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It was a warm morning in Ponyville, the sky clear and the sun almost at its zenith. A small crowd of ponies gathered outside the town in a large field. There were a lot of balloons all over the place, with colored banners and tables filled with sweets and beverages. in the middle of the fair stood a platform where the Thunderbolts flag hung, waving proudly over the area. Looking at the jovial atmosphere and at how much fun all the ponies were having it was hard to believe the real reason behind the celebration.
"Captain, we're out in half an hour."
"Aw, who's late this time? We'll lose the perfect light!"
"There are still things to prepare, cap…"
"Alright, alright… half an hour it is…"
Scootaloo closed the suit and put on the glasses, then looked at herself in the mirror. With the blue and yellow uniform the only thing you could see from her was the purple of the mane and tail and the orange of her wings. She now was a full grown pegasus, maybe a little shorter than the average filly but once in the air that didn't matter.
"Um… cap…" The wonderbolt said hesitantly, looking puzzled at Scootaloo.
The orange pegasus sighed, "What now, Silverspeed?"
"I... think that's you’re wearing the wrong jumpsuit…" Silverspeed mumbled. She was quite new in the squad, making her even more hesitant about the subject.
"Yeah, I know,” the captain replied flatly.
Scoot glared on her image in the mirror, looking at the small cloud with a rainbow lightning depicted on the flank of the uniform. She knew this was against the rules but she wasn't famous for sticking to them, she was famous for being the best flier alive… well, still alive…
She cocked her head. "I think I'm fine with this one, today…"
"But we won't be late for the show,” interrupted abruptly the leader of the squad “go and tell the others to hurry up, we are the mane event!"
"Very well cap, on my way!"
Scootaloo went back at the mirror looking again at her reflection when another pony appeared right behind her, but this time she didn't turn back and just started talking to the newcomer.
"Don't worry, I know what I'm doing."
"No you don't, it's a suicide… trust me kiddo."
"I'm not a kid, Dash! you can't stop me today, I have my wings, you know?"
"Yes, but you're wearing my uniform…"
Scootaloo kept looking in the mirror. She knew that there was nopony behind of her, it was in her head. Rainbow Dash died ten years ago, she was no more, but still she haunted Scoot in her mind… it was ten years today… the orange pegasus shivered and replied to her own hallucination.
"Your uniform? It was in my locker…"
"Sure, because you inherited mine…"
"Oh yeah? Then… then…"
The image of Dash in the mirror shattered for a few moments, disappearing and then reappearing on the side of Scootaloo just a few inches behind her ear. Rainbow Dash was smiling sadly, Scoot could feel her scent in the air but she knew it was just a delusion… she was just arguing with herself...
"Then now this uniform is mine! And even the show is mine! I'm the captain, I take decisions here!"
"Yes, but you're afraid…"
"No I'm not! I tried this a hundred times, I can do a sonic rainb-" Scoot stopped and corrected herself "I can do a Redshift Dash even backward!"
"Yes, I know that, kiddo. I trust your skill…"
"Then what do you want from me if you trust my skill?"
"I want you to promise that you'll do just the Redshift Dash."
Scoot went mute, under the uniform she was sweating and it wasn't for the heat… how could she hide something from a ghost of her mind? How could she lie to herself that badly and hope that it could work? Maybe she… no! It was now or never, she had to do it, she had to free herself from her ghosts… and speaking of ghosts…
"I'm doing it…"
"You're afraid! In this condition you'll be lucky enough if you don't screw the routine!"
A second pony appeared in the mirror. "Dash's right, Scoot… you should-"
"Oh gimme a break!" yelled Scoot in frustration.
The newcomer was a pink and purple maned unicorn foal with a white coat, another ghost from her past. Scoot smiled for a moment, recalling to her mind all the adventures they had together. Their music show, the scuba diving, that time in the Everfree Forest. She missed those days and more than everything else missed her friends. Sweetie Belle technically was still alive, sure, but when Rarity went to Canterlot Sweetie followed the sister… well… it was a really bad moment for Scootaloo. With the death of her hero and Sweetie going away, she drowned in her own desperation. No matter how much Applebloom tried to help her, in the end they left each other… after that last break up Scootaloo had to learn to fend for herself again. Nopony could blame her if she began to speak with mirrors, right?
"Now let me concentrate about the show, I need to be left alone!"
"Well, kiddo… after all you are already alone, aren’t you?"
Scoot blinked for a second, when she opened her eyes the only thing she could see was the reflected image of a purple maned pegasus wearing somepony else's spare jumpsuit. The captain of the Thunderbolts sighed and went to her saddlebag, taking from it a couple of blue feathers bound together with an old blue ribbon, then opened the uniform and tucked that strange talisman inside the suit, closing it again.
"Show must go on…"
From the sky the fair outside Ponyville was just a tiny dot coloured with ribbons and balloons. Scoot made a couple of loops and launched herself in a fast dive while the rest of the squad was doing the usual number with the smoke. The routine was just going smooth and clean. She glanced back for a moment to ensure that they were making the Rising Sun. It was time for her first real stunt. She spotted a pony with a purple hat in the crowd. It was perfect… Scootaloo gained some more speed while all the crowd was cheering at the patrol in the sky. As usual the spectators didn't notice her coming and in a second she was flying away with the purple hat in her hoof. A roar from the crowd confirmed that the number was a success, she headed back to return the hat to a white unicorn.
"Scuse me ma'am, I think this is yo-"
Scootaloo stopped for a moment, looking better at the pink and violet mane of the unicorn...
"Wow, you're amazing you are… um… wearing Rainbow's uniform?" Sweetie belle hesitated some seconds, this gave to Scootaloo the time to recover from the surprise. The pegasus couldn't stop in the middle of the show. Especially of this show.
"Yeah, sort of… sorry Sweet, gotta go, there's a number running! wait for me we'll catch up later!"
"Wait Scoot, what does this mean? Aren't you going to…"
The voice of Sweetie Belle faded in the air while Scootaloo gained again some altitude. It was time for the Redshift Dash, her personal variant of the Sonic Rainboom. The rest of the squad did the usual opening, making the circles with the clouds and all the rest while the captain kept gaining altitude.
"Just the Redshift Dash, okay? Stick to the routine."
The voice of Rainbow Dash took Scootaloo unprepared, but her resolve now was strong. The pegasus grinned while she kept flying higher and higher.
"Trust me, it will be fine."
"No it won't!… don't let that happen again…"
"Let me do my work Dash, go back in my head!"
"I can't! It's suicide! You… you don't need to do this!"
"I… it was different! I was… I was certain that it would work! I was stupid!"
"Very well then, I am certain that it can't work. At least I'm not delusional"
"Listen to me, this is NOT cool!"
"Back in my head right now! I need to focus!"
Scootaloo glanced down. It was really high and the air up there was cold. The pegasus inhaled deeply feeling the fragrance of distant snow, then smiled.
"Show must go on…"
Technically the Redshift Dash was the same thing of a Sonic Rainboom, but the rainbow colored ring was the effect of the really odd mane of the original performer and it was quite what made the Rainboom unique in it's kind… well, that and the fact that nopony till then had been able to break the sound barrier.
The only pegasus fast enough to pull that stunt was Scootaloo, but the day she did her first Sonic Rainboom it was somehow disappointing. It wasn't a rainbow, it was just purple! A big purple circle vanishing in a red mist that left a red trail… well, it couldn't be called Sonic Rainboom, obviously. Scoot decided to call it Redshift Dash, in part as a tribute to the departed former captain of the Thunderbolts, in part because… well, because it was red…
But today it wasn't going to be a Redshift Dash, nor a Sonic Rainboom… oh no, it was the real legacy of Dash: the Chromatic Rush. Her last stunt, the closing number.
While diving Scootaloo felt the pressure of the air on the uniform. She kept accelerating while the memories took her in that very same place ten years before.
Dash trotted proudly around with her blue jumpsuit on. She smiled and threw away the goggles: Dash never used them, she wanted to feel every bit of the speed. The crowd roared when she flew up in the sky hitting a couple clouds and leaving a rainbow behind her, it was one of her classical opening moves. Rainbow was the best flyer ever and was well aware of it. Scootaloo was always amazed at every show, they were never the same, there was always something new. It was like living a dream, the best dream ever, every time.
The air began to create a barrier in front of Scootaloo. She grinned and kept accelerating, the ground was still far down below. It was soon, she had to catch the perfect moment: it was a matter of a single instant and Scoot had to seize it, she needed to feel the wind. Slightly moving the head she let the wind beat on the goggles. On a first moment Scootaloo felt like the protective glasses were going to pierce her skull and melt with her eyes, but as soon as the air found a way under them they flew away disappearing in a shiny point above the diving pegasus.
Rainbow was leaving a white trail behind her, then the figure of the diving pegasus was surrounded by a bright lance of light. In a matter of seconds the sky was going to explode in a ring of colors, Scootaloo smiled in awe and expectation, but when the ring exploded it was wrong, it was just… violet.
The wind was heavy, Scootaloo felt like she had a thousand razors cutting her eyes. It was perfect, it was what she was looking for, more speed! The barrier was now as thick as a wall, Scootaloo already went against that wall and won a lot of times… but not today, it wasn't the plan. She wasn't going to break the wall, oh no...
After the first ring exploded in a violet light the whole crowd just stared in silence. They couldn't say anything, it was completely unexpected! How did she… a second ring exploded. It was just a moment after the violet one, but to Scoot that instant seemed to last for ages. This one was blue.
Scootaloo opened her wings and began to spin on herself. She had to maintain a straight trajectory and stay conscious, all in the same time while spinning like crazy at the exact speed of sound. It was suicide, it was the last number of the show. It was the last step between her and the master.
A green ring flourished while the boom of the first ring reached the crowd. Everything was happening just too fast to be understood with the reason, but rationality was something for the eggheads. Scootaloo stared at the sky and let the wonder take away her heart while a fourth yellow ring was exploding in the air.
"no! That's wrong! Somepony stop her!"
The voice of Fluttershy raised in the complete silence of the crowd, but seemingly nopony paid attention to her. Not even Scootaloo.
The barrier was still there all around Scootaloo and to her surprise it wasn't a barrier at all. It was… something else, like a space of calm between anything before the speed of sound and everything past that. The eye of the cyclone... She knew it! It was working! The world around her was all red and was quickly becoming orange. From the inside the colors were inverted? This realization made Scootaloo grin.
"Look at me, Dash! I'm like you!"
"No kiddo, that's not enough! You have to be better than me or you are going to be dead!"
The next ring exploded in an orange light. The first one was still bright while it expanded all over the sky covering the sun. The whole world went violet, then blue… a ring as red as fire appeared in a lightning. Scootaloo wondered what color could be the trail of Rainbow after that awesome number, she held her breath waiting… and nothing happened
The world was spinning in colors, it was already blue. Now Scoot had to stop the spin, pass trough the wall and then slow down. She could feel the wind, it was possible! she just needed to follow her instinct.
Scootaloo was still there when the sun began to go down. Twilight Sparkle walked near her, the orange filly pegasus was staring at the sky, her eyes were red and her face was covered in tears.
"Scoot, it's becoming dark… please, go home…"
"No… she's coming back, I'm sure! She's the best!"
Twilight already had her load of tears but there seemed to be always room for more sorrow…
"I… please, Scoot… you can come back tomorrow and wait for her… okay?"
"I must wait for her now! She might need help… I can't leave Dash alone..."
Scootaloo inverted the wings trying to contrast the spin but as soon as the wind hit her feathers she was overwhelmed by the pain. It was too fast! She had to do something right now, but what? The world was violet. Everything seemed so far…
"No! I… won't… surrender!"
Again the pegasus tried to open the wings. The pain was terrible but she grinned because she already drank from that bottle down to the last drop. This one in comparison was nothing.
Rainbow felt the terrible pain in her wings and realized that she couldn't stop the spin. The world all around was turning red and white, but she couldn't just go like that, she was almost there! It was the most awesome number ever, it was everything she wanted, it was… a good moment to leave the show, maybe… in the end, if this was the best number ever, what was left after that? Suddenly she felt tired. Very tired…
The world was going black. Scootaloo was almost out from the violet ,it was now or never but she already knew that there wasn't enough time to stop the spin… nevertheless she had to try it. Maybe if she opened her wings wider she could slow down fast enough… maybe she would simply explode in a flurry of feathers like Rainbow did… with a hoof she reached her lucky charm, the two blue feathers that Fluttershy gave her the day after the fair. The yellow pegasus asked Scoot to swear that she would become as great as Dash... well, this was ironic wasn't it?… suddenly Scootaloo heard the sound of wind and feathers going wild, like a strange Doppler effect.
Rainbow caught for a moment the silhouette of something moving in the blinding white of the vortex. There was somepony flying not far from her… what the hay was going on? It was the Black Mare, maybe? So the foal stories were true, after all… but she always figured the Black Mare as some skeletal pony with a black hood, that one was blue and had something yellow and violet on her…
The sound of the feathers suddenly was followed by a bump. Scoot hit something in the middle of a supersonic maneuver and did not explode? What the hay was going on!
"Take my hoof! We can stop the spinning if we can catch each other!"
Scoot heard a voice from... where? Rainbow Dash talking again? Oh, a great moment for having hallucination, but it made sense after all. A pony was supposed to have some sort of supernatural experience while she was dying, right? Scootaloo simply smiled sadly, but the voice pressed on.
"There's no time, mate! Grab… My… Hoof… Now!"
Scootaloo opened her eyes wide, Dashie called her… mate? This could not be possible, this must be… that voice, it didn't came from her head, it was from somepony that was really there! Rainbow Dash was really there? Impossible!
"We are going to crash! Move... that... lazy... hoof... for Celestia's sake!"
Scotaloo couldn't believe she was really doing this. Trying to reach something that she didn't even know if it was real in the middle of a supersonic dive just some instant before hitting the ground... oh well, after all what could ever go wrong? she stretched the leg but in that position she couldn't maintain the control of the trajectory for more than a...
Something suddenly grabbed Scoot for real. She felt the pain when her leg was dragged away with the rotating movement and half a blink of an eye after she bumped face to face with something… soft and blue...
"Hold on mate! this is going to be soooo awesome!"
The sky exploded, literally. Now the six rings were aligned and all of them had roughly the same diameter. When the last one finished its blooming a lightning erupted from both extremities of that strange tunnel. All the rings of light in the sky discharged bolts of electricity like a gigantic ethereal dynamo, in a couple of seconds the light from that phenomenon was so bright that everypony had to close their eyes.
When the crowd opened the eyes again, a rainbow trail was crossing the sky at the speed of sound and was followed by a red one, there were clearly two different trails in the sky, but after that incredible show nopony cared for the details. Sweetie Belle was jumping all around screaming "She did it! She did it!"
Not very far from there, where there wasn't so much crowd, a yellow pegasus smiled and looked up in the sky. She knew it, Dash never died in that incident ten years ago, she lost herself somewhere... or some -when-, maybe... Rainbow just needed somepony that could go there and help her to come out. The problem was that nopony was half a good flier as Dash... nopony but one pony, but that orange filly needed time to learn and the only thing Fluttershy could do was encouraging her... it took ten years flat, but the seed that was planted at last bloomed, Scootaloo just flew into the jaws of death and got Dash back. This was so incredible that Fluttershy had just one thing to say to celebrate such a moment...