I refuse to jump down into a pile of refuse."
"It's that or the stormponies!" Twilight cried out in exasperation.
"I…," she sniffed at the dark hole, "I am seriously weighing my options!"
"What options?" Rainbow looked back again, "It's either down the chute or we all die because you're too stuck up about not getting dirty!"
"You may not understand, darling, but some of us do have appearances to keep up!" Rarity peered into the dark void and sniffed at the smell of decay again, "Believe when I say that it's not as if I want to be captured, again, butWAHAAAAAAAH!" She suddenly slid down into the blackness as Big Mac, who had shuffled up behind the prudish unicorn, suddenly shoved her into the chute.
"Got sick of listening to her too?" Rainbow asked the stallion as Twilight stared in mild shock.
"Eeyup," the red stallion replied as he started to wedge his bulk into the small chute. Rainbow quickly fell back to help the workhorse through; as soon as he disappeared, the pegasus dove in after him. Twilight cast a quick and easy spell, causing rapid flashes of light to appear between her and the stormponies who hadn't stopped firing, before sliding herself into the chute, and was gone.
The chamber Twilight tumbled into was dimly lit, not that any light was needed to discern its contents. Like Rarity, she had smelled the worsening decay long before she tumbled into it. Unadorned except for the concealed lighting (for maintenance, she reasoned), the garbage pit was at least a quarter full of slimy muck, much of which had achieved a state of decomposition sufficient to wrinkle Twilight's nose.
Rarity was stumbling around the edge of the room, slipping and sinking up to her knees in the uncertain footing in an attempt to locate an exit. All she found was a small, thick hatchway which she pushed her weight against in a futile attempt to open it.
"Well, go on," she haughtily turned to the others, who, with the exception of the pegasus were struggling to keep from sinking further into the muck, "open the hatch."
"Quit your whining and give us a few minutes to take a shot at it…," Rainbow rolled her eyes and slammed against the hatch. The hatch just sat there, unmoving.
"Oh ho, I have not yet begun to whine," Rarity began threateningly, "Do you want to hear whining?"
Everypony turned to see Twilight Sparkle, covered in the sticky substance filling the room and glaring furiously at the two argumentative ponies. "Ugh, listening to you two bicker has been so aggravating," she shouted, missing the meaningful look Celly gave her, "I can hardly think straight!"
"But-" Rarity started to protest.
"No buts!" Twilight cut her off before she could say anymore, "Get away from the door; I'm blasting us out." Both Rainbow and Rarity scrambled away from the hatch as Twilight lowered her horn at it.
"Twilight, wait!" Celly's warning came too late as Twilight fired a beam of energy from her horn. The bolt promptly went howling around the room as everypony sought cover in the garbage. A last glance and the bolt finally dissipated above them, and there was silence.
"Twilight," Celly said slowly, "I had already tried that; this chamber has been magically sealed."
"Oh." Twilight dropped her head in shame.
"Hey, if that had worked, it would've been awesome," Rainbow offered.
"Thanks," Twilight bitterly replied, "We're stuck here in a garbage disposal on the Empire's biggest battlestation, filled with whatever trash the Empire can throw at us. Oh, and every imperial stormpony on the station is probably looking for us. At least it can't get any worse!"
As if on cue, a distant rumble of heavy machinery groaned throughout the room, and two opposing walls of the chamber moved inward several centimeters. The ponies inside searched frantically for the source of the noise. Abruptly, the rumbling stopped and it was quiet again.
"Twilight," Celly remarked while looking straight at the unicorn, "I believe you'll find that things can always get worse."
The distant rumble again filled the room, and the walls resumed their steady march to meet each other. Only this time, neither showed any signs of stopping.
"Don't just stand there!" shrieked Rarity, "Do something!"
Twilight concentrated and poured her magic into one of the metal beams scattered amongst the muck, pleased that she could at least still move those. However, even with the large beams she and Big Mac were able to handle, not one piece of scrap they could find seemed capable of slowing the wall's advance. It seemed as if the stronger the object was that they placed against the walls, the easier it was snapped.
Twilight pulled out her comlink, simultaneously trying to talk and will another heavy metal brace into place. "Fluttershy…come in Fluttershy! Angel? Is anypony there?" A decent pause produced no response, causing Twilight to look around in a panic.
"Why won't she answer?" She tried again. "Fluttershy, please come in. Do you read me?"
"Fluttershy," the muted voice continued to call, "Fluttershy, are you there?" It was Twilight Sparkle's voice issuing softly in between buzzings from the small comlink resting on the deserted computer console. Save for the intermittent pleading, the gantry office was silent.
A tremendous explosion drowned out the muffled pleadings, blowing the office door clear across the room, and sending metal fragments in all directions. The comlink was knocked off the table by the shower of sparks; cutting off Twilight's voice in mid-sentence.
In the wake of the minor cataclysm marched four armed and ready troopers. Their initial observations yielded nothing, until a dim, frightened voice was heard coming from one of the tall supply closets near the back of the room.
One of the troopers opened the noisy closet. A cream-yellow pegasus stepped out into the gantry, giving the impression of being half unbalanced with fear.
"It was awful, just awful," she gestured towards the immobile bodies of the gantry workers while tears streamed down her face, "They hurt them, took my uniform and then they threw me in the closet!"
"Do you know where they went?" asked one of the masked stormponies.
The pegasus wiped her eyes and nodded, "They said something about the prison level. If you hurry you might be able to catch them."
Three of the troopers inside hustled off down the corridor, leaving one to watch over the office and its occupant. Deciding there was no longer any real danger, he took off his helmet.
"Is there anything I can do for you?" He asked the lone pegasus with him.
"Well," she thought for a moment, "I really need to get back onto the computer and check-in with my superior, if you don't mind?" Her eyes widened as she made a pleading look towards the armored pony.
"Well, I shouldn't, but…" He thought to himself as he failed to notice two long ears poking out of the pegasus's pink tail.
The walls of the garbage chamber remorselessly closed in on the captive ponies within. The larger pieces of refuse which hadn't done so already began to almost musically snap and buckle under the immense pressure.
Twilight in desperation created a large force-field bubble around the five of them, hoping to stave off their inevitable squashing. She watched helplessly as the invisible magic seals placed upon the walls seemed to repel the shield, rendering it utterly ineffective.
"Well, this'll at least prove slimming," Rarity commented dryly as she pushed back against one of the walls.
"I don't understand; what happened to Fluttershy?" Twilight shook the comlink for emphasis before turning to Big Mac, who had made his way over towards the hatch. "Can you try and kick it down? It may be our last chance!"
"Do it!" shouted Rainbow Dash from somewhere above.
Big Macintosh raised his hind legs and gave a mighty buck. Everypony felt the reverberations through the air as the noise of hooves colliding with steel echoed throughout the chamber. As the large draft horse started to sink back into the muck, the other ponies momentarily stared at the door. It seemed to have not even been dented by the strong kick.
Fluttershy poked gingerly at the unconscious form of the trooper which had freed her from the closet.
"Was that really necessary?" she asked her furry companion who was busying himself with the newly unlocked console. Angel responded with a quick nod of his head.
"I know," she swallowed, "but pulling his own gun out and hitting him over the head with it seemed a little too much." Angel gestured his vehement disagreement.
"Okay, but, seven times?"
The white rabbit shrugged and went back to work, rapidly tapping keys with his paws while the monitor showed images of various security imagers around and below the detention block where his companions were last seen. The flurry of images stopped on the outside hatch of an active garbage disposal unit.
"They're not in there, are they?" asked Fluttershy. Angel nodded quickly. "Oh, no! We have to turn it off before it's too late!"
Less than a meter of space was left for the ponies trapped in the garbage room. They had all been forced to turn sideways, and were treading the rising sludge. Twilight had fallen under one of the snapped braces and was lying on her side, fighting to keep her head above the ooze. Nopony said anything; there were no more words to be said as the each of them felt the first touch of the closing walls.
No sooner had the pressure started to turn unbearable for the ponies between them than the walls reversed their course. Everypony started shouting in relief and celebrating; in the midst of the cacophony, Twilight almost missed the quiet pleas emitting from her comlink.
"Fluttershy," she asked into it, "are you there?"
"Oh thank goodness," a quiet voice responded, "I was so worried Angel didn't stop it in time. Is everypony alright?"
A giant grin adorned Twilight's face as she looked around at the four other ponies. Rainbow Dash had swooped down to hoofbump Big Mac in celebration, while Rarity had Celly in a most unladylike embrace.
"Yes, we're all okay, thanks to you two." Twilight waded over to the hatch blocking their exit. "Can you open the maintenance hatch on garb-?" The hatch opened before she could complete her sentence. Each pony filed out into the maintenance corridor, being sure to voice their thanks over Twilight's comlink.
"Alright, this'll be simple," Twilight started speaking as the group started moving again, "The controls for the tractor beam should be on or near this level. All we have to do is find a shaft that links to the main reactor and shut it down from there. Easy."
"If you can get that far," a smooth, deep voice replied. Everypony stopped.
Nightmare Moon was blocking their path.
All characters from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic are all owned by Hasbro, Inc.
Original story Star Wars: A New Hope by George Lucas
I wrote this chapter in many tiny sittings instead of one or two big sittings. Hopefully, it's not worse as a result.