Piercing the Heavens
By: Calm Wind
Soarin glided to the ground outside Canterlot Central Station. He was a few minutes late, but if anyone grilled him for it, he’d ask them if they could get a spandex headpiece on with a horn attached to their head. He dared not take it off in case it had the same repercussions as putting it on did. He had to slip the headpiece over the leather strap around his head, and then poke a hole through the forehead section for the horn to fit through. It effectively made a process that was supposed to take a few seconds take almost ten minutes.
Soarin pulled his goggles off and let them dangle around his neck as he landed. He squinted and contorted his face a couple times in discomfort. His goggles felt tighter because the strap of the goggles had to also go around the strap of the… strap-on. He grumbled as he started trotting. It was just a SILLY FAKE HORN and it was causing uniform issues. He’d have to get his goggles adjusted and possibly get a uniform tweak because the small hole in the material was making the headpiece hold awkwardly against his face.
With yet even more problems to think about, Soarin approached the station doors.
The only building that beat Canterlot Central Station in terms of awe factor was the royal palace itself. Despite being the second most beautiful building in Canterlot, it still most definitely held the rank of largest. The building spanned more blocks than Soarin ever tried to count. It was one large rectangular structure built with hardened sandstone. Along the outer walls were multiple tall windows with large pillars flanking them. The doors to the station appeared to be massive from a distance, but as one approached it became for show as fifty doors leading in and out lined the edge. So many ponies came and went through these doors that it was actually difficult for one to squeeze in despite how many entrances and exits existed.
In the center above the entrance was a sculpture carved right out of the stone. The sculpture consisted of three faceless ponies: earth, unicorn, and pegasus, all staring up at statues of the divine princess sisters, depicting them rearing on their hind legs with their backs turned to one another. In the center of this sculpture, between the normal ponies and the sisters, was an enormous clock with ancient numerals on it. Rails extended in every direction, from above, below, and from within the building itself. From here, one could effectively buy a ticket to any location in Equestria, granted you had the bits.
The interior of the building was equally impressive. The main hall of the station was almost completely wide open save for a few rectangular pillars close to the edges. Even with the hundreds of ponies moving about, Soarin could walk in a straight line with both wings extended and not even come close to batting someone with them. The ceiling was incredibly high and arched at the top, painted green to make it stand out from the light brownish sandstone color the rest of the structure possessed.
At the other end was a large ticketing area, but Soarin walked right through it towards the most important part of the station: the prime platform. It was not only where he was told to meet the other Wonderbolts, it was also the main hub of the station. All the rails that extended out from the station converged at this one point. The prime platform extended the wide length of the building with arrival platforms branching out towards the rails. Each platform was beside a “dead-end” track, one for each location traveled from. It didn’t take long for Soarin to spot the sea of blue-clad ponies.
Soarin made his way across the prime platform towards the gathered Wonderbolts. Squad two and three were there along with Spitfire and Fleetfoot, all donning their spandex uniforms as well. Soarin remembered the briefing: they were expecting cadets from Manehatten, Cloudsdale, and Canterlot. A few others may be mixed in (like Ponyville, he hoped) but the main bulk would be from the three large cities. Thinking of Ponyville, of course, made Soarin excited about Dash arriving, but he couldn’t help wondering who else might show from the small town, if any. The only other pegasi he knew in Ponyville were Thunderlane and Fluttershy. One of those two was most definitely not going to show.
The plan was for squad two to gather the cadets from Manehatten and for squad three to handle the Cloudsdale arrivals. The lead squad would pick up any others that arrived and put them with the Canterlot cadets upon reaching the compound. After Spitfire’s introduction and instructions, each squad would take their group and get them situated in the compound for the tryouts to start the very next day.
Fleetfoot took notice of Soarin as he approached. She glanced at the horn sticking awkwardly through the head piece of his uniform.
“Pfff,” she quickly suppressed a laugh.
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Soarin rolled his eyes as he approached. “I didn’t really have a choice.”
“I don’t know what’s funnier…” she snickered as she shook her head, “thinking about how much of a pain that must’ve been, or the fact that we have a princess Wonderbolt,” she let a few giggles escape.
“You know, I’m just gonna start ignoring you. Maybe that’ll get you to stop,” Soarin sighed as he looked around at the others.
“Challenge accepted, your highness,” Fleetfoot smirked as something much more interesting caught her eyes. “Oo!” she hopped once and her wings flared out.
“What?” Soarin looked back just in time before his head was yanked down to Fleetfoot’s level by her wing.
“Speaking of somepony being girly,” she pointed a hoof. Soarin followed it until his eyes landed on Spitfire sitting on a bench off to the side. Soarin glanced slightly left and saw Wave Chill approaching her, smiling sheepishly as she greeted him. Soarin frowned.
“Fleet, just let them be. Don’t you think you’ve given her enough shit about it already?” Soarin tried to reason with Fleetfoot, which was like trying to talk a lion into being vegan.
“Never!” she proclaimed with a devilish grin while squishing her cheek against his. She let him go and trotted quietly towards them. Soarin shook his head and went to check in with the other squads.
“Hey,” Spitfire said quietly as she smiled at Wave Chill. She glanced briefly at the others to make sure they weren’t watching or making a big deal out of it. She completely missed the fact that Fleetfoot was gone from view. Wave sent a smile right back.
“How are you ma’am? I mean, Captain Sp… sorry… Spitfire,” he looked down and blushed madly. Spitfire chuckled.
“At least you caught it this time. Just be at ease. Unless we’re in a professional situation just relax,” she explained as she swayed back and forth slightly.
“I’ll get it eventually…” said Wave as he took the spot next to her on the bench. “I’m just not used to it. Silver really grinded respect for authority into my brain over the years, it’s hard to switch off,” he sighed.
“Well, if he doesn’t like it,” she leaned into him subtly, “tell him he can take it up with me. He needs to lighten up anyway. I’m all for being strict, but he takes it about fifty steps over the line,” she joked.
“That’s still putting it lightly,” Wave rolled his eyes with a smile.
“How are the mares?” Spitfire asked.
“Same as always,” Wave answered. “I surprised Windy is still up,” he pointed over towards squad two as Soarin conversed with them. High Winds was swaying slightly and her eyes were half closed. Soarin suddenly glared at Blaze. It looked like she was making fun of the fake horn. “And Blaze…” Wave chuckled. “It’s a wonder Silver hasn’t punched her in the face yet. I can’t believe you two are related, you couldn’t be more different.”
“Loosely related,” Spitfire clarified with a grunt. “Let’s make that clear.”
“As always,” Wave smiled. The two just looked at each other for a few moments, Spitfire taking in his features. Upon examining his face, Wave looked like he had something on his mind. She was about to ask, but he spoke up before she could. “Say, Spitfire…” he trailed off quickly.
“Yes?” Spitfire tipped her head. Wave looked away briefly, face flushed. He wasn’t good at this. Being a stiff “yes-pony” and acting all soldier-like was mostly a cover up. He really didn’t know how to handle personal matters smoothly.
“Well, you know… after all this recruitment work and what not… we should… maybe we could… I think…” he turned his head away in the other direction as his thoughts raced. He stopped dead as his eyes met Fleetfoot’s about a foot away. She was staring starry eyed at both of them, her hooves squishing her cheeks, and a very quiet, high pitched, “EEEEEEEEEEEEE~” was escaping her mouth.
Spitfire blinked and turned as well. Her eyes widened in surprise, then glared as she saw her wingmate. Her yellow color was replaced by a bright red blush atop the glare. Before either of them could react, Fleetfoot pressed her hooves against the backs of their heads and forced their faces together.
“AND THEN…” she said in a low voice, “…THEY KISSED,” she giggled as their noses bumped. Spitfire quickly swiped Fleetfoot’s hoof away with her wing and stood up from the bench. She glared daggers at Fleetfoot, who only giggled uncontrollably while clutching her stomach.
“SHIPPER ON DECK!” Surprise suddenly appeared between them, standing up straight on her back hooves and saluting.
“Hey Spitfire!” Soarin called from near the arrival platforms. “First train!” he yelled out. Spitfire’s attention was drawn away from Fleetfoot. She blinked as she saw a diesel locomotive pull into Manehattan’s platform. She gave Fleetfoot another brief, flat stare and glanced at Wave again before gathering herself.
“Let’s get this started. Look alive everypony,” she quickly got into character and approached the first train.
Dash’s heart pounded vigorously in anticipation as their train pulled up to the Ponyville arrival platform. She had her duffle bag slung over her back, and was standing in front of the exit before anypony else had even gathered their belongings yet. She lurched slightly as the train came to a complete stop and smiled very wide as her wings began to twitch.
This was going to be so awesome. She got to see Soarin and she got to try out for the Wonderbolts! It was double the awesome! Dash blinked and looked down. Priorities Dash, get the priorities straight. She took a deep breath. She got to try out for the Wonderbolts and she got to see Soarin on top of her! Er… DAMMIT! ON TOP OF IT! IT! IT! IT!
She had to remember what was going on here. She had been psyched for the tryouts sure, but she couldn’t let Soarin distract her. There was no way in hell she wasn't going to see him, hopefully talk to him, and maybe spend some time with him, but TRYOUTS! This was her chance to fulfill her dream! Focus on THAT!
The solution to this sudden little brain dilemma: Soarin would kick her ass if she didn’t focus and give it her all. It was simple, Soarin loved her, and if she didn’t try her hardest and give it her best… well… that just wouldn’t be Rainbow Dash. Problem solved.
With her mind reset on her objective, Dash went back to being giddy.
“I could be wrong, but I think you’re excited,” Thunderlane joked as he, Derpy, and Bulk all lined up by behind her. Dash was visibly bouncing now and her wing feathers were puffing out a little here and there.
“What tipped you off?” Dash remained sarcastic in her bouncy state.
The conductor opened the door from outside and Dash was ready to sprint out onto the platform, however she didn’t get far.
“Whoa!” she came to an abrupt halt before getting sucked out into a sea of ponies that were departing a train on the other side of their arrival platform. Dash looked over the crowd as the other three joined her. The crowd was all pegasi: some big, some small, mares and stallions, and there was A LOT of them. There had to be at least seventy at first glance. It was to be expected since Ponyville’s railway shared an arrival platform with Cloudsdale’s, but there were so many and the platform was only wide enough for six ponies to stand side by side. Each pegasus also carried a bag of some sort that suggested they were staying for a short while.
This was one thing Dash had not taken into consideration. The Wonderbolts were holding open tryouts to bring in new recruits… but they were also looking to fill in an open elite spot. With the possibility of being allowed right into one of the Wonderbolts’ twenty elite squads, the turnout was going to be enormous! And that wasn’t counting the already existing Wonderbolt recruits that would most likely join the tryouts as well.
“That’s… a lot of ponies,” Derpy squeaked while peeking out from behind Dash.
“Well, at least we know where to go,” Dash turned and nodded to the rest of them. “Let’s follow the crowd,” she beckoned them as they slid into the flowing river moving towards the prime platform.
The crowd was dense but it was easy to stay together because they put Bulk in front. His girth effectively plowed a nice comfortable space for the other three to walk behind him. Dash eventually hopped up and stood on his shoulders as they moved. She wanted to make sure they didn’t just pass right by the Wonderbolts. After a rough walk, Dash caught glimpse of an even bigger crowd gathering and she was more than certain she could see Wonderbolt uniforms beyond it.
“Bulk! Thattaway!” she tapped the back of his head with one hoof and pointed with the other. Bulk blinked and spotted the larger crowd himself.
“YEAH!!!” he yelled as he shifted left, accidentally knocking two pegasi over as he did.
“Sorry,” Thunderlane apologized to the two as he followed behind Bulk’s new warpath through the crowd.
“Wow…” Dash’s mouth hung agape as she saw even more Pegasi pour from a Manehatten arrival platform. With their crowd and this new one there was effectively two hundred pegasi gathered at least. This was not going to be a cake walk. Dash already expected a challenge, but this only added to it.
“Alright, everypony shut their damn shit the hell up and listen!” A familiar voice rang out from above as they joined the massive gathering. Dash hopped down from Bulk’s back and looked up past the pony in front of her. It was… Spitfire? It looked like her: yellow body beneath the uniform and an orange blown back mane. Her voice was similar too, but… the Wonderbolt was moving sporadically, yelling obscenities with a hint of amusement in her voice, and was smirking in a devilish way Dash had never seen Spitfire do before. The rest of the pegasi seemed confused as well. Some of them stiffened, thinking it was Spitfire, others looked on in confusion.
Upon closer inspection of this Wonderbolt, Dash realized that a streak of yellow was missing from the mane. Wait! She knew this Wonderbolt! She was in the locker room during her visit. Plus, Dash knew the top squad rosters well. Before Dash could think further, a hoof reached up and yanked the Wonderbolt down with a yelp.
“Blaze!” Spitfire growled as she forced her down. Blaze turned while chuckling.
“I think I had ‘em all convinced!” she pounded her chest. “I dunno sis, I think I might go as you for next Nightmare Night.”
“How about you just stand still and await orders? For once?” Spitfire glared at her flatly.
“Pff…” Blaze scoffed. “Don’t suck the whole uniform up your ass while you’re at it,” she rolled her eyes as Spitfire ignored her and shoved her back towards squad two. Silver Lining quickly grabbed Blaze away from Spitfire and forced her to stand attention beside High Winds. Blaze pulled her ears up and stuck her tongue out at Silver Lining as he turned away from her.
Soarin chuckled as he watched Blaze before he turned his head back to the crowd. This was most certainly a massive turnout. Much larger than the last recruitment drive or any other he had worked in the past. As expected, he was getting a lot of weird looks from the crowd. He didn’t blame them, how often do you see an alicorn? Forget that the horn was a fake. They had no way of knowing.
His eyes passed over the crowd as Spitfire trotted back towards it. He was looking for a rainbow. She wasn’t up front, but once they started organizing, it’d be hard to miss. Rainbow Dash had to be here, why wouldn’t she?
Spitfire rose up above, taking Blaze’s place to address the crowd.
“Alright, everypony listen up!” she yelled out. Her voice was much more booming and influential than Blaze’s. The pegasi stiffened and looked to her, this time completely recognizing the lead captain of the Wonderbolts addressing them. “There’s a hell of a lot more of you then we anticipated. I’m only gonna say this once, so PAY ATTENTION!” she motioned her hooves to her right. “Everypony from Cloudsdale line up over here behind squad two!” as she ordered, the members of squad two stepped forward and put two feet in between themselves. “Everypony from Manehatten,” she pointed her hooves to her left, “line up behind squad three!” Squad three stepped forward just like two had. “Single file! One line behind each member! Make it snappy!” she clapped her hooves together.
“Uh…” Dash looked back and forth as the rest of the ponies began moving. She glanced back at her friends, who all shrugged, just as confused.
“Oh, and anypony from elsewhere, just stay put! The lead squad will put you together with our Canterlot Cadets when we get back!” Spitfire yelled out before lowering herself down and out of sight.
“Ah, there we go,” she chuckled as they waited. This made Dash a little curious. Manehatten and Cloudsdale had a huge turnout, but she wondered if anypony else besides them made the trip from somewhere small? The crowd slowly separated into the lines dictated by the elite squad members. Dash watched as the area around them cleared. It looked like they were going to be the only ones outside of the big cities. Talk about a let-down.
“Whoa!” Thunderlane suddenly reacted. Dash turned, but Bulk was in the way, so she took two steps forward and her eyes widened. There was another cadet that fit in their “category”.
Dash blinked as her eyes rested on a very large male griffon. That was putting it lightly. He was HUGE, about the size of Bulk. His body was jet black in both feathers and the fur of his lion half. At his neck, his feathers turned white, contrasting the rest of him. His eyes were bright red, stuck in an endless glare above his large golden beak. His golden eagle arms, lion legs, and whole damn body were very muscular and his massive wings looked like they could pick up Dash and crush her like a walnut. Everything about him just looked powerful.
He didn’t look at any of them as he stood attention. It had been a long time since Dash had seen a griffon. She was instantly reminded of Gilda, but she was like an ant compared to this guy. A griffon wanted to be a Wonderbolt? Griffons weren’t really known for fancy flying. They were much bulkier than pegasi and not very aerodynamic either. They did tend to have bigger and stronger wings, which was clear with this one, but besides that they really didn’t fit the mold. What an interesting scenario.
Upon examining her friends, none of them seemed sure of what to do. Dash took a quiet breath, and decided to introduce herself.
“Hey there!” She stepped around Bulk towards the griffon. He kept staring straight forward. Dash continued anyway. “Never thought I’d see a griffon here, I’m Rainbow Dash,” she held a hoof out, but he still didn’t budge. Now it just felt awkward. What was this guy’s deal?
“Matteo,” the griffon suddenly spoke in a very deep voice with a thick griffon homeland accent.
“Huh?” Dash blinked.
“My name,” he added, still while staring forward.
“Uh… yeah… cool,” Dash stepped back while biting her lower lip and raising an eyebrow. Thunderlane, Bulk and Derpy watched her awkwardly move back before Spitfire was suddenly upon them.
“Well, lookie here, I recognize a couple of faces,” she said as she got right up into Thunderlane’s face. They all stiffened as she walked her way past them. Dash smiled as Spitfire approached. Last time she saw her, Spitfire was in a bed, recovering from intense trauma. It was great to see her up and about. Dash got caught in the moment, a little too much.
“Sup, Spitfire?” she said quietly with a smile. Spitfire was more than close enough to hear it, but she ignored Dash and kept walking, not even so much as giving Dash a glance through her flight goggles. Dash blinked, feeling hurt for a moment, then realizing the situation. Spitfire didn’t ignore her per-se. They may have been friends for a while, but here she was the lead captain, and Dash was a cadet. Dash actually felt stupid for forgetting so quickly.
Dash looked straight forward as Spitfire examined each of them. Her eyes landed directly on somepony she had completely forgotten about in the moment. Her eyes widened and she smiled with a small blush across her cheeks.
Soarin stood beside Fleetfoot a few yards away from Spitfire. He had spotted Dash as soon as the groups had dispersed and he was trying his hardest to contain himself. He told Spitfire he would play this professionally, but he could barely contain his excitement upon seeing Dash.
He cringed slightly when he saw Dash try to converse with Spitfire. It looked like Dash was going to learn quickly that chain of command would take a large precedent over friendship during this event.
He wasn’t facing her, trying to keep the appearance up, but he couldn’t control his eyes. His eyes were locked on her and he hoped his goggles hid his eye movements enough. After how clear he made it to Spitfire about how hardnosed he would be, he felt like she was just looking for any reason to call him out on it.
“Eh…? Eeeeehhhhhhhh?” Fleetfoot suddenly cooed from close by. Soarin glanced at her briefly and saw her making wing motions towards him and slight head motions towards Dash. He held his breath and tried not to react. Fleetfoot knew she was pushing it. Spitfire would eat her alive if she was caught goofing off, but Fleetfoot would never pass up a chance to harass Soarin, ever.
Dash looked at him.
It made his wing feathers tingle in place when she did. He wanted so badly to drop the professionalism, charge up to her, hug her as tightly as he could, and most likely kiss her too. But he had to restrain himself.
Then he noticed an extreme look of confusion on her face. Upon closer inspection, her eyes were diverted to slightly above his face. Soarin sighed.
Dash blinked multiple times, switching which eyebrow she had raised and tipping her head from side to side every couple of seconds.
Seriously, what? Why did Soarin have a horn? Dash found herself both confused, and snickering. She was bewildered, but the first thing that popped into her head was…
The thought was much more amusing than it should have been. Honestly though, he had to have a reason. Pegasi don’t just grown horns, and Soarin wasn’t the kind to joke around like this, unless of course, he lost a huge bet with Fleetfoot or something. She was sure she’d find out everything later, but seriously. Her stallion had apparently become royalty, or so it appeared. Gahhhh, she wanted to know. She also couldn’t help but giggle to herself a little. She could see Soarin’s eyes darting between her and looking straight forward. They were moving so rapidly that she could actually see it beneath his goggles. Spitfire may be holding it in, but Soarin sure couldn’t.
Dash flinched as she heard Spitfire speaking again. Spitfire had slowly made her way down the line of the “extra” recruits and stopped when something really caught her interest.
“Hello, what have we here?” Spitfire stopped when she eyed Matteo. “This is a new one,” she commented as she eyed the large griffon before her. “All the way from the griffon kingdom… you’ve definitely caught my attention by default,” she tipped her goggles down and stared up into his eyes as he looked down at her. “You have me curious… are you lost? This is the Wonderbolt tryouts, not the Sky Wings.” His eyes sharpened into an intense glare as she brought up something called the Sky Wings. Dash tipped her head and kept one ear straight up to listen further. “Did I hit a soft spot?” Spitfire didn’t budge an inch beneath his crushing stare. “Fine, you’ve made your point Feathers… I’m not gonna stop anypony or anything from trying out. I guess we’ll just have to see if you have the skill to match that death glare you’re giving me,” Spitfire finished as she lifted off high above the full crowd again.
“Hmph,” Matteo simply grunted in response.
“Attention!” she yelled out. The lines of pegasi froze on cue. Dash quickly followed suit. She didn’t want to make any more silly mistakes. “The tryouts begin tomorrow! Today will be for getting situated in the compound! It’s gonna be cramped, but you’re the ones who decided to roll an army into the station!” she flew in a slow circle as she addressed the crowd. “Now stay put for a minute, then we’ll be on our way!” she landed upon finishing, beckoning the other squads in as she landed. The other squad members trotted over to her.
Dash eyed squad two. She was very familiar with squad three since her last visit. The only one she really had any exposure to was Wave Chill, and all she got from him so far was he was a meek, yet stiff-ass soldier that had the hots for Spitfire.
Speaking of Spitfire, Dash began to worry about her first slip up. Spitfire was clearly doing this by the book. Dash hoped her little attempt at conversing didn’t put her in a tight spot from the get-go. Spitfire wouldn’t do that to her, would she? Well, Spitfire was very professional. Maybe she cared about Dash as a friend, but when it came to this kind of stuff she had to drop all connections. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to the other cadets if Spitfire showed favor to one.
Did this mean that ALL of the Wonderbolts had to be approached this way? Even… Soarin? It felt wrong. She had made good friends with more than a few of them. Something about a friendly environment becoming a hostile one was a little unnerving, and something she most certainly wasn’t prepared for.
Squad three walked past them as they moved in to converse with Spitfire. Fire Streak walked by in front. Dash smiled at him, but he kept his eyes forward. Not even a glance. She felt slightly crushed as she followed him with her eyes. This almost hit Dash harder than Spitfire. The time she had spent with them was almost more personal than that spent with the lead members. She thought being on a first name basis with most of them would be a blessing, but instead it only made her feel neglected.
Dash flinched and yelped quietly as she felt something brush against her side. It felt like a tail. She quickly looked back forward to see Misty Fly passing. Misty turned her head slightly, smiled, tipped her goggles up, and winked at Dash before quickly going back into professional mode.
Dash could almost feel the weight being catapulted off her chest. Misty’s little gesture almost completely turned her swirling thoughts in the opposite direction. Spitfire and Fire Streak were just being professional. None of them wanted to treat her this way, they just couldn’t show favor. It was part of their job. Dash kind of already figured that, but it didn’t stop it from hurting a little at first. Leave it to Misty Fly to make her feel all better. She had a knack for doing that. Dash was glad to see them again. It was under different circumstances, but she was really, truly glad to see them again, especially Soarin. Now she just had to wow them.
“Oof!” Dash grunted as somepony clumsily bumped into her in a way that felt completely intentional. She looked away from Misty and back forward to see Lightning Streak passing by. He slightly tipped his head towards her, put his hoof to his ear, and mouthed the words: “call me babe.”
Okay, so maybe she was happy to see almost all of them again.
Dash watched as Spitfire gave out orders to each squad quickly and efficiently. It wasn’t long before they dispersed again.
“Alright everypony! Stay in line behind your designated elite squad member! Let’s move!” she called out and beckoned the small group to follow her, Soarin, and Fleetfoot.
It was a mass exodus from the prime platform, spelling relief for any other ponies trying to use the station. Dash’s heart began pounding again in excitement. Thanks to Misty Fly, all the sudden anxiety nearly faded. There was a little lingering, but it was nothing compared to the approaching thrill. Dash glanced back at Thunderlane, Bulk, and Derpy. They all looked the same as her. Dash really did appreciate them coming out. They all knew their chances were low compared to her, but they wanted to share the experience with her.
And what an experience it was bound to be.
---To Be Continued---