Written By: outlaw4rc
The Cloudsdale bulletin board, a place where pegasus can post any items of importance. It hovered by its lonesome between the cloud factory and the Cloudiseum; however, the board only received cursory glances throughout the day. In most cases, the only significant items plastered related to weather forecasts, job openings, and a pony selling ratty cloud furniture. However, when a poster suddenly appeared one afternoon, a throng of ponies soon surrounded it, gawking at it as though Princess Celestia herself had arrived.
Rainbow Dash had just left the factory when she spotted the amassed. “What’s going on over there?” she mumbled. “Did they change the weather again?”
She pushed herself to the front when she saw a large advertisement with bold letters of the top, reading Equestrian Grand Prix. That alone sent her heart leaping about, but further examination of the poster made her jaw drop. Images of not just pegasus, but griffons, falcons, bats and other flying creatures moved in a circular fashion around the Cloudiseum’s exterior. It was to be a race, one for all in Equestria and beyond, as a sign of good relations between the various nations but that didn’t matter much for Rainbow, though. Even without any indications of a big award for winning, she licked her chops at competing against the crème of the crop, the best fliers in the world.
It was too much excitement to contain, so she squealed to her heart’s content before blasting off toward the Cloudiseum so she could be the first to sign up. Might as well get a good start, she thought.
Posters, posters everywhere. Whoever was responsible for putting them up was fast as they spread all across Cloudsdale and Ponyville before sundown. It was fortunate for Rainbow’s friends, all having a picnic besides a flower field, had read them thoroughly. Otherwise, deciphering her excited blabbering would have been impossible.
“I takes it…” mumbled Applejack while nibbling on some pie. “…you’re looking forward to this little race.”
Such words were inadequate for Rainbow, so she called her out as she hovered around randomly. “It’s way more than a race. This is my chance to show not just fellow Junior Speedsters, not just Equestria, but the whole world just how good I am.”
Twilight had a poster besides her, which she unfurled in mid-air. “That’s all well and good, Rainbow, but have you seen the configuration and distance for this competition?”
After a few seconds of gazing at the parchment, she shrugged. “So?”
“Based on the circuit’s layout, you’ll be racing approximately two hours without needing to slow down.” She put the poster away. “I read about a race like this before, and it looks like you don’t just need speed, but endurance, strategy, and some good luck.”
Speed was Rainbow’s greatest asset, but endurance wasn’t quite up there. She took naps quite often for that reason alone. She rarely needed to plan her races although she did have the occasional misfortune strike her down. Even so, Rainbow liked her chances. “Well, I got two weeks for this, so I got plenty of time to get ready.”
Fluttershy let her ears droop. She could already hear Rainbow’s incessant complaining about her weak cheering during the so-called encouragement sessions. However, the inevitable question for assistance never came. Instead, Rainbow gasped as though something amazing just happened.
“I know! I can get him to join in, and help me win this thing! Heh! This is going to be great!”
That was all the clues needed for Rarity, lying down on a red chaise lounger, to guess on the pony’s identity. “Darling? If you’re referring to Swift Flying, are you certain he’d be willing to be part of all this? My impression when we met him a month ago was that he avoided competitions in general.”
“You just want to hang out with him again, Rainbow,” prodded Spike, grabbing some flowers from the fields, so he can charm Rarity with them. He only earned a head pat, making his smile fade away in disappointment.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” said Rainbow, shoving her muzzle right in Spike’s face.
Applejack responded with a smirk. “You’ve been spendin’ a might bit of time writing to this Swift fellow…” She fluttered her eyes while adding a sultry tone. “…if you get my hint.”
Rainbow crossed her hooves, but her friend’s teasing caused her usually confident voice to waver. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“And when you speak of him…” added Rarity “…there is a hint of…” She paused, moving her hoof around the couch looking for the right word. “…fondness that I detect. It’s perfectly natural for a mare your age, Rainbow. Believe me, there is nothing to be embarrassed about.”
But she was, as her cheeks burned up. “You and your crazy imagination, Rarity.” She chuckled nervously while slowly making a retreat. “He’s my friend, that’s all. Listen, I gotta bail. Have… lots of work tomorrow. Bye.”
As Rainbow blazed away, she peeked back, noticing her friends murmuring amongst each other, except for Pinkie, who did the pinkie swear motion her way. It brought both relief and further humiliation, knowing the pink pony had caught Swift and her nearly locking lips up in a cloud. Even now, an explanation for her actions was missing, but she did not intend in figuring it out. Romance was not part of her vocabulary, and she wanted it to stay that way. Besides, there were other things in her mind, mainly, how to win the Equestrian Grand Prix.
Beyond Ponyville stood the tall, rugged Stallihorn Mountains. Even with a path going through them, few traversed it, fearing rockslides, wild animals, and unpredictable weather. Most simply go around, although that meant reaching the villages beyond in a day rather than a few, measly hours. After endless years, though, two towns, Ponyville and Brayside Beach, decided to work together in a construction project so that one can take a train through the mountains rather than around. That required clearing away the terrain before laying down the track, tasks assigned to strong earth ponies along with unicorns skilled in levitation. Skilled weather pegasus served as support, shooing away anything that could possibly disrupt the plan, from torrential downpours to gusty winds.
One such gray pony did much of the weather work for the project, but he had a partner, although she was habitually late. It didn’t matter on this day, though, because the uncontrollable weather had backed off, with all the dark clouds drifting aimlessly behind the tallest peaks. Using his blue eyes, he glanced below, catching ponies in hard hats leveling out the jagged, hilly terrain with shovels with unicorns removing the rocky debris. Further off, others laid down track that winded through the ranges.
“Need a hoof down there?” he yelled to the workers.
“We’re good for now, Swift!” one of them yelled back.
The stallion cringed for a moment. C’mon. You can get over this name thing. “Gotcha!” he said with a smile.
He positioned his eyes away from the mid-morning sun, readying for a siesta. It took a few seconds before the stallion’s ears moved about, apparently tracking something in the sky. Somepony was coming right at him, tripping alarms in his head.
Swift’s wings pushed him sideways, just as a rainbow streak cut right through his prior position, wiping away half the cloud. Such a close call left his chest pulsating, so he took a few deep breaths as the newcomer slowly hovered to his sight level. He waved at her with a jittering hoof with matching tone. “’Sup, Rainbow. Came in a bit hot, didn’t ya?”
“Sorry,” she said with an apprehensive laugh. “It’s just that I’m excited about the—”
“—Equestrian Grand Prix?” he said, smiling. As she nodded, he settled himself back on the cloud so he can look at a few ponies laying down railroad tracks below. “News traveled fast, so I’m guessing they had planned for this already. You signed up already?”
“Like you had to ask!” she boasted. “So, when do we start getting ready for this?”
“Eh?” he remarked, rubbing his light blue mane. “What do you mean by, we? You know I usually avoid these types of things.”
Her hoof smacked her forehead. “Oh, c’mon! What do I keep telling you? Pegasus pride! Show off how agile you are!”
With some ruffling of his medium blue forelock, he contemplated on what to do. Although he could be at top form against his friend, doing it out in the open was another story altogether. He wasn’t looking for fame and bragging rights, just fun, despite Rainbow’s constant attempts to mold him that way. “Oh, I’m not sure about this.”
She narrowed her sights on him, which rattled him up a little.
“Besides, I only have a few days of vacation left. I won’t have much time for training. I’ll just slow you down. Go on without me, no worries.” He gave her a small grin, hoping she’d drop the matter.
Apparently, an aggressive approach was not working on Swift. Rainbow needed something else, but using his name was no longer effective, at least when she said it. Maybe a more honest approach would work, she thought. “Listen…” She sat next to him on the narrow cloud. “…it’s just that I liked hanging out with you last time but we had that condition to fight off and this…” She moved her hoof across the mountain range. “…it’s all work. So…” She brought out her best smile, one warm as the sun above them. “…how about we have some fun together?”
Whatever doubt Swift had melted away, so he smiled back. “Well, when you put it that way, why not?”
They both bumped hooves, sealing the deal. Content, Rainbow laid flat on the cloud, letting out a yawn. “Well, time for a nap. Long flight from Ponyville, you know.”
He rolled his eyes, knowing that in this phase of the railway project, going from the site to his home at Brayside was longer. However, he started feeling odd with the mare’s tail touching his body, as he detected a whiff of her shampoo choice, citrus. “Umm…” His voice wavered. “…I should probably get my own cloud.”
“Geez.” She stretched her hooves. “What wrong with…” Her magenta eyes flipped wide-open, feeling soft, gray fur. “Oh”, she said looking away. “Yeah, I wasn’t trying to… crowd you out or—”
Swift hovered above her with a scorching face. “…nah, no, no worries. Besides, I think some of those storm clouds have turned this way. I should get a head start.”
He left Rainbow behind, heading toward the mountain peaks. With a bop on the head, his cheeks cooled off. Stop acting so weird around her. I’m not getting into that gushy stuff like mom and pop. Eh? He sensed Rainbow had caught up, befuddling him. “I thought you were taking a snooze.”
“Nah.” She pointed ahead as the cloud layer had suddenly multiplied. “Might as well do something today.”
He snorted a laugh. “Did you just say that? What’s gotten into you?”
“And what is that supposed to mean?” she said with a lowered brow.
Swift played innocent. “Oh, nothing. I…” Next thing he knew, one cyan hoof wrapped around his neck, the other rubbing his head, giving him a tickling and slight burning sensation. All he could do is chuckle, “Hey, what did I do? Ow.”
“That’s for implying that I'm lazy,” she replied with a smirk. “I just want to talk strategy with you for the race while we work, that’s all.”
Rainbow let him go, and then gestured to continue the flight. Swift followed besides as he swiped his hoof across his forelock and mane just enough so it’s somewhat messy rather than a complete lump of hair. Again, his nostrils sensed a citrus smell, setting off some tingling nerves, which made him smile. She is pretty wicked, though.