The next few weeks of Scootaloo’s life were exceptionally busy. Mornings started with school, followed by homework, followed by flight training. Rainbow Dash’s methods were often unorthodox, but she was also a fan of more common training models—namely those that start at the crack of dawn. Scootaloo wasn’t too happy about that.
Regardless, she rolled herself out of bed one morning and trudged for the front door. Once outside, she was greeted by the hum of cicadas and the aroma of dew upon the grass. Fog hung in the air, light and welcoming, which she breathed in deeply before shaking off the last bits of weariness and taking flight.
The large oak tree they always met beneath looked grander than normal with the first slivers of sunlight outlining its silhouette. As usual, Rainbow Dash leaned against its trunk, an absent expression on her face. Scootaloo wondered what she thought about in those idle moments spent waiting.
Whatever she had been thinking, Rainbow Dash was quick to forget it and give a preppy smile. “You ready?”
Scootaloo saw ringlets beneath her eyes. She must have been up earlier for her own workout. Not wanting to keep her from the sleep she needed, Scootaloo replied, “Of course,” though her tone matched the fatigue she felt in her wings.
“Heh, sore huh? You’ll get used to it. That’s why we’re adding morning practices. Nothing like good old endurance training!” She pumped her hoof in the air, nothing but joy on her face.
Scootaloo gave her a fake smile. Training more so the normal training stops hurting? Did that even make sense? Despite Rainbow Dash’s exhaustion, the attitude in her voice seemed to say so. If Rainbow Dash could do it, so could she.
“Let’s get to it!” Rainbow Dash said, and was in the air heading north at a brisk pace before Scootaloo could nod.
Scootaloo sighed. Starting a workout was always the hard part, but she had to. With that in mind, into the sky she flew.
She caught up with Rainbow Dash and slowed to pace her. After a moment, she glanced at her to see if they were indeed flying the fastest they would all morning. It wasn’t anywhere near what she had anticipated. The blank stare that was Rainbow Dash’s expression said nothing to affirm or deny her thought. Content with the speed, Scootaloo gazed ahead and let her mind wander.
Applebloom and Sweetie Belle had both been excited when she told them about her first flight. Their smiles pumped up her confidence considerably, and knowing her father felt the same way only added to it. Though the face he had made when she told him how her flight went was priceless. She loved her father, but he could sometimes really be—
“So, uh, how’s school?”
Scootaloo snapped to. Rainbow Dash was looking at her, smiling but a little unsure of herself. “Oh, uh... it’s been okay, I guess.”
Scootaloo waited for more, but when Rainbow Dash failed to continue, she looked ahead. Now and again, she glanced at Rainbow Dash, curious as to what that was all about.
“You been keeping up with your work and everything?”
There it was again—that unsure smile. “Uh, yeah, it’s all easy enough.”
A chuckle turned her smile to the faintest of grins. “That bully still giving you trouble in class?”
“Huh? Oh, haha... nah. He started leaving me alone after that fight. He even started being nice to the others when I was around.”
That was more than two years ago. Why was she asking about that?
“That’s good, too...” Rainbow Dash looked away, her eyes dancing about in search of something in the plains below. “You ever wanted to be in a race?”
Scootaloo blinked before fully realizing what had been asked. “Wha... Oh, yeah! I’ve gone to see every single race you’ve been in ever since we came to Ponyville. I’ve always dreamed of being in one.”
Rainbow Dash’s curiosity became a grin. “Hah! Well, did I ever tell you about the time I raced against Ric Neighre?”
“No, you haven’t.” Scootaloo forgot that she was flying, instead wondering who this pony was. He sounded fast. “Did you beat him?”
Offense marked Rainbow Dash’s face. “What? Are you kidding? Of course I beat him! I couldn’t even see him when I crossed the finish line.” She waved an idle hoof.
Scootaloo’s smile gaped, her eyes bright with awe. “Wow! Do you think I could ever be that fast?”
Rainbow Dash paused for a moment, then smiled. “Maybe. Of course, you’ll never be able to beat me.” A roguish smile played across her lips.
They laughed together. Rainbow Dash smiled into the distance to let silence fall between them. A moment passed before she turned it back to Scootaloo “So you really want to be in a race, huh?”
Scootaloo nodded. “Uh huh.”
“Alright, squirt, I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime, I think we should head back. You still got school and all.” With that, she banked around and headed for Ponyville, Scootaloo in tow.
Scootaloo beamed. She was going to be in a race. A real race! How cool was that? “Hey, Rainbow Dash.”
Rainbow Dash smiled warmly. “No problem.”
The rest of their flight passed in silence. Scootaloo landed on her doorstep and waved farewell. After a quick shower, she was on her way to school, the fatigue of her morning workout catching up with her. She trudged into class late.
“School starts at eight o'clock sharp, young lady.”
Scootaloo didn’t bother looking and instead mocked the words as she passed by Mrs. Meter Stick’s desk and toward her own. She could see the mare’s contemptuous scowl in her mind regardless: those half-moon glasses that sat low on her nose, and her mane of grey done up in a tight bun. Scootaloo wished she could do the same to her wrinkles and never see that ugly face again.
She missed Cheerilee’s class, wishing she taught the upper grades as well. Things would be much more bearable with her instead of the bumbling, ruler-flanked witch at the front of class. Nevertheless, Scootaloo plopped herself down in her seat by her two best friends. She heard Applebloom shift forward in her seat to whisper in her ear.
“Whoa, you don’t look so good, Scoot.”
“Yeah, you look like you got hit by a train,” Sweetie Belle added from her seat next to Scootaloo.
Scootaloo shrugged, half in dismissal of their claims, half in unloading her soreness. “Nah, I’m fine you guys. I just had to wake up early is all.”
There was an abrupt cough at the head of class. Mrs. Meter Stick’s deep green eyes danced between them, her eyebrows peaked in faux curiosity, nose raised slightly so as to look down at them.
Scootaloo glared back in defiance until Mrs. Meter Stick turned her attention to the notes on her desk.
“What were ya doin’ up so early?” Applebloom whispered.
“Rainbow Dash wanted to start adding some distance flyi—”
“Since you seem so interested in learning, Scootaloo,” Mrs. Meter Stick interrupted, “would you mind telling us the answer to the question?”
Scootaloo looked at the board.
Addition? Really? They had learned this last year. “Sixteen,” she stated with no particular interest.
The class burst into laughter. Mrs. Meter Stick chuckled. “If you were paying the slightest bit of attention, young lady, you would know we already did our arithmetic this morning while you were out and about. This is the tenth time you’ve been late to class this month. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
A faint red flushed beneath the fur on Scootaloo’s cheeks as she glared daggers.
“Oooh, oooh, Mrs. Meter Stick!” Diamond Tiara exclaimed, her hoof waving about in the air. “The answer is ‘Princess Luna.’”
Mrs. Meter Stick smiled warmly. “That’s correct, Diamond Tiara.”
Diamond Tiara shot a spiteful grin at Scootaloo when Mrs. Meter Stick turned to face the board. Scootaloo rolled her eyes, but Sweetie Belle giggled.
“You were pretty far off, huh?”
Scootaloo couldn’t help but crack a smile. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Okay, class, now we are going to resume our lecture on unicorn magic and—”
Oh, Celestia, kill me now.
Scootaloo groaned, then thudded her head against her desk. Aches grew loud in her muscles, reminding her of the coming workout. Though it sent a shiver up her spine, she couldn’t help but look forward to it.
The glamour of flying had quickly evaporated with Rainbow Dash’s rigorous training regimen. In a paradox of feelings, she loathed the daily pain, but was somehow drawn to it. Being near Rainbow Dash had been why she started, but something else took its place. She couldn’t place a hoof on it, only knowing that she wanted it, needed it. But why?
There was a thunderous crash, and Scootaloo bolted upright in alarm. Standing over her, Mrs. Meter Stick held a ruler in her mouth, eyes glaring death.
Still gathering her wits, Scootaloo looked at the smirking faces around her. She turned to Applebloom. “Was I sleeping?”
Applebloom giggled. “You were snorin’ louder than my big sis durin’ Applebuck Season.” She pointed to the drool on Scootaloo’s desk.
Scootaloo sighed. This was going to be a long day.
The school bell rang out three o’clock. Scootaloo followed the herd of stampeding foals into the schoolyard.
“See ya, Scoot!” Applebloom called to her.
“Yeah, see ya!” Sweetie Belle said.
“See you guys later!” Scootaloo called back. She stood in the schoolyard to watch them go, then sighed.
Above the rooftops she rose in simplistic movements, conserving her energy for later. Below, the small colorful figures of her classmates scattered every which way.
Her mind wandered as she glided to the meeting point. She thought of her previous workouts and the toll they had taken on her. Her wings felt like rubber, but she knew they would support her regardless of how little energy she had, an impossibility only weeks prior.
Her goal of flying had been accomplished, but something else still teased her. Rainbow Dash came to the forefront of her mind. Before only a dream, now integral in her life. There was no true reason to continue training, nor any strong urge to idolize her as she once had. Yet something still haunted her.
That something lingered in her thoughts until she reached the oak.
“You ready?” Rainbow Dash’s expression was as usual: tired but preppy.
Scootaloo closed her eyes, took a breath, let it out, and then opened them. “I’m ready.”
The weekend passed in a blur of eating, sleeping, and flying. Much to Scootaloo’s surprise, the morning distance flights considerably improved her ability to keep up with her training. Whether it was due to actual improvement or a placebo effect remained a mystery.
Or perhaps it was because Rainbow Dash had entered her in the Junior Speedsters Track and Flight meet.
Whatever the case, Scootaloo sped through her Monday morning practice to get to school as fast as possible. Her friends had to know.
For once, she arrived early, rushing to her seat with an energy even she didn’t know she had. “Guys! Guys! You’ll never guess what happened this weekend!” She leapt into it, forehooves over the back to be face to face with Applebloom and Sweetie Belle.
Applebloom leaned back in her chair, brow raised, pencil drooping from her mouth. “What?”
The bell rang, loud and annoying. Eyes rolled and mouth scrunched aside in impatience, Scootaloo waited for its last toll to die away.
“Good morning, class,” said Mrs. Meter Stick. Scootaloo grunted.
“Good morning, Mrs. Meter Stick,” the class droned back.
“Guys, Rainbow Dash—”
“Now, as we learned yesterday—”
Scootaloo groaned even louder, hooves pressed into her face. Both Applebloom and Sweetie Belle had turned ahead for the lesson, so she spun around to sit down in her chair, snout buried in crossed forehooves, eyes free to glower at Mrs. Meter Stick.
So much for telling them the exciting news. Whatever. She could tell them at recess. With that decided, she sighed and stared into space, not caring for the day’s lessons.
Math dragged on into writing, which then bled into reading time. All the while Scootaloo’s eyelids became heavier. Around her, the world smeared into darkness, and the voice of the filly reading aloud became muffled, as if beneath a layer of thick blankets.
Suddenly, there was a sharp jab in her side. Scootaloo shot up and turned to scowl at Sweetie Belle, whom she assumed was the culprit, but paused when she noticed the shadow looming over her.
“Is something wrong, Scootaloo?” Mrs. Meter Stick asked. Her words dripped with sarcasm. “Is this book too boring for you?”
Scootaloo rolled her eyes. No, just you.
The classroom gasped, followed by a terrible silence. Scootaloo looked at her classmates, at Mrs. Meter Stick, then down at her desk as she shrank into her seat and mumbled, “That was out loud, wasn’t it?”
Scootaloo sat in her chair with nothing but her thoughts and punishment to keep her company.
I will not talk back in class, she wrote for the umpteenth time on a piece of paper before looking out a window that Mrs. Meter Stick purposefully left open. She sighed. Applebloom and Sweetie Belle were playing kickball without her. Detention sucked.
Scootaloo turned away from the window and glanced at Mrs. Meter Stick, who was grading papers and muttering to herself. What Scootaloo wouldn’t do to get back at the old crone. Put tacks on her chair? Too obvious. Maybe—
The school bell tolled the end of recess and the beginning of lunch. A loud shuffling of hooves and clamour of voices avalanched in from the hallway. Scootaloo leapt from her seat to grab her pack lunch and head for the cafeteria.
“You’ll be eating in here,” Mrs. Meter Stick said, without looking up from her work.
“You’ll be eating in here.” Her voice was loud and authoritative, her matter-of-fact gaze reflecting the words. Scootaloo scowled back. She huffed, then stomped back to her seat, opened her bag, and ate in silence.
The latter half of the school day went its course without much incident. On the front wall of the classroom, the clock ticked away the time while Mrs. Meter Stick lectured about the many stars and constellations in the nighttime sky. Scootaloo only half-listened as she vigilantly eyed the clock, its hands so close to three. Almost there! In a matter of seconds, she would finally be able to tell her friends the big surprise.
Without disappointment, the bell rang as scheduled. It effectively interrupted Mrs. Meter Stick mid-sentence, and Scootaloo didn’t miss a beat. “Finally!” she yelled, adding to the outburst of the classroom before turning to her friends.
“What’s up?” Applebloom asked as she stuffed her school books into her saddlebags.
“I’ve been waiting all day to tell you guys.” Scootaloo slung her saddlebags around her waist and trotted for the door alongside them. She looked between Applebloom and Sweetie Belle, waiting for them to ask what she was going to say. When their only answers were the blank stares they gave, she said, “Rainbow Dash entered me into this week’s Junior Speedsters Track and Flight meet!”
“Oh, wow! I bet you’re excited, Scoot,” Applebloom said.
“You bet I am!” Scootaloo replied. As she beamed at her friends, she noticed Mrs. Meter Stick staring down at her curiously, a faint smile on her face. Scootaloo raised a brow, but then dismissed it. Whatever the old hag was happy about didn’t matter to her.
“So what exactly is the Junior Speedsters Track and Flight, anyways?” Sweetie Belle asked when the trio stepped out into the afternoon sun.
“It’s an athletic meet run by the pegasi who run Junior Speedsters,” Scootaloo said. “They hold them every Friday outside Fillydelphia. I used to go to them with my dad every once in a while when I was little. They have all sorts of races for both pegasi and earth ponies.”
“Coooool,” the others replied in unison.
“Oooh!” Applebloom waved an excited hoof. “Maybe we could join, too. We could be the Cutie Mark Crusader track stars!”
Scootaloo smiled. “Except you forgot both of you already have your cutie marks. But you two could come cheer me on!”
“Oh, I don’t know, Scoot,” Sweetie Belle said, eyes downcast, “I don’t think Rarity will let me go that far away from home. Sorry.”
“Oh... Yeah, I forgot Applejack wanted me to help with fixin’ up the barn roof. Sorry, Scoot.”
Though saddened, Scootaloo nonetheless looked forward to the coming Friday and put on a brave face for their sakes. “That’s alright, guys, I know you’ll be cheering for me from here.”
Applebloom and Sweetie Belle smiled appreciatively.
“We sure will,” Applebloom said.
Sweetie Belle nodded her head. “You bet.”
Scootaloo lifted herself into the air and flew circles around her friends. “Alright, I gotta go fly with Rainbow Dash. I’ll see you guys later.” She took to the sky, the voices of Applebloom and Sweetie Belle fading into the distance.
In a matter of minutes, she landed beneath the oak tree, where Rainbow Dash stood leaning against it, head hung in slumber.
Scootaloo smiled. Loyal to a fault Rainbow Dash was, always there like she promised. Waking her felt rude, but so did not waking her. She giggled at the paradox, then nudged Rainbow Dash’s wing.
“Ugh? Oh, hey, Scoot.” She rubbed sleep from her eyes as she groggily said the words, then yawned. A smile formed beneath half-lidded eyes that tried to say ”I’m awake,” but failed. “You ready to get goin’?” Her wings opened up in readiness for flight.
Scootaloo smiled. “Of course.”
Her evening practice went by in a flash, partially due to her body’s increasing physical tolerance, but primarily because Rainbow Dash wanted to taper her practices. The two ended their session under abundant strands of wispy cirrus, which turned vibrant orange as the sun slid unto its nightly resting place. Scootaloo flew home under a slowly reddening sky.
Images of the coming race crept into the recesses of her brain and mingled with another germinating seed, calling forth the familiar swirl of mixed emotions and confusion that often haunted her when she was alone with her thoughts. The question still lingered. Why did she do this? She thought of Rainbow Dash, who had, in both a literal and figurative sense, taken her under her wing. She thought of the mare’s rose-eyed smile, her sole reward at the end of each day. It made the whole endeavor worth it.
Scootaloo found herself at the foot of the oak door, its dark face a brilliant sanguine in the dying light of day. She entered the ranch and headed for her room when a soft fatherly voice startled her from her introspection.
Tyco was looking up from a stack of papers on the coffee table by his seat in the living room, surprised. “You’re home early. What gives?”
Scootaloo grinned. “Rainbow Dash is tapering my practices because she wants me to—”
“Be ready for a race?” he finished for her.
Her voice caught in her throat, she blinked, and then cocked her head.
A smile spread between his cheeks. “I used to race, Scoot. I know how it works. Junior Speedsters?”
Nodding dumbly was all Scootaloo could manage, still surprised as she was.
Tyco laughed. “I flew in those races every week as a colt. Why do you think I always took you to ‘em?” He winked. “You’ll have fun there. Now, off to bed. You want to be ready for your first race, right?”
Did she ever! Scootaloo bounded past him to her room. Onto her bed she dove, and into the swirling clouds and bellowing winds of her dreams.