Raindrops and Cloudchaser escorted the small, sodden cumulous overhead, the trailing runoff from the overloaded cloud splashing ponies on the ground as the two pegasus mares made a bee line for the circular burnt patch with its speckling of stubborn flames. The pale lavender weather worker took hold of the cloud and guided it in a figure eight pattern as her bright yellow partner hopped lightly on its crest, sending cascades of water to quench the remaining fires.
Soarin, Pip, and Spike touched down next to Twilight and the Apple sisters as the patrol pegasi went about their work. With a nod of satisfaction, the spotted earth pony stallion tugged a cord on the harness and caused the wings to refold themselves with a clack. "Well ladies, I think we can suffice it to say that the flight harness has performed admirably under duress."
Apple Bloom batted her eyes at Pip as a blushing smile spread across her face. "My hero!"
With that, she reared up, throwing her forelegs around his withers and pulling him into a kiss. A jolt traveled through the young stallion's frame, causing his cropped tail to frizz as the flight harness' wings spontaneously deployed.
Applejack flushed beneath the smudges of ash and grime on her cheeks, and stepped up to Soarin with a wink and a grin as she wiped her snout off with a foreleg. "I reckon I got one o' them too..." She reached up and pulled his face around to plant a kiss on his lips.
Twilight and Spike shared a wry grin, and the lavender unicorn gave her draconic assistant a hug. "You did good as well, 'Thunderdragon'. I'm not gonna kiss you, though."
The purple dragonet bent down to return his guardian's embrace. "I'd be willing take one from Rarity in trade."
She chuckled, shaking her head. "I'll see what I can do..."
A short distance away Big Macintosh nearly collided with a haystack as he glanced in their direction and saw what both of his sisters were doing. His ruddy, freckled face hardened, and he seemed about to say something, but was stopped by the gentle touch of his wife's hoof on his shoulder. She gave him a small shake of her head, a fond smile, and a soft peck on the cheek. He let out a snort, returned Fluttershy's smile, and turned away to give direction to one of the farm hoofs with a flick of his tail.
A moment later Applejack stiffened and recoiled from Soarin with her brow furrowing in mild irritation. "Hey there, darlin'. There somethin' th' matter that y'can't focus on what yer doin'?"
The sky blue pegasus gave her a distracted nod as he eyed up the pegasi landing all around them. "Uh... yeah. Gimme a second, sweetheart, we might be in for some trouble here..."
He turned away from the blonde farm mare, leaving her blinking in consternation, and edged over to Twilight, muttering to her out of the side of his mouth. "Um, Doctor Sparkle? How many ponies can you teleport at once and at what range?"
The lavender unicorn raised an eyebrow. "About ten or so, in about a forty hoof radius. My max distance with passengers is about a mile. Why?"
Soarin gave her a curt nod. "Just be ready to do it if I tell you to."
Twilight cocked an ear. "What do you mean?"
He held up a hoof for silence as he walked past her. "Let me do the talking, I'll try to keep this from getting ugly."
He lashed his tail nervously as he advanced toward Pip and Apple Bloom, who were still kissing as a growing crowd of pegasi stood and hovered around them, murmuring among themselves.
Just as Soarin was about to call out a friendly, hopefully calming greeting, one of the mares in front spoke up. "Excuse me, but where did you get that?"
Apple Bloom glared at her over Pip's shoulder with a snarl as she pulled the young stallion tight to her chest. "This one's mine. Get yer own!"
The spotted earth pony stallion cleared his throat, shook his head to uncross his eyes and disperse the little cluster of hearts floating in front of them, and then gave the red headed mare a glinting smile. "I think she's talking about the flight harness, luv."
The young handymare blinked, and blushed as a sheepish grin spread across her face. "Oh, right." She turned to the pegasus and drew herself up proudly. "I built it, Miz Rarity made th' cloth parts, and Doctor Sparkle over there's th' one who magicked it up so it'd fly."
Soarin's eyes widened and his wings flared in alarm as a small stampede of hooves and rush of wings brought the crowd over to cluster around Twilight, Applejack, and Spike. He wheeled, preparing to cry out a warning and tensing to launch toward the fray, shielding the two earthbound mares with his body if need be.
His jaw dropped as he heard a babble of voices, not the angry shouting of a mob, but full of enthusiasm and wonder.
"Can you make one of these for me?"
"How much does it cost?"
"That thing is amazing!"
"I want three!"
"I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own two eyes!"
"Do you make these in foal's sizes?"
The sky blue stallion raised a hoof to his lips and blew out a loud whistle that cut through the chatter, causing it to fall silent as he stood breathing heavily and grinding his hooves in the alfalfa stubble. "Wait a vapor pickin' minute! Hold it, hold it, hold it!" He reared up, laying a foreleg across a raised hoof. "Time out!"
He dropped back to all fours and stomped through the crowd of pegasi, taking up a position between Twilight and Applejack. "You all LIKE the flying harness?"
A pale purple mare with her light green mane pulled back in a magenta bow nodded. "My little colt Glitter is a unicorn. I'd totally love to be able to teach him to fly like my mom did with me."
Another winged mare with a pink and green mane bobbed her head in agreement. "My folks are earth ponies. I think they'd love to see Ponyville from the air like I do. Especially when all their gardens are in bloom."
A beefy white stallion with tiny, fluttering wings sticking up from his broad back grimaced at him. "You gotta problem with that, bucko?"
Soarin' raised his hooves in a conciliatory manner. "Uh... N-no! No, not at all. I think they're great. No problem at all."
He took a step back and slumped down into a seated position as the pegasi turned their attention back to pestering Twilight with questions. Some of them broke away to cluster around Pip and Apple Bloom, oohing and aahing over the winged device strapped to the young test pony's back.
Applejack sidled up beside him and nudged him. "Ya okay there, sugarcube?"
He nodded and got to his hooves, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. "Yeah. I'm great, actually. I just... I guess I wasn't expecting the local pegasi to react so well to the wing harness."
She gave him a wry smile as she bobbed her head toward the curious crowd around her sister and the spotted stallion, who were happily showing off the device and its workings. "Ponyville started out as an earth pony town. Th' local pegasi live 'round these parts instead o' some cloud city 'cos they got roots. Most of 'em got family here, goin' back generations, and not all of their kin were born with wings."
The blonde farm pony paused to give one of the mares a friendly nod and turned her attention back to Soarin. "Case in point, that gal there's the first pegasus ever been born t' her family. 'Blossomforth' ain't exactly a traditional pegasus name, far as I know."
The sky blue stallion dug his hoof, giving her a chagrined look. "I guess that makes sense. I was kind of afraid we were gonna have an angry mob on our hooves."
Applejack tossed her head and rolled her eyes. "These pegasi are our friends n' neighbors. I've known most of 'em since I was a filly, and they're all mighty fond o' Twi n' Rarity. Not a one of 'em would raise a hoof in anger against them or anypony else in Ponyville."
She pursed her lips. "I reckon y'got all worked up thinkin' 'bout how Rainbow had her tail in a twist last week. That gal's loyal as all get out, naturally, but she's always had a bad habit o' assumin' th' worst of folks and jumpin' outta th' gate half hitched."
Soarin let out a chuckle. "Well, there is one thing Dash is right about." He reached out with a wing and pulled her closer. "She said I'd like it here in Ponyville, and the more I get to know about this place, the more I do like it." He leaned over with a smile. "And the ponies who live here."
With that, he drew her into a kiss. This time, he made sure to give it his full attention.
Twilight Sparkle was straining to explain the flight harness' workings to a group of raptly attentive pegasi. In spite of her time teaching undergraduate thaumaturgy and introductory arcanomathematics, she still found it difficult to craft explanations that didn't feel to her like she was oversimplifying or glossing over the subject, whilst not feeling like a glass of warm milk and a lullaby to any layponies who might be listening.
As she stole a glance over their heads, hoping that wasn't where her speech was going, she spotted a bouncy crest of frizzy pink mane bobbing at the edge of the crowd. A smile spread across her face in spite of herself.
She turned to the pegasi with an apologetic expression. "I hate to break off without answering all your questions, but something's just popped up. We at Harmony Aeronautics appreciate your interest, and you'll soon be able to direct any and all inquiries to our public relations office. Now if you'll excuse me..."
With that, she vanished in a burst of white light, making a mental note to herself to talk to Rarity about setting up a public relations office.
Twilight popped back into reality next to Pinkie Pie and her perambulator. She gave the pink mare a fond smile and a wave of her lavender colored hoof. "Hi, Pinkie. It's good to see you out and about."
The candy colored earth pony grinned from ear to ear and gave her old friend a brief hug. "Hiya, Twilight!"
She took a deep, luxurious breath and stood on the tips of her hooves."It's super great to be out and about. I've been so busy takin' care of Puddin' this past month I've been goin' stir crazy, which is okay if you've got batter to mix up but not so good otherwise."
She nodded her head at the clear, lightly cloudy skies above. "So today I decided it'd be nice to take my fillies and go for a walk." The pink mare gave a wry smile and let out a sigh. "Well, I walked. Puddin' rode, and Toots flew."
Almost on cue, a high pitched chorus of squeals caused both mares to wince in unison. Nearby, Pinkie's eldest daughter was engaged in a raucous game of poppitup with Windfall under Fluttershy's watchful aquamarine gaze. The fillies wheeled and circled, keeping the chocolate brown filly's treasured Rainbow Dash doll airborne with flyby nudges from noses or tails. Fluttershy shrugged apologetically and gave her friends a wave.
Pinkie nodded toward the milling and hovering crowd. "So imagine our luck when we noticed all these pegasi heading over toward Sweet Apple Acres for what could only be a pegasus party, because why else would a big bunch of pegasus ponies all get together in one place for, aside from chasing away a big storm or something?"
The earth pony mother smiled down into the carriage, where her infant daughter blew some bubbles of drool and kicked her little hooves as she met her limpid blue eyes. "Seemed like a perfect pretense for Puddin's public party premiere."
Twilight cleared her throat. "Well, truth be told, we had a mysterious fire out here, but that's been put out. The real reason all these pegasi are here is because when we sent Pip to get the weather patrol, a lot of them saw him flying in the harness and were curious."
Pinkie Pie was busy making a funny face for Puddin', but stopped short with eyes wide and her tongue half out, and turned to Twilight with that expression frozen on her face. She reached back and gave the mane at the back of her head a tug, retracting both eyeballs and tongue, and then grasped the lavender unicorn by her shoulders, her voice tinged with disbelief and hope. "Pip? As in Pip Squeak the chimney sweep? Flying? But Pip's an earth pony! Earth ponies can't fly. That's crazy talk."
Twilight furrowed her brow and pursed her lips, letting out a small huff. "Pinkie! Apple Bloom, Rarity, and I have been working on a winged harness that will let earth ponies and unicorns fly for months now. We haven't really been keeping it that much a secret. Surely Applejack or Fluttershy mentioned it to you."
The cotton candy colored mare gave a casual toss of her head. "Oh, they have, but I made a point of forgetting all about it so that your big reveal would be that much more super exciting and wonderful."
The lavender unicorn rolled her violet eyes, shook her head, and gave Pinkie a strained smile. "Would you like to see it?"
The pink earth pony started bouncing higher and higher. "Would I? Should chocolate covered jelly donuts be a food group? Of course I'd like to see it."
Twilight gave Pinkie a fond if slightly exasperated grin and beckoned her to follow with her horn.
Pip was flashing his glittering smile at a trio of pegasus mares who seemed just as intent on admiring his physique as they were the winged harness that he wore, causing Apple Bloom to curl her lip a bit and narrow her eyes warily as she manipulated one of the wings to show off the mechanism.
The three pegasi were unceremoniously swept aside in a burst of loose feathers and flailing legs as a pink, yellow, and blue blur suddenly snapped into the shape of Pinkie Pie and a baby carriage where they had been standing.
The young test stallion flinched back in surprise as she proceeded to examine every nook and cranny of the flight harness, giving little if any consideration to the young stallion's personal space. "Er... Hello there, Mrs. Pie. Jolly good to see you today?"
Apple Bloom let out a sigh of mixed relief and bemusement. "Howdy Pinkie." She glanced over at little Puddin' with a smile, and flinched as another joyous shriek split the air. She exchanged a wry expression with Twilight as she approached. "Sounds like ya brought yer daughters by fer a visit."
An expectant smile was beginning to manifest on the lavender unicorn's face. "So... What do you think, Pinkie?"
The candy colored mare rounded on her with a look of excitement on her vibrant pink face. "I think it's super duper cool, Twilight. It's the cat's meow, the bee's knees, the sea serpent's mustache!" Her brow furrowed for a second, and a thoughtful look crossed her face as another squeal rang out from Tootsie and Windfall's game.
She met her unicorn friend's gaze with her ears perked up hopefully. "Can I try 'em?"
Twilight's eyebrows shot up as she reared back. "T-try them? Well... these are prototypes. I don't know if that would be such a good... uh..."
She was silenced by a faint whimper and a pair of large, wobbly, limpid blue eyes set in a pouting pink face with a slightly quivering lower lip. Some tiny, analytical core of her mind set about devising an experiment where she might compare Fluttershy's "The Stare" and... and this. Perhaps with a cockatrice as a control sample. The rest of Twilight's considerable brain power was reduced to soggy, saccharine mush.
She cast a desperate glance over to Apple Bloom and stammered. "Um... uh... Ap... Apple Bloom, what do you think about letting Pinkie... letting her... uh..."
The young handymare held up a hoof and took a step back. "Whoa, hey. I'm just the engineer. They're safe for anypony t' fly, 'specially since we got y'all and a passel o' pegasi t' spot for her, but makin' that call's above my pay grade."
She jabbed the hoof at Pinkie as she saw the frizzy maned head start to rotate in her direction. "Y'all just keep them puppy dog eyes o' yers lookin' that way, Miz Pie."
Pip cleared his throat and took a step forward. "I say. I won't presume on your judgement, Doctor Sparkle, but were it up to me I'd gladly accede to this mare's request. The harness works like a charm. Safe as houses."
Twilight dithered, glancing toward where she'd last seen Apple Bloom's elder sister. "Um.. what do you think Applejack would say to... uh..."
The blonde mare and her sky blue pegasus swain were still locked in their kiss. The farm pony held her hat in her hoof and leaned over the former stunt flyer, who's back arched in a swoon with his wings flared.
Apple Bloom cast a wan look at the osculating couple, then turned back to Twilight with a deadpan expression. "I reckon th' answer'd be 'No comment.' It's yer decision, boss."
The lavender inventor let out a sigh, tapping her hoof on her chin as she squinted to withstand a further onslaught of liquid eyes and lip quivers. "Well... I would like to test user fungibility on the prototype..."
She dropped her hoof and did a little tap dance of uncertainty. "Ohhh. Rarity is going to be so colossally miffed that she missed this."
Twilight let out a sigh, then gave her old friend a smile. "Of course you can try it, Pinkie. You're the whole reason I started this enterprise in the first place."
At this, Pinkie bunched up her shoulders and started bouncing rapidly in place, a sound like a rising tea kettle coming from the depths of her throat. The lavender unicorn reached up and planted a hoof on her vibrant pink shoulder with a chuckle. "Hang on there, girl. Don't take off before we can get the harness on you."
She turned to Apple Bloom and Pip. "If you guys would give us a hoof here..."
Tootsie and Windfall let out another shriek in that ear splitting frequency common to little fillies at play as they looped and banked over the alfalfa field, flipping the bedraggled blue and yellow suited doll between them in imitation of its model's famous aerial stunts.
Suddenly the little chocolate brown filly drew herself up, her blue eyes wide in shock as the doll precariously balanced on the tip of her dainty snout. Windfall pulled into a hover, rotating to see what her friend was staring at. Her own emerald green gaze landed on a pink mare floating there expectantly on a pair of wood and canvas wings, a flight helmet and goggles barely containing a frizzy cloud of mane around a smile of pure, untrammeled joy.
Tootsie let out a gasp. "M... mama? You can fly?"
She let out a cry of alarm as the Dash doll rolled off of her nose and plummeted toward the ground. A split second later, Pinkie broke into a steep dive, intercepting the falling facsimile of her friend and flipping it skyward with a flick of her twitchy tail.
Both fillies and the cotton candy colored mare let out an exultant squeal and the best game of poppitup ever played was joined. Moments later, a softly giggling Fluttershy was pulled into the action, and mothers and daughters frolicked happily together in the summer breeze.
Down below, Twilight Sparkle stood beaming with joy and standing next to Pip and Apple Bloom, who held hooves and gazed up with the rest of the ponies in attendance. Applejack and Soarin had finally come up for air, and were grinning fondly at the spectacle as well.
The lavender unicorn flicked an ear and turned to look down as a movement in the baby carriage beside her caught her attention. Her eyes widened as a tiny, pink, diaper clad figure rose slowly up out of the pram, her delicate little wings buzzing furiously and her innocent face fixed resolutely on her mother and elder sister.
Windfall called the game to a halt as her sharp eyes spotted the fluttering infant first. "Look! Puddin's flyin'!" At a nod from Fluttershy, the butter colored pegasus and her peach colored daughter withdrew to quietly observe.
The Rainbow Dash doll tumbled, unheeded, to the alfalfa stubble below, as her playmates froze, watching the youngest member of the Pie family make her determined way up to them, bobbling a bit as she worked her little wings.
Tears welled in Pinkie Pies eyes as she drifted down to meet Puddin' with Tootsie at her side. She took the little filly in her hooves and hugged her with a sob.
Her elder daughter screwed up her face in confusion as she orbited the tender embrace on her hummingbird busy wings. "Why are you cryin', mama?"
Pinkie gave Tootsie a grin. "'cos my dreams didn't come true, sugar dot." She gave Puddin' a squeeze. "And that's just wonderful."
Twilight plucked up the discarded Wonderbolts doll in her magic, and looked up at the scene with a tear stained smile of her own. She softly intoned under her breath, her voice cracking with emotion. "Eureka!"