Chapter 1-Some Vacation
By: Bronius Maximus
Edited By: FanNotANerd
'Stupid glass. It's not my fault they built a farmhouse with crappy windows!'Rainbow thought, rolling over on her bed. She had woken up inexplicably early that day. Dash knew Applejack would be by early to get her, but it always seemed like she could never get enough sleep when she knew she had to get up early the next day.
Rainbow thought back to how she found herself in this position in the first place. Like any other day, she had just been practicing her routine above Sweet Apple Acres after work. It was pretty much the only place near town with the kind of clear airspace she needed to perform unrestricted. Rainbow always made it a point to end her practice sessions with a sonic rainboom attempt. She had never performed one since saving Rarity at the Best Young Fliers competition, and it seemed like she would never do it again unless one of her friends were in trouble.
Though she hadthought about dropping Rarity again to help motivate her, but she knew the fashionista would never go for it. Not twice in one week, anyway.
Finally, after a rather unremarkable practice session, it happened. She climbed as high as the frigid temperatures of the upper atmosphere would allow and dove at a shallow angle over the farm. As her speed built, she felt the sonic barrier form in front of her. She was awfully close to the farmhouse at that point, but still pushed on, knowing with a couple more knots of speed she'd break the sound barrier. And break it she did! At the expense of every window in Sweet Apple Acres, as well as a stampede of frightened farm animals.
"Rainbow Dash! Get a move on, we're burnin' daylight!" Applejack shouted from below her house. She raised her head to look out the window. The sun wasn't even up yet, how exactly were they 'burning daylight'?
'Whatever, the sooner I get this over with, the sooner I can get back to my life.'
She sulked on her bed for a few more seconds before burying her face back into the comfort of her pillow.
'Ugh, this is so lame! I can knock out the weather in ten seconds flat but this? This is cruel and unusual punishment.'
On top of that, she had to use her vacation days she'd been saving for a trip to Cloudsdale to take off from work to help her! This week was off to quite a rough start.
Rainbow flopped out of bed and opened a hole in her wall, her bedraggled mane sticking up at strange angles. "Hold on a sec." she mumbled, not really caring if Applejack heard her or not. "I'm comin'."
She made a half-hearted attempt to straighten her mane before giving up and flying out the door to greet her taskmaster for the day.
"Alright, so what is it today? More apple bucking? Slopping the pigs? Cleaning the barn? Stop me if I guess it!"
"Nope. None a' that." Applejack answered with an unfamiliar smile.
Rainbow raised a curious eyebrow. "Then what are we doin'?"
"Not we. You." she answered as they walked toward the farm in the pre-dawn darkness.
"Whaddya mean me?"
"Well, you and Big Macintosh ta be specific." Applejack clarified with a grin. Rainbow knew she had been trying to set her brother up with one of her friends. She had already tried it with Twilight, Fluttershy and Rarity, but both they, and Big Mac seemed disinterested. Still, you couldn't blame a girl for trying.
"Is that right?" Dash responded dryly, "Well what is it then?"
"A cattle drive. We're takin' our herd a dairy cows ta auction in Prairieville, and Mac can't keep the herd in line and watch for rustlers by himself." she explained, "Normally I'd be goin', but Applebloom's been havin some trouble with her mathmaticals, so I've got ta stay here for a parent-teacher conference with Cheerilee."
"Prairieville? But that's like a thousand miles away!" Rainbow protested, "That could take weeks!"
"You shoulda thought of that before ya broke all our windows." Applejack responded unsympathetically. Having to sleep in a drafty room every night had driven the empathy from her completely.
"I said I was sorry!" the cyan pegasus shot back guardedly, "What more do you want?"
"For you to go on the cattle drive with Big Macintosh. Do that, and I reckon we'd be just about square."
Rainbow groaned, but knew this was her only way out. "Ugh...fine, I'll go on your stupid cattle drive."
"Ah knew you'd see it my way!" she added as they came to the entrance of Sweet Apple Acres. A herd of about a hundred cattle already waiting outside the barn with a large red stallion waiting outside with them, loaded down with saddlebags
"Ready ta head out Mac?" Applejack asked, receiving only a nod in response.
"Good. Rainbow here'll be comin' with ya. She can fly and all, so don't be afraid to make her keep an eye out for rustlers!" the country mare added, volunteering Rainbow's wings for her.
The big stallion took a look at Rainbow, sizing her up for the rough journey ahead before whispering something to Applejack.
"Of course she's up to it!" Applejack answered, much to Rainbow's annoyance.
"Hey! If you got somethin' to say, I'm right here!" the cyan mare spat defensively.
"Naw, it wasn't a slight against yer ability Rainbow, he just needs ta make sure you're up ta the task." the muted orange earth pony added happily, ignoring her friends annoyance. "There's a lot a work that needs doin' out on the range."
"I can take anything you throw at me! I bet I'm even better at cattle driving than you are!"
"Is that so?" the country mare answered, taking a step toward Rainbow in challenge, "I've never lost a single cow. Beat that, and maybe you'll be as good as I am."
"One day," she added, knowing exactly how to push Dash's buttons. A low growl escaped Rainbow's clenched jaw as Applejack turned to face her brother.
"What say we make it interesting?" the quick pegasus suggested, knowing Applejack would never back down from a sure thing. The country mare looked over her shoulder with a confident smile. "Your funeral. What's the wager?"
"If I don't lose a single cow, you have to let me practice my routine whenever I want, day or night."
"Fine, but if you lose, you have ta help us with th' applebuck harvest-."
"No problem!" Rainbow interjected.
"For the next three seasons."
"What? No way!"
"Them's the rules cousin. Take it or leave it." Applejack smiled slyly, "Unless you're chicken like your little buddy Scootaloo!"
Dash narrowed her eyes in determination, "You're on!"
Both spit on their hooves and slapped them together, sealing the contract.
Applejack turned to face her brother.
What happened next would blow Rainbow's mind clear across Equestria.
"Mah hat." Mac asked expectantly.
Applejack removed her iconic headgear and sat it atop her big brother's head. Dash could hardly believe what she was seeing. Her earth pony friend nearly had a fit every time she had playfully taken her hat while she worked, and to watch her just hand it over? Rainbow's jaw hung open.
'Mental note; ask Big Mac how he did that.'
"Ready?" Mac asked, that one word more than he had ever said to Rainbow at once.
The amazement from the moment before quickly evaporated as the cold hoof of reality slapped her across the face.
"Yeah..." Dash moaned.
"HE-YAH!" with a slap on the rear of the rearmost cow, the rest of the cattle began stampeding to the west as the draught stallion took off after them.
"You better git a move on Rainbow! Mac ain't gonna wait for ya!" Applejack shouted over the thunder of hooves.
A beat of her wings and they cyan pegasus glided gracefully above the thundering herd, spying their crimson guide sticking out like a sore hoof from the brown, black and white hues of the cattle below. The huge burning sphere that was Celestia's sun just began to peak over the horizon. It would have been a beautiful sight form this altitude if Rainbow wasn't still a bit upset she was up early enough to see it in the first place.
'Ugh this is gonna suuuuuuuuck!'
It was bad enough she had to work to pay off her debt, but now she couldn't even hang out with AJ while she worked? Rainbow felt sure she would lose her mind before they even made it to Prairieville. Just her, a borderline mute stallion and a bunch of smelly cows.
"This is sothe way I wanted to spend my vacation days." she said aloud sarcastically, knowing she wouldn't be heard way up there.
Rainbow folded her forelegs in contempt as Sweet Apple Acres slowly grew smaller behind them.
Big Macintosh had never been on a cattle drive with anypony other than his sister. Even though hedid most of the hard work, she still knew what she was doing, and could take initiative to correct a problem without being told. This Rainbow Dash filly though, she was going to be trouble. That, he could already tell.
A city-slicker like her probably didn't know the first thing about cattle driving, or where to find a good water source in case the familiar ones had dried up last season, or pretty much anything useful.
'Why couldn't Fluttershy have broken out our windas?'
Now there was a mare he wouldn't mind being stuck out under the stars with. Quiet, gentle, with a good knowledge of animals and how to care for them at the very least. If it weren't for Applejack's constant attempts to play cupid with all of her friends, he may have been able to make some time with her. But as it stood, coerced interaction with her via Applejack simply came off as awkward for both the shy pegasus, and the quiet stallion.
Still, Mac knew what's done is done, and complaining about it wouldn't solve anything.
After nearly an hour of running, the cattle began to tire, slowing their pace until the plume of dust behind them shrank to a third of what it had been.
Dash noticed a stream in the distance Mac appeared to be directing the herd towards. She zipped down toward the front of the group as they slowed to a trot, and then to a walk as the exhausted cattle moved eagerly toward the water.
"Settle in, we'll be here a while." Mac said, sensing Rainbow had landed near him.
"What for?" Dash asked in protest, "We've only gone a few miles! We'll never get to Prairieville at this rate!"
"Tired dairy cows get less at auction. Better ta have them move at their own pace than ta try an force 'em on." Big Macintosh answered calmly.
"You've got to be kidding."
His tranquil expression and tone only drove her annoyance at the situation. Her two least favorite things; boredom and not moving had somehow combined into a perfect storm of aggravation as she took a walk toward the stream.
She bent her neck and dunked her head completely into the gently moving water in an attempt to wake herself up. While underwater, she heard the distorted sounds of a stallions voice. She pulled her head up and shook the water from her mane, the wet strands whipping at her neck and face.
"What?" she asked glancing over her shoulder at Big Macintosh's ever present look of apathy.
"Ah said, ya might want to move upstream before puttin' your head in th' water." he added taking a walk up the small tributary "The cows use the stream for a lot more than just drinkin'."
Rainbow looked upriver in horror at the cows wading in the water with looks of relief on their faces.
After a few extra shakes and gagging noises, she quickly flew past the herd and into the stream where Big Mac had just finished filling up a few canteens.
After re-dunking her head a few extra times for good measure, Rainbow fluttered back to where Mac had laid down. Nothing but a scowl across her face after her disgusting incident.
"You think that was real funny back there don't ya?" Dash sneered. If there was one thing she hated, it was being the butt of a joke.
"I never said that, but now that ya mention it..." the red stallion broke a small grin across his face.
"Don't you dare laugh!" she growled.
"I wouldn't dream of it." he said in that calm, unprovoked manner that she found so irritating.
'It's gonna be a long trip.'the two ponies thought simultaneously.