"Wow, Dashie! That was the funnest, funnerific, fun day ever!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed as she was bouncing along the dirt path to Ponyville. The two ponies' day consisted of pranking the various citizens of the bright little town. Some of the wonderfully planned out traps surely had been among the best of their trickster careers. Their last prank, which involved a small garbage bag full of leaves and a generous amount of butter, left them walking away from Fluttershy's cottage near the Everfree Forest. The sun was setting, now just a sliver of light on the horizon, and both ponies were exhausted from hanging out since morning. Even Rainbow Dash, one of the most athletic ponies in Ponyville, found herself flying slower than her usual pace.
"Yeah, that was real fun Pinkie," Rainbow Dash said with a weary grin. "We'll have to do it again someday." She noticed that Pinkie Pie showed no signs of exhaustion or drowsiness, even though they had both been running, or rather flying and bouncing, about all day. Typical Pinkie, Rainbow dash thought, smiling to herself. No matter how much Rainbow Dash trained, she couldn't best Pinkie Pie's endless well of energy. In fact, she doubted anypony in all of Equestria had more energy than Pinkie. I should convince her to be a contestant in the Running of the Leaves. I would definitely win a lot of bets... Her absent smile became wider as her mind drifted off to the prospect of winning piles of money from betting with other ponies.
"Why are you smiling, Dashie?" Pinkie's voice pierced through Rainbow Dash's thoughts. "Not that there isn't any reason to smile, I've been smiling all day! Actually, I smile everyday, unless there's something not to smile about, then I don't smi-" Pinkie Pie was cut off when Rainbow Dash pressed one of her hooves to her mouth. However, that didn't stop her from trying to continue her rambling.
"Mmph-mmph. Mmph-mmph mmph." Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. "Pinkie Pie, do you ever stop talking?" Rainbow Dash asked sarcastically. She caught herself just in time, and hurriedly interrupted Pinkie before she could respond with another round of endless chatter.
"Listen Pinkie, I have to go. I have to practice my moves. Didn't get a chance to today," Rainbow Dash told Pinkie Pie, fluttering her pegasus wings for emphasis.
Pinkie seemed crestfallen at first, but quickly returned to her bright and cheerful nature. "Okay Rainbow Dash! I'll see you someday!" Pinkie Pie hopped her way to Ponyville, leaving Rainbow Dash to consider her unusual wording. Eventually, she gave up, dismissing it as a case of the Pinkies, and slowly began to fly towards her home above the nearby town.
I'm in no shape to practice my moves, I'm way too tired. I'll practice all day tomorrow, first thing in the morning. She thought to herself. Yes, tomorrow will be a day of training for the Wonderbolts. During her serene flight towards the small cloud she called home, she couldn't help but feel a little regret over the way she had abruptly parted ways with Pinkie. That brief moment of sadness on her face told her that, underneath the smile, Pinkie was disappointed. Well, it's not like it's my job to hang out with her everyday. Besides, she has other friends. I'm sure she can find something to keep herself busy. However, even with her attempts to justify her decision to practice tomorrow instead of enjoying the day with Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash began to question her priorities.
The Wonderbolts, or her best friend? Rainbow Dash thought this through, and decided that, if there came a time where she had to decide, she would choose a spot in her dream team over her friend. Or would she? Of course, just practicing her moves didn't guarantee her a position among the elite flyers. The silent argument in her mind continued on until she arrived at her destination. It was interesting how she got to where she wanted to go without paying an ounce of attention during the trip. Must be a pegasus thing...
Reaching her lone cloud in the otherwise clear night sky, Rainbow Dash plopped herself down on her back and looked up towards the heavens. The stars sure are pretty tonight. Princess Luna sure is good at putting them in just the right spots. Rainbow Dash couldn't help but start to count them, it had helped her sleep when she was restless, and it eventually became a habit. Now, she counts stars every night, regardless of how sleepy she is.. 1... 2... 3... 4... wait, did I count that one already? I'll just start over. However, she would have to resume this count the next night, as sleep pulled her heavy eyelids shut.
Rainbow Dash slowly opened her eyes. Immediately, she noticed that her cloud was unnaturally stiff. However, as she turned to her side to investigate, she realized that what she was on was no cloud. Suddenly wide awake, Rainbow Dash bolted up from her lying position. She was on the ground, a field of grass surrounding her. This wasn't anything to unusual, Rainbow Dash had woken up to find that she had accidentally fallen off of her cloud during the night before. But something wasn't right about this... Looking around, she found what was causing this feeling. The sky, if you could call it that, was a muted gray. Where endless sapphire zenith was supposed to be, was a single-tone, depressing gray. There were no clouds drifting lazily in the sky, no bright sun or gloomy moon. It was as if she was staring into a void.
Suddenly, a shrill cry reached Rainbow Dash's ears. "Rainbow Dash! Help me!" Was that Pinkie Pie? Rainbow Dash jumped to her feet, and leaped high into the air, preparing to take flight. The familiar rush of air whipped against her face as she took off. Rainbow Dash stretched out her cyan wings, preparing to ascend, to pinpoint the origin of this plea for help. Immediately, she felt something was wrong. Everything should have been a blur by now. The space on the ground where she was before taking off should have been rapidly shrinking in her perspective. Instead, it seemed to be doing just the opposite... Oh fu- Following this realization was the sensation of her falling face-first into the ground.
It took a moment for Rainbow Dash to pull her head out of the dirt and figure out what had just happened. She had never failed to take off before. Even in her filly years, she was a master at basic flight maneuvers, such as taking off and landing. It was the flips and dives that she couldn't seem to master until later during her time as a Junior Speedster. So why would she be unable to do something as simple as get off the ground? Unless... A sudden flashback to her wingless form during her time in the palace labryinth shot through her mind. Quickly, Rainbow Dash turned her head as far as she could in order to see her back. No wings. A dreadful panic washed over her. She felt trapped on her feet. It was as if there were ropes constricting her frame, restricting all but the tiniest of movements. How could this have happened? Has Discord returned? But that's impossible, we trapped him with the Elements of Harmony... Yes, Discord couldn't have any part in this...
Once again, Rainbow Dash was snapped out of her thoughts by another scream. It had to be Pinkie Pie, her voice... Rainbow Dash looked frantically around her, and saw Pinkie Pie in the distance, a pink speck against the endless gray. Feeling hopelessly slow as she was forced to stay grounded, Rainbow Dash bolted towards the sight of her friend. As she ran, Rainbow Dash noticed that the field of grass didn't stretch forever. She had been staring at the gray blanket of sky before she heard Pinkie Pie, so she had failed to take notice of the landscape. It was more of an island, in the middle of an endless sea. Except that there was no sea. Where there should have been ocean, there was nothing. The sky seemed to extend downwards, the same dull gray as whatever was above. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie were on a floating island, in the middle of an endless void.
Looking around and trying to take in as much as she can, Rainbow Dash noticed that the island had the general shape of a dumbbell. There were two bulbous fields at the ends of the island, joined by a thinner "bridge" of grass. She had awoke on one end, and Pinkie was on the other. Why couldn't she just come towards me? As she set foot on the narrow bridge of green, there was a loud rumbling sound, as well as what seemed to be the largest earthquake Rainbow Dash had ever experienced. She saw that the portion of the island Pinkie Pie was on began to tear away from the bridge. No! Rainbow Dash ran harder, her hooves digging into the ground.
"Rainbow Dash!" Pinkie shouted. Rainbow Dash now saw what was keeping Pinkie from moving. Where she hadn't noticed before, Rainbow Dash saw two figures donning full blue bodysuits pinning Pinkie Pie down, one on each side of her body. "You let go of her, you-" The two ponies had turned to face her. What she saw almost made her stop her breakneck pace. "Soarin? Spitfire?" The two Wonderbolts looked at Rainbow Dash, and laughed. Not a light, humorous laugh, but a sick, cruel, taunting laugh. The island seemed to creep slowly away from the bridge.
Rainbow Dash, full of confusion and anger, pressed herself, determined to get to Pinkie Pie before the gap between the two land masses grew too far apart. Everything began to blur together as she pressed on. Faster and faster she ran, until her legs were but a blur against the green stretch of land. She was going to make it... Suddenly, her hooves clung to the grass. She fell forward, something catching her leg. She looked back, and saw tendrils of azure fabric creeping up towards her face, snaking around her body. As much as she tried to struggle, Rainbow Dash knew it was no use; the fabric used to make the bodysuits for the Wonderbolts were designed to withstand the tearing force of several dozen G's. She was just a pegasus, she stood no chance of escaping.
Spitfire began to speak. However, her voice wasn't what Rainbow Dash remembered it to be. When she spoke to Spitfire at the Gala, her voice was elegant an graceful, with a hint of her rebellious personality. Now, she practically spat the words out of her mouth. Bitterness and contempt was all she heard.
"Ah, Rainbow Dash. If only you would have realized. You could never be a Wonderbolt if you didn't make..." She paused for a moment, looking for the right word. The corners of her mouth jerked upwards as hissed out the next word. "Sacrifices." Soarin began where she left off.
"We knew a silly little girl like you would never have figured it out on your own, so we decided to help you. You can start by waving goodbye to your friend here." Pinkie Pie remained ominously silent. She kept her gaze directed at the ground directly beneath her. Rainbow Dash noticed that the blades of grass clung to the tear drops that had fallen onto them. The two Wonderbolts, two of Rainbow Dash's biggest idols, had made her best friend cry. She wanted nothing more than to break free of her bindings and end them both, here in this messed up excuse for a world. The two pegasi began laughing. It started off as nothing more but a chuckle, but crescendo-ed to booming, cackling laughter, tipped with venom that hurt more than any other. Horrified, Rainbow Dash realized why they were laughing. The strips of fabric had reached her face. She was clad in the full Wonderbolts flight suit, goggles and all. She was one of them. The laughter continued to ring in her ears until she nearly collapsed from the overwhelming sound.
Suddenly, she felt the fabric leaving her skin, and the Wonderbolts disappeared without a trace. Pinkie Pie was leaning over the edge of the island. She was crying, tears streaming down her face. Why was she crying? It was then Rainbow Dash noticed that the space between the two islands was too big for her to cover without her wings. Helplessly, Rainbow Dash looked at Pinkie.
"I'm so sorry, Pinkie," Rainbow Dash said, a tone of defeat in her voice. She looked down at her hooves, unable to face her friend.
"W-Why are you sorry, Dashie? You have nothing to apologize for," Pinkie replied softly. It was obvious she was fighting back sobs. "I shouldn't have kept you from your dreams. You should become a Wonderbolt. The suit goes well with your mane."
"No! I just want to be with you right now. I would give anything to be with you, and Applejack and Twilight, Fluttershy, and Rarity. Just us six, the best of friends, together." She found that she genuinely meant that, without any hint of regret for her words. "I'm just sorry that I couldn't make it in time." She hung her head in defeat.
"You can make it, Dashie. All you need is a hop, skip, and jump." Rainbow Dash looked up. Pinkie was smiling, but it was obviously forced. Tears were streaming down her face, and she was shaking.
A tear escaped Rainbow Dash's eyes. "No, Pinkie. I can't make that. I don't have my wings."
"Yes you can!" Pinkie shouted. It wasn't a joyful shout, like the one she would use when she saw that everyone she invited came to her party. It was painful, like a mother losing her daughter. "You never know unless you try, Dashie! Do it for me!" Her voice was laced heavily with desperation and hopelessness. Both of them knew that Rainbow Dash would fail if she tried.
"Do it for us..."
"I'm so sorry, Pinkie. This is all because of me. It's my fault. I put what I wanted before you. I wasn't going to hang out with you, and spend all day training to be in the Wonderbolts." Rainbow Dash stomped on the ground in frustration. "I thought what I wanted was more important than my best friend." She choked out a sob. Pinkie Pie had lost it right then and there. She was bawling, trying to say something that Rainbow Dash couldn't understand.
"D-Dashie... It's alright... I won't force you if you don't want to... Goodbye. Tell all our friends that I'll miss them... I'll miss you..." Pinkie Pie began choking on her tears. "And remember, there's... There's always something to smile about..."
In that moment, Rainbow Dash got up off her feet. She looked fiercely at Pinkie, and gave her a sad smile. She then began backpedaling slowly. Pinkie Pie, realizing what she was about to do, hurriedly shouted. "Stop, Dashie. We both know you can't make it!"
"We'll never know unless I try, right?" Rainbow Dash managed to get out, forcing a smile. "I'm taking a leap of faith here." And before Pinkie Pie had a chance to stop, Rainbow Dash galloped full speed towards the gap and... jumped.
For a moment, Rainbow Dash thought she was going to make it. She seemed high enough, and she was definitely going fast enough. A lifetime of taking off and landing hard assured her that much. Even Pinkie Pie seemed surprised, surprised that Rainbow Dash would make it. Yes, she would definitely make it. She couldn't not make it...
Suddenly, everything went wrong. The whole world began to tumble, and rather than plummet into the gaping void, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie began to slip into free-fall. It was as if the world was thrown into a washing machine, everything was tumbling endlessly. Rainbow Dash couldn't tell ground from sky. Then, everything righted itself in an instant, and an unseen ground rushed up to meet her.
Rainbow Dash woke with a start. Once again, she found herself on the ground. This time, however, the sky was blue, blue like it should be, the same brilliant blue ceiling that she found comfort in. She could see her cloud looming over her, like an old friend waiting to help her up off the ground. The familiar smells of a Ponyville morning filled her lungs and teased her senses. Mmmm, cupcakes... Before she had a chance to gather herself, however, a familiar voice called her name.
"Dashieee~! It's someday!" Pinkie Pie sang as she bounced towards Rainbow Dash. After what Rainbow Dash had just experienced, it seemed incredible that Pinkie could have such an oblivious facial expression. She noticed that Pinkie Pie had brought a trampoline with her, but since Rainbow Dash fell off her cloud during the night, she wouldn't be needing it. No sooner had she come within sight of Rainbow Dash, however, had she been tackled off her feet by her best friend, who broke down sobbing in her arms.
"Pinkie Pie! I thought I never would have seen you again!" Rainbow Dash sobbed. Pinkie Pie, utterly confused, nevertheless embraced her friend and comforted her. She was a cheerful, carefree pony, but she knew when her friends needed a serious pony to be with them.
"Aw, Dashie, don't cry. I'll always be here for you," Pinkie Pie assured her pegasus friend soflly, patting Rainbow Dash on the back. A thought popped into Rainbow Dash's mind. She had promised herself that she would practice all day today for the Wonderbolts.
"Hey Pinkie Pie..." Rainbow Dash started slowly.
"Yeah Dashie?" Pinkie replied, beaming at her.
"I think we should go get something to eat before we hang out all day." Rainbow Dash replied, giving Pinkie Pie a shaky grin.
"Greeaaat idea!" Pinkie shouted, startling Rainbow Dash. It was a joyful shout. Without notice, she jumped onto Rainbow Dash's back, nearly causing both ponies to fall to the ground. "Take us to Sugarcube Corner!"
Rainbow Dash, catching her balance, looked up at Pinkie Pie, a look of indignation on her face. "Pinkie, you could have seriously hurt me! And the Sugarcube Corner in the morning?" She said this, noting in the back of her mind that she had wanted cupcakes as soon as she woke up. "You must be out of your mi-" She stopped midsentence. Her annoyance and anger towards her friend quickly evaporated. "Okay, Pinkie Pie. Let's go to Sugarcube Corner." Pinkie Pie grinned as the pair set off. Both ponies giggled uncontrollably together during the whole trip to Ponyville.
"It's great to have you back, Pinkie." Rainbow Dash said, sighing happily. She noted that she would have to take her priorities into serious reconsideration from now on.