"The magic barrier? You're positive she said that?" I couldn't help, but chuckle as Twilight stopped giving me the silent treatment and went off into full nerd mode. "Breaking the magic barrier... What's your max wing power?"
"Your max wing power!" she snapped. "And where's a pencil and some paper. Damn it! This is no time to be blind. Maybe if I use my magic I cou-"
"No. No magic. You heard what the nurses said. I'll write and you can speak."
"That'd take too long; I'll just have to do everything in my head." Wait, do everything in her head? Physics wasn't something you could just do in your head! "-ur wing power? Helloooooo, Equestria to Dash, max wing power?"
"Huh? Oh, right! Well last I measured it was about twenty-one or so."
"Okay, twenty-one wing power, that means tha- Wait, twenty-one? Are you certain?"
"Er... yeah...?" If it wasn't because I was still plugged into some machine, I would have been edging back. "Why?"
"That's an improvement of four point five wing power over a relatively short period. By all accounts such improvements should be near impossible."
Was I sitting straighter? Was my chest puffing out? Maybe... maybe...
"Well it's not my fault your fancy-smancy scientists have never studied The Dash before. I live to break the rules." Though she couldn't see me, Twilight still managed to smack me on the back of the head. "Come on Twi, give me this. My ego needs a good stroking once in awhile."
"Fine." Her head tilted to the side and her tongue stuck out slightly as she did whatever calculations she needed to do in her head. It was probably one of the most adorable things I had ever seen in my life and trust me, being best friends with Fluttershy meant I got to see a lot of adorableness.
"How much do you weight?" she suddenly asked.
"Um... Eighty or so?" Good thing Rarity wasn't around, otherwise she'd make a big deal out of asking.
She muttered something about inaccuracy and whole bunch of other sciency mumbo-jumbo before returning to her thinking pose. After nearly a minute of silence, she turned to face me with a frown on her face.
"If my calculations are correct, and they are very likely wrong due to the lack of paper, I think it's possible. Barely. It'll be very, very close and at those speeds, it'll be extremely dangerous, and that's not even taking the potential fallout into considering. I mean, breaking the magic barrier! It's been theorized, but nopony has ever managed to come up with a way of achieving it." All of sudden, she burst out laughing. "To think a pegasus would be the one to first attempt it!"
And then I burst out laughing as well.
"Well it does have to do with speed and as everypony knows, speed belongs to the pegasuses an-"
"Whatever. As I was saying, if it has to do with speed then you're looking at the mare for the job. Ain't no other being faster than me!"
"So... er..." I rubbed the back of my neck. "Do I just go as fast as possible?"
"The simple answer is 'yes', but nothing in life is ever that simple. In order for you to break the barrier, you need to have ideal conditions and even then, it's highly improbable. It has to be perfect freefall conditions, optimized wing strokes, and probably clothing along the same lines as those worn by the Wonderbolts in order to reduce drag."
"So I go straight down and flap as hard as possible. No probs." I leaned back in bed and crossed my arms. "I have this in the bag."
"No, you do not have this 'in the bag' as you so aptly put it." She jabbed her hoof out at me and though her pointing was a meter off, I somehow felt correcting her would be a very big mistake. "If you flap your wings you'll disrupt the laminar flow over your body which will cause turbulence which will decrease your overall speed. You have to flap your wings in such a way as to maximize the trust to drag ratio and I'm not even certain if that's possible!"
"So... that means...?"
With a sigh, she rubbed her temples. "If you are in freefall conditions, have optimized streamline position and clothing, then each flap – yes, that is the technical term – each flap will have to have the net effect – as in thrust minus drag – though it's much more complex than that, let me assure you! Where was I? Ah yes, each flap must have the net speed output that's equivalent to a pegasus with ten wing power!"
"So I need to get high up in the air, get Rarity to make me something similar to the Wonderbolt's outfit and flap, yet not flap?"
Her eye was twitching. Dear Celestia, her eye was twitching! Okay, stay calm. Just... just stay calm. Don't make any sudden moves, don't startle her in any way, and for the love of the sun, do NOT say a single thing. Just stay calm and I will survive this. Remember the compulsory drills every pony had to go through after the Smarty Pants incident and everything will be fine.
Crap. I slept through those drills.
I am so dead.
"You didn't understand a single word I said, did you?"
Don't talk. I remember that rule. But she asked me a question, what in the name of Celestia's perfect flank was I supposed to do!?
Great. Just great. Good job there! I can see it now; tomorrow's headline will be some witty, alliterative title revolving around Ponyville no longer existing!
"Let me simplify it for you then." I wasn't sure what her more, her overly complex explanation from before, or the spite in her voice. "It. Is. Impossible."
"But before you said tha-" I clamped my hooves over my muzzle, but the damage was already done. Goodbye cruel world, I'll see you in the next life.
"That it was possible? Based off of really rough and inaccurate calculations where I used half your wing power to calculate the net thrust you'd be able to generate, but the more I think about it, the more impossible it sounds. I suggest you just forget the entire thing because it can't be done."
"Come on Twi, I need this." Me and my big mouth. "Please."
A single sigh. That's all it took. A single sigh from the purple mare and her entire body seemed to droop.
"Why? Afraid some other pony will do a Sonic Rainboom and you'll be forgotten? Welcome to being famous. Everything is defined by what you do and eventually, some other pony will come along and do something better and given enough time, your name will fade into obscurity. There will always be another pony who will achieve what you have or do some greater feat. You can't keep pushing yourself in the hopes of doing something no pony will ever do again."
"But I can damn well try," I snapped. "Aim for the stars and if you fall short, you'll at least land on the moon. My mother used to tell me that."
"And if you die trying?"
"Then it'll be the awesomest death Equestria has ever seen!" As soon as those words left my mouth, I knew it was the wrong thing to say. Didn't she tell me two days ago that she was afraid of being alone? With a sigh, I wrapped my legs around her. "Sorry... if I died then I'd leave you all hanging and you all know I'd never do that."
Her sad expression didn't change.
"Twi, listen, if it's too dangerous I promise not to try alright? But I have to try. Yeah, somepony will come along and try to do what I've done, but I want it to last. I want my achievement to still be mine until it's turned into a myth. I want something permanent, something for everypony to remember me by. Something that only an elite few will be able to pull off. Don't you ever want that? Something that you'll leave behind, that everypony will remember you for."
"Yeah... yeah I have. I want a Royal Library Wing named after me and to develop some new branch of magic or some theory that will revolutionize the way we think about magic forever. But that's different! That's not dangerous!"
"And yet here we are. Admit it; your experiments are just as dangerous as my stunts." I blinked in surprise. Did that mean she was as cool as me? Nah. Almost as cool, but I was definitely in a whole other league.
"I... I suppose so..."
"Sweet! Now, to just figure out how everything will work over the next couple days." The way she looked at me made me feel like an idiot. It was as though I was back in flight school and got (yet another) D minus on my assignment.
"You can't just 'figure it out'! You need to calculate everything and make sure it all works first."
"Maybe for your usual egghead studies, but this is flying. You just go out there and wing it."
"Is that what you do? No wonder you get injured so often! You never just wing it. You're meant to calculate out the forces involved first to see if it's doable and to see how much injury you'd sustain if something goes wrong. Did you fail flight school or something!? It's the very first Celestia be damned rule they teach! It's the same bucking thing they teach in theoretical magic classes!"
I was glad she was blind. Even in my mind that sounded cruel, but I was glad. Thankful even. It meant she wouldn't be able to see the tears leaking down my cheek. It meant she wouldn't be able to see how much of a failure I was. It meant she wouldn't realize how much her words had hurt me. For all her smarts, Twilight was a fragile thing and very, very bad at being social. A good friend, but very socially awkward. And hey, I was the Element of Loyalty and used to hiding my troubles. So, I merely locked those tears away and pretended nothing had gone wrong. That her words weren't true, that I wasn't stupid and that hearing them didn't feel like crashing at subsonic speeds.
"You know what?" she continued, as though nothing was the matter. "I'm going to help you. I'm going to make sure you don't kill yourself. You've got a couple more days, right? Right. That gives me enough time to get some proper calculations done. And don't think I'm not mad at you. Luna visited and you didn't wake me up!"
And with those parting words, she rolled over and returned to giving me the silent treatment. Mares – can't live with them, can't live without them.
It wasn't until Twilight spent hours reteaching me everything I had forgotten that I remembered why I failed Flight School so badly. Theory was so damn boring. I mean, yaaaaaaaaaawn, gimme a nap any day. Sadly for me (and unfortunately for Twilight), we were stuck with each other, which meant we had nothing better to do. Sure, I read her extracts from various books all the time, but every single time we did so, she ended up correcting my pronunciation and explaining stuff to me, that it'd take an hour to get through a single page. I told her not to bother with the explanations, but did she listen? Of course not. Stupid egghead.
Truth be told, I wasn't certain who was more annoyed when it came to teaching me the specifics of what I needed to do. Twilight seemed convinced that I needed to know the physics in order to pull it off, but as far as I was concerned, just point me in the right direction, and give it to me in simple terms and that was that. I suppose I only let her teach me because it'd keep her mind off what had happened. It didn't take a genius to know that she must be kicking herself constantly over the accident and... well... just because I wasn't Fluttershy didn't mean I wouldn't help. I just did things my own way and I think Twilight understood that. She was apologizing the only way she knew how and I was accepting it while letting her know I didn't hate her. It must have seen weird to the nurses and doctors, heck, even to our friends! But Twilight was a complicated unicorn and I was not into the sappy stuff so hey, it worked out for both us.
Of course, all the theory was estimates – something Twilight had drilled into my poor brain – and though I still doubted how much it'd help (every time I said this though, she was quick to remind me to her placing in Running of the Leaves the first time she participated), her maths taught me one important thing. The mere fact I was still alive is amazing. By all accounts, I should have died in over a dozen different gruesome ways, and yet here I was. I said it was skill, but she merely believed it was luck. Another dispute between two good friends.
And now? Now, it was the moment of truth. Freedom! Blessed, blessed, freedom. The best part was, Twilight was right before me in a wheelchair.
"Do you smell that Twi?" I took a deep breath and shuddered at the sweet scent. "That's freedom. Not chained down by anything, with the sky and our creativity as the limits, we can do anything."
"Smells like the chilly night air if you ask me." Nonetheless, a smile danced on her lips as she gazed up at the night sky. "I've missed being able to see."
"Only in dim lighting remember, and no more than three hours each day."
"You actually listened?" She received a mock glare for that comment. "And I'll keep that promise if you remember to not use your wings at all."
"Yeah, yeah, I know."
"Fiiiiiine," I huffed. "What are you? My-"
"Dashie!" Face meet ground. Ground meet face. "You're okay! Twilight!" The pressure suddenly left my back.
"Calm down Pinkie, ya heard the doc, no rough housing for a while." A pair of hooves wrapped around my shoulder and dragged me back onto my feet. "Sorry about that sugarcube. Ya know how Pinkie can be, and this is after she's Pinkie Promised to only let ten percent of her excitement out."
"This... is ten percent?" I could only watch on in horror as it took the combined whining of Rarity and cuteness of Fluttershy to finally free Twilight from the grasps of the pink menace. It was official, Pinkie Pie scares me more than Nightmare Moon or Discord, or if the two somehow combined together.
"She was really down while ya two were in hospital. The Cake's had ta ban her from the bakery because everythin' she made turned out bitter." To my surprise, AJ threw her hooves around my neck. "It's good ta have ya back, ya mangy pegasus."
"It's good to be back." With an arm around AJ, I hobbled my way over to others. "No 'hello' for the awesomest pegasus ever?"
"Dash!" Hello, Fluttershy! I looked down at the yellow pegasus in shock. "We were so worried over you. Both of you. Don't you ever dare scare us like that again."
Twilight and I exchanged a look, but in the end, it was Twi who spoke up. "Alright, what's going on? We were told we were fine and everything."
"Well... the truth is... Oh dear, how ever shall I explain this to you dears...?"
"We lied to ya."
"Applejack! Really, you cannot just come out and say such things. Situations like these need to be handled delicately." With a toss of her mane, Rarity set her eyes on that. "Please excuse my brutish compatriot-"
"-but she has absolutely no sense of manners at all. The thing is, we did not wish to unnecessarily stress you with possibilities that were simply too minor to be of any real consequences. The doctors, in their ever-cautious nature, told us to refrain from celebrating too earlier as there may have been complications with your recovery. Complications that – thanks to modern technology – have shown to be nonexistent. Infac-"
"Get to the point," snapped Twilight.
"They were afraid of the unrefined liquid entering your bloodstream and permanent nerve damage," said Fluttershy. "Like... um... unable to cast magic or fly... They had to keep you under scrutiny to make sure it wasn't the effect of inhaling the fumes."
"Oh... oh wow... so you mean..." I looked over at Twilight, who wore the same shocked expression as me. We would have lost the one thing that was most important to us? The one thing that defined who we were as ponies? No wonder they hid it from us.
"What about Spike? You haven't been hiding his condition from me have you?" said Twilight.
"Oh, no, of course not darling," replied Rarity. "Apparently dragon's have a natural immunity to most toxins. He was sick for a couple of days, but nothing beyond a bad cold. He's been such a gentledrake as well, constantly offering to help out despite being so sick and helping Sweetie Belle with her homework. You really should send him to school you know."
"Spike's almost as old as us and he's smarter than ponies his age and he was homeschooled by both Princess Celestia and I," replied Twilight with a frown. "Sending him to school would just probably get him bullied. I'd rather wait another year or two before sending him to college."
Rarity and Applejack exchanged a concerned look, but neither of them said anything.
"Regardless, let us take things one step at a ti-"
"But where's the fun in that!?"
"-me." Rarity glared at the number one prankster in all of Ponyville. "As I was saying, we still need to figure where each of you will be staying."
"Surely the explosion didn't cause that much damage to the building's structural integrity. I know for a fact that a liquid rainbow explosion puts out very little energy and I did install extra support and shielding structures my laboratory a week in advance just in case of an emergency." Twilight's head tilted to the side. "Probably should have installed a better ventilation system so that I didn't have to rely on old system now that I think about it."
"The library's just fine sugarcube, but we just meant that ya need someone to take care of ya is all an' it's not like RD can fly to her cloud home either," explained the orange earthpony. "We're all willing to house ya till ya're all better."
"Just wait a second!" I'd like to think I was beside Twilight in the blink of an eye, but truth was, I hobbled over like an old pony and then leaned heavily against her wheelchair. "We'll stay in the library thank you very much. Between me and Spike, I'm sure we'll be able to take care of egghead here."
There was a pause before Rarity burst out laughing like Pinkie. She even wound up on the ground, clutching her stomach and hooves kicking in the air. All the while, we gazed at her as though she was insane and as far as I was concerned, she needed to be put into a mental institute pronto.
"Is this what it's like to be normal?" asked Pinkie.
"Sure is sugarcube."
After a minute of waiting, Rarity finally got her emotions under control. "I'm- I'm sorry, it's just-" A wave of giggles escaped. "If you've heard the horror stories Spike tells you would not have said that so liberally."
"I am not the stuff of horror stories!"
"Really dear? Need I mention a certain incident that occurred when you were thirteen years old and studying for your exams?"
Okay, I seriously need to ask Spike what happened. Generally mentioning the Smarty Pants Incident would reduce Twilight to gibberish as she tried to explain why it wasn't valid argument while trying to speak through her embarrassment. This though... Whatever had happened, it was enough to reduce Twilight to opening and closing her mouth without a single sound passing through.
"Oh dear, Rarity, did you have to say that?" Fluttershy shook Twilight lightly. "I think you sent her into shock. Not that you knew that's what would happen and did it on purpose or anything, but... Please don't do it again? Please?"
"O-Of course darling." Rarity backed up with a nervous chuckle, trying her hardest to not look Fluttershy in the eyes.
"Can we get a move on?" With hooves on the wheelchair handles, it was easy to lean on it without look like I was about to collapse, but I wasn't sure how long I'd be able to keep it up. "I'd like to get into a warm bed, some food that actually tastes good as well as a nice long, hot shower."
"Dreadfully sorry, Rainbow Dash. Come on girls, let's get them home." Taking the lead, Rarity lead the way with the rest of us plodding along.
"You alright?" Fluttershy asked as she dropped back to walk next to me. Almost immediately, I let my body relax and began leaning against my fillyhood friend. She didn't say a word or bat an eyelid. All she did was adjust her body position slightly to better prop me up and slowed down ever so slightly to match her pace with mine. Between her and the wheelchair, I managed to stay on my hooves for the entire journey.
"RD, ya sure ya can take care of Twi?" asked AJ with a frown. "Ya look dead on your hooves."
"I'm fine!" I was immediately on all four hooves and strutting around the library as though I owned the place. "See? Now Twilight here needs her sleep so out. All of you, out!"
Though they gave me a lingering look of doubt (except Pinkie of course), they left and I slammed the door shut behind them. Or rather, I would have slammed the door shut if I had any energy left. Instead, it shut gently and I began making the slow, painful journey up the torturous device known as stairs. Pegasus homes was where it was at – a nice warm updraft and all I had to do was open my wings and get lifted up – none of this silly stairs thing. With leaden legs that managed to tremble uncontrollably, I finally managed to reach the top of the stairs before they decided to rebel and collapse on me.
"You alright down there?" A pair of concerned eyes looked down at me.
"Just peachy." Struggling onto my hooves, I managed to stand for a split second before having a nice face-to-face greeting with the floor yet again."Totally meant to do that."
"Of course you did."
"Sarcasm is the lowest form of humor, you know that right?"
"Let me guess, that saying was in one of the Daring Doo books, wasn't it?"
"So what if it was?"
"You do realize other books exist, right?"
"Why should I read other books?"
"Why are you answering every question with a question?"
"Why are you answering every question with a question then?"
"That's cheating! You can't repeat what the other person said and that means I win." She grinned down at me. "And you're still on the floor."
"Wait, that's a game?"
Twilight let out a groan of frustration that reminded me too much of my old Flight School aerial theory teacher than I would have liked. If her voice had been a tad deeper, it would have reminded me of the principal and that was something I did not want remember. Then again, considering the all the awesome pranks I managed to pull, I suppose some of those punishments were deserved.
"Yes, that is a game. The Question Game. I used to play it all the time with Cadence, though I never managed to win. I know!" Her cheeriness made me wince. How in the world did she have so much energy so late at night? "Since I can't read and you can't fly, I should teach you all sorts of fun literary games I learnt as a little filly. Like scatterbrains! And scrabble! An-"
"How about a nice hot bath and a nap first?" I asked. "Or even better, how about some help so I can get up?"
"Awwwww, is poor wittle Dashie too tired to get up by herself?"
"Yeah, yeah, soak it up while you can Twilie, because as soon as I'm back up and flying, you won't get away with it ever again." For added emphasis, I cracked my neck, causing her to wince.
"How?" She gestured to her current position. "Being in a wheelchair prevents me from exerting the amount of force necessary to pull somepony from off the ground."
"Just get over here, I need something to lean against, that's all." After a deep breath in an attempt to still my shaking limbs, I climbed back onto my hooves using the wheelchair to support me. Then, with me practically draped over the thing, we made our way over to the bed. Flopping onto the cover, I reached out and dragged Twilight out of the seat with me.
"Don't forget the blindfold."
"Right. Tell me if it's too tight." As gently as I could, I tied it around her head and after a bit of pulling and tugging, it rested comfortably around her eyes.
"No probs." A yawn escaped. "Night, night."
"This. Is. Stupid!" My buck left a hole in the wall. "It didn't make sense in theory and it doesn't make sense now. How in the bucking world do you flap without bucking flapping!"
"I told you it was impossible didn't I? Now get back in the wind tunnel, we're close to finding the optimal thrust to drag ratio." Not once did Twilight bother looking up from technical readings she had obtained from our latest attempt. "It's actually going better than I thought. Currently you're outputting just over seven wing power. If we find the optimal wing stroke then we may be able to push it up to eight or so. Add on the outfit Rarity's making and we might get close. I'll admit, I thought this was all a pipe dream, but... we may actually do it."
"Fine." Was I sulking? I wasn't sulking. After all, it's not like an egghead was totally figuring out how to do the coolest trick in history. Ever. And it wasn't as though we had wasted four days on this trick. "So what do I do this time?"
"A fifth of your usual spread and a longer pause between each flap – about four seconds should do it. Definitely keep both hooves out front, as that seems to be helping slightly. Oh, and a bit more sinusoidal wing movement."
"Gotcha." I snapped my flight goggles back on and shook out my limbs.
"Ready?" she called.
The familiar whirling of the fans filled the air and I felt myself lifting up off the ground. Eyes narrowed, I leaned forward and began flapping. With each stroke, I made sure to keep the wings bent in a dome shape to keep the 'flow integrity' or something. With each downward push, I twisted my wings ever so slightly to give that 'S' shaped stroke Twi kept harping on about. And then once I felt the wing brush past, I began the slow count to four. Then repeat.
Then repeat again.
It was hard work. Ridiculously hard work. I was forced to put my full concentration onto each and every single last stroke otherwise I'd slip back into my old routine. It worked muscles I didn't even know existed and by the time the wind tunnel finally shut off, I flopped onto the ground, panting heavily as my wings begged for mercy. It was the weird sinusoidal wing motion and my recovering body – that was the reason I was so worn out. There was no way such a simple task could reduce me to a puddle of goop.
"So..." I blew a strand of stray hair out of my eyes. "How was that?"
"Slightly better, but not by much. Eight point three now." She sighed and rubbed her eyes. In the blink of an eye, my weariness was gone and I was beside her with her blindfold at the ready. "I'm fine!"
"No you're not. Your eyes are troubling you again, aren't they?" Before she could reply, I took off her new blue glasses and laid them down on the table. "Come on Twi, you don't want to go blind, do you?"
"Not wearing the blindfold will not make me go blind. As long as it's nice and dark, my eyes will be fine. The doctors are just being overly cautious because I'm Celestia's star pupil," she muttered.
"Well then do it for me." I held out the blindfold and looked at her dead in the eyes. "I don't want you to go blind. I want you to put those egghead super powers of yours to good use and create some super awesome cure or invention."
For a second, I thought she was going to turn away and go back to work and she almost did. Her body turned ever so slightly to the right as she moved to turn her back on me, but something must have stopped her. Eyes closed, she turned back to face me with an annoyed expression on her face.
"Put it on then. You know I can't do it myself without my magic."
"Thanks Twi." Her ear flicked, hitting me head on the nose. "Ow. What was that for?"
"I'm sure I can think of something." Reaching up, she adjusted the fabric slightly. "Now, let's get out of here and don't forget to thank the Weather Department for letting us use their wind tunnel."
"Yeah, yeah, I know." With both hooves planted firmly against the handles, I began pushing her towards the ramp. "Where to next, oh master of mine?"
"Har, har." Before she could come up with some witty retort, her stomach growled and a deep blush spread across her cheeks.
"Sounds like you want some lunch," I chuckled. With a backwards buck, the door slammed shut and automatically locked itself. "Hey, Thunderlane, tell the boss I said thanks for letting us use the wind tunnel!"
"No probs Dash, we're just glad to see you back up and flying again." To my surprise, he dropped down and began walking beside us. "And you too Twilight. We all saw what happened in that explosion and it's great to see you up as well. But what in the name of Celestia are you two doing in there?"
"Well we're-" began Twi, but I immediately cut her off.
"The Weather Department has a bet running, don't they?" At his sheepish smile, I knew I had the answer. "So not surprised. You can tell them to stick it up their p-"
"Sorry." I turned my attention back to the pegasus before me. "I ain't telling and neither is Twi here. If you want to know, you'll just have to wait and see."
"Alright, alright." Thunderlane gave us his most charming smile. "Though I'll you managed to convince those up above to let you use the C.C.D.A as a wind tunnel."
"The what now?" I tiled my head to the side. "You mean that's not a wind tunnel? That's what I've always used it for..."
"You what!?" To my surprise, it was Twilight who began yelling at me. "You work in the weather department and you don't know what it does? The Cloud Cohesion and Dissolution Adiabatitron is central to the testing of cloud stability before it's released to the public and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and you use it as a wind tunnel!? It's a highly accurate piece of machinery that's the epitome of current engineering! You- Argh!"
"You- You did ask for permission right?" asked Thunderlane.
"Um... Yes...?" At my reply, his eyes zoned out and he stared into space with a look of absolute horror on his face.
"I think you broke him," muttered Twi under her breath. "Good thing you broke a pony and not a machine that's worth more than our combined salaries!"
"Shhhhhh!" Making sure no one had heard her outburst, I began walking as fast as I dared in an attempt to get the buck out of there before somepony noticed. "You don't want him snapping back to reality and calling the guards do you?"
"Yeah well, we wouldn't have had this problem if you had asked for permission," she hissed right back.
"Do you think they'd have let us anyways? You may be Princess Celestia's student, but that would not have gotten us anywhere. We needed a wind tunnel, so I got us a wind tunnel." Under Twilight's glare, I my willpower slowly being sapped away. A couple more seconds of that and I'd be sweating more than my most extreme workouts. "Come on Twi, we got the data we needed. Right?"
"See! Do it for science!" With an extra burst of speed, I managed to get out the front doors without anypony stopping us. "Think about what'll happen if we actually manage to do this! We'll go down in history!"
"Well..." Her resolve was fading; I could hear it in her voice.
"I mean, think about it. Breaking the magic barrier. Think about all the things you'll have learnt about magic and the way it functions. Maybe, it'll kick off an entirely new branch of magical studies."
"I supp- Hey! No, bad Rainbow! Bad! Do not tempt me in such a vile manner."
I stared at her.
"Oh, sorry, I was just staring at you with the most blank expression I could manage. I mean, seriously? Were you channeling your inner Rarity just then? Because one prissy, dramatic, over the top unicorn is more enough for one Equestria to handle. Two would probably destroy the world or something."
"Rainbow Dash, that is a horrible thing to say!"
"Ha!" I leaned against the wheelchair and nudged Twilight playfully. "So you admit it."
"I- I did not! I didn't say anything." Her cheeks were so red, it would have put AJ's best apples to shame.
"Don't worry, your secret is safe with me." With a playful wink, I began pushing us along once more. "Now, about that lunch."
"You're not cooking I hope."
As much as I wanted to wipe that smirk off her face with a meal fit for the Princesses, I did have an image to maintain.
"Nah, stopping by Sugarcube Corner for some baked goods. That sound good to you?"
"Twilight! It's so good to see you back on your hooves," called Cheerilee from her seat on the park bench. "All the fillies and colts were so worried about you two. Once you're feeling up to it, please drop by the school sometime. Don't let them know I told you, but they might have been preparing a 'Get well soon' gift for you."
"Cheerilee?" With a bit of guidance, I managed to get Twilight to face the schoolteacher. "Did Spike give you that reference book you were looking for? I know I set it aside and it should not have been caught in the blast zone."
"Geez, you really are an egghead aren't you?" I chuckled.
That earned me a smack on the back of the head. I have no clue how she manages to always hit me and yet is unable to brush her own teeth without getting toothpaste all over her face.
"Sorry about that." Twilight put on her sweetest smile. "But you did get the book, right?"
"Oh yes, don't you worry about that. It was even more useful than you lead me to believe. With it, I should hopefully be able to finish my Master's Degree this year."
"Oh, wow, really? Congrats! I'll definitely have to talk to Pinkie about throwing you a surprise party then. What are you studying?" Twilight was faaaaaaar too eager.
"Well I'm studying..."
Blah, blah, blah.
Seriously? From the way Scoot's talked about Cheerilee, I always thought she was a cool pony with crazy stories and out there ways of teaching. Kinda like Spitfire except in teacher form and as an earthpony, but no, apparently not. And seriously, how could they talk for so long on such boring stuff? I mean, come on! My hooves are killing me here; did they want me to collapse in the middle of the park?
"-nk she's asleep on her hooves?" asked Twi.
"Ha! You wish." I ruffled her hair playfully, much to her annoyance. "Just waiting for you two to finish chatting was all."
"You do realize you'll be brushing my mane in the morning and stuff, right?" She gave me that impish grin of hers.
With a roll of my eyes, I decided to ignore that comment.
"Anyways, see ya. And tell Scoot's to drop by the library sometime tomorrow. We should be in all day, right Twi?"
"Most likely. It'll be messy since the basement still isn't finished, but we should be in."
"Sweet. Anyways, see ya later." With one final wave, we went our separate ways.
Thankfully, no other ponies decided to stop us for an extended chat, though many did drop off a 'Hello' or similar. Truth be told, I had no clue Twilight was so popular around town. Being a small village, everypony knew everypony, but I had to struggle to remember some of their names. On the other hoof, Twilight simply chatted with them as though it was the simplest thing in the world. She asked about their children or their jobs or some other equally obscure thing. For such an anti-social pony, she sure got around.
Eventually (after an hour or something), I collapsed onto the bench in Sugarcube Corner. Next to me, Twilight slumped into her chair as well and seemed to deflate before my eyes.
"Hey Twi, how do you know so many ponies anyways?"
"Huh? Oh, being librarian to a small town has its perks I suppose." She rested both elbows on the table and rested her head on her hooves. "I wish they didn't suddenly feel to urge to talk to us today of all days. Not that I'm complaining, it's just..."
"Yeah..." A cute blush tinged her cheeks as she gave a small, sheepish smile.
"Well then we bet-"
"Dashie! Twilight!" Streams, balloons and confetti was everywhere. I swear there was even some in my ear. "Oh my gosh, you two are here. You two are out and about and talking and chatting and laughing and smiling and blushing and-"
See! That's what I mean. Twilight is apparently completely and utterly blind and yet, she somehow managed to get her hoof into Pinkie's mouth without breaking anything. How is that even possible? Did she do some sort of complex nerdy maths in her mind that allowed to figure out where Pinkie's mouth was based off of the time it took for Pinkie's voice to reach her ears or something? Echolocation – is that what it's called? Did Twilight just echolocate Pinkie's position through her superior math abilities?
"Pinkie, please, I'm starving, can we just get some food?" Very slowly, Twilight withdrew her hoof.
"Yessiree Sir- Ma'am! Sergeant Pinkie is on the job, you shall have your scrumptious-umptious baked goodies in ten seconds flat, or my name isn't Rainbow Dash!"
"Your name isn't Rain-" Actually, on second thought, it wasn't worth it. "Thanks Pinkie. Ten bits should cover it?"
"Oh no, Miss Cake would bake me into cake if she saw me taking bits from you two. Actually, that sounds like fun! I could eat it from the inside out, or explode outwards to surprise everpony, or-"
"Pinkie." The tone of exasperation in Twilight's voice made me shiver. "Please."
"Hehe..." Pinkie rubbed the back of her neck. "Sorry. Back in a sec!" And then she vanished faster that I thought possible.
"Back!" A mountain of baked goods and sugary delights was suddenly piled on to the table. "Enjoy! Just give ol' Auntie Pinkie a holler if you want moooooooore"
"Sometimes, I wish I had that much energy," muttered Twilight under her breath. "Imagine all the studying I could get done."
"If you can sit still for that long." I took a massive bite out of the bread roll and moaned in delight. "This is good!"
"I'm sure it is," replied Twilight while trying her hardest not to slam her face into the pile of food in front of her.
Laughing like a fool, I slid over so that our hips were touching. With practiced ease, I slipped an arm around her neck to help guide her mouth while my other hoof picked up a slice of apple pie.
"Come on Twi, open wide."
"I'm not a-"
"Filly?" I finished for her as she chewed on the food that I had shoved into her mouth. "I wouldn't have to treat you like one if you'd just let me feed you. Instead you always complain and moan about being treated like an invalid."
"I do no-"
Another slice into her mouth.
"Yes you do. Just ask Spike if you don't believe me." I grabbed a napkin and began cleaning up her cheek. "You know, if you keep insisting, I might just let you feed yourself and see how well that goes."
Muttering something unintelligible under her breath, she pressed her muzzle into the napkin to wipe it clean before tilting her head towards me pleadingly. Forced to muffle my laughter, I picked up a loaf of pure sugar and fed it to her. Or rather, I attempted to. Thanks to my amusement, I was laughing way too hard to aim properly and instead, Twilight ended up with icing and jam smeared all over her face.
"Laugh," sighed Twi. "Just... Just laugh. Might as wel-"
I didn't even bother waiting for her to finish that sentence. Almost immediately, I was pounding the table, laughing until tears leaked down my cheek and my sides burnt. It was a harder workout than anything anypony could ever devise and though I was practically rolling around in food, I couldn't stop myself.
"So, what are we laughing about?" Blinking, I looked to the right and there was Pinkie, completely and utterly covered in a variety of chocolate, icing powder and sweet, sugary goodness. "What?"
"Pinkie Pie, you are so random." Slinging an arm around her shoulders, I pulled her close before slamming a cream pie into her face. "Never change."
"Heh..." Very slowly, Pinkie began lowering the pie in her hoof before pulling out a cloth from her hair as she began wiping me down under the stern gaze of Mrs. Cake. "Um... Greatseeingyoutwobye!"
And just like that, she was gone. The only trace of her ever being there was the lingering cloud of pure sugar that still (somehow) in Pinkie's shape. Personally, I was just glad Twilight couldn't see, otherwise she'd end up with that eye twitch. Actually, wasn't the egghead starving? Better feed her before she does something really stupid like use magic.
Okay, I was totally not expecting that. Sure, she wasn't a prissy pony by any standard, but there was just something so weird about seeing Twilight lapping food from off a plate like a pet dog. Okay, why do I have an image of Twi in a collar now? Focus Dash, focus. And where is a camera when you need one? I mean, seriously, this could be the pic that could surpass the Smarty Pants incident. Wait, surpass? Who in the world even uses that world!? Oh dear Luna, I'm turning into an egghead. They have a vaccine for that right?
"If you say anything, I will end you." Eyes wide, I stared at Twilight in shock as a shiver ran down my spine. "I am the most magical unicorn in Equestria and I have read many books on a variety of magical spells. Mention this to anyone and you will regret it."
Holy crap. Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap, holy crap, holy crap.
"It worked? Yes! It worked!"
"I can't believe it worked. I thought the writer was on some sort of hallucinogen when he wrote that book, but it actually worked! To think a simple alteration of tone and body language could have such a dramatic effect." She suddenly paused in her ramblings.
Okay, so it was egghead stuff.
"Actually, I wonder if..." Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."...increase the chances of having a one night stand."
Cue spit take.
"You did not listen to a word I just said, did you?" asked Twi as she flicked a lock of wet mane out of her eyes.
"Um..." I did a quick scan of my memory. "Something about body language to do with friendship and then morals and then phera-something-or-rather and then 'increase the chances of having a one night stand'?"
She actually seemed impressed.
"So, tell me Twi, why so interested in one night stands? Out of all my friends, you were up there next to Fluttershy when it came to-"
The purple mare dove over the table, getting even more food on us, but shutting me up in the process. The way she was blushing made me want to embarrass her even further by cooing or something – not that I'd ever do that anyways considering how uncool it was, but seeing her flustered was just too much fun.
"Why Twi, I never knew you felt that way about me." The massive grin on my face was actually painful, but considering her shocked expression, I just couldn't help, but add another line onto the end of it. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that I'm so hot I can make mares fall for me."
Her eye began twitching and the next thing I knew, a dark chocolate cake was being smeared all over my face.
"Just be glad I can't use my magic otherwise you'd be wearing all this food on you right now." Then, just for good measure, she messed up my mane and sat on my stomach.
"Er…Twi? Mind get-"
"Twilight! Really, I have come to expect such outrageous behavior from Applejack and Pinkie and Rainbow Dash, but I must say, I truly was not expecting such uncouth behavior from you of all ponies." Enveloped in a light blue aura, Twilight was lifted off me and sat back down in her original seat. "Now hold still while I wash you off. Letting it stay on your coat would just stain it so horribly and it would be utterly dreadful if that were to happen to your fabulous coat."
"Rarity!" Twilight immediately perked up. "It's good to see you again. Though I suppose it technically isn't seeing since I can't see. Huh, I never realized, but that's a rather ableist term isn't it? I wonder if there's a more neutral one that could be used."
"Has- Has she been like this a lot?" whispered the fashionetta as Twilight kept rambling on.
"Yep. And she's been staying up later than usual. Apparently it's got to do with some cicada's clock or something." I shrugged with a helpless expression on my face. "It was some egghead sciency thingie."
"I… see…" Clearing her throat politely, Rarity trotted over and laid a dainty hoof on Twilight's shoulder. "Twilight dear, I've finally finished up on that project you asked me to do and was wondering if you'd like to come over to check it out. I had come here to grab a bite to eat as a treat for finishing early, but…" Her gave lingered on me before a shudder passed through her body. "I've suddenly lost my appetite."
"Are you sure? I don't want you to miss lunch on account of us."
"It's perfectly fine." Rarity pulled her hoof back and quickly wiped it off. "Please, I insist. I know both of you are eager and have been working hard on your project and I would just feel absolutely dreadful if I let you both down. And a bath. You two need a bath."
"Oh, I need a bath do I?" I began advancing with a playful smirk.
Instead of shrinking back like I expected or even a girly little scream, Rarity merely cocked an eyebrow at me as her horn lit up. "Take one more step and I will hog tie you and drag you off to the spa where you will be pampered and made beautiful. This is not a threat, this is a promise."
Hm… on one hoof I get to really annoy Rarity, which is always a plus, while on the other hoof I'll end up being dragged into a totally uncool and definitely not awesome spa date. Bleah. The mere thought sent a shudder through my body. Not worth it. Nothing was worth it. Not even stealing AJ's stetson was worth that.
"Pffffft, you actually though I was going to get you?" Muscles snapping taut, I slammed into Twilight and with some expert maneuvering, managed to get her onto my back. "Come on, let's get going then. Oh, and Rarity, could you bring the wheelchair please?"
"You know you could have just asked right?" growled Twilight in my ear as we walked into the cool summer breeze, causing a shiver to run down my spine.
"But where's the fun in that?"
"Oh, I don't know." Was she whispering in my ear? Why was she whispering in my ear!? "I suppose we could… Yes!" The yell made me jump. "It works. The whole voice and body language thing actually works. There wasn't a section in the book relating to making friends, but I could fill that in within a month of observation. After all, there was a romance section so that could act as a foundation the additional section."
"Why did I decide to stay with you again?" I asked with a groan.
"Because you, Rainbow Dash, are not known for thinking things through," replied Rarity.
"Hey!" Twilight and I looked at each other in shock at out simultaneous yell.
"What are you being worked over?" I asked. "I was the one being insulted."
"Seriously? She implied I was a bad choice."
"She- She did?"
"Oh dear Celestia, why did I accept your offer again?" moaned Twi.
"Because you were high on drugs," replied Rarity with an innocent smile. "And would you look at that, we're here. Please wait outside while I hose you down."
"Before you what!?" I yelled, but it came a second too late.
A torrent of water slammed into me from above, turning the ground beneath my hooves to mud. Though I attempted to get away, the mud held fast, keeping my hooves trapped. The water was unending, and with the pony on my back, means of escape were limited. This was a death trap and the only option was escape. What would Daring do in this situation?
Just as suddenly as the trap was sprung, it was gone once more.
"There we go, I suppose that will have to do for now," mused Rarity before a gust of hot hair slammed into us, instantly drying us off. That was so not cool, I was the one who came up with using that as a method of drying off quickly. "Now please wipe your hooves before coming in. I just finished cleaning the house after the latest CMC incident."
"Prissy unicorn," I muttered under my breath causing Twilight to chuckle.
"Be nice," she murmured in my ear. "And you need to rest. I can feel your entire body shaking from the stress."
"If I don't push myself, I'll never get better."
"So I should push my own magic?" The amusement in her voice was unmistakable. "How about a new deal, I don't use my magic if you don't push your body."
"Says the slave driver."
"I am not a slave driver!" she hissed in my ear.
"What do you call this morning then?"
"Ah hem." Both our heads snapped across to Rarity who was looking at us in amusement. "If you two are done with the secrets, I believe we have an outfit to try out. I must admit, when you told me you had designed something I was skeptical of how well it could have looked, but I must say, you have a real eye for design. To think the fast and hard Rainbow Dash could design something so interesting. The parallels to the Wonderbolts outfit is just so striking without being amateurish."
"Heh... yeah... Let's just say Princess Luna was the one who actually designed it shall we?" And according to Daring Do, the Shadowbolts were her elite aerial unit. Not that I did any extra research on that particular subject matter. "Can we just please get on with this?"
"Alright, alright," said Rarity.
With a flash of blue light and far too much illusionary effects, Rarity finally pulled out the Shadowbolts outfit for me to see and damn! It was seriously awesome. To my surprise (and relief) it was exactly like how I remembered it. The black and purple color scheme, the yellow lightning bolt cuffs, even the goggles were a match. The only difference was that it had my cutie mark emblazed on the side, but hey, who wouldn't want my cutie mark on their flank. It is the coolest one out there after all.
"So? What do you think?" she asked.
"It's. Awesome." With an unceremonial thud, I let Twilight was thrown into her wheelchair. "Can I try it on now?"
"Be my guest."
Within seconds, it was wrapped snuggly around my body and I was standing before a full-length mirror. Even I had to admit that Rarity had done an amazing job. Sure, I just told her it was purple and black, but damn, she knew how to pick colors. Not only did it complement each other perfectly, but it fit in with my hair and coat color. Add on the way it fit and it accentuated every single last curve I had and let's be honest here, I don't have a lot of curves, but damn I looked fine in the outfit.
Turning around, I glanced over my shoulder and licked my lips.
Very fine indeed.
"Rainbow Dash, stop such uncouth behavior at once!"
"What? I wasn't doing anything."
"You were checking yourself out and I do not condone such base and vulgar acts within my boutique. Now out! Out of the clothing before you ruin it."
"No buts. Out or do I need to hog tie you?"
"Fine." With a dejected sigh, I slipped out of the flight suite and handed it back to Rarity, much to the amusement of a certain purple mare.
"Can I at least take it home?"
"Of course not! I do not trust you with such a masterpiece. Now if you wish to wear it for one of your trials, you will come here and request it – politely mind you – and then I shall decide if the weather and activity is suitable for such a delicate outfit."
"Delicate? You do realize I'll be breaking the magic barrier in that thing right?" I cocked an eyebrow at her.
"The- The magic barrier? Surely you jest! The magic barrier i-"
Zipping forward, I nabbed the folded up clothing, slammed into Twilight's wheelchair from behind and was halfway the library before Rarity's scream reached my ears. Sure, I wasn't allowed to use my wings, but I'm no slouch on the ground either. With a practiced ease and precision born from experience, I skidded, inserted the key, opened the door, shut the door, then came to a stop in the centre of the room just in front of Spike.
"Yeah, that's right kid, that's how Rainbow Dash rolls." I gave the little guy a playful noogie on the head. "I'm heading upstairs alright? And no disturbing me unless it's for dinner."
"Wait, Dash." Spike held out a parcel to me. "Ditzy dropped this off earlier and it's addressed to you."
"It's here!?" Flight suit all, but forgotten, I snatched it up and zipped up to Twilight. "Twilight, it's here!"
"What's here? In case you can't see, I'm blind."
"Right. Now keep your eyes closed, you hear? No peaking." Leaning forward, I undid the blindfold despite her protests. Then I ripped into the package and brought out a pair of truly sick looking reflective sunglasses. The sides were curved and designed to press flat against the side of the eyes to prevent light from slipping in, the glasses were prescription ones, and they tailored to withstand a decent amount of force. They were sunglasses designed for pegasus stunt fliers, but hey, they should work for Twilight as well.
"Okay, open your eyes," I said once they were securely on.
Slowly, gradually, the wonder completely consumed Twilight's face until the pure radiating off her could have powered ten Pinkie's for all eternity. Without any warning, she suddenly leapt out of her seat and pulled me into a fierce hug as tears leaked down her cheek. A couple seconds later, I felt a pair of scaly arms wrap my waist as well.
"You are now, officially, the coolest egghead in Equestria."
"Are you sure you want to be here?" asked Twilight for the nth time this hour.
"Of course." Leaning back in my seat, I threw my backhooves onto the table. "I need to scout out the competition, see what the others are up to and how good they are. Nowhere nearly as good as me I bet."
"Pride comes before the fall you know."
"Yeah, yeah, I just wish the Wonderbolts routine was better. I mean, sure, they're great, but I've already seen this particular routine ten times already. It's a classic, but seriously, something new would be awe-"
A rainbow explosion filled the sky and my jaw hit the ground. The crowd on the other hand was going crazy, as was the announcer.
No. Bucking. Way.
That was my move. That was my bucking move and she stole it from me. That mare stole my bucking move from me! The Sonic Rainboom was mine! How dare she! I was the one who made that move famous, I was the one who bought it back and there she was, strutting about the sky and skimming along the bleachers to give everypony a high five. How dare she! Spitfire knew I was sick, that I wouldn't be competing today and then she goes and pulls that stunt. Now she'll be the talk of the town, the one who got all the credit for reviving the Sonic Rainboom. Who cares about the faceless mare from Ponyville, no, it'd be Spitfire. The Spitfire who got the credit. Well buck her! And buck the doctors.
"Dash?" Magenta eyes met violet ones. "Relax. Deep breaths, Dash, deep breaths."
Nodding numbly, I sat back down. All I could taste was bile and all I could hear was the announcer proclaiming Spitfire was the fastest mare alive. I wanted to be sick. I wanted to curl up in a ball and pretend this was all a nightmare. It was one thing to be outcompeted when I gave it my all, but to be outcompeted when I couldn't even compete? And then when I did get to strut my stuff, there wouldn't be an audience, there wouldn't be a crowd or journalists to forever remember the moment. It'd be in the silence and secrecy of their training camp, hidden away in some corner of Equestria.
This was wrong. This wasn't how it was meant to be.
"Dash." She wrapped an arm around my shoulders. "Just relax alright? We knew this might happen. It's fine, everything will be fine. Everything is fine."
I tried to believe, I tried so hard to believe, but I just couldn't. I was already depressed coming into this and now? Now I was just pissed. But as time went on and competitor after competitor took to the stage, it slowly began to fade back into the background. For a while at least, I could lose myself in the crowd and just forget. I could scream with the crowd, jump and down when they did, boo when they stuffed up and just forget.
But no matter how much I tried, there was a constant voice in the back of mind whispering to me, telling me that I should have been the one out there. Compared to me, they were all amateurs. Fillies and colts playing adult. A big fish in a small bowl. They were nothing, compared to me.
And then, one of them pulled off a Sonic Rainboom. Before the colors had even finished fading from the sky, I was halfway out the door. Seconds later, Twilight was beside me. She didn't say anything, she didn't tell me to slow down. Despite walking with a slight limp, she didn't once complain and instead walked beside me. She understood. Out of all my friends, Twilight was the only one who understand what it meant to me and why I needed to do, what I was about to do.
"You've got the flight suit?" I asked as we entered the locker room.
"Yep, I figured something like this would happen."
"It's time to kick some flank then."
"Dash, if you don't give them a show they'll never forget, I'm going to lecture you for the entire trip back to Ponyville."
"You're on." I gave her a cocky grin. "You're so on."
"Good luck then."
"Ha!" I punched her lightly on the shoulder. "As if someone as awesome as me needs luck."
"Yeah, yeah, just get out there." She shoved me towards the exit. "Just give me a couple of secs to set up my recording equipment."
"You bought your egghead stuff along with you?" Why was I so surprised?
Chuckling softly, I began walking towards the exit. Slipping the hood over my head, I took the time to give Twi my most cocky grin despite the butterflies in my stomach. "I hope you've got a camera in there somewhere."
"You bet." She gave me a reassuring smile. "You can do this Dash, just like we practiced. Just don't forget to build up momentum within the Sphere of Death alright?" All of a sudden, she burst out laughing. "I'm sorry, but I still think that's the most ridiculous name ever."
"Better than your egghead name," I retorted. "Now go. I've got a show to put on."
As her footsteps receded, I let the fear and tension crash down on top of me. I didn't mind though, this time I just let it flow through me. Sure, my hooves shook and my wings trembled, but this was something I had to do. We worked too hard for this. So many late nights coming up with a game plan, some many numbers and symbols scribbled on blackboards to make sure it all worked. This would be the first run of my brand new routine. Most would call me insane. Most would call me crazy.
They were right.
Stepping out into the sunlight, I began my warm up routine. A couple pushups, sit-ups, stretches and so forth, and I was nice and limber for what I had coming up. Down below me, I could see the crowd whispering to themselves as the Wonderbolts conversed amongst themselves. My eyes immediately drifted towards the grey pegasus who managed to pull off the Sonic Rainboom and I couldn't help, but smirk to myself. He looked dead on his feet, a shame really. He's got the speed, but not the endurance and considering most Wonderbolts shows were two hours long, I doubt he could pull it off at the end of a show. Slowly my eyes drifted up and I found myself staring straight into the eyes of Luna. Sure, she was on the other side of the coliseum, but there was no doubt in my mind she was looking straight at me. A small smile even tugged on the corner of her lips as she gave me the barest of nods. It almost seemed as though she approved of my attire.
Suddenly, silence descended as Spitfire stepped forward.
"We have made our decision," she announced.
With a massive grin on my face and my heart hammering away, I took a step out of the shadows and said in the loudest voice I had ever used, "Hey Spitfire! I hope you haven't forgotten about me."
"Rainbow Dash?" I was sure who was more surprised, her or the crowd.
"The one and only." Wings flaring open, I crouched down low. If my old teacher could see me now, she'd be having an aneurism due to how wide my stance was and how close my body was to the ground.
"What the heck, you're injured! Don't do something stupid."
"Don't worry, the smartest egghead in Equestria history has agreed with me." I turned my attention to the one who had performed my trick. "Hey kid, not bad, but the Sonic Rainboom is my move. Don't worry, I'm not mad though, I've got a new stunt. A cooler stunt. A far more epic stunt. A stunt that'll blow the Sonic Rainboom out of the water."
"What's greater than a Sonic Rainboom?" I slipped my goggles over my eyes. "You're about to witness history."
Muscles snapped taut. Wings pushed down. Concentric circles exploded outwards in all directions and just as I hit the top of the stadium, I blasted past the sound barrier. The third Sonic Rainboom of the day and unlike the previous two, I was going straight up and it was at the start of the routine. Buck yeah! Eat that Spitfire.
Three seconds later, I performed a Buccaneer Blaze, but it was no ordinary one. Oh no, according to Twi, the flash of light was the result of all that speed and energy being converted into light in a split second. And now? Now was I travelling at supersonic speeds. For a second, there was a second sun in the sky and that sun was mine. Laughing like a mad mare, I let myself drop three feet before spreading my wings and began flying in circles. Were they cheering me on? Screaming my name in ecstasy? I didn't know and I didn't care. All I knew was the adrenaline pumping through my body, the wind through my mane and the freedom of the sky. I was moving so fast, not even pain could keep up with me.
Not once did I slow down, not once did I reduce my speed. Around and around I went, quickly picking up speed and with it, clouds. From all around Cloudsdale they were drawn to the center of my vortex. Need two hundred pegasi to lift water to the weather factory? Ha! All you need is one. Rainbow Dash!
Peeling off, I expanded my circling into a sphere to create a perfect ball of cloud in the air. With a nudge, I sent it drifting downwards then dashed after it. Slamming into it from above, I pierced straight through and unleashed another Buccaneer Blaze in the hollow center of my creation. This time though, the clouds soaked up the electric and I immediately began moving. Never slow down, never stop. Bolts of lightning came at me from all directions and with nothing, but instinct to guide me, I dodged every single last one of them. Twisting and in the air, I could taste the electricity and smell the ozone.
Then, with a flare of my wings, gale force winds ripped outwards, sending clouds in all directions. Before they realized just how much danger they had been in, I was there, bucking the clouds out of the sky. From one side of the stadium to the other I went, laughter trailing behind me and cheers filling my senses.
But I didn't have time for that. Not yet at least.
Rocketing upwards, I perform a Hangman's Noose followed by a Slip Knot and Fishermare's Hook. Then I hit the peak of my upward journey and I began dropping downwards. This was it. This was what everything came down to.
The Sonic Rainboom was like second nature. I barely felt the shock as I broke through for the second time that day. With both hooves stretched forward, I began my wing strokes. Each beat was spaced four seconds apart, and each stoke was a fifth of my usual spread. I could feel the wind shaking my very core, threatening to throw me off track. Already I could feel the strain on my wings, the burning sensation as it finally broke through.
With narrowed eyes, I continued my downward descent. I would not give up. Death or glory.
Each agonizing second bought me closer to my goal, while also taking it further and further away. Three minutes. That's how long I had before I hit the ground. Three minutes.
Another push. Another five second.
With a feral growl, I forced my wings to push harder. To push me just that extra couple of hair widths. I could feel it, just outside my grasp. I could feel something slippery, oily almost. And when I squinted, the air around me seemed to ripple like the surface of a pond.
Another push. Another thirty seconds.
It was translucent, shimmering and chromatic. The colors warped and blended into one another, moving out and inwards at the same time. It was a swirling cone of pure energy that set my fur on end. But I was there, I could see it, touch it, taste it. A couple more pushes. A couple more seconds. That's all I need, that's all I ask for. Come on! I can do this.
Another push. A minute remaining.
The cone tightened, squeezing me from all directions. It was so close. So damn close. I forced my hooves forward, my wings forward, my body forward. My lungs protested, screaming at me, yelling at me, begging me to just give up. To stop and just collapse. But I couldn't. My heart wouldn't let me. My dreams wouldn't let me.
Death or glory.
[b] Ka-Boom! [/b]
It was as though I hadn't taken a shower since I was born and now all that dirt and grime was peeled off me in swoop. All the colors seemed more vibrant than before, every scent I breathed in was accompanied by a torrent of memories and images. I forgot about my nervousness, my fears, my failures, and instead, I lived in the pure bliss that was life.
One second I was in the middle of the sky, a blink later I was three pony lengths from the ground. Pulling up with all the force I could muster, it felt as though my wings were being ripped off. The edges of my vision blurred and all I could see was a tiny dot of light before me.
And then, color.
It was a sea of color. Rippling and shifting before my eyes, never the same for more than a second and when I stared at it, I could almost make out faces and figures within the color. More than that though, just looking at it gave me a sense of calmness that I hadn't experienced since I was a little foal.
Flying straight through the center of that chromatic mass, I reappeared in the center of the coliseum and flaring my wings, multicolored light was thrown in all directions. I hovered there, basking in the light of what I had created and the pure silence of the crowd. Then slowly, ever so slowly, applause filled the stands. But that first clap, from none other than Twilight, was what broke the damn and with it, the cheering came. Then the whistling. Then the screaming.
But it all felt so hollow now. Sure, they were screaming my name right now, but how long would that last? How long would I remain up top and how long would they remember me? Someday, somepony was going to hear the story of Rainbow Dash and how she was the fastest pegasus alive and broke the magic barrier and that little filly would be hyped up. That little filly would want to be the fastest ever, to prove she could be as tough, if not tougher, than all those before her. So she'd train. She'd train day in and day out, and then one day, she'd achieve it. She'd achieve the impossible. I was just another footnote in history, destined to be forgotten and surpassed.
If that happened, then it meant I will have inspired somepony. I will have inspired a pony to work for it, to better themselves, to take it to the next level. And plus, how many other countless fillies and colts will I have inspired along the way? Sure, they'll fail, lots of them will fail, but in the end, I gave them a dream, a desire, and yearning. They will have aimed for the stars and despite falling short, they at least hit the moon.
I suppose Twilight was right. Somepony will always be better than me, but at least I gave them that drive. At least I was the role model for them and in the end, that was loyalty was it not?
I wasn't sure how long it took for the cheering to stop, all I knew was that about half way through, I was forced to land. Any longer and my wings would have snapped off right then and there. Despite swaying dangerously on my hooves, nopony seemed to notice just how tired I was and I was forced to stay there as they clapped and cheered and pictures were taken. My only comfort was Twilight's smile from our private box. Only she knew what it was like to be famous.
Eventually though, the noise died down enough for Spitfire to be heard. "I suppose announcing the winner at this stage is nothing more than a formality. I'm sure everypony here knows who won."
I simply replied with a sly grin and said, "Actually, with all due respect, I'm gonna have to decline your offer."
Silence. Dead silence.
"You see, I already got an offer." Though I spoke in my normal voice, it easily carried so all could hear. "Or rather, I expect I'll be getting one very shortly, isn't that right Princess Luna?"
"Correct." The dark alicorn turned to face the crowd. "Many years ago, there used to be a second elite aerial unit who worked in tandem with the Wonderbolts, but were also friendly rivals. The two groups pushed each other, often competing and putting on dazzling displays in a bit to outdo each other. They were known as the Shadowbolts and they were our elite unit. It is our pleasure to introduce the very first Shadowbolts Captain since our return, The Element of Loyal and fastest flier in Equestria – Rainbow Dash!"
Spinning on her hooves, Luna jabbed a hoof at her sister. "Or to use the language of today's youth, 'In your face' Celly!"
And then the Goddess of the Night, The Brightest Star of the Northern Sky, Mistress of Dreams and Desires started dancing. Princess-Freaking-Luna started dancing and shaking her plot as though she was in a club hosted by DJ Pon-3. I think everypony was too busy drooling to take any pictures, but damn! She sure knew how to move. Sorry Celestia, but your flank just got kicked off the top of my list.
"Come on!" hissed Twilight as she began dragging me off towards the exit. "Or do you want to be caught by the press?"
With merely a grin in reply, I playfully nudged her flank before putting my hoof down and blitzing my way out of there. To my surprise, Twilight was immediately beside me and stuck her tongue out at me before pulling away. Lunging forward, I bit down on her tail and gave it a hard yank causing us to go down in a heap of limbs and hair. Though it hurt to laugh, we lay there on the cool tiled floor of the locker room and giggled like new born fillies. And though we kept laughing like mad, we managed to somehow get back onto our hooves and stumble out of the room and into the chilly twilight air of Cloudsdale.
"You know the reason you won was because I'm tired right?"
"Ha!" She nudged me playfully. "Is that so? Next year, I'm going to beat you in the Running of the Leaves. That's a promise."
"Oh, is that so?" Spitting on my hoof, I held it forward. "You're so on."
Without a second thought, she followed suit. "You forget, I came up with your routine, I figured out the physics behind it, I made sure you could pull it off. With a bit of training, you'll end eating my dust."
"Keep dreaming." I placed a hoof on her shoulder to catch her attention before jerking my head to the right. "This way."
"Why? What's down here?" Despite sounding worried, she followed me down the alleyway.
"My old secret hideout." Jumping onto the large bin at the end, I leapt up and kicked off the way. Hooves outstretched, I easily caught onto the fire escape ladder and bought it down with a thud. "Come on!"
Once I reached the roof, I broke out into a gallop and leapt over onto the building next door. A second later, Twilight landed beside me.
"Couldn't you just fly over?" she asked.
"This was back before I could fly. What? I was an adventurous little filly, plus, this is pegasus city so if you can reach the secret spot by flying, it wouldn't be secret for very long now would it?" Clambering onto a ventilation shaft, I hopped my way up onto a ledge and dragged Twi up after me. "We're almost there."
"Where are we anyways?" From out vantage point, Twilight looked around at the broken and desolate landscape. "This place seems as though it's been abandoned."
"This is the old cloud factory before they needed to upgrade everything and add more equipment. It happened before I was born, but apparently it was easier to just build a new factory than renovate the old one." I leapt off the edge and slide my way down the rooftop before dropping down a hole. Stepping to the side, I reached out and grabbed Twi as she fell down after me.
"Is it safe here?" she asked while examining the half-broken support column.
"Probably not, no. But unless something major's happened, the place should be fine. This place did withstand a massive explosion once when one of the storm cells overloaded and caused a chain reaction. Part of the reason they decided to just build a new factory."
We slowly picked our way through rubble, being careful to not trip or accidentally stab ourselves on some rusted spike. With the lack of electricity, all we had to work with was the specks of light that came in through the holes in the roof. More than once one of us stumbled, but each time the other was there, ready to catch them and help them along.
"You know, I used to explore every single last inch of this area, making a map as I went along. I dreamed of finding some secret lost artifact or some cool document that'd finally solve what happened down here." My soft chuckle echoed back to me. "It feels so silly now, but I had some real adventures down here. Once I got lost for a day. Would you believe that? By the time I finally managed to find the exit and crawl my way out, I was starving and tired and hungry and scared. My parents didn't even realize I had been missing."
"Save your pity, I'm over it." With a sigh and shake my head, I looked off into the distance. "Maybe coming down here was a bad idea. It's making me all sentimental and crap."
"You do know you don't have to keep the tough persona up all the time right?" For the first time since coming to Cloudsdale, I could actually see her eyes. "Our opinion of you won't change."
"Whatever." I pressed my shoulder against a cupboard and began pushing. "Come on, help me with this."
"You're not changing the subject that easily," grunted Twi as she took her spot next to me. The screeching of metal on metal set my teeth on edge, but once it was out of the wall, all that was left was a hole in the wall that lead downwards. "I take it you had a bad foalhood then?"
"Not necessarily bad." I hopped down and held up my hooves, easily catching Twilight. "My parents were just always busy that's all. Kinda scatterbrained like you, always forgetting to do the little stuff. They're not bad parents, just... not cool or very good at the whole parenting thing."
"Oh..." She looked away.
We continued on in silence.
"Do you think I'd make a bad parent?"
"Huh?" Where in the name of Tartarus did that come from!?
"Well you said that they were scatter brained like me so..."
"As you are now? Spike talks about how you forget to eat dinner or stay up multiple nights until you collapse or your need for structure in everything. No offense Twi, but until you can take care of yourself and realize that a foal will disrupt any schedule you make, you won't make a good parent."
"Oh..." Her ears dropped. "But there's hope right?"
Grinning, I flung a hoof around her neck. "You're asking the mare who just made history and you helped make that happen. If you can do that, you can do anything. I'm surprised you want foals, thought you'd be too interested in studying, and stuff."
"Yeah well." She shrugged. "I suppose taking care of Spike for so long as left me with a maternal desire to see my own foal whether by adoption or by blood."
"I'm fairly certain Spike's the one taking care of you."
"Real funny. Now where's this super secret spot you wanted to show me?"
"Just around the corner." Grinning like a fool, I began walking backwards so I could watch her expression. "Feast your eyes on this!"
"Dash, this... How?" She took a step forward, never taking her eyes off the scene before her. "Is it safe?"
"Of course!" I skipped behind her and began shoving her forward. "It's refined liquid rainbow and highly stable at that. I doubt a Sonic Rainboom would be able to set this stuff off. You should have seen it when I first found this place; the liquid was still filtering through so there was this awesome waterfall right in the middle of the room where the light is filtering in."
Standing next to her, I grinned at her continued slack-jawed expression. Yeah, my spot was awesome. Maybe it was the massive pool of liquid rainbow in the center that lit up the whole room. Or maybe it was the fact that the columns that supported the crumbling roof were modeled after the ones found in the coliseum. Or maybe it was the way the liquid flowed through the cracks in the floor to form a massive web with stepping stones linking one end of the room to the other. It was all that and more than made this place so perfect.
Or maybe... maybe what made it all so perfect was Twilight. After all, every secret needs to be shared and a place like this? It was lonely without another pony there to enjoy it with. And with her just leaping from stepping stone to stepping stone, while all the colors of the rainbow danced along her fur and looking completely carefree the entire time? It really did make things perfect.
It was a shame it wasn't night, that was when this place really came alive. Even in this dim light, it was too difficult to make out the shifting colors properly. At night, it was the closest I had ever come to seeing the northern lights again since my trip with Gilda to her hometown. Heh, I actually wonder what Twi would make of that. What sort of eggheady and sciencey explanation would she come up for that?
"Hey Dash, where did you get all this furniture from?" I looked up just in time to see Twi bouncing on a cloud sofa. "It's really comfy."
"Oh that? I made it myself." Half skipping over the stepping stones, I flopped down on the bed beside it. "Dad's a real whiz at cloud sculpturing and taught me some simple tips and tricks. Part of the reason I'm so good at clearing the sky, I know exactly how to kick a cloud to make it go poof without wasting any energy. According to dad, I just lack the patience to actually do cloud crafting."
She grinned at me impishly.
"Aaaaaaaand the actual theory behind its structure, but we already knew that, now didn't we?" I added.
"I didn't say anything."
"You were thinking it." I rolled over and dipped a hoof into the rainbow liquid, a shiver passing through my body at how cold it was. "So was I right or was I right? This place is awesome."
"I'll admit, I didn't expect to find something like this down here." She suddenly burst out laughing. "No wonder you love Daring Doo so much!"
"Huh? What do you-" And then everything clicked and I facehoofed resulting in the rainbow liquid being smeared all over my face. Of course, that just made Twi laugh even harder. "Oh shut up, egghead."
"Well you have to admit, it is an interesting parallel. When I suggested you imagine yourself in Daring's position, I hadn't realized you had actually crawled through ruins before. Maybe next time there's a convention in Canterlot, I'll take you along and you can dress up as Daring Doo."
Crap. On one hoof, it's Daring Doo. On the other hoof, it was dressing up. And worse yet, it was dressing up as a book character, even if it was Daring Doo, which I suppose makes it a bit better. Makes it a lot better, but it was still dressing up as a book character, and no matter how you spin that, it just ain't cool.
"I'll consider it," I replied. After all, it was Daring-bucking-Doo. If any book could make a pony awesomer for having read it, it was that one.
"Wait, did you just agree? Did Rainbow Dash, self-proclaimed coolest pony in Equestria, just agree to dress up as Daring Doo and go to a convention? Pinch me, I must be dreaming."
"Real funny, egghead, real funny. I suggest you stick to books and leave the jokes to somepony who actually knows what's even mildly amusing." I kicked back and relaxed. "And I never agreed to go; I merely said I'd consider it."
"Coming from you, that's as good as agreeing."
"Yeah, yeah. Whatever."
Neither of us spoke, and truth be told, I didn't feel like it. After all, what point was there? This silence was nice, calming even, and talking felt as though it would disrupt something important. Just that slow, steady breathing and the sound of the whistling wind. More than once, I slipped out to some secluded meadow with a cloud and just lay there, staring up at the sky and relaxing. Life was meant to be lived hard and fast, but it was those slow moments that really made me appreciate it. It made those exciting moments seem even more exciting and awesome.
But truthfully? I wanted to know what Twilight was thinking. What goes through that head of hers when she's not thinking about sciencey stuff? Wait, that was a stupid question, the day she stops thinking about complex stuff is the day the world ends. Again. Seriously, we've saved the world twice (three times if I counted Twilight's little... incident), so I suppose a third time wouldn't be that hard to stop. Did Chrysalis count as the world ending? Huh, I don't think so at least, I mean, sure, there goes Equestria, but the world still exists. Hopefully. Maybe. Oh, who cares! Four times. We've saved the world four times. It just sounds cooler that way.
"Yeah Twi?" I asked with my eyes closed.
"Is this… I mean… This- This isn't a date… Is it…?"
Sitting bolt up, I looked at her in surprise. "Of course n-"
But something stopped me from finishing that statement. It was a little voice in the back of my head constantly asking, 'Would dating her really be a bad thing?' I mean, sure, she's an egghead, but she's cool. In fact, I'd go so far as to say she's awesome and radical and all those other fancy words that meant the same thing. After all, she did come up with my entire game plan and helped figure out how to break the magic barrier. Without her, I wouldn't be here right now. I wouldn't have wow'ed the entire crowd, or been the first Shadowbolts Captain, or been the first to break the magic barrier or any of that other crap. I mean, I broke the bucking magic barrier! Even now, that one single thought still made me giddy beyond belief. And to think it required an egghead to make it happen!
Yeah, Twi was one cool pony. Almost as cool as me even. So, would dating her really be a bad thing? Would it make me uncool by association? Heck no! And if anypony said anything against that, they obviously didn't know what made a pony cool. She works with dangerous chemicals, she's working on a metallic limb that'll restore flight to injured pegasuses, she knew enough to come up with a totally killer routine that made even Spitfire jealous (though she'd never admit it).
And most importantly, she got me. She understood why I pushed myself so hard, she understood what drove me and she understood what it was like to be famous. The very same thing that urged me to get better, urged her to study harder and to learn more. We both loved what we did and we were both famous for what we did. So what if I was a jock and she was an egghead? Did she, or did she not, come to me when she was designing her metal wing? Did I, or did I not, help her and provide useful information that she couldn't have known by herself?
Licking my dry lips, I held Twilight's cautious gaze with my own and asked, "Do you want this to be a date?"
She blinked in surprise and quickly settled down into her thinking pose. With a small smile, I settled back down and closed my eyes once more. It didn't matter how long it took for her to answer, as long as she answered in the end. After all, she was Twilight Sparkle – the mare who made four checklists every day, needed a book to tell her how to have a slumber party and needed to look through ten different encyclopedias before buying a piece of equipment. If she needed time, I'll give her time. Plus, rushing her would probably end up with her blowing this place up and I'd like to stay in one piece as well. Hey, when it came to Twi, it was always to better to be cautious.
Hearing her shift in her seat, I cracked open an eye and saw her staring off into the distance.
"No..." she whispered, before clearing her throat and speaking in a stronger voice, "No, today wasn't a date."
My ears drooped.
"After all, according to the book, '101 Things You Always Wanted to Know About Romance' the first date is meant to involve a meal of some kind – most often dinner, but a romantic enough lunch could also work. The example from the book was a picnic. Therefore, tonight cannot count date by virtue of not containing a meal of sufficient romantic emotions."
I stared at her.
"What?" she asked with a confused expression on her face.
How could she even say that with such an adorkable expression on her face!?
"Twi, not all dates have to be by the book and not all things have to done to a checklist either. A date is about having fun and getting to know each other. I mean, most would consider this an awesome date!" I huffed. "And it's so clichéd as well. Just think about it, you're in my home town and I showed you around, ending up at a super secret hideout that I hadn't shown any other pony before. If Rarity were here, she'd be squealing about how romantic it all was or something!"
"You mean, she'd be squealing if you could convince her to crawl through all this dirt and grime?"
"Technicalities." I made a dismissive flick with my hoof.
"Well, I've never been on a date before so I want it to be perfect and yes, a bit clichéd," replied Twilight.
With a sigh, I simply shrugged my shoulders and slipped out of my comfy position. "Whatever. Come on, we need to get going if we want to make it back to our room before it gets too dark."
"Dash, wait." I looked over my shoulder and blinked in surprise. There was Twilight, framed in the glow of the rainbow liquid, with her ears laid back, a slight blush on her cheeks and her hoof pawing at the ground. "Tonight might not have been a date, but... what about tomorrow night?"
I blinked in surprise.
"Are you..." I swallowed. "Are you asking me out?"
Her blush deepened and she looked away. "Maybe...?"
A huge grin split my face and it took all my willpower to not rocket off into the sky and start performing crazy stunts that would have put everything in the world to shame. But I had to play it cool, play it down, and keep my image at all times.
Oh, buck that!
"Tomorrow night then." I held out a hoof to her. "And I promise not to drag you out to some wild adventure."
"Deal." Her smile was like the sun coming out. "Now, let's get out of here. I'm starving."
Laughing, I wrapped a wing around her and pulled Twi flush against me. Together, walking side by side, we made our way out of my secret hideout.
So what do you do after you've made the impossible possible?
You pass on a job with the Wonderbolts and join the coolest, awesomest, fastest squad in Equestria – the Shadowbolts. Then you go off and celebrate before grabbing a date with the second coolest pony ever. And then?
And then you go and kick some serious flank.
A/N: Okay, so some of you may have noticed the complete tag (if it still says incomplete then I forgot to change it) and wish to yell at me for ending it like that and you may feel the temptation to cry for more. Well good news, there will probably be more. It's just this fic was never meant to be this long and I want to write my other stuff that I'm more interested in. The reason it's labeled complete because in my mind this is complete. This is one concise, entire story detailing the gradual build up to a date where we got to explore Twilight's past, what Dash wants and what drives her, and what awaits in the future. There will be more to this fic, but I just feel that it's complete (or at least this arc is). So, when will I probably pick it up again? Probably once I'm done with my next multichapter fic, but don't worry, that shouldn't be longer than ten chapters and I'm hoping to release it in about wo weeks time. All this will probably be repeated in the blog post I'm going to write up as well.
Anyways, onto the more interesting stuff, namely my next multichapter fic. It is probably the least dark fic (not counting Transcending Legends), though I'd probably place it around the same dark level as Cusp of Dawn. However, this fic will be a lot sadder and a lot more tragic. Where as Breaking Twilight focused on getting Dark, this one is focused on getting Sad down - so that should give you an idea of what to be braced for. As mentioned above, I'm hoping to get it out in two weeks time roughly and I'll of course upload more details as we get closer to that day. But for now, a word: