2d, 21hEQD on FIM
6 years ago
Thunderhead weaved between black cloud and blacker smoke. His feathers were singed, his eyes burned, his head throbbed. A cough racked his body, and he dropped a few dozen feet.
Undeterred, he whipped himself up on one wing and curled up into the storm. In and out he dove, sensing the strongest concentrations of static, imposing his will upon the lightning, guiding it into trees already ablaze. If the storm started new fires then the whole effort would be for naught.
Tucked in behind him, his wingmate followed his every twist and turn. The gray-coated mare’s mane was slick with rain, her face tight with pain, determination and focus. He and Dee had been together through thick and thin these last twelve weeks. They were best friends and great partners... and Thunderhead thought they could be much more. He’d promised her their first date would be this weekend. That had been before the fire.
While he herded the lightning, she drove the rain. It poured in icy sheets out of the black sky, droplets shining red and orange in the reflected light of the forest fire. Though she looked as tired as he felt, Dee flashed him a smile, shouting against the wind “You said... you would... take me... dancing!”
He grinned. “Sorry! Have to... get a... raincheck!”
“That pun... terrible!”
Flying through that churning black hell, Thunderhead decided there was no place he’d rather be. The rest of Gold squad had a tornado going over the lake, pushing water into the sky to feed the storm clouds. Red and Blue were building firebreaks to keep the fire away from the camp and the town. Green was running interference, keeping the smoke away from the diggers -- two close friends in Blue had succumbed to smoke inhalation yesterday. Only he and Dee were deep in the storm, testing themselves against the elements, herding the storm together, exulting in the gifts that made them pegasi.
The seconds seemed like minutes, the minutes like hours. Camp Solar’s cadre of training officers began to appear in the storm: they must have finished the evacuation of Glimmervale. Slowly, painfully, though it drained every ounce of energy they had, they began to force the fire back. Afternoon turned to evening unnoticed in the chaotic darkness of the storm.
They’d spent days fighting this fire. The simulated emergency exercise that usually concluded training had been cancelled in favor of the genuine emergency. The fire had claimed three trainees, two officers and nearly a dozen of the townsfolk. Now, finally, the SAR ponies had the upper hoof and this wildfire was about to go out with a whimper. A thrill rushed through him as he shot another lightning bolt at a burning pine. The tree exploded, flaming shrapnel raining down into the smoldering muck below.
Behind him, Dee gave a strangled cry. He turned to see her dodge flying debris, pass right through a thick band of smoke and emerge flailing and fluttering, her eyes closed. He dove in pursuit. Another bolt of lightning caught him unawares, the flash momentarily blinding him. In the ensuing darkness he lost track of her. Panicked, he listened for her but all he could hear was the roaring fire and the rolling thunder.
Trembling, he climbed up into the storm and set about dispersing it with a vengeance. An old chestnut stallion interposed himself angrily.
“Just what do you think you’re doing, cadet?”
“Captain, Dee’s down there! She took a face full of smoke and tumbled down! The fire’s dying, we’ve beaten it, but I’ll never find her in this storm.”
Thunderhead watched the stern edge soften in Firelight’s eyes. The doctor didn’t like him much but he detested the thought of losing another young cadet. He rested a hoof on thunderhead’s withers.
“Go. We mustn’t let the fire claim another pegasus. I’ll rally the troops and clear the skies.”
Evening became night. The skies gradually cleared, illuminating the valley in the soft glow of the full moon. Thunderhead and the rest of his flight spread out amidst the wet, smoldering desolation in search of their fallen comrade.
“Dee, answer me!”
“We’re coming, Two! Hold on!”
The night dragged on, bringing a chill that should have been a welcome relief from the heat of the day. Instead it matched the icy dread that gripped his heart. He passed over a low ridge. A weak voice pleaded in the darkness.
Dee lay trapped under a fallen log. One of her forelegs was bent at an unnatural angle and her wings were badly burned. Thunderhead blinked back tears. He rose a few feet into the air.
“THREE! FOUR! I found her! Bring a stretcher!”
When he saw the other two ponies bolt back toward camp he settled down into the mud beside his wingmate.
“Hey there, rainy-face. You missed dinner! I was worried about you.”
Dee offered a pained chuckle. “I hope you brought me something, I’m starving.”
He forced a smile. “Sure did! Let’s see, we’ve got toasted pine nuts, flame-broiled pine bark, roasted pine cones and a delightful pine-ash pudding. What can I get you?”
She lay her head across his legs and groaned. “I think I’ll pass.”
“Don’t worry, Dee. Three and Four are on their way. We’ll have you back home in no time.”
“Shucks, I was just starting to get comfortable.”
He kissed her forehead. “We did it, Dee. Fire’s out. We’re heroes.”
She nestled her head against his chest. “Maybe we are, but you never did take me dancing.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you, Dee. I promise.”
“You’d better, this is the worst date I’ve ever been on.”