Chapter 1-Rainbow's Dash
By Bronuis Maximus
Stone. A prison from which there was no escape. An icy cold tomb of motionless discontent, there to punish those within inside the confines of their own imagination. Eons of silence, deprivation and unimaginable torment, all while on display for anypony curious enough to visit the gardens outside of Canterlot Castle to see. He felt their eyes, their filthy undeserving eyes gazing upon him as he could only hold his eternal look of surprise. He tasted freedom only for a few glorious hours before being sealed away inside his granite tomb by six ponies whose will he was sure he had broken. If it wasn't for that meddlesome Princess Celestia, his sweet chaos would still be the law of the land. The one thing her highness didn't count on was the more time he spent sealed in stone, the longer he was allowed to perfect his plan to finally envelope the land of Equestria, and soon the entire world in eternal madness. He underestimated the power of the six ponies the first time around, but this time, there would be no elements of harmony, no Princess Celestia and most importantly, no magic of friendship. His plan was complete, it having been a year since those loathsome six ponies cursed him back into his current form. He had a lot of time to perfect his scheme, he had worked out every angle, and every last detail. All he needed now was some way to break free. The tours of the garden were now off limits to fillies by royal decree, after the royal court deduced how he escaped last time. Little did he know, his chance for freedom would come sooner than he thought.
Twilight, Spike and Applejack sat in one of the unplanted fields of Sweet Apple Acres with their necks craned skyward as a streak of rainbow colored light ripped across the sky. Their winged friend soared high and low, performing aerobatics that would make an ordinary pegasus' head spin as she finished her performance high above them. Rainbow Dash knew this was the hardest part of her entire routine, a grand finally that was sure to seal her place among the Wonderbolts.
'Here goes.' She thought as she entered a ninety degree dive, building up speed as the air particles struggled to get out of her way. The heat from the friction warming up her muzzle as her cheeks withdrew from her teeth, the incredible G-forces threatening to give her tunnel vision.
'Almost...there...' She thought as her eyes watered and strained against the wind.
'2000 feet...1800 feet...1600 feet...' She counted off in her head, knowing the exact altitude she needed to either continue with the rainboom attempt, or abort and save herself some serious head trauma.
The air formed a cone around her as she felt the sound barrier buffering against her form, resisting as much as it could her attempts to shatter it.
By 1000 feet, it was do or die.
Her mind was made up; she had aborted five times already, her frustration mounting with each failed attempt. Without this move, she was convinced she would be just another face in the crowd. She was confident that being able to do this on command would remove beyond all doubts, who was the best young flier in Equestria. This time she would do it, she was certain this would be sonic rainboom number three. With the annual Equestria Amateur Air Show only three days away, her practice sessions had gotten considerably more intense as the day of the contest neared. The grand prize was a chance to perform at the Summer Sun Celebration with the Wonderbolts, so Rainbow knew this was her dream at stake. Up until this point, she hadn't even allowed her friends to watch her routine, mainly practicing at night.
She was well below her abort height before she felt the anger at herself for another failed attempt release inside her.
'No! Why can't I do this? I've done it twice already!' She thought furiously to herself as she tried to pull up, but found it nearly impossible at her current speed. It wasn't a question of would she crash, but of where and how much it would hurt.
Twilight and Applejack realized this and covered their eyes, not wanting to see their friend end up as a pile of goo and feathers in Applejack's field. Spike looked on, but only out of morbid curiosity, having never seen anyone crash going that fast before.
The Cyan pegasus' impact shook the ground beneath their flanks as her feminine grunt accompanied a rather loud thud.
Twilight rushed over to the crater Rainbow Dash had made along with Applejack as Spike sat on her back, all three of them looking over the hole from different sides with an expression of concern across their faces.
"K-karate...snow machine...chops it!" Rainbow Dash stuttered in a semi conscious manner, her eyes slightly open but not at all focused. The country mare looked at Twilight, who returned her stare before rolling her eyes.
"The lights are on, but I don't think anypony's home." Spike commented.
"Let's get her to the hospital..." She said expecting this exact result, having seen the conclusions of a few other attempts by their winged friend to perform a sonic rainboom on command. They loaded her unconscious body onto Applejacks back as they walked back to town.
"If she ain't careful, she's not gonna have many more flyin days left." She commented as they neared town, the out cold pegasus gently bouncing with the movement of her flanks as she walked.
"Yeah, but you know Rainbow. She won't give up unless she is physically unable to continue...but at this rate I think that may come sooner than we thought." Twilight said with concern.
They reached the hospital where nurse Redheart was there waiting for them outside.
"Let me guess. Another sonic rainboom attempt gone awry?" She asked as Rainbow Dash babbled incoherently from her position on Applejack's back.
"How'd you know?" Twilight asked sarcastically as a few large stallions appeared from inside the clinic with a stretcher mounted between them.
"Call it a hunch my dear. Prep the concussion ward boys, Rainbow Dash is back." She said following her assistants inside after they had relieved the country mare of her weighty rider.
"I've got some studying to do, do you mind waiting with her until she comes to?" Twilight asked.
"Sure, Big MacIntosh is pickin' up Applebloom from school today anyway."
"Thanks. See you tomorrow!" She said Spike echoing her sentiments as they strolled away towards the library.
She followed nurse Redheart into the hospital and sat in the waiting room while they treated her friends injury. Within a half hour, Redheart called Applejack back to the patient rooms.
"How bad is it doc?" She asked tilting her hat back in concern as they walked down the long sterile hallway.
"Well, it certainly isn't good...but it's not the worst I've seen. Especially not from miss Rainbow. She is very lucky she had you to bring her here. If left untreated, the swelling might have done a quite a number on her." She explained as they came to her room. In truth, Applejack and the rest of her friends had been here a lot more than they would have liked in the past weeks. Although Rainbow Dash was one of the toughest ponies around, hollow bones certainly don't make for a bruise free aspiring stunt flier.
"We kept it the same way as her last visit. She's honestly the only one who uses it aside from the occasional emergency from the flight school."
"Thanks Doc. Any idea how long she'll be out?"
"Shouldn't be much longer now, we gave her some medicine to reduce her cranial swelling, but a side effect is drowsiness. She should be up and talking to you soon enough. Now if you'll excuse me, I must tend to a young colt who thought it would be a good idea to emulate the Wonderbolts 'High Speed Stallion Strut' in the middle of town." She said moving along her rounds.
Applejack entered the room and noticed the state her normally feisty companion was in. Her head was wrapped in a white bandage and back against her pillow with her mouth agape, steadily breathing as she found a seat next to the bed. An old issue of Farmer's digest sat on the end table next to her chair. She opened it to the page she had last left off from Rainbow Dash's previous visit and continued the article on proper apple crop rotation.
Rainbow Dash found herself standing before her idols, the Wonderbolts. An unseen spotlight focused on her as the reflection shined brightly in her heroes aviator goggles.
'Oh my gosh! The Wonderbolts! How are my wings? Is my mane ok?' She thought frantically as she looked herself over before being interrupted by Spitfire.
"You think you can just 'join' the Wonderbolts? We're elite! We're at the top of our game, not a single one of us has ever crashed. EVER." She emphasized as their expressions harshened toward her. A strange echo followed their voice as her ego felt the sting of their words slice through her normally thick skin.
She was still too shocked to speak. Her tongue twisted itself into knots in her mouth, all she was able to choke out was a feeble
"But what? You think just because you can make some pretty colors in the sky with a loud noise, that makes you worthy to join our ranks? I fought in three tours of duty during the Lunar Wars, and shot down better fliers than you! We own these skies, and we don't want an amateur like you crowding up our airspace with your unremarkable acrobatics. You're just lucky we don't recommend Princess Celestia have your wings removed! You're an embarrassment to pegasus' everywhere!" Soarin growled as the spotlight on her now burned, tears overwhelming her eyes as her heroes destroyed everything she had ever believed about herself.
"Oh, is the little filly gonna cry?" Spitfire mocked as the Wonderbolts glares now turned to malicious grins.
She turned her head away from them to try and hide the tears now falling from her reddish eyes as she flattened her ears in sadness. Flying was all she knew, it was who she was! If she didn't have that...then who was she?
"Wonderbolts definitely don't cry. I knew you didn't have what it takes to be one of us! You can't even pull off a sonic rainboom, not that it matters." Soarin added as they all began to laugh at her. She felt her anger building inside her as she glared back at her tormentors, gritting her teeth and lifting herself into the air.
The Wonderbolts continued to laugh at her, no matter how high up she got, the volume seemed to get louder. They were extremely small from her current height as the laughter still followed her, feeling as though if it didn't stop her ears would surely bleed.
She glared back down at them, still laughing where they stood as Rainbow Dash dove straight towards them.
"I'll show you! I'm the best there is! I'll prove it to all uh ya!" She said through her tears of anger, the familiar cone of air forming around her as she picked up speed, their ever present laughter still ringing in her ears.
"STOP LAUGHING!" She roared as she felt the sound barrier slip behind her, a sensation she had only felt twice, but remembered the feeling like it was a comfortable winter jacket.
"Ahh!" Rainbow Dash said bolting upright in bed panting, startling Applejack out of her seat and onto the floor.
"Geez R.D.! You nearly scared me to death!" She said getting up off the floor and adjusting her hat.
The blue pegasus looked around and saw she was in the hospital with a sense of relief that her nightmare was over.
She sighed and leaned back against her pillow.
"Sorry Applejack..." She said as she tried to think back to the last thing she remembered.
"I didn't pull off the sonic rainboom did I?" She asked.
"Nope. Listen Rainbow, I don't know much about flyin', but you should really be careful tryin' to do that sonic rainboom a yours. You coulda really hurt yourself!" She said concerned, stepping beside her bed.
She knew she was just trying to look out for her friend, but the realness of that dream still shook her to her core. She couldn't let any of her friends see her vulnerable, especially Applejack...so she put up her usual walls.
"I'll get it. I just need to practice more. The contest is in three days! If I don't get this right I'll never impress the Wonderbolts!" She contested.
"Sugarcube, I'm not saying you have to stop practicing...I'm just tired of seein' you in the hospital like this." She countered as Rainbow Dash avoided eye contact, looking at the lumps in her blanket that were her back hooves.
"I mean...all of us are!" The country mare corrected so as not to make her rather confusing feelings obvious.
"I believe in you Rainbow. I know you never fail when you put your heart and mind behind somethin' you want. If you want to impress the Wonderbolts, I know you will." She said putting a hoof under her chin and looking into her friends eyes to convey her sincerity.
The pegasus smiled. Those words meant a lot coming from her. Since the time they met she had never known a mare quite as competitive and fun loving as herself, something she loved about her...among other things...
She hugged Applejack, enjoying the closeness she had with her, more so than with any of her other friends. She pulled away startled as nurse Redheart knocked on the door.
"Ah, you're awake! You had quite a bump on the head Ms. Rainbow." She said.
"You're tellin' me..." She admitted blushing in embarrassment.
"You are free to go whenever you like, just please try and be careful next time. I know you're the only one who uses the concussion ward, but it's not your personal lounge." She said as the two mares left together.
Outside the clinic, it was already late afternoon as Rainbow Dash's stomach protested loudly enough for Applejack to notice.
"Sounds like you're mighty hungry. I guess givin' yourself head injuries all day'll do that to ya." She teased as R.D. laughed off her joke.
"Vey funny. You want to get somethin?" She asked.
The country mare looked at the sun and figured there was still an hour or two before sunset, so a quick bite couldn't hurt.
"Sure, I hear they've got some good daffodil sandwiches at that new place on mane street."
They set out towards downtown and ate their fill as the sun began to sink behind the hills.
"I'm gonna head back. I've only got two days left to practice until the competition." Rainbow Dash said standing up off of the hay bale that was her seat.
"Go easy on yourself darlin'. I don't want anymore craters in my fields!" She called as she flew away.
"Don't worry about me!" The blue pegasus called back confidently, her words masking the doubt that was growing inside her.
The day of the contest finally arrived as Rainbow Dash and her friends walked through the courtyard of Canterlot castle, enjoying the well manicured lawns and general ambiance of the royal palace.
"I'm gonna go sign up for the contest, I'll catch you guys after!" the cyan pegasus said zipping away toward the line of other pegasi waiting to register.
"I hope she doesn't kill herself in front of the princess." Twilight sighed as the rest of her friends agreed. There were bleachers set up facing the open sky where the contest would take place, Princess Celestia was seated in the center beside her sister Luna, flanked as always by their royal guards.
They found five seats and waited for the show to begin.
"So how big of a cake do you think Dashie will want after she wins? Maybe I should make a Wonderbolts cake! Who do you think would taste better, Soarin or Spitfire?" Pinkie asked as Applejack turned to their overly excitable friend.
"She has to win first darlin'."
"Oh, right! Well I don't think we'll have to worry about that too much longer! She's the best flier in Cloudsdale!" She said happily, her mood unspoiled by these so called 'facts'.
"She didn't see her last practice session." Twilight whispered to Applejack as she and Spike giggled to themselves.
"Mares and Gentlecolts! Welcome to the 34th annual Equestria Amateur Air show!" A booming announcer voice said as the crowd erupted in cheers.
"This contest features several categories! Best single stunt, Best acrobatic routine, Best precision flight and Best overall performance! Without any further delay, here are the judges, the fabulous Wonderbolts!"
The three pegasus' zoomed in low over the crowd before pulling up at the last possible second right in front of the Princess, their smoke trail dissipating as they climbed vertically above the audience before splitting off into three separate directions. After a few more simple tricks, they landed in a booth beside the Royal skybox, ready to judge the competitors.
After a few contestants, Rainbow Dash heard her number come up. She swallowed nervously as she tried in vain to settle the butterflies in her stomach.
'Here we go...' She thought stepping out from behind the curtain to the cheering crowd as the announcer introduced her. She had quite a few fans from the other airshows she had competed in, but she was far from the celebrity status of the Wonderbolts. She caught sight of her friends cheering her on frantically as she ascended to the proper height to start her routine. She gave a quick wave back to them before the music started. She took one deep, calming breath and slowly exhaled. This was it.
She started her performance perfectly, every glide and turn just as graceful as it could be. She shaped and swirled the clouds into many different shapes as she could barely make out the 'oooh's' and 'aaaah's' of the crowd below. She completed every trick in her arsenal before ascending to a great height abover the spectators. She looked down at the dizzying height she had achieved and recalled her nightmare in the hospital.
"You think you can just 'join' the Wonderbolts?"
"I fought in three tours of duty during the Lunar Wars, and shot down better fliers than you!"
Their mocking voices echoed in her mind as she gritted her teeth and narrowed her eyes in determination.
"I'll show them...I'll show'em all!" She said aloud to herself as she began her descent. She was certain to make sure to prove those Haterboltswrong, even if they were just figments of her own imagination.
Twilight recognized her trick as soon as she began climbing.
"I hope she knows what she's doing." She said aloud as the others faces seemed to echo her concern. The multicolored streak of light that was their friend began to take a more shallow angle, planning to end up over the gardens when she broke the sound barrier so as not to perforate the audiences eardrums.
She felt the cone of air begin to form, but knew she needed to go a little faster to break through it. She felt the air buffeting against her wings as she flattened them to reduce her drag. The air cone conformed more and more to her body as she smiled excitedly, though you couldn't tell due to the wind nearly peeling the skin off her face. She was so close! Only a little faster and she would have it for sure! She pushed her wings past their limit as she felt the barrier slip past her front hooves, then slowly around the rest of her body before dragging behind her completely. An explosive ring of the visible spectrum radiated out from her as she had a celebration in her head. Then she realized that once the barrier was out of the way, the air was incredibly smooth. Smooth enough in fact to perhaps do the never before seen. Something that people would be talking about for years to come. A double rainboom.
The crowd erupted in cheers as the ring of light expanded from the garden over the crowd, followed closely by a loud 'boom.'
"She did it! Sonic rainboom number three! Yay!" Fluttershy yelled uncharacteristically loud as the rest of her friends echoed her sentiment.
Twilight noticed she wasn't slowing down, in fact she seemed to be turning back towards them at a still supersonic speed.
"She isn't slowing down. Why isn't she slowing down?" The purple unicorn asked with rising panic as the rest of her friends began to realize the same thing.
Watching their friend smash herself against the stands was not exactly what any of them had planned on doing today.
She caught a second wind and pushed herself as hard as she could without feeling like her wings would break while executing a gentle turn back toward the spectators. This was extremely dangerous as she was going fast enough to annihilate half the crowd and possibly the princess, not to mention the fact that they'd be able to clean up what was left of her with a sponge. She picked up more speed and felt the hypersonic air begin to form a cone around her, adding to the one already a few feet behind her tail. She felt it slowly conform to her front hooves and then around her muzzle, her face having long since numbed to the sensation of the wind rushing past her. Rainbow Dash had to break the barrier before she was halfway to the bleachers so she would have time to pull up and not kill everyone in front of her, a detail she found somewhat important to a successful finish. One final push and the stubborn hypersonic barrier broke past her as well, releasing two rings of multicolored light radiating outward as she pulled up with all her strength, coming within mere feet of the crowd, sending many diving for cover. Once she was vertical she tucked her wings close to her body as she bled off speed. The hyper and supersonic barriers both overtaking her as she finally stopped rising and began to fall back down.
The stadium was dead silent. Not a single jaw was closed as the blue pegasus gently landed on the grass, her wings feeling like if they so much as twitched, they would fall off. She panned across the crowd, happy that not a single face held an expression other than awe. It felt like an eternity before the announcer regained his wits and told the audience what they had just seen.
"A-a double rainboom mares and gentlecolts! Never in the history of this competition has such a feat been accomplished!"
The crowd exploded in cheering as roses fell from the stands. Rainbow Dash had never been so happy in her life! Not only had she pulled off a sonic rainboom, but she had added a stunt never seen before by anyone and in front of the Wonderbolts!
'There's no way I can lose.' She thought confidently as she walked back behind the curtain she had come from, the next colt in line to perform after her still had his mouth agape in shock.
"Good luck following that." As soon as she was backstage, she ran to the nurses station, holding her wings out at her sides as they literally had smoke rising from them. After some cooling ointment and bandages, she noticed her friends had come to see her.
"That was amazing R.D.! How'd you do that?" Applejack asked as the rest of her friends congratulated her.
"Easy. I'm the best there is. Duh." She said arrogantly with a confident smile gracing her lips.
She heard the last contestant had gone and bid her friends goodbye.
"I got some awards to accept!" She said trotting happily back outside to a stadium full of cheers.
"This was truly an unprecedented performance by one special young flier in particular. The winner, of Best single stunt, Best overall performance, and winner of the grand prize; a chance to perform with the legendary Wonderbolts at this years Summer Sun Celebration is...Rainbow Dash!" The crowd cheered madly as the Princess glided down to her where the medals awaited. The blue pegasus bowed before her as she commended her on her performance.
"You should be proud today Rainbow." She said allowing her to stand, putting the medals around her neck.
"I am!" She said beaming at her and the Wonderbolts as they walked up beside her.
'Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh.' She thought as they congratulated her.
"That was incredible! I've never seen anything like it!" Spitfire praised. She could only smile and laugh nervously as her heroes told her how highly they thought of her routine.
"Looks like you'll be gunning for my job with moves like that!" Soarin added.
She couldn't believe it. Her idols were here not tearing her down, but telling her how amazing they thought she was! She couldn't find words to tell them how happy she felt, so she just held a somewhat goofy smile on her face as they produced a uniform like theirs and set it before her.
"Take this home and practice in it. Flying in uniform is a little different than flying commando." Spitfire added as Rainbow's eyes shined with ecstasy. The dream she had since she was a filly was literally coming true right before her eyes. She still couldn't find words so she just kept her wide smile and muttered a weak
"No problem, you've earned it! We meet a day before the Summer Sun Celebration to practice our routine. See you there!" She said as they took to the skies.
"Huh...b-bye..." She stammered, still in shock that she gets to fly with the Wonderbolts. The rest of the day flew by as she celebrated her victory with her friends back in Ponyville.
Night fell on the royal courtyard as the guards made their rounds. The stalwart pegasi and unicorn's eyes keenly observing their surroundings in the pale moonlight. One turned the corner and came face to face with the chaos god himself in statue form. A quick glare at it and he turned back the way he came before. Only after a few steps did a rustle startle him from behind. He whipped his head around and saw nothing out of the ordinary, except that the statue of Discord was gone!
He turned to alert the other guards as his head bumped into something solid. He took a step back and stared directly into the red eyes of the king of madness himself, free of his stone prison at long last.
The guard inhaled to call to the rest of his men, but in a snap of his fingers his mouth disappeared from his muzzle, leaving only smooth fur.
"No, we can't have you spoiling the surprise now can we?" He said smiling evilly as another guard rounded the same corner he had just patrolled. He looked directly at the two of them, and then back the other way before continuing his route as if he had seen nothing unusual.
"He can't see us. Magic and all that, you know. Now let me ask you a question Mr. royal guard. Have you ever wondered what it's like to be trapped inside a statue of yourself? No? Well why don't I enlighten you?" He said with pure malice in his words, grabbing the back of his armor and dragging him back toward the empty pedestal where he had been trapped for a thousand years. The stallion struggled to get free, digging his hooves in the dirt to try and slow down the inevitable. The god of chaos was simply too powerful for one unicorn to resist. A quick toss, a snap of his fingers and the unfortunate guard was encased in stone resembling the statue he had just escaped from so as to not arouse suspicion.
"Ah it feels good to be back! Now...time for step two." He said disappearing into the woods around Canterlot.