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Hell Week

An MLP:FiM Fanfiction by Squeejee

Chapter 1: Mark

The cleanup for Rainbow Dash's 21st was almost as legendary as the party itself.  With the cyan pegasus passed out from keeping up with Pinkie Pie's biggest party ever, it fell to the party pony and Applejack to pack up the outdoor dance floor.  Rarity and Fluttershy were breaking down the tents, and Twilight Sparkle was researching a spell to fix the fissure in the earth.  Rainbow Dash came to during the third hour of cleanup.

"Dashie's awake!  Morning sleepyhead!"  Pinkie Pie loomed and shouted, two things that Rainbow would rather she not do right now.

"HshPinkshPye."  Dash rubbed her eyes and sat up (then laid back down, rubbed her head, and sat up again very slowly), realizing it was still dark.

"Here!  This'll clear your head in no time."  She hoofed her pegasus friend a cupcake, breakfast of champions.  Dash bit into it halfheartedly, resting her other hoof against her pounding brow.

"WhzImss?"  You know, this cupcake isn't half bad.

"Lots'a stuff,” Pinkie Pie giggled, “like when I drew all over your face!”

“Whaaa!”  In a multichromatic blur, Rainbow Dash bucked Pinkie Pie off of her and dive-bombed the nearest lake, mouth open, completely sober by the time she hit it thanks to her friend's special "Pinkie Me Up" cupcake.

"I'm sorry again, Dashie!  I really should have told you what was in that thing."

Rainbow Dash sat at the edge of the lake, rubbing the ink off her face with a now blackened hoof.  She was dripping wet still, and looked sideways at her friend as she replied.

"It's okay Pinkie, really.  Besides, I don't have a headache anymore, so there's that."

Pinkie hugged her, and there was a moment of silence between the two, punctuated by a flash of light and the distinctive crumbling of rock as Twilight finally cast her spell in the distance.  Then Pinkie did something completely unexpected.

"Hey, what's it like being 21, Dashie?"  The worst part was that she asked it with a SRS BSNS face.

"Awesome, I guess."  Looks like the fire team has finally gotten control of the Everfree Forest.  Good thing too, I was worried I'd have to go help them.  "I don't even know the names of some of those drinks Applejack mixed for me."

"Well, it's just that now that you're 21 you'll be trying all kinds of new things that you couldn't do when you were younger like how you have that Wonderbolts brochure in your room that says you're old enough to join their spring training in two weeks but I secretly hope you won't because it said the camp lasts two months and then when you get in you'll be on the road all the time and we'll never get to see you and do fun things like rollerblading though now that I think of it I've never tried rollerblading before I wonder if it's like ice skating which I love almost as much as candy but that's not fair because candy is the bestest thing ever!"

Wait.  What the hay did she just say?

"It's in two weeks."

For the fourth time, Rainbow Dash explained her plans as her friend returned to her.  For the fourth time, she saw the look of disappointment cross her friend's face as she realized what it meant.  And for the fourth time, Rainbow Dash hung her head.

"You know, just because I can go this year, doesn't mean I have to..."

"How could you possibly say that?"  Rarity looked like she was about to freak out.  "You've only been talking about this your entire life!"

Rainbow didn't really have a response, but since all her friends were looking at her now, she had to say something.

"It's just...  It's something Pinkie Pie said.  If I leave, if I actually join them, I won't be able to see you guys again for a long time."  She looked around, but didn't really see any of her friends in this light.  Smoke from the party aftermath had blotted out most of the stars, and the dull glow of the fire in the distance had faded.

"Well, yeah, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it."  Twilight.  Huh.

"Ah think it'd be a righ' shame if you di'n' go."

"Besides, you can't let something I said change your mind, even I don't know what I'm saying sometimes!"

"But I've been thinking about it too, and I don't even know if I'm ready!"  Rainbow felt tears come to her eyes as she shouted.  "I mean, what if I go there, and get left so far in the dust they never let me back?  What if I blow it?"  A hoof on her back brought her back to reality.

"Rainbow Dash, don't be stupid."  Fluttershy?  What the hay?  "You're the best flier in Equestria!"

"But I-"

"Bar.  None."

Four more sets of hooves joined Fluttershy's, and Rainbow Dash couldn't help but hug back as hard as she could.  After a moment Rainbow would have preferred last much longer, they separated, and she met Fluttershy's gaze.  She had really meant that compliment.

Rainbow Dash had almost forgotten what it felt like to believe that herself.

Rainbow spent most of her waking hours for the next two weeks with her friends, not even thinking about stunt flying.  And when Twilight had her second and third sleep overs, Dash spent a number of her sleeping hours with them as well.  All to soon it came to an end, and she found herself flying to Cloudsdale at three in the morning.

The air was freezing, which was perfect for shaking off the unfamiliar fatigue of early rising.  Dash caught a warm front and rode it in, along with a dozen other early riser pegasi, and they formed a flight, one in front and the rest falling behind in a basic V-formation.

"So."  A brown pegasus to her right with a guitar cutie mark.

"Yeah."  They crested the top of a very large cloud, revealing an expanse of grass below.

"You're headed to Cloudsdale too, I guess?"  The city in question hung in the distance, growing closer but still twenty minutes away at this speed.

"You know it!  Gonna try out for the Wonderbolts!"  Dash indicated herself proudly with a hoof, as if it should be the most obvious thing ever.

"You too?"  A blue pegasus to her left this time, with a puff of cloud cutie mark.  "Small world."

"Really small world."  The brown pegasus spoke up.  "That's what I'm here for!"  A chorus of ascent from the others in the flight.  Rainbow Dash felt as if she had swallowed a butterfly.

"We're all headed to the same place?"

"Looks like it!"

"What do you think it'll be like?"


"I hear that, during training, Spitfire's a real hardass."


"Yeah!  My older brother tried out once, he said she practically ripped his wings off."

"Pssh.  I was at this thing last year, it's not that bad."

"You were here last year?  How did you do?"

"How do you think I did?"

The voices sort of faded together after a moment, and Rainbow Dash was stuck in her head again.  Every single one of these ponies was trying out too.  How many others would there be?  Even if she was good, would she even get noticed among the crowd?  Only one thing to do.

Rainbow Dash grinned.  She would have to be the best, then she would get noticed for sure.  On a whim, she shouted at them and took off for Cloudsdale at top speed, hearing them chase after her – the race was on, and sun hadn't even risen yet.

Arriving first as expected, Rainbow Dash watched the eleven other early risers land behind her, exchanging brohoofs and cheering at each other (she joined in, headbutting the guitar guy).  The meeting area was Cloudsdale Colosseum, the same place that hosted the Junior Fliers Competition, but the airspace in the center was much more crowded that Dash remembered it.

The seats were all gone from the stands, creating tight corridors that ran circles around the floating stadium.  The VIP boxes were now all filled with exercise equipment, and the center arena had what appeared to be an aerial obstacle course – Dash was familiar with them.  Though dawn was threatening on the horizon, the whole thing was lit up by floating cloud lanterns that resembled moons – they cast long, dark shadows in the walls that gave the whole thing a deserted feeling.

They had landed in a platform at the bottom of the center arena that was bare cloud save for a sign that said TRAINEES.  After a moment the dozen pegasi greeted another inbound flight, who it seemed had stayed in travel formation the whole way in.  Then another crowd, and another, and some ponies had to hover above the platform because there wasn't enough room for them all.

It was enough to make Rainbow Dash feel alive.  Her heart raced as she imagined leaving these fools behind her – Spitfire would hire Rainbow to the Wonderbolts on the spot as she lapped the group for the third time, backwards.  Somepony mentioned that it was already 0430 and the Wonderbolts weren't here yet, and as if on cue, they showed up.

“You have all failed the first test!”

Spitfire crested the top of the Colosseum, flanked by four other Wonderbolts, and the crowd went silent.  The five of them – not wearing their blue uniforms – hovered above the crowd of trainees, and their captain continued, as loud as she could muster.

“Lesson one!  A Wonderbolt never passes up the opportunity to get better!  You've all had thirty minutes to train, and instead you've been standing around flapping your pie holes at each other like school fillies!”

And of course, they responded by remaining perfectly still and staring at her.

Why are you all just floating there?”  She grabbed her whistle and blew it, and her coaches took four positions around the top of the Colosseum.  “Split up into four even groups!  Move!”

The crowd scattered, and there was a great deal of confusion.  Rainbow noticed Spitfire facehoofing, and decided to find a group fast so as not to make a bad first impression.  She noticed that one of the captains was Soarin, and since she knew him, decided to join his group.

“Hey Soarin!  Long time no see.”

“Well if it isn't the best young flier in Equestria!  I was hoping you'd make it out here this year.”

“You know it!  By the end of this thing, you're going to be calling me 'teammate'.”

“We'll see about that.  Hey, help me get everyone lined up, would ya?  Stand over here...”

As the confusion died down, Soarin arranged everypony in his group into even rows and had them stand at attention – or he would have, if they had any idea what that meant.  They were all shifting from hoof to hoof, chattering a bit and occasionally yawning, certainly not in a military posture of any kind.

He was rearranging them by height when Spitfire spoke up again.  “That was pitiful!”  Okay, she didn't speak up, she shouted.  “I want you all to fly back to that platform, now!”  She blew the whistle, and the trainees complied this time on the first try – Dash made sure to be the first to touch down, but couldn't look up in time to see if Spitfire noticed or not.

“Now, back into your groups!”  The whistle blew, and they raced to their groups.  There was only one problem.

“Ow!  Hey, watch it!”  The brown guitar pegasus from before!  That jerk.

“You watch it!  I'm trying to get over there!”  Rainbow tried to push around him – somepony from her group had landed already, and this was already taking too much of her time.

“Yeah?  Well I'm headed over there!”  He pointed in the opposite direction, and tried to push past her.  Their movements canceled each other out for a brief moment, then a gray blur smacked into them both.

“Ow!  Burnt muffins!”  Ditzy Doo glared at Rainbow Dash, rubbing her head where they had collided.  “We needed one!  We have three!”  Then she flew around her in a huff, heading toward Soarin's group at top speed.

“Hey!  Wait for me!”  Dash blasted off, overtaking Derpy and landing back in the spot she had been in before.  Only half of her group had arrived and were watching the chaos below them unfold, as it seemed that everypony had crashed into everypony else, and then promptly forgotten which group they were supposed to be in.  Dash glanced at Spitfire, who was holding a stopwatch and seemed very disgruntled.

After a while, the groups sorted themselves out, and there was silence.  Silence, save for a faint click as Spitfire pressed the button on her stopwatch, then returned to yelling at them.

“TWO MINUTES!”  She threw her stopwatch into the darkness, and Soarin took off to catch it.  “Two minutes it took you worthless rats with wings to find your places!  Two minutes for you lot to fly from there to there!  Is this flight school 101?  Have you all gone to the little pony's room?  Should we break for nappy-time?  TWO MINUTES!”

She really, really, really, tried not to.  It was the hardest bout of trying she could remember doing in the past few months.  But despite herself, Rainbow Dash smirked, smiled, and chuckled at Spitfire's rant.  Of course, the captain was on top of her in an instant.

“You think it's funny, rat?”  Dash bit her tongue, but it was useless.  “You want a good laugh?  You think I'm here for your entertainment?”  Dash shoved a hoof in her mouth, stifling the laughter for good, and returned to a straight face.

“So I'm NOT funny, am I?”  

Dash really didn't have anything to say to that, so instead she stammered.  “Uh, you ARE funny, but I thought-”

“Did you think you were doing wing push ups?  Because that's the correct answer!  Twenty, right now!”  Dash blinked, hesitated, met Spitfire's glare and complied, falling and rolling over into the familiar exercise.  While she counted off twenty push ups using her wings to lift her body, Spitfire continued.

“Being a Wonderbolt is not about being the fastest.  It's being the fastest team!  If one of you takes two full minutes to go fifty feet, than all of you have taken that long!”  Rainbow Dash counted off her tenth push up, only now beginning to feel the burn, when Spitfire stepped on her.

They locked eyes, and Dash understood – continuing to count to twenty as she supported both her own body and Spitfire's.

“You need to know your spot in the formation better than the location of your ass.”  Twelve, thirteen, Spitfire leaned on Dash more, increasing the weight.  “You need to know the spot of every single member of your team just as well, so you can get the hay out of their way when you're on the move!”  Fifteen, Spitfire put all of her weight down, and Rainbow Dash was stopped halfway off the ground.

Then she looked down at Dash, daring her to let her body hit the cloud below, and there was no bucking way that was going to happen.  Tapping into reserves of strength she barely knew existed, Rainbow Dash forced out another one.  “Sixteen!”

Then Spitfire pushed, and Rainbow fell to the ground, unable to muster the strength to get number seventeen.  The captain continued, speaking softly into the dead silence that had fallen around them.  “When one of us falls, we all fall.  Understood?”  Chorus of assent – some ponies shouted “Yes Ma'am,” some “Yes Captain,” and others still “Yes, Spitfire.”

“I believe you owe me four more, rat.”  Rainbow Dash pushed, but there was no way.

“I-I-”  She fought the urge to say “I can't,” but couldn't come up with anything else, and stuttered.

“Am I still funny?”

“K-kk-kk-”  Now Spitfire was pressing down on Dash's lungs, and she was fighting for air.  This isn't fair.

“Good to hear!”  She hopped off of Dash, who gasped and lay there for a moment, feeling the perspiration come to her.  “You were on sixteen, rat!”  Crap.  Rainbow pumped out four more, her wings protesting as she did, and rolled back onto her hooves.

“Knowing where to be is a skill that should come to every Pegasus naturally, but since each and every one of you has an ego twice the size of the castle, it doesn't!  And that's where I come in!  My name is Spitfire, but this week it's Captain, understood?”

All of the trainees together this time.  “Yes, Captain!”

“Good!  Now before we start training our bodies, I'm going to train your minds with some facts!”  She glanced around at the four groups, taking inventory.  “There are fifty of you here now, and there are only two spots open on the Wonderbolts roster!  Do the math, rats, I can wait while the gears turn in your tiny heads.”

“The first week of spring training, we like to call 'hell week!'  We call it that because I'm here to make you rats work for a living, and since none of you would know a hard day's work if it reached up and bit you, it's going to seem like hell.”

“By the end of this week, there will be only six of you remaining.  We'll be making cuts daily to reach that goal, and that means you had better be the best you can bucking be this week, every damn second of it!

Rainbow swallowed and gritted her teeth, flexing her sore wings at the sound of a challenge.  Sounds like my kind of game!  Get the weak ones out of the way early on, then the real training begins.

“Now get back on that cloud, and if you can't find a place on the cloud and have to hover, you're out!”   She blew her whistle, then everypony panicked as they process what she had just said.

Dash was one of the first to touch down – not first this time as the crowd got in her way – and stood stock still while everypony around her fought for the now-precious surface area of the cloud.  To her right, she noticed Ditzy get shoved off the edge of the cloud by some colt – crap, not this guy again.

It was Dumbbell, brown coat shining in this light.  He was about twice Ditzy's size, and wasn't afraid to use it – then, of course, it got worse.  He signaled his friends and they found their way into spots next to him, despite her protestations.  Dash simply couldn't let that stand – she launched from her place on the cloud, and confronted them among the chaos.

“Leave her alone!”  Whoa, deja-vu.

“Well if it isn't Rainbow Crash!  Find your own bit of cloud, loser.  This one's ours!”

“Yeah?  Well it was hers first, so buzz off!”  Dash stole a glance behind her – the cloud was packed to capacity, and it looked like fights like this were breaking out all across it.

“Why don't you make us?”  He postured, puffing out his chest, and Dash couldn't help but rise to the challenge.  Thing is, there was a moment when her balance in the air was thrown off from the change in posture, and that's when Ditzy took the opportunity to knock Dash down and drag her through the air away from the fight.

“Hey!  What are you doing?  Stop it!  Let go of my tail, HEY!”

Without a word Ditzy flew, dragging Rainbow Dash by the tail, to the other side of the floating cloud.  There she stopped as if standing upside-down, digging her hooves into the cloud slightly to make herself stick, and Rainbow was so awestruck that she couldn't help but follow suit.

A few other ponies saw it too, and did the same.  It made Spitfire chuckle, and Soarin roll over with laughter – they had run this stupid test a million times to see the recruits react to it, and never – EVER – had anything like this happened before.  

It was a brilliant way to start the week.

Hell Week

An MLP:FiM Fanfiction by Squeejee

Chapter 2: Set

Spitfire's whistle blew again, and Rainbow sprinted again.  Clouds gave way to sky below her, and her wings continued where her legs left off – much to her shoulder's displeasure.  She wondered briefly if the sweat falling from her would hit anything on the ground, but dismissed the thought and returned all focus to her target.  Two-hundred feet, one-hundred, and touchdown.  

With a gasp, she sprang to her hooves and cantered out of the way – the next trainee landing right behind her with a muffled “whump!”  She was panting as she took her place, a second line forming behind her, but couldn't bring herself to stop moving – she hopped slightly in place, some unwelcome process in her legs prompting her to keep moving despite the pain.

The trainees were doing sprint drills, and Rainbow Dash had been selected to be the first to go in her flight.  It was the hottest part of the day, and if it hadn't been for their lunch break (how the heck do you make hay so greasy?  It doesn't make sense!) they would not have had a moment's rest since roll call that morning.  Still, Rainbow was no stranger to intensive workouts – something that placed her on a tier above most of her competition.

The pegasus behind her had actually managed to keep up, but the same could not be said for the third in line.  Dash recognized him from a race she ran in Cloudsdale once, but couldn't put a hoof on his name – he flew erratically, struggling to reach the target cloud.  She saw him scrunch up his face in effort, panting hard, and pushing every bit of air he could below him, and saw that it was to no avail.

There was a moment when he looked ahead and almost seemed normal.  Like he had just realized that he wasn't tired, and was going to finish without any problem.  But then he dropped out, falling for a gut-wrenching second before the two Wonderbolts hovering below caught him, flying him back to the Colosseum without a moment's pause.  Their flight's coach, Soarin, took up their position below the drop off, and signaled for the next in line to keep going.

It reminded Rainbow to grab the water from her saddlebags and take a sip, and she noticed most of her flight follow suit.  Derpy was stuffing her own water back into its pouch when it was her turn, and took off.  She didn't seem to be struggling, oddly enough – but she did manage to overcompensate on her left side, do half of an unintentional barrel roll, and land on her head when she reached the target cloud.

Rainbow reached a hoof to her, pulling her out of the trajectory of the next in line as he came barreling in, all energy spent in flight so that he botched his landing as well.

“Nice landing.”  Rainbow hefted the surprisingly energetic mare to her feet.

“Blueberry.”  Dash figured that meant yes.

Derpy took her place in line as the last member of Dash's flight landed.  The cyan pegasus shook out her nerves and stretched her wings, feeling a second wind coming on – though in point of fact is was her fourth or fifth wind of the day.

She couldn't help but grin as she felt it come on, either.  Rainbow Dash felt alive today in more ways than she could consider possible.  She was no good with putting words on paper, or even stringing them together in real time – but given the opportunity she supposed she would describe it as feeling awesome.  And yes, I know I use that word a lot, but I really mean it this time!

But the whistle didn't come.  She looked at Soarin, who was looking at Spitfire, who was looking at two pegasi Rainbow Dash didn't recognize.  They seemed to be having some kind of conversation, and one of them was making notes on a clipboard.  After a moment, Rainbow Dash realized that he wasn't yellow, but was wearing Royal Guard Armor.


“Feeling nervous, Dash?”  The pegasus behind her replied – she didn't turn around to look at him, and couldn't place his voice.

“No way.  I've got this, er, bro.”

“You know it!  They're probably taking down Cumulus' name for dropping out.  Too bad, too – he's really good.”

She settled for something noncommittal.  “Yeah.”

Flight four stood around for a couple minutes, just long enough for the heavy breathing behind Dash to subside.  Canteens were emptied and sore joints were stretched in that interval, but it ended all too soon as Spitfire took a position in the middle of all of the flights and blew her whistle.

They formed up before her, and a signal from the Wonderbolts captain indicated that the flight leaders should step forward to talk to her directly.  Dash barely remembered learning it, but the hours of drilling earlier that day made it hard to forget the signal – she was the first flight leader in position.

Dash and Spitfire exchanged a smile of recognition, but said nothing.  Two royal guards joined them in their aerial huddle, as well as the flight coaches and the rest of the Wonderbolts.  Spitfire hovered in the center, taking charge.

“This afternoon's game is Cloudsdale Tag, rookies versus vets” Spitfire began, glancing at the guard ponies that were hovering nearby.  “The Sergeant and his men will be the referees.  If your flight can't take out a Wonderbolt before the time is up, you're all going home.”

Rainbow Dash gulped hard.  That meant teamwork, and she didn't even know the names of most of her teammates.

Their field, they were told, was going to be the underside of Cloudsdale.  A massive play area, to say the least – and one fraught with dangers, as is typical of Pegasi competition.  Rainbow Dash remembered the races she ran there before bailing on flight school as a filly – if you get too close to the city itself, you get blasted with it's ambient electricity.  It usually wasn't fatal.

As she lead her flight over the edge of the city to begin the game, she realized that the Wonderbolts had upped the ante from what she was expecting.  Randomly sized clouds floated under it, creating a large, dense obstacle course for the game to be played in.  A flat cloud sat with several racks of dodgeballs for the rookies to use, and the first flights were already flying into the danger zone.

Rainbow's flight landed and grabbed their “weapons” for this game, and she considered strategy.  Somepony in her flight had to tag a Wonderbolt before this was over – and thinking back to how only a handful of them could land earlier that day she realized it would have to be her.

She pulled a ball off of the rack, and was about to say something to her flight before they all started taking off.  Dash wasn't sure what she would have said anyway, so she let them go.  Go team.

But hey, one pony stayed behind.  Derpy was looking at Dash expectantly – well, half looking at her expectantly.  Dash sighed, wondering how anypony could have gone their life without playing this game.

“You score by hitting them with your dodgeball.  You can also body check them into an obstacle.  If somepony scores on you, you're out.”  Derpy nodded, looking determined.  “Derpy, you're my wingpony.  Watch my ba-”  Actually...  “No, hang on, I'll watch you're back.”

Luckily, the mailmare didn't catch on to Dash's mistrust of her sight, and took off into the field with enthusiasm at trying the new game.  Dash flexed her neck, feeling a pop as she did so, and blasted off after her teammate.

Derpy quickly proved that the inside of the playing field was far worse than Dash had imagined it.

The latent electricity from Cloudsdale was behaving very strangely with the dense cloud field below it.  Like clockwork, every several seconds there was a crash of lightning between the city and one of the clouds – and that cloud would arc the electricity to the clouds near it, and they would all remain supercharged until a pegasus got too close.  The worst part was that the charged clouds didn't look it until you got really, really close.

Derpy absorbed a good amount of it right off the bat, flying left and getting blasted – flying up and getting blasted again, and in her haste to get out of the minefield forming a circuit between three at once and getting super-blasted.

She was alright, if a little crispy from the ordeal, and made a mental note to fly as low as she could without abandoning cover altogether.  Dash was still behind her, shouting something that couldn't be heard over the ringing in Derpy's ears – but the flight leader was still in the wingpony position, and the grey pegasi didn't want to disappoint.

Grinning through the pain as she always did, she upped her speed to near-maximum – tucking in her ball and weaving between the lower layer of clouds.  Every now and then she caught sight of another trainee flying above, but couldn't find any Wonderbolts.  It didn't help that half of her vision was directed straight down despite herself.

There was a wisp of blue on her periphery, and she veered hard left to catch it.  A moment later she was able to focus on it – blue uniform, blue mane, Soarin!  The best part was that he seemed not to notice her, and approaching from below as she was, he wasn't likely to.  Dash had her back, so Derpy focused all of her attention on getting in range of the pie eating champion.

He was weaving at a leisurely pace, so she caught up to him pretty fast.  He seemed to be looking for a target, and was looking everywhere but down – so she pulled herself into his kill zone without a problem.  She gripped her ball in hoof, cocked it back, and fired.

She missed!  How the hay could she miss a shot like that?

Dash gritted her teeth as Soarin kicked up his speed, diving and weaving between clouds as Derpy caught her ball and hooked back after him.  The chase was on, and at any moment Soarin would fly into his target's jetstream and take a perfect shot.

But not if Rainbow Dash hit him, first.

She stuck to Derpy like glue, following from a safe distance and keeping her eyes on Soarin, who was hooking back towards them.  A scenario played out in her mind where they would play chicken, and Dash would get a clear shot at the distracted Wonderbolt.

But it didn't happen like that.  Soarin hooked right and up, going into the electrified part of the cloud field.  Derpy followed, having caught her ball and regained focus, with her flight leader right on her tail.

Trouble is, neither of them had any idea how close they could risk getting to the clouds, to they stuck to a very tight trail blazed by the leader of the chase – and he blazed a really tough one.  He snap rolled right, hooked up and corkscrewed in the most precise path conceivable, getting just close enough to leave a trail of sparks behind him.

Derpy followed it, but took a more conservative route.  Dash couldn't build up her signature top speed with all of these maneuvers, and focused on keeping an eye out for her opening – and for somepony else trying to get an easy point off of one of the two distracted trainees.

That's when she saw her own flash of blue.  Below, in the safe layer, she saw a blue uniform and orange hair – only one pony that could be.

“Derpy!  I see Spitfire.”  Dash stole glances at her new contact in between following in her wingpony's wake.

“Almost got him” the grey pegasi managed, squinting as he took another turn that she couldn't bring herself to follow.

Dash glanced back at Spitfire – she seemed to be going away from them.  She was losing her chance for the score of a lifetime.  But I said I'd cover...

“You look good Derpy, I'm going after Spitfire!”  She'll be fine.  Dash hooked right and low, setting her sights one somepony who, in her opinion, needed a good rubber ball upside the head.

“Dash, wait!”  Derpy shouted back, but couldn't afford to look back.  No response, she must be gone already.  The blonde-maned pegasus swallowed hard.  I have to end this quick.

Soarin was getting more daring with his moves, as if challenging his pursuer to follow suit with hers – but she couldn't bring herself to get back within shocking range of one of these clouds.  He would get close enough to trail sparks, and she would play it safe to avoid the same.

He hooked higher, where the clouds would no doubt be even more dangerous, and increased his speed.  Derpy wasn't sure if she could follow – the thought of bringing on another series of shocks causing her to all-stop.  She hovered, looking after him and biting her tongue nervously.  She thought of Rainbow Dash getting in range to nail Spitfire, but then getting picked off by a Soarin from above.

Closing her eyes, she hurled herself into the higher elevation, trying as hard as she could to ignore the lightning strike nearby as she did.  She quickly had to open her eyes to maneuver, of course, but now that she was up here it was easier.

Her target was hooking left through a cloud, and she saw her chance.  He must think I didn't follow him up here now!  If I blow through that cloud, I can probably surprise him.  She swallowed hard, and blasted right towards the cloud he had disappeared behind – steeling herself for another electrical shock as she did so.

It didn't come!  That cloud wasn't charged!  And Soarin wasn't expecting that.

Derpy held her ball out in front of her as she sighted in on him, going for a body check to take advantage of his surprised state – but he raised his own ball in time to block.  She hit him hard enough that it slipped out of his hooves and hit him in the gut, but you don't score a point unless it's your ball that hits them, and Derpy's followed her as she bounced off him.

They both hovered for a moment, and Soarin raised his ball to throw at her – but she raised hers to block.  They held that position for a full second before Soarin winged back, hurtling himself downward into the open air below.

Derpy gave chase, maneuvering around several clouds until she was in the open air as well.  A royal guard referee appeared in her periphery, but she tried as hard as she could to ignore him as she lined up a plunging shot at the pale blue pegasus below her.

Then he hooked up into an Immelman, and she tried to follow it.  Emphasis on tried.  He pulled the tightest turn she had ever seen a pony pull – modifying the stunt as he came out of it to bank hard left until he was lined up right behind the rookie, who was still only halfway done with her own.

He cocked a hoof back to throw, and she dove reflexively – hoping that her lower size would translate into increased speed.  It didn't, at least not where the Wonderbolt was concerned.  He kept pace with her and launched, the ball catching her right in the small of the back.

Spitfire saw Rainbow Dash veer off – it was kind of hard not to, with all of the colors that pony has trailing off her.  She hooked left into a part of the cloud field less dense than the rest, and was followed.  As expected.

Hard turn right, Dash wasn't budging.  Hook left, Dash was still on the captain's tail – and gaining!  Spitfire realized she couldn't go easy on this one – just in time to dodge a ball sailing past her head.

Spitfire gritted her teeth in a smirk.  Knocking out this one would be fun!


Mentally, Rainbow Dash heard her mother berating her for the swear – but pushed it out of her mind as she flanked full-speed towards her ball.  Spitfire was no doubt lining up a shot, so Dash jerked her wings back and climbed several feet in an instant.

There was a swear in the distance as Spitfire's ball went right under Dash's belly, a perfect dodge.  The rookie's ball had picked up speed as it plunged toward the ground, and that made it a difficult catch.  Difficult, but not impossible for the Greatest Flier in Equestria!

She sailed into it's path, plucking it out of the sky gracefully and pulling herself into a hard rightward bank.  She turned around just in time to see Spitfire catch her own ball, unintentionally mirroring Rainbow Dash's maneuver and heading straight towards her.  Chicken it is, then.

They hurtled directly at each other, holding up their balls as a shield as they gritted their teeth and narrowed their eyes.  They were pushing so much air behind them it caused nearby clouds to move out of their wake, making this part of the playing area even less dense than it was before.

At the last second, Spitfire jerked slightly left, pushing her ball out to smack her target upside the head.  At the last half-second, Rainbow Dash rolled left, holding her ball in a way that she hoped would collide with the captain.  In the second after, they were both disarmed, and neither had scored a point.

Rainbow hooked around and barreled after her ball, knowing that Spitfire would be doing the same.  On a downhill stretch like this with no obstacles, she felt familiar air currents warp around her as she approached the top speed that nopony in Equestria had except her.

But then she caught her ball and swung back, part of her glad she hadn't reached that speed because a backfire here would have ended the game for her.  She sought her target, and found that Spitfire's ball had fallen into the completely open-air below.  A perfect target, Dash gave chase.

In the open, Spitfire hooked wide to the right after catching her ball, noting that Rainbow Dash was catching up to her.  She's fastest on the downhill, if I get above her she's dead in the air.

Opting out of another game of chicken, Spitfire zig-zagged under her opponent, watching Rainbow mirror the moves almost perfectly.  It seemed she was having trouble turning at this angle, another useful fact Spitfire filed away.

Once she was close enough, she hurled her ball straight up at Rainbow Dash – hooking hard in the opposite direction her target dodged to.  As expected, Dash tried to hook back after dodging and hit the disarmed captain – but at her downhill speed couldn't manage the angle, and stalled.  Spitfire rose above her student and caught her ball just as it reached the apex of her throw

Dash was pulling out of the stall when Spitfire had it, a perfect silhouette.  She took the shot, and knocked Rainbow out of the game with a blow to the head.

Author's Notes

Hey dudes!  I'm back!  This action-packed entry is brought to you by Kenny Loggins.

Anyway, I don't own the ponies.  Fair use clause, yadda yadda.

You guys should check out my twitter account.  I don't ever post their unless I've written a new chapter or done a new page on a webcomic, so don't worry about getting a bunch of spam crap about when I'm crapping.  If you like that, I also have a tumblr, where I try to draw.


Hell Week

An MLP:FiM Fanfiction by Squeejee

Chapter 3: Go

“...and when you don't work as a team, you lose!”

Flight four had stayed after the end of practice for an hour of extra workouts, to punish them for being the only flight not to score a point.  The threat to disband an entire flight for this failure was rendered moot by the physical dropouts throughout the day – so they were lucky.  The captain had stayed behind to personally admonish them while they worked.

“Flight leader, set 'em up for the next one!”

Rainbow Dash looked at her checklist – only one to go, so she called it in, and while her flight did a set of sit ups to close out the afternoon, she got to stand at the front and watch.  After all, Spitfire said, if she was good enough to try and take on a Wonderbolt solo, then these exercises were certainly out of her league.

She wouldn't have ever considered the possibility that she could hate a Wonderbolt, but here it was, channeled straight from the frustrated looks her flight was giving their leader into the entire outfit's captain.  Dash glared daggers at the yellow pegasus from across the parade cloud they were being worked on, and only felt her frustration with everything grow as she sat on it.

Meanwhile, the orange-maned pegasus captain raised a hoof to her mouth to stifle a yawn.  Running Hell Week always took it out of her, and this one had gotten off to a pretty rocky start.  The worst part was that, even though she was about to send the trainees to their bunks for the evening, her day had at least two more hours to go.

She tried not to think about the stack of paperwork waiting for her in her office as she dismissed the flight – Soarin can take care of them.  As for her, Spitfire took off at a leisurely pace, enjoying the soft evening wind as she floated in the general direction of the admin building.

Below her, the Cloudsdale night life was just starting to take over.  Young pegasi in everything but the training harnesses and sweatbands of the past day (okay, there were a few hipsters with sweatbands) lined up for shows that were about to start and clubs that were about to open.

Spitfire mentally rolled her eyes (it's hard to actually do when you're flying) and flew in a bit closer, wondering what kind of scrubs would be hitting the club scene this early, and got her answer in the form of a bunch of obvious tourists.  I guess if you're not a regular or on the VIP list, it's pretty hard to get in.

A few of the tourists pointed up at Spitfire, recognizing her from something or other, so she kicked up the speed and drew lightning behind her in a flashy Cuban Eight.  She didn't stop to get their reaction (she could hear it), but climbed to a higher altitude and slowed back down.

Back in the quiet high altitudes, where out-of-shape pegasi couldn't follow for lack of oxygen, she had nothing but her thoughts to keep her distracted from the work she was procrastinating.  Thoughts that inevitably found their way back to work, and to her close encounter with defeat earlier that day.

She ran through the dogfight in her head as she flew aimlessly into the evening.  Dash was faster, she took tighter turns, and her reflexes could damn near be described as precognitive – it made the older pegasi practically turn green.

And so full of herself!  It was a good thing, Spitfire thought, that she had won the duel – Dash learning that she was a more talented flier than the Captain of the Wonderbolts would have expanded her ego to immeasurable proportions.

But she didn't have the experience to take on the captain just yet, the golden pegasus noted with a cocky grin of her own.  As long as she played her game purely on instinct, a solid plan of attack would beat her out every time.

Spitfire smiled the rest of her way to admin, knowing it would be ten years before she lost.

Flight four collapsed into their rec room as one, Soarin leaving them for some duties he had to take care of elsewhere.  Throughout the week, they were told that time in between training would be theirs to spend as they wanted – they had to be at practice on time or they were out, but their sleep and off time schedule was up to them to manage.

The room was pretty basic, featuring a few couches, a half dozen floor cushions, and three pool tables where half of the flight was now engaged.  The cue balls were scuffed, the sticks bent and the felt scratched and faded – but they managed to play eight ball all the same.

The anger the flight had directed at its leader settled to a dull ache after she left to fly out her own frustrations.  There wasn't much in the way of conversation besides the crack of the resin balls against each other – this didn't sit well with one member.

Derpy Hooves felt betrayed, and with good reason: she had been.  If Rainbow Dash had stuck with her, she knew one of them would have nailed Soarin – but she took the bait instead, going off for her own glory instead of thinking about the team.

Some “Element of Loyalty,” Derpy thought.  But the notion of stewing on that feeling for the rest of the night – or worse, letting everypony sit on that feeling the rest of the night – made her stomach turn.  She knew she had to do something about it, but what?

With no definite goal in mind, she stood up from where she had been sitting – twiddling her hooves, like a few others were doing – and walked around the room.  Somepony coughed, a shot was called for the side pocket – it was so oppressive, it made her want to scream!

But she apparently settled for making a soft noise and grabbing a pool stick, putting herself next in line for a game.  Two of the flight members – she remembered their names being Leeroy and Gigawatt – were about to finish, with the latter sinking the eight by accident in a very anticlimactic end.

“Ugh!”  He stormed off, not even helping re-rack with the somewhat off-put Wingkins – what a jerk!  Still, Derpy helped get everything together, then took her place to break.  She was still wondering how to break the ice as she placed her left hoof on the table, wrapping her right carefully around the stick as she drew it back, closing one eye so she could focus on the cue...

...and hit it way too hard.  Lee yelped and ducked as the heavy projectile soared through the space his head had occupied a moment before – it kept going to the cloud wall, and the enchantments placed upon it to prevent it from falling through the floor caused it to bounce.

Up towards the ceiling, where it struck the light fixture (a glowing yellow cloud hovering above the tables) and launched towards the middle of the room.  There was a commotion as everypony rushed to get out of the way of what was surely death incarnate – a small, white ball much harder than the skull of whoever it struck.

But it struck the couch first, dislodging the springs within and sending the slightly less aware pony sitting on it towards the ceiling himself.  When he panicked and flapped his wings to regain control, he found himself colliding with another pony – and she with a third.

The pile of bodies fleeing the chaos pushed towards the pool tables, where a bump against the slightly irregular balance of the table Derpy was leaning against caused the balls to scatter in every direction.  Silence overtook the room as everything settled down, the eight ball slowly rolling into the corner pocket.

And then there was laughter – lots and lots of laughter, and Derpy's bubbly smile finally returned.

Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash was pissed.

It wasn't enough that she got showed up earlier, oh no – Spitfire had to go out of her way to make Rainbow's flight hate her.  Her feelings were so strong that she was numb to the weariness in her entire body from the day's work.

Her flight carried her over Cloudsdale's scene, where all she could see were lines leading into clubs she couldn't get into this late.  Not that she would want to, with an early morning coming up – but flying over Cloudsdale residents and seeing what she couldn't have certainly wasn't improving her mood.

So she sped up, increased altitude, and narrowed her focus on nothing in particular.  Up here she had to struggle for air if she exerted herself – but that was good.  Thinking flight cadence kept her mind on breathing and off her defeat, and as long as she kept her mind off that, she could calm down.

Calm down from the defeat that was stolen from her earlier that day.  She had flown faster, took her turns tighter, and reacted quicker at every part of that dogfight, so how did she lose?  Was it because Spitfire had worn her out over the course of the day, and her game wasn't as “on” as she thought it was?

If Derpy had been there, it would have been no contest.  Fuck.  Dash settled lightly on one of the sparse clouds up here – it was mostly ice, but still good for sitting if you were already numb.  She played the event in her head despite herself, reaching for breath in the thin air.

Whoever won didn't matter – even chilled out as she was by this point, Rainbow Dash had a bone to pick with the Captain of the Wonderbolts.  Yeah, she had messed up real bad – but singling her out like that?  Turning her into a scapegoat for the whole flight?  That was bull.

Looking to her left, she saw the Wonderbolts Squadron HQ below her – Spitfire was probably inside.  Dash steeled herself and took off after the structure, feeling the sudden increase of circulation after sitting on an icy cloud hit her like a storm of needles.

Rainbow Dash pushed her way into the Admin building carefully, feeling the rush of controlled air greet her.  This structure wasn't open-air columns like most of Cloudsdale's buildings, but fully contained and built from ground-side materials.

And it had to be – the Wonderbolts HQ was adapted from one of Cloudsdale's old military bunkers, and it showed.  Everything was sparse, but durable, with the only decorations on the walls being lame PSA posters and pictures of old Wonderbolts captains.  There was one especially big one with Celestia and Luna's portraits on it, and underneath them a few of Cloudsdale's government officials, but that was the only one that stuck out in Rainbow Dash's mind.

As she passed a colorful poster titled “Sexual Harassment: A Serious Issue,” Dash noted another sign pointing down the hall to her left: “Offices.”  That's probably where she's at – Rainbow walked down the line, her hoofsteps echoing in the silence, until she found the office marked “Cpt. Spitfire, Wonderbolts Team 1.”  She knocked, seeing a light coming from inside.

“Come in.”  Spitfire tried to sound energetic despite her exhaustion.

“Spitfire?  It's me.”  The Cyan mare pushed in, feeling some of that residual anger return with the feeling in her legs.

“Oh, hey Rainbow Dash!  I was afraid you'd bailed on me.”  As she pushed into the room, Dash noticed that Soarin was also there, and that the two were up to their ears in paperwork.  Curiosity took over.

“Whaddaya workin' on?”  She trotted over to see what was up – the papers were all identical, and they all had a heading that read-

“Medical crap.  We got like ten pages to do for each trainee.”  Spitfire sighed and dropped the one she was working on, standing up and stretching out a crick in her back.  “What'cha need, flight leader?”

Rainbow looked over at Soarin, who picked up on the hint pretty quickly for a stallion and excused himself.  “I need to talk about today.”

'Fire was all smiles.  “What about today?”  She wasn't going to make this easy.

“Well, what the heck do ya think you were doing, singling me out like that?”  Dash cringed a little internally at her captain's surprised reaction – maybe she had come on a little strong, but there was no way she would back down now.

But surprised or not, Spitfire had a response.  “First you tell me, what the heck do ya think you were doing, singling yourself out like that?”  

The younger mare didn't like that response.  “Trying to win, obviously – but you-”

“But, nothing!”  Rainbow had started to yell, and that's where the Wonderbolts Captain drew the line.  “You took a stupid risk, and you lost.  Hard.  And you're lucky we were down so many trainees already, or I would have made good on my promise and iced your whole flight.”

That was a bold faced lie, but only the not-smiling-anymore Spitfire knew it.  Rainbow was still reeling when the yellow-and-orange leader continued.  “And you know what you did wrong, don't you?”

Rainbow struggled for an answer, and in her haste settled on “I didn't do anything wrong.”

Another bold faced lie, but this time they both knew it.  “Bullshit you didn't.  You think I didn't see your wingmate that you left behind?  You said you'd cover her back, that you'd both work together – and then you abandoned her first chance you got.  Some friend you are.”

That was a low blow, and the Captain knew it.  It certainly rendered it's recipient speechless – Rainbow Dash stood there, looking for a response that didn't come, unlike the tears.  Spitfire softened a bit when she saw that, and after a pause, kept going.

“But you know what?  You're both still in this thing, and that means you can apologize.”  The younger mare just looked at her hooves, so Spitfire added: “So what are you still doing here?  Soarin didn't make you flight leader for nothing, get moving!”

Rainbow Dash had more to say, and it was certainly trying to beat it's way out of her skull, but she turned around and walked out of the office, lest she get even more truth thrown in her face.  The door closing behind her, she took a steady calming breath – not wanting anypony to see how much that short talk had affected her.

Soarin had heard the whole thing anyway – or at least the tail end of it.  Rainbow Dash had started to raise her voice, and the Captain responded in kind, cutting straight to the heart of exactly why the trainee had failed.  It was weird though, most trainees responded to the captain with more yelling of their own – but not this one.

It wasn't hard to guess why, though.  The door to her office closed, and it was followed by a sniffle and a hitching breath.  Mares crying always made Soarin uncomfortable, so he waited out-of-sight for her to gather herself enough to be on her way out – it didn't take long.

Rainbow rounded the corner towards the exit slowly, but to her credit not looking at her hooves and pulling off a fairly convincing poker face.  She almost walked right past her flight's trainer, surprising herself when she looked left and saw him standing there.

“Hey, Rainbow Dash.”  Soarin noticed she was avoiding eye contact.

“Hey.”  Also, while her poker face was fine, her poker voice was not very convincing.

“Look, Dash, I-”

“Save it.  I just need to think this through.”  Combative – but Soarin had expected as much.

“Maybe so, but as your flight's trainer, it's up to me to give you advice, so listen up.”  She huffed at him, but silently indicated that she was listening.

“First rule of being in the Wonderbolts – eat everything they serve you.  Everything.”  She blinked.  “Second rule of being in the Wonderbolts – never, ever try to shrug your wings while flying.”  She smirked.  “Third rule, no stairway.”  She chuckled.  Progress!

“And the most important rule of being a Wonderbolt: don't let your mistakes get you down.”  Her face fell a little, but she nodded, finally participating in the conversation.

“I don't suppose there's a rule about kicking the captain's butt?”  Dash was still sore, but Soarin couldn't have that.

“Only when you have the opportunity to check her.”  They shared a smile at that, but he continued, “Ease off the cap though, she's not as hard-lined as she acts.  You'll get to know her better if you make it.”

Dash grinned.  “You meant to say 'when.'”  All confidence, and Soarin could tell that some of that was real, and replacing whatever had been there before.

“You said it.  Anyway, there's another rule about getting plenty of sleep – so you'd better head out.  I understand you've got a few things to say before bed, right?”  He looked at her expectantly.

Dash withered a little under his gaze.  “Right.  I'd better go.”  She headed out while Soarin said something encouraging after her – she didn't hear it, she was busy trying to think of what to say to Derpy.  But before that, what would she say to the rest of her flight?

The rec room Rainbow Dash arrived at was very different from the one she left – it was almost like she had entered the wrong building.  Ponies laughed around pool tables while others played cards on the floor, and even though there were only a dozen of them if sounded like a large cafeteria in here.

Nopony even noticed really when she flew in, despite the fact that she'd tried to make her presence obvious.  From what she could overhear, everypony was swapping their story about how they had been eliminated from the competition – even the ones who had paired off before entering the play field found themselves unable to out-fly a similar pair of full-on Wonderbolts.

Dash picked up a few “Hey”s and “Howsit”s as she walked towards the end of the room, by the stairs leading up to the beds where Derpy was talking to a yellow stallion with a lightning bolt cutie mark.  She had steeled herself for this conversation the entire way over, and dove in full throttle.

Derpy noticed her walking up, and waved.  “Hey, Rainbow Dash!  Have a good flight?”

“Yeah, got all the knots out.  Hey, Derpy, can we talk for a bit?”  Dash looked from her friend to the Stallion whose name escaped her expectantly.

“Sure thing – see ya, Gigawatt.”  Derpy lead the two upstairs, into the shared living space.  It was ten bunk beds arranged evenly throughout a large, open floor, with two trunks attached to each bed.  Yup, basic.

Dash found herself struggling for the first word.  “So..  Derpy, I wanted to say, er, that is I meant to ask for your, uh...”  This was so much easier in my head!

But the grey mare had already figured out exactly where this conversation was headed, and placed a hoof on Dash's withers.  “It's cool Dash, I'm over it.  We're all over it by now!”

“Speaking of, how the hay did everypony relax?  When I left here I thought I was going to get jumped when I came back!”  Not entirely true, but not a total lie either.

Derpy smiled, and put on her best silly face: “I just don't know what went wrong!

They shared a laugh at that – Derpy's penchant for wreaking havoc but eliciting laughs in the end was well known to the blue mare.  But what hadn't been known to her was everything she had been figuring out over the course of the day about the enigmatic gray pegasi.

“You know, Derpster, I think you may be exactly what I need.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” now, these words rolled right off of Rainbow's tongue – much to her own surprise, “I'm flight leader, so I guess that means I'm in charge when Soarin 'aint here.  And that means I'll need a second-in-command.”

Author's Notes

Didn't take me quite as long to get around to this as the last chapter did – but considering the length of these, I'm a little self-disappointed.  Ah well, that's just incentive to get chapter 4 out here a bit faster!

Joss is Boss.  Wait...

Once again, I have a twitter, a deviantart, and a tumblr, which I will shamelessly whore out every time I post one of these chapters because I figure if you like my prose work you may turn out to like my other stuff.