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Book 2

At the Heart of the Rainboom Part 1

Rainbow Dash has spent the past two months performing as the opener for the Wonderbolts and stunning crowds with her wicked awesome skills. But when the Wonderbolts are finally ready to let her join their ranks can she reconcile the growing gap between her friends and the closing gap between her biggest dream?

This story is a standalone piece but is complemented with this story. They are part of an anthology, entitled Tales by Hoof.


         “Just breathe Rainbow Dash. You got this. They’re going to see you’re the best flyer in Equestria.” She took a deep breath. On the other side of the curtain she heard the mumbled roar of the crowd outside Fillydelphia. The sun hung low on her back and Rainbow Dash knew the time to make her dreams come true was here. Like all shows, the audience waited on the Wonderbolts, and didn’t quiet when the announcer read his script.

         Rainbow Dash whispered the words with him, “Winner of the Young Flyers Competition in Cloudsdale, a pony known for creating a sonic rainboom, this is Equestria’s newest star pegasi…” Rainbow Dash crouched low and fanned her wings out. She’d done this routine a dozen times, it didn’t have a sonic rainboom in it, even if Rainbow Dash could pull it off every show there wouldn’t be a point for her to be the Wonderbolts opener. “She’s promised a show that only the best flyers in Equestria can give, it’s…” the announcer said her name with a gusto she couldn’t repeat.

         Deep breath.

         She knew she was good, not like arrogant ponies thought they were good. When you’re born with a talent, when you spend your whole life rocketing up the ladder faster than anypony ever—she knew she could stun this crowd. But at the same time… what if she wasn’t as good as she thought? No, she was the best flyer. The best flyer.

         Breathe, Rainbow Dash.

         “Miss Rain-bow Dash!”

         The pegasus launched through the curtain so fast the fabric ripped in half, so fast the mic and pedestal of the announcer fell over. She was in the air. Her wings beating. She spent the past ten minutes warming up for this half minute of glory. On both sides of her she saw the blur of temporary stands on the wide field outside Fillydelphia. The field was a hundred pony lengths long, and on its floor rested a carpet of fog the pegasi set team for the Wonderbolts laid out an hour before.

         Rainbow Dash ascended, her mane pressed against her back as she shot in an oblique line across the field. She reached the end of the field, and felt the pressure of this most difficult part. She tipped her wings and body against her own momentum and went head over hooves in the air. Equestria spun and she felt the contents of a light afternoon dinner bounce around her stomach like an apple in a barrel rolling downhill. Her mane and tail flew out though, and at the speeds she went the crowd saw the spinning circle of rainbow shoot the length of ten ponies like whirling sparkler.

         She regained control and dove, the audience applauding while the speed ripped at her senses and flushed her whole body with its toxic joy. She needed to fly just outside the field so that when she got ten wing spans from the ground she swept up and came so close to the ground she could put her hooves back down. Rainbow Dash did, bounding through the fog, the thick waters soaking her and blinding her. She felt the stirs of panic, because if each bound wasn’t paced she risked messing up the entire show. It happened before, on her second night.

         She cut swaths through the fog, carving out a lightning bolt before she leapt back into the air. She spun, beating her wings to create a furious updraft of gust until the wind pulled the fog into the air and twisted about and she lost sight of the crowd again. She shot upward and the mist exploded at the top, blooming like a bouquet of flowers the height of forty ponies. The sun caught the top of the bouquet and a rainbow poured over it. The crowd went wild while they watched Rainbow Dash ascend.

         Because Spitfire shot past her, down to the fog and swept around the bouquet, following the arc of the rainbow. Rainbow Dash put on the breaks and spun to watch while Soarin plummeted past her. Spitfire finished half of her circle, the plume of thunderclouds shooting from her was complimented by Misty and Blast shaping the points on either end of the circle while Spitfire completed it, so that their contrails shaped a sun. All three finished at the apex and shot downward to meet Soarin when he shot through the middle of the sun, the massive friction in the air caused a spark of lightning, ignited by the misty vapors and thunderclouds.

         A blinding flash left most of the ponies of Fillydelphia blinking and mouths agape while the massive blue sun exploded into being, first as veins of lightning from the center like a crack in glass, then those filled with light and the sun hung in the air above the field. The explosion rocked the stands, the air rushed up and Rainbow Dash felt the heat prickle along her hide and the wind almost knock off her balance. The sound reached her then, like the hammer of ten thunderstorms striking the anvil at once.

         And that was how they opened their show, every night.

         Even the ponies still in the city were left in awe.


         Spitfire sighed and pulled the curtain back. She turned and said, “There’s another line outside the tent.”

         Soarin frowned. “Aww man, how is my pizza supposed to get here if the delivery guy can’t get past the crowd?”

         “You know how we appease them,” Spitfire stepped away from the tent flap. A team of brawny earth ponies kept the crowd from getting more than ten pony lengths to the wide open tent. Inside every piece of livable furniture could be found, the Wonderbolts relaxed in peace while Rainbow Dash sat at a table. She looked over a half-finished hay and sunflower seed sandwich to two of her idols.

         Spitfire said, “It’s your turn anyways. I’ll keep Tyco off your pizza while you’re busy.” Rainbow Dash watched Spitfire lean over and whisper something, when her eyes flicked to Rainbow Dash the pegasus found her sandwich fascinating. Then she heard, “Hey Rainbow Dash, how about you join Soarin out there?”

         Rainbow Dash head darted up. “What? Really? You mean, sign autographs and stuff, right?”

         Soarin said, “Well, yeah.”

         “Yes, yes, yes!”

         She leapt over the table in front of the two ponies, her wings sprung up. Spitfire chuckled and walked away. Soarin said, “Let’s go then.”

         They passed through the tent flap and on the other side a crowd of ponies cheered. There must’ve been a hundred of them. They all stomped their hooves and whistled and shouted when Soarin stood on his hindlegs and fanned out his wings. Cameras flashed and Rainbow Dash felt sheepish. She knew a lot about showboating, for sure, but only did it in front of her friends. Soarin used his wings to balance himself and grabbed Rainbow Dash. She blushed as the Wonderbolt raised her hoof in the air. The crowd kept cheering and Soarin leaned over and said, “You gotta learn to have fun with them, otherwise you’ll just go nuts.”

         A warmth flowed through the pegasus pony’s body, she felt like hours of practice worth this moment of glory, it felt justified. She didn’t know how Soarin could think anypony could go crazy when so much adoration was thrown at their feet.

         A few ponies from the security team brought out a table and then bunched around it, bristling their muscles to warn overenthusiastic fans. They didn’t care. When Rainbow Dash and Soarin reached the table the ponies rushed them.

         At once it all came down.

         “Oh my gosh Soarin I love you—”

         “You guys were just so amazing—”

         “For an opener you put on a heck of a performance—”

         “When will you make this one a Wonderbolt Soarin—”

     “Sign my cutie mark!”


         Rainbow Dash felt emotionally exhausted, but it had all the same enjoyable twinges she got when she had a day of really good practice. Her head was awhirl with compliments and adolation and how she earned it. Because she did, she was one of Equestria’s best flyers. Heck, one pony even threw a bunch of diamonds onto the table. Soarin had told Rainbow Dash, “That’s typical.”

         The last fan, a little pegasus filly with big green eyes for Soarin approached the table and said, “I don’t have anything to sign, but I was wonderin’ if you think, well, maybe someday I could fly with you guys.”

         Soarin chuckled. “I think with tons of practice you can do anything. But it’s hard. Like I love sleeping and pigging out on a nice pie every now and then, but sometimes you have to give up that stuff. It’s awesome though. And you know what? I think you’ll be an awesome flyer one day.”

         The filly gasped and swooned. One of the security ponies snatched her up before she fell, and helped her leave.

         Soarin sighed and said, “Glad that’s over. I’m going to look forward to this next week.”

         Rainbow Dash pulled her gaze away from the filly and asked, “Huh, why?”

         “Because we’re going to take a break, but the next month is going to suck. We’ll have to practice day in and day out to get our new routine right.”

         Rainbow Dash wings perked up. “A new routine? Are you guys going to bust out some sweet new moves, because I’ve been thinking of some and if you want I can show you, but that’s only if you want because you guys are so awesome and—I mean—you wrote the book on tricks.”

         Soarin laughed. “No, it’ll be an all new routine with some killer new tricks. But here’s the thing—well first I got to know if you can keep a secret.”

         “Umm… umm…” Rainbow Dash licked her lips. “Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”

         “Haha. Look at you getting all worked up. You sure you can handle this, dude?”

         “Yes! I mean—of course I can, dude. I can handle anything,” Rainbow Dash said and forced a smirk.

         Soarin leaned in and said, “Well, if you can keep it between us. We’re starting a new routine because we need to change things up if we want to add the pegasus we’ve been using as our opener to the team.” Soarin leaned back. He winked. “But don’t tell her. We don’t think she’s ready for the big news yet.”

         Rainbow Dash’s legs became weak. For a moment she thought she would fall over.

         Soarin said, “But I’ve got a pizza waiting for me. Later, Rainbow Dash.”

         He went back to the tent, the pegasus watched him go, she realized her mouth hung open. The shock simmered a moment longer, she heard the security team put up the table before it exploded in her.

         Rainbow Dash leapt into the air. Her heart racing, she was shouting. She screamed her throat raw. “I’m going to be a Wonderbolt! Yes! Yes! Everpony is going to know my name!” And she climbed and climbed, spiraling through the air until she rose so high the air became too thin for her to breathe. She dropped and dove. Her wings surging forward. She felt speed and force close around her. To a point. It spiraled up her body until she couldn’t do anything but follow through.

         Her heart beat so loudly she didn’t even hear the explosion behind her. She raced across the sky, over the city and back again, lighting up the night with an impossible rainbow. She could feel tears streaming down her cheeks. Equestria whirled underneath her.

         She landed in the empty field again. Alone, with the abandoned stands on both sides. She could hear in her ears the chant, “Dash, Dash, Rainbow Dash! Dash, Dash, Rainbow Dash!”

         This was her dream. Now it was her reality.

         Her heart pumped so fast she felt blood racing behind her eyes. She didn’t realize she pushed herself too hard until she fell over. She didn’t care if no pony helped her or not, if she lied there until the sun rose.

         She did it.

         Breathe, Rainbow Dash.


         The next day went by in a blur. The official announcement was made and Spitfire gave her a crash course on what it meant to be a Wonderbolt. After some begging, Rainbow Dash convinced them that an empty field between two hills east of Ponyville was the perfect place to learn their routine. With that said, the team split to return to friends and family, and Rainbow Dash went home.

         She wanted to fly. She felt like she could stay in the air forever, but she strained the other night and her wings could barely lift her off the ground. So she took the train. She stared out the window the entire time, watching the clouds go by and thinking of zooming through them. She felt impatient, like if she did fly she could beat the train. By afternoon she got off at a station and walked the last hour into Ponyville.

         The trip did do her wings some good. She stretched them out and tried her best to work them to their old flexibility. By the time she reached the quaint town she felt like she could fly again, and leapt into the air. Between imaginings of her future glory she thought of a killer way to announce her new title.

         She flew to Sugar Cube Corner and found the window to the second story open. Rainbow Dash floated in. On the bed on the far side of the room lied Gummy. The alligator opened one eye, then nuzzled himself deeper into the bed. Rainbow Dash frowned. She hoped Pinkie Pie would be home…

         The door to Pinkie Pie’s room and opened and Rainbow Dash heard, “I’m gonna check on Gummy real quick. Be back down faster than you can say, ‘Well I wonder what’s taking Pinkie Pie so long. I mean, really? That silly pony needs to hurry up. Yeesh.’”

         Down below Applejack said, “Ah’ll be able ta say it twice if ya don’t stop blabberin’, sugar cube.”

         Rainbow Dash sped to the door as Pinkie popped her head in. The pony’s eyes popped, but Rainbow Dash slapped her hoof over Pinkie’s mouth before she could gasp. Rainbow Dash whispered, “Don’t say a word, Pinkie. I need your help with a prank.”

         Rainbow Dash allowed Pinkie Pie to creep inside before she closed the door with her wing. When she did, Pinkie Pie tackled her and said, “Oh my gosh what are you doing back in town Dashie? My eyes thought they were nuts when they saw you because they were all like—”


         “well that can’t be her because she’s with the Wonderbolts. But then I noticed you’re cutie mark and—”


         “then I thought gosh it must be her, especially when you knew my name and stuff.”

         “You done?”

         Pinkie Pie grinned and nodded her head like a hummingbird flaps its wings.

         “Okay, can I get up?”

     “Oh, gee, sorry about that, Dashie.”

         Rainbow Dash got up and said, “Look, no pony knows I’m back in town yet. I’m going to sneak back over to my house, and later tonight, when the sun’s coming down, can you bring the girls here? Just right outside, though. I’ve got a wicked prank planned.”

         Pinkie bounced onto all fours and took the stance a dog would when it wants to play. “Oh what? What? Can you tell me?”

         Rainbow Dash shook her head. “No, I need this to be a total surprise. Can I trust you?”

         “Of course you can Dashie. And it’s so good to see you, we’ll have to throw a party when we get back. Oh, horseshoes I forgot about Applejack. I’ll see you later, Dashie!”

         “Just remember, at sundown.”

         “Of course,” Pinkie Pie said. She bounced to her door and opened it.

         Rainbow Dash heard Applejack say, “Ah reckon if Ah waited a moment longer Ah’d have been able ta say what ya said a dozen times. What took ya girl?”

         “Sorry Applejack. Gummy left me a surprise in my room.”

         “Eh-heh… that might be too much information for me, sugar cube.”


         Rainbow Dash returned to her home without any incident. No pony disturbed it. She found all the cloud sculpted furniture the way she left it, if it was a little worn. Cloud buildings needed occasional maintenance to keep them from evaporating. She remembered spending so much time on her home. When she first made it she figured she’d have the biggest house over Ponyville, all to herself.

         She loved her home. But when she got there and had a moment to relax, in the open spaces and relative silence, with the lazy sun her only piece of company, she remembered why she disliked staying there.


     “Okay Pinkie Pie. We’ve waited five minutes now while you just stared at the sky. What’s going on?” Twilight asked.

         “Yes, I’m sorry dear, but if I’m going to stay on schedule I have to finish one last dress tonight. Is this really important?” Rarity asked.

         Pinkie Pie frowned, she kept looking up, searching the skies. She glanced at the five ponies waiting outside Sugar Cube Corner and said, “Oh I’m sorry girls, but she swore she’d be here by now.”

         “Who swore they’d be here?” Applejack asked.

         Fluttershy wasn’t sure she liked waiting, especially this close to being dark. Some nights she had problems with the dark, especially when it carried a chilly wind like this one.

         “Oh, I can’t tell you though! I promised!”

         “Um… well, did you promise to make sure we’d stay here? Because if you did I’d be happy to stay, but… well, it is getting dark,” Fluttershy said.

         “And I’d prefer not staying up too late,” Rarity said. “When I do my mane is such a mess in the morning.”

         “Just five more minutes. Oh please you guys—” Pinkie Pie stopped and pointed her hoof behind them. “There!”

         Fluttershy tried to turn around, but a blue blur fwooshed overhead. She squeaked and shut her eyes. She heard Twilight sputter, “R-Rainbow Dash.”

         She opened her eyes and no pony was there. But everyone was looking up. Fluttershy frowned and heard Twilight say, “I can’t see her. She disappeared behind those clouds.”

     Fluttershy scanned the sky and spotted the outline of a pegasus zip outside the clouds. She said, “Is that her?”


         The ponies became frantic again. Rainbow Dash moved so fast they couldn’t keep up with where she went.

         “What in the hay was all that about?”

         “Indeed, that was the most bizarre,” Rarity said, “Was that even her?”

         “Was that who?”

         Fluttershy squeaked again and almost fell over, she spun around and their stood Rainbow Dash.

         “Rainbow Dash!” Applejack swept a hoof over the pegasus’ neck and gave her a noogie with her other hoof. “Ah don’t know if Ah should hit ya or hug ya with that stunt you pulled.”

         Fluttershy got her hooves under her while Rainbow Dash slipped out of Applejack’s grasp. “Stunt, what are you talking about?”

         “You flew right into the middle of us and then shot into the air,” Twilight said.

         “You ponies crazy? I just got here. And I walked.”

         Behind them Fluttershy heard Pinkie Pie giggle.

         “Aww forget ya then. Watcha doin’ home anyways?”

         “Oh that?” Rainbow Dash’s head perked up. She strutted between the ponies, reached the steps to Sugar Cube Corner and said, “The Wonderbolts are taking a weeklong break before they work on a sick new routine.”

         “Really? So what are you going to do while they’re busy with that?” Twilight asked.

         Rainbow Dash hopped into the air, landed on the roof of Sugar Cube Corner and spun around. She said, “Well… I might be a little busy myself, since I’ll be practicing the same routine.”

         Fluttershy gasped. A soft little thing no one heard, but… wow. She said, “Oh good for you, Rainbow Dash!”

         “Now what’s goin’ on now?” Applejack asked, looking from one pegasus to another. “Don’t be playin’ around Rainbow Dash. We’re happy ta see ya and all but we can’t take much more foolin’ around.”

         “You ponies are only looking at the next and greatest Wonderbolt to ever live,” Rainbow Dash said.

         “That’s fantastic, Rainbow Dash.”

         “Bravo, Rainbow Dash.”

         “Oh, Dashie, that’s great.”

         Applejack said, “Ah can already see it gettin’ to your head. But Ah reckon you deserve it. You are the best flyer in Equestria, after all.”

         “Course I am. But I got a week to rest, and then the Wonderbolts are coming here and we’re gonna practice our new routine right outside of town. It’s going to be so awesome!” She jumped off the roof and fluttered down to the girls. Pinkie Pie squeezed her into a hug and the others joined in. They had their moment and Rainbow Dash said, “Hey easy on the wings. I’m gonna need those.”


         The library door flew open and Spike almost fell. He grabbed the side of the ladder he stood on and looked over his shoulder. Twilight and Applejack entered the library, in the middle of a conversation.

         “Well Ah’m glad she’s here. Even if it’s for a short while, anyway. Pinkie Pie needs someone who can keep up with her,” Applejack said before she closed the door.

         “Who’s here?” Spike asked to remind them he still existed.

         “Rainbow Dash came back today,” Twilight said. “And she told us some great news. She’s going to become a Wonderbolt.”

         Applejack nickered. She said, “Ah’m not so sure if it’s great news or not, though.”

         Spike said, “But it’s her dream. I mean, she’s been drooling over the Wonderbolts for so long—”


         “What? She has, I don’t remember her not talking about them and getting a cloudy look in her eyes,” Spike said. He decided to turn away from the ponies and keep on with his dusting. He stretched his tiny limbs far as he could to reach a book on far side of the shelf. He’d rather risk falling over than climbing all the way down, nudging the ladder over, and climbing all the way back up. His chores were already chores enough without stacking another chore on top.

         Twilight said, “You know, I thought I did notice something go across your face when she made her announcement. What’s worrying you?”

         “Just that there’s more hot air under her wings than wind,” Applejack said. “Ah love Rainbow Dash, Ah do, and Ah wish the best for her, but ya know how she gets. All bluster and such. A pony can’t hardly tell when she’s upset or not. And she was just the opener for them Wonderbolts and we didn’t see her for two months.”

         Spike balanced on his toes. Just one more corner...

         “You make a good point,” Twilight said, “But if it’s what she wants… we’re her friends Applejack. We have to support her no matter what.”

         Ah-ha! With one more flick of his wrist Spike got that final spot. But he couldn’t get himself back onto the ladder, he was poised with his duster propped against the nook at the back of the bookshelf.

         Neither pony noticed. “Um… guys.”

         “Ah know. But a pony can worry. Ah reckon we’ll just see what happens.”

         “Help.” Dust still lingered in the air. Spike’s nose began to twitch.

         “If it’s bothering you so much, why not talk to her about it?”

         Spike’s eyes watered. “Hey guys.”

         “Suppose Ah will, guess Ah came here first ta get my feelin’s sorted. Thanks, Twilight.”

         “Anytime, Applejack. How are things between you and your brother?”

         “We made up. He apologized for leavin’ and Ah, well Ah apologized myself. We’re not sure how ta tell Applebloom ’bout it. Far as she knows, he went ta Fillydelphia to pay that pony.”

         Spike’s arm began to ache. He couldn’t fight it anymore. He just needed to turn away from the bookcase so he didn’t fry any books. He spun and sneezed, “Achoo!” A jet of green flame shot up to the ceiling and seared the wood. It had a fire retardant finish, for obvious reasons. The floor met him and Spike’s skull bounced on the floor.

         “Oh my gosh, Spike!”

         Spike groaned and rubbed his head. Twilight knelt behind him and propped the baby dragon up with her hoof. Applejack asked, “What happened?”

         Spike closed his eyes and waited for the throbbing in his head to stop. He felt the creep of magic spread across his scalp and a tingling soothed his pain. He said, “Thank you. I guess I was trying to get this spot on the shelf up there, but when I got it I couldn’t get back to the ladder.”

         “Well why didn’t you say something, you silly dragon?”

         Spike clenched his fist and glared at her.


         “Hey ya, Applejack.”

         Applejack looked up from her work. She hitched a line around the end of the tree Big Macintosh ruined. Her brother asked her to take care of it. He wasn’t comfortable with the site. Applejack figured she owed her brother as much, and there was more than enough work for him to do while she took care of this little favor.

         Above her Rainbow Dash perched on the branches of a nearby tree. Applejack said, “Howdy Rainbow Dash, never expected ya up this early in the mornin’.”

         Rainbow Dash said, “Well now that I’m a Wonderbolt I’ve got to keep up a daily regimen.”

         “Mmhmm. What are ya doin’ here?”

         Rainbow Dash shrugged. “None of the other ponies are up yet. Hey what happened to that tree, it get struck by lightning or something?”

         “Somethin’ a little more mighty than that.” With the help of hooves and teeth, she cinched the rope tight around the mass of branches. She felt rainbow Dash watching her the whole time and it made her a tad bit uncomfortable. She faced the blue pegasus pony and asked, “So how was flyin’ around with the Wonderbolts?”

         “Oh, it was awesome. You should see them Applejack their show is just… it’s amazing.”

         “Ah bet it’ll be even better a month from now.”

         “Oh, yeah, well duh.” She jumped down from the tree and said, “The only thing they’ve ever been missing is me.”

         Applejack said, “Now, don’t ya forget about us simpler ponies when ya become a big star.”

         “I’ll send you guys postcards or something,” Rainbow Dash said.

         “Course ya will,” Applejack said. “But Ah mean it, don’t go chasin’ stars if it means givin’ up the ground.” She kicked the branches with her hind-hoof and said, “How ’bout ya remind yourself by helpin me move this?”

         “Pfft. I can move that by myself.”

         “Oh really? Ya wanna make that a bet then?”

         “Only if you’re prepared to lose,” Rainbow Dash said.

         Applejack took the rope she planned drag the branches with and tossed it to Rainbow Dash. “It’s all yours then, sugar cube.”


         Pinke Pie poised on the edge of the fountain, her arms stretched out like a diver. She made a show taking long, deep breaths.

         “Just go for it Pinkie,” Rainbow Dash said.

         Pinkie Pie twisted her head around and stuck her tongue out. She held her nose up and said, “I’ve never. I’m an artist. An artiste! And I must have absolute silence, or as much silence as one can get with a fountain making noise. Anypony need to go to the bathroom by the way? Oh, I mean—I am an artiste!” She bent her knees, and leapt backwards, away from the fountain. She twisted her body and extended her front hooves. The top of her head hit the ground with her hooves and she spun herself. Rainbow Dash, the fountain, and park warped into a multi-colored haze. She spun and spun and shifted her body weight and came to a stop on her side, an elbow on the ground, hoof propping her head up. She reclined on her side and said to Rainbow Dash, “Draw me like one of your Manehattan girls.”

         Rainbow Dash chortled. She almost fell over while Pinkie Pie got up and shook dirt from her mane. They’d been having tons of fun these past few days. The Cakes didn’t mind her absence, one day they even let Rainbow Dash help with cooking. Oh, she was so awful, but in a good way. Like a funny awful, at least, she thought it was funny to see a Wonderbolt cook. Mrs. Cake didn’t want them cooking again after that. She had a policy against Pinkie’s friends and Baked Bads.

         Rainbow Dash said, “You’re so… how does that not hurt?”

         Pinkie Pie poked her mane, “Poofy.” She noticed a pegasus flying towards them. Pinkie Pie pointed the pegasus out and said, “Hey who’s that?”

         Rainbow Dash turned around and gasped. “Spitfire!” Rainbow Dash’s knees wobbled, but she shook her head and mumbled something before the other pegasus reached them. The pegasus was pretty flying. She looked like a streak of flame. Pinkie Pie wondered why her name wasn’t comet, or meteorite, but she supposed meteorite would be bad. Twilight said they always burned up before they could ever land. And even pegasus ponies needed to put their hooves on the ground sometime.

         Rainbow Dash said, “Hey Spitfire. It hasn’t been a week already, has it? Not that I’m not ready or anything. I’m always ready.”

         “We still have another day,” the other pony said. She tilted her head towards Pinkie Pie, “Who’s your friend?”

         Pinkie Pie smiled and bounced to the other pegasus. “I’m Pinkie Pie—are you new to town? Because if you’re going to be here for a while then the whole town’s going to need to meet you and the best way to do that is with—”

         “Pinkie Pie is a friend of mine,” Rainbow Dash said. She chuckled and scraped the ground with her back hoof. “I… so why did you come early?”

         Spitfire said, “To visit the town. Get to know it beforehand. I don’t think we’ve ever gotten the chance to do a show here. Normally these small places are just too small. But I like it.”

         “Just wait until you try some of the food here—”

         Rainbow Dash rested a wing on Pinkie Pie’s flank. She said, “How about I give you a tour then? I mean, we can visit that spot I was telling you guys about and maybe talk about our wicked new routine.”

         “Sounds great. Guess I’ll see you around… Pinkie Pie?”

         Pinkie Pie said, “See you around, Comet.”

         “Right… lead on, Rainbow Dash.” Spitfire and Rainbow Dash flew away, chatting all the while. Pinkie Pie frowned and watched Rainbow Dash go.


         Stupid bed and stupid soft pillows and stupid everything. Thank Celestia Pinkie Pie decided to bug her. She would’ve slept even longer, she shouldn’t have given up on her sleep schedule. She just knew she was out of shape and everything else, she had to have flew faster days ago than she did right now.

         Rainbow Dash sped over Ponyville and to the field. Spitfire told her they would be there at the crack of dawn to plan out their routine and then start with some basic maneuvers. She wouldn’t know a thing about the routine and they’d hate her before she ever got the chance to fly.

         Rainbow Dash reached the field. It was pockmarked with different colored flowers, and swept down off a south hill the length of a hundred ponies before it rose to meet the crest of a hill to the north. On the northern hill Rainbow Dash made out a group of pegasi. She sped to them and when she reached the hill a few spared her a glance.

         Spitfire broke off from the group and met her. She said lowly, “This isn’t a habit, is it?”

         “No, course not. Somepony was supposed to wake me up and she didn’t. It won’t happen again.”

         Spitfire nodded. “Just make sure it doesn’t. Nopony’s going to make a big deal out of it since nothing much has been done today. Tomorrow may be a different story, though.”

         Rainbow Dash nodded. She didn’t dare ask what she missed, she’d pick up her slack, not give more. Both approached the group. They stood around a large scroll rolled across the grass with several different sketches for different maneuvers and tricks. Tyco, a fire maned pegasus with a white streak, led the discussion. Rainbow Dash scanned the scroll, but couldn’t make any sense out of it. None of the ponies were labeled, so she couldn’t tell who was who.

         Tyco said, “Then if you look right here, we’re going to have Misty come through going full speed. She’s going to stretch these clouds out so they look like a funnel, Blizzard and Blast will spiral around them from the other side.”

         Rainbow Dash gasped. She said, “You guys are gonna—”

         “A belly up tornado isn’t anything we haven’t done before,” Blast said. Blast matched Spitfire in most looks, she missed the yellow streak in her mane, and her wings were larger. The two were cousins.

         “I’ve got something to put a twist on it.”

         Soarin chuckled and Blizzard glared at him. “What? I thought it was funny. Twist, twister?”

         “No one else appreciates your puns, Tyco. For our benefit, why don’t you tell us what you got drawn there,” Misty said. She pointed her hoof at a sketch of a tornado, a pegasus barreling to the twister’s tip.

         “Soarin is the biggest, so he’s going to shoot right up the middle,” Tyco said.

         Rainbow Dash said, “You can’t just send a pony through there.”

         “Hey I don’t know if I’m too comfortable going through that, either,” Soarin said. “A crash and burn isn’t any fun.”

         “Don’t worry about it. Spitfire and Rainbow Dash are going to lead you in, you’re going to use their speed to help slingshot you into the thing. Then boom,” he pressed a hoof on the last stage of the sketch, “out the other side.”

         Everyone squinted at his next sketch.

         Misty asked, “What is that exactly?”

         “It’s a rose.”


         “Look, cloud sculpting is abstract at the best of times. Let’s just move on to something else.”

         They made it through the rest of the scroll. At first Rainbow Dash tried to make herself a part of the conversation, but she was never the star of any of their wicked awesome tricks. She supposed she didn’t mind, but she just flew alongside ponies and didn’t do a single thing the Wonderbolts were known for. And she noticed, every time she spoke nopony really listened to her. Her words passed them over like a cloud too high for a pegasus to clear.

         She didn’t mean to, but well, she started watching the field. At first she imagined all the cool tricks she’d show them, but then she watched a pair of hummingbirds zipping around, fighting over territory. Their aerial duel reminded Rainbow Dash of thunderclouds, shooting lightning at each other. Bam, flash, in one place, then another the next—

         Tyco cleared his throat. “For the finale we’re going to need you at you best.”

         “Huh?” Rainbow Dash flinched. “Oh. Oh right—um… I’m always at my best.”

         Tyco glanced at Spitfire. Rainbow Dash didn’t see the look Spitfire returned, just that the pegasus shrugged her wings. Soarin said, “Hey look at those hummingbirds go at it.”

         Misty smacked his shoulder.

         Tyco said, “Alright. I need to know right now. Can you do the sonic rainboom? I know you’ve done it twice for us, one time when you didn’t mean to. But you need to be able to do that every show. I’m thinking I want to debunk it as an old mare’s tale.”

         Rainbow Dash made herself as tall as she could. She didn’t even mean for her wings to fan out when she said, “Does Celestia make the sun rise?”

         “Good to hear it. Now what I’m thinking is using that as the closer, about at the height of the cumulus cloud. I don’t want anyone in the audience to get hurt, you get any closer to the ground and you call it off. I mean it. Last thing we want is the another show where somepony messes up and ponies get hurt.”

         Rainbow Dash heard everything he said, but the only thing she listened to was the word “closer”. Any show started with its second best trick and closed with its best. The first to get the audience riveted, the last to make them remember. Her heart sped up. Even if she just spent the next month practicing the sonic rainboom, she’d have it down so good she could pull it off in ten seconds flat.

         “Now, with that said, Rainbow Dash is going to blow up the sky, which means the audience is going to be looking up. We’ll have some petty thing to keep their attention while you’re getting ready Rainbow Dash, and then we’ll divert them to you. After the rainboom is the important part. At the front of the field, you’re going to make a lightning bolt, just sort of make it and loop back around. We’ll all join up and meet you through it at the center. This trick is yours Rainbow Dash, it’s what you’ll be practicing the second half of this month. You need to be able to do it in your sleep.”

         Rainbow Dash smirked. “Please. I’ll do it in my sleep, and I’ll do it backwards.”

         “Sounds like somepony’s ready to go,” Spitfire said. “Okay, thank you, Tyco. Now let’s run through warm-ups and then we’ll start with some formation flying just for today.”


         Scootaloo sat at the crest of the southern hill while her friends watched. The filly perked up her wings and said, “There’s Rainbow Dash.” Out on the field spun a twister, recently created by the Wonderbolts. Clumps of dirt and flowers spun through it, and at the sharp end Rainbow Dash and another pony swept down together with a bigger one right behind them.

         Rainbow Dash and the other Wonderbolt split and the bigger pony flew right into the cloud. A second later he shot through the side, spinning and hurtling to the ground. He righted himself in time and landed on his hooves, tripped and fell over. One of the ponies in the air shouted at him. Sweetie Belle could just hear the crashed pony say, “A wad of dirt flew into my face!”

         Sweetie Belle sighed and said, “Hey Scoot, come on. You’ve been watching these ponies fly around sun up to sun down forever now. We’re wanting to do something else for once.”

         “Just a minute,” Scootaloo said without looking at Applebloom or Sweetie Belle. “They almost got it that time.”

         Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes. She said to Applebloom, “I don’t think she’s ever going to move.”

         Applebloom frowned and said, “Aww, come on, Scootaloo. These guys ain’t even fun ta watch crash no more. Ah know there are plenty of fun things to do. How ’bout it?”

         Scootaloo shoulders heaved as she let out an exaggerated sigh. She turned and said, “Alright. I guess I can for you. But it better be something awesome.” Scootaloo trotted past Sweetie Belle, her eyes narrowed on the pair as they started away.

         She mumbled, “But you can’t for me, huh?”


         Rainbow Dash kicked the front door closed. With that blessed moment of privacy, she fell onto her haunches and groaned. Her everything hurt now, not just her wings. She didn’t show it or she tried not to, in fact she thought she hid it pretty well. A few twinges here when they stretched, but nothing bad. No groaning, she’d never do that in front of a Wonderbolt.

         With knobby knees and dead weight wings, Rainbow Dash stood and made her long trek to her bedroom.

         But there were things to be excited about. Every morning they ran through the first half of the show, and they had it nailed down. It was so awesome, she couldn’t wait until ponies everywhere saw it. Already plenty of the ponies out in Ponyville would picnic on the southern hill.

         As she ascended the stairs to her room Rainbow Dash thought of her own ascension. In the past three days she managed to pull off two sonic rainbooms. In another week she wouldn’t need to try anymore. Just sweep down and stun every pony ever with how awesome she was.

         Rainbow Dash reached her bed. The most awesome bed ever. The best bed, no bed could be soft like it could be soft. Like sleeping on a cloud…

         Knock. Knock.

         Rainbow Dash groaned and turned back around. Downstairs somepony knocked on the door again. She sighed and said, “I’m coming.”

         Rainbow Dash reached the door and took a deep breath. She opened it and Pinkie Pie’s head popped in. She leaned out the balloon she rode there and said, “Oh my gosh Rainbow Dash we haven’t done anything together in three weeks! Can you believe it? I couldn’t, I mean we talked a few times but you were always so tired and like, ‘I need to go to bed so I can wake up early and be awesome with my awesome Wonderbolts because we’re like twenty percent cooler than every other pony.’” She leaned back into her balloon and glanced away. “And I suppose that was okay but—”

         Rainbow Dash closed the door, gently. She still heard Pinkie Pie muffled blabber sound off. Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes and opened the door, “—and holy smokes here you are now. We just got to make up for lost time, don’tcha think?”

         Rainbow Dash said, “Now’s not the best time Pinkie Pie. I’ve been working my tail off lately—”

         “Oh then we can play pin the tail on the pony then!”

         “No,” Rainbow Dash said. She sighed, “I’m sorry Pinkie, I just... I need a break, a nice long break. The first chance we can get, we’ll have some fun, okay?”

         “Well, okay. See you later Dashie.”

         “See ya,” Rainbow Dash said. She closed the door and sighed. She fled to her bed and nearly leapt in. She snuggled herself deep into her sweet mattress.

         Knock. Knock.

         “Gah—no, go away!” Rainbow Dash rolled over and squeezed her eyes shut.

         Knock. Knock.

         Rainbow Dash nickered and dragged herself from the bed. She returned to her front door and yanked it open. This time she spotted Fluttershy flying away.

         Rainbow Dash flared her nostrils. “Fluttershy. Was it you knocking on my door?”

         Fluttershy wheeled around and cringed when she saw Rainbow Dash. “Oh, I’m sorry Rainbow Dash. I—you we’re probably sleeping. I’ll just go.”

         “Well I’m up now,” Rainbow Dash said. “What do you want?”

         Fluttershy hesitated, then flew to Rainbow Dash’s doorstep. “Well… if you don’t mind… there’s this dried up garden patch of carrots. Wild carrots, and there are so many cute little animals that use it for food—”

         “Spit it out, will ya?”

         Fluttershy squeaked and cast her gaze down. “I’m so sorry. I just… I was hoping you could maybe help me move some clouds over there to get it to rain. You’re just so much better at it than me, and if you—”

         “Some other time.” Rainbow Dash closed the door on her face.


         “Oh, well, okay. I’m sorry to bother you,” Fluttershy said before she drifted down to the ground. There Applejack and Twilight stood with Pinkie Pie, the balloon right beside them.

         Applejack said when Fluttershy landed before them, “Ah don’t suppose she’s just tidyin’ up the place before you two leave.”

         Fluttershy shook her head. “No, she didn’t want to talk to me at all.”

         “Ah see.” Applejack narrowed her eyes at Twilight.

         Twilight ignored her and said, “It’s okay Fluttershy. You and Pinkie Pie don’t worry about it. We just wanted to see if she could. We’ll make up for it with her surprise party next week.”


         Twilight’s legs began to burn, she felt tempted to just lie down, rather than remain in this crouch. Applejack shared her sentiments. The farm pony said, “If she doesn’t show up soon Ah’m goin’ ta fall over.”

         All five of Rainbow Dash’s friends waited in Sugar Cube Corner, only the windows allowed soft moonlight to creep into the shadow wrapped room. Rarity asked, “You did give her the right time, dear?”

         Pinkie Pie said, “Oh I’m sure I did. I left her a dozen invitations too, all over the place. In her house, her mailbox, in the field, even between her wings.”

         Applejack sighed.

         “Um… I think I hear something,” Fluttershy said.

         The door opened. With her magic, Twilight turned on the lights. Rarity and Applejack jumped up from behind the counter, Pinkie Pie bounced around the corner, and Twilight leapt to her feet. “Surprise!” they yelled.

         “Surprise.” Fluttershy had just came down from the stairway. Her gaze swept the room and she climbed a step back up the stairs. “Oops, I didn’t mean to be late.”

         Rainbow Dash smiled. “Aww, you guys shouldn’t.” Rarity gasped. Twilight almost did too. Their fastest flyer’s wings were a mess, the feathers unkempt and desperate for a preening. There were bags under her eyes, matts in her mane, and a general stench that drifted from her.

         She stepped inside. “Sorry I’m late. I just got done with our last day of training.”

         “We know,” Twilight said. She watched them run through the show once, it was an impressive sight. The Wonderbolts practiced the whole show at least four more times, over the course of the day they saw five sonic rainbooms rattle the chimneys of Ponyville.

         Pinkie Pie popped in front of Rainbow Dash like a jack in the box.

         “Don’t worry about it now Dashie. We got this super mega awesome party for you. We spent all day—well I spent all yesterday too—getting it ready for you. We’ve got the best cake ever, and I borrowed a record from Lyra of that one group you like, and all sorts of games—”

         Rainbow Dash yawned and smacked her lips. “I think we need to take it easy on the games Pinkie.”

         Twilight glanced around the room. Rarity and Applejack both gave her a look. Twilight said, “How about some tunes then? Where’d you put that record, Pinkie?”

         “Oh my gosh I’ll go put it on right now. Thanks Twilight,” Pinkie Pie said and sped to grab her phonogram.

         Rainbow Dash stepped inside and closed the door. Her eyes lingered on the poster of pin the tail on the pony and apple bobbing barrel beside it. Twilight asked, “So how is all the practice going, Rainbow Dash?”

         “Huh? Oh it’s great. I’m fitting in way easy. They love me.”

         “And they’re not working you too hard, darling?” Rarity asked.

         Rainbow Dash said, “No. I mean it’s tough, but awesome tough. Like always hitting that next challenge and everything. I’m really good now, like loads better than that silly pony flying around a month ago.”


         “Here it is everypony,” Pinkie Pie said. She hefted the phonogram down the stairs, standing on her hind hooves with the music player wrapped in her front. Fluttershy gasped, hesitated, then helped her. They got it to the floor and after Pinkie Pie caught her breath, she put on the record and started it.

         After a short pause, the phonogram squealed with the high note of a guitar. The noise broke into a high-octane solo, with drums and a thrumming bass falling in behind it. Then music took a turn for a slower tempo while some rock pony belted out lyrics. No pony moved for a moment, then Pinkie threw up her hooves and said, “Let’s dance.”

         They tried. Pinkie Pie made sure everypony got to moving their hooves, but well, Rainbow Dash’s taste for music was not the best for dancing. Fluttershy and Rarity bumbled about, the swinging guitar hooks and thumping drums did not offer them a rhythm they found natural, Applejack was just bad at any dance not a square dance, and Rainbow Dash was so tired… Pinkie Pie tried, everypony tried.

         Twilight regretted her suggestion.

         Five minutes later Rainbow Dash stopped and said, “I don’t know if I’m up for dancing yet.”

         Pinkie Pie froze. She stood on her hind-hooves, Gummy hanging from her mane, and a glowstick in a hoof. Applejack grabbed her and said, “We’ll bring out your cake then, Rainbow Dash. Twilight, turn the music down, if ya would.”

         Applejack whisked Pinkie Pie into the back of the bakery. Twilight used her magic to turn the phonogram down while Rarity said, “I think you’re going to find your cake simply smashing. I designed it, took most of my afternoon. The taste is just a divine, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie outdid themselves. Didn’t you dear?”

         Fluttershy nodded and said, “Oh yes. It’s… well Pinkie Pie did most of the baking. I helped pick out ingredients mostly. But it should be very good.”

         “Okay,” Rainbow Dash said. “I’ll take your guy’s word for it.”

         “Here it comes now,” Twilight said and turned on the door when she heard it swing open. Applejack and Pinkie Pie carted out a massive cake. It was in the shape of the Wonderbolt lightning bolt, with the wings sprouted from the sides. The point met at a green pedestal, and some pony used several dyed icings to show the spread of an explosion of color. The sonic rainboom. Six small pegasi flew out from the back and arced over the cake, their contrails of thunder clouds made from black licorice.

         Twilight heard a long and low, “Whoa…” She felt a small flush of relief ease the tension in her belly. They all wanted Rainbow Dash so badly to have a fun time.

         Rainbow Dash floated into the air and swirled around the cake, taking in every aspect of it. “This is so awesome. I’ve never seen a cake so cool. Do we have to eat it? I mean. Can we keep it like this? It’s just—whoa thanks guys!”

         “Not a problem, sugar cube,” Applejack said.

         Twilight said, “How about a picture before we eat. You’ve got a camera, don’t you Pinkie?”

         “Well of course! I’ll go get it.”

         Pinkie Pie raced upstairs with her improbable pet latched onto her tail. In an instant she was downstairs again and past the five of them. She said, “Gather up everypony. Let’s take a picture.”

         They all gathered around, Twilight and Fluttershy sat together at the base of the cake. Rainbow Dash hovered over it and Applejack and Rarity stood at its side. “Say dapple apples!” The camera flashed before they even got past their grins. Pinkie Pie set down the camera and said, “Okay, time to eat—”

         “Wait!” Rainbow Dash said. “I’m sorry guys, but it’s just so cool. Can we keep it up for a minute longer?”

         Twilight said, “Sure? Rarity, you and Fluttershy had a present for her, didn’t you?”

         Rarity held her head higher than she already did. “I don’t know how Fluttershy and I had time to make something this fabulous. You’ll simply love it.”

         Rarity’s horn glowed and in the corner of the room a dressing screen folded up. Behind it waited a dressed mannequin, with a suit like a Wonderbolt’s, only the cuffs and ankles held a rainbow lightning bolt. The bolt started on the side and wrapped down behind the sleeve. The normal lightning bolt on the outfit reflected Rainbow Dash’s cutie mark. The rest of the suit seemed the same.

         Rarity said, “It’s your own personal Wonderbolts outfit dear! We tried for something that would make you standout, but wouldn’t look gaudy beside those other outfits. There was so much more I wanted to do with it, but Fluttershy reminded me you weren’t supposed to steal the show.”

         “I didn’t want you getting in trouble,” Fluttershy said.

         “It’s great you guys,” Rainbow Dash said. She approached the mannequin and looked it over. She nuzzled the fabric and asked Rarity, “Hey, what’s this stuff made out of?”

         “It’s two layers of fabric, dear. Silk on the inside, to keep you comfortable, and a sleek satin to get that color.”

         Rainbow Dash frowned. Her wings drooped and she faced the girls again. “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to wear this. All the Wonderbolts have to wear this sweaty, poly-something something. It’s supposed to protect us and stuff.”

         “Oh… I… I suppose it will just look magnificent when you wear it while giving autographs,” Rarity said.

     Twilight intervened again. “How about we get some cake then?”

         “I’m down for that. Going to miss that cake, though. It’s so awesome.”

         “Pinkie Pie will send ya the picture,” Applejack said.

         “I’ll make copies for everypony,” Pinkie Pie said.

         Pinkie Pie already busied herself grabbing a knife. When she found one, Twilight offered to cut off a piece from the top before the pink pony could cause a disaster. She took off six neat slices and dropped them on waiting plates before she levitate the plates around.

         “Let us know what you think Dashie,” Pinkie Pie said before she chomped off a massive wedge of cake.

         “No problem, Pinkie Pie.” Twilight watched Rainbow Dash take a bite. She chewed the cake for a minute, her eyes screwed up in mock concentration then they went wide. She swallowed and stuck out her tongue. “Bleck. I hate blueberries.”

     Out the corner of her eye, Twilight saw Fluttershy grimace.

         Rainbow Dash noticed the donkey she made of herself and shook her head. “The rest of it’s great, I swear. It’s awesome, but I just can’t stand blueberries. You guys can eat, though.”

         Twilight caught Applejack looking at her. She glanced at the orange pony and saw the intense stare that said, “Do something.”

         Twilight opened her mouth to make another suggestion when a bell tower in Ponyville began to its slow bong… bong… bong…

         Rainbow Dash glanced at the door and said, “Gosh is it that late already.” The bell rang seven more times. Rainbow Dash said, “I need to go. Got to get up super early. I guess I’ll see you guys?”

         “Um… I guess?” Twilight said.

     “Right, thanks,” Rainbow Dash said before she retreated out the door. Applejack blew past Twilight, and chased Rainbow Dash outside.


         Applejack rushed into a gallop when she noticed Rainbow Dash already took to the air. She shouted, “Rainbow Dash! Rainbow Dash! Wait just an apple pickin’ minute ya stinkin’ pegasus.”

         Rainbow Dash spun around and Applejack stopped. They made it half a hundred pony lengths in a few seconds.

         “Why are ya so eager ta leave?” Applejack demanded.

         Rainbow Dash floated down to a few paces before her. Her face hard to make out in the moonlight. She said, “I just have to get to bed early. I’m not going to sleep in again.”

         “That’s fine and dandy. Shucks if ya want Ah can wake ya up tomorrow to be sure. But ya just don’t run out on your friends like that.”

         “I didn’t run out on anyone.”

         Applejack snorted. “Okay, ya didn’t run out. Ya zipped out on your wings so fast every other pony didn’t hardly get the chance ta blink.”

         “Fine, maybe I was a bit rushed. But you know what? I have a right to act this way. I’m tired Applejack. I’m just tired and while I’m happy with everything I’ve done and I don’t regret a second of it, it’s still the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I wake up and even my aches have aches, okay? I know it’ll get better after tomorrow. When we don’t have to spend every moment of the day perfecting a routine, but for now I’m tired.”

         Applejack scratched the dirt with a hoof. “That still don’t give ya the right ta treat your friends like a bunch of rotten apples.”

         “Maybe that’s what you saw. But that whole party was an awkward mess and we both know it. Look, I loved the cake and the gift, and I loved what you guys were trying to do, but I can’t deal with it right now.”

         “My party was a mess?” Pinkie Pie’s squeak made Applejack freeze. She glanced over her shoulder and saw everypony now stood ten paces behind her.

         Rainbow Dash just noticed them as well. She said, “No, it’s not you Pinkie. I’m just tired.”

         “Well if you’re tired take a day or two off. Ya can’t kill yourself, you’re just a pony—”

         “No, I’m a Wonderbolt now!” Rainbow Dash said. “And if every other Wonderbolt is handling this just fine, well then so can I. If that’s what it takes—”

         “This isn’t about what it takes or what it don’t take ya stupid pony!” Applejack said. “It’s about your friends, worryin ’bout ya and tryin’ their best ta understand and support ya, but ya don’t hardly give us the time of day no more.”

         “Because I don’t have the time. Aren’t you listening Applejack? I’m so tired it hurts to just stay in the air like this.”

         “Then put your hooves on the ground before Ah force ya to!”

         “I won’t. I can’t let something like this beat me. You know what? You aren’t even listening. Some friend you are. I’d hope somepony would at least try to support me with this, but it always has to be about yourself. Fine. I’m done. I didn’t want to go to your stupid party anyways.”

         Rainbow Dash turned and catapulted into the air. Her flight path wavered, but she soon dropped out of sight behind the roofs and homes of Ponyville.


         Rainbow Dash felt like her whole insides were ready to come up. She didn’t care. She wanted them to understand. She wasn’t trying to be awful or anything, but stupid Applejack and her stupid pride. She made her say those things in front of Pinkie Pie and the others. Rainbow Dash didn’t want to turn back now, she didn’t want to face any of it. She wanted to fly all the way to Canterlot where she would do her first show as a Wonderbolt for the princess herself. The princess would be stopping to see her, just her.

         And none of them cared. None of them. Rainbow Dash sped through the night, with no flight path, no destination. But she reminded herself of the Wonderbolt’s camp outside of town and changed her course. She’d show them, show them all.

         Breathe, Rainbow Dash.

Part Two

Book 1

Pink Ladies and Sour Apples Part 1


Big Macintosh has been married to the farm his whole life, so it stands to reasoning that he never had time to spare for a mare. But when Applebuck Season arrives and Applejack's friends can't help, the Apple family is faced with a dilemma of deeper concerns. However, when Applejack recruits a few hired hands the answer to both problems appears.

     “Ah just don’t figure how we’ll manage this year. We’re not fillies and colts no more and Applebloom’s too young.”


     “Ah mean Ah know how important it’s for Rainbow Dash ta open for her precious Wonderbolts and tour with them. She says she’s goin’ ta try and charm that Soarin character right outta his horseshoes. Don’t know about that, but he did buy mah pie at the Gala, the only stinkin’ pony in Canterlot to touch our food. And then Twilight’s left for Canterlot of course. Ah don’t blame her, Ah told her Ah says, ‘Twilight your families’s a might bit more important than helpin’ us with some silly apple buckin’.’”


     “Ah won’t even ask Rarity. She’ll just say, ‘Well why can’t Ah use my magic, darlin’? And oh dear my mane is gettin’ dusty, darlin’. I chipped a hoof darlin’!’ Ah’d go crazy. Pinkie’s too busy tendin’ ta the Cake’s shop while they’re in Manehattan for that silly convention—who cares about pumpkin anyways? Apples is where’s it’s at.”


     “Fluttershy’s gone with Twilight. She wants to try again with those critters at the Royal Gardens. Ah don’t know who else ta turn to.”


     “Ya even listenin’ to me?”

     Applejack stamped her hooves and glared at her brother. She paced right outside their barn, while Big Macintosh removed his harness. He stood in the doorway now, in the distance he heard Applebloom squeal. She and Scootaloo were playing again, their other little friend wasn’t around as much as she’d like to. Applebloom complained about Sweetie Belle having to help Rarity, Applejack scolded her about helping the family was more important, and that one day she’d be standing outside this barn, waiting for the fearless leader of Sweet Apple Acres to dictate and decide.

     “Don’t ya even think of sayin’ ‘Eeyup,’” Applejack said. “Ah came here on account that Ah figured ya might have an idea.”

     Big Macintosh shrugged. He’d worked the orchard all day, the grind wore his brain raw and his thoughts slipped by like a smooth molasses down a tree…

     “Ah guess Ah’ll figure everythin’ out, again,” Applejack said.

     Big Macintosh blinked. He shook the cobwebs from his head and said, “How ’bout hirin’ some help?”

     Applejack spun around. She scratched her chin with her hoof. “Could do that. Where we get the bits from?”

     Big Macintosh shrugged. “We’ve split our profits between us. Ah don’t spend much. Nothin’ Ah need anyhow.”

     Applejack sighed. “Now you’re just bein’ unfair. That’s your bits, Ah know it’s not much but you haven’t spent a one?”

     Big Macintosh shrugged.

     “Ah suppose. What you reckon we do with it? We could get a few hands, mostly earth ponies—hate usin’ magic to get the apples off. It’s bad for the trees. Ah don’t know who’d we hire here in Ponyville, though. Don’t think no one’s lookin’ for work who doesn’t already got some.”

     “Look elsewhere. Fillydelphia’s just a short train ride away,” Big Macintosh said.

     “City ponies? You a few apples short of a barrel?”

         Big Macintosh said, “Nothin’ wrong with city ponies. Your friends did an alright job last year with ya showing them what to do. Figures we can teach anypony how to buck a tree.”

     Applejack frowned. She said, “Ah suppose it’s the best we can do.” She nickered and said, “Ah heck, Ah don’t know, let’s both think about it. ’Specially you, Ah’m not going to take your bits unless you’re abs-oh-lutely okay with it. And Ah’ll know if you’re lyin’ faster than an apple falls from a tree.”

     Big Macintosh nodded.

     Applejack departed the next day and left Big Macintosh to get ready.


     All the real work was already done. Big Macintosh was left with a mostly empty farm. He prepared some of the trees and tucked barrels beneath them. He cleaned out the cellar and took the time to prepare the presses for apple cider. That little guilty pleasure was Big Macintosh’s favorite part of the whole season.

     Applejack planned to be gone for three days, so on the second Big Macintosh made a trip into Ponyville. He visited a barn that held a series of carriages and wagons, the twin brothers who owned it were Plink and Plunk. They made wagons, carriages, and whatever they could fit wheels under. Big Macintosh liked the brothers, they cut to the chase and seldom nicker-nacked if you didn’t want any nicker-nack. Problem was their business also did taxi work, any road to anyplace self-respecting was on the road that led out the opposite side of Ponyville.

     Big Macintosh didn’t mind traveling through town. His thoughts kept him plenty entertained, he did get too uncomfortable sometimes when people noticed him. Lot of ponies thought him odd, not in a bad way odd. Like, “Oh there goes Big Macintosh, must be running some important errand if her sister can’t handle it,” kind of odd. They thought he was married to the farm, and in a lot of ways Big Macintosh supposed he was, but he still liked to think he took time for other ponies. He didn’t have a problem socializing with all the mares around. He just treated them with the hospitality he always used.

     The giggle of a mare caught his attention. Big Macintosh glanced to the side and found a pair of ponies walking beside them. A cream colored mare with a black mane and tulip cutie mark and beside her a slimmer yellow pony with a light orange mane and sunflower cutie mark. They made the very image of respectable mares. Big Macintosh figured he might even know them.

     He smiled and said, “Why good mornin’ ladies.”

     The cream one giggled again. She said, “Morning Big Macintosh. No one’s seen you around Ponyville in weeks. We thought your sister tied you up to some tree.”

     “Well not a tree Ah suppose. She likes the harness more. Gets more work outta me.”

     “You can certainly see it,” the yellow one said.

     Big Macintosh frowned. “Ah thought Ah got rid of that limp. Guess Ah got so used to it it just got ta be the way Ah’ve been walkin’.”

     One of the mares snorted.

     “Beg your pardon miss?” Big Macintosh said.

     “Nothing. Say Big Macintosh, you want to spend some time outside the farm? We’re going somewhere for a brunch and we’d love for you to come and talk about plows and dirt and stuff,” the cream colored mare said.

     Big Macintosh whistled low. He stopped and faced both mares. “Reckon that’s a mighty nice invitation, ladies, but Ah’m afraid Ah gotta decline on account of all the work that still needs ta be done. Both of you are mighty pretty, though, Ah do enjoy your company.”

     The yellow mare’s left eyebrow twitched, both stared at the red stallion. The cream one managed to break a smile over her face and say, “We’ll just walk with you to where you’re going then.”

     Big Macintosh nodded, “Ah reckon that’s a fair trade. How ’bout it then? Ya want ta know about plowin’ or sowin’ seeds or harvestin’ or what? Ah don’t get ta talk about it much, but Ah got lots to talk about. Enough to keep ya’ll pretty ladies entertained.”

     The yellow one leaned over and whispered into the cream’s ear. The cream’s smile got wider. “I’m sorry, but Daisy just reminded me that we have a friend we have to meet. Some other time Big Macintosh?”

         “Absolutely, Ah’d love sharin’ mah day with a couple of nice lookin’ mares like yourself…” but the ponies scampered away before he finished. Big Macintosh said under his breath, “Ah hope ya’ll ladies have yourselves a nice day.”


     “This is all Ah can afford Ah guess. Ya’ll look like honest types, though. Now we’ll feed ya and shelter ya, wouldn’t be fair otherwise,” Applejack said. She stood in the doorway of a train car, the floor rocked under her hooves as she addressed the four ponies in the car. Applejack recruited them and talked to a whole hay more, but not everypony was willing to just toss everything in the air. She figured this lot was needing the bits something fierce, she’d have to watch them to make sure they remained honest. She liked the pegasus. Another mare would keep the numbers even on the farm between the three stallions she found. She counted Big Macintosh for her side, on account of he wouldn’t defend any of the boys if they stirred up trouble anyways.

     The oldest of the four, older than her even, perked his head up. He was a navy blue pony with a blond mane. He said, “Think we’ll be there long?”

     “Depends on how hard ya work, partner. Gotta hot date or somethin’ tomorrow? Figured ya ta be pretty lonely for how I found you.” But the stallion found her talking with another pony about the job and he walked out an alley and volunteered. Applejack didn’t like him, if only because he looked a mess. His knees were scabbed and calloused, too much time lying in hard alleys. His mane held a whole host of mess in it. All greasy and washed out, trashed tangled and mingled with matted wads of blond hair. He stunk the whole car up.

     Applejack believed any pony be given a chance, and heck, this pony looked like he needed a chance. And definitely a bath, Applejack didn’t have a problem with dirt and sweat coating a pony after a good day’s work, but she also thought smelling like death was a terrible way to make friends.

     “I’m more concerned with how long it takes to get there,” another stallion spoke up. This one was named Fleck, he had a splash of what Applejack supposed was red, white, and green paint for a cutie mark on his brown hide. Said he was an artist, but was used to taking on outside work so he could eat, he also thought the countryside would do him some good.

     The pegasus, she was named Freebird. Applejack liked the name, it made music in her head. She was a blues singer, another down on her luck pony who needed the food. She said, “Soon. Been to Ponyville once, nice place. Did a show there.”

     “Ah don’t remember that,” Applejack said.

     “It was a small show. Got on stage with a band I know and we started playing our tunes when this pink pony jumped on stage and ruined things. Went on and on about us needing to laugh more.”

     Applejack rolled her eyes.

     The last stallion grunted. He was a workhorse, as big as Big Macintosh, if a bit younger. Applejack liked him, he said he was in construction, but got laid off recently. He said this job might offer him a new perspective, if Applejack got the chance she’d make sure he saw all the possibilities. His name was Brick.

     The first pony who spoke up, Delph said, “Party poopers can be such a downer.”

     “At least they don’t smell like their name,” Fleck said.

     “You want to make something of the way I live my life?”

     “Not sure if you even live some kind of life, blank flank.”

     Applejack stamped her hoof. “That’s enough, Ah won’t be listenin’ to no fightin’ when we ain’t even got there yet. Ya save that stuff for when you’re sleepin’ out in the barn and Ah can’t hear a lick of it.”

     That got them quiet. Applejack sighed and took her place in the car. When she passed Delph she swore first thing would be a bath for that pony.


     Big Macintosh, out of courtesy, rounded Applebloom up from Rarity’s boutique and had her sit and wait for her sister to return with their guest. Good old Granny Smith rocked and waited behind them. Big Macintosh listened to the creak of her chair and counted the time with every swing. Applebloom fussed around and said, “Ah don’t see why it matters if we’re all here. This is the first time Ah got to see Sweetie Belle in three whole days.”

     “It’s a courtesy little miss,” Big Macintosh said. “Look out there, now really look. Ya see that dust comin’ up from the road? I’m bettin’ my bits on that bein’ your sister. What if she came back with some cute colt, hmm?”

     “Eww, boys are gross.”

     Big Macintosh chuckled. One day he was sure she’d sneak home some colt and after Applejack stopped her bucking he’d tell Applebloom something witty like, “Told ya so.”

     Applejack came back with three stallions and a pegasus. She introduced each and when she finished said, “Now we need ta get ya’ll cleaned up and tamorrow we can get started on the apple buckin’.”

     Big Macintosh eyed the filthiest of them. Well, his sister did try to be polite about it. Big Macintosh was inclined to wonder if an outhouse gave birth to the stallion…

     Applebloom gasped and jumped to her hooves. She saw something Big Macintosh didn’t notice and dashed over to the repulsive stallion. She said, “Oh my gosh. Ya don’t have a cutie mark either!”

     “What? Oh, I guess I don’t. Never noticed before.”

     “Golly, Ah thought Ah was goin’ ta be the oldest pony ever not ta have a cutie mark but now you’re here and now Ah know Ah won’t!” Applebloom said. She bounced around this newcomer and questions began spilling out her mouth.

     Applejack chuckled and shook her head. She approached Big Macintosh and whispered, “Ah’ll take the clean ones ta the barn and tell’em what they’ll be doin’. Ya want ta take the stinker down to the creek and see if we can’t get some of that nastiness scrubbed outta him?”

     Big Macintosh sighed. “Eeyup.”

     “Thanks, Big Mac.”

     Applejack turned on the four newcomers and said, “You three, come with me ta the barn and Ah’ll show ya around. Delph, how about ya follow my brother Big Macintosh down to the creek. He’ll show ya which way to go.”

     Big Macintosh made eye contact with the other stallion for the first time. He regretted it. He wasn’t used to other stallions, not ones that weren’t related. Ponyville didn’t have as many stallions, and none ever tried to talk to Big Macintosh. Applejack and her gang moseyed past Big Macintosh, the big one bumped into him and made a gruff apology. It made the adam’s apple in his throat swell. He didn’t understand why it mattered what these city ponies thought of him. It shouldn’t matter no way no how what a bunch of silly filly city ponies thought of him. Big Macintosh knew if they judged him, well he didn’t care.

     He began to wonder if this was all just a big mistake.

     He grunted. “Well, Ah’ll show ya the way to the creek.” Big Macintosh turned around and began walking there. He knew the other stallion followed because he heard Applebloom’s constant blabber.

     “Ah’ve tried everythin’ from cupcake bakin’ to underwater explorer to gliders. Ah think Ah’ll do everythin’ ever before Ah get my cutie mark. But Ah wouldn’t mind, it just means Ah have more options. Do ya ever feel that way? Do people still call ya blank flank? There were some mean girls who used ta call me blank flank, but I figure grown-ups don’t call each other blank flanks on account that they’re grown-ups…”

     Big Macintosh could feel the other stallion watching him. The blue stallion’s silence unnerved Big Macintosh, he felt the pony should say something. Maybe if they struck up a conversation and Big Macintosh could realize none of these city-folk were as freaky as he suddenly wanted them to be—well then maybe…

     “Why, people call me blank flank still,” Delph said.

     Big Macintosh heard Applebloom become downcast. “They do?”

     “Yes, you’re lucky no one around here says it to you. City people are just meaner.”

     “Oh, well Ah don’t think Ah wanna go to the city then. Unless Ah need to for my cutie mark.”

     “It’s not the city that’s mean, little filly. It’s the people, they get to rushing around so much that they forget about you and everything but that one hoof swinging in front of the other.”

     This left Applebloom quiet. Hearing him talk relaxed Big Macintosh, though. The fear disappeared, Big Macintosh thought it silly now. Why did he get so nervous over the opinions of a bunch of city ponies? Big Macintosh said over his shoulder, “Ya did the impossible, partner. Ya made my sister not have a thing to say about cutie marks.”

     He smiled. “I didn’t mean to. Let’s start over, hmm little filly? My name’s Delph, and before you ask, it’s just Delph.”

     “Well mine’s Applebloom, Delph, and Ah figure you’ll fit right in once we get ya ta stop smelling like a used up outhouse.”

     Big Macintosh snickered.

     The other stallion paused, and Big Macintosh almost swept around expecting to defend his little sister for being a filly, but Delph surprised him. “That’s very gracious of you Applebloom, and if you promise to help me clean myself I’ll tell you the secrets of how to smell this bad. You haven’t tried a stinky cutie mark, have you?”

     “…Mah cutie mark wouldn’t be a stupid stinky mark…”


     Big Macintosh stood on a rise with his sister, overlooking their farm. Off to the east grey seeped into the horizon. Applejack said, “Well whatcha think of’em? Reckon Ah trust Delph and Fleck as far as Ah can throw them, but Freebird and Brick seem an alright pair a ponies.”

     Big Macintosh said, “Delph seemed pretty nice ta Applebloom. Ah think she likes’em.”

     “Of course she does, he doesn’t have a cutie mark. Ah don’t want ta call him a blank flank, but it’s what he is. It’s not natural Big Mac, how does somepony go their whole life without knowin’ what their supposed to do?”

     Big Macintosh said, “It’s gotta happen somewhere in someplaces.”

     Applejack frowned. “Well then it just comes down ta him not wanting to talk ta me. Ah don’t mind quiet ponies after all.”


     “But he won’t talk ta me at all and it makes me nervous. If he’s opened up ta you and Applebloom then, well Ah guess he’s not too bad. Ya mind if ya take him and that other stallion, Fleck for me today?”

     Big Macintosh shrugged.

     “Ah’m not going to lie, that’un gives me the creeps for the opposite reason. He keeps tryin’ to chat up a storm with me and Ah think he’s just tryin’ ta get on mah good side.”

     “Ah’ll take care of’em both,” Big Macintosh said. “Ah don’t like to, but Ah can knock their heads together.”

     Applejack smiled. “Thanks Big Macintosh, now let’s go wake’em.”


     Big Macintosh said, “Apple buckin’ ain’t a hard sport. ’Suppose everypony knows how ta buck. Let’s see ya do it, the both of ya. Just get under those pink ladies and do what comes natural.”

     Fleck trotted to the closest tree. He was eager to please, Big Macintosh guessed. He reared up on his front hooves and his back hooves smacked the bark of the tree. A dozen apples popped loose of the tree and bounced across the grass. Delph sat on his haunches and watched.

     Big Macintosh did not expect to be ignored. He cleared his throat while Fleck bashed the pink lady again. Fleck stopped and said, “No use with that blank flank.”

     “Now Ah know ya city-folk like ta curse, but we won’t use that particular kind of language on the farm. Delph, somethin’ a matter?”

     Delph said, “I was kind’ve hoping you’d show us how it’s done, rather than rushing blindly into bucking just to impress you. Is there a certain part of the tree to aim for? Do we need to be careful with your trees? Figure we might over do it if we just keep kicking it like there’s no tomorrow.”

     Fleck stopped and glared at Delph. Big Macintosh said, “Gather up whatcha got Fleck and then move on ta that tree over there. You’re doin’ fine.” Big Macintosh faced Delph. “Ah’ll show ya this once. Try ta kick as high as you can ta shake the tree and when ya start rippin’ bark off it means it’s time ta stop.”

     Big Macintosh went to a nearby pink lady with empty buckets around it. He tensed his muscles, crouched low, and with grunt pushed his hindquarters off the ground and kicked the tree. Apples spilled in torrent, the branches shook and leaves flew off like they were cut away by a fierce gust. An apple bumped Big Macintosh’s head, the last to fall. He snorted and said, “There ya go. How ’bout ya try your hooves on that tree over yonder? Ah’ll gather these up.”

     The two went to work. They did not make quite so much of a fuss when they got their hooves dirty. Big Macintosh listened to the trees swing and tremble, the sound fooled his head into believing there was a breeze. Big Macintosh wouldn’t have minded one, today turned out hotter than he thought it could. Even in the shade of the trees he sweated more than he liked to admit.

     Big Macintosh bucked his fourth pink lady when he heard Fleck say, “Quit staring at him and get to work. What’s wrong with you? Got pegasi floating around in your brain?”

     “Better than a dopey-eyed donkey,” Delph said.

     Big Macintosh sighed and gathered apples into their buckets.

     “You don’t even have a reason to be here. You know I’ve heard about you blank flank—”

     “Really? I thought I was the only one who’s heard of me.”

     Big Macintosh sighed and stepped away from his buckets between the two. Both of the stallions shut their traps. Big Macintosh said to Fleck, “Why don’t ya gather up what we got and haul it back to the barn in that there wagon over there. Reckon it’d be easier for you.”

     Delph snickered.

     “And you work over here with me. Where Ah can keep an eye on you. Ya didn’t come here ta loaf around.”

     Delph nodded. “Yes, sir.” Big Macintosh almost smiled. Much better. Fleck tried for one better. “I’ll get right to it Mr. Macintosh.”

     “Big Mac is fine, among you fellas. No reasons we can’t be on speakin’ terms, way I sees it. But more work, and a less speakin’.”

     Big Macintosh returned to his previous task. Delph hauled some buckets over to a neighboring tree while Fleck loaded the wagon. Delph began to work. Pretty soon silence returned and Big Macintosh’s mind smoothed over into that fine rut. He thought about apples and the trees and bucking, and it was nice and easy. Fleck returned and he loaded the next wagon and departed again.

     Delph became a steady presence in the corner of Big Macintosh’s eye. Pretty soon he did recognize Delph sneaking him glances. At first Big Macintosh didn’t mind, it didn’t seem to hinder the other pony. Big Macintosh shouldn’t have cared no two ways about it, but he kept looking at Big Macintosh like there was something to judge. Big Macintosh never got judged. His movements became awkward and rigid, one point he only skinned the bark of a tree with his left hoof when he tried bucking a tree. They almost finished with all the pink ladies and Delph still kept glancing. Maybe not so much anymore, but Big Macintosh felt it more and more every time the other stallion did. The red stallion wanted it to stop. But he wouldn’t tell a pony to quit looking at him. That’d just be silly sounding. Worse it would let Delph know he got Big Macintosh riled up, and no pony was supposed to make Big Macintosh the least bit riled.

     Big Macintosh decided saying something was better than silence. “Hey Delph…”

     “Yeah, Big Mac?”

     Big Macintosh wished he hadn’t told the fellas to call him that.

     “That’s… that’s an odd name ya got there. Delph, doesn’t seem like a name a mare would give her colt.”

     “I didn’t have a mother.”

     “Oh, well Ah apologize most deeply—”

     “It’s fine, I guess you couldn’t have known. I’ve been an orphan forever and I’ve gone through a lot names before I took the one I have.”

     Big Macintosh bucked the last pink lady and Delph went about to helping him gather the apples. Big Macintosh dumped the last one in a bucket and said, “Reckon we’ll wait here until Fleck gets back with the wagon.”

     “Fair enough,” Delph said.

     He sat beside Big Macintosh. Big Macintosh figured if he kept standing it’d give Fleck a reason to berate Delph when he returned, so Big Macintosh sat too.

     Big Macintosh wished he had something to chew. Instead he tried speaking again, “Why did ya choose Delph?”

     Delph said, “Lot of reasons. I spent my whole life in Fillydelphia, and the people there never seemed to give me a chance. First it was because I was a blank flank, then when they figured me out it got even worse. Seemed every pony knew about the blank flank too old and too selfish to not respect the natural order of things. I made friends, and lost them, but the city was always kind. It seemed like she just gave when I needed it the most. She’s my only friend, so I named myself after her.”

     Big Macintosh cleared his throat. “Eeyup.”

     “Don’t talk much, do you Big Mac?”


     “That’s okay. Can’t stand ponies that just sit around and talk all the time—speaking of Fleck, I think I see him over there.”

     Big Macintosh caught sight of the other stallion and both of them rose to greet him.

     The rest of the day went by without much incident.


     They tackled the red delicious the next day, and this time all six ponies worked on Sweet Apple Acres largest plot of trees. The change of pace suited everyone it seemed. In the afternoon Big Macintosh volunteered to haul the apples back to the cellar. Delph volunteered to take the other wagon.

     Big Macintosh didn’t mind. If he had to deal with a pony it’d be nice if it was one he knew. They got halfway back to the cellar and passed through the pink ladies when Delph stopped.

     Big Macintosh paused and looked over the wagon and a stack of red delicious two ponies tall. He asked, “Somethin’ wrong?”

     Delph nipped at his harness. He said, “Think my harness is screwed up. It keeps rubbing me the wrong way. I can feel it chafing.”

     Big Macintosh frowned. He said, “Ah suppose Ah could take a look at it.”

     Big Macintosh swept out of his harness and approached Delph. He saw the problem right away. “Ya need ta flip this strap on your shoulder.”

     Delph shifted in the harness. He grunted and asked, “Can you fix it for me? I don’t want to get out of this thing yet. You know how hard it was to get me into it. I don’t want to waste more time than we have to.”

     Big Macintosh hesitated. He grit his teeth and decided, “Do it so he doesn’t see you reluctant to touch him. Don’t want no pony thinking you’re afraid of other stallions.” Big Macintosh gingerly bit the strap and tugged it to the right. He released it and it flipped back into place.

     Delph sighed. “Thank you, that’s much better.”

     Big Macintosh nodded. “Eeyup.” He went back to his harness, and while he slipped into it he heard Delph say, “You know. You’re pretty lucky to have a family here.”

     “Eeyup.” A piece of leather caught on his nose and the red stallion snorted, shook it loose and settled the harness back into place.

     “Nothing else? Just ‘eeyup.’ I bet that’s all you say. I bet even if Applebloom said something like, ‘Golly Big Mac you’re the best brother ever. I love you.’ All you’d say is, ‘Eeyup.’”

     “Ah can talk plenty,” Big Macintosh said.

     “Then talk. I dare you to try it. I know you’re not used to working that tongue muscle, but a working pony like you shouldn’t have much trouble.”

     Big Macintosh almost glared at the other stallion. He reminded himself of the hospitality his parents taught him and said instead, “Ah can’t imagine not havin’ a family. We’ve just been together for so long and there’s so many of us. Ya lose track, but at the same time you’re happy ta lose track ’cause it means your families growin’ and you’re a part of somethin’ that grows. Ah know Ah haven’t done much ta help with that growin’, but Ah figure Ah’ve got time enough to find me a nice mare… hey what’s wrong with ya Delph? You’re lookin’ at me like Ah just coughed up a bucket full of parasprites.”

     Delph shook his head. “Sorry, I just thought—no, never mind. But see? Nothing wrong with talking, is there?”


     Big Macintosh and Applejack stood on their rise again. She said, “Ah hate bein’ wrong, Big Mac, but there ain’t nothing wrong with you bein’ right.”


     In two days they harvested Half of Sweet Apple Acres. Tomorrow they’d tackle the northern section of the farm and work their way down.

     Applejack said, “Ya know Ah almost regret goin’ through this so fast. Ah’m gonna miss a few of them ponies. Be happy ta get rid of some of’em, ’Specially that Fleck and Delph.”

     Big Macintosh glanced at his sister. She studied the farmland and didn’t notice the look Big Macintosh gave her. She said, “Ah think Ah really like that Brick fella. Shucks Big Mac, what do ya think Ah should do? Ah think Ah want to keep him around a little longer, ta see what might just happen—well gosh listen to me gettin’ embarrassed. Ah know neither of us has much experience with this kind’ve stuff, but whatcha think of it all Big Mac?”

     Big Macintosh shrugged. “Keep’em ’round, then.”

     “Just for another day. Ta see what happens. Then we’ll ship’em out, ’cept maybe for Brick. Heck Ah don’t know. We’ll just see what happens.”



     They eased up on the workload the next two days. Applejack said it was on account of their fine jobs. She figured to give the city ponies a break, but the only ones who seemed a might bit strained were the artist and singer.

     Big Macintosh got a kink in his right hind-hoof, so he enjoyed the ease in the workload. He and Delph worked together again, this time sorting apples in the cellar. Not work he enjoyed, but work that needed to be done.

     “Why do we have to do this?” Scootaloo asked. “All it’s doing is making me hungry.”

     Her and Applebloom sat at the back of the cellar, sorting their own bucket of apples.

     Applebloom said, “We haven’t tried apple sortin’ yet. Ah reckon it’s worth a shot.”

     “I’d say we’d have a better chance rock farming,” Scootaloo mumbled. Big Macintosh heard something get thrown. “Hey! I’m sorry, okay? I know it’s mean of me to say that. You and Sweetie Belle helped me get my cutie mark in that scooter race. I owe you this.”

     Applebloom said, “You’re darn right ya do.”

     Delph chuckled. The two stallions sorted apples in the light of a lantern, they were on the pink ladies they picked recently. They essentially looked for bruised or otherwise bad apples to be pressed into cider, the rest went for cooking and eating and such.

     Applebloom said, “That was still an amazing move ya pulled. When ya fell off your scooter Ah was sure it was over but then you were all like bam-zoom!—Ah still ain’t seen nothing so graceful before.”

     Scootaloo giggled. “Thanks. And I haven’t seen no pony sort apples like you do.”

     Delph shook his head and whispered, “Those two.”

     “’Scuse me?” Big Macintosh asked.

     “They just make a cute pair is all. Bet they’re a force to be reckoned with when they have their other friend with them.”

     “Ee—” Big Macintosh stopped himself. He was trying to not sound so… simple anymore. He said, “Ya should’ve seen them at the talent show last year. Applejack told me about it and Ah just ’bout fell over laughin’ my hooves off.”

     “I’m sure it must have been quite a sight.”

     “Ah wish Ah could’ve been there. Applejack said they went and tore the whole dang stage down—”

     “No, I don’t mean that.”


     “I meant seeing you laugh.”

     Big Macintosh stared at the other stallion in the lantern light. Delph ignored him and went back to sorting. Big Macintosh became aware of how close they stood. He wanted to step away, and yet at the same time…

     He nickered and said, “It takes somethin’ fierce, like those two gettin’ inta trouble ta get me ta.” Delph grunted to show he heard and went back to sorting. Big Macintosh felt something well up underneath his diaphragm that made breathing hard. He glanced at the other stallion and realized aside from that one particular occasion with the harness, they never touched before. Didn’t seem right. Big Macintosh brushed shoulders and sides and haunches all the time with every other one of these new ponies. Why did he act like he walked across caltrops when it came to Delph? Just silly and stupid, in fact he’d prove it wrong right now and—

     “Big Mac, Ah don’t think Ah want ta sort apples no more.”

     Big Macintosh almost jumped out of his horseshoes. He cleared his throat and said, “Ya’ll can head outside then. Reckon the sun do ya fillies some good.”

     “Come on Applebloom, let’s go see if you have a tree climbing cutie mark or something. I need to stretch my wings.”

     “Okay, that sounds like fun.”

     Big Macintosh watched the two fillies trot up the stairs, his will dissolved. Then he felt something warm brush under his neck and his breath caught. Delph had stretched his neck and brushed his mane along the underside of Big Macintosh’s throat and grabbed an apple sitting under Big Macintosh’s chin. He pulled away and dropped it in the bad bucket. Delph said, “Sorry, I think that one was bad.”

     Big Macintosh’s cheeks flushed. He said, “Eeyup,” and went back to work.


     “Dinner’s served everypony, watch your hooves now, plates are hot,” Applejack said. She set the tray down at the table before the four hungry city ponies and Big Macintosh. Tarts, pies, and few other apple confections greeted their ravenous eyes.

     It was their last night here. In the morning they would be paid and sent home. Big Macintosh didn’t speak to Delph much after they left the cellar. He didn’t understand it. Lately he caught himself taking peeks at the other stallion. He told himself he did it because he liked watching the city stallion do well. The last five days had been long, and Big Macintosh was right proud of what he could consider his pupil.

     Ponies dug in. Applejack sat beside him, Big Macintosh and her took up the end of their side of a square table. Conversation flowed back and forth and time became easy and enjoyable.

     Opposite him was Fleck and Brick. Fleck now held an animated conversation with Freebird, telling her how he’d like to do her portrait and such. Near as Big Macintosh could tell that wily painter probably told every mare the same thing so he could bring them home.

     Big Macintosh heard Applejack say, “So Brick, ya reckon ya enjoyed your stay here at Sweet Apple Acres?”

     Brick said, “Wasn’t bad. Got to say I don’t mind the quiet much, weird not having a bunch of other ponies around.”

     “Eh-heh, right. I was a city pony myself once.”

     Big Macintosh’s gaze slid across the table, just a glance at Delph. The pony toyed with his food and nickered. Big Macintosh said, “Uh… food alright?”

     “Hmm? Oh of course, your granny’s recipes are swell. I’m just thinking about going back to Fillydelphia tomorrow. Not sure what I’ll do after this.”

     Big Macintosh heard his sister blunder and come right and say it: “Well if ya want ya’ll could stay while longer if ya find this country livin’ to your fancy.”

     Big Macintosh swung his gaze back over to Brick. The pony grunted. “Maybe some other time. I need to be getting back, got a sweet little filly I promised I’d come back to.”

     Applejack looked down at her plate of a half-eaten green apple tart. “Ah, right. Ah don’t blame ya for wantin’ ta go back.”

     Fleck and Freebird stopped talking at that. Seemed an awkward silence fell in on all of them.

     Delph broke it. “I’ll stay. If you guys need the extra hand around. I don’t mind working on the farm a little longer.”

     Fleck snorted.

     Delph scooted off the bench and said, “You got something you want to say?”

     “Just can’t believe you think you’re any better than me when you’re trying the exact same thing. Getting in close with these farmers so they’d take care of you. That’d be real nice I bet.”

     Big Macintosh was slow to process that. Delph didn’t seem to talk much to Applejack, he did with Applebloom but he knew Applebloom was—

     “Ah don’t want ta hear no more of this. And if anypony tries raisin’ the subject again Ah’ll hogtie them and hang’em from the barn ya hear?” Applejack turned Delph. “You, Ah don’t trust ya near as far as I can buck ya. And if ya haven’t seen yet that ya need mah trust to stay here then ya’ll can bet your hooves Ah won’t have ya stickin’ ’round.”

     Delph glared at Applejack. He said, “Funny, I thought two Apples owned this farm.”

     He stormed off. Big Macintosh watched him go and felt the need to defend him. Fleck muttered something and Applejack raised her voice all over again. She was in a mood. He stood and put a hoof on Applejack’s shoulder.

     His sister paused and Big Macintosh told her. “Ah’ll talk with him. Ah know ya don’t want him stayin’ but sis you gotta understand ya done hurt him.”

     Applejack bit her lip and stamped her hooves. “Fine, but don’t ya dare leave me here alone with these three.” His sister didn’t care if those three heard. Big Macintosh knew she didn’t want anything to do with any of the city ponies anymore. It took her so much courage to ask Brick, and he shrugged his shoulders at her. Big Macintosh did not blame her for the way she treated any of them.

     Big Macintosh smiled and said, “Eeyup.”

     He departed the table and tracked Delph into the orchard. Big Macintosh found him lying underneath the shade of a pink lady. His front hooves stretched out before him and he hid the bottom half of his face between his knees, his hind end sprawled on its side. His eyes flicked to Big Macintosh while the red stallion sat in front of him. Delph said, “You always let your sister boss you around?”

     “Eeyup. Reckon she’s better at it than me.”

     Delph laughed. “What does that even mean you big stupid pony?”

     Big Macintosh flared his nostrils. “Ah didn’t come here ta be insulted. Ah thought ya might be needin’ somepony ta talk to.”

     “And you’re just generous enough to be that pony? Gosh, you’re so oblivious. Why don’t you think about why you came out here?”

     Big Macintosh’s brow furrowed. He said, “Ah think you’re the one who don’t know what he’s talkin’ ’bout.”

     Delph sighed. With effort, he clambered to his hooves and said, “You’re just… heck I don’t know. How about I put it this way? Uh… if you were an apple, I’d buck this whole orchard for you.”

     Big Macintosh blinked. It occurred to him, that Fleck did not mean Delph charming Applejack.

     Delph licked his chops and said, “Look, part of the reason I don’t have a friend anywhere is because of what I am. And you got to understand it’s not from a blank flank, I know why I’m blank. It’s because stallions like you and me aren’t supposed to be. I mean, there are so many mares in Equestria that no one minds when one announces her attraction to another in town. Heck I’ve seen it here already with that Lyra and Bon-Bon pair I met yesterday when I went into Ponyville, and I can tell you right that that Scootaloo has eyes for your Applebloom like no other. But if you were to tell them our feelings for each other, they’d look at you like we were wide-eyed stupid.”

     Big Macintosh coughed, for the first time in a long time he felt all of the hard work he’d done in the past few days come down on his back. He didn’t believe—couldn’t believe this pony thought he eyed other stallions. Big Macintosh scraped his front hooves across the grass and said, “Ah don’t know what you’re tryin’ ta say, but Ah reckon it better be said mighty carefully if’n ya want ta get paid.”

     Delph shook his head. “I don’t care anymore. That day you told me you were still looking for a mare I couldn’t believe it. I saw what you were by that first day and I couldn’t believe when you said that about needing to find a mare of your own. Good luck living that lie. Shoot, I mean, I’m not blind Big Mac. I saw how you responded when I brushed my mane under your neck, I had to see it to be sure and that’s why I did that. You can’t hide what you are from me.”

     Big Macintosh rose to his full height at some point. He stomped his front hooves down, reared up, and kicked a tree behind him. Bark splintered, wood cracked and cried out, and the tree moaned as its top came toppling down. The might of the blow forced Delph to take a step back.

     Big Macintosh said, “If Ah ever see you in my farm again—well Ah’ll make what Ah did ta that tree look weak. Ya git outta here, and don’t ya dare come back.”

     Delph shook his head. “I’m sorry, not for me, but for you.” He turned and broke away at a canter toward the farm’s entrance. Big Macintosh did not watch him go, he turned on the tree he decapitated and saw in the ruinous mess of branches and leaves an apple had rolled free. It was a late bloomer, half the size of most apples this time of year.

     Big Macintosh crushed the pink lady under hoof as he returned to the farmhouse.


     He did not want to go back to Applejack but he said he would, so he marched to the table and said to city ponies there, “Ah don’t want ta hear a word from any of ya the rest of the night. In the barn. Now. Or Ah’ll kick your teeth out.”

     Freebird’s eyes popped, Fleck flinched, and Brick shrugged. The three of them went to the barn and Big Macintosh said to Applejack, “There. Ah dealt with’em.”

     Big Macintosh didn’t wait for Applejack. He began to march over to the other side of Sweet Apple Acres, and maybe when he reached there he’d just march through across the meadows and over hills and maybe into the Everfree Forest and maybe to the other side of the forest and then whatever lied beyond that. He’d just keep walking until his hooves were so sore his body would force him to lie down and maybe then he wouldn’t be too inclined to get up.

     His sister had other plans. “Hold on a sec Big Mac. What’s twistin’ you’re tail? Ya’ll can tell me, Ah’m kin.”

     Big Macintosh almost shoved her aside. He whipped his tail and smacked his leg to show his agitation.

     “Don’t turn inta a stupid ole mule, Big Macintosh. Hey ya listenin’ ta me? Ah’ll tie ya up if Ah have ta.” Big Macintosh didn’t answer, he kept walking and Applejack followed. She said, “Hey did that stupid stallion say somethin’ to ya. Ah knew he was trouble—”

     Big Macintosh turned on Applejack so fast she fell on her haunches. Big Macintosh said, “Ah’m sorry Applejack but ya don’t know nothin’ ’bout him so don’t ya dare judge someone ya don’t know. Yeah he’s got me riled up and maybe Ah’ll tell ya and maybe Ah won’t, but don’t ya dare be blamin’ him for anything.”

     Applejack eyes went wide. Big Macintosh saw he almost made her cry. All the tension in him collapsed like a house of cards. He said, “Gosh, Ah’m sorry Applejack. Ah’m not sure no more.” He turned away. “He said some things and it got me thinkin’. He… he ’cused me of fancyin’ other stallions.”

     Applejack shook her head. “That’s just silly.”

     Big Macintosh took a deep breath and exhaled. “Eeyup.”

     “Ah mean, gosh how selfish does he think ya are? Sure there are plenty of mares, but only the worst of stallions decide they want nothin’ ta do with mares. And there’s ’specially not enough good ponies like yourself ta go ’round. And what in tarnation does he think would happen ta the farm? What if ya passed without no kids of your own and the farm passed into the hands of some lousy stallion Ah made the mistake of hitchin’ myself to? Why we might just lose the farm. Ah’m not goin’ ta say nothin’ bad about him, but he’s not bein’ fair accusin’ you of stuff like that.”

     Big Macintosh nodded. “Eeyup.”

     Applejack nuzzled her brother’s shoulder. “Hey Big Mac, don’t ya worry a lick about what he said. How ’bout the next few days ya take off from the farm? Mosey on into Ponyville and meet a nice mare. That sound fine?”

     Big Macintosh resolved to prove Delph wrong. He knew none of that was true, he was just out of his senses, too much sun and not enough water.

     Big Macintosh cracked a smile. “That’d be mighty fine, little sis.”

Part 2

Book 2

At the Heart of the Rainboom Part 2

Rainbow Dash has spent the past two months performing as the opener for the Wonderbolts and stunning crowds with her wicked awesome skills. But when the Wonderbolts are finally ready to let her join their ranks can she reconcile the growing gap between her friends and the closing gap between her biggest dream?

This story is a standalone piece but is complemented with this story. They are part of an anthology, entitled Tales by Hoof.

     “—it’s not fair, though. I’ve known Scootaloo longer than Applebloom has.”

     Rarity did not want to be reminded of that. The filly was an atrocious influence on her Sweetie Belle. Rarity frowned and examined the scarf in front of her. It was still too warm for scarves, but she wanted to wear more than just her hat. Rarity put the scarf away and faced her sister, “Just talk to her, dear. I’m sure whatever it is can be solved with polite conversation.”

     “She won’t talk to no pony but Applebloom, though,” Sweetie Belle said. Rarity almost winced at the improper grammar, no doubt the influence of the other girls.

     Rarity faced her sister, who stood at full height with a pout on her face. Rarity approached and nuzzled her. She said, “Then talk to them both. Now, I have to go watch Pinkie Pie.”


     “We’re taking turns, and I volunteered for the first day so it’s my turn again,” Rarity said. “I’ll leave you the spare keys for the boutique, but I’d prefer if you locked up and spent the day with Apple family. Dirty as it can be—well you know I want you safe more than anything else.” Rarity took the robin’s egg colored hat from a nearby table and headed for the door. “Lock up when you leave darling, love you.”

     Sweetie Belle’s answer was begrudging. “Love you too.”


     Rarity walked along the public track of the park with Pinkie Pie. She said, “How’s your week been, Pinkie dear?”

     “Fine, I suppose.”

     “I heard Applejack and Twilight took you to a carnival. That must’ve been fun.”

     “Oh we had a few laughs, I guess,” Pinkie Pie said. Gummy rode on the pink pony’s back. She walked at a slow lope and Rarity could not encourage her to travel faster. By now Rarity was used to the stench of her friend, she had not done a thing to take care of herself in the past week, but Rarity did not want to tell her otherwise. Without Rainbow Dash to reconcile, none of them were sure how to lighten Pinkie Pie’s spirits.

     Rarity wound into a scowl. No this was not hopeless, nothing ever was, she just needed a plan of attack. A vector of subtlety only she could see…

     Rarity scrubbed off her scowl before her friend noticed and said, “Pinkie, dearest. You know what I think?”

     “Hmm?” Rarity’s tone made her finally look at the fashionista.

     “Buck up. Come on,” Rarity reached over and made an awkward swing with her hooves. She smacked Pinkie Pie’s flank and said, “We are ladies of pride and dignity. And if you can’t get that silly old Rainbow Dash out you head then, well, don’t think of what she did, but what she would do if she were you. And you’d know what she would do? Why she would say, ‘I’m far too cool to let these trivial concerns ruin my mood.’”

     Pinkie Pie became dubious.


     “Since when does Rainbow Dash use the word trivial?”

     “Tsk. I think it’s trivial to wonder whether or not Rainbow Dash would use the word ‘trivial.’” Rarity flipped her mane and said, “The important thing is that you don’t linger on what Rainbow Dash did. If you can’t stop thinking about that, well, awful night, think about what you would do in Rainbow Dash’s place. There are a million things that she could have done to better handle things. It’s not your fault.”

     Pinkie Pie glanced away and stared down the path. “Do what Rainbow Dash would, hmm?”

     “Yes, now how about a trip to the pond?”

     “Be nice to go for a swim.”

     “That’s the ticket dear.”


     Twilight said over her shoulder, “I’m going to visit Pinkie Pie, keep everything clean while I’m gone Spike.”

     “Nothing else to do around here. See ya Twilight,” Spike said.

     Twilight slipped on the satchel hanging beside the door and opened it.

     Mrs. Cake was already on the porch. Hoof raised to knock. She put the hoof down and said, “Oh thank goodness. I hate knocking, and wouldn’t it be my luck that the door opens when I just work up the courage?”

     Twilight frowned. “Something going on Mrs. Cake?”

     “Wouldn’t ya just know it? Something’s always going on. Pinkie Pie didn’t wake up this morning when we opened the shop, so I trotted my little hooves up to her room, but she was gone. All she left was this note,” Mrs. Cake said. She reached behind her shoulder and plucked the note from where it sat snug between her coat and apron. Twilight took it off her with magic and levitated the note before her. “I don’t think it’s anything too dire, and we don’t need Pinkie Pie around right now. Just thought it might make more sense to you.”

     Twilight scanned the note:


          Take care of Gummy, don’t give him too many sweets though because his teeth are coming in and they can’t be falling out all over the place. I don’t think alligators have a tooth fairy. But I’m leaving to join the Wonderbolts, I’ll be back as soon as I can.


     Twilight frowned.

     “She does know she has no wings, doesn’t she?” Mrs. Cake said.

     Twilight put the note aside. “I’m not sure if she does or not. But thank you Mrs. Cake, I’ll go round up the girls. I think I know what’s going on.”


     Twilight passed the note to Applejack, who read it under her breath before Rarity took a look at it. Applejack scratched the back of her head and said, “She does know she doesn’t have any wings, right?”

     Rarity passed the note to Fluttershy. Twilight said, “I don’t think that’s exactly what she meant.”

     “Oh no this is my fault,” Rarity said. “I’m so sorry, I don’t think I can rectify this, either.”

     Fluttershy finished reading the note. She scooted it towards Twilight and while Twilight set the note aside with her magic Fluttershy said, “I’m sorry, Rarity, but I don’t think we know what you mean. Well, I don’t, at least, I can’t speak for the other girls.”

     “We don’t,” Twilight said. “What did you tell her?”

     “Only that if she must think about Rainbow Dash she should think about what Rainbow Dash would do, not what she’s done.”

     “Well there’s your problem right there,” Applejack said. “Ya can’t be messin’ with an earth pony’s head by askin’ her to behave like a pegasus pony.”

     “I didn’t mean in that sense. I meant personality wise.”

     “It’s okay, Rarity,” Fluttershy said. “We know you didn’t mean to.”

     “Pinkie Pie is just very literal,” Twilight said.

     Spike came up from the basement with a set of saddlebags. With a huff, he dropped them beside the door and closed it. “You guys don’t actually think she wants to be a Wonderbolt, do you?”

     “It’s written plain as day,” Applejack said.

     Spike sighed. “Come on, you guys are thinking too much about what you’d expect her to do. She wrote it, but it’s not what she meant.”

     “Explain it for us, then,” Twilight said.

     Spike said, “Look, she wouldn’t say, ‘Be back as soon as I can,’ if she meant to become a Wonderbolt. Pinkie’s, well, she’s Pinkie Pie, but she’s not stupid. You guys do this all the time to her and just ignore what she’s trying to get at. Sorry to say that, but it’s true. I know she’s nuts, but she isn’t nuts nuts. She went to go get Rainbow Dash back. I mean, come on, duh.”

     Twilight glared at him. “That was a bit rude, don’t you think?”

     “Hey, I’m sorry. But somepony needed to say it,” Spike said. “I’ll go get some food from the pantry.”

     “Just enough for Twilight and Fluttershy, honey,” Applejack said, which made all the heads in the room swivel to her. “And thank ya for your honesty, we do appreciate it.”

     Spike said, “Aww, it was nothing.” Though his step became lighter.

     Twilight ignored it and asked, “You aren’t coming with us?”

     Applejack said, “Sorry, Twilight. Too much work still needs ta be done on the farm.”

     “I must apologize too, but I can’t leave Sweetie Belle, and well I got a letter from Hoity-Toity this morning. He wants my line of dresses finished by the end of the month, and, well, afterwards he’s going to host a tour.” Rarity could not keep the enthusiasm out of her voice. “There’s going to be a whole set of shows in Canterlot, Manehattan, and Fillydelphia!” She stopped herself, “But this problem with Pinkie Pie is much more dire. I’m sorry I can’t go.”

     “It’s okay, Rarity,” Fluttershy said. “Congratulations on your shows. I’m glad you’ll be the star this time.”

     “Thank you darling.”

     Applejack ignored the two and asked Twilight, “So where ya thinkin’ on startin’. There’s no tellin’ where Pinkie might’ve gone.”

     “If she’s just following the Wonderbolts that means she’ll be following the path of their tour. If we discover where the Wonderbolts are going to be a few days in advance, we can go there and intercept them both,” Twilight said and glanced at Fluttershy. “You don’t mind coming along, do you, Fluttershy?”

     “Me? Oh no, well, I do worry about Angel and all the animals at my cottage, but this is more important, isn’t it? Yes. We should definitely go with your plan.”

     “Me and Rarity will find somepony to watch your critters, sugar cube,” Applejack said. “I’m sure if we spun it just right the crusaders would be eager to.”

     Fluttershy cringed. “If they’re the only ones who can, I suppose that’s okay. But if you can, can you find somepony else, first, if it’s not too much trouble?”


     Fluttershy and Twilight watched a pony dressed in a homemade Wonderbolt costume step up onto the small stage. “Welcome everypony, to the weekly Wonderbolts fan club. We have two new bolters wanting to join the club. Let’s give them our usual welcome.” They stood beside the stage. Everypony turned to them and raised a hoof and said, “Bolt-hoof.”

     Fluttershy took a step back. Twilight resisted rolling her eyes and said, “Um… we aren’t actually sure if we want to join your club yet.”

     Fluttershy told Twilight about the club, she knew it because Rainbow Dash was a part of it a long time ago. But she left because she said they were too… well she said some rude things Fluttershy knew better than to repeat. They met in a town south of Ponyville, and represented all the Wonderbolt fans in the area.

     The leader nodded. “That’s fair, every future bolter feels a little trepidation at first. What are your names?”

     Twilight didn’t wait for Fluttershy to work up the courage to give hers, so she said, “My name’s Twilight Sparkle and this is Fluttershy. We actually know one of the Wonderbolts, she’s a friend of ours.”

     Somepony scoffed. “Everypony says that.”

     “No, we really know her. Her name’s Rainbow Dash,” Twilight said.

     One of the earth ponies in the crowd popped out of their chair and said, “So you think you know me, do ya?” She wore a Wonderbolts outfit with fake wings sewn on and dyed her mane rainbow.

     Twilight said, “You can’t be serious.”

     “Um…” Fluttershy whispered, “I think we should go, Twilight.”

     Fluttershy peeked around the patchwork tent at all the stern faces. About forty ponies stuffed themselves under the fabric, the air was stuffy and hot. It smelt too much of sweat for her tastes. Many of the ponies wore Wonderbolts memorabilia, if they didn’t outright cosplay.

     The Rainbow Dash doppleganger stamped her hoof. “More serious than you can ever be!” She shoved her way through the crowd. The doppelganger flared her nostrils and said, “Seems like there’s a neighsayer in our midst. I say a challenge. Anypony, Ask us both a question and we’ll see who the real Rainbow Dash is.”

     Somepony said, “How long has Rainbow Dash been a Wonderbolt?”

     Twilight shook head. “Are you ponies crazy? She hasn’t been one for more than a week and already you’re—”

     “They made the official announcement a month and a half ago,” the doppelganger said. “I can give an exact date if I need to, but obviously she doesn’t know. But I was practically a Wonderbolt before that. They naturally let me do their opening act for two whole months.”

     Twilight pursed her lips and held back a low growl. She said, “Fine, ask me another question.”

     “Where was Rainbow Dash born?”


     “Too easy,” the Dash doppelganger said. “How about this? Favorite and least favorite food?”


     “Wrong. Pumpkin bread and anything with blueberries.”

     Blueberries. Fluttershy didn’t want to be reminded of that, it was the last straw, and it was her idea to put that straw there in the first place. Now it was all her fault these ponies bullied Twilight, she knew the answers to all these questions. And if they kept this up, well… well… she wasn’t sure what she would do, but she wouldn’t let them pick on Twilight.

     Twilight grumbled, “I knew the last one.”

     “You probably don’t even know what her cutie mark is, do you?”

     “Now see here,” Fluttershy said. She fanned her wings out, her tail raised a little, but when every gaze turned to her she wilted. “Oh, I’m sorry.” No, she needed to stand up for Twilight, and for Rainbow Dash. “But see here. We do know Rainbow Dash, I’ve even known her most of my life. And I’m sorry, but you aren’t Rainbow Dash, she’s not quite so tall. You also haven’t talked like her at all, because, well because Rainbow Dash likes the words awesome and cool and fast and things like that and you haven’t used one. In fact, none of you probably know her catch phrase, and I’m not sorry, no I am not sorry that you don’t.”

         She silenced the ponies in the tent. Then somepony demanded, “Rainbow Dash has a catchphrase?”

     The Rainbow Dash doppelganger shook her head. “No. A Wonderbolt has an official catchphrase. You must tell us, please?”

     Fluttershy looked at Twilight for answers, she leaned over and whispered, “Not until you meet our demands.”

     “Umm… not until you listen to us.”

     The leader still on stage said, “Absolutely friend of Rainbow Dash.”

     “We want to know the best time and place to meet the Wonderbolts.”

     “We were wondering, if you guys don’t mind, if you could tell us the best time and place to meet with the Wonderbolts.”

     Somepony muttered, “Winnywood.”

     This turned into a buzz of answers about Winnywood. Eventually the club leader, who Fluttershy supposed dressed like Spitfire, despite being a stallion, said, “Quiet down everypony. No pony can hear a dozen voices at once.” He turned on Fluttershy and said, “Every year the Wonderbolts hold a Q and A and for a select few a meet and greet in Winnywood.”

     Twilight blanched. “Why Winnywood?”

     “It’s where they got their start,” the Rainbow Dash doppelganger said. “They’re very loyal, and it’s sort of a festival down there.”

     Fluttershy said, “Rainbow Dash has taken a few trips down there, Twilight. But you probably didn’t know because it was before you moved to Ponyville.”

     Twilight opened her mouth to say something, but the Spitfire impersonator said, “The catch phrase?”

     Fluttershy said, “Oh, that, well all the time she says she can do things in ‘ten seconds flat.’ So I suppose it’s her catch phrase. But that all depends on what she thinks—”

     The Rainbow Dash doppelganger jumped up onto the stage. “I think ten seconds flat is an awesome catchphrase. Bolt-hoof my bolters.”


     Twilight said, “Come on. Let’s go, Fluttershy.”

     “Wait, friends of Rainbow Dash. You must tell us more,” the Spitfire beseeched them.

     Twilight turned on her hoof. “Sorry, but Winnywood is about twice as far away as Canterlot. We need to leave as soon as we can.”

     “You can’t go, though!”

     “Uh, yes, we can.”

     “Um… Twilight? I’m sorry, but you really can’t.”

     Twilight turned on Fluttershy. “Why not?”

     “Well, because…”

     “There’s only so much space at the festival,” the Rainbow Dash doppelganger said. “You have to reserve space ahead of time.”

     “Fantastic. How much do these reservations cost?”

     Several of the ponies in the tent laughed.

     “They’re sold out. So are next year’s and the year after that.”

     “But,” the Spitfire impersonator said, “if you join our club you may come.”

     “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

     Fluttershy said, “I’m sorry, Twilight. We just need to remember we’re doing it for Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash.”

     Twilight ground her teeth, then sighed. “Fine. We’ll join you’re club.”

     “Let’s welcome our new bolters!”


     “Ugh. I’m going to regret this.”

      This might be Super Sleuth Pie’s toughest case yet. The Case of the Furious Flying Filly was a caper with mystery, intrigue, and twists and turns even she couldn’t predict. Super Sleuth Pie was on the trail, prowling the seedy underbelly of Canterlot for clues.

     “Hey, didn’t I see you earlier this year. Twilight Sparkle’s friend, right?”

     Pinkie Pie nodded. “Yes. Two raspberry filled chocolate donuts, please.”

     “Alrighty miss. I’ll give you a discount then. Three bits.”

     “Three bits? Are you crazy, I wouldn’t spend three bits on my own poison.”

     The pony behind the counter stared at her.

     Pinkie Pie giggled, “Oh, I mean, three bits is fine.”

     Despite getting cheated at the local dive, Super Sleuth Pie accepted the exchange and walked out of the shop with bag held in her teeth. She took it to a nearby bench and examined the goods before she took a bite. “Mm… these were definitely worth the three bits.” Super Sleuth Pie finished her meal and quested further into Canterlot.

     She came here looking for answer because she had nowhere else to turn. She only knew Rainbow Dash’s tour began here, but the pegasus was miles away now, in some other town, under the mercy of her captors. Well, Super Sleuth Pie wouldn’t stop until she uncovered the truth. One way or another she’d—

     Pinkie Pie stopped when she noticed from the corner of her eye a maroon pegasus filly wearing a Wonderbolts shirt. Super Sleuth Pie had found the clue she needed.

     She launched herself at the filly, who yelped when Super Sleuth Pie landed on top of her and said, “Hold it right there.”

     The filly squeaked and kicked before she rolled into a ball and said, “I’m sorry. You can have anything, just don’t hurt me.”

     “I want your shirt, punk.”

     “My shirt?”

     “Your shirt!”

     “Okay, okay.” The filly scrambled out of the apparel. Super Sleuth Pie smoothed it out on the ground. On the front was a print of the Wonderbolts zooming out of a storm cloud, and when she flipped the shirt over she found exactly what she was looking for: a list of towns and dates for their tour.

     The filly began to edge away, but Super Sleuth Pie said, “Don’t move a muscle.”

     She scanned the shirt again and added dates in her head and decided the date in Winnywood her best bet. Finished, Pinkie Pie looked up and saw half a dozen stunned ponies watching her. Pinkie Pie said, “What? I just wanted to look at her shirt. Geeze, you Canterlot ponies freak out about everything. You really do need to lighten up more.” With a swift kick, Pinkie Pie flicked the shirt back over to the filly in a single smooth motion. “There you go.”

     Super Sleuth Pie strode away from the stunned crowd. A scowl on face. She needed some gum to chew, or a toothpick to hold. Yeah, definitely a toothpick. More importantly she needed something else, something far more valuable. Something that could make or break this case.

     “I need a map to Winnywood.”


     Rainbow Dash’s mood for the week peaked after the Wonderbolt’s show in Manehattan. They just finished a killer show, and even now the crowd outside Manehattan made its way to their tent for autographs. Rainbow Dash was eager to give them, she didn’t wait to take turns with the Wonderbolts, she went out there every show. The fans reminded her why she did this, more than anything else those cheers reminded her why she was here. Why all of her hard work paid for this.

     And her mood could only get better when the seven of them reached the tent. Rainbow Dash was the last one to leave it, and she would be the last one to enter. One of the security ponies yanked a rope and pulled the tent flap open. Rainbow Dash slowed her pace and watched the chatting Wonderbolts enter the tent, Tyco first. He tripped a fishing line. The line snapped and a bucket of coarse green paint fell from where it hung above the entrance. It missed bonking Soarin on the head. Misty yelped and security ponies rushed into the back while the pair at the front shoved them inside the tent.

     Rainbow Dash took to the air before they could catch her. Ponies piled into the tent to protect their charges and the whole tent became a bubbling mass of panic while Rainbow Dash breezed over the mess. Ten poles lining the top of the tent held up the domed center, Rainbow Dash, landed on each one with speedy precision. Snapping them out of place before the tent came down on top the thrashing mess of ponies.

     She landed in front of the tent and laughed. She said over their shouting, “Man I got you guys so good. It’s been forever since I got to pull off a prank like that.”

     The thrashing in the tent stopped. Somepony said, “Rainbow Dash?” The pony near the entrance dug themselves out of the tarp. It was Spitfire, her mane and wings were a ruffled mess. But the scowl on her face changed Rainbow Dash’s outlook.

     Soarin and several other ponies poured out the tent. Soarin chuckled and said, “That was pretty good, dude. Can’t remember the last pony who pulled one over on us like that.”

     “Eh-yeah. Pretty awesome…” Rainbow Dash glanced behind her and realized a line of Wonderbolt fans watched the whole debacle.

     “Pretty awesome?” Tyco came out of the tent. “You threw us for a loop, but don’t you know anything?”

     Spitfire turned to Tyco, “I’ll take her aside.” She faced Rainbow Dash, “Fly with me.”

     She took to the air. Rainbow Dash hesitated until she met the glares on half the Wonderbolts and all of the security team. She leapt into the air.

     Her and Spitfire rose to a comfortable height. They rested on a cloud and for a time, Spitfire didn’t look at her. She sighed and faced Rainbow Dash. Her mane was the only thing illuminated the fading twilight. She said, “I like you a lot Rainbow Dash, I do. You’re a fantastic flyer, with a lot of potential, but this?”

     Rainbow Dash flinched.

     “You’re lucky I’m the one handling this. If it were Misty or Blast, they’d tear your wings off.”

     “Yeah, I should’ve known better…”

     “No, you couldn’t. You just wanted to have some fun, but you need to understand there are consequences here that affect all of us now. You can have fun with that stuff with your own friends.”

     Rainbow Dash looked at her. “Hey, but we’re friends, right?”

     Spitfire shrugged. “Not right now. We can be friends after the show, after all the fans have left and it’s just us. Most of the group liked you before tonight, but look. You embarrassed a lot of ponies with that stunt. I’m mad, they’re mad. Our fans saw it and now everypony’s going to know that the prank you pulled made us look like a bunch of fools.”

     Rainbow Dash glanced at the ground. A handful of lights showed the figures of ponies setting the tent up again while a few Wonderbolts dealt with the crowd. She winced and said, “I’m sorry I screwed up. It won’t happen again. I guess… I just wanted…”

     “Wanted what?”

     Rainbow Dash shook her head, “No, it’s nothing. I should help put the tent back up. And apologize.”

     Spitfire studied her in the dark and Rainbow Dash shuffled her hooves. Rainbow Dash wouldn’t leave until she was ready, they were up here because Spitfire wanted to scold her, after all.

     Spitfire said, “That’s probably for the best.”

     Rainbow Dash swallowed the knot in her throat. “Yeah.”


     The bolters adored Fluttershy. She sat on a cushion, in the back of wagon while they followed her on foot. Twilight walked beside the wagon, trying not to gag while Fluttershy said, “—and then Rarity flew up to the sun, but it was much too hot for her to be that high, and her wings evaporated! Poor Rarity just fell out the sky, but the Wonderbolts saw it and they swept down to save her, but, well Rarity was so frantic and she just flailed her hooves and kicked the other ponies. Then they were unconscious and everypony was really worried, until Rainbow Dash swooped down. And she was going faster and faster and thinking just about saving them and then…”

     Twilight heard one of the bolters ask, “What? What?”

     Several unicorns at the front levitated journals, quills, and ink and wrote down every word she said. They’d been doing that for the past day, everything Fluttershy spoke became Wonderbolt scripture.

     Fluttershy clapped her hooves together, but it was so soft Twilight hardly heard it. Fluttershy said, “Boom. She shot down and caught them and it was so amazing. Gosh, I hadn’t hollered like I did then ever since. But that’s where that story will end.”

     Twilight rolled her eyes when she heard several, “Aww!”’s. The Spitfire cosplay pony, whose real name was silver Lining said from upfront, “Best if we do. I can see the Winnywood cropping up over that hill over there.”

     Finally. Sweet mercy. Soon as they got there Twilight would ditch the bolters. Several of the ponies cheered. Twilight heard Fluttershy’s soft, “Yay,” tangled up in the noise. When they got the chance Twilight needed to remind her that they didn’t like her for her, but because of what she knew.

     In fact…

     Twilight dropped behind the wagon so she could see Fluttershy and said, “Fluttershy. You want to head into town ahead of them. See if we can’t find a certain pink pony around?”

     “Hmm? Oh, of course Twilight.” She said to her admirers, “You guys don’t mind if we meet back up later tonight?”

     Somepony said, “Just don’t keep us waiting.” It was the Rainbow Dash cosplayer. The dye in her mane faded into a tarnished mesh of colors. Twilight didn’t think she ever got out of her costume.

     “Of course, um… we’ll be back in ten seconds flat? Bolt-hoof everypony!”


     Twilight almost face-hoofed. She trotted ahead of the group while Fluttershy floated over the wagon. They reunited in front of the wagon and made sure to keep a pace that would pull them away. Fluttershy said, “I really enjoy spending time with them. They’re all very nice.”

     Twilight sighed. “Yeah, they’re nice alright… they’re a lot things, actually.”

     “Like what, Twilight?”


     “Oh, if you don’t want to tell me you don’t have too. I don’t want to put any pressure on you.”

     Twilight said, “Well, it’s okay. It’s just… sometimes I get sick of how much they obsess. If I were Rainbow Dash I’d be terrified to know ponies like that idolized me more than Princess Celestia.”

     “Oh, but it’s all done in good fun, I think.”

     “If you say so…”

     They walked into Winnywood. It sprouted out of a forest that continued its sprawl to the west. They passed a small bunny farm, which Twilight had to drag Fluttershy away from. They entered the town on the south side, it sloped down gentle sweep of hill twice the length of Ponyville. Below this sweep the ground leveled out and Twilight could clearly see the carnival-esque festival rising from the ground. Along the town she spotted several more cosplaying Wonderbolts and a whole host of fans walking the streets. Twilight groaned. “How is anypony supposed to be found here?”

     “If you want, I can fly up and look for her Twilight.”

     “Are you okay with that?”

     “Well, it does make me a little nervous. I don’t want to get lost, but this is more important.”

     “Okay, we’ll meet back here in an hour.”

     “Okay… um… see you,” Fluttershy said. She took to the air and Twilight sighed. She glanced around the town, shrugged, and decided to start walking.

     Most of the town was built in a T shape, with the top-bar running north to south along the forest edge. The town of course splayed out in more general directions, but Twilight stuck to the main roads, for the most part. She saw Fluttershy drift south, so when she reached the branching road, Twilight headed east. A slow frown stretched over her face. She paced to the edge of town, she scanned the road. And didn’t find a single pony at all like Pinkie Pie. Her eyes lingered on a sweet’s shop named Dough, Re, Mi, but became distracted when she heard a pony shout, “You. The lavender unicorn, over here.”

     Twilight turned around and saw a small stall with an old brown unicorn standing behind it. He said, “Today’s you’re lucky day missy filly. Got deals out the wazzoo.” The stall held several books, most looked like old tomes no pony touched in years. He waved his hoof and said, “Come on over. I’m emptying out my personal library, and you look like a unicorn who could use something to read.”


     Pinkie Pie said, “Ooh, these mint chocolate chip cookies look great.”

     The pink pony behind the counter smiled. “They’re my brother’s specialty. Guaranteed to be good.”

     “I’ll take three then,” Pinkie Pie said. While the pink pony retrieved them Pinkie Pie noticed the question mark cutie mark on her flank. She said, “Whoa, I’ve never seen anything like that. I mean, every cutie mark’s different, but most are just something simple, you know? Like a flower or piece of food, maybe a tool, but nothing ever so… different. How did you get it?”

     The pink pony slid the bagged cookies across the counter and answered while Pinkie Pie dug some bits out of the satchel over her shoulder. She said, “My family bakes, but I’m not a baker. I’m secretly a detective.”

     Pinkie Pie gasped. “A detective! I was one a couple days ago. It was fun, what do you usually detect?”

     “Not much thanks to my brother. He keeps me chained behind this counter.”

     “That’s horrible. If you want, I can sneak you a cake with a file in it,” Pinkie Pie leaned over the counter and whispered, “Bust you out of here, if you know what I mean.”

     The detective giggled. “Oh I’ve already got plenty of cake, all I need is for you to bring the file…?”

     “Pinkie Pie.”

     “Pinkie Pie. My name’s Cookie Doe, but come back in, sometime.”

     Pinkie Pie took her cookies and nodded. She said around the bag, “Of course. Wouldn’t let a pony stay in a prison. Promise to be back with that file.”

     Pinkie Pie bounced out of the shop. Across the street she spotted a stall where a lavender unicorn bargained with a much older one. Pinkie Pie thought for a moment it was Twilight, but that was just silly. Twilight wouldn’t come all the way out here unless Princess Celestia forced her. Pinkie Pie bounced down the road, zigzagging between buildings towards the festival.


          Less a show than a burgeoning of force. What happened to the old days where the Wonderbolts stunned crowds with grace that matched their magnificence? For this pony, those days seem dead and gone with the Wonderbolts newest arrival. The rightly called “Sonic Rainboom” is a tour de force with its own raw beauty, but it speaks of laziness. The team does nothing with their new member and their new member adds nothing to the team, aside from a shock value that will dry up after ponies have witnessed it a few times.


     Rainbow Dash nickered and shoved the column away. It was a review of their show in Canterlot, a special editorial from Equestria Daily.

     “Told you not to read it,” Tyco said from across the room. He lounged in their tent, the farthest tent from Winnywood. Tyco lied on a plush mattress he always used when he read.

     Rainbow Dash said, “What does some stupid unicorn know about flying, anyway?” Rainbow Dash said. “Bet she doesn’t know a single pegasus.”

     “Easy, Dash,” Blizzard said. He and Misty played cards on a table not far from Tyco. “This is what happens. Doesn’t matter how good the show is, there will always be that one pony that’s going to say we’re bad.”

     “I bet that’s easy for you to say. The pony’s not ragging on you, now is she?”

     “Read the rest of the article,” Tyco said. “She has some choice words for all of us.”

     “Except for Soarin. She’s in love with Soarin,” Misty said. She played her next card without watching it and Blizzard’s hoof slapped down on the small pile in the middle. “Darn it. This is what I get for trying to be a part of the conversation. You’re such a cheater.”

     Blizzard said, “The game is slaps, not which pony can wait politely for the other to notice.”

     Misty fumed for a moment then said, “Just play a card.”

     Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. She didn’t get to be part of the meet and greet or the Q and A, they excluded her. Part of her ongoing punishment for her prank. She wanted to go… flying… do something that got her out of the tent, especially after reading that stupid review. She could be tons graceful when she wanted. There was a reason she was a Wonderbolt, wasn’t there?

     Rainbow Dash asked, “Hey Tyco?”

     Tyco didn’t look up from his book. “Yes?”

     “Can I do some warm-ups or something? I’ll do it north of here, where no pony will see me, I swear.”

     “Antsy after that review, huh?”

     “Uh…” Rainbow Dash’s tail flicked. “A little.”

     “Get some air, clear your head. Clouds behind your eyes does no pony good. Especially one with a big show tonight.”


     “Get going. Before somepony on security hears and tries to catch you.”


     Fluttershy hovered over the festival grounds. Several clouds had been moved in place for pegasus ponies to rest on as well. She didn’t do that, they were much too crowded. She felt like a silly filly for searching this far, Pinkie Pie didn’t know any bolters, or shouldn’t anyway… No, she didn’t know any bolters, so she couldn’t be this far out. But she searched everywhere else across town and missed her.

     Her gaze traced north to a large, solitary tent where she saw a pony fly away from it. They coasted low to the ground to avoid attention. If Fluttershy squinted she could see the flurried rainbow mane of the pony. She gasped and whispered, “Rainbow Dash.”

     She hesitated. They came here for Pinkie Pie, but maybe Pinkie Pie already found Rainbow Dash and headed back to Ponyville, and if that was the case she should talk to her, but… oh she just didn’t like the idea of interrupting her. But she needed to, if Pinkie Pie did get sent back to Ponyville then it meant they ran a wild goose chase, and chasing geese could be just awful.


     Rainbow Dash plowed through a set of clouds, she felt the moisture create a wet sheath around her. It soon slipped off under the speed of her flight and heat of Celestia’s sunlight. It hung high in the northern hemisphere and mocked Rainbow Dash because she knew she couldn’t fly into it.

     She didn’t care some stuck up unicorn in Canterlot didn’t like the show. She didn’t care one of her pranks backfired and just made ponies embarrassed and angry. What it threw in her face, though. Well… it was like how impossible the sun threw itself in her face. All that heat and radiance and warmth, and no pony could touch it. She couldn’t touch it.

     She knew the world didn’t work in rainbows. She knew she couldn’t just follow a path and reach some stupid pot of gold. That’s why she made the sonic rainboom hers, to prove she could make her own rainbow to whatever she desired, but now…

     She didn’t know what she wanted.

     Rainbow Dash hung in the air, floating there with the sun the only thing in the sky. She felt it shift, sliding across her, the rays slipping off her wings. She petered out and leveled herself, she flew so high the festival spilled out like a patchwork quilt. None of it made any sense to her anymore, but Rainbow Dash never knew a thing about stitching.

     She coasted above safe altitudes and felt cool air slip under her wings while the sun heated her back. The air was so thin here that if she pushed herself it could get to her.

     The altitude felt comfortable. For the first time in a long time she just wanted escape. She hadn’t forgotten, hadn’t forgotten for a second what she said to her friends, to Applejack and Pinkie Pie both. And she regret it, but she convinced herself she could make amends, or at least, they would understand.

     And here came the question she found so impossible to answer. Did the one’s close to her matter as much as the desire she always harbored in her heart?

     “Dash… Rainbow Dash…”

     Rainbow Dash snapped out of her trance so hard she almost forgot to fly. She dropped in altitude, but with a panicked flurry of flapped wings she saved herself. Below her Fluttershy struggled to keep an altitude within shouting distance. Rainbow Dash gasped and swept around to her.

     She glided past Fluttershy and said, “Let’s get lower.”

     Fluttershy nodded and both circled down like spiraling hawks to a cloud drifting not far from the ground. Rainbow Dash landed and Fluttershy followed. Rainbow Dash asked, “What in the hay are you doing here?”

     “Oh, I’m sorry it’s just—”

     Rainbow Dash felt herself doing it again. She shook her head and said, “No, don’t be sorry. I’m sorry, okay? For what I said during the party. Now why are you here?”

     “Well, me and Twilight came to the festival with the Bolters…”

     “Bolters? Those guys are nuts. Even I don’t drool over the Wonderbolts like they do.”

     Fluttershy blushed. “Oh, um… I thought they were nice enough people.”

     Rainbow Dash snorted and shook her head. “Gah, I’m sorry I’m so bad at this. The Bolters are fine. What did you come here with them?”

     Fluttershy said, “It’s kind of embarrassing, but, well… you see Rarity didn’t mean to but she told Pinkie Pie ‘what would Rainbow Dash do’ so Pinkie Pie did what she thought you would do and ran away to join the Wonderbolts.”

     “What!” Fluttershy flinched. “Join the Wonderbolts, doesn’t she know she doesn’t have any wings?”

     “That’s what we thought, but then Spike came in and he scolded us for being plain silly before he told us Pinkie Pie was really looking for you. And so, we’re here to find her because we thought she would go where you went…”

     Rainbow Dash nodded. “Keep going.”

     “Well, then I just saw you and I thought you must not want to be interrupted, but then I thought ‘What if she already found you?’ So I flew over here to talk to you and ask you if you might’ve already sent her home.”

     Rainbow Dash sighed. “Fluttershy… I haven’t seen Pinkie Pie since that… night.”

     “Oh, I’m sorry to have bothered you then.”

     “No, it’s okay. Really, I’m glad you’re here. You and Twilight will be cheering me on tonight, right?” Rainbow Dash asked.

     Fluttershy smiled. “Oh yes, we wouldn’t miss your big night for anything.” She squeaked. “Oh my gosh. I was supposed to meet Twilight half an hour ago.”

     Rainbow Dash said, “You better go. And I’ll keep an eye out for Pinkie Pie. Thanks for coming Fluttershy, and I’m sorry about what I said.”

     “It’s okay, um… see you later, then?”

     Rainbow Dash nodded. “Definitely.”

     She watched Fluttershy go and sighed. As her friend flew away she felt her gut cinch in knots.

     Pinkie Pie left Ponyville to chase after her, when she was the jerk to her? Rainbow Dash didn’t deserve a friend like that. She needed to find her. Needed to apologize and set things right. She took to the air and returned to the Wonderbolt’s tent.

     Rainbow Dash trotted inside and found Spitfire, Blast, and Soarin waiting with the rest. Tyco said as she entered the tent, “See? Told you she’d be fine.”

     Blast glared at the stallion before she faced Rainbow Dash. “You better have a good excuse for why you flew off like that.”

     “Easy, Blast,” her cousin warned.

     “No, it’s time we stop playing soft with her. You know how many ponies asked me how I felt about a tent falling on my head? That happened two days ago and already it seems like everypony knows about it. She made us all look like a bunch of dunderheads and now she thinks she can just leave? No.”

     Rainbow Dash said, “I’m sorry, I just needed to clear my head.”

     “There’s plenty to do in the tent to clear your head. Worse comes to worst I can kick you until you don’t have anything to think about,” Blast said.


     Soarin said, “Yeah, lay off her.”

     Blast glared at Rainbow Dash. Rainbow Dash flared her nostrils and said, “I’m sorry, okay? But it was important. And this is important to. I need to take the night off. Just the night—”

     “Whoa, hey.” Tyco shut his book. “You can’t just ‘take the night off’ on one of our biggest shows of the year. There are ponies who’ve waited months for today.”

     Spitfire shook her head. “He’s right, Rainbow Dash. We can’t close the show without you.”

     Rainbow Dash nickered. “But this is important. Look, there’s a friend who may be out there and I need to find her before the show. I won’t get the chance tonight.”

     Spitfire pursed her lips and turned away. Blast said, “Hey you can’t seriously be letting her go again, can you?”

     Soarin asked, “How important is it, Dash?”

     Rainbow Dash scraped the ground with her hoof. She said, “Before I left I said some things I’m not proud of. And now because of me there’s a pony who just uprooted her whole life to find me. And if she’s here, then I need to see her and set things straight.”

     Everypony watched Spitfire, whose wings parted slightly, they quivered in the air before she pulled them back beside her. She turned on Rainbow Dash and said, “You can take the night off, but don’t expect security to let you back in.”

     Blast stamped her hoof. “Thank you Celestia, some sense!”

     Soarin mumbled, “But Spitfire…”

     Spitfire kept her gaze on Rainbow Dash. “We are Wonderbolts. There are thousands of ponies out there who will be getting more than just their feelings hurt if somepony fudges our show. We can’t take responsibility for you, Rainbow Dash, not for what you’ve done. But we also can’t chain you down and expect you to perform for us when we release you. So if you walk now, you walk for the rest of your life. If you really think your friend’s here, you can look tomorrow morning.”

     Rainbow Dash’s jaw hung open. Soarin gawked too. Tyco shook his head and went back to his book while Blast sneered and Misty and Blizzard pretended not to watch over their ongoing card game.

     “I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is,” Spitfire said. She turned on her cousin. “Get that stupid look off your face.” She then said to them all, “We’ll go through some warm ups in an hour like we planned. To tease the audience. Whether or not there are six or seven of us, we will do a show tonight.”


     “It’s okay, Fluttershy. Really. I lost track of time reading that book anyways,” Twilight said. The two walked to the festival. The Bolters long since set up their little camp. They spotted the patchwork tent used before and headed to it.

     “I’m still really sorry to keep you waiting, though.”

     “And I said it was okay. Did you find Pinkie Pie at all?

     Fluttershy shook her head, “Oh no. But I did talk to Rainbow Dash.”

     Twilight almost tripped. “You talked to Rainbow Dash and didn’t tell me first thing? Well go on, tell me what she said! Has she seen Pinkie Pie at all?”

     “No, she hasn’t. I just told her about how we got here.”

     Twilight frowned. “That’s it?”

     Fluttershy stopped mid-nod. “Wait… no… she acted, well, sort of… funny.”



     Twilight said, “Anything more than just funny?”

     Fluttershy said, “It’s just hard to explain, I guess… I think it was like she wanted to hug me, but she couldn’t. I sometimes get that way when I see a cute porcupine all by itself.”

     Twilight was sure Fluttershy tried anyway. She sighed. “That’s it?”

     “She just said if she saw Pinkie Pie she would send her home. Oh, and I promised her we would see her show.”

     “Guess we don’t have much of a choice there.”


     Rainbow Dash stared at her suit. Soarin retrieved it for her, off the peg on the opposite side of the tent. He laid it out in front of her and said, “Warm-ups are in ten minutes.”

     Rainbow Dash lied in the dirt, she wished Soarin hadn’t laid the thing right in front of her. She turned her head away and Soarin sat down beside her. He said, “I’m sorry about your friend.”

     Rainbow Dash’s dry throat did not add any pleasantry to her voice. “Yeah?” She already cried, but never once did she get a drink. Now she wanted one, just something to soothe it. Then she’d lie back in her corner and not make a decision at all, because she couldn’t choose.

     Soarin laid a hoof on her shoulder. “Hey. I know it’s not fair, but Spitfire’s right, you know? She didn’t want to tell you no, either. She went through a lot of the same stuff, if it hadn’t been for her cousin she would have quit.”

     “So you’re saying I should just give up?”

     “Not that, no. But Spitfire found out her friends just didn’t abandon her. She still had them after everything blew over.”


     Soarin sighed. “It does weigh on you. Tyco has a saying from one of his books about all the world being a stage and everypony’s players and what not. I can’t remember it. But the gist of it is that ponies don’t see us as Soarin or Spitfire or Rainbow Dash. They see Wonderbolts, and the longer you’re a Wonderbolt the more the Equestria sees you as a Wonderbolt until even your old friends stop saying Soarin, and start saying Soarin the Wonderbolt.”

     Rainbow Dash felt bile rise in her throat. She didn’t want to hear that.

     Soarin kept talking. “I mean, if you told me four years ago that my best friend would be a pony who enjoyed books and planning tricks more than he did flying and that the only thing we had in common were our loves of puns and pizza, well, I would’ve laughed at you.”

     Rainbow Dash said, “So you are saying I should just give up.”

     “Gah—I’m awful at this, aren’t I?” Soarin stood up. “What I’m trying to get at is, there will always be somepony there who understands you. Don’t fret about that, it just depends on who you want that to be. If I were you, don’t throw this out just yet. Do the show, and tomorrow, when things are better, when Spitfire can’t threaten you, go.”

     Rainbow Dash looked up at him.

     He smiled. “Being a Wonderbolt means being a lot of things. But don’t stop being yourself.”


     “Oh, there they go,” somepony said, and a whole clump of Wonderbolt fans went quiet to watch seven Wonderbolts take to the air. They glided over to the field and began to make formation runs, and a whole bunch of stuff Pinkie Pie didn’t care about. She could only see there little tiny figures swooping around.

     “Still can’t believe they’re letting Rainbow Dash fly after the stunt she pulled,” one fan said to another.

     Both stood at the back of the crowd, under the shade of a tree. Pinkie Pie bounced beside the one who spoke, a crimson unicorn with black hair. She said, “What did she do?”

     The unicorn started and bumped into her smaller friend. A white pegasus who grunted. Both spun on Pinkie Pie and the unicorn said, “Who the hay are you?”

     “My name’s Pinkie Pie. I’m a friend of Rainbow Dash’s.”

     The pegasus snorted. “Please.”

     “Please what?”

     Unicorn shook his head. “Never mind. Are you supposed to be here? You don’t look like a fan of the Wonderbolts.”

     “Course I’m supposed to be here. I’m standing here aren’t I? If I wasn’t supposed to stand here then I’d stand elsewhere, but I’m standing here so I must belong here. Can you tell me what Rainbow Dash did now, please?”

     The unicorn shook her head, but her friend said, “She pulled a prank on the team in front of a bunch of fans.”

     Pinkie Pie laughed while the unicorn swung her flank into the pegasus and glared at her. The pegasus muttered, “The sooner we tell her the sooner she gets off our back.”

     Pinkie Pie frowned. “That seems silly. I’m not on anypony’s back. I’m on the ground, I am an earth pony after all.”

     “Let’s just ignore her,” the unicorn suggested.

     “But what about Rainbow Dash’s prank? I just gotta know what she did.”

     The pegasus wheeled around on her and demanded, “If we tell you will you bug off?”

     Pinkie Pie nodded.

     The pegasus rolled her eyes and said, “Rainbow Dash collapsed the Wonderbolt’s tent on top of them and made everypony there angry because she embarrassed the team.”

     Pinkie Pie asked, “What would they have to be embarrassed about? It’s all in good fun.”

     Neither pony answered her. They refused to face her again and like all the other ponies around her they watched the Wonderbolts run zigzags across the sky.


     Rainbow Dash had her flank in the air, her front hooves stretched out as far as they could go. She stretched her shoulders, and bounced low to the ground before righting herself. The flight did make her feel better, if it only distracted her.

     She heard Spitfire say her name and turned towards the entrance to the tent. Spitfire stopped before her and said, “They’re setting up the field now.”

     Rainbow Dash nodded, it meant half an hour before show time. Spitfire said, “You up for the show tonight?”

     Rainbow Dash said, “Course I am. I’m always ready.”

     “You don’t look very convinced.”

     Rainbow Dash knew she didn’t. She couldn’t ply the lingering regret off her, and it crept along her features, hid behind her eyes and dragged in her throat, making her voice leaden.

     “I can do the show.”

     Spitfire studied her for a moment. Smiled and said, “Okay.” She approached Rainbow Dash and nuzzled her cheek. “I’m glad you decided to stay.”

     Rainbow Dash didn’t know what to say to that. It was the first time Spitfire showed any interest in friendship. She turned away and lifted her left hind leg, her right wing splayed out and stretched the opposite direction. She said, “No problem.”

     “Tyco will escort you to the stage. I’ve got to go,” Spitfire said. She retreated from the tent.

     Tyco sat on his mattress twenty paces away. He flipped a page of his book and said, “I’m not escorting you anywhere.”

     “You haven’t yet.”

     “She just needed an excuse to leave. Between the two of us? Spitfire was the one who pushed for you to be on the team. She likes you, really likes you.”

     Rainbow Dash almost blushed. She stopped her stretching but did not look at Tyco. “I’m flattered, but…”

     “Don’t swing that way? We know. She knows,” Tyco said. “But it’s why she gave you that ultimatum. She doesn’t want to see you go. Frankly, none of us do. Even though Spitfire pushed for you, if any one of us thought you didn’t deserve to make the team, you wouldn’t have.”

     Rainbow Dash thought of Blast and said, “I find that hard to believe.”

     “Believe what you want. I’m not here to change what you see, just what you think is the truth.”

     Rainbow Dash glared at him. But Tyco refused to look at her. Twenty minutes later he got up and said, “See you in ten.” He left the tent, and Rainbow Dash was alone.


     Twilight sat with Fluttershy in the stands, surrounded by bolters, many of which had their current affection riveted on her friend. Twilight ignored this and thought of spells she could use to mute all the noise so maybe she could sneak in a few pages of reading before the show got under way. It was an hour before the sun slipped off the western horizon, the stands ran parallel to north and south. The field stretched two hundred paces wide and eight hundred long. Along it twenty pegasus ponies busied themselves with setting up fogs and several other ambient clouds used for the show. Roughly half a hundred security ponies paced the grounds and stands to make sure no rogue pony ran onto the field and endangered themselves and the Wonderbolts. A few pegasus ponies floated in the air above the stands as well, to insure everypony remained seated.

     On the northern face of the field waited a small stage. Twilight’s hopes of some mute spell became moot when the audience erupted. From a nearby tent emerged a single figure, who walked forty paces and took her place on the stage before the field. It was Rainbow Dash.

     Shouting matches between various clubs emerged. Twilight’s ears rang with, “Bolt-hoof,” and a slew of other chants. The fans built themselves into a frenzy. Twilight turned on Fluttershy to ask if they could leave, but Fluttershy was too busy clapping her hooves and getting swept away in the building craze.

     It seemed the whole world would go mad for one pony.


     Rainbow Dash felt her knees wobble. She didn’t have an answer, to anything. The past three months weighed heavily on her mind. She thought about all the time she spent with the Wonderbolts, all the careful encouragement and support to groom her into one of them. And she let them because it was what she wanted.

     But she thought about what Soarin said and what she said to Applejack. She was a Wonderbolt now, and all these ponies, thousands of them screamed and hollered for her. For a Wonderbolt, there was no Rainbow Dash here on this stage. If she stayed a Wonderbolt, would the same happen in Ponyville? She thought of the distance already there, everypony treated her differently and she them and neither wanted that. The only pony who didn’t seem to notice a change was Pinkie Pie, and now…

     Pinkie Pie could be anywhere right now.

     She wanted to complete this show. She knew when she began flying her whole body would fill up with that poison. A noxious, horrible part loved the crowd too much. Showboating and arrogance was the only thing that kept her standing here. She wanted to run, but she reminded herself of everypony she disappointed by doing so. She had to do this, for everypony, for everything she gave up in the past three months.

     She crouched low and fanned out her wings.

     The volume of the crowd doubled.

     Breathe, Rainbow Dash.


     Pinkie Pie tried to get around the large security pony, but he stepped in the way and said, “Uh-uh, no ticket, no show. Sorry miss.”

     Pinkie Pie peeked over his shoulder out onto the field, where Rainbow Dash stood alone on the stage. “But I just got to see her. I came all this way—”

     The stallion swung his green head into the way. “Hey, a lot ponies came a lot of ways to see the Wonderbolts, and you aren’t going to ruin it for them. You have two choices. You can go, or if you need help me and some of the boys will escort you back into Winnywood.”

     Pinkie Pie glared at him. She knew she could outrun this bozo if she got past him. It would just take the right kind of move…

     Rainbow Dash launched into the air. Pinkie Pie gasped and watched her shoot all the way to other side of the field where she twirled and became a spinning ball of rainbow color. She dove and glided along the ground and Pinkie Pie tried to run into her path, but the stallion and a friend of his blocked her way.

     “Rainbow Dash!”

     She was moving too fast to hear her, and those stallions blocked her from sight. In the blink of an eye she was in the field again, amongst the fog.

     “That’s it, come on miss.”

     Pinkie Pie almost struggled, but she saw they were bigger, tougher, and a dozen more ponies watched them to make sure she didn’t get away from them. She knew her best bet would be to wait when all eyes were on the Wonderbolts, then she’d make her move.

     Pinkie Pie slipped out of the grasp of the green stallion and said, “Okay. Okay. I’m leaving, and I’m never coming back. I hope you’re happy.”

     The stallion shrugged.

     “Seriously. You’ll never see me again. So don’t bother trying to stop me because we won’t ever see each other. Ever. I won’t ever come back to one of these shows ever again.”

     He turned away and Pinkie Pie spun around and bounced away. She fooled him. Her plan worked perfectly…

     She made about twenty paces before the field lit up with the Wonderbolt’s lightning sun. The show had begun.


     Breathe, Rainbow Dash.

     “It’s all you!” Soarin shouted as he sped by.

     It was the end of the show. The other Wonderbolts formed up at the south side of the field for some performance flying to distract the audience while she prepared. Rainbow Dash began to ascend.

     The show had not changed anything. All the same feelings riled through her. She still did not know which path to take moving forward. Both sides were laced with their own triumphs, their own failings. She would disappoint ponies no matter what she chose.

     She knew both could lead her to happiness. She remembered what Soarin said, and she knew the same could happen to her. Ponies lost friends all the time and moved on, but at the same time… Those five were her best of friends, the only real friends she ever had before, and she knew that like friends, dreams fade and change, too.

     In the end, whichever choice she made would be like stepping into the heart of a rainboom. Destructive and beautiful, brief yet always permanent in memory.

     She felt somepony rush beside her. She looked to her right and there flew Tyco. He shouted, “Call it off.” Rainbow Dash stopped her ascent, about as half as high as she needed to be. Tyco told her, “Somepony ran onto the field. It’s too dangerous.”

     Rainbow Dash looked down. On the field scrambled dozens of tiny figures, they all tried to close on a pink dot, darting around the field.

     “Pinkie Pie…”


     Rainbow Dash didn’t have an answer for the future. She was sure she would never have one, but she did know that she would never abandon Pinkie Pie or anypony ever again, not like she did that night.

     Rainbow Dash dove.


     Twilight yelled, “We need to save her before she gets hurt.”

     On the field Pinkie Pie bounced into the air, landed on the shoulders of a stallion and sprung off. Confounding a swath of security ponies who thought her cornered. Twilight pushed her way past a pair of bolters and made for the stairs.

     A pair of hooves grabbed her. They forced Twilight to turn around and in front of her was Fluttershy. She pointed a trembling hoof into the air and said, “Um… Twilight… she’s not slowing down…”

     Twilight eyes almost popped from her skull. She gasped and said, “Celestia save us she’s going to be way to close.”

     Fluttershy asked, “What can we do?

     Twilight’s eyes scanned the crowd. No pony seemed to care, none of them really knew just how powerful the sonic rainboom could be. They couldn’t evacuate everypony there, not enough time. Rainbow Dash still picked up speed.

     Twilight pursed her lips and said, “I’ll try my best, but…” she closed her eyes and began to focus her energies, “You may want to get down, Fluttershy.”

     Shields were paltry magics. Usually placed around a single object to keep it from getting damaged. All it took was a picture in the mind’s eye of what needed to protect, and then coalescing one’s energy around it. She could see the field, the stands, but it was impossible to see everypony there, so she focused on the air above the stands. She shaped her energy around it, the height of a hundred ponies in the air, and began to stretch it from a single point across the whole field. Over it, forming a dome.

     Only a few sharp-eyed unicorn ponies noticed the air ripple like it was in the throes of a heat wave, the magic remained invisible to other ponies. Some realized the danger, because Twilight felt small pockets of energy fill on her shield, perhaps two dozen unicorns pitching in. The effort of magic slowed down time, all they had to do was finish the dome and…


     A bloom of energy, Rainbow Dash punched through the shield in an instant and Twilight screamed, it was like the pony punched through her own skull. The remainder of the rainboom exploded over her shield, it held the force for a moment, then a searing pain laced its way up Twilight’s horn until she could feel it on the border of cracking. She had no choice.

     She released the magic.

     She opened her eyes and felt the force of the rainboom shove her flat against the stands. She gasped and blinked, trying to regain her senses. Her ears popped when the roar reached her. Underneath them the stands swayed and rocked. She heard ponies shout and scream, the wonder gone. She fought for consciousness, but the pain that bloom in her horn now flushed through her body like a poison, and for a moment, she blacked out.


     When the force of the rainboom hit, Fluttershy felt herself almost blown over, but the solid hooves of the bolters behind her caught her and propped her up. Fluttershy didn’t notice Twilight. For a moment she caught the sight of Pinkie Pie and several security ponies struggling to their hooves, but then Rainbow Dash was there. She went far too fast to sweep down, grab Pinkie Pie, and leave.

     So she swept around them, went the length of the field before she could turn again and sped towards the party pony. But some of the security ponies piled on top of her, thinking to protect Pinkie Pie. Rainbow Dash changed her plans and swept around them, veering hard and sweeping into a circle. She orbited them faster and faster until every one of the ponies was lifted in the air.

     Fluttershy felt a surge of wind tug on her mane, the stands creaked and leaned toward the twister Rainbow Dash created. But soon it wasn’t a twister, Rainbow Dash kept spinning and spinning around Pinkie Pie until the stallions fell to the ground, dropping a distance that wouldn’t harm them until there was just Pinkie Pie in the core of a balled rainbow. The pony barely visible through the vapored colors of light.

     Then Rainbow Dash swept up, around, and the vortex suddenly stopped. Pinkie Pie fell an instant before Rainbow Dash sped through her own vortex and caught her. The vortex exploded and followed the pegasus in a long, narrow cone of multi-colored vapor trails that hung heavy in the air.

     They sped straight, for the Wonderbolts tent and disappeared within it.

     A pair of Wonderbolts followed, the face of the stands on the opposite end of the field collapsed. Ponies yelled warnings and began to scramble to safety, and Fluttershy finally remembered poor Twilight beside her. Groaning and struggling to come to her senses.


     “Oh I know, Twilight. I’m sorry, but you just got to move, okay? It’s not far, and it’s just too dangerous here. Come on, ugh, move please!”

     Twilight felt somepony grab her and try to lift her onto her hooves, but when they released her her knees buckled and she fell again. “Gosh, I’m so sorry, Twilight. Here—” Hooves wrapped around her again, but they quickly let her go. Twilight heard a squeak. She tried to open her eyes and lift her head, but she couldn’t.

     She heard, “She okay?”

     “Oh… I’m not sure… um… she tried to… um…”

     “Here, it’s going to be okay.” Twilight saw hooves land in front of her face, they were hidden underneath the familiar navy blue suit of a Wonderbolt.

     A pair of strong hooves wrapped around her and lifted her into the air.

     “Follow me, I’ll drop you guys off over there.”

     Twilight’s head hung limp in the air. The stands swayed below her, shrinking away until she pitched left and glided over the air to where a crowd of ponies waited. But she stopped and her limbs swung in the air like pendulums when she heard, “Wait!”

     “What is it?” the Wonderbolt asked.

     “We’re friends of Rainbow Dash…”

     She hung in the air, drifting up then down with the beat of the pegasus pony’s wings. “Hey, yeah I recognize you now. You guys are from Ponyville.”


     “Well, shoot. Follow me. I’ll get you to Rainbow Dash. I’ve got a feeling she’ll be wanting to see you guys to.”

     Twilight swung around and the Wonderbolt carried her to the tent.


     Rainbow Dash hugged Pinkie Pie and said, “What in the hay were you doing?” The two of them sat on Tyco’s mattress, catching their collective breaths.

     Pinkie Pie coughed. Rainbow Dash let up her grip and she said, “I was doing what you would do.”

     Rainbow Dash glared at her. “Don’t ever do that again. Obviously I’m not very smart.”

     Pinkie Pie giggled. “Whatever you say, Dashie.”

     Rainbow Dash poked her in the ribs. “I mean it. You scared me senseless.”

     Both ponies heard: “Senseless? I’ve got a lot words for it, and senseless is the nicest.”

     Rainbow Dash looked behind her and started. In the entrance of the tent stood Spitfire and Tyco. Tyco with a scowl on his face and Spitfire a stern glare. Both approached and Tyco added, “We had a clear height you had to be for when you hit the rainboom. A clear one you had barely cleared when you began your dive. It’s only by sweet Celestia herself that no pony got killed. It was a miracle no pony should ever see again.”

     Spitfire eyes flicked from Pinkie Pie to Rainbow Dash. “She was the friend you were talking about? Did you think she was in some kind of trouble when you made that dive? She wasn’t until you did.”

     Rainbow Dash stepped between the two and Pinkie Pie. “I wasn’t going to abandon her.”

     Tyco nickered. “I don’t care if it was Princess Celestia out there. You don’t endanger a thousand for one.”

     Pinkie Pie spoke up, “Well did anypony get hurt?”

     The flap came open again, and everypony turned their gaze on Fluttershy. Who squeaked and wilted away until Soarin entered the tent with Twilight draped across her back. Pinkie Pie gasped. “Twilight!”

     Twilight groaned and tried to raise her head to face Pinkie Pie, but she couldn’t. Pinkie Pie rushed to her side while Soarin said, “She’s okay.”

     Spitfire demanded, “Who are these two?”

     Soarin looked at Rainbow Dash. “Friends?”

     Rainbow Dash nodded.

     With Pinkie Pie’s help, Soarin set Twilight down. The dazed unicorn leaned against the pegasus while Soarin said, “Fluttershy here says this unicorn’s the reason Rainbow Dash didn’t flatten the field.”

     Twilight muttered something. Soarin listened, nodded and said, “She says she had some help.”

     Tyco turned on Rainbow Dash. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

     Rainbow Dash pursed her lips. She already said it all, and she still stood by it. Misty barreled into the tent. Fluttershy yelped and ducked. Misty said, “You guys should get out here.”

     “What is it?” Spitfire asked.

     Misty shook her head, “You need to see,” and she flew out the tent again.

     Spitfire said to Rainbow Dash, “This isn’t over.”

     Soarin and Pinkie Pie helped Twilight follow the two Wonderbolts outside. Fluttershy looked at her, opened her mouth then her ears perked and she said, “Hear that?”

     Rainbow Dash did, at first it was indistinct. Fluttershy drifted outside, lured by the noise. A knot rose in Rainbow Dash’s throat, but she swallowed and stepped outside. And before the tent, amassed hundreds of ponies, a Wonderbolts flag waved over them, and she heard the clear chant now, “Dash! Dash! Rainbow Dash! Beats the best in ten seconds flat!”

     Rainbow Dash barely heard Fluttery gasp. “The bolters!”

     Out on the field, it still hung in the air, the torrent of colored vapors from her sonic rainboom. The burst dissolved overhead, below it, underneath the spot Rainbow Dash created her tornado hung the remains of the vapors, where she shot through it and stretched it over the field. The stands sagged, and looked they would collapse with the next breeze. But before her…

     “Dash! Dash! Rainbow Dash! Beats the best in ten seconds flat!”

     Her knees wobbled, and she felt the same emotion well up in her that Soarin left when he told her she would be a Wonderbolt. She felt Fluttershy beside her, she heard her friend say, “I’m sorry, Rainbow Dash. I didn’t know if you wanted to—but I sort of told them your catch phrase.”

     The crowd continued its chant. Pinkie Pie twisted around and waved her hoof. “Hello? Equestria to Rainbow Dash? Get out there, they want you, Dashie.”

     Rainbow Dash took a few weak steps forward, at least until the crowd could see her clearly. The chant broke into raucous applause, whistles, hooting and hollering. Some sections swung back into their cheer. Her cheer. And she knew this moment… she’d felt it twice before a year ago and when she was filly… and now again…

     Standing at the heart of a rainboom.


     “We aren’t going to hold a double standard,” Spitfire said. All of the Wonderbolts stood behind her now, it was the morning of the next day. Rainbow Dash stood outside the tent with her three friends beside her. Spitfire said, “I’m sorry Rainbow Dash, but—”

     “She did something super-duper amazing, though!” Pinkie Pie protested. “You can’t kick her out for that—”

     Rainbow Dash shook her head. “No Pinkie Pie, it’s fine.”

     Twilight said, “Are you sure?”

     Rainbow Dash nodded and said to the Wonderbolts, “Spitfire’s right, there shouldn’t be any special treatment with the team. But more importantly, I’m not ready yet. I mean—I’m ready to be a Wonderbolt, I know I can do that in my sleep. But I’m not ready to give up everything, I don’t think I ever will be able to. If it makes any sense—I don’t know.” Rainbow Dash pointed at the Wonderbolts, “You guys can bet your bits I’ll be back though, and well, if I can’t be a Wonderbolt still then I’ll just start my own group and it’ll ten times cooler.”

     Spitfire smiled. “I fear the day.”

     Rainbow Dash did too. “Hey you ponies better. I’ll be shooting up the ladder so fast it’ll leave your heads spinning when I blaze past you.”

     Soarin spoke up, “See you around Dash. Me and Spitfire may pay you a visit in Ponyville once we finish this tour.” And he winked, but it wasn’t directed at Rainbow Dash. She glanced over her shoulder and found Twilight blushing.

     “See you guys!” Pinkie Pie said. “Let me know next time you guys are in town so I can throw a party.”

     Spitfire chuckled, “Sure will, Pinkie Pie.”

     “Thanks a bunch, then, Comet.”

     “It’s Spitfire.”

     “Spitfire, well that’s just silly—”

     “Come on Pinkie Pie,” Twilight said, “Before you embarrass us anymore.”

     Fluttershy giggled. “Don’t you mean, embarrass you?” Twilight almost glared at her as they turned away. Rainbow Dash heard her say, “Oops, I’m sorry. That wasn’t too far was it? I just thought we were joking…”

     Twilight said, “Oh, it’s fine. Coming, Rainbow Dash?”

     Rainbow Dash spared the Wonderbolts one last look before she joined her friends. “Course I am. I just figured you guys could use a head start.”

     Pinkie Pie said, “Head start? I didn’t think were racing home.”

     “Um… were not. I asked Silver Lining, and he was nice enough to let us travel back with the bolters,” Fluttershy said.

     Twilight whined, “But I still have a terrible headache!”

Book 3: Aged Applewood