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Hell Week

An MLP:FiM Fanfiction by Squeejee

Chapter 2: Set

Spitfire's whistle blew again, and Rainbow sprinted again.  Clouds gave way to sky below her, and her wings continued where her legs left off – much to her shoulder's displeasure.  She wondered briefly if the sweat falling from her would hit anything on the ground, but dismissed the thought and returned all focus to her target.  Two-hundred feet, one-hundred, and touchdown.  

With a gasp, she sprang to her hooves and cantered out of the way – the next trainee landing right behind her with a muffled “whump!”  She was panting as she took her place, a second line forming behind her, but couldn't bring herself to stop moving – she hopped slightly in place, some unwelcome process in her legs prompting her to keep moving despite the pain.

The trainees were doing sprint drills, and Rainbow Dash had been selected to be the first to go in her flight.  It was the hottest part of the day, and if it hadn't been for their lunch break (how the heck do you make hay so greasy?  It doesn't make sense!) they would not have had a moment's rest since roll call that morning.  Still, Rainbow was no stranger to intensive workouts – something that placed her on a tier above most of her competition.

The pegasus behind her had actually managed to keep up, but the same could not be said for the third in line.  Dash recognized him from a race she ran in Cloudsdale once, but couldn't put a hoof on his name – he flew erratically, struggling to reach the target cloud.  She saw him scrunch up his face in effort, panting hard, and pushing every bit of air he could below him, and saw that it was to no avail.

There was a moment when he looked ahead and almost seemed normal.  Like he had just realized that he wasn't tired, and was going to finish without any problem.  But then he dropped out, falling for a gut-wrenching second before the two Wonderbolts hovering below caught him, flying him back to the Colosseum without a moment's pause.  Their flight's coach, Soarin, took up their position below the drop off, and signaled for the next in line to keep going.

It reminded Rainbow to grab the water from her saddlebags and take a sip, and she noticed most of her flight follow suit.  Derpy was stuffing her own water back into its pouch when it was her turn, and took off.  She didn't seem to be struggling, oddly enough – but she did manage to overcompensate on her left side, do half of an unintentional barrel roll, and land on her head when she reached the target cloud.

Rainbow reached a hoof to her, pulling her out of the trajectory of the next in line as he came barreling in, all energy spent in flight so that he botched his landing as well.

“Nice landing.”  Rainbow hefted the surprisingly energetic mare to her feet.

“Blueberry.”  Dash figured that meant yes.

Derpy took her place in line as the last member of Dash's flight landed.  The cyan pegasus shook out her nerves and stretched her wings, feeling a second wind coming on – though in point of fact is was her fourth or fifth wind of the day.

She couldn't help but grin as she felt it come on, either.  Rainbow Dash felt alive today in more ways than she could consider possible.  She was no good with putting words on paper, or even stringing them together in real time – but given the opportunity she supposed she would describe it as feeling awesome.  And yes, I know I use that word a lot, but I really mean it this time!

But the whistle didn't come.  She looked at Soarin, who was looking at Spitfire, who was looking at two pegasi Rainbow Dash didn't recognize.  They seemed to be having some kind of conversation, and one of them was making notes on a clipboard.  After a moment, Rainbow Dash realized that he wasn't yellow, but was wearing Royal Guard Armor.

“Gulp.”

“Feeling nervous, Dash?”  The pegasus behind her replied – she didn't turn around to look at him, and couldn't place his voice.

“No way.  I've got this, er, bro.”

“You know it!  They're probably taking down Cumulus' name for dropping out.  Too bad, too – he's really good.”

She settled for something noncommittal.  “Yeah.”

Flight four stood around for a couple minutes, just long enough for the heavy breathing behind Dash to subside.  Canteens were emptied and sore joints were stretched in that interval, but it ended all too soon as Spitfire took a position in the middle of all of the flights and blew her whistle.

They formed up before her, and a signal from the Wonderbolts captain indicated that the flight leaders should step forward to talk to her directly.  Dash barely remembered learning it, but the hours of drilling earlier that day made it hard to forget the signal – she was the first flight leader in position.

Dash and Spitfire exchanged a smile of recognition, but said nothing.  Two royal guards joined them in their aerial huddle, as well as the flight coaches and the rest of the Wonderbolts.  Spitfire hovered in the center, taking charge.

“This afternoon's game is Cloudsdale Tag, rookies versus vets” Spitfire began, glancing at the guard ponies that were hovering nearby.  “The Sergeant and his men will be the referees.  If your flight can't take out a Wonderbolt before the time is up, you're all going home.”

Rainbow Dash gulped hard.  That meant teamwork, and she didn't even know the names of most of her teammates.

Their field, they were told, was going to be the underside of Cloudsdale.  A massive play area, to say the least – and one fraught with dangers, as is typical of Pegasi competition.  Rainbow Dash remembered the races she ran there before bailing on flight school as a filly – if you get too close to the city itself, you get blasted with it's ambient electricity.  It usually wasn't fatal.

As she lead her flight over the edge of the city to begin the game, she realized that the Wonderbolts had upped the ante from what she was expecting.  Randomly sized clouds floated under it, creating a large, dense obstacle course for the game to be played in.  A flat cloud sat with several racks of dodgeballs for the rookies to use, and the first flights were already flying into the danger zone.

Rainbow's flight landed and grabbed their “weapons” for this game, and she considered strategy.  Somepony in her flight had to tag a Wonderbolt before this was over – and thinking back to how only a handful of them could land earlier that day she realized it would have to be her.

She pulled a ball off of the rack, and was about to say something to her flight before they all started taking off.  Dash wasn't sure what she would have said anyway, so she let them go.  Go team.

But hey, one pony stayed behind.  Derpy was looking at Dash expectantly – well, half looking at her expectantly.  Dash sighed, wondering how anypony could have gone their life without playing this game.

“You score by hitting them with your dodgeball.  You can also body check them into an obstacle.  If somepony scores on you, you're out.”  Derpy nodded, looking determined.  “Derpy, you're my wingpony.  Watch my ba-”  Actually...  “No, hang on, I'll watch you're back.”

Luckily, the mailmare didn't catch on to Dash's mistrust of her sight, and took off into the field with enthusiasm at trying the new game.  Dash flexed her neck, feeling a pop as she did so, and blasted off after her teammate.

Derpy quickly proved that the inside of the playing field was far worse than Dash had imagined it.

The latent electricity from Cloudsdale was behaving very strangely with the dense cloud field below it.  Like clockwork, every several seconds there was a crash of lightning between the city and one of the clouds – and that cloud would arc the electricity to the clouds near it, and they would all remain supercharged until a pegasus got too close.  The worst part was that the charged clouds didn't look it until you got really, really close.

Derpy absorbed a good amount of it right off the bat, flying left and getting blasted – flying up and getting blasted again, and in her haste to get out of the minefield forming a circuit between three at once and getting super-blasted.

She was alright, if a little crispy from the ordeal, and made a mental note to fly as low as she could without abandoning cover altogether.  Dash was still behind her, shouting something that couldn't be heard over the ringing in Derpy's ears – but the flight leader was still in the wingpony position, and the grey pegasi didn't want to disappoint.

Grinning through the pain as she always did, she upped her speed to near-maximum – tucking in her ball and weaving between the lower layer of clouds.  Every now and then she caught sight of another trainee flying above, but couldn't find any Wonderbolts.  It didn't help that half of her vision was directed straight down despite herself.

There was a wisp of blue on her periphery, and she veered hard left to catch it.  A moment later she was able to focus on it – blue uniform, blue mane, Soarin!  The best part was that he seemed not to notice her, and approaching from below as she was, he wasn't likely to.  Dash had her back, so Derpy focused all of her attention on getting in range of the pie eating champion.

He was weaving at a leisurely pace, so she caught up to him pretty fast.  He seemed to be looking for a target, and was looking everywhere but down – so she pulled herself into his kill zone without a problem.  She gripped her ball in hoof, cocked it back, and fired.

She missed!  How the hay could she miss a shot like that?

Dash gritted her teeth as Soarin kicked up his speed, diving and weaving between clouds as Derpy caught her ball and hooked back after him.  The chase was on, and at any moment Soarin would fly into his target's jetstream and take a perfect shot.

But not if Rainbow Dash hit him, first.

She stuck to Derpy like glue, following from a safe distance and keeping her eyes on Soarin, who was hooking back towards them.  A scenario played out in her mind where they would play chicken, and Dash would get a clear shot at the distracted Wonderbolt.

But it didn't happen like that.  Soarin hooked right and up, going into the electrified part of the cloud field.  Derpy followed, having caught her ball and regained focus, with her flight leader right on her tail.

Trouble is, neither of them had any idea how close they could risk getting to the clouds, to they stuck to a very tight trail blazed by the leader of the chase – and he blazed a really tough one.  He snap rolled right, hooked up and corkscrewed in the most precise path conceivable, getting just close enough to leave a trail of sparks behind him.

Derpy followed it, but took a more conservative route.  Dash couldn't build up her signature top speed with all of these maneuvers, and focused on keeping an eye out for her opening – and for somepony else trying to get an easy point off of one of the two distracted trainees.

That's when she saw her own flash of blue.  Below, in the safe layer, she saw a blue uniform and orange hair – only one pony that could be.

“Derpy!  I see Spitfire.”  Dash stole glances at her new contact in between following in her wingpony's wake.

“Almost got him” the grey pegasi managed, squinting as he took another turn that she couldn't bring herself to follow.

Dash glanced back at Spitfire – she seemed to be going away from them.  She was losing her chance for the score of a lifetime.  But I said I'd cover...

“You look good Derpy, I'm going after Spitfire!”  She'll be fine.  Dash hooked right and low, setting her sights one somepony who, in her opinion, needed a good rubber ball upside the head.

“Dash, wait!”  Derpy shouted back, but couldn't afford to look back.  No response, she must be gone already.  The blonde-maned pegasus swallowed hard.  I have to end this quick.

Soarin was getting more daring with his moves, as if challenging his pursuer to follow suit with hers – but she couldn't bring herself to get back within shocking range of one of these clouds.  He would get close enough to trail sparks, and she would play it safe to avoid the same.

He hooked higher, where the clouds would no doubt be even more dangerous, and increased his speed.  Derpy wasn't sure if she could follow – the thought of bringing on another series of shocks causing her to all-stop.  She hovered, looking after him and biting her tongue nervously.  She thought of Rainbow Dash getting in range to nail Spitfire, but then getting picked off by a Soarin from above.

Closing her eyes, she hurled herself into the higher elevation, trying as hard as she could to ignore the lightning strike nearby as she did.  She quickly had to open her eyes to maneuver, of course, but now that she was up here it was easier.

Her target was hooking left through a cloud, and she saw her chance.  He must think I didn't follow him up here now!  If I blow through that cloud, I can probably surprise him.  She swallowed hard, and blasted right towards the cloud he had disappeared behind – steeling herself for another electrical shock as she did so.

It didn't come!  That cloud wasn't charged!  And Soarin wasn't expecting that.

Derpy held her ball out in front of her as she sighted in on him, going for a body check to take advantage of his surprised state – but he raised his own ball in time to block.  She hit him hard enough that it slipped out of his hooves and hit him in the gut, but you don't score a point unless it's your ball that hits them, and Derpy's followed her as she bounced off him.

They both hovered for a moment, and Soarin raised his ball to throw at her – but she raised hers to block.  They held that position for a full second before Soarin winged back, hurtling himself downward into the open air below.

Derpy gave chase, maneuvering around several clouds until she was in the open air as well.  A royal guard referee appeared in her periphery, but she tried as hard as she could to ignore him as she lined up a plunging shot at the pale blue pegasus below her.

Then he hooked up into an Immelman, and she tried to follow it.  Emphasis on tried.  He pulled the tightest turn she had ever seen a pony pull – modifying the stunt as he came out of it to bank hard left until he was lined up right behind the rookie, who was still only halfway done with her own.

He cocked a hoof back to throw, and she dove reflexively – hoping that her lower size would translate into increased speed.  It didn't, at least not where the Wonderbolt was concerned.  He kept pace with her and launched, the ball catching her right in the small of the back.

Spitfire saw Rainbow Dash veer off – it was kind of hard not to, with all of the colors that pony has trailing off her.  She hooked left into a part of the cloud field less dense than the rest, and was followed.  As expected.

Hard turn right, Dash wasn't budging.  Hook left, Dash was still on the captain's tail – and gaining!  Spitfire realized she couldn't go easy on this one – just in time to dodge a ball sailing past her head.

Spitfire gritted her teeth in a smirk.  Knocking out this one would be fun!

“Dammit!”

Mentally, Rainbow Dash heard her mother berating her for the swear – but pushed it out of her mind as she flanked full-speed towards her ball.  Spitfire was no doubt lining up a shot, so Dash jerked her wings back and climbed several feet in an instant.

There was a swear in the distance as Spitfire's ball went right under Dash's belly, a perfect dodge.  The rookie's ball had picked up speed as it plunged toward the ground, and that made it a difficult catch.  Difficult, but not impossible for the Greatest Flier in Equestria!

She sailed into it's path, plucking it out of the sky gracefully and pulling herself into a hard rightward bank.  She turned around just in time to see Spitfire catch her own ball, unintentionally mirroring Rainbow Dash's maneuver and heading straight towards her.  Chicken it is, then.

They hurtled directly at each other, holding up their balls as a shield as they gritted their teeth and narrowed their eyes.  They were pushing so much air behind them it caused nearby clouds to move out of their wake, making this part of the playing area even less dense than it was before.

At the last second, Spitfire jerked slightly left, pushing her ball out to smack her target upside the head.  At the last half-second, Rainbow Dash rolled left, holding her ball in a way that she hoped would collide with the captain.  In the second after, they were both disarmed, and neither had scored a point.

Rainbow hooked around and barreled after her ball, knowing that Spitfire would be doing the same.  On a downhill stretch like this with no obstacles, she felt familiar air currents warp around her as she approached the top speed that nopony in Equestria had except her.

But then she caught her ball and swung back, part of her glad she hadn't reached that speed because a backfire here would have ended the game for her.  She sought her target, and found that Spitfire's ball had fallen into the completely open-air below.  A perfect target, Dash gave chase.

In the open, Spitfire hooked wide to the right after catching her ball, noting that Rainbow Dash was catching up to her.  She's fastest on the downhill, if I get above her she's dead in the air.

Opting out of another game of chicken, Spitfire zig-zagged under her opponent, watching Rainbow mirror the moves almost perfectly.  It seemed she was having trouble turning at this angle, another useful fact Spitfire filed away.

Once she was close enough, she hurled her ball straight up at Rainbow Dash – hooking hard in the opposite direction her target dodged to.  As expected, Dash tried to hook back after dodging and hit the disarmed captain – but at her downhill speed couldn't manage the angle, and stalled.  Spitfire rose above her student and caught her ball just as it reached the apex of her throw

Dash was pulling out of the stall when Spitfire had it, a perfect silhouette.  She took the shot, and knocked Rainbow out of the game with a blow to the head.

Author's Notes

Hey dudes!  I'm back!  This action-packed entry is brought to you by Kenny Loggins.

Anyway, I don't own the ponies.  Fair use clause, yadda yadda.

You guys should check out my twitter account.  I don't ever post their unless I've written a new chapter or done a new page on a webcomic, so don't worry about getting a bunch of spam crap about when I'm crapping.  If you like that, I also have a tumblr, where I try to draw.

Next chapter has DEEP CHARACTER INTROSPECTION!  Maybe.

#1 · 137w, 5d ago · · ·

I like this story so far, good job bud. I hope fore more after chapter 3 very soon.

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