The night sang with silence in Cloudsdale. Thousands of stars twinkled brightly above: summer was ending, and the evening air became cooler each day. Many pegasi had already turned in for the night, leaving the city in an illustrious peace.
“Jeez it’s cold out here.”
At least, everywhere was peaceful except the thoughts in Rainbow Dash’s head.
She finally perfected an art that she created herself, the art of “arriving home.” She skipped like a rock over the clouds that made up her front yard and flared her wings at the last second, breaking her forward momentum without any shift in balance and alighting on the top doorstep. She looked back at her yard as if this was mildly interesting.
For weeks now, Rainbow Dash had been looking for a smooth, spontaneous move she could do in case anypony important was watching. She heard about cloud skipping from one of her friends back in Flight School, but never had a good reason to try it. It was coincidence that the memory flashed through her mind moments before she arrived, and it was coincidence that her front yard had the perfect amount of cloud area to pull it off. What made it truly impressive was that she was still wearing Rarity's dress from the Grand Galloping Gala, meaning she had to deal with aerodynamic inconsistencies, the risk of being caught on something, or getting wet from the clouds' moisture; yet she landed with enough grace and perfection to drop anypony’s jaw to the floor.
Despite her incredible feat, Rainbow Dash grabbed the doorknob, flung the door open, and slammed it behind her. In one swift motion, she removed the dress, tossed it into the corner, and began pacing furiously up and down the dark living room with her tail flicking wildly. The caffeine she consumed at the donut shop made the situation worse, as she could find no way of calming herself down.
“Why did they blow me off like that? I can’t believe they just… ignored me!”
Normally Dash never spoke out loud to herself, but this was an exception. The Wonderbolts asked her to “hang out” with them. The only hanging out that actually occurred was Dash following Soarin’ and Spitfire around, trying desperately to get their attention, while they blew her off and decided to chat with the high-class jerks that didn’t happen to save their lives.
“I rescued them! What they hay kinda pony ignores somepony that saved their life?!”
She put her hooves on her temples, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. “No… just cool it. Calm down Dash. You can't be mad. The whole reason you should have been there was to spend time with the girls, not to grab your one and only chance...” She plopped down onto her cloud couch with a heavy sigh. “…To get into the Wonderbolts.”
Her fate had taken a turn for the worse. All of her friends seemed to have totally gotten over the fact that the Gala wasn't what they hoped it would be. They moved on. Why couldn't she? Now it was almost pointless to go after a dream like the Wonderbolts, yet she was so close and could almost feel the soft, plush fabric of the flight suit.
Dash opened her eyes and examined her surroundings, completely lost in thought. The moon pierced the darkness in the room, illuminating everything into an almost dream-like state. She got up and went to the window that looked out toward Canterlot. She caught herself before she began speaking aloud again, just in the off chance that somepony might be listening. They must be considering me. I mean… I saved their lives, didn't I? All while doing something that was supposed to be impossible! You don't just forget about somepony who saved your life while at the same time gaining major style points! I'm practically famous already!
In reality, her Sonic Rainboom drew much less attention than she was expecting. Sure she won the Best Young Fliers Competition, got to spend a day with the Wonderbolts, and show them all her tricks and skills that she'd fought so hard to perfect, but during the whole day, they never seemed impressed. It may have been mild side effects from their concussions, or that the Rainboom wasn't as impressive to them because they didn’t actually witness it. The bottom line was that they never made any attempt to contact her afterwards, which worried her to death.
But she was used to obsessing. She had these thoughts almost every waking moment since the competition. For as long as she could remember, her mind lingered on these same facts, pondering them for any sort of positive or useful bit of information that may come out. She had no reason to be upset except that the more she replayed the events of that evening, the more those events stressed her out.
She turned away from the window, punctuating each word with frustrated stamping. “Ugh, stupid… stupid… stupid! How did Spitfire even get into the Wonderbolts? She’s only two years older than me!”
She worked herself up again. She hated doing that. The fact that her house was colder than a blizzard didn't help.
She was halfway through the room to the heater switch when something caught her eye. A box covered with every color of the rainbow stood out heavily against the moonlit marble of her kitchen counter. Curious, she went to it. She picked it up and examined it in her hooves for a moment, then tore it open. A fluorescent cloud of colorful smoke billowed out.
“What the…” She looked around the outside for some sort of identification, something describing what it was. But all she found were the inkblots of color, arranged in no particular fashion.
“Wait…” She focused her eyes on a tiny line in the lower corner, which appeared to be a set of words. She held it closer to the moonlight.
Mix in room-temperature water. Do not over-consume.
Then she remembered; Pinkie Pie had given her a weird rainbow-colored box at her last birthday party.
“Thanks... what is it exactly?” Dash asked Pinkie as she unwrapped the gift.
“Dunno.” She giggled. “The buffalo make it with pure rainbow! Drink it, it’s the best! And It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.”
Dash wasn’t very keen on the idea of consuming rainbows, nor was she on drinking an unidentifiable beverage. In order not to insult Pinkie, she had simply tossed it in among the clutter of stuff in her cabinets and forgot about it. Now, she was desperate to calm herself and unable to think of anything else.
She took a glass from the cabinet and turned on the faucet, feeling the water until it was neither cold nor hot. She filled the glass and poured the powder, which fizzled and steamed as it made contact with the water. The liquid glowed an odd color, as if a rainbow had been compressed and packed into one spot.
“Pure rainbow.” She bit her lip and stared at the glass. “Pinkie’d better not have done anything to this.” She held up the glass to the window, as if to toast the moon. “Oh well. Bottoms up,” she said, and she took a gulp.
Her eyes shot open. She inhaled a huge gasp and screamed as she slammed the mug on the counter. She felt a surge of sharp pain all around her face and her tongue felt like it was on fire. She threw her hooves to her mouth, taking huge breaths between yells, but the liquid was moving... and running down the back of her throat.
She took a few steps backward and landed her rump against the wall. It went down further and heated her esophagus, splashing fire into her stomach. The sensation then spread outward into her muscles, feeling as if they were being massaged with hot silk. Then, it rose into her head and caressed her sinuses, filling every empty space with warmth. Her eyes watered and her nose moistened. It was almost more than she could handle. She exhaled a hot, misty breath.
Still gasping for air, she looked at the box sitting on the counter.
“That was... awesome.”
She filled the glass and poured the powder again, producing the liquid with nondescript color. She took a gulp, winced at the initial pain, and exhaled a noise that was halfway between a sigh and a scream. She repeated this process several times until the powder in the box was gone. “Aw, man!” she said as she looked inside the empty box. Nevertheless, she had never felt her body so relaxed before. Every inch of her swam with warm feeling.
“I wish I would’ve had this earlier-” She froze. She thought back to the Gala. She thought back to how the Bolts didn’t care at all. How they didn’t even speak to her.
Her rump fell to the floor, and she sighed. She looked at the mess she had created on the counter. It was late, and she had cloud patrol the next morning. Sulking, she floated up to her cloud bed hoping she would actually be able to sleep. She alighted upon the cloud she made fresh the night before and pulled a soft layer over herself, then took a chunk of cloud and fluffed it up for a pillow. She closed her eyes and sank her head deep into it.
Almost every night, she created scenarios in her head of what it would be like once the Wonderbolts accepted her. This extinguished much of the stress and made her goal seem all the more achievable. There won’t be some big official ceremony or anything like that; it will just be a private meeting with her and either Soarin’ or Spitfire… She’ll somehow get invited to a nightclub with them…
Rainbow Dash was lying atop a bed of clouds that rose to nearly touch the sun. The sky was a deep yellow, and white clouds covered the horizon. A soft breeze glided through her mane. This place was comfortable beyond any description. The surface of the sun was right in front of her, stretching for miles in every direction. It shimmered like diamonds that were on fire, hypnotizing her into a stupor of insensibility.
An angelic figure appeared out of the light, a bright yellow pegasus with blazing orange eyes. Her long mane burned like fire and flowed through the air as if underwater.
Wait, is that… Spitfire?
It was Spitfire. She could recognize that pegasus anywhere, except her hair was brushed.
Her wings were outstretched as she glided out of the sun, coming to hover just above Rainbow Dash. Their eyes locked in an endless stare. The silence between them lasted an eternity.
A smile slowly came to life across Spitfire’s face.
Rainbow Dash’s heart nearly jumped out of her chest. Spitfire’s voice was soothing, comforting, and understanding. She wished she would talk to her forever. Under the current circumstances, she wasn’t at all expecting a casual “hey.” Spitfire was laid back. She was cool. Rainbow Dash noticed that she was getting closer.
“Hi,” she croaked. Spitfire’s smile widened. She got even closer.
“So Dash. What are you up to here?”
“You know, just… hangin’ out… “ She couldn’t move. She wasn’t aware of the conversation anymore. She was lost in Spitfire’s gaze, getting closer and closer.
“Right in front of the sun? What a place to hang out.”
Rainbow Dash was shaking. Somehow she knew exactly what was about to happen.
“Well, there wasn’t... anywhere else to go...”
Now Spitfire was laughing. Her voice became softer. “You are hilarious, Dash.”
“Heh... i’m here ‘till... Thurs...” her voice trailed off. Spitfire was much too close now.
Suddenly, she stopped. Her face was inches from Rainbow Dash’s. Spitfire’s smile faded into an expression that meant more than friendly smalltalk. Rainbow Dash’s heart pounded and was about to explode. It was like Spitfire was purposefully drawing out the moment. Neither talked, neither moved. Dash could feel her fiery breath.
“Am I dead?” she asked sheepishly, scared of the answer. The angel-Spitfire smiled.
“Far, far from it,” she whispered.
Then, reality lost its meaning.
She surrendered herself to euphoria. She was kissing Spitfire, who seemed to breathe fire into her. Nothing was real anymore. Intense heat filled every space inside her. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head. She was lost…
Rainbow Dash's head shot up from her cloud bed as her consciousness came to life. She didn't know where she was, only that something amazing had just happened. She could still feel the fire flowing through her. Adrenaline coursed through her veins as sweat poured down her body.
Sitting upright, eyes wide open with shock, she gasped for air as she attempted to comprehend what had just happened. She realized she was still in her home, she was still totally blown off by her idols last night, the sun was starting to rise, and it was just another dream. Slowly, she came back to reality.
“What the hay is wrong with me?”
She buried her face in her hooves and took long, shaking breaths. Sweat dripped from her chin.
“What in the HAY is wrong with me?“
She sank back into her cloud bed. It had never been so cold and wet. No pony was around. So she rolled onto her side, curled up, and let herself cry.
The tears burned. She might as well have been crying rainbow.
The ballroom lay in ruins. Chunks of marble were scattered. The band's instruments were disfigured beyond recognition; a gray mare with a pink treble clef for a cutie mark stared at her broken cello in silent mourning. The animals from the gardens roamed free in the palace. The guests stood in groups, chatting fervently about the six ponies that destroyed the Gala. The palace servants were cleaning, relying on the unicorns who were less than thrilled.
Two very famous pegasus ponies sat with their backs against the upturned snack table, each holding a cup of punch in their hooves as they contemplated the rather eventful night. A royal guard tasked to be their escort stood watch next to the table.
Spitfire stared at her punch. She seemed very relaxed, despite the disaster that had just befallen her. Soarin’ stared up at the ceiling, becoming lost in a daydream while observing the marvelously painted murals.
Then, a very excited dark-orange pegasus mare flew up to them.
“Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh.”
Soarin’ and Spitfire looked at her. She shook from head to hoof. The guard stepped up, but Spitfire held up a hoof and shook her head. She noticed the pen and picture of the Wonderbolts the mare was holding.
“Oh my gosh. Sp-Spit… f-fi…”
Spitfire sighed and said, “Give it here.”
The mare whimpered as Spitfire took the picture and pen from her.
“What’s your name?”
She signed her signature and gave it to Soarin’ who did the same. He handed Sunset the
picture and said, “Here ya go, Sunset.”
She stared at it in disbelief. Her gaze then shot up from the picture to Soarin’ and Spitfire. One of her eyes twitched. Something about her facial expression told them that she had snapped.
In one swift movement, she pulled out a camera and threw a foreleg around Spitfire’s neck. She took a picture of herself and Spitfire and proceeded to do the same with Soarin’. Just then, the royal guard picked her off of Soarin’ and said, “All right, miss. Let’s go.”
Kicking and screaming, she yelled, “NO! Soarin’ is the only Wonderbolt I haven’t gotten a picture with yet!” She struggled against the guard’s grasp as he walked away with her.
“I… MUST… HAVE… A COMPLETE… SET!”
Soarin’ and Spitfire could still hear her screaming as she was carried out of the castle. They returned to their thoughts as if this kind of thing happened every few moments.
After another five minutes of total silence, Spitfire piped up.
"We screwed up."
Soarin’ sighed. "Yeah... still, you gotta admit. That apple pie had to have been the most amazing-"
Spitfire cut him off with a look.
She screwed up. Spitfire knew that much. She had been more interested in keeping up the Bolts image by politely conversing with the snobs at the party than spending time with a valuable, potential recruit. Now she was almost certain that after the way they treated her, Rainbow Dash had decided that the Wonderbolts wasn't all it was made out to be.
Spitfire turned to Soarin’ with a concerned expression. "She must be totally beside herself. She's wanted to be a Bolt more than any pegasus I’ve seen yet. Way more. I mean, have you read her fan mail?"
"Spitfire, we never read fan mail,” he said without looking at her.
Spitfire let out a long sigh and turned her head to watch the clean-up crews.
"I feel terrible."
Soarin’ tried reassuring her, "Hey, c'mon. I mean… think about how many other pegasus ponies you've had to let down. How is she any different?"
"That's just it. I can't figure it out. She's just… different.”
“Ok, what do you mean, ‘different?’”
“I don’t know, I mean,” she paused.
“What is it? Tell me.”
“No, you’re probably right. I shouldn’t be obsessing.”
“Oh, c’mon. I know you better than that. Something’s up. Spill it.”
Spitfire sighed. “She’s just... really nice.”
Soarin’ laughed. “‘Really nice?’ That’s it? You like her because she’s ‘really ni-’”
“She saved our lives!”
Soarin’ fell silent.
“I mean, for that, you can’t help but feel... something.” She sighed and took a huge swig of punch. “No pony’s ever done anything like that for me.”
Soarin’ stared at his cup. “Yeah. I guess.”
“And what’ve we been doing? Ignoring her.” She chucked her empty punch cup at a nearby trash can and missed. “Since when do we ignore ponies that save our lives?”
“So, is this like your way of repaying her? Acting all interested all of a sudden?”
She paused to think. “I feel like anything I do won’t repay her. I feel like I need to be there for her.”
Soarin’ rolled his eyes. "Oh stop. Don't start getting all touchy-feely.”
A smirk slowly spread across Spitfire’s face. “As I recall, Soarin’, you liked it when I got touchy-feely.”
At this, he blushed slightly and was angered into silence. Spitfire laughed and gave him a friendly punch on the shoulder.
“Just... think about it,” said Soarin’. “She's barely grown and basically still a filly. Just about
every pegasus we meet is the same. She could never realistically handle the pressures of being famous."
"Soarin’, she's only two years younger than me."
"That's what you say every time."
Spitfire had admitted it before, someone Dash's age should not have to handle fame. She knew from experience. She should never have joined the Wonderbolts when she did. She was just too young. Some days it felt like the whole world was going to collapse on top of her. Every single day there was a vital deadline that had to be met, otherwise it would "risk harming the Bolts' PR." She had to watch each action she took, or the media would tear her apart. Her entire life was under a tiny spotlight, and she couldn't go outside of it.
"But what about at the Best Young Fliers competition, when she won the day with the Bolts? All the stuff she showed us then was pretty cool, right?"
"Oh, you remember it now?"
She couldn't. Nor could Soarin’. All she remembered was somepony falling from the sky, and then going after that pony to rescue her. Then she remembered waking up in the hospital a day later, along with the rest of the Bolts. They told her that she and the team were conscious and awake to thank Rainbow Dash for saving their lives and spend the day with her flying, but neither Spitfire nor the Bolts could remember any of it. And to top it, they made a full recovery in twenty-four hours. The doctor said it was totally bizarre. After that day, the Wonderbolts had a whopping fourteen shows to perform in the next two weeks, so they weren't able to get back to Rainbow Dash.
"It’s really warm in here," Spitfire said, despite taking off her flight suit. "I'm gonna go out on the balcony and get some air."
"Um... It's freezing outside."
"I kinda like the cold.” She looked at the moon out of a nearby window. “It's refreshing."
"Heh, be my guest."
She glided over to the door, dodging the cleanup crews and chunks of broken ballroom. When she opened it, a blast of cool, damp air splashed her right in the face. All of her concerns and worries seemed to blow away.
Spitfire enjoyed the cold. She liked being outside during the winter, she sometimes even slept with no layer of cloud over her, and best of all, she loved flying in the rain. It was about ten times more exhilarating than flying during a normal day.
She walked to the edge, put her forelegs on the railing, and lost herself in the night.
Five minutes of silence passed, until Soarin’ opened the door behind her. She heard him mutter a "Jeez!" at the sudden drop in temperature.
“You’re just gonna come out here and freeze to death by yourself?” he said, obviously hiding shivers. “At least let me join the party.” He trotted up next to her, put his forelegs over the railing, and sighed. “I guess it’s not that cold out here.”
Spitfire looked at him and smirked. “You’re a pretty cool co-flier, Soarin’.”
He shrugged and said, “Yeah… I do my best.” He smiled at her. “Even if my co-flier has weird, sudden obsessions with other fliers.”
Spitfire rolled her eyes and punched him on the shoulder. Soarin’ chuckled.
Another five minutes of silence passed. Spitfire suddenly found the missing element to her argument.
"She did a Sonic Rainboom."
"Yes, I know she did a Sonic Rainboom.” He frowned and threw his empty punch cup over the railing. “But I didn’t see it. Ever since I was a colt I’ve tried to do it. Could never break the last barrier.” He sighed. "I bet I’d be much more impressed with her if I actually had seen her do it."
Suddenly, Spitfire knew what she was going to do.
"Do we have a show tomorrow? Any engagements with the media?"
"Uhh… I don't think we have a show until Manehatten next week… why?"
She smirked and said, "Soarin’… I have an idea."
Rainbow Dash opened her eyes to a clear, blue sky. The sun beat down on her as she tossed and turned, struggling to find a comfortable position. Usually cumulonimbus clouds gave the best naps, but this one itched terribly.
She jumped five feet in the air when a low, booming voice screamed at her.
“RAINBOW DASH! IF I CATCH YOU ON YOUR RUMP AGAIN, YOU’RE FIRED!”
Dash sighed in annoyance. “You know Ironwing, you always say you’re gonna fire me, but you never do. You need me. You can’t find a patrol supervisor better than me.” She grinned. “So do it. I dare you.”
“Oh, relax. I’ve known you way too long for me to take you seriously anymore. The patrol’s got it taken care of.” She resumed her nap position on the cloud. “Besides, they learn from the best.”
Ironwing’s face fell, and he sighed. Suddenly his voice was two octaves higher. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s just that I’ve been getting evil looks from upper management lately, and they keep telling me how I hired a weather patrol supervisor that takes naps all the time.”
Dash rolled her eyes. “Not all the time.”
“Could you at least clear this patch in the next twenty minutes? For me?”
Dash saluted him sarcastically. “Consider it done in ten seconds.”
“Good. Now, when I-”
“After my nap.”
Ironwing grunted in frustration and flew away.
Dash placed her forelegs behind her head and closed her eyes. She slept poorly the previous night and felt no motivation to patrol anything. The dream replayed in her mind over and over. She felt poisoned, tainted by the fact that such thoughts had entered her brain. No pony would think of her the same again, disowned by her friends and everypony she knew.
After an indeterminable amount of time, Dash opened her eyes, suddenly nose to nose with a huge pink face.
It was Pinkie Pie.
“Pinkie, don’t DO th-"
“Hey Dashie, what’s up?” She squealed in her usual high-pitched voice. “Well… I am! Now so are you! HA!”
“Wait, how did you-”
“Balloon.” She grinned.
Dash groaned and rolled over on her side. “Go away, Pinkie.” Pinkie got out of the basket and plopped down on the cloud next to Dash. Twilight really needed to stop doing that spell.
“Daawww, what’s wong missy gwumpy pants?”
“Nothing. Go aw-“
“No. I said go awa-“
“You know you can tell your auntie Pinkie Pie anything!”
“I’m a year older than you, Pinkie.”
Pinkie giggled. “No you’re not! Fluttershy is a year older than me. We’re the same age!”
“What? No! I was born a year before you!”
“No, you’re thinking of Rarity.”
“No, she’s a year older than Twilight, who’s the same age as-” she put a hoof on her face. “Ugh. What am I doing?” She rolled back over.
“Tell me! What’s wrong?”
“Go away, Pinkie.”
“C’mon Dashie. It can’t hurt!”
Dash opened her mouth to retort, but sighed instead. Pinkie was right. She couldn’t be in a worse mood. She’ll just tell her about how the Bolts ditched her, and she wouldn’t tell her about the dream. That secret would be carried with her to the grave.
Dash turned and faced Pinkie. Pinkie smiled from ear to ear.
“Pinkie… have you ever been totally blown off by your fillyhood idols? Like, they say they wanna ‘hang out,’” She drew hoofquotes around the words, “But instead go off and talk to a million other ponies?”
Pinkie put a hoof on her chin in thought. “Hmm… can’t say I have, but I bet it feels terrible!”
“Yeah, well that’s what happened to me last night.”
“Yeah, I thought that was kinda rude of them.”
“I kno- Wait... ‘them?’ You knew?”
“Duh, silly! You’ve been obsessed with the Wonderbolts for forever!”
“But you don’t understand! I can’t get over it! You and AJ and Rarity and Twilight got over your problems real fast but I… I don’t know. ” She ended her sentence with a sigh. Pinkie put a foreleg around Dash’s shoulder.
“Oh, Dashie. You just want it too bad. And that’s a good thing! It makes it more likely that it’ll happen!”
Dash pondered this for a moment. She did want it bad, more than anypony or anything. Even more than Twilight wanted to spend time with the princess; even more than Rarity wanted to get on with Prince Blueblood.
She hung her head, cringing at the thought of getting over the Wonderbolts.
“Maybe I should stop wanting it.”
Pinkie giggled. “What good would that do?” She stood up tall and put a hoof over her chest. “‘The wise pony that desired happiness more than anypony else always received it.’”
Dash looked up at her.
Pinkie began speaking in a heavy Manehatten accent. “The way I sees it, you only got a hundred years; ya do good to make every single one worth it!”
She stared at Pinkie in amazement.
Pinkie giggled again and said, “I swear. Sometimes Dashie, you’re a billy full o’ silly.”
Dash put her face in her hooves. “Wait, wait, wait. Where did you-” she looked back up, and Pinkie was gone.
She threw her hooves in the air. “Great!”
The cloud made a satisfying POOF sound as Dash fell onto her back. The weather patrol soared overhead and they shot Dash nasty looks.
“Maybe I’m not wanting it enough…”
Maybe that was it. Maybe she only needed to want it more. Maybe the amount of pride and determination she had wasn’t cutting it. She needed to want it so bad that it was, in the words of her filly friends from flight school, an “unhealthy obsession.” She needed to fill every single moment of her life with all things flying. She needed to lift wing weights, go on long-distance endurance flights every day, and practice the Sonic Rainboom until she could do it in her sleep. Rainbow Dash was filled with determination. She knew exactly what she was going to do and how she was going to do it. Pinkie Pie had just given her the most subtle yet most successful pep talk she had ever received. Suddenly, she felt like she could do anything. She was itching to fly off as fast as she could in one direction and shatter every speed record there was; why was she still sitting there? All she needed to-
She froze. Rainbow Dash knew that voice. Its owner landed right behind her. She slowly turned around.
It was her.
Dash didn’t know if she should stay or fly away as fast as she could. Her body froze in place, totally petrified. The dream returned to her memory. The pegasus causing all of her distress, the way to make all of her dreams come true, and her only ticket back to the world where everything was perfect stood right in front of her.
“Soo… I’m guessing by your expression that you’re not too mad about last night,” said Spitfire.
Dash’s mouth and eyes were wide open. She shook her head and straightened herself up. Before she could say anything, Spitfire began what seemed like a poorly rehearsed apology.
“Look, Dash. I wanted to tell you-” She bit her lip. “We screwed up. I screwed up. It’s mostly my fault, I’m supposed to keep up with what the Bolts are doing, but I totally blew you off last night. And I’m really sorr-”
Soarin’ popped out from behind Spitfire. “Yeah, yeah, we’re sorry to disturb you, we’ll just head out now.” He pulled Spitfire away, but she knocked him on the forehead and engaged him in a fiery exchange of whispers.
Dash’s heart rate soared off the charts, her eyes flicked back and forth between the two Wonderbolts as she allotted all of her energy into maintaining a calm composure.
Soarin’ and Spitfire each finished their quiet argument with an angry sigh and turned back to Rainbow Dash.
“This is so embarrassing,” Soarin’ added.
Spitfire sighed and held up a hoof to Dash. “So. Dash. Are we cool?”
Her stomach fluttered. “Y-Yeah. We’re cool.” A smile made its way across her face. She hit Spitfire’s hoof with her own.
“Awesome.” Spitfire looked around at the area of clouds that Rainbow Dash was supposed to be clearing. “So. How do you like this job? I started out in the weather patrol myself. Granted, it was only two years ago, but… you know.”
“I- I guess it’s ok. It pays pretty good.”
“Hah, cool… so, uh...” There was an awkward pause. “Um…” Spitfire suddenly grinned.
Rainbow Dash forced a smile back. “Yeah…?”
Soarin’ put a hoof on his face.
Spitfire sighed. “I’m never good with stuff like this… Ok. Dash, Soarin’ and I would like to ask you-” She looked at Soarin’, who gave her a “go on, do it!” look.
“Ok, this is gonna sound ridiculous... but can you do a Sonic Rainboom for us?”
A sudden rush of anxiety bubbled up inside her. Do a Sonic Rainboom? Not only do it, but for the lead fliers of the Wonderbolts?
“I- I don’t-”
“If you don’t want to, it’s totally fine, I understand.”
She couldn’t decline. Not only would that show weakness, it would disappoint them and ruin her dreams of ever becoming a Wonderbolt. If she accepted, she ran the risk of embarrassing herself in front of her idols and would still ruin her dreams of ever becoming a Wonderbolt.
“I- sure, I guess.”
Suddenly there were excited voices coming from the cleaning crew.
“Is that… SPITFIRE?”
“Oh Celestia, It’s Soarin’!”
“I LOVE YOU SOARIN’!”
“Uh oh,” said Spitfire, “We’d better get out of here. C’mon, Dash!”
In an instant, Soarin’ and Spitfire were gone into the sky. Dash hesitated.
“Well. It’s now or never.”
She took off after them, leaving a bewildered group of pegasi behind her.
They came to the side of a large hill after fifteen minutes of flying, overlooking a valley that stretched out as far as the eye could see. The afternoon sun had begun to loose its strength and slowly sank towards the horizon.
“This looks good,” said Spitfire. She turned to Rainbow Dash and said, “Ok Dash, you ready?”
Spitfire pointed out at the vast expanse of land and said, “Alright, fly high and far enough away so you can get up to speed. We’ll watch from down here.”
“Good luck, kid,” said Soarin’, smiling.
“Thanks,” said Dash, and she took off into the sky.
“‘Good luck Kid?’ Really?” said Spitfire.
“It’s the best I could come up with,” said Soarin’.
“Maybe, ‘Good luck Dash?’”
“Whatever.” He sat down. “You think she’ll do it?”
Spitfire sat down next to him. “Of course she’ll do it. She just did it a few weeks ago.”
“I mean… what if she doesn’t do it?”
“She’ll do it.”
Soarin’ fidgeted. “Ugh, I’m nervous.”
“Don’t have a cow, dude. She’s got this.” She looked up, and Rainbow Dash was nothing but a speck against the top of the blue sky. C’mon, Dash. You got this.
Rainbow Dash began to fall. She picked up speed faster than anypony Spitfire had ever seen. It took Dash three seconds to do what Spitfire could only do in ten.
“Geez!” exclaimed Soain’. “Are you kidding me? Her acceleration is insane!”
“See? What’d I tell you.”
Dash went faster and faster, shattering what Spitfire was sure to be several speed records. Soarin’ stared at the sky with his mouth agape. Spitfire’s stomach lept as a subtle adrenaline rush came over her.
“C’mon Dash. You got this. You got this!”
Spitfire recalled the countless times she had tried the Rainboom after Rainbow Dash had done it. Breaking through the last barrier was like breaking through a wall of metal. Each time, the wall would catch her and send her flying out of control in the opposite direction. If she was lucky, she would land in a soft patch of grass or a group of bushes, but most of the time she landed in a tree or a patch of hard ground.
Soarin’ still had the same dumbfounded look plastered to his face.
“You ok dude?” Spitfire said.
His eyes were glued to the sky. “It’s not fair. It’s just not fair.”
Suddenly, a sharp tearing sound echoed across the valley. An oval-shaped cone had formed around Dash.
“She’s close… she’s almost there!”
Spitfire nearly couldn’t contain herself. She felt like jumping up and down and squealing like a giddy schoolfilly, but two years of exercising self-control in front of the press had turned into a habit. The cone became well-defined and glowed as Rainbow-colored arcs of lightning formed everywhere.
Then, everything went still. The birds stopped chirping. Nature seemingly shut itself down into a deafening silence. Spitfire held her breath.
A silent, blinding flash of light exploded in the sky.
“HOLY-“ yelled Soarin’ as he and Spitfire shielded their eyes.
The silence was almost unbearable. The light subsided and Soarin’ stood up, his mouth hanging wide open at what he was witnessing.
A spherical shockwave of vivid rainbow expanded across the sky, illuminating everything with every color that existed. A ringing sound echoed across the valley, piercing the silence and rising in pitch until it became inaudible. The wall of rainbow hurdled towards them at the speed of sound.
“Here it comes! HERE IT COMES!” Soarin' screamed and put both hooves in the air, welcoming the shockwave as if it was his long lost brother. Spitfire never saw him so hyped up before. The blast knocked both of them back. The wind clawed at Spitfire’s face and screamed in her ears as she buried her head in her hooves.
But, warmth surrounded her. Warmth as if the sun had burst through the clouds on a cold Autumn day. A low, rumbling sound rattled her chest, and she looked up at the rainbow-scorched sky...
Spitfire jumped with all of her might, fluttered her wings, and fell on her face. She sighed and her brother snickered.
“It’s ok, just keep trying. You’ll get it eventually,” said Rapidfire.
“This is dumb. I wanna fly now!” she said, pouting.
Her father helped her up. “Here, try flapping slower.”
“And with a bit of a beat,” said her mother.
Spitfire looked up at her parents incredulously. “A beat?”
“Yeah,” said Rapidfire. “You know, like music.”
Spitfire thought of her favorite song and began to flap her wings to its rhythm.
“There you go!” said her mother. “Now jump up and keep flapping!”
Spitfire took a breath, held it, and jumped into the air. She opened one eye, and saw that she was off the cloud.
She gasped and squealed with joy, along with her parents.
“Now take it easy,” said her father. “You’ve never flown before so-”
Spitfire flapped harder and rose higher into the sky, a huge smile stretching from ear to ear. She dove and zoomed this way and that, trying the tricks she had seen on TV.
“Spitfire, honey! Be careful!” called her mother from below.
“Look mom, I’m a Wonderbolt! Delta formation seven-R!”
She spun around in mid air, went straight up, then stalled as she dove back down. She landed in her mother’s arms and hugged both of her parents tight...
Soarin’ was screaming at the top of his lungs, his mane blown straight backwards. He turned to Spitfire.
“Spitfire, are you… are you crying?”
“Huh? I…” She straightened up and wiped her face. “No, I was just… had something in my eye. Wind was pretty strong.”
A bright rainbow streaked across the sky, and suddenly Rainbow Dash landed in front of them, panting hard with a huge smile plastered across her face. Her eyes darted back and forth between the two Wonderbolts.
Soarin’ and Spitfire looked at each other. Soarin’ raised his eyebrows, asking with his expression the question Spitfire knew he would ask. She looked back at Dash.
“You are something else.”
“Heh… thanks…” said Dash, still panting.
“Listen… would you mind coming with us for a bit?”
“For- for what?”
Spitfire smiled. “You’ll see.”
Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. I’m actually going... inside?
The Wonderbolts’ headquarters was a sight to behold. Floating on a huge cloud near the center of Cloudsdale, it stood out among the marble architecture that was popular in that neighborhood. It was a mansion adorned with fountains and statues of past great fliers, surrounded by excellently maintained hedge gardens. A giant yellow bolt sat on the facade, just above the entrance.
Oh my gosh.
Soarin’, Spitfire, and Rainbow Dash landed on the top step. Spitfire pushed the buzzer, and a low voice emitted from the speaker.
“State your business.”
“Don, you know it’s us. Look at the video monitor from time to time.”
“Get the team together. We need to talk to them.”
“Wait- y-you- t-talk- team-” Dash stuttered.
The double-doors swung open, revealing a pitch-black hallway. At the end was a single door. A chill ran down Rainbow Dash’s legs.
“Alright. In we go.”
Somewhat to her relief, Rainbow Dash could sense nervousness in Spitfire’s voice. Dash glanced at Spitfire as they walked inside. She walked confidently with her head held high and no break in her stride. Dash could tell how good she was at hiding fear.
Eager to calm herself, Dash broke the awkward silence. “So... w-what are we gonna do?”
“We need to talk to the others.”
Neither of them answered. They reached the door, and Spitfire opened it.
They walked into a huge room embellished with every kind of decoration possible. Huge trophies filled large cases, giant pictures of the Wonderbolts plastered each corner, and a gigantic flatscreen television hung from the wall. Rainbow Dash’s stomach dropped. All of the Wonderbolts were sitting on several couches, and each of them turned to look at her.
Oh my gosh.
“Hey, Spit,” one of them said. Spitfire nodded to them and proceeded to a seat on the couch.
“Sit there, Dash.” Spitfire pointed to a chair that sat in front of the couches. Dash shook from head to hoof. She could feel every eye in the room burning holes in her forehead. She sat in the chair.
Dash recognized the other four from the main show team; Tyco was gray and had a long, fluffy white mane. Misty was the third pony that Dash saved at the Best Young Fliers Competition; she was a similar cyan color to Rainbow Dash, but her mane was white and light blue. Rapidfire was Spitfire’s brother and they looked exactly alike, but Rapidfire didn’t have the yellow highlight in his orange mane. Fleet Foot sat elegantly on the arm of the couch, her long blue mane flowing down to her lap. The other five Wonderbolts were the alternates and Rainbow Dash didn’t know them.
A few of them shifted around, a couple moved to the arms of the couches and some moved to the floor.
The room fell silent. No pony made a sound. The Wonderbolts stared at Rainbow Dash.
“Ok,” said Spitfire, breaking the solid silence. “So obviously, you know why I called you guys in here.”
Rapidfire sighed and Misty smirked.
“Rainbow Dash. First I would like to apologize on behalf of the team.” She smiled. “I did earlier, but now I’m giving you an official one. I completely ignored you at the Gala, and I’m very, very sorry. After the Best Young Fliers Competition, we had a lot on our plate and we never contacted you. Just so you know, that’s usually not how things run here.”
Rainbow Dash still shook violently, trying desperately to hide it. By now, everypony in the room must have noticed it.
“And I’d like to thank you personally, said Misty. “You know. For saving my life and all.”
“Y-yeah. N-no prob.”
“Now,” said Spitfire as she turned to face the Wonderbolts. “Second thing. I got the call yesterday. We’re flying in Manehatten this weekend.”
Every eye turned to Spitfire, and noises of surprise and exhilaration came from the Wonderbolts.
“No way!” yelled Rapidfire.
“Yes way. It’s already sold out, too. We’re looking at half a million in attendance.”
“Wait, how’s it already sold out?”
“Well. That brings me to the third thing.”
Everypony again fell into an impenetrable silence. Spitfire looked at Rainbow Dash and a tiny smile formed on her face. “This mare sitting before you is the only one to have ever done the impossible.” Once again, each eye in the room found a mark on Rainbow Dash’s face. “And she did it three times. Soarin’ and I just saw her do it.”
Sounds of amazement came from the Wonderbolts.
“No way,” said Tyco. You guys were actually there?”
“Yep,” said Soarin’ proudly. “Saw it in full force with my own two eyes.”
“Lucky,” Misty grumbled.
“Oh,” said Tyco. “In case you didn’t know Dash, you’re pretty famous already.” He tossed a newspaper at her. It was the Equestria Daily, and it was still hot off the presses.
SONIC RAINBOOM SEEN NEAR PONYVILLE
Rainbow Dash gasped. She looked at the picture, which seemed like nothing more than a rainbow smudge on the camera lens.
“B-but- w-what- ah-”
“Anyway,” said Spitfire. “Dash.”
Rainbow Dash couldn’t contain herself. Her heart pounded against her throat.
“We’ve been discussing this for a while now. The Sonic Rainboom is like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life.” She smiled and looked at the floor, apparently lost in thought. “and I’ve never felt the way I did when you did it.” She looked back up at Dash. “I mean... think what would happen if a stadium full of ponies all witnessed it at the same time! Tickets for shows would be hotter than fire, our salaries would go through the roof, and-” She shook her head. “Ah, I’m sorry. I’m going off on a tangent.” She took a deep breath. Dash tried desperately to hold back tears.
“Rainbow Dash, you’re the only one to ever do the impossible, and well...” She paused for an eternity. It was as if she was purposefully drawing out the moment.
“...We want you.”
Reality collapsed. Everything turned into a dream. The walls, the air, the floor; everything began to flow like a dream.
“W-w- wh-” Dash stuttered. She felt the tears building in her eyes.
“We want you. I hope you’re still interested in being a Bolt.”
Her breathing became erratic. Tears began to pour down her face.
Spitfire smiled. “You ok?”
Then, everything went black.
Rainbow Dash fainted. She lay on the floor, unconscious.
<Chapter 1 | Chapter 3>
HUGE Thanks to Ponychan’s /fic/ and the following ponies who edited and critiqued this story:
Kim “Fluttershy” Dykas
The endless sea of fans spanned the stadium stands before her. She took her goggles off and breathed in the immense quantities of awe and admiration that rose like steam from the crowd.
RAINBOW DASH! RAINBOW DASH! RAINBOW DASH!
She quickly plotted a course in her head for the Buckaneer Blaze that involved a low fly-by over the stands. Taking another deep breath, she dove out of the sky and leveled out low enough to nearly touch somepony’s hoof. She turned around, and a long, blinding trail of blue and white lightning had traced her path through the sky as the rest of the Wonderbolts followed closely behind in formation. The crowd erupted into a deafening roar.
RAINBOW DASH! RAINBOW DASH! RAINBOW DASH!
The stadium faded away and she fell into a bed inside a dark room. Spitfire’s voice came from nowhere.
“Your fans love you, Dash. You don’t want to disappoint them.”
Several TV cameras appeared, and all of them pointed at her. She could still hear the crowd.
RAINBOW DASH! RAINBOW DASH! RAINBOW DASH!
Spitfire suddenly wrapped her forelegs around Dash from behind, and her warm body pressed up against hers. She put her lips to Dash’s ear and whispered.
“I know what you want.”
RAINBOW DASH! RAINBOW DASH! RAINBOW DASH!
“I know what you really want.”
A shiver went up Dash’s spine as Spitfire caressed her wing.
“What are you waiting for? Take it.”
Rainbow Dash slowly woke and rubbed her eyes, reaching for her alarm clock. All she felt was air.
The alarm hadn’t even gone off. She then realized her alarm clock had gone, along with her nightstand. The bed she was asleep on wasn’t even hers, let alone a bed. She opened her eyes, trying to focus on a yellow blob across from her. When she realized what it was, she jumped and nearly fell off the couch.
Spitfire was sitting in a recliner, looking at her.
"You faint in front of the press, they'll be all over you," she said.
Rainbow Dash’s eyes shot wide open, her body frozen in place.
“Oh no." Spitfire smiled. "You’re not about to again, are you?”
"But I- It-" She whispered to herself.
Dash patted her face and checked to make sure all of her body was still there. She looked around the room at the lavish decorum covering the walls, the suede material of the couch she had passed out on, and back up at Spitfire. “Am I... dreaming?”
Spitfire laughed. “Want me to pinch you?”
“I don’t believe it.”
“Believe it or not.”
Dash felt a sudden throbbing of pain in the side of her head. Her attempt to hide the wince failed.
“You ok?” said Spitfire.
Dash waved her hoof. “Yeah yeah, I’m fine.”
“You sure? You hit your head on the floor pretty hard when you passed out.”
Dash looked around the room. “How long was I out?”
“About fifteen minutes.”
“Where’d the Bolts go?”
“They went out to dinner, I think. I was gonna go too, but...” They made eye contact, and a silence fell between them. Spitfire looked away and cleared her throat. “I guess they figured you’d be fine... So listen. I want you in the act at the Manehatten show. I figured the Rainboom would be an ok finale.”
A shiver traveled up Rainbow Dash’s spine. “M- Manehatten? A- as in Mane Arena Manehatten?”
Dash’s voice shook violently. “You mean like... I’m g- gonna fly with the sh- show team?” She gasped. “W- With my own flight suit?”
“Yep. Which also means I need you at the rehearsal tomorrow... You know, it seems like every other second, your mouth’s hanging wide open.”
Dash shook her head and straightened up. “Sorry... this is just happening really fast.”
Spitfire bit her lip. “Yeah.” She sat in silence for a moment, looking at the golden jungle of trophies along the wall. Dash noticed how they made the room glow the same color as Spitfire’s coat. “Maybe it is.” She looked back to Dash. “Can you be here in the morning?”
“Alright. Go home and get some real rest. You’ll need it.”
Rainbow Dash got off the couch and went to the door. She opened it and Spitfire said, “Wait, actually... can I fly you home?”
Rainbow Dash and Spitfire stepped out into the cool night. Spitfire sniffed the air, holding her nose high. She released a satisfied sigh.
Before Dash advanced any further, Spitfire stopped her.
“Wait.” She turned her head left and right, obviously on the lookout for something. She flared her wings and prepped for takeoff. “Follow me and stay close.”
“Why? What’s going on?”
“I’ll tell you later. I think they’re already on to us.” She launched into the air, leaving behind a swirl of cloud.
“Hey, wait!” Dash said as she took off.
She kept close enough to Spitfire so their wings wouldn’t collide and tried to whisper loud enough for her to hear.
“What’s going on? Why are we-”
Spitfire yanked Dash by the neck, pulled her behind a house, and put a hoof over her mouth.
She slowly peeked around the corner, and suddenly jerked her head back.
“Yeah, they’re on to us.”
“Whof onfoo ufs?” Dash said from behind Spitfire’s hoof.
“We gotta loose ‘em. C’mon. Ready? GO!”
With a loud CRACK Spitfire was gone into the sky.
“WOAH! What the hay! SPITFIRE!”
Dash took off after her. Adrenaline surged through her veins. Dash caught up to her and tried to yell over the roaring wind.
“SPITFIRE! WHAT IN THE HAY IS GOING ON?”
“LOOK BEHIND YOU AND SEE FOR YOURSELF!”
Rainbow Dash turned her head as far as she could and looked from the corner of her eye. Three pegasi dressed in black, full-body suits with cameras strapped to their necks were hot on their trail.
“WHY ARE WE RUNNING FROM THEM? WHY CAN’T WE LET THEM TAKE PICTURES?”
“I’LL TELL YOU LATER, FOR NOW, SPEED UP!”
Dash and Spitfire dove and doubled their speed in an instant. Dash turned her head. Their chasers were now nothing but black dots in the sky, becoming further away each second.
“I THINK WE’RE LOSING THEM!” Dash yelled.
“THEN PULL UP!”
Spitfire grabbed Dash’s hoof and pulled her into the air. She flared her wings and broke their speed, landing on the backside of another house. As they struggled to catch their breath, Spitfire’s head swivled left and right.
“Stay- stay here for a- a second,” Spitfire said as she flew up to the roof of the house. She peeked over the top, hovered motionless for a few seconds, and called down to Dash. “Ok, we lost ‘em.”
Dash breathed a sigh of relief and followed Spitfire over the top of the roof.
“Who the hay were those guys?”
“Freelance photographers. They work for the Equestria Daily, but they won’t admit publically that they hired them. Usually they’re not this quick.”
“Why do they want pictures so bad?”
“Pictures of the Bolts are going for a lot of money lately. There’s some rumors going around that we have a new... recruit.”
“But why not just let them take pictures?”
Spitfire chuckled. “You’ve got a lot to learn. We’re keeping you a secret until we announce the Manehatten show.”
“Oh. Wait a minute,” said Dash as she went to the edge of the roof and looked down. “This is-”
Dash’s expression turned skeptical. “How’d you know where I live?”
Spitfire scoffed. “Are you kidding? All that fan mail? I’ve got your address memorized.” She smirked. “Involuntarily.”
“...Oh. Heh. Well, um, thanks. For flying me home.”
“Well. I guess I’ll see ya tomorrow.”
Dash took a step off the edge, and Spitfire stopped her. “Wait.”
Dash’s insides froze, and she turned around.
“You’ve got to understand something.”
Dash found it difficult to maintain eye contact with Spitfire with her expression and tone so serious.
“Fame,” she continued. “It’s...” looked around for the right words. “It’s not easy to deal with. At all. You’ve got to understand what you’re getting into. It’s hectic, it’s stressful, you almost never get a break.” She sighed. “I don’t wanna make it sound like more trouble than it’s worth. Because believe me, it’s worth it. It’s just...” She looked around for a moment, then back to Dash. “I’ve lost some people I really care about to fame. And I don’t want you-” She closed her eyes and sighed again. “...I want you to know what you’re getting into.”
Warmth flooded Dash’s chest. Spitfire cared about her. She cared about her to a point that she didn't mind hinting at it, however obvious, even when they had never had any real interaction before.
“You’re good at what you do,” Spitfire continued, “you’re very good. Some of the stuff you showed us after the competition that day, I would never have thought anything up like that.” She looked around for a moment again, lost in thought. “I’m sorry I’m being like this right now. It’s just... You sorta saved my life. And risked your own. Nopony’s ever done anything like that for me before.” She smiled. “And a sonic rainboom at the same time? Major style points.”
She was comfortable with her. The Spitfire was comfortable with her.
“Well I mean,” Dash began. “It wasn’t a big deal. I was trying to save my friend at first.”
Spitfire laughed and her eyebrows rose. “Oh, really? So I shouldn’t be so happy you saved my life, then.”
Dash laughed. “No, that’s not what I meant!”
Spitfire turned away from Dash and began walking into the yard. “Maybe I should forget the whole Wonderbolt thing and leave.”
“No! I mean-”
Spitfire turned around with a huge smile on her face. “Be at the HQ at nine. Sleep well, eat plenty.” She took off into the sky and was gone in an instant, leaving behind a long, amber trail.
Dash dropped down into her yard, opened her front door, walked inside, and the familiar air of her house hit her in the face. She closed the door and stood still. Reality failed to reach her. Her mind had entered an entirely different state of being.
“I’m a Wonderbolt.”
She looked around at her home, at all her belongings and memories of her life. It suddenly seemed unreal, like none of it even happened. Everything she had ever done failed in comparison to what just happened to her.
“I’m a Wonderbolt…”
Her voice grew louder.
“I’m a Wonderbolt!”
She wished she could shout it from the top of the Canterlot mountains for all of Equestria to hear. She felt tears building in her eyes, but she didn’t care at all. She could fill a bucket if she really wanted to.
She plopped down on the couch, exhausted beyond comprehension. She had not the energy nor the reason to hold back tears. They fell from her face like a waterfall.
There was a knock at the door.
“Rainbow Dash! Are you in there?” said Twilight Sparkle’s voice.
Rarity’s voice followed, “We saw a Sonic Rainboom earlier! Darling, everypony is buzzing madly about it!”
“And we mean everypony,” said Applejack, “Yer on the front page of the Equestria Daily!”
The doorknob glowed purple for a moment, and the door opened.
“Rainbow Da- oh…” Twilight, Fluttershy, Pinkie, Rarity, and Applejack all stood in the doorway, looking at a teary-eyed Rainbow Dash.
“Oh no,” said Applejack. She took a first few tentative steps toward Dash, carrying a worried expression. She sat next to her and ran a hoof through Dash's mane.
“Sugarcube, what’s eatin’ ya?”
Dash didn’t respond. She didn’t feel that she needed to.
“What happened?” asked Twilight. “We heard that you flew off with Soarin’ and Spitfire, but…” A look of sudden realization spread across her face. “Oh. So you did the Sonic Rainboom for them. What did they say? They didn’t say… no, did they?”
“They must have been impressed!” said Rarity. “A Sonic Rainboom is one of the most thrilling sights a pony can witness!”
“Yeah, I should know!” squealed Pinkie.
“What’s wrong? Something’s going on.” said Twilight.
Dash took a deep breath and released it slowly.
A stunned silence fell over them.
“C- come again?” said Applejack.
“They want me. I…” She swallowed. “I’m a Wonderbolt.”
Everypony’s jaw dropped. Twilight put a hoof on her mouth. “Oh my.”
As if on cue, Pinkie Pie and Rarity screamed in unison and pulled Dash into a tight embrace, knocking Applejack off the couch. They jumped up and down with Rainbow Dash in their arms.
“WOOHOO!” screamed Pinkie Pie, releasing Rainbow Dash. “I knew you could do it! I told you! I told her Rarity, I told her she could do it, and now look, she did it! And I told her! AH!”
“Darling, this is… this is stupendous news!” shrilled Rarity. “What else did they say? What do you do now?”
“They want me at a rehearsal tomorrow. I’m gonna perform in Manehatten next week.”
“We. Are. So. THERE!” said Pinkie Pie.
“Oh, definitely,” concurred Rarity.
“Shoot,” said Applejack. “Rainbow Dash, our Rainbow Dash, she’s a Wonderbolt.”
“Think of all of the references, all the clients!” screamed Rarity. “I mean, I don’t mean to steal any from you, Rainbow dear, of course, but just think of the possibilities!”
“Woohoo,” whispered Fluttershy.
“Dash, you ok?” asked Applejack. “I reckon ya’d be a bit more excited, ya know, about your dreams comin’ true an’ all.”
“Yeah,” said Twilight. “You seem a little… out of it.”
“It’s nothing,” said Dash. “I...” She searched for a suitable excuse. “I’m just really tired. It’s been a long day.
“Oh, of course,” said Twilight. “We should probably let you sleep. Let’s go, guys.”
“Alright,” said Applejack. “See ya later. And Dash?”
“We’re proud o’ ya. So, so proud o’ ya.” Applejack hugged her tight. The others followed, and they all clumped together in a group embrace. It was true. Her dreams had become reality. Yet, it still felt as if everything she really ever wanted was right here, hugging her close. She returned the embrace, trying to derive every bit of feeling from it she could. Tears began cascading down her face.
She knew it would all go away. She knew she would have to leave them behind.
Spitfire opened her eyes.
She sat up from her bed and stretched her forelegs with a yawn.
Spitfire’s room was an absolute wreck. Fan mail lay scattered across the floor along with several dirty changes of flight suits.
“I’m not gonna tell them,” she said to herself. “No pony has to know. Just leave it alone, and everypony’ll be happy.”
She got out of bed and looked in the bathroom mirror; her mane was much more disheveled than usual and she saw dark circles under her eyes. She could feel that she didn’t sleep well.
Spitfire’s morning routine consisted of a shower, breakfast, and a long flight around Cloudsdale; she had no problem with paparazzi because they just weren’t fast enough. She finished showering and went downstairs to the dining room, where she found the main flight team already eating. The alternates were still in bed.
“Good morning, sunshine!” said Rapidfire, his tone dripping sacrcasm. “You look positively radient today!”
Spitfire rolled her eyes, sat next to Soarin’, and clopped her hooves twice. “AL!” A butler dressed in a tuxedo and white apron burst through the double doors leading to the kitchen.
“What is your fancy this morning, m’lady?”
“I’ll have an omelet. Extra crispy, extra cheese.”
“Right away.” The butler flew back into the kitchen, yelling at the cooks in a foreign language and flinging cooking utensils at them.
“Woah, somepony’s feeling reckless with their stomach today,” said Soarin’. “Did you sleep ok?”
“Ugh, no. I kept having this... dream. I kept waking up, and when I fell back asleep, I started having the same dream again.”
“What was it about?”
She paused and stared at her coffee cup for a moment. Obviously, she couldn’t tell them.
“It’s not important.”
“Well you know,” said Misty between bites of cereal, “we have that awesome psychiatrist, what’s her name?”
“Synapse,” said Rapidfire. “That’s a good idea, you should go get your brain evaluated!” He chuckled.
“It’s not that bad,” said Spitfire. “I don’t need a psychiatrist.”
“First step to recovery is admitting you have a problem,” said Misty, and everypony laughed.
“Anyway,” said Spitfire. “Rainbow Dash will be here in a bit. We should start thinking about how we’re gonna work her in next week.” She reached under the table and pushed a button. “I had this idea.” The lights dimmed, and a projector screen lowered from the ceiling. A picture showing a series of lines and X’s in different patterns flashed on the screen. “This is the finale. Normal terminal-delta pattern, right?” She picked up a big red X and placed it in the middle of a circle of X’s. “There’s the Rainboom.” Noises of approval came from the rest of the team. Spitfire laughed. “It’s gonna be so bucking awesome.”
“But,” said Rapidfire. “Will she be able to do it horizontally like that?”
Spitfire shrugged. “Why not?”
“It’s just... it seems like gravity helps her. Without it, can she still do it?”
“Probably. I mean, I’ve seen some of the stuff she can do. I’d be surprised.”
A low voice came out of the intercom.
“Ma’am? That, uh... Dashin’... Rain, uh-”
“Rainbow Dash,” said Spitfire.
“Yeah, that. She’s here.”
Dash nudged the door open with her nose.
It was just the way she had left it. Despite its thorough decoration, the rec room was empty. It was a big house, and the Bolts could be anywhere. She went inside and took a seat on the suede couch, wondering how big the Wonderbolts headquarters really was.
A picture on the wall caught her eye. It was a pegasus enclosed by a giant oval cone, very close to breaking the sound barrier. Dash got up to get a closer look. It was Spitfire, who was no more than a tiny yellow dot in the sky. The cone around her was very well defined.
“Woah,” said Dash.
A very casual, softspoken voice came from behind her.
“That was the closest I ever got.”
Dash spun around. Spitfire stood in the doorway with a slight smirk on her face.
“After I heard that you did it at the BYFC, I kept trying and trying for weeks. That picture was the closest I got.”
Dash’s eyebrows rose. “Really?”
Spitfire nodded. “I have no clue how you do it.”
Dash felt a bubbling of pride inside her. She had done what the best flier in Equestria couldn’t do.
“Well, yeah,” said Dash with a pleased grin. “Once you start doing it, you know. It gets pretty easy.”
“Really,” Spitfire said sarcastically.
Dash shut her eyes and held her head high. “Yeah. I guess you could say that for all the moves I do.”
“Then dodge this.”
Rainbow Dash had just enough time to avoid a couch pillow coming straight to her face at an alarming rate.
“WOAH! Whatdya do th-”
A second pillow made contact.
“Aw, come on!” said Spitfire. “I thought you said you got better the more you did it!”
Spitfire continued pitching pillows at Rainbow Dash, knocking over trophies and pictures from the wall. Dash flew into the air to get away from the feathery onslaught.
“I didn’t mean- AH! Why’re you- WOAH Stop it! Spitf- GAH- WHERE ARE YOU GETTING ALL THESE PILLOWS?!”
Spitfire was in hysterics. She stopped and doubled over in laughter. Rainbow Dash had no clue what to make of this.
“What the hay was that for?” Dash said as Spitfire fell over laughing.
“If- If you can dodge a- a pillow-”
“YO!” yelled Soarin’s voice. He poked his head through the door and his eyes met the scene. His expression glossed over with confusion. “What in the... am I interrupting something?”
“No, no,” said Spitfire as she struggled to catch her breath. “We- we were j- just... I’ll tell you later.”
“Uhh... M’kay. Well we’re starting.”
“Ok, ok.” Spitfire stood up, turned to Dash, and pointed a hoof at her neck. “Watch your back. I know every pillow in this mansion.”
Dash stood, utterly bewildered. She couldn’t think straight. No matter what way she tried, she couldn’t piece together what was happening. None of the unexplainable events of her life could compare to this.
Spitfire chuckled. “Lighten up, dude! You’re part of the most famous group of ponies in Equestria! You gotta learn to be crazy. You can ask Soarin’ all about it.”
Soarin’s eyes narrowed. “The hay is that supposed to mean?”
Spitfire gave Soarin’ a playful punch on the forehead, which produced a resonant echo. “All muscle, no brains. Ya learn to love him.” Dash could no longer hold back a smile.
Soarin’ scoffed. “Really? In front of Rainbow Dash?”
Spitfire smirked. “Go to the field, we’ll catch up.”
Soarin’ turned with an annoyed sigh and started down the hallway. Rainbow Dash waited until he was out of earshot.
“I’ve always wondered... were you and Soarin’ ever-”
“-in a relationship?” She sighed. “Yeah. Big mistake.”
“Nothing at all. With something like that, you have to constantly keep it from the press. Otherwise, they’ll have a field day with it. We didn’t really have time... for each other.”
Dash’s stomach dropped. She didn’t know why.
Spitfire’s voice altered dynamic quite dramatically. “Anyway! Topic for another time. I take it you’ve already memorized every Bolt routine there is.”
Dash lifted her head high. “Backwards and forwards.”
“How are you on number seven?”
Dash gasped. “You mean the Canterlot Arena show routine from three years ago?”
Spitfire nodded. “The very same.”
“That’s... my... favorite... one!”
“Good, cause that’s the Manehatten routine for Saturday.” Spitfire went to the door and opened it. “Let’s go! Your fans are waiting.”
Spitfire laughed. “You’re gonna love this.”
They reached the exit at the end of the hallway and stopped. Two large, husky pegasi dressed in black suits emerged from the darkness and stomped up to their side. Rainbow Dash looked up at the one towering over her. Huge teeth poked out of his closed mouth, his brutish face adorned by a clean-cut scar stretching over his cheek and eye.
She wasn’t sure what was more startling, his impossibly low and silk-smooth voice, or the fact that he actually spoke.
“You enjoyin’ the view?”
She glanced quickly away at the ground. The guard chuckled lightly. He sounded like a radio star.
“Don’t worry, I ain’t gonna hurt you. My job is to do the exact opposite, in fact.”
She looked back up at him from the corner of her eye.
“Dash, this is Silvertongue,” said Spitfire. “He and I go way back.”
“Further back than I care to admit,” chuckled Silvertongue. “I knew Spitfire before she could even fly.”
“He’ll be your main guy,” said Spitfire. “If you ever have problems with a crowd, he’ll be there to handle it.”
“Well, I’m not famous yet,” said Dash. “What are we waiting for?”
Spitfire chuckled. ”Alright, miss showoff. Here.” Spitfire handed Rainbow Dash a black cloth big enough to be a blanket. “Put this over yourself. And quick, we’re running late already.”
“What? What for?”
“Just do it.”
Dash grabbed the blanket with her teeth and flung it over her head. She couldn’t see anything.
“Make sure it’s completely covering your face.”
“What the hay is this f-”
“Later. Now, when I tell you to go, walk forward slowly. Ok?”
“I’ll guide you with a hoof as we walk, but when I tell you to stop, stop as quickly as you can and hold completely still. Got it?”
“I- I guess.”
“We’ll be getting into a jet. I’ll tell you when we’re there, but you have to stay covered the entire way. Ready?”
“Y- yeah. Wait, a jet?”
“Alright, guys. Barricade em’.”
Dash heard the doors open, and suddenly, thousands of camera shutters and screaming fans. Her heart shot up into her throat.
“Alright,” said Spitfire. “GO!”
Dash started forwards, completely blind to anything in front of her. She walked as close to half her normal pace as possible. But why did Spitfire have to hide her? Everypony needed to see the brand new, athletic, incredibly good-looking Rainbow Dash!
“BACK AWAY, MAKE ROOM! QUESTIONS WILL NOT BE ANSWERED!” yelled the bodyguards as the endless shutter of cameras came like the sound of torrential rain. Dash heard the crowd trying to yell over each other.
“WHERE’S THE NEXT SHOW GONNA BE?”
“SPITFIRE! WHO’S UNDER THE BLANKET?”
“WHO IS THAT?”
“COULD YOU TAKE A MINUTE FOR WING WEEKLY?”
“Keep going, we’re doing good,” Spitfire said in Dash’s ear. She despised hiding herself from the world. If she was to become famous all over Equestria, what better place than to start right here?
The guards grunted and yelled as they pushed the crowd backwards. They began to slow down, until finally, Spitfire yelled, “Ok, stop!”
Dash froze in place, keeping every muscle as still as possible.
“There’s a set of stairs in front of you,” said Spitfire. “Keep the blanket covering you.”
Spitfire guided Dash up the stairs. A door opened.
“Ok, it’s open! Go in!” yelled Spitfire. Dash entered, feeling her way through the hole. The door shut, and Spitfire sighed. “K, you can take it off now.”
“Thank Celestia,” said Dash as she grabbed the cloth and pulled it off. Her eyes were met with a mob of ponies outside the door with cameras as they pushed and shoved to get a glimpse inside the window. Dash leaned away. “Woah."
“As you can see, rumors spread at the speed of sound. First lesson in fame, never say something publicly that our staff hasn’t approved.”
“But can’t they see in here?”
“Nope. The windows are blacked out from the outside.”
Dash looked around. Whatever vehicle she had entered could only be bought by ponies with innumerable amounts of money. Beige-colored recliners and furniture lined the cabin. Marble and oak-wood counter tops adorned a kitchen, just under a flat-screen TV built into the wall. A large hot tub sat in the corner, already hot and bubbling.
“Woah,” said Dash.
Spitfire chuckled. “Welcome to the JON! Also known as, the Jet of Necessity. We use this if we need to get places secretly.”
“Secret?” said Dash, half-scoffing at Spitfire. “There’s nothing secret about this thing!”
“Yeah, well. We’re working on that.”
Suddenly, the jet lurched up into the air and hovered above the crowd in the hedge garden below.
Spitfire jumped into one of the recliners and hit the side of the cabin twice. “You might wanna hang on.”
The engines roared, and the jet shot forward. Dash flailed backward into the couch and yelled at the top of her lungs, holding on to whatever she could. Spitfire laughed and threw her hooves in the air. The jet leveled out and Dash looked out the window to see Ponyville speeding past them and out of sight.
“Why in Equestira do we need a jet?” She demanded. “I mean, I understand the secrecy and everything, but we do have wings. Couldn’t I have just kept the blanket on?”
“That’s why we named it the Jet of Necessity. Because it’s not actually necessary. Besides, wouldn’t it be kinda hard to fly with a blanket on?”
“Well. I guess.”
Spitfire shrugged. “I kinda like the jet. She laid back in the seat and propped her legs up on a nearby table. In an attempt to keep up the cool status quo, Dash copied Spitfire and propped her legs on the same table. Spitfire chuckled at this.
“What?” said Dash.
Their eyes met. Once again, they looked at each other for much longer than Dash would have liked. She looked away and tried to find something else to focus on, but Spitfire hadn’t stopped.
“You know,” Spitfire began, her dynamic dropping ten levels. “When I said that nopony had done anything like that for me before, saving my life and everything...”
Surprised at the sudden change in conversation, Dash looked back at Spitfire.
“...I sorta lied,” she finished.
“What do you mean?” Dash said, her curiosity piqued.
Spitfire bit her lip and broke her stare. “My parents. They died trying to save me and my brother.”
Silence filled the room. The jet engines dulled to nothing but a whisper. Dash didn’t know what to say. She felt like she should say something, but nothing came to mind.
“I- I’m-” She stuttered.
Spitfire groaned and put her face in her hooves. “Oh. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s fine, It-”
“I shouldn’t just randomly bring up stuff like that. It’s totally inappropriate.” Dash saw Spitfire’s face turn dark orange behind her hooves.
"It's really no big deal," said Dash.
Spitfire looked back at Dash, a mix of uncertainty and joy etched into her expression.
“What happened to them?” asked Dash.
Spitfire paused. “Ah, let’s not talk about it. Somber is my least favorite mood.” She smiled.
Dash had great difficulty figuring out why this topic of conversation had come up. Past family members were the last thing she had expected to discuss with the most famous pony in Equestria.
"But when you did the rainboom-" Spitfire continued, deep in thought. "I don't even know how to describe it. It changes you. I've been doing and saying things lately that I never would otherwise. Like just randomly blurting things out about my dead parents."
Again, Rainbow Dash had nothing to say. Her mouth opened as she tried to form words, but only stutters came out.
"But at the same time," Spitfire continued, "I'm just really happy." She laughed. "It's so weird, I feel all confident and optimistic about everything all the time, and Soarin’s been acting weird too. It’s like it has this effect on ponies who see it...” She stopped in thoughtful silence. “Just imagine when you do it in Manehatten.”
Dash’s head began to fill with millions of outlandish scenarios. Effect? What did Spitfire mean by feeling “optimistic and happy?” Was this why the Wonderbolts’ personalities were nothing like she imagined they would be?
What would happen if she did it in Mane Arena?
The jet began to slow down. Spitfire looked out the window. “Ah, we’re here!”
Dash looked out her window. They had come to a flat plain that stretched out to the horizon, as far as the eye could see. Several lines and circles were painted on the surface in a pattern, making a large bulls-eye. The jet slowed to a halt in midair and slowly lowered to the ground.
“Welcome to the middle of nowhere!” said Spitfire as she got up and flipped a switch that opened the door. “C’mon.”
“But-” Dash took a few hesitant glances out the windows. “What if somepony sees me?”
Spitfire smirked. “Good, you’re thinking like a famous pony. Don’t worry, we have teams of unicorns stationed around the field with visibility enchantments. Don’t ask me how it works, I have no clue.”
“Awesome.” Dash followed Spitfire out of the jet and adjusted her eyes from the ambient lighting inside the cabin to the blinding sun.
“Jeez, what the hay took you guys? We’ve already got the lines painted!” said Soarin’, as he the Wonderbolts walked up to them.
“Can it,” said Spitfire, shooting him a look. “Alright guys, take five miles around the field, half-speed.”
The Wonderbolts took off, and to her own surprise, Dash took off immediately after them.
After going to entire day without flying, the wind blowing through Dash’s mane felt incredibly refreshing. As far as she could see, this truly was the middle of nowhere. The brown ground met the blue sky in every direction.
She then found herself flying next to a yellow stallion with a long, firey mane and bright, amber eyes.
“Hey,” he said, extending a hoof to Dash. She was amazed at how alike he and Spitfire sounded. “I’m Rapidfire. I’m Spitfire’s brother.”
“I know,” she said, taking his hoof and shaking it. Either she had finally come to terms with reality or she was still stuck in a very long dream, but she managed to suppress any outward showing of excitement. “Name’s Rainbow Dash.”
“I know.” They laughed. “So. I hear that Sonic Rainboom of yours is quite the sight.”
“Hay yeah,” she said, smirking with pride. “It has this weird effect on you when you see it, so I’d be careful.”
He laughed. “Oh, really? And what kind of effect is this?”
“You start feeling all optimistic and happy about everything.”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed Soarin’ acting a little... giddy lately.”
“Yeah, he’s been going on and on about it all day. It got pretty annoying. But he’s pretty annoying in general, so it’s normal.”
Dash laughed. She had never thought the Wonderbolts to be real, actual ponies, they had only been deities and idols to her.
“But listen,” said Rapidfire. “If you have any questions about anything, or you just want somepony to talk to, I’m always here. I know how it is, being new and all.”
She smiled at him. “Cool. Thanks.”
He winked at Dash, then returned to flying.
< Chapter 3 | Chapter 5 Coming soon! >
Spitfire walked over to her big brother and sat down.
“Hey,” she said. Her gaze became lost in the flurry of activity in the sky as Rainbow Dash rehearsed a section of the show with the team.
“Hey,” he replied. “What’s up?”
She didn’t say anything. There was so much she could say, yet none of it came out. The dazzling colors and explosions in the sky held her eyes in place. Rapidfire read her like an open book.
“Something’s wrong,” he said as he turned towards her. “What’s wrong?”
A warm breeze casually and carelessly drifted through her mane. She sniffled.
Rapidfire scoffed. “You know I know you better than that.”
Spitfire suddenly dove for her brother and pulled him into a desperate hug.
“Woah! What is it?” he said.
Spitfire took in a deep breath, and slowly released it.
“I miss them so much.”
At a loss for words, Rapidfire tentatively returned the embrace. “Hey. It’s ok.”
They stood in each other’s grasp for what seemed like an hour. To Spitfire’s surprise, her eyes stayed dry. Finally, Rapidfire spoke up.
“I’m curious.” He released her. “Why are you bringing this up now?”
She had wondered if she should tell him. He is her big brother, after all.
“It’s Rainbow Dash.”
“What about Rainbow Dash?”
A rainbow-colored bolt of lightning streaked across the sky and exploded in a shower of blue sparks as Rainbow Dash flew overhead.
“Soo...” Rapidfire began, trying to make light and humor of the situation. “Dash reminds you of mom and dad?”
“No, it’s what she does that reminds me.”
Rapidfire’s expression turned incredulous.
“I mean, all of her moves and tricks she does, her style.”
“I don’t follow.”
“The sonic rainboom! It does something to you. I don’t know how to explain it... it’s like nostalgia. Like really, really strong nostalgia.”
Rapidfire had begun to look worried. “Interesting. So Dash’s sonic rainboom makes you nostalgic for mom and dad?”
Spitfire sighed and returned her attention to the scene in the sky. She spoke as if speaking to herself. “And I just blurted it out, too.”
“On the way over here, we were having a perfectly normal conversation, and I went all loopy, and just randomly brought up the fact that our parents died saving our lives.”
“Uh. You did?”
“I have no idea what the hay I was thinking. It was so random. Nothing made me do it, it sort of just happened. Even being around her makes me feel... strange.”
Rapidfire silently pondered his sister for a moment. “Do you need to go see somepony? That whole therapist thing doesn’t seem like such a bad idea now.”
She laughed. At least he was taking it lightly. “The rainboom made me cry, you know.”
Rapidfire turned and looked at Spitfire as if she had just punched him square in the face. “You cried?” He looked up as Dash sky-wrote her name in cursive. “Wow. I’ve gotta see this.”
Suddenly, Silvertongue’s silvery voice boomed out from behind them.
He flared his giant wings and shook the ground as he landed next to her holding a rolled-up newspaper.
“I think we have a bit of a problem.” She took the newspaper from him, unrolled it, and came face to face with a huge headshot of Rainbow Dash, under a line of giant bold-print text.
A NEW WONDERBOLT
The day before the Manehatten show, Rainbow Dash was on top of the world. She felt like she could do anything. She had perfected the show routines into virtuosic displays of limitless talent and ability. She moved with the Wonderbolts in perfect synchronization through the sky. She reached a level of visual excellence that she herself never thought possible.
It was no longer a sport. It was art.
Spitfire sat with a hoof on her chin in thought. “This is going to be the best show we’ve ever done.”
The Wonderbolts sat in a circle, water bottles in hoof, all eyes on their fearless leader.
“No, seriously,” she continued. “You have no idea how awesome it looks.”
“Splendid,” said Tyco, his Trottingham accent thick as ever. “At least somepony believes so. If it’s a complete disaster, we will have your opinion, dear Spitfire, to un-depress ourselves. As it were.”
“Hey!” piped up Fleetfoot. “That crash in Saddlesburg wasn’t totally my fault.”
Tyco put a hoof over his forehead in dramatic fashion. “Oh, the tragic end to the performance! In this act, dear Fleetfoot once again denies any and all responsibility to everything!”
Fleetfoot smiled. “You wanna take this outside?”
“We are outside, dear Fleetfoot. And spare me the quarrel, I can win over you in no more than one bout.”
“Oh really? Let’s see then!” yelled Fleetfoot as she dove for Tyco.
Dash sat and watched the altercation from the sidelines. They were just kids. The public figures she had idolized and adored, the ponies who had everything, and they seemed only about as mature as she.
Fleetfoot and Tyco wrestled to the ground, the others laughing and cheering them on.
“Alright, alright, knock it off,” said Spitfire. “We should actually accomplish something today.”
Fleetfoot released Tyco from a headlock and punched him on the shoulder before returning to her spot in the circle.
“So we haven’t practiced the finale yet,” said Spitfire. “I think that’s a good place to start.”
“Le piece de resistance,” added Soarin’, and he bumped Dash on the shoulder. “Miss impossible over here.”
Dash smiled as Rapidfire whooped in response to Soarin’.
“Oh, we get to see it now?” said Fleetfoot. “The rainboom?”
“Alright, Dash. Ready to amaze us?” said Spitfire.
Dash smirked. “I dunno. If I’m feeling like it, maybe.”
Spitfire rolled her eyes. “Alright then, you’re with me. Everypony else, terminal-delta. Start the grouping at dead-center.”
The rest of the Wonderbolts took off into the sky and gathered in a group.
“I’ll be with them,” said Spitfire. “You’ll need to start a few miles out of the stadium, so leave yourself plenty of time to get away.”
Spitfire signaled to the group. They began flying in a tight circle, a point of red light growing brighter and brighter at the center.
“That light is your cue. You’ll have all the time you need to get there, but you’re gonna time the rainboom so that you break the barrier right through the center.”
“Awesome, let’s try it. Oh, and do it horizontally instead of vertically.”
“Sure. Wait- what do you mean?”
“Go sideways instead of towards the ground.”
Dash’s stomach shrunk to half its size.
“Yeah, we want the shockwave to expand perpendicular to the ground. Is that a problem?”
She had never considered this before. How could she have missed it? Could she do the rainboom horizontally? Gravity had always aided her in gaining speed, but was it enough? She had never tried it. Her mind suddenly in a maelstrom of questions and scenarios, Dash could only stutter.
“I- I- I think- I mean- well, if-”
Spitfire raised an eyebrow. “You can do it horizontally, right?”
“Y- yeah, of course!”
“Alright, then. Give yourself some range, and when you see the light, punch it.” She flew off to join the rest of the team. Dash took off in the opposite direction, sweat beginning to accumulate on the back of her neck.
“How the hay have I never tried this before?” she told herself as she flew away. “I mean, if I can do the sonic rainboom plus hundreds of other amazing moves nopony else can do, theres no way I can’t do it horizontally.”
She flew for several minutes, racking her brain for any time in the thousands of attempts at the sonic rainboom that she had done horizontally. Finally she turned around, and the Wonderbolts were a barely visible, tiny dot in the distance.
“It’s fine, it’s fine.” She wiped the sweat from her forehead. “There’s nothing I can’t do. I can do everything. I’m Rainbow Dash.”
The red light began to shine. Dash took in a deep breath and exhaled. With all of her might she shot forward, clawing at every bit of air in front of her. Immediately, it became clear. She wouldn’t even come close.
“COME ON!” she grunted through gritted teeth. The cone began to form around her as she rocketed toward the field. The wind ripped past her face. The ground became nothing but a light-brown blur. Her eyes watered as she squinted harder and harder. Every ounce of strength she could muster propelled her toward the target.
“COME ON, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” she yelled as she pushed harder and harder against the sound barrier. The bright, silvery cone around her had begun to move further and further away from her grasp. Lost in her stressed thoughts, she almost forgot to look up. The target was practically in front of her. She timed the jump, made a last push through the barrier, and time stopped.
Everything went completely still. Sound became non-existent. Dash un-squinted one eye. She had stopped moving completely.
“Oh horseapp-” She shot into the opposite direction, flailing around without control. Her face ate the dirt as she went head over hooves into the ground.
“Dash! Are you ok?” said Soarin’ as he and the Wonderbolts landed next to her.
She snapped back up to her hooves, trying her absolute best to act as if nothing had gone wrong.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.”
Everypony stared at her with nondescript expressions. Such an expression on Spitfire’s face was almost unbearable. Dash looked away as she made eye contact.
“Um,” Spitfire began. “You can do it. Right?”
She couldn’t let Spitfire down. She wouldn’t do it. Nor would she sap her own pride. She could do the sonic rainboom sideways. She had to.
“Of- of course! I was just, you know. Messin’ around.”
Spitfire raised an eyebrow. “Hmm. Kind of a weird way to mess around. We kinda wanted to see it.”
Dash held her breath, her heart about to blast through her chest.
“Well, as long as you do it tomorrow,” Spitfire finished.
“It- It’ll happen,” said Dash. She had signed her own death warrant, and there was no taking it back.
“Teasing us, eh?” said Tyco. He cracked a grin. “I like your style.”
Spitfire sighed, subtly yet obviously disappointed. “Alright then, we’ll wing it.” She looked up at the setting sun as it rested on the horizon. “I think we’ll call practice. Go home, get a lot of sleep. We have a hay of a show tomorrow.” She flew up into the air. “We’ll take the jet to Manehatten, so be at the HQ at noon.”
Dash’s insides squirmed around. She felt like puking. She took long, heavy breaths.
“Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no.”
“You sure you’re ok, Dash?” said Soarin’ as he took off after Spitfire. “You’re whiter than a ghost.”
“YES!” she suddenly yelled as she cracked a ridiculous smile. “I’M FINE!”
Soarin’ chuckled. “Kid, you really are a gem. See you tomorrow! Don’t party too hard.”
“Actually,” said Spitfire. “You guys go ahead, I want to talk to her.”
“Mkay,” said Soarin’. “See you later.” He flew away and the Wonderbolts followed.
Dash looked at Spitfire and her legs froze in place. She wished she could fly away, far away where she couldn’t disappoint Spitfire any further.
“Hey,” she said, her voice cracking.
Spitfire smirked. “Listen. About earlier, what I told you about my parents.”
“I’m really sorry. It was totally uncool, I have no idea what I was thinking.” She took a few steps toward Dash.
“No, it’s- it’s fine.”
“I hate to put you in this position, but that’s something that’s not supposed to get out. Even Soarin’ doesn’t know.” She took a few steps closer.
“Wow, r- really?”
“Yeah... yeah.” Her voice trailed off. She came even closer. She looked at Dash as if desperately searching for something, and expecting to find it in the most peculiar of places. She stopped in front of her, just on the edge of comfortable conversation distance.
Silence befell them. Dash felt the urge to speak, but something else matched it.
After an eternity, Spitfire looked away and finally spoke.
“You have no idea. What this means to me. What you do means to me. What...” she trailed off into silence for several seconds.
“...What you mean to me.”
She turned to face the orange setting sun and let out a deep sigh. “I’m sorry. I’m doing it again. I’m doing it again!” She turned back to Dash. “Ok, I’ve got to leave before I do something really drastic. I am having some serious issues right now.” She chuckled in an obvious attempt to laugh it off. “Can you get home ok?”
“Um. I guess.”
“Remember, the secret is out. Everypony in the world will know who you are by now.”
“Sleep like a rock. I’ll see you at noon tomorrow, no later.” She took off into the sunset, becoming lost in the orange sky.
Dash’s rump hit the ground.
Mane Arena: a worthy testament to the age of modern unicorn engineering. Visible for miles in every direction, its giant, concrete walls towered above the Manehatten skyline and spanned nearly half its width. Titanic, golden pylons extended out from the walls and curved into the sky, meeting at a single point above the field where a golden crest hovered in mid-air, shining bright in the sunlight. Rows upon rows of seats lined the inside walls, many of which were already filled. Crowds stood around the entrances, waiting and hoping for their chance to witness history.
Dash stared out of her airplane window. The sheer size of the structure crushed every bit of feeling inside her. She had only seen it on TV. In person, it seemed much larger.
“Quite a sight, huh?” said Soarin’. “Biggest field in the world. Quarter mile in diameter, capacity five hundred thousand.”
Dash shrunk into her seat as a shiver ran up her spine.
“Soarin’ would of course like to think of it in numbers,” said Tyco. “I find Mane Arena to be a stunning example of modern art.”
Soarin’ rolled his eyes. “Here we go.”
“The golden pylons,” said Tyco as he shot Soarin’ a look. “Represent the marvelous wonder of magic and the infinite possibilities it holds, extending upward into the sky with indefinite end. Princess Celestia herself placed the spell keeping the crest suspended in mid-air.”
“I hear she might even be at the show,” added Soarin’.
“Great,” said Dash. “Awesome.”
“‘Awesome?’ You mean fan-freakin-tastic! If your rainboom can do what it did to me and Spitfire, just think how that crowd is gonna react.”
Soarin’ continued explaining to Dash everything there was to know about performing to “ultra-large” audiences, each little fact and detail smashing her confidence to pieces. Scenario after scenario ran through her head, each one ending with apocalyptic circumstances. There was no escaping. There was no turning back.
They reached the side of the arena, where two large doors began to open. The jet slowed to a hover and slowly drifted inside. A crowd of camera-flashing ponies stood outside the entrance, taking as many pictures as possible before the doors closed.
Out of the total darkness and silence inside the cabin came Spitfire’s voice.
“Well. We’re here.”
Then came Soarin’s voice, much louder and much more enthusiastic.
The Wonderbolts yelled and hollered in response.
“Grab your bags,” said Spitfire. “Let’s go be famous.”
Rainbow Dash followed the Wonderbolts out of the jet and into a cavernous aircraft hangar lined with steel walls. The doors closed behind them and several overhead lights flashed on. A group of pegasi wearing suits and sunglasses stood next to a doorway in the corner. One of them stepped up and checked his watch.
“Half an hour.” He looked at Dash from behind his sunglasses and pondered her for an uncomfortably long period of time. “If you would, fillies and gentlecolts, come this way.”
The Wonderbolts followed as he turned on the spot and trotted towards the doorway in the corner. Dash’s saddlebag carrying her flight suit hung around her like a lead weight.
They moved through a long, steel corridor through which several pegasi flew back and forth, frantically making preparations for the show. Every few seconds, one of them would stop and stare at the Wonderbolts in awe as they walked by. The further they walked, the more Dash began to realize that they were staring at her.
“Is that... that’s... Rainbow Dash!”
“It’s her, the new Bolt!”
“DO A SONIC RAINBOOM!”
Soarin’ nudged her and grinned. Dash attempted a smile back. She never thought being famous would be so awful.
“The locker room is just around here,” said the escort.
They turned a final corner, and Dash’s legs froze. A bright light led out into the field at the end of the tunnel, and the sound of a half-million fans as they cheered over the filler rock music.
This was it. She was going to die.
“You coming?” said Spitfire from a nearby doorway. “Or are you too excited to move? I know that feeling.”
Dash slowly followed Spitfire through the door, no longer making any attempt to hide her distressed demeanor.
“You ok?” said Spifire. “You seem a bit... anxious.”
Dash waved her hoof. “I- I’m fine. Just a little- uh- nervous.”
Spitfire laughed. “You’ll be fine. Just have fun!”
They walked into a small, square room lined with lockers. Misty, Rapidfire, and the other Wonderbolts slipped into their flight suits without hesitation while Dash struggled to stretch the fabric over herself, her forelegs trembling profusely. She made occasional glances at the others as they talked to each other, laughing and joking without a care in the world.
Dash pulled the mask over her head and looked in the mirror. She didn’t deserve to wear this.
“Dash, are you ok?” said Spitfire.
Dash jumped. “NO! YES! I mean- yes, I’m fine! Why?”
Spitfire recoiled slightly. “Well... it’s just your ears have been flopped for the last two hours. You’re sure you’re ok?”
Dash scoffed with small, maniacal chuckles.
Spitfire shrugged. “Ok then.”
Suddenly, an extremely animated voice came over the loudspeakers in the stadium. Dash jumped a few feet off the ground.
“FILLIES AND GENTLECOLTS!”
An impossibly loud roar echoed the voice. The floor shook, the lights flickered, and the ceiling tiles rattled in their sockets. Dash clenched her head in her hooves.
“Oh no. Oh no no no no no.”
“Woohoo!” yelled Soarin’, barely audible over the roaring and trembling stadium. “Listen to that!”
Dash looked up at Spitfire as dust began to fall from the ceiling. They made eye contact. Spitfire just smiled at her. She smiled as if nothing at all was wrong. The entire world could have been falling apart, and she wouldn’t have cared at all.
Then, the crowd began chanting. Each word shook the stadium like a giant bass drum.
RAINBOW DASH! RAINBOW DASH! RAINBOW DASH!
“That’s you, kid,” said Soarin’.
The escort opened the door. “Three minutes.”
“HERE TO PERFORM DAZZLING, GRAVITY-DEFYING ACTS OF AEROBATICS!”
Rainbow Dash stepped up to her place in the formation.
“LED BY THE BLAZING WONDER, SPITFIRE!”
The Wonderbolts walked down the tunnel in their trademark delta-formation. Dash’s legs became weaker with each step. Her flight suit squeezed her chest and tightened around her neck. Ahead stood the exit: a bright, white light from which the screams of thousands of expectant fans rang out like the trumpets of the apocalypse.
As they neared the overhang, Dash’s jaw slowly dropped. Night had arrived, and the stadium lights lit up the field in a bright green fluorescence under the black sky. Ponies leaned over the railing above, jumping and pushing one another to get a glimpse at the Wonderbolts. Dash tilted back her head to look at the opposite side of the stadium as it towered above everything, a sea of color blanketing its surface. She whimpered.
“You know the pre-show verse, right Dash?” Fleetfoot yelled over the crowd.
“The what?” Dash yelled back.
“Thirty seconds!” yelled the escort.
“We do this chant before we fly out!” Fleetfoot yelled again. “It’s really fun, you should try it!
Of course she knew the pre-show verse. She recited it practically every night before she went to bed.
“Alright guys!” yelled Spitfire. “This is the opener, first impressions are everything! Keep it close, keep it tight! GOGGLES!”
Each of the Wonderbolts snapped their goggles to their eyes.
“IT’S TIME TO FLY!” Soarin’ suddenly screamed at the top of his lungs. “FLY OVER DREAMS! FLY WITH ANGELS! BEAUTY WILL SCORCH THE SKY! FOR WE ARE THE SKY KEEPERS, OUR WINGS WILL SPREAD FOR THE HONOR, THE GLORY, OF EQUESTRIA!”
The rest of the Wonderbolts joined in: “IT’S TIME TO FLY! FLY OVER DREAMS! FLY WITH ANGELS! BEAUTY WILL SCORCH THE SKY!” Dash mumbled along with them. The crowd began to drown them out.
RAINBOW DASH! RAINBOW DASH! RAINBOW DASH!
“FOR WE ARE THE SKY KEEPERS, OUR WINGS WILL SPREAD FOR THE HONOR, THE GLORY, OF EQUESTRIA!”
Dash couldn’t handle it any longer.
“I CAN’T DO IT!”
Everypony stopped and looked at her.
Spitfire rushed up to her. “Dash, look at me. Now is definitely not the time for a nervous breakdown. You’ll do fine.”
“No, I mean I can’t do it! Th- the rainboom.”
Spitfire’s expression faded. “W- what do you mean you can’t do it?”
“I can’t do it horizontally! I’ve never done it before. I’ve never tried it before.”
“Ten seconds!” yelled the escort.
“ALL THE WAY FROM CLOUDSDALE...”
Spitfire’s face froze. “Please tell me you’re kidding. Please.”
Dash looked at the ground and shook her head. Spitfire retreated a few steps. Everypony looked at her.
“Spitfire!” yelled Soarin’. “We have to go now!”
She spun around and bounded back to her place in the formation.
“SET!” screamed Soarin’, and the Wonderbolts flared their wings in perfect synchronization.
With an earsplitting CRACK they shot into the sky. The crowd exploded. A maelstrom of camera flashes sparkled across the stadium like a heavily sequined sheet of fabric. They reached the peak of their ascent, then dove hard at the ground. Dash kept as close as she could to the Bolts around her, matching their speed and every move. They pulled up sharply, producing a chest-rattling rumble that echoed through the stadium. The air twisted and contorted into several effervescent rings that rose into the sky.
“FILLIES AND GENTLECOLTS, INTRODUCING THE LIGHTNING FAST RAAAAAINBOOOW DAAASH!”
Dash broke off from the group, flew towards the rising rings, and accelerated. Aiming at the dead center, she punched a hole straight through the middle. An arc of lightning appeared and connected to several points around them for a split second before climbing into the sky and expanding. The crowd roared as the rings exploded into a shower of water and mist. From the bright stadium lights, a vivid rainbow appeared. She dove toward the stands and flew a low pass around the arena, trailing behind her a thunderstorm that soaked the audience.
Dash’s introductory solo went by like a blur. Before any thought entered her mind, she found herself flying over the top edge of the stands and out of sight where she caught her first break. Landing on a flat area of concrete, she heard the high pitched screams from thousands of fillies as Soarin’ and Rapidfire began their duet.
Out of nowhere, Spitfire landed in front of her. Chunks of cracked concrete went flying.
“WHAT THE HAY. WHAT IN THE HAY!!”
Her demented expression perfectly matched the furious way she walked as she grabbed her goggles and threw them off. Dash retreated several steps.
“You SAID you could do it! This whole time I believed you! YOU LIED TO ME!”
“What do we do now, Dash? WHAT THE HAY DO WE DO NOW? Maybe we should just let YOU decide everything from now on!” She began pacing, biting her lip, and ruffling her wings all at the same time. Her tail flicked around like it was trying to escape. Her breathing became heavy and erratic. “It HAS to happen, there’s no way it CAN’T happen! Why Dash? Why would you do this? To THINK I even let you JOIN!”
Dash’s ears folded as her head lowered. “I’m- I’m sorry-”
“SORRY DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING!” Tears began to fall from her eyes. “I wanted this for you! And you just threw it away!” She turned away.
Dash stared at the back of Spitfire’s stuck-up mane as the wind began to blow it back into place. Spitfire’s flight suit turned a deep shade of blue against the night sky. She occasionally brought up a hoof to wipe her face.
Dash thought of nothing to say. But she had to try something.
“Spitfire,” she began. Spitfire responded with a sniffle. “I never knew my rainboom would make ponies feel like this. Like you do, I mean.”
“When you asked me to do it sideways, I panicked. I didn’t want to let you down.”
Spitfire’s voice dropped several dynamic levels. “Well you sure didn’t, did you?”
Dash gulped. It felt like Spitfire had just shoved a sword through her stomach. “I mean,” Dash continued. “There’s always next time! Can’t I just not do it? Couldn’t I do it vertically at another show?”
Spitfire turned around. She walked up to Dash and put both forehooves on her shoulders.
Her expression became unbearable. Tears streamed down her face as if she pleaded for her own life, amplifying the unidentifiable pain inside Dash’s stomach.
“Please do it. There won’t be another chance like this.” Her wet, fiery eyes pierced Dash’s soul. “You don’t know how much-”
Her mouth hung on the end of the sentence. Slowly, she began to back away. Dash suppressed the urge to question her.
Suddenly, she shot back into the sky and over the stadium wall. The crowd met her return with a thunderous roar. Dash stared at the concrete crater she left behind.
“What the hay is wrong with you, Spitfire? WHAT THE HAY IS WRONG WITH YOU!?”
Her rage coming from nowhere and her mind slowly turning into scrambled eggs, Spitfire took her anger out on her duet with her brother.
“Hey!” Rapidfire yelled over the wind and ecstatic crowd. “You think you could tone it down a bit? You’re scorching the field!”
Spitfire turned her head, and her fire trail had grown nearly ten times larger than her brother’s. Hot magma waterfalls fell to the ground as the pegasi fire crew rushed back and forth to extinguish the blaze. She rolled her eyes and continued on. Twisting and twirling around each other, Rapidfire dodged the huge chunks of hot lava flowing from his sister’s trail.
“Spit- WOAH- Spitfire! Hey! Knock it off!”
“Shut up!” she yelled.
“What! Did you just tell me to shut up? You never tell me to shut up!”
They reached the finale of their duet, a move called the “Heat Wave.” They went to opposite ends of the arena and flew straight toward each other at extreme speed. Just before colliding, they turned sideways and banked in opposite directions, missing each other by inches and causing a fiery shockwave. The crowd roared as they rejoined each other in the air and flew out of sight.
Suddenly, something grabbed Spitfire’s back leg and yanked her to the ground.
“What is with you?” said Rapidfire in a scolding tone as Spitfire got back to her hooves. “I know you’re upset about the rainboom, but you nearly cooked me alive back there!” His eyes narrowed. “Wait, where are your goggles?”
“Forget about it.”
“Forget about it? No! We need to fly this show! You’ve got to slow down before you kill somepony!”
“I said forget it.”
“Spitfire, you have to focus while you’re performing, you can’t just fly off the handle like that.”
“Who’s the captain of the Wonderbolts, you or me?”
“Who’s bigger and older, you or me?”
Spitfire stamped the ground with a grunt. “Can’t you just come off it?”
“What is the matter with you? You’re never like this. And come to think of it, you’ve been acting like you’ve gone insane for the past two weeks.”
Spitfire began pacing. Her tail flicked around as her ears gave nervous twitches. Rapidfire studied her intently.
“I keep thinking about her,” she said finally. “I keep thinking about her, and the rainboom. And I can’t stop. I wanna stop, but I can’t. It’s so stupid! I mean, how hard can it be to stop thinking about somepony? Obviously pretty hard.”
“Wait. Rainbow Dash?”
“Yes Rainbow Dash, who the hay else? And she’s not going to do it. She has to do it! If she doesn’t do it, then no pony will see it. And if no pony sees it, then that’s going to be bad. Very. Bad. Everypony needs to see it. They’ve got-”
“Hey. Calm down. It’s fine.”
“‘It’s fine?’ How? How in Equestria is this fine?”
Rapidfire had no answer.
Spitfire sighed. “Something’s happening to me.” She continued pacing with worry. “Something’s happening to me, and I don’t know why.” She turned to her brother. “You don’t understand. I need this to happen tonight. I’ve got to see it again.”
Rapidfire looked at her sister’s imploring expression. He shrugged. “If she doesn’t do it,” he resisted the urge to laugh at the ridiculous situation, “She doesn’t do it.”
At that moment, a loud CRACK echoed overhead as Dash’s rainbow trail rocketed out of the stadium and into the night horizon.
“That’s our cue,” said Rapidfire. “Finale time. Ready?”
“No,” Spitfire muttered as she took off.
Rapidfire looked out towards the dark, moonlit ocean as Dash’s trail grew fainter.
“C’mon Dash,” he said to himself. “You got this.”
The bright moon over the soft waves of the ocean below her offered no condolence as Rainbow Dash turned to face the luminous city lights of Manehatten. Her heart pounded against her chest. Her legs trembled. A large lump had formed in her throat, causing her to breathe heavily and erratically. Trying to snap out of her panicked stupor, she hit herself on the forehead a few times.
“C’mon, C’mon, C’MON!” She hovered back and forth, as if the air running through her head could clear her mind. “Just you and the sky Dash, you and the sky. No pony else, just you.”
She stared at the massive concrete structure on the distant shore, waiting for the signal. Thoughts flying through her brain, she quickly devised an exit strategy for when she would humiliate herself in front of Equestria.
“The mountains aren’t too far away,” she said to herself. “I could camp out in the clouds there for a while until everypony stops looking for me, then make the trip across the ocean to Canterburry... but what would I eat? I could swipe some stuff from a convenience store or something on my way out, half of Manehatten is deserted right now anyway... Ah, who am I kidding? I’m doomed! RUINED!”
Then, a flash of bright red light on the coast.
Dash giggled maniacally to herself. “You know what? I don’t even care what happens. I don’t even care!”
She accelerated. Leveling herself horizontally to the ground, she bit her lip as she pushed herself forward with all her might. “I DON’T EVEN CARE!”
The wind began to claw at her face. Her exposed snout numbed as the insides of her cheeks flared out like parachutes. Less-than-pleasant noises escaped her mouth through her gritted teeth.
Suddenly, Dash burst into song, screaming at the top of her lungs.
“I DON’T EVEN CARE, I DON’T EVEN CARE!
YOU CAN’T MAKE ME CARE, CAUSE I DON’T EVEN CARE!
I DOOOOOOOOON’T CAAAAAAAAAAAAARE!
LA LA DA BE DAH DO BA LAAAAA!”
Her mind had gone. She went faster and faster, unaware of thought and feeling. Again, she let out a maniacal laugh. “SPITFIRE! I CAN’T LET YOU DOWN! BUT I’M GOING TO!”
“It’s beautiful here...”
A faint cone faded into existence around her. She scoffed. “DOESN’T EVEN MATTER!” In an attempt to imitate Soarin’, she began yelling out of an imaginary adrenaline rush.
Dash struggled to stay conscious. Little by little, the dark night rushing past her began to fade to black.
“There’s nowhere else I’d rather be...”
“IT’S TIME TO FLYYYYYYY! FLY OVER DREEEEAMS! RAINBOWS WILL SCORCH THE SKY!”
Before she could continue the next verse, the world left her. Everything turned to black...
Rainbow Dash opened her eyes to a blue-filled sky. Spring dominated the day and the Cloudsdale weather factory ran at full speed, streaming rainbows in several directions and exhausting the puffiest clouds Equestria had ever seen. A light shimmer hung around the air as drizzles blew in the wind.
Suddenly, something heavy landed on her shoulder. Startled, Dash jumped up to her hooves. It wasn’t something, but somepony. It was Spitfire’s head.
Spitfire immediately blushed and jumped up as well. “Ah- I- I’m- I’m sorry-”
Not used to having her mane brushed, Spitfire struggled to keep its neatness out of her face.
“Are you-” Dash began.
Her mind blanking, Spitfire tried to come up with something to say as her mouth froze with the rest of her body.
“Am- am I-” Spitfire stuttered.
A silence fell over the space between them as it seemed to contort.
“Am I what?” Spitfire finally said.
Without reason and without a thought, Dash took a step towards her. “I- I think-”
A chill ran from Spitfire’s head to her hooves. “...What?”
A thought entered Spitfire’s head. A thought that had just become completely outlandish and ridiculous. However, something about this thought made it peculiar. And it seemed very reminiscent of the mare standing in front of her.
Without reason and with this thought, Spitfire took a step towards Dash.
“I think I think, too,” said Spitfire, her voice resolving into trembles. Dash shivered as if Spitfire had just dove into her mind and read it.
The bright blue scenery around them began to fade as they neared each other. Bright colors began to swell and surge like a raging ocean. A low, rumbling noise rattled Dash’s chest, growing louder and louder. Their faces right in front of each other, Spitfire closed her eyes, but she began to fade away behind the swirling rainbows.
The colors seemed to drain like water from a bathtub. The noise had become unbearable...
Dash opened her eyes, the Manehatten skyline suddenly right in front of her. The skyscrapers reflected the blinding rainbow inferno behind her, and Dash shielded her eyes.
She slowed to a stop and turned around. The shockwave hurdled towards her at the speed of sound. It blasted her back against the glass, accompanied by the same impossibly low rumble. The roar subsided and gave way to the erupting crowd.
Dash’s head swam. She felt light. Her eyes drooped as if she hadn’t slept in days. As she slowly made her way back to the field to join the Wonderbolts in the bows, the magnitude of what she had just done became increasingly apparent.
She crossed over the wall into the field, and the crowd erupted. The screams of five hundred thousand ponies hit her in the chest like a ton of bricks. A rainbow haze filled the arena in wake of the explosion.
Dash couldn’t tell what was going on. Things started to run together. She needed a nap. A nice, long nap on a big, puffy cumulonimbus. Right under the sun where she could bask in its yellow glory.
She continued to the center where the Wonderbolts waited. Taking her place on the left end next to Tyco, they locked forearms. Dash could feel him shaking.
She glanced up at him. Tears were pouring down his face, his expression forward and unchanging.
“Heh,” she said groggily. “Was it really that good?”
“Dear Rainbow Dash,” said Tyco. “You have no idea.”
Each Wonderbolt took their turn bowing to the stadium, Soarin’ and Rapidfire receiving higher pitched cheers.
Dash’s turn came. She hovered forward, and the crowd exploded once again. At first she took her time, soaking up every bit of it she could. Then, she began to slowly raise her forearms out from her side, conducting the crowd into a deafening crescendo. Chills and shivers ran up and down her body. Her arms stretched into the air, she closed her eyes. The sound went on forever. Endless admiration. It was all for her. Everypony screamed just for her.
The Wonderbolts took one last bow together before gathering in a circle. Soarin’ had to yell louder than Dash had ever heard him. “ONE PONY PER TUNNEL! READY? THREE... TWO... ONE... MARK!”
The Bolts shot off in different directions, leaving fire and smoke explosions behind them. Dash entered her dark, empty tunnel. She took off her goggles, fell against the wall, and slid to the floor. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. That nap seemed like a very good idea. She wondered if she could nod off for a second right here.
A voice she thought she would never hear so hysterically. She snapped up to her hooves. Spitfire flew into the tunnel like a madmare, coming to a stop right in front of Dash. Goggle imprints looped around her eyes, her face soaked from crying, and a beaming smile stretching from ear to ear.
Time stopped. Spitfire looked at Dash as if she had seen her for the first time.
“I think I’m...” Spitfire breathed.
Suddenly, she threw her forelegs around Rainbow Dash’s neck and pulled her into a deep kiss. Dash’s body froze. Her eyes shot open. Surges of feeling swam up through her limbs and met in the center of her chest. She tried to push away, but she remained paralyzed. Tears began to run down Spitfire’s face and roll off Dash’s cheeks. Her brain shut down as her thoughts once again stopped processing themselves.
Finally, she gathered the strength to push Spitfire off. Spitfire began to back away as if Dash had turned into a horrific monster. A shocked expression slowly glossed over her face.
“I’m sorry,” she said. She backed further away, and her rump hit the opposite wall. “I’m sorry...”
She took off down the tunnel and rounded the corner out of sight.
<Chapter 5|Chapter 7 Coming Soon!
Spitfire flew as fast as she could. Wind ripping through her mane, she crossed Manehatten in record time to arrive at her penthouse suite. Landing on the patio, she flung open the sliding glass door and slammed it behind her, diving for the pull string and snapping the blinds closed.
In total darkness, she held her breath as she slowly backed away from the door. Her rump hit the wall behind her, and she slid to the floor. Every sound in the room became amplified. Flashes of rainboom echoed in her vision, as well as the faint silhouettes of her mother and father.
What had she just done? She couldn’t have. She knew exactly what she did, but there was no way. She brought her hooves to her mouth, the feeling of another mare’s lips on her own forever embedded into her mind. She pressed down, puckered them, smacked them, and twisted them into every shape possible. She then buried her entire face into her hooves.
Her own voice echoed through her brain: WHAT THE HAY DO WE DO NOW, DASH? WHAT THE HAY DO WE DO NOW?
“What the hay, Spitfire?” she whispered to herself. She pounded the floor with a hoof, producing a rather satisfying echo. She did it a few more times, punctuating each word. “What- the- hay- Spit-”
Suddenly, the door slid open. Spitfire’s heart exploded into her throat as she shot up to her hooves. The dark silhouette of a pegasus with a Wonderbolts flight suit stood in the doorway.
Spitfire stood against the wall, breath held and legs shaking.
“You know, you should really lock this door,” said Rapidfire’s chuckling voice.
The light switched on, revealing her big brother with a goofy grin plastered across his face. She sighed in deep relief and slid back to the floor.
“SHE DID IT!” He yelled. “She did it and I STILL can’t believe it!” He began jumping around the room. “I never doubted her! Never, ever doubted her! Ok, maybe a little, but STILL! She did it and I’ve never seen anything like it! I feel so... alive! I feel like I can do anything! I could even-” He stopped as he caught sight of his sister’s face. “What’s the matter with you?” said Rapidfire. “You look like you just saw a ghost.”
Staring at the ground, Spitfire simply shook her head.
“Dude! Come on! You just randomly took off, and I had to follow you all the way here! The most amazing thing in the world just happened, and you’re not even excited about it? We need to celebrate! Let’s go!”
Spitfire remained silent.
“Hey,” said Rapidfire as he walked over to her. “What’s up?”
“Not amazing,” she mumbled. Her voice rose, “ Everything’s ruined, out the window, gone!”
Rapidfire chuckled. “Quit messing around. What are you talking about?”
“I’m not messing around.”
“You know, sooner or later you’re going to realize that I can practically read your mind.”
“ I’m not messing around. I’m not.”
“Ok then, what is it?”
Spitfire looked up at her brother. His care-free and expectant smile made her cringe. She looked away. There was no denying the inevitable. She could never keep it secret, especially from Rapidfire.
“C’mon,” he said. “Tell me.”
“I did something weird,” said Spitfire. “Something bad. Really bad.”
Rapidfire laughed. “Really? And what is this ‘weird, bad thing’ that you did?”
“I-” Spitfire began. She sighed and hit her head against the wall a few times.
Rapidfire raised his eyebrows. “Hmm?”
Spitfire looked at him, then buried her face in her hooves.
“I- I kissed Rainbow Dash.”
A thick silence fell over them. Spitfire could feel the air as it solidified around her.
“Like...” Rapidfire began. “Kissed kissed? Like mouth to mouth kiss?”
Spitfire sat in silence. After a moment, Rapidfire began snorting with laughter.
“Ok, wait,” he said. “Let’s back up. Say what you just said again,” his voice grew into chuckles, “because it sounded like you said that you-” He stopped and put a hoof to his mouth, stifling laughter with obvious difficulty. “That you- you kissed Rainbow Dash.”
Spitfire stood up and confronted her brother, planting a hoof on his chest. “Don’t tell any pony, or I’ll kill you. You hear me? I will get a knife, go into your room while you’re sleeping, and stab you. Ok?”
Rapidfire’s grin widened. “Oh, no no, don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me.” He broke down into laughter again.
Spitfire groaned loudly in frustration. “Will you listen to me! This is serious! My career, my life, maybe even yours could be in danger!”
“So how did the rainbow taste?” He said between laughs. “Would you say it was... spicy?” He lost it again.
“RAPIDFIRE!” Spitfire yelled.
“H- Hey,” he said, trying to catch his breath. “Come on. Lighten up. Listen, we’re heading down to Hoofbeat. DJ-Pon3’s playing tonight, and the place is supposed to be packed. It should help you relax and take your mind off things. Sounds like you’ve had a pretty long day.”
Spitfire sighed. Hoofbeat, the most famous nightclub in all of Equestria, was one of Spitfire’s favorite places to relax. The hypnotic bass rhythm constantly beating her body, the packed floor full of other ponies where she danced among them as one; it was the only time she truly felt normal, as if her life had more meaning than just being famous.
“Is Dash going?” she asked.
“Of course. Why? You looking for some more face time?” He chuckled.
She opened her mouth to raise her voice at him, but stopped herself and sighed.
They made eye contact, just enough for Rapidfire to break into fits again. He held his stomach as he gasped despreately for air.
“K- kissed Rainbow Dash!”
Spitfire looked at her brother with a blank expression. He finally caught his breath and stood up.
“C- c’mon! Vinyl’s already started her set! We need the captain of the
Wonderbolts!” He went to the door and opened it. Spitfire’s rump hit the floor as she watched her brother fly off into the moon, his laughter echoing off the neighboring buildings.
Through the cool quiet of the deserted streets in downtown Manehatten, a low, pulsating rumble resounded through the air. Hoofbeat stood just off to the side of a high-end shopping mall, a line of ponies from the entrance stretching down the street, around the corner, and out of sight. Its simple, cubic shape and monochrome facade heavily contradicted the party of epic proportions that took place inside.
Comprised of a lower and upper level, the circular dance floor sat in the dead center. The balcony railing overlooked the packed floor full of ponies under the strobing, color and laser-ridden air above them. The DJ’s booth towered over the floor, where Vinyl Scratch herself bobbed her head back and forth to the chest-punching bass, holding an earphone to the side of her head as she magicked around several switches and knobs.
Rainbow Dash stood against the wall with her forelegs crossed, hidden away in the dark corner. She stared with a blank expression into the hypnotic mass of dancing ponies as they lost themselves in the music.
“There you are,” said a familiar voice.
Dash turned and saw Rapidfire walking up to her.
“Hey,” she said.
“Come join the party! Why are you sitting back here all alone?”
“I’m not much of a partier,” she lied.
“Are you kidding? You should be the life of the party right now! Everypony’s ecstatic over you!”
Just then, the dance floor erupted in cheers as Soarin’ climbed to the top of the DJ booth and dove into the crowd.
“Where’s Spitfire?” said Dash.
“Oh, she’s around.” He laughed. “Your rainboom gave her a total hallucination earlier.”
“She said that she kissed you.”
Dash’s insides froze.
“Rainbows do some weird stuff to you,” said Rapidfire.
“Heh, yeah. I guess.”
An awkward silence fell over them as Rapidfire looked at her for an uncomfortably long period of time. Dash tried to distract him by looking into the crowd inquiringly.
“I want you to know something,” he finally said. Dash met his eyes, the same dark-amber color as Spitfire’s. His mouth formed into a heartfelt smile.
“You are the most amazing pegasus I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.”
Startled, Dash nearly slid off the wall. “Oh, uh- um-”
“The rainboom was the most incredible, indescribable thing I’ve ever seen. You’re extremely talented and smart.” He paused for effect. “And beautiful.”
Dash knew where this was going. She desperately looked for a way to escape, but Rapidfire had her cornered.
He put a hoof on Dash’s cheek. “And I want you to know,” he said at a barely audible whisper, “You mean more to me than just a co-flier. I want you to know that-”
“WHATDYA MEAN WE NEED A PASS?! NO PONY GETS BETWEEN ME AND A PARTY!”
Dash’s ears perked up at the shrill sound of Pinkie Pie’s voice as it cut through the air like a diamond knife. Dash shoved Rapidfire aside while he was still distracted, left the ground, and glided over the dance floor, drawing cheers from the crowd below. She landed at the entrance, where Silvertongue held a struggling Pinkie Pie in his huge forelegs.
“Dashie!” She squealed. “Tell this- guy- to- let us- IN!”
Dash peeked over SIlvertongue’s shoulder and saw all five of her friends standing at the front of the long line.
“Rainbow Dash!” they said in unison.
“I’m not going up there!”
“Why the hay not?”
Spitfire stared at Soarin’s inquiring expression. “Just because.”
Soarin’ and Spitfire stood at the base of the DJ tower, just off to the side from the dance floor. Their argument drew several curious eyes.
“You have to say something. You’re the captain of the Wonderbolts.”
“Well why can’t you do it?”
“Because I’m not the captain of the Wonderbolts!”
Spitfire rolled her eyes.
“What the hay is wrong with you?” said Soarin’. “You always talk in front of ponies! Why can’t you do it now?”
“I just don’t want to.”
Soarin’ sighed heavily and grabbed her. “This is ridiculous.”
“Hey- NO! Stop! What are you-”
He dragged her through the air to the top of the DJ tower. The crowd caught sight of her and erupted into a loud cheer. She smiled nervously and waved a hoof. Vinyl Scratch stopped the music and picked up a microphone.
“Fillies and gentlecolts, I give you, Spitfire.”
As Vinyl gave her the microphone, her eyes darted around the crowd for Rainbow Dash. She was here, and she was watching. Her mind in a flurry of activity, she gave no thought to the first words from her mouth.
“Rainbow D- uh-”
Her mouth clamped. Her stomach turned to ice. The crowd cheered at the sound of Dash’s name as blood rushed to Spitfire’s face and darkened to a very impressive shade of scarlet.
“I- uh- I’d like to thank the crew from Mane Arena for coordinating the show.” The crowd applauded. “The entourage, Jetstream, Silvertongue, um-” Her mind blanked as she tried to block Rainbow Dash out of her mind. “Uh, yeah. Thanks everypony for coming out tonight, and yeah. Party it up!” She made a hoof-pumping motion in the air and handed the microphone back to Vinyl. The audience slowly began to applaud.
Soarin’ gave her an incredulous look as she gave the microphone back to a now befuddled Vinyl Scratch.
“And let’s not forget the most awesome of awesome fliers around, Rainbow Dash!”
The crowd roared. Several pegasi lept into the air in a very extreme form of standing ovation.
“What was that?” said Soarin’ as he and Spitfire landed.
“What was what?”
“That. What you just did.”
Spitfire turned to walk away. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Soarin’s hoof met her shoulder. “No, wait. You’re gonna tell me what’s going on.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.”
“I don’t have to tell you anything.” She turned away again.
Soarin’ reached for her shoulder. “What is the matter w-”
Spitfire slapped away his foreleg and her voice rose several dynamic levels. “Just lay off me, alright?!”
Soarin’ stared completely bewildered as she walked away.
“Rainbow, why do you keep glancing over your shoulder?”
Dash turned back to the table. “Huh? Oh, uh... nothing.” She turned her head the other direction.
Rainbow Dash sat with her five friends in a booth recessed into the wall. She jerked her head around each time she thought she heard her name.
“Well, the suite we had was incredible,” said Rarity, continuing the conversation. “We were above the Manehatten skyline and had the most dazzling view of the arena!”
“Yeah,” said Twilight. “That stadium is gigantic! We could see for miles. I’ve always wondered how magical engineering and architecture works, especially on huge buildings like that one.”
“I didn’t like it,” said Fluttershy from behind her mane.
“Oh, come now Fluttershy,” said Rarity. “You’re a pegasus! Pegasi aren’t supposed to be afraid of heights!”
Fluttershy took a side glance at Pinkie Pie, who was giggling uncontrollably at the pictures of famous DJs and electronic artists along the wall, all dressed in ridiculous outfits and large amounts of makeup.
“It was weird when we came out though,” said Applejack. “Everypony was cryin’, jumpin’ up and down, actin’ all happy.” She winced. “An’ makin’ out in broad daylight.”
“Yes, I thought that was rather... odd,” added Rarity. “Well, Rainbow Dash, that show of yours must have-” Rarity made eye contact with the back of Dash’s head. “Rainbow, my dear, are you alright?”
“Yeah,” said Applejack. “You’re actin’ kinda-”
Dash suddenly zipped back around. “Have you guys been noticing anything weird about everypony lately?”
“Uhh-” Twilight started.
“Because everypony, and I mean everypony is acting weird.”
“Dash, that’s what we were just talking about,” said Twilight. “Everypony just seems... really happy.”
“It’s the rainboom,” said Dash. “I think it does something to you. Remember when we were all fillies and you all saw it happen? Remember how we all got our cutie marks at the same time?”
“Interesting,” said Twilight. “It would explain a lot. But I’m curious as to how polychromatic magic would have an effect on psychological-
A random voice suddenly yelled out over the music, “RAINBOW DASH!”
Dash jumped ten feet in the air.
“I LOVE YOU, RAINBOW DASH!”
“Darling, relax!” said Rarity. “It’s only one of your fans! I mean really, what in Equestria has gotten into you?”
“So yer rainboom makes everypony happy and love ya,” said Applejack. “What’s the problem?”
Dash sighed. “Ok, if I tell you, do you promise not to tell anypony else?”
“Yes,” they said in unison.
“Ok. So after the show, Spitfire-”
Instead of reacting suddenly to Soarin’s voice behind her, she froze. Wherever Soarin’ was, Spitfire was bound to be with him.
His blue hoof landed on her shoulder. “Hey kid, wanna come hang with us for a bit?”
She slowly turned around. To her palpable relief, Soarin’ was with only Tyco and Misty. And to her slight surprise, Tyco had his foreleg around Misty’s neck.
“Well,” said Dash. “I’m kinda hanging with my friends right now-”
“Oh, Rainbow, It’s alright,” said Rarity. “You must go and enjoy yourself.”
“Yeah, we’ll still be here,” added Twilight. “We can chat some more later.”
“But- are you sure?”
“Go on, sugarcube,” said Applejack. “Live it up.”
“C’mon Dash,” said Soarin’. “Party’s waitin’ for ya.”
Dash looked back to her friends. “Ok- I guess.”
Shocked at her friends’ willingness to let her leave, she got up from the table and followed Soarin’. She had not expected it at all. It seemed like her friends would have wanted to hang out all the time, just as she did. Had they already come to terms with her newfound fame? Had they disowned her?
Ponies ogled them as they walked through the crowd, hurling cheers and praise toward them every other second. They came to a circular booth where a few other ponies were already sitting.
Dash’s stomach turned over. She had made eye contact with the one pegasus she had hoped to avoid.
Soarin’ motioned Dash to the booth’s opening. “You first.”
No pony sat next to Spitfire, which meant Dash would have to if she went first. Panicked, her mind went blank.
“Something wrong?” said Soarin’.
Dash could feel their eyes as they questioned her silently. She was back at the Wonderbolts headquarters, back in the chair as they stared her down. Whatever she did, she had to do it now.
“N- no- nothing.” Slowly and awkwardly, she climbed into the booth, forearms trembling and sweat trickling down her neck. She slid over to allow the other three Wonderbolts to follow and sat down, inches from Spitfire. Soarin’ slid in behind her, followed by Misty and Tyco. Dash looked up and made eye contact with Rapidfire. He winked, and she looked away. Spitfire seemed to emanate pure cold from her body.
“So!” Soarin’ began rather enthusiastically. “What are we doing?”
“You mean we don’t have a plan?” said Rapidfire.
Soarin’ shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t have a plan, do you have a plan?”
Rapidfire shrugged his shoulders back.
“Well what the hay are we gonna do?”
Dash heard giggles coming from her other side. She took a glance, and Tyco had his arm around Misty and his snout buried in her neck.
“Let’s get some shots, we’ll figure it out later,” said Rapidfire. “WAITER!”
A black-maned unicorn rushed up to the table with a pen and pad of paper floating next to him.
“Six shots, and bring the bottle.”
“Yes sir!” he said as he shot off into the crowd.
“Um,” said Dash. “‘Shots?’”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Soarin’.
A split second later, the waiter returned with a tray of tiny water glasses and a dark-amber bottle.
“Thank you, sir,” said Soarin’ as he took the tray, uncorked the bottle, and began pouring a light-tan liquid into the glasses.
“Uh,” Spitfire said suddenly, and Dash jumped. “That’s probably not such a good id-”
“To Rainbow Dash,” said Soarin’ as he raised a glass. “The baddest most awesomest flier in Equestria.”
Rapidfire, Misty, and Tyco followed suit. Spitfire hesitated.
“Oh, come on Spitty,” said Rapidfire. “It’s a party.”
She sighed and reached for a glass. Dash now had no choice but to follow.
They clinged glasses. Dash watched as Soarin’ downed his in one gulp, then sighed with his mouth wide open. The others did the same, as well as Spitfire, who seemed to melt into her seat. Dash looked down at her glass.
“Go on,” said Rapidfire. “Once it’s down, you’ll forget you even drank it.”
Dash sighed, threw caution to the wind, and took a gulp. The entire world around her burned away in warm serenity.