What do you do after you've made the impossible possible?
It took me ten years to recreate that mythical feat and the media were in a frenzy. Everywhere I went, there were cameras and journalists who just wanted to get a piece of me – not surprising considering how awesome I am. But after that week, there was nothing. Not a word, not a hat, not a quill, not a flash.
A month later, I could recreate it at will. I knew what I was doing and I knew how to do it. Not yet eighteen, not even old enough to join the Wonderbolts, and here I was – already the fastest thing alive. Faster than Spitfire, faster than Rapidfire, faster than Fleetfoot. Heck, I was probably faster than the Princesses.
But then I turned eighteen and the letter arrived.
Now that day was a blur. I remember pulling off a Sonic Rainboom in celebration, waking up everypony at dawn. I vaguely remember screaming the news to the entirety of Ponyville as they glared at me through sleep-deprived eyes – except Scootaloo of course, she was watching me with adoration. I remember Pinkie's party where the whole of Ponyville was invited, how Twilight had (yet another) nervous breakdown when both Princesses turned up unannounced and how DJ Pon-3 turned out to drop some serious flank kicking beats.
And then the nervousness kicked in. Only one other pony had become a Wonderbolt at such a young age – Spitfire. She went on to become the youngest Wonderbolt captain in history and then there was the fact that I had already performed a Sonic Rainboom just last year. So not only did they have high expectations of me and a legacy to live up, but my greatest trick would be considered stale and boring. AND rumors had it Spitfire could do the Sonic Rainboom as well, so I wasn't even the only one anymore.
But what trick could possibly be awesomer than turning a myth into reality?
So far, I had no answers; all I knew was that I needed something cooler. Something grander. Something more epic in every single possible way. And then inspiration struck. Or rather, lightning struck courtesy of Derpy. There was my answer, there was my solution. The ultimate test of guts and daring and reflex and speed.
I couldn't stop the grin that spread over my face and truth be told, I didn't want to. It was almost time. Down below me I watched as the other pegasuses started retreating from the storm they had created, leaving behind six to monitor the storm and make sure everything was going according to plan. But the thing is, I knew these six ponies and I had specifically scheduled them to work on this night. They were lazy, they were sloppy, and as soon as the others were out of sight, they went down for a drink just as I had expected.
Stretching out my cramped muscles, I began my warm up routine designed to stretch out every single muscle used in flight. After a large yawn, I scooped out the thermos from my bag, took a couple sips of hot coco I had Pinkie mix earlier in the day and almost immediately I felt warmth course through my body and my drowsiness vanish. Once I was certain my bag would not fall out of the cloud, I spread my wings and gently glided down. Even now, I could feel the static electricity messing with my mane and tail. Once I was about thirty meters above the clouds, I tucked my wings in and dropped.
Laughter rang out through the empty night sky as the pure exhilaration injected itself into me. Just the feeling of the wind, the sight clouds rushing up to meet me, the biting cold, and the sounds of thunder and raindrops sent chills up my spine. How did earth ponies and unicorns live trapped on the ground?
A flash of lightning momentarily blinded me, but I didn't care. I knew it'd be another three seconds before I hit the cloud and another two seconds before I made it through. I knew how far above the ground I would be and how long I'd have before I had to pull out of my free fall. Insane does not equal stupid after all.
Hitting that cloud though, was glorious. It was the single most intense and indescribable feeling ever. I expected the cold, I expected to get wet, I even expected to be shocked, but this was something well outside it. My entire body tingled and I could feel my fur being singed, but I wasn't in pain nor was I hot or cold. Sure, I was aware exiting the cloud, but it was like everything was happening in a dream. I could see and I could understand, but it was as though my body was removed and I was watching everything.
Suddenly I was snapped back into my body. Every instinct yelled at me to get out of there, and for once in my life, I ignored it. The first bolt missed by three wingspans, but the flash and thunder left me blind to the world. Shaking my head in a desperate attempt to clear it, I dropped down to relative safety. The next bolt I dodged out of pure luck when I wheeled around to enter the center of the storm. Even then, it jumped off the main bolt and struck me. My muscles twitched, wings locked up and I plummeted ten meters before I could flap again.
Shoving a lock of wet mane out of my eyes, I gave a mighty flap of my wings. There was no bucking way I was backing out of this. I helped make this storm and I will conquer it.
"You hear that!?" My yell was drowned out by the thunder. "There's no bucking way you're gonna win!"
Oh Celestia, it's too early to be getting up. With a groan, I reached out with my right hoof, trying to find the annoying alarm clock so I could shut it off. And what the buck did I get up to last night? My head's killing me. Don't tell me we went out drinking again. I swear, each time we do, one of us winds up doing something super embarrassing.
Each annoying beep was like a hammer being slammed into my head. Reaching out with my left hoof, pain suddenly laced through my body and a yelp escaped. Okay, what in the name of Celestia's plot happened last night? Opening an eye, bright light flooded my senses as did pain, bringing tears to my eyes. Squinting, I tried to make out what was around me, but all I could see were blurry shapes, but after a couple seconds of trying, I gave up. Great, now I have a killer headache.
And why won't that bucking alarm clock stop bucking beeping!
Turning my head to the right, I peeked open an eye and to my relief, it was no longer the insane bright white light from before. Blinking rapidly, the blurriness vanished revealed a very concern lavender unicorn peering down at me.
"Hey Twi, can you turn off the alarm please? It's really bugging me. Thanks," was my groggy reply. "Five more minutes and then I promise to clear the sky."
She looked down at me concerned and confused, but her horn glowed and a couple seconds later, the beeping stopped. Try as I might though, I couldn't get back to sleep - the bloody alarm had woken me up.
Reopening my eyes, I couldn't help, but smirk at the sight of Twilight still staring at me with a weird expression on her face. "Hey Twi, if you wanted a piece of Dash you could have just asked. No need to sneak into my bedroom and watch me sleep. Kinda creepy that."
Wait for it…
Any second now…
Her eye began to twitch and she got that hilarious expression on her face as she tried to sort through the piles of books she had stuffed in her head to come up with an appropriate reply all the while trying not to react to my comment. I love that expression. I'd buy a camera for the sole purpose of taking a picture of it and then I'd blow it up and frame it in on my wall. Hm… maybe a banner under my house so everypony can see it. Heh, I bet Celestia would want one too.
"First of all, I'm not in your home – you're in hospital. Secondly, I would never sneak into your house to stare at you while you sleep because that's really, really, really creepy. Thirdly-"
"Wait, back up to the first one. I'm in the hospital?" A quick check of my surroundings told me what she had said was true. "Why am I in the hospital?"
"That's what we were hoping you'd be able to tell us." The unicorn's eyes suddenly widened. "The others!" Before I could even figure out what to say next, she had vanished in a flash of white light.
"O… kay…?" With a shrug of my shoulders, I threw back the covers and began examining my injuries. The first thing I checked were my wings and they were perfectly healthy and fine – not a scratch on them, though I will have to do some serious grooming if I want them to be in flying condition. Thick bandages around my torso so probably something serious and from the looks of things, I had also managed to break my left hind leg. What the heck happened? Regardless, it must have been an epic crash.
An explosion of light drew my attention back to the spot Twilight had just vanished from, but before I could even recognize who had teleported in, there was a very loud "Dashie!" followed by a glomp of world destroying proportions. A second later, the rest of my friends were gathered around me, giving me gentler hugs (when they could pry Pinkie off for long enough) and asking questions about my health.
"Geez, I know you're all worried, but you're acting as though I'm made of glass or something," I grumbled. "Relax; I've been in worse crashes before you know."
"Dashie…" whispered Pinkie all full of worry and concern and that made my heart sink. Pinkie not being hyper was bad news – very bad news. The two went hoof and hoof like they were married or something.
Without even really thinking about it, I threw my arms around my girls and hugged them nice and tight, ignoring the stabs of pain from my side as I did so. Whatever had happened, it had been bad, and I wanted them to know that I was fine and that I appreciated their concern without – you know – actually having to say it.
"So what happened anyways?' I asked into the silence.
"We're all hoping ya could tell us that sugarcube," replied Applejack.
"Applejack is quite correct. All we've been able to piece together is that you decided to go out flying in the middle of a huge storm, got struck by lightning, and nearly died." Unconsciously, I had backed away from Rarity as each word she spoke became more and more heated. Her tone suddenly mellowed out and she gave me a reassuring smile. "Of course you would have had a good reason for doing such a reckless thing."
"Er… Yes! I mean- Of course I do." They all gave me enquiring looks as I laughed nervously. "You see, I was… er… worried because the guys on the job aren't really the most reliable. So I… um… went out to… check! Yes, check to make sure everything was fine and… just as I was about to leave, I thought saw a pony in the storm and flew down and then I don't remember anything."
My mouth slammed shut with an audible snap and my eyes darted from pony to pony. Pinkie would eat up the lie no problem, but I wasn't so sure about the others. Fluttershy wouldn't ask even if she could tell it was lie simply because she was too shy so I was safe from her. Twilight though, had her egghead super powers, Applejack had her whole Element of Honest gig and Rarity was… well… Rarity. I don't know, never hung out with her that much, but she was… what was that word again? Astute. Yeah, that's it. She was astute.
Wow, I'm turning into an egghead.
Looking up, all my friends (minus Pinkie Pie) looked down at me with varying degrees of skepticism. To my surprise, Twilight was still stuck on relieved and didn't seem to notice my lie and none of them decided to call me out right there and then. I suppose they didn't want to ruin the happy mood or something. The look Applejack gave me though had the silent promise of me being forced to tell her exactly what was going on. Pffft, yeah right. She'll have to catch me first.
For the second time that night, a loud explosion made my head snap right around. And there with an impossibly huge grin on her face was Pinkie Pie with her party canon.
"Pinkie! This is a hospital, you can't just around causing such a ruckus," said Rarity as she smoothed down her mane.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Twilight's left eye twitch as she tried to figure out where the canon came from. Before she said anything though, Fluttershy spoke up, "Um… excuse me… but Rarity is right Pinkie. Especially not so early in the morning." Her eyes suddenly widened. "Er… Twilight, I don't mean to imply anything, but… that is… we are allowed to be here right? I mean, I know you wouldn't do anything illegal, but – and I could be wrong – But I'm fairly certain visiting hours don't extend to three in the morning."
"Well… you see girls… the thing is…" The lavender mare looked everywhere, but here as she rubbed the back of her neck with a hoof.
"Sugarcube, ya didn't."
"You broke in?" My eyes were wide and my grin equally huge. "Twi, I'm proud of you."
"Rainbow Dash!" I winced at Rarity's yell. "This is not behavior you should be encouraging. It is not becoming of a lady such as Twilight to be breaking in willy-nilly." The full wrath of her gaze descended on Twilight and while it was no stare, it had been honed by years of looking after Sweetie Belle. "And you Twilight Sparkle. I am disappointed in you. Think of how this would reflect on Princess Celestia if ponies found out. I mean, her prized pupil breaking and entering."
With each word she spoke, Twilight lost more and more composure. When Celestia was mentioned though, it looked as though she was going to break down right there and there. She was close to descending into full crisis mode.
"Hey!" All eyes turned to me. "What the buck do you think you're doing? She was just concerned about me because she is – how do I put this in a way you'd understand? – my friend, which is something you obviously have no concept of. So just lay off will you? There's no need to go reducing her to tears you know."
For the first time that day, Rarity looked at Twilight and I mean actually looked. Almost immediately, the two unicorns were hugging with Rarity apologizing constantly while Twilight kept brushing it off. That lasted less than a second before Pinkie glomped them with a flying tackle. From how fast she was travelling, I'd say she fired herself from the canon.
"What Ah want to know is, how come no pony has heard us yet."
"Oh that's simple. I wove a sound damping and illusion spell into the basic shield spell so that I could cast it around Rainbow's bed rather than the entire room." Twilight spoke as though it was the most basic thing in the world, but the slack-jawed look Rarity was giving her said the exact opposite. "What?"
"Twilight dear, th-"
"That is the most egghead thing you've said in a long time," I interrupted. "But awesome! Think of all the pranks we'd be able to pull if no one could hear us coming. What other cool stuff can you do with your magic? Can you turn us invisible?"
Twilight got that faraway look in her eyes. "Probably. But I'm not stupid enough to do that."
"Pleeeeeeeeeease." Pinkie pulled out her big blue eyes. "Think of all the fantastically awesome super- duper spectacularly secret surprise parties I could pull out without any pony knowing!"
A yawn from Applejack saved Twilight from having to reply to that particular logic. "Ah'm sorry, just really tired. Twi, think you can drop me back home? Ah'll be 'round to visit later today RD. Promise."
"Wait!" A pink blur crashed into Applejack before she could even take a single step. "You can't leave yet, you haven't eaten any cake yet."
"Cake?" Twilight looked up and her eye began twitching. There on the table next to me was a three layered chocolate mousse cake with rainbow frosting. "That is not-"
"Twilight? Drop it. For our sanity as much as yours," I said while accepting a slice.
Biting down, I resisted the urge to say some garbled mess to show how delicious it was. It was soft, it was spongy, and it was oozing chocolate everywhere. And that's not even mentioning the rainbow frosting. I have no clue how she did it, but it had the same texture as clouds and it had a zing to it – like a bucket of cold water to the face in the morning.
"And y'all say I'm the best baker in town."
"Applejack darling, how many times do I have to tell you to not speak with your mouth full?"
"If you don't mind me saying, but you are the best baker… er… no offense to Pinkie. It's just Pinkie is more… experimental – not that that's a bad thing – in her baking that's all."
"At any rate," Rarity cast a stern look at all those assembled, "I believe we need to leave before we're caught. Twilight if you could be a dear and teleport us out of here. And it's nice to see you're alright Rainbow Dash, we were all so worried about you."
"Well it's not like you needed to be," I said with my trademark grin. "Come on, as if I'd leave you all hanging. Who'd clear up the skies and make your lives twenty percent cooler? A little more faith please."
"That's the RD Ah know!" Laughing, Applejack smacked my shoulder and pain immediately laced its way through my body – not once did my smile waver. "See Twi, nothing to be worried over."
"Alright, alright, I get the point, geez." Despite the annoyed tone, the lavender unicorn had a smile on her face. "I'll take you all back now, just hold still alright?"
Once more, the unmistakable magenta glow of her magic filled the room and a couple seconds later, they all vanished in an explosion of light. Settling back down onto the bed, I took a deep shaky breath before a newspaper caught my attention. Turning my head to the left, I read the title: iSonic Rainboom sighted over Wonderbolt's training camp?/i.
So not only will I be missing out on training time thanks to my injury, but some other pony managed to perform a Rainboom? Oh, buck me. That was my ticket into the squad and now they didn't need me at all. Worse than that, the Rainboom was my trick. It was a myth, I bought it to life, and it was going to be mine. I was going to go down in history – remembered for all eternity. And then some random Wonderbolt manages to perform it without my help, stealing my thunder and my chances of joining my idols.
I hate my life.
Flopping back onto the bed, I blew a lock of hair out of my eyes. Stupid Rainboom, stupid Wonderbolts, stupid injuries, stu-
There was a flash of light.
-pid… Twi…light…? What was she doing back here?
"Hey Dash." She shifted her weight from hoof to hoof. "Um… I bought a book I thought you'd enjoy…"
I nodded slowly. "Thanks Twi." Putting it down on the table next to me, I turned my attention back the silent unicorn waiting for the inevitable question. I mean, it was super obvious – she was flustered, she came back alone, she just lurves fixing up other pony's problems and I was obvious lying from before. Hey, I may not be the smartest pony ever, but I'm also not an idiot.
"Well… um…" Twilight smiled sheepishly. "I'm glad to see you're doing better. We'll all be stopping in tomorrow at various times to keep you company and Pinkie has even promised not to disturb the other patients too much. So… see you tomorrow I suppose…"
"Wait!" The glow from her magic fizzled out. "Aren't you going to ask about what happened?"
Simply shaking her head, she gave me a soft smile. "Of course not, I trust you enough to talk to me if you want to talk or need any help. Plus, I know you're uncomfortable with all the touchy feely stuff."
Tilting her head to the side, Twilight waited for a couple more seconds before teleporting out once more. Why had I stopped her anyways? I mean, I wanted her to not ask after all. Though now that I thought about it, just before she vanished there was something like sadness in her eyes. I swear, sometimes I think Twilight is the weirdest pony I have ever – and will ever – meet.
As the tension drained out of my body, I grabbed the blankets and shaping it into a nice little nest with me at the center. Then opening my wings (despite the twitches of pain), I took a real hard look at the mess of feathers and sighed. It was going to take me almost an hour per wing to get them back into shape. Ah well, better get started now then, before anypony decides to drop in unannounced. I mean, Rainbow Dash grooming? Ha! Yeah right. I'd rather be caught cooking first.
Sometimes being this cool is a lot of hard work.
"So sugarcube, you gonna come clean or what?"
Putting my book down gently (Twilight would send me to the moon if I damaged it in any shape or form), I regarded my longtime rival with a level gaze. "I have no idea what you're talking about." Picking up the book once more, I began reading from where I had left off. I mean, come on! It was getting to the good part, why'd she have to come now of all times?
"Ah ain't leaving till Ah get my answers."
Without even tearing my eyes away for a second, I merely shrugged. Sure she was stubborn, and she'd probably stay until she was kicked out, but I had a book to read and considering it was almost five hundred pages long, it'd last me a couple of days at least and by that time I'd be out and about again.
Delving into the book, there were a couple of seconds of silence before Applejack spoke again. "Come on RD, you can't ignore me forever."
Another shrug. Now where was I?
"Well, well, Ah never thought Ah'd see the day."
A cocked eyebrow over the top of the page before I quickly glanced back down. This was so not the time. I mean, the siege on the Black Citadel where the King Nix of the gryphons was hiding was about to begin and our intrepid heroes had just found out he had summoned hell hounds to reinforce his army and that wasn't even mentioning the subplot involving the traitor in their midst finally coming to a close and all I needed to do was turn the freaking page!
"You're an egghead RD."
"What." The book was completely forgotten as I glared at the blond earthpony.
"Ya heard me. You're. An. Egg. Head."
The book hit the ground with a dull thud. Shaking off the bed sheet, I dropped onto the cold tiled floor and began advancing my former friend. For once, there was no pain, only the dull ache of sore muscles.
"You want to run that by me again?"
Backing up nervously, Applejack cast glance to the door only for my hoof to slam into the wall next to her head as I put on my most sadistic smile I could manage. Tilting her stetson back, she smiled up at me with an equally evil smirk. There was no fear in those eyes, only mirth and defiance.
"Oh, Ah'm sorry, I thought eggheads were meant to be smart. Musta confused you with someone else."
"Yeah, you got that right, I am so not an egg- Wait, did you just call me stupid?"
That single double take was the opening Applejack had been waiting for. With the speed that could only be beaten by yours truly, she was out the door in the blink of an eye. Fuelled by annoyance, I chased after her – that was until I heard her singing at the top of her voice, "Dashie's an egg head! Dashie's an egghead!" at which point it became personal. Righteous fury fueled my mad dash and a part of me liked to think I had both princesses over my shoulder whispering encourage in my quest to defeat the evil tyrant.
Kicking off the ground, I tilted my body to the side, letting my hooves connect with the wall. Then with a strong kick, I flung myself forward. Soaring over the surprised nurse, I landed without losing a bit of speed. A flash of orange and yellow caught my eye. Swerving around a unicorn, I turned to the corner just managed to leap over a trolley of food. Ahead of me, I could see my prey squeezing her massive bulk between two ponies. Before they had even recovered from being so rudely shoved out of the way, I blasted past them.
Dropping onto my knees, I managed to slide under a pegasus. That bit of saved time was enough. Lunging forward, I slammed into Applejack and her surprised yelp was music to my ears. Together we tumbled end over end in the corridor and with wide eyes, we watched as the wall quickly approaching. Squeezing my eyes shut, I braced for impact.
A cool breeze enveloped me.
"What is going on here?" Cracking an eye open, I was met with a very annoyed looking Twilight. "Applejack, I thought you were meant to be keeping Dash out of trouble, not initiating it!"
"Hey! Why'd you blame me first? Dash is far more likely to start a conflict," muttered the earth pony.
" 'Dashie's an egghead, Dashie's an egghead'?" Twilight looked at the farmer disapprovingly. Even I wilted at that look and it wasn't even directed at me! Applejack on the other hoof was acting like a little filly caught with a hoof in the cookie jar and was waiting to be locked up in a dungeon or something.
"Actually, I don't want to know." We were enveloped in a flash of light and by the time I could see again, I was back in bed. "Now Rainbow, you need to stay in bed and relax, and stay off your hooves. I'll go find Nurse Redheart and ask her to give you a once over to make sure you didn't anything that'll end up compromising your recovery. And Applejack, you're going to accompany me and tell her how sorry you are for disrupting the hospital in such a manner."
"But Twi," we complained in unison.
"No buts." The book floated up and found its way into my hooves. "I thought you were enjoying the book."
"It's still no replacement for actually being out and about doing stuff," I mumbled under my breath as they made their way out.
Oh Celestia, it was good to get out of that place. Stretching my wings, a massive grin found its way onto my face as the wind blew through my mane whipping it about. A week in doors. A whole entire freaking week. I stretched out my wings, enjoying the feeling of the wind flowing over it and when I closed my eyes, I could almost imagine I was in the air just lazily drifting about.
"Now, now Dash, no using your wings remember?"
"I know, I know, geez." Stretching out my limbs, a happy sigh escaped as I felt my joints pop, much to Twilight's annoyance. "Just glad to get out into the open for once. Being cooped up in there was so totally not cool."
"If you say so," she said in a singsong voice. "Anyways, I was wondering if you had someplace to stay for the next two days."
"Yeah, Applejack offered." Shaking out my mane, I trotted up next to Twilight. "And thanks for the book by the way, it was awesome. It wasn't Daring Doo, but it was sooooooo awesome! Especially that siege scene and how-"
"You doing anything today?" Blinking in surprise, I regarded her closely. It was so unlike her to interrupt somepony like that and she spoke in a rush, her words almost slurring together in her haste.
There was a pause as she glanced down at the ground, her hoof digging at the ground. "I was wondering if you'd be able to help me on a project I'm working on."
Her smile was like the sunset. "Come on then!" She suddenly raced off and though she took me by surprise, I caught up in no time flat. To my surprise, she was no slouch in the running department. Sure, not as fast as me or Applejack, but come on, we've won the Running of the Leaves for the past three years in a row. Then again she did come third last ye-
Slamming into something, I rolled head over heels only to crash into a very hard and very unyielding wall. "Oh Celestia... what happened?" I pressed my hooves to my head in an attempt to stop the world from spinning.
At the feeling of something squirming under me, I looked down and immediately jumped onto my hooves only to sway on the spot. "Oh geez Twi, I'm sorry."
Rolling onto her hooves, she stood up slowly before shaking her head to clear it. "It's fine, no serious injuries except some scrapes." Unlocking the door, she stepped into the library and began making her way to the basement door.
To say I was curious and cautious would be an understatement. For as long as I could remember the basement was strictly off limits and always locked – even Spike wasn't allowed in without supervision and Twilight cleaned it herself. And Pinkie wasn't any help either despite being the only pony who had ever set foot within it. She just went on about wires and cupcakes and all sorts of crazy things that frankly did not make any sense at all.
"You know Rainbow, there's nothing to be scared off, it's just a basement."
The smugness dripped from each word Twilight spoke. With a glare and toss of my mane, I brushed past her and looked down the steps. So far nothing too scary, just a couple of steps. Taking a deep breath, I began descending into the murky darkness with Twilight right behind me. The door suddenly shut leaving us in total darkness.
"Give me a second." A muted ball light bathed the room in its purple glow. To say it was eerie would be an understatement. "Sorry about the lighting, but I've got some vials of unrefined liquid rainbow down here an-"
"And they react violently to sunlight," I replied automatically. At her surprised look I couldn't help, but smirk. "Come on Twi, I do work in weather you know."
"Right." Somehow, she managed to facehoof and walk at the same time. Now that took some serious skill.
"Though unrefined liquid rainbow is also really sensitive to magic so..." I glanced up at her magic light.
"Hm? Oh, don't worry. Part of the reason why I'm working with it is to develop a casing that could mute the magical radiation and thus allow unicorns to work with it safely. Considering how toxic it is, it should mean safer conditions for workers."
"Wait, you were part of the group that's developing that? Geez Twi, you should tell me these things, it's been the talk of Cloudsdale for months now and everypony's wondering who's on the team and whether they actually care or if they're just some stuck up Canterlot snobs in it for the money. Wait! They said it was a group of super qualified unicorns with fancy PhD's or something."
"Heh... yeah..." She rubbed the back of her neck nervously. "Technically, I kinda have... that is... erm..." Twilight then proceeded to imitate Fluttershy so well that if I dyed her coat and mane it would have been able to tell the two apart.
"Twi." I pressed a hoof to her lips. "Do you have a PhD?"
"Technically? How can you tech-" My eyes widened in surprise. "You have more than one?"
A red blush completely overtook her face as she looked everywhere but my face. "I... um... I have three actually..."
"I knew you were an egghead, but wow. No wonder the Princess sent you to Ponyville to make some friends." Reaching the bottom of the stairs, I surveyed the room, eyeing the ominous shapes half hidden in the shadows. "I mean seriously? Three? Better not tell Pinkie or she'll throw you a party, she's been looking for an excuse since last week. I swear, if she doesn't have one today, she's going to explode or something."
Laughing, the magical light dimmed further until it was impossible to see beyond three steps ahead of us. "Wait here while I make sure I covered the liquid rainbow."
Producing a second light that stayed by me, she wandered off into the darkness. Her body gradually vanished from sight and soon her light was, but a mere pinprick off in the distance. Even her hoofbeats were swallowed whole, leaving me alone in the darkness with nothing for company, but my thoughts.
Thoughts about how much of a failure I was. Not only did I hold the highest crash record in all Equestria, all my tricks revolve around speed and nothing else – no techniques, no fancy smancy stuff just pure, unadulterated speed. Anypony could be fast, but could any random pony get the technique to pull off the Hangman's Noose? Buck no! That took true skill not like the Rainboom. If the Rainboom took real skill, some random Wonderbolt would not be able to learn it in such a short time frame even if said Wonderbolt was their captain. Plus how many times can a pony see a Sonic Rainboom before being bored anyways? A one trick pony – that's what I was.
Cool? Ha! I wasn't cool. I was lame. A lame-o pony. A lame-o one trick pony with no skill or technique. Sigh... I should never have accepted the invitation to audition. Now I'll become the laughing stock of Equestria. I won't be remembered as the fastest pony ever, instead I'll forever be that one pony that failed so epically a foal could have performed bet-
"Dash?" My head snapped across at the voice only to blink in the harsh light. "You alright?"
Standing up on shaky legs, I nodded and gave Twilight the most reassuring smile I could conjure up. "Yeah... Perfectly fine."
My eyes roamed around the room on their own accord and to my surprise, it looked exactly like the mad scientist labs found in novels. There were wires and tubing everywhere and in one corner was a massive steel thing with a helmet doo-hicky with flashing lights on top of it – seems like Pinkie wasn't making that up after all. Behind Twilight was a massive metal cupboard with a variety of padlocks on it. If I didn't know better, I'd have guessed she stored the Elements of Harmony in them. And that wasn't even mentioning the vials of chemicals everywhere. Beside her against the wall was a blackboard with a variety of equations scribbled over it. Walking over to it, I tilted my head as I regarded them silently.
"Hey Twi, you trying to fly or something?" I jerked my head towards the equations. "These are flight equations."
Chuckling, she trotted over with a massive grin. "Actually yes. Well, it's part of what I'm working on anyways." Pulling out a second blackboard filled with equations I didn't recognize, she began explaining. "You see the wing area of a pegasus is too small to actually produce enough lift to let them fly."
"Which is why pegasi have magic to compensate," I replied. "Really Twi, I'm a pegasus, I know all this stuff."
"Exactly. That magic is-"
"Concentrated in the wings much like how unicorn magic uses the horns as a focal point." A mental sigh rang through my mind. I swear ponies just assume I'm stupid simply because I'm a jock and work in weather. Oh, and that because I left school early it obviously meant I was an idiot. Please. I wasn't smart, but I when it came to flying and weather, I knew what I was doing.
"Er... yes..." She gave me a weird look, but continued, "Well I'm trying to figure out how to create a prosthetic limb so that pegasi who have lost their wings can fly again."
"And you need my help why?" I asked. "I'm not particularly smart you realize so it's not like I help with all this fancy maths."
"Well you're a pegasus so you'll probably know some stuff instinctively that I might overlook and I'll also be needing a test flier." Grabbing a hold of the white sheet in the corner, she gave it a hard tug revealing a metallic wing mounted on a saddle like thing. "It's not done yet and I'm hesitant to even call it a prototype. From my research, the most common injuries involve one wing having to be removed so that's what I based this design on."
"That may be true, but most opt to have the remaining one removed because it'll attract less attention." Trotting over, I peered at the contraption curiously. "And I can already tell you this won't work."
"Huh? How come?"
"It's unbalanced." Shoving my muzzle underneath the wing, I lifted it up. "Yeah, it's waaaaaay too heavy which means it'll be seriously unbalanced and dangerous to fly with."
"See? You're already helping out!" She seemed far too happy. "Okay, what about the gears, and stuff? I'm afraid that'll cause issues like getting jammed or pinching skin or heating up so much from friction it causes burns."
"Hm... You'll have to ask Pinkie that one I'm afraid, but from the looks of things it should be fine..."
"Oh yeah, you've seen the crazy stuff she builds, like that bicycle thing that takes her up into the air and the party canon. She's a mad genius I tell you." Stepping back, I regarded the metallic wing curiously. "What's powering this thing anyways?"
"That's one of the few things I'm still working on. I could use storm clouds, but that'd be too dangerous which means leaving it to be powered by magic, but that doesn't last long usually. "Somehow she managed to pull yet another blackboard out – maybe she learnt that from Rarity and her fainting couch? " Over here, I'm currently working on a way to see if it's possible to access pegasus magic on demand much the same way a unicorn might access theirs. If I can pull it off, then there's your power source."
I eyed the equations on that board the same way I'd look at a manticore threatening to rip my face off. "Alright… How about movement then? If I was to wear this thing, how would I then move it?"
"Pegasus magic. If that doesn't work then I'll think of something else." The blackboards vanished and she began pushing me towards a giant black box with far too many flashing lights, and tiled glass walls and floor. "Now, what I need you to do is to step in there and flex your wings. I want the entire range of motion that you'd normally use in flight. I've got scanners behind the glass that should record your movements and give me a nice overview of whether or not I need to add anything to the prototype."
Before I could get a single word in, I was shoved into the box and the walls began to pulse as Twilight pumped magic into it. Looking around the nervously at the far too close walls, I licked my dry lips and slowly began unfurling my wings. This was such a bad idea. I did a couple of flaps followed by a left and right turn before finishing with how I'd increase and decrease altitude. The entire time I felt like an idiot, as though I was a little filly back in being caught the basics all over again. Not to mention I must have looked silly. Repeating the process a second time, the glow suddenly went out.
"Sorry!" The sound of frantic running could be heard followed by angry mutterings and stuff being thrown about. "Damn it!" Her head poked through the door. "Sorry, but it seems I overloaded the entire system. At least I got some useable data out of all of this. Sorry."
"It's fine." Forcing myself to walk out of the thing rather than run, I gave her a reassuring smile. "So that's it?"
"For now at least." She scowled at the machine. "I was also wondering if I'd be able to watch you next time you practiced. It'll help give me a better idea of how the wing works and so forth."
"Um…" My throat suddenly constricted. "I don't know Twi…"
"Oh… alright…" An oppressive silence filled the air. "Maybe next time you want to show us all a new move?"
"Oh! Sure, that's fine." My entire perked up at that opportunity of showing off. After all, practice was when I crashed and crashing was so not cool. Unless it was a totally radical flaming ball style crash, in which case it was.
"Twilight? Please don't ever use that word or any similar words in that context ever again." A shudder ran through my body. "It was like… like… I don't know, but it was bad alright? Just... don't. Never again. Please."
"But... that was the correct use of slang right? I've been studying up on it and from all my notes on the sub-"
My hoof somehow magically found its way into her mouth. "Twilight, there are just some things some ponies should never ever, ever say or do. Alright? This is one of those things. Trust me."
"Hey Twi! Dinner's ready," yelled Spike from the top of the stairs.
"Coming!" Twilight threw a smile over her shoulder at me. "Come on, you haven't had a proper spinach and ricotta cannelloni until you've tried Spike's. Trust me."
Trotting up the steps behind Twilight, she switched off the light and closed the door. Glancing out the window, I blinked in surprise for the sun was indeed setting which meant Applejack was probably wondering where I was right now.
"Actually Twilight, I think-" The scent of something divine reached my nose. "I think I'll stay for dinner, but is there some way for you to let Applejack know?"
A huge grin split her face. "I've got just the spell for that! I asked the Princess on how she sent messages to Spike and she replied with a length letter on the mechanics of..."
Twilight's voice trailed off as I focused on other things while nodding at the appropriate times – it was a survival instinct bred into me from being Pinkie's friend.
A brilliant flash of red light startling me. "And there! She should know now."
"That was so-"
"You weren't even paying attention," she accused with a chuckle. "Then again, if you had listened to the entire thing I'd be afraid you were some changling in disguise."
"Oh har, har, real amusing."
Plopping down on the seat, I wiped my mouth before any drool could escape. It wasn't my fault; the entire dish just looked so ridiculously delicious. Each one was perfectly cylindrical with the top perfectly golden brown with various herbs grated over the top and a bit of the tomato on the side to add more color. Opening my mouth, I went to shove my face into the plate only to pause and lean back. Applejack said something about proper etiquette or something once and this was Twilight I was dining with, maybe there was some weird Canterlot thing that they did?
"Is something wrong?" Spike looked up at me with a worried expression on his face. "I didn't forget anything did I? Where's that list..."
"Oh no, it's perfectly fine, it's just... um... well..." I rubbed the back of my neck sheepishly. "I wasn't sure if there was some sort of proper etiquette or something considering your from Canterlot and-"
"And all Canterlot ponies are snobs?" chuckled Spike before a look of horror crossed his face, "Please don't tell Rarity I said that!"
Rolling her eyes at Spike's antics, Twilight shoved a mouthful of food into her mouth, a look of bliss passing over her face as she chewed slowly. "Oh Celestia, Spike these are perfect. Best yet I think." The lavender pony turned her attention back to me. "And no, we don't observe any etiquette. If I have to observe etiquette one more time, I swear I'm going to use time travel spell Starswirl the Bearded created and murder the pony who started it all."
I blinked in surprise and wisely took a quick bite of the spinach and ricotta cannelloni. And then I slammed my face into the plate of food and gobbled it up in a matter of seconds. It was good. It was beyond good. My father would have praised it and that was saying a lot. It was… it was… oh Celestia, there just aren't any words to describe how deliciously, mouthwatering, scrumptious it was. There was just such a rich blend of herbs and it was cooked to perfection – most cooked it too dry because they were afraid of leaving it wet, but this. Was. Perfect. Maybe a bit on the moist side, but I could overlook that.
Looking up, I felt all the blood rush my cheeks as they gazed at me in a mixture of awe and fear. Hastily swallowing my current mouthful of food, I looked at them sheepishly, "Er… it's really, really, really good and I'm hungry?"
There was a moment of silence before Twilight burst out laughing. "Sorry, sorry," she chuckled while clutching her side, "it's just you looked so adorable just then."
"Adorable?" I cocked an eyebrow at her. "I do cool, radical and awesome. I do not do adorable."
"I made an observation and reported it," said Twilight with a grin as she ate a mouthful of food. "And eating that fast if bad for you."
With an eye roll, I strolled into the kitchen, got a second helping – actually make that a third helping before seating myself once more. Yet again, both of them stared at me and my plate of food.
"What is it this time?" I sighed.
"How much do you eat?" exclaimed Spike with his eyes glued to the mountain of food. "I made extra, but that's ridiculous!"
"And how do you manage to stay in shape?" asked Twilight before hastily adding, "I mean, scientifically you'd have to fly for at least three hours straight to work off the calories."
"That may be true for normal flying, but stunt flying takes a lot more energy and I do work as a weather pony you know." I took a huge mouthful just of emphasis. "Plus, it's not like I eat this much every day. I blame Spike, he made everything far too tasty to resist."
"Tell me about it." Twilight shot Spike a loving look. "But he is my number one assistant for a reason."
Resisting the urge to make a gagging sound, I shoved some more food into my mouth and chewed slowly so I could really savor the flavors. Once I was sure the sappiness was over, I turned to the purple dragon.
"How'd you cook this anyways? It's practically perfect."
"Spike," warned Twilight.
"Fine. Geez Twi, just messing around with her." Folding his arms, he leaned back in his chair. "I use dragonfire to cook everything that way I've got total control over it."
My plate suddenly found itself on the other side of room from me.
"It's perfectly hygienic," chuckled Twilight – I was seriously getting tired of that knowing chuckle. "I tested it myself so don't worry. The flames actually instantly vaporize all bacteria and when I compared it to cooking it traditionally, it actually had a lower general bacteria count, which was insane. Food and Safety disagree though, but what do they know?"
Laughing, I helped Spike pick up the plates and together we carried them into the kitchen. "Can you blame them? It's a dragon breathing fire on food. Magical fire might I add."
"It could revolutionize the cooking industry! Think about how efficient and effective it is, how much faster we could cook foods and how perfect everything could be cooked."
"Think about the training and how tiring it'd be," muttered Spike under his breath, but Twilight didn't seem to hear.
Originally, I had planned on helping out with the washing up, but between Twilight and Spike, they had their routine down pat. Twilight would create a shield around the sink then blast it with water from her horn, followed by Spike soaping everything and rinsing. Then once everything was washed, Twilight would levitate each dish letting him dry them with a quick burst of fire. Something that usually took a ridiculously long amount of time was finished within the minute. In fact, you could put a song to the entire thing and it'd just like a scene from a musical.
"Anyways, I should really be getting back to the farm," I eventually said.
"Yeah…" Opening the door with her magic, we stood on the edge, but unsure of what to say. "So… er… thanks for helping out today? I'll make the changes you suggested and perhaps you could stop by tomorrow for a second look?"
"Sure, sometime after lunch tomorrow?"
Twilight nodded and as I turned around, I felt a hoof on my shoulder. "Listen… Dash… Being famous isn't all it's cracked up to be. Trust me alright?" Before I could even begin thinking of a reply, the door shut in my face.
Well that was certainly weird, but it was probably some egghead thing. Maybe she read in some book about how fame and fortune can't buy happiness or something. Maybe there was some sort of scientific study on it done in the past? Surely not! But… these were eggheads and from what I know about eggheads, if it can be studied (and in some cases even if it can't) they will study it. With a shrug, I turned around and began the long trek back to Sweet Apple Acres.
"I still don't see why I have to help out with apple selling," I grumbled as I watched yet another pony walk past without buying anything. "It's just so boooooooooring."
"Well ya did have a choice. Apple bucking or selling apples with me," replied AJ with a shrug. Tilting her Stetson back, she sold yet another apple. "Ya're just complaining 'cause Ah'm winning our little bet. Ain't my fault ya suck at apple selling."
"Oh please, you see this?" I puffed out my chest and struck a dramatic pose. "This is what's keeping them away. I'm so awesome, I have this… this… aura of awesomeness that drives ponies away because they can't stand the sight of it for long otherwise they'd go blind. It's not my fault my awesomeness keeps them away. In fact, it's a handicap to keep things interesting."
"Of course RD, whatever ya say," replied the orange farmpony as she sold a dozen apples to Daisy. "How about ya turn that awesome back to a manageable level and help me sell some apples. Unless, of course, ya enjoy losing and the taste of dirt."
"Are you calling me a loser?" A glare was directed at the earthpony, but once again, Applejack was too busy collecting more sales to even care.
"Ah never said that, just said ya enjoyed losing." Yet more money collected.
My eyes narrowed. "Oh is that so? Well, be prepared to eat my dust. I'm going to-"
Dirt suddenly filled my mouth as I was violently thrown to the side. Acidic fumes filled my muzzle, causing me to cough and spit violently, making it impossible to climb back onto my hooves. Entire body hurting, I lay on the ground, waiting for the rumbling to stop even as rubble rained down around me. Was this an earthquake?
Through the dust, I could make out the faint shape of the apple farmer who was braced up against the stall. Though my ears still rang, I could make out the barest whisper of her yelling my name in reply. Struggling onto my hooves, I managed two clumsy steps before crashing back down onto my knees. A second later, I felt AJ's hoof wrap around my arm and with her help, I managed to get back onto my feet and away from any buildings that might collapse.
Then, just as suddenly as the tremors began, it ended. The dust settled out and debris stopped raining from the sky, but still that acidic aftertaste remained. And then I saw it. A plume of rainbow colored cloud hovering in the sky above where the library was. There was only one thing other than me that created such a cloud – a liquid rainbow explosion.
"Applejack!" I grabbed the farmer by her shoulders and forced her to look at me. "Evacuate everypony. Head west, out of the path of that rainbow smoke you hear?"
"RD what are ya-"
"No time! This is an order from Ponyville's Weather Manager. Got that? Evac immediately. It's a liquid rainbow explosion. Move it!" Spinning around in place, I quickly located a pegasus. "Ditzy! Get to the weather station by the council building. Find Raindrops, and tell her there's been a liquid rainbow explosion. Bring the hazmat gear and breathing masks asap! Dew Drops, gather up as many pegasi as possible and have them gather at the library; remember to come in from upwind. Fluttershy, help with the evac, I know you know the plans off by heart and AJ will need help. Go!"
Snatching the flight goggles out of the air, I gave Thunderlane a nod of appreciation before strapping it over my eyes. Without a second look, I took off. Scooping up piece of torn curtain, I dipped it in the fountain and quickly tied it over my nose and mouth. Without breaking pace, I ran straight into the rainbow plume and kept a close eye on the ground. Skipping over the occasionally piece of rubble, I easily cut through the toxic smog and slammed the library door open with my shoulder. Stepping in, visibility immediately reduced the point where I could barely see beyond my muzzle.
"Spike! Twilight!" I yelled, but my voice was quickly swallowed up. More importantly, the smoke filled up my mouth and I had to quickly cough and spit it out.
Considering it was almost lunch, I immediately turned right and stumbled over a fallen bookshelf. With a snarl of frustration, I pushed forward even as my eyes began to water from the smoke that had managed to get in. Stumbling into the kitchen, I quickly located the tap and quickly tore up the nearby curtain to get some extra pieces of wet cloth. Adding another layer to the one over my mouth, I began searching the kitchen. With any luck, both Spike and Twilight would have been sitting down for lunch.
How long had it been since the explosion? Was I fast enough? What if they weren't here? Five minutes. Five minutes until death.
With a firm shake of my head, I pushed forward. "Spike! Twilight!"
A groan answered me. Stumbling aimless in its general direction, I soon tripped over something scaly and purple. Grabbing one of the extra cloths, I wrapped it around Spike's mouth before making my way over to the broken window. With a silent apology, I tossed him out and hopped he didn't end up landing on something painful. If Twilight found out I had hurt Spike, well… it wouldn't be pretty.
Once more I wetted my cloth before returning to my search.
I turned to head to the side and came face to face with Thunderlane in full hazmat gear. "Get out of here, you've been exposed far too much already, we'll take care of the search from here."
"No! You won't do any good if you're poisoned. Get out of here and grab a hazmat suit if you really want to come back in, but get out!"
My eyes darted from Thunderlane to the basement door. I had no doubt Twilight had been down there at the time of the accident and considering the size of the explosion, time was of the essence. I was the fastest pony around and every second lost was a second ticking away from her life. There was no doubt in my mind that if I went down there right now, I could find her in ten seconds flat and get out again even faster.
"Check the basement!" I yelled. "I'll be back before you know it."
I suppose I could have used the front door, but the window was much closer. Diving through, I came out in a roll and before anypony could react to my dramatic appearance, I had already grabbed a suit and was in the process of putting it on. But the combination of adrenaline, fear, and acute rainbow poisoning made it near impossible. My mouth kept fumbling the zip and the constant shaking of my hooves made it difficult balance on my hind legs. The blurry vision didn't help things either, nor the constant coughing that doubled me over.
This could not be happening. Twilight was in there, in the basement, at the center of the explosion and I was the Element of Loyalty. This could not be happening. Come on! Biting my bottom lip until I drew blood, I forced myself to focus on the task before me, to tackle it with the same energy and dedication that I had when practicing my stunts.
But it wouldn't work.
No matter how hard I tried, my hooves would not stop shaking. My mouth would still be numb. My vision was still blurred and filled with tears.
"Why won't you just bucking work!" I screamed as tears leaked down my face.
"Dashie…" A gentle hoof found its way onto my shoulder, but I slapped it away.
Finally, my limbs collapsed and I fell to the ground in a heap of feathers and hair. I was the Element of Loyalty. I was meant to be there for her. But when she needed me the most, I would be at my weakest. For a brief second, I managed to get back onto my hooves, only to immediately collapse again. Spitting out the dirt that filled my mouth, I tried once more, but this time, I didn't even manage to budge a single inch. Though my mind screamed at my body to move, my body refused. It had taken more than enough punishment.
That's when I felt magic wrap around my body, lifting me up into the air and onto a stretcher. Eyes darting up, I could make up the blurred form of Nurse Redheart above me as she pushed me off towards a chariot. Wiggling for all I was worth, I tried to slip off and make my way back to Twilight, but I was too weak.
Some Element of Loyalty I was.
Hospitals. I really hate hospitals. Even Twilight going off on one of her technical rants was more interesting and more fun that being in a hospital. I mean, what was there to do? Nothing, that's what! Boring board games, sappy romance novels, limited visiting hours – it was like there was a rule against having fun or something! Bah, where was a good Daring Doo novel when you needed one?
Oh dear Celestia, I'm turning into an egghe- Twilight!
My eyes snapped open and I sat bolt upright in bed, or at least I tried to. I managed to lift my torso off the bed a bit before a wave of pain crashed down on top of me and I was forced to collapse back down. It felt as though I participated in the Running of the Leaves, followed by the Iron Pony competition, then performed a Sonic Rainboom before topping it off by flying in the Wonderbolts Darby. Being trampled in a buffalo stampede would have resulted in far less pain.
But I wasn't about to let that stop me. Taking a deep breath, I tried to sit up once more and after struggling against the pain for a minute or two, I finally managed to pull myself up. Peering around, I blinked against the bright light, but it was impossible to make out any details through my blurry vision. Glancing down though, I could just make out something that looked like tubes connecting me to some weird machine thing. While my first reaction was to pull the needles out, when I got close enough to get a decent look, I realized there was blood flowing from me to the machine and something told me that removing the needles would be a really bad idea. At the same time though, it was stopping me from moving around and I really needed to find somepony so I could ask if Twilight… if she had…
Twilight was alive. Every pegasus in Ponyville had been extensively drilled on what to do in an emergency – even those not on the weather team. With the Everfree Forest so close by, that had been a priority for every weather manager since forever. There was no doubt in my mind that Twilight had been saved and was now in the hospital somewhere. The only question was what her condition would be. Would Twilight be confined to a bed, but fine or would she be...
Tears threatened to spill over the edge of my cheek, but I blinked them away. Muscles giving out, I crashed onto the bed and for once, I was savored the pain for it distracted me from my thoughts.
I blinked and turned my head to the right, trying to locate the speaker. Eventually, I settled on looking at a tall white blob that could either be a pony or a machine. "Princess?" My mouth was suddenly dry as she approached. If Princess Celestia was here then it was definitely not good news.
"You are awake; your friends will be most pleased." Sitting down next to me, she placed a hoof over mine. "They have been worried about you. Both of you."
"How… how is she, Princess?"
"Twilight Sparkle will survive." My entire body sagged in relief at those words. "It'll take a long while for her to recover and she won't be allowed to use magic or be able to see for a while, but she'll be fine."
"I don't know Princess, not being able to read or do magic will probably drive her insane."
To my surprise, she laughed. Not one of those snotty fake laughs that Rarity uses sometimes to be polite, but a full-blown laugh.
"You're probably right, my little pony, but unfortunately she was exposed to the fumes longer than you were." Her gaze lingered lovingly on Twilight's form before turning back to me. "And you've forgotten one very important thing; she has her friends and you. That will be enough to see her through this hardship."
"I certainly hope so." Looking up, I fixed my gaze at Celestia. "Just how bad is she? And don't even think about lying."
There was a moment of silence as she looked at me hesitantly. For a brief second it looked as though she was about to refuse, but then she sighed sadly. "Permanent eye and nerve damage. Nothing too serious, she'll just need glasses and there'll be a loss of sensation in her extremities. The full extent won't be known until she's recovered further."
"Can't you, I don't know, do some magic thingie and heal her right up?"
For once, I didn't get a look that made me feel like an idiot. Instead, the Princess just smiled sadly. "Nerves are complicated things, as are eyes. I am afraid if we did try anything, it would end up doing more harm than good."
"Oh… Alright…" We both looked over at the sleeping unicorn – she just seemed so peaceful. "You sure she'll get her vision back right?"
"Yes, Rainbow Dash, I am sure she will get her vision back." I don't know why hearing her say those exact words was so important, but somehow, it was what I needed. "If you will excuse me, I am required back in Canterlot."
With a grace and dignity Rarity would have killed for, the white alicorn walked out the door, leaving me alone once more.
In the golden light of sunset, she looked so fragile. Like one of the artifacts Daring Doo often chases after in her adventures, almost as though the lightest jolt would shatter her completely. It didn't help that parts of her fur were still stained a variety of colors. Sure, it was faint, but to pegasus eyes, they might as well be as obvious as the night sky.
Maybe if I had been a bit faster then she wouldn't be so bad off. Or maybe, if I had just warned her and tried to talk her out of her experiments then this wouldn't have happened at all. Yeah right. There was no doubt in my mind that nothing I could have said would have persuaded her from her handling liquid rainbow and truth be told, she was cautious enough that I didn't think this would have happened at all. Heck, I handled it once or twice a month, and I was definitely not as obsessive as Twilight when it came to checklists and precautions. Heh, I'm surprised she hasn't bought out the entire Ponyville supply of paper and quills yet.
"H-Hello?" My eyes snapped across to Twilight, just in time to see her trying to sit up. "Anyone there?"
"Don't move!" At her pained expression, I winced at my own stupidity and began speaking in a softer voice, "Sorry… Look, do you remember what happened?"
"What… what happened?" For a couple seconds, a look of deep concentration was etched in her face then a look of pure panic overtook it. "Why- Why can't I see? Dash! Why can't I-"
"Calm down!" I didn't mean to yell, but I had to cut through that breakdown somehow. "Listen, you're going to be alright. Princess Celestia was here and told m-"
"She was here!?" Great, now the egghead was hyperventilating.
"She was concerned. You were caught in a pretty bad accident."
"Where's Spike!" To my surprise, she actually managed to sit up for a split second before collapsing back down. "Is Spike alright?"
"He's fine," I replied automatically. It wasn't technically a lie, I don't think, but even if he wasn't fine, I still would have lied. There was no way I was going to make her worry even more if I could help it. Plus, he was probably better off than we were. "We were the worst injuries that I know of considering we were in the rainbow smog for so long."
"Rainbow smog?" A frown creased her brow. "The rainbow liquid exploded!? That's impossible; you saw how safe I was with that stuff."
"Yeah well, something happened." Wincing at the harshness of my words, a sigh escaped. "Sorry. You just need to calm down."
"Here are the fact, you like facts right?" At her nod, I continued, "Princess Celestia was here, and according to her, you were here in there long enough to take some nerve damage. Your eyesight will return, though you'll need glasses."
"So I'm not… I will- I'll be able to…"
"See." The way a grin spread across her face was adorable. "Yes, Twilight, you'll be able to see."
The squeal that came from her lips would have put the combined might of Rarity and Pinkie Pie to shame.
"In the meantime," I commented, "I'll be your personal book reader."
There was a pause before she burst out laughing. "You know, when I said that, it was meant to be a joke right? Your constant reading out loud in the library was..."
"What!? Take that back right now, or no more books for you. I'm Rainbow Dash. THE Rainbow Dash. The Dash is not adorable; The Dash is twenty percent cooler than every other creature alive."
Even though she had bandages over her eyes, I could just feel a flat, yet somehow amused, look being directed at me.
" 'The Dash'? Really? You do realize that just makes you even more adorable, right?"
"You- I- Tha- Gah!" I slammed the pillow over my head so that I wouldn't have to hear her stupid laughter.
Evil. That's what my friends are. Pure evil. If it wasn't Applejack mocking my reading habits, then it was Rarity saying I could be beautiful. Now? Now I could add Twilight to that list. Stupid evil Twilight.
"Hey, Twi, you awake?"
"Yes. Can't sleep either?"
"Too much sugar."
"You didn't have to eat it all you know."
"But Pinkie went to all the trouble of sneaking it in! Leaving it behind would have been evidence. Evidence Twilight! You wouldn't want your dear friend Pinkie to be banished, would you? Or thrown in a dungeon. Or banished then thrown in a dungeon in the place she was banished to!?"
"Real funny." Despite it being pitch black, I could just tell she was smiling. "That got old after the third time. So what did you want to talk about?"
For the briefest of moments, I hesitated before saying, "What did you mean the other night? The whole 'Being famous isn't all it's cracked up to be' thing?"
"Oh, you know, just something I read in a book once," she replied with a slight edge in her voice.
"Really? Then what about the 'Trust me' bit? That's generally when somepony actually has experience, isn't it?" I could taste the tension in the room. "Just come clean, what in the name of Tartarus, did you mean by that?"
A sigh reached my ears. "In case you've forgotten, I am Princess Celestia's personal protégé, which means I am famous. It wasn't... it was fun growing up in Canterlot. Even now, if it wasn't because Princess Celestia had to stay there and my family's there, I probably wouldn't go back unless forced."
"Why? You're famous. You can do whatever you want and ponies look up to you."
"Ha! Who wants to be an egghead when they're older?" The bitterness in her voice shocked me to my core. For as long as I had known her, she had always been happy and proud of being an egghead. "Being famous just means having everypony judge your every move. Every breath you take is measured and weighed, and no matter what happens, you'll always be found lacking. If you get perfect marks in a test, it's because the test was too easy or that it was expected and so next time, they give you a harder one. Still getting full marks? Harder one yet again. Again and again, they do it until you fail and they point and laugh and say, 'How could a foal like her not get this? She must be good enough to be Princess Celestia's protégé then!' Sometimes, I wish I was never her student to begin with."
"Twilight..." Just hearing her on the edge of tears broke my heart.
Without a second thought, I ripped the needles free from my arm and rolled out of bed. Behind me, the machine began beeping in warning so I gave it an accidental nudge to shut it up. Slowly, I stood up on shaky legs and with nothing, but pure determination, I took a step. Then a second. Then a third. I collapsed and tripped and fell to my knees, but I didn't give up and eventually, I found myself next to Twilight's bed. In the moonlight, she looked so sickly and pale. The bandages around her eyes were drenched with tears and the pillow she was using to muffle her cries weren't doing much better.
A light touch on her shoulder and she immediately tensed up, her body trembling under my hoof. Gently, so that I wouldn't startle her, I half collapsed onto her bed as I hugged her fiercely. For once, I didn't care about showing any weak emotions. I hugged her for all I was worth, trying to communicate to her what I'd never be able to say out loud. At first, she was hesitant. Her hoof found my body, brushing alongside it, almost as though she was afraid anything more would shatter me. Then, once she was certain I was in fact hugging out so fiercely, it was as though a dam broke. She hugged back with every fiber of her being, tears leaking freely as she sobbed and ranted and yelled at what being famous had done to her.
And I let her. I held her close, brushing her mane gently and whispering tender words in her ear as she finally got it all off her chest.
The truth was though; I knew exactly what she had been through. After all, I had performed the Sonic Rainboom as a filly and I was the fastest flyer in Equestria. My coaches had seen my potential as had various scouts and they all pushed me harder and harder. If I achieved, the task was too simple. If I failed, I hadn't practiced enough. I suppose, doing the Sonic Rainboom when I was so small had been a blessing after all. The mere fact I couldn't recreate it meant I was suddenly labeled a loser. One second a hero, the next a zero.
I understand Twilight. I understand more than you realize.
"So it was tough on you as well then... I never knew." I looked down in surprise and she simply smiled up at me. "Turns out you think out loud as well."
"It's fine Dash, I won't tell anyone." Her hoof reached out shakily and I immediately caught it in mine. "So why do you still want to be a Wonderbolt then?"
"Because..." I licked my dry lips. "Because they inspire ponies. When I looked at them as a filly, I wanted to be just as good as them- No, I wanted to be better. They inspired me to do the best I could and I want to pass that on. And you're wrong you know, you do inspire ponies. Ditzy constantly tells me how Dinky wants to be just like you when she's older and how she wants to study under you."
"Yes, you silly egghead, really." With a tender hoof, I brushed her tears away. "I'm sure Cheerilee could point out a couple hundred ponies who look up to you."
Her tear stained smile sent warmth through my entire body.
"Being famous probably does suck, but, to me, it's totally worth it. If I can touch even just one pony out there, it will have been worth it. That's why I work my flank off trying to get into Wonderbolts."
"You really are a softie under all that, aren't you?"
"H-Hey!" A blush crept along my cheek. "I am not!"
"Don't worry; your secret is safe with me."
Silence descended. Ever so slowly, her breathing slowed down until it was a mere pulse and I carefully untangled myself from her hooves, only for her to stir.
"Don't leave..." For a pony who had been exposed to so much toxic fumes, her grip was surprisingly strong. "Please... Stay with me..."
"Alright Twi," I replied while climbing into her bed. It was just large enough to contain the two of us and to my surprise; she immediately snuggled into my body and fell asleep. With my eyes drifting close of their own according, I was soon lulled to sleep by her heartbeat.
"...ook so cute together? Out of all the ponies to fall for, I was not expecting at all."
"I don't know sugarcube, Ah'm certain there's a logical explanation for all this."
"I highly doubt that my dear. Just look at them!"
"Now, now Rare, we all remember wha' happened last time ya jumped to conclu..."
"...calls for? A PA-"
"Not so loud, you might wake them up! Um... that is... if that's alright with you... They just look so adorable together don't they? It'd be such a shame to wake them up."
"But we can have a party right? RIGHT?"
"Shhhhhhh! Yes, we will have a party once they come out, but..."
"Oh... oh my... "
"Pinkie, stop giggling and put that camera away! This is not time for-"
"Five more minutes," I mumbled snuggled into the pillow in my forelimbs. "Five more minutes..."
Oh, buck. No. Just...Just no. I'm just sleepy and that's why I don't remember returning to my bed last night and my hooves are currently wrapped around a pillow. Or a stuffed animal. As long as it was a certain lavender mare, I didn't care what it was. It could be a cute, cuddly, adorable kitten that'll forever ruin my image, but it was most certainly not snuggling with Twilight 'Egghead' Sparkle.
I slowly opened an eye and all I could see was a sea of purple fur.
Oh, buck me.
Just as slowly, I opened my other eye and there stood the rest of our small group. Some had a smirk on their face (AJ), others looked like they were overdosing on cuteness (Rarity and Fluttershy), and a couple looked as though the excitement was going to make them explode (Pinkie and Rarity). I opened my mouth to say something, only to immediately shut it again. Rarity had that look in her eyes, and trust me, when she got that look, to speak was to make matters worse. A lot worse.
So, I simply closed my eyes again as though nothing weird was going on and said out loud, "You know, it's polite to knock before coming in."
At that exact moment, Twilight stirred.
"Dash?" Her voice was so weak and muted. "Thank you for last night, it really helped."
"No problem Twi." I nuzzled her and ignored the others. "That's what friends are for. Also, the others are here."
Her body immediately tensed in my arms and the most brilliant blush spread across her cheeks. "Oh... um... Hi girls... This-This isn't what it looks like."
"Really, darling?" If Rarity grinned any wider, Pinkie would start having competition. "Because it looks as like you and Rainbow Dash are currently snuggling in bed after a night of teary eyed confessions and tender moments where the two you of explored a deep philosophical and emotional concepts. Where you tenderly opened your hearts to one another in a night of p-"
"Enough of that sugarcube," said Applejack. "Can't ya tell ya're embarrassin' the poor gal? Give her a chance to explain herself before jumping to such lovey-dovey conclusions."
"So are you two... that is... um... are you..." Fluttershy squeaked and hid behind her mane, whatever she was going to say too silent to make out, but we heard enough to know where it was going.
"No, we are not dating," I said with a roll of my eyes. "Egghead here just had a bad night and needed the awesomest pony around to keep her company."
All eyes turned to Twilight, as though my word wasn't good enough for them. Come on! I may not be the Element of Honesty, but that didn't mean I lied or anything. I just... er... fudged the truth slightly? Yeah, that was it!
"So, what are all of you up to?" asked Twilight, completely ignoring the looks sh- Oh, right, she was blind. "How's Spike doing?"
"Spike's been an absolute dear to have around," explained Rarity. "Why didn't you ever tell me he was such a smart wittle dragon? He's been tutoring Sweetie Belle and keeping an eye on the Crusaders. He's such a sweet dragon."
"And... and the library?" asked Twilight, causing us all to freeze.
"Well... um... ya see sugarcube..." AJ rubbed the back of her neck nervously.
A look of pure horror was plastered all over Twilight's face. "But... all those books..." If anything, she looked paler than before. "I think I need some time alone."
"Don't worry Twilight! We'll throw you the biggest, bestest part ever. Princess Celestia herself if chipping in some money and it'll be the awesomest library in the whole wide world. Just you see." Though her voice was as bubbly as ever, it was obvious Pinkie was concerned about something. That single thought terrified me more than anything in my life.
I opened my mouth to ask, but Applejack must have caught onto what I was thinking and she simply shook her head. A pool of ice immediately formed in my stomach. Whatever it was, it was bad.
"Just... please, give me some time alone," whispered Twilight.
Typical egghead, acting as though somepony had died when it was just some books that had gone up in smoke. With an eye roll and shake of my head, I gave a small apologetic smile to the others. They simply nodded and left with soft farewells, wishing us a speedy recovery.
It was only when I went to get out of bed that I realized a nurse had somehow managed to plug me back in while I was asleep and that Twilight was still in my arms. Cheeks completely red, I went to withdraw my forelimbs only for the purple mare to press my hooves against her chest.
"Don't leave. Please. I need... I need to know that somepony's there." She tilted her head up, looking slightly off to the right of my face, but close enough that I knew she wanted to look at me. "I just... I just need to know that I'm not alone. Please."
"It's fine Twi, I won't leave."
"Th-Thank you." She gave me a sheepish smile. "You must think I'm such a whimp and really uncool."
"Nah, it's-" I looked down at the troubled expression on her face and hesitated. Should I pry? There was obviously something she wasn't telling me, but...
"Twi, is something the matter?"
"I don't want to be alone." She spoke so softly, I could barely hear it over the gentle beeping of the machines and the rustling leaves outside. "I've been alone my whole life – partially out of my own choice and partially out of necessity. Being famous is more than just being scrutinized, it means every pony wants you for what you are, not who you are. They wanted to be friends with me so that they could get closer to Princess Celestia, or they were pressured into it by their parents. Colts asked me out on dates just to say they dated the Princesses Protégé or to get some favor or something. I just... I just gave up after a while. It didn't matter though, for as long as I had my books to read, I didn't ever need other ponies to make my life complete."
"Or so I thought. But I had to meet you. All of you." The bitterness in her voice was like venom. "If I hadn't I would never have tasted the sweet ambrosia of friendship and I'd be blissfully unaware of what I was missing out on. I'd be happy in my ignorance, but nooooooo, I just had to meet you. Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid! And now? Now I'm a wreck. Everyday I'm afraid of doing something stupid, saying something stupid, and then you'd all leave me, and I'd be alone. Totally alone. I don't want to be alone. Not anymore. Not again."
I hugged her fiercely as tears rolled down her cheek. Dear Celestia I suck. Twice now. Twice I've reduced her to tears. Award for worst friend of the year goes to me, I suppose.
"For such an egghead, you're really silly." I ruffled her mane playfully. "We're your friends; we'd never leave you, no matter what. You'll never be alone, as long as I'm here; you'll never, ever be alone again. Pinkie Promise."
"Thanks Dash, sorry for being such a mess."
"Hey, don't apologize. Never apologize for something like this."
"Egghead, shut up."
"Shut. Up." I pulled her closer to me. "I don't get sappy often so just shut up and stop over thinking everything. Just go with the flow for once. Okay?"
"Good." With the blanket in hoof, I wrapped it nice and tightly around us. "Now go back to sleep Twi."
"But I'm not-" Yawn. "-sleepy."
"Sure you aren't. Come on sleepy head, just take a nap. I'll wake you up if anypony visits, alright?"
"Alright," she mumbled as her body relaxed in my grip. "Night..."
"Night," I replied as she drifted off to sleep. To think such a smart pony could be so stupid sometimes. As if we'd ever ditch her. Just because the others weren't the Element of Loyalty didn't mean they'd run off randomly. Then again, I suppose I really shouldn't be so surprised considering what Discord did to her. If that monster shows his face ever again, I'm going to buck the living daylights out of him. Now that I could do the Sonic Rainboom at will, I'd like to see him survive getting hit by a dozen in a split second. That'll teach him to mess wi-
The Sonic Rainboom. The Wonderbolt's tryout.
What was I going to do? I was screwed beyond belief. Sure, my original injury would have kept me out for a couple of days, but nothing that couldn't be fixed by cashing in a couple days off work, but now? Now I was totally, completely, and utterly screwed. Even the most mild cases of rainbow poisoning resulted in a week in bed and there was no recovering from that let alone the amount of rainbow fumes I had inhaled. My one chance, my sole dream was being dashed right before my eyes and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. It was one thing to be out competed, but not even being able to compete at all or at max ability? That was like being thrown out all over again.
It wasn't until I heard a faint pitter-patter that I realized tears were leaking down my cheek.
What the buck was wrong with me? First, it was the sappiness and now it was the water works. Ugh. Sometimes I disgust myself.
With a dejected sigh, I wrapped my limbs Twilight even tighter. Just the fact that there was somepony there reminded me I wasn't alone and that I'd never be alone. As long as I had friends, they'd be there for me. They'd stay loyal. They'd never ditch me. Sure, they weren't the Bearer of Loyalty, but they didn't need to be. Right?
In the end, they'd always be there for me. No matter what happens, they'll be there for me. Unlike those good for nothing je-
"We are not interrupting anything we hope?"
"Princess Luna! O-Of course not." I cleared my throat and nudged Twilight gently. "Come on Twi, wakey-wakey, Princess Luna is here to see us."
"Please, do not wake her up on our account. Truth be told, we had hoped to speak with tho- you privately." Instead of sitting down on the wooden seat like I expected, she waved her horn and a couch came into existence. "We hath spoken to our dear sister and she hat- has agreed that it would be in your best interest to not compete in the Wonderbolt's tryout next week-"
"Don't remind me," I muttered under my breath.
"-So Celly has decided to give you an extra two weeks once you've recovered fully to have a private audition. There will not be any crowds, but it will mean you still have a chance."
"Yes!" I pumped my hoof into the air and immediately regretted it as a flash of pain reminded me of my condition. "So. Awesome!"
"That was Celly's offer, but we have a different offer." My ears perked up as magenta eyes met cyan ones. "We wish to see what the fastest flyer in Equestria can do. We wish to see something greater than the Sonic Rainboom. We wish to see your true potential."
"Greater than a Sonic Rainboom? Yeah, right."
"The magic barrier," replied Luna with a smile. "Ask Twilight Sparkle about it. We are sure Celestia's most faithful student will be knowledgeable in this area."
"O...kay...?" At my reply, she merely gave me a mysterious smile.
"We wish we could stay longer, but we still have duties to attend to." She took a single step back and her body began fading out of sight. "Before we leave though, we believe it is fair to warn you that Spitfire is close to achieving her goals. May lightning illuminate your path."
"And the wind carry your wings," I said, finishing off the old pegasus saying.
With one final smile, she vanished from sight.