by LuminoZero


Every year, Cloudsdale chose one town to have the honor of performing Tornado Duty. They rotated through twelve separate reservoirs, all across Equestria. This year, as it had been twelve years ago, Ponyville was back in the spotlight. Twenty-four years ago they had barely succeeded. Twelve years ago, they had done it easily, but fallen just short of the record; Rainbow Dash had been prohibited from flying due to being pregnant at the time with Icy Storm.

Rainbow Dash never showed her annoyance, because she'd learned a valuable lesson that year about how fragile the minds of children were. Only Soarin truly knew how much it bothered her to not be able to fly, to not help Ponyville smash the record. This year might just be her last, best chance to pull it off.

As much as she hated to admit it, she was getting old. She was getting slower, and her body wasn't as flexible as it had been years ago. Who knew what she would be capable of the next time it came around? They'd lost a few fliers due to age, injury or various other reasons, but she had a few of the younger generation stepping up to take their places. Her eldest son, for starters, was taking part this year. Rainbow Dash adjusted her cap, looking over the list of pegasi who should be there. Nopony was missing, not even Fluttershy. She was just as old as Rainbow Dash was, but after that first Tornado Duty, she had been front and center for every training day.

She inhaled deeply, and the shrill sound of her training whistle filled the athletic field. "Alright ponies!" she shouted. "Line up! I want to be ready for trial runs as soon as the big guy gets here!"

"I'm the 'big guy' now?" came the familiar voice from behind her. Rainbow Dash turned to see Spike walking towards them, Twilight's anemometer held gently in his tail. Even as dangerous as dragons looked, Spike was always so goofy. He always had a happy smile, and he walked with such a timid grace, one would think he was just a very big pony: a pony that could fly and breathe fire.

"Well, you sure aren't the 'little guy' anymore!" Rainbow Dash said with a smile, looking up at Spike. Now that she looked closer, she saw that he was not alone. Rarity and their son, Turquoise Blitz, were with him as well. "Making a family affair of this, eh?"

Rarity stepped up, unfolding a blanket so she would not have to sit on the ground. "I don't normally have any interest in such physical things, but when my family is involved, I will always make exceptions."

Rainbow Dash laughed. "He's just setting up the machine and recording some numbers. It's nothing too involved for Equestria's Best Assistant," she said, as Spike moved to set up the anemometer.

Spike laughed at this. "You're a bit slow, Rainbow. I'm not the one she is talking about. The minimum age is still sixteen years, right?"

"Yeah, but—"

"Ms. Dash," came the respectful voice. Rainbow Dash turned towards the large, winged hybrid. "I would like to help this year, if you will have me," Turquoise said. He stood tall, his posture straight and soldier-like.

Murmurs went up from the ponies present. A dragon helping on Tornado Duty was unheard of. Rainbow Dash looked over Turquoise for a moment, even going so far as to fly up so she could be eye-to-eye with him. "I'm not sure," she answered.

Spike glanced up from his calibration of the machine. Rarity opened her mouth to speak, but closed it when Rainbow held up her hoof in a call for silence. "It's not because you're a dragon. Well, it is, but not how you think," she started. "Every pony in the tornado has to fly in perfect formation. Breaking formation can cause a spin-out, which can cause some serious injuries. Even the best fliers sometimes slip up, and they need to make minor adjustments in a split second. I know from teaching your dad how to fly that you guys are about as maneuverable as AJ's barn. No nice way to say it, but having you in the air might be a danger to all my other fliers."

Turquoise listened intently, and nodded at Rainbow's explanation. His size and lack of maneuverability would only be a hazard in the air. "I understand, Ms. Dash," he said.

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. "Whoa, slow down there. I never said I wouldn't have a place for you; I said I wasn't sure. You're still welcome to do the trial and train with us until I'm sure. The only thing is, you have to follow the rules."

Turquoise's eyes lit up at that, and he smiled. "Of course. What do I need to know?"

"First, while you are here, my word is law. You do what I say, when I say, and you don't question it. Somepony can get hurt if we screw this up, so I need everypony following instructions to the letter."

Turquoise nodded. "I understand."

"Second, you give it everything you've got, and then you give more. I don't care if that is five Wingpower or five hundred; you push yourself to the limit."

Turquoise stretched out his wings as he nodded again.

"And finally, if you call me Ms. Dash again, I'll kick you so hard, it'll muss your mom's hair."

Rarity gave a scandalized gasp. "How rude!" she said, giving Rainbow a disapproving look. Spike chuckled, finishing his set up of the machine.

"There we go. All ready, Rainbow!" he said. "Now, who’s gonna be first?"

Rainbow extended her wings as she walked up to the starting line. "Lead by example," she said.

Turquoise had taken a spot on the line by his friends. Prism Bolt and Whirlwind were both taking part this year. They were joined by a very annoyed Starburst, who was one year shy of the cutoff. Of course, she wasn't the only pony there that was too young to take part. She was in good company with Icy Storm, Prism Bolt's younger brother.

"It's completely unfair. I'm only a few months off!" the princess complained.

"Aw, come on, Star! There’s always next time. Besides, they just don't want anypony getting hurt," Whirlwind said.

"I've been practicing more than half the ponies here. I know I can do it!" she said. Whirlwind didn't have a counter to that point. Starburst's enthusiasm in her physical training was well known.

"All the practice in the world doesn't mean anything when you're up in the sky," Prism Bolt said. He stood tall, his head held high and his wing parted ever so slightly.

"And just how would you know about the advantages of working hard, Bolt?" Whirlwind asked. "You've been lazing about on a cloud all week, while your parents were out training."

Starburst looked between the two of them. They were both well-known slackers, but in the last week, Whirlwind had actually been training. Bolt, on the other hand, was just as lazy as always.

"Oh yeah?" Bolt shot back, "I bet you I've got more Wingpower than you!"

"You're on!"

Turquoise remained uninvolved with their back-and-forth. He knew how competitive they could get, and he felt no need to get involved until it got out of control. Turquoise knew for a fact that he was one of the last fliers, since he had just arrived. Rainbow Dash normally arranged fliers by family, just to keep things simple. Since she and Soarin had just finished their runs, that meant that next up was...

"Prism Bolt!" Rainbow Dash shouted.

"Keep your eyes open, ladies. You might just learn something!" he said as he flew up to the starting line. Starburst rolled her eyes, while Whirlwind muttered under her breath.

He stood at the line, stretching out his wings and lowering himself into the posture he'd seen his parents take so many times before. He licked his lips once and, in a flash, he was off. Like his mother, a rainbow streaked behind him as he flew. He zipped along the track, passing the anemometer at the other end in seconds. There were a few moments of silence before Spike made the announcement.

"10.2!" Spike shouted. The crowd cheered as Prism Bolt walked back to the line with his head held high. Prism Bolt saw that Turquoise, Whirlwind and Star were clapping as well.

Insufferable braggart and show-off as he could be, he was still their friend. Prism Bolt walked back over to them, his head held high as a bead of sweat slipped from his brow. "That’s how you do it!" he said.

The three were not left with much time to talk, as Thunderlane and Cloudchaser took to the track, shortly followed by Rumble. Still, Whirlwind did have something to say. "You looked a little winded. You sure you have the endurance for Tornado Duty?"

Prism Bolt just waved his hoof. "Hah, I could do this in my sleep, no problem!"

Whirlwind opened her mouth to respond when Rainbow Dash's voice caught her attention.

"Whirlwind, you're up!"

"You better fly fast!" Prism shouted after her.

Starburst rolled her eyes. "You know, Bolt, you don't have to always be such an egotistical jerk," she said.

Prism Bolt turned to her with a quizzical expression. "What are you talking about? Me and Whirlwind have known each other since we were foals. She knows I'm just messing around."

Whirlwind took to the track, zipping down the length of it as a silver streak. She passed the anemometer and stopped on a bit, waiting for the result from Spike.

"8.6!" he announced.

A few more cheers came from the sidelines, as Whirlwind walked back to join her friends, her face contorted into a scowl.

"Better luck next time, Whirlwind!" Prism Bolt said with a smile. "Looks like I am still the number one flier in our little group. It's just my natural talent," he said, rubbing his hoof on his coat.

"Hey, Bolt. Don't you think you're being a bit hard? I mean come on, it's not a competition. We're all friends," Turquoise said.

"Of course we're all friends! I just like competing, and so does Whirlwind, right?" Bolt said.

Rainbow Dash narrowed her eyes as she listened to Prism Bolt. She skipped a few pages in her list before calling her next name with a smug grin.

"Turquoise Blitz!"

Whirlwind had not directly replied to Prism Bolt's last comment, and they both looked up in surprise when the name was called. Turquoise looked more surprised than anypony else, as all eyes turned to him.

"Good luck, Turquoise!" Whirlwind said with a smile.

"Knock em' dead!" Starburst added in.

Turquoise exchanged a silent hoof bump with Prism, and ran up to take his place at the line. He paused for a moment, gauging something.

"Ms. Da—I mean Rainbow Dash, I'm not sure this is enough room for me to get up to full speed. Can I back up?"

Rainbow Dash let a smile take over her lips at the question. "Sure, take as much room as you need. You just can't use altitude, or anything other than your wings to give speed."

Turquoise nodded, and backed up until he had almost doubled the track length. As Spike watched his son back up, he secured his grip on the machine.

Turquoise began running. It took him a quarter of the total length to get airborne, but once he did, his speed skyrocketed. With a powerful flap of his wings, he became an emerald blur. He shot past the anemometer like he'd been fired out of Pinkie's cannon, and curved sharply into the sky to avoid bowling over any pegasi in the way. The resulting wind blast knocked a few of them off of their feet, and made the machine shake in Spike’s grip.

There was a moment of stunned silence before one announcement pierced the air.


The field exploded with cheers. The noise was deafening as Turquoise came down from the sky, landing among the pegasi, who were heaping congratulations upon him.

Starburst was one of them, leaving Whirlwind and Bolt behind. Whirlwind was drinking up Bolt's shocked expression with a smug smile of her own. He recovered quickly enough, his own grin returning.

"Well, he's a dragon, so it makes sense. No normal pony could be expected to match him in raw power."

Whirlwind rolled her eyes. "You are unbelievable sometimes, you know that?" she said with a huff, before running off to join the crowd.

Prism Bolt was about to follow her, until he noticed that amid all the confusion, another pony had stepped onto the track. It was Fluttershy, Anthea's mother.

Nopony was paying any attention to her at all. She readied herself, and took off before anyone except for Spike and Prism Bolt had noticed. Prism Bolt noticed instantly that she was pretty slow. He was sure his mother had said that Fluttershy was a great flier in the past.

She finished the track, and the spinning of the machine drew the attention of the crowd again. Spike didn't wait long before calling out the number.

"5.7!" he said.

A single snicker escaped Prism Bolt's mouth, and amid the sudden silence of the track, it stuck out a lot more than he'd intended to. Time seemed to freeze as the action rippled out, like a stone dropped into a still pond.

In a flash, his mother was in his face, nose-to-nose and snarling down at him. He wasn't sure what else was happening around them, as everything had gone deathly quiet.

"You find something funny?" she shouted at him.

"N-No, I..." Bolt started to respond.

"Shut your hay hole, you spoiled little brat!" she shouted at him. Prism Bolt backed up, but every time he did, she pressed forward. "We're a team here! We win or lose as a team, not as individuals! I've got no need for some hotshot flier who thinks he's better than everypony else cause he was born with a strong set of wings! You look down at anypony here, you're looking down on all of us!"

Prism Bolt's mouth was raw as he continued to lose ground to his infuriated mother. Nopony else was saying a word, an eerie silence surrounding them.

"Get out. Somepony like you is just going to get everyone hurt by trying to show off, and I'm not taking that risk!"

Prism Bolt's eyes shot open in shock. "B-But..."

"I said you are out of here!" she shouted, the finality in her voice obvious to all.

When Prism Bolt was finally able to pull his eyes away from his mother's burning gaze, he didn’t see a friendly set of eyes looking back at him. Most of the ponies didn't look at him at all.

His father did, and all Bolt saw there was disappointment.

So, with his tail between his legs, he left.

"I'm serious, we should talk to her about it."

Rarity shook her head as she packed up her blanket. "It isn't our place to tell her how to raise her child, Spike."

"Oh come on, you know that was out of line! Everypony was thinking the same thing,” he said, scowling as he made sure the anemometer hadn’t been damaged today.

Rarity paused, turning to look towards Rainbow Dash. The trials had just concluded. After the outburst caused by Fluttershy's performance, things had been pretty tense. Rainbow Dash, however, just continued as if nothing was wrong. After a half-dozen more trials, it seemed as if everypony had forgotten about what just transpired.

Rarity noticed that Fluttershy had just gone over to Rainbow. "Look at her, Spike," she said, gesturing to Rainbow and Fluttershy. "What do you think Fluttershy is saying to her right now?"

"Probably how she over-reacted, and it isn't important, and she shouldn't have yelled," Spike said.

"I agree. I know Fluttershy well, but Rainbow Dash knows her much better than I. She knew this would happen, but she choose to do it anyway. It looks like she is sticking to her guns."

Sure enough, Rainbow Dash was shaking her head as she talked to Fluttershy. Whatever they were saying, it was clear that Rainbow wasn't yielding.

"So? Fluttershy thinks it was wrong, too. We should go back her up."

Rarity walked up to Spike, gesturing for him to lower his head so she could nuzzle his cheek. "Darling, you have such a big heart, but you just don't see. What Rainbow Dash needs right now is for her friends to trust her. She has raised that stallion for the last seventeen years. We should have faith in her knowing what she is doing. How do you think she would feel if all of her friends ganged up on her?"

"Pretty lousy, I guess. Still, it just doesn't seem right," he said with a frown

Rarity laughed with a bright smile. "We were lucky, Spike. Some colts need to be set straight in their young and stupid years. Still, I know your heart is in the right place. If there is no resolution by the end of training tomorrow, we can go talk to her."

Spike nodded as he picked up the anemometer again. He looked over towards Soarin, who was busy talking to Icy Storm. The young pegasus was likely more confused by what had happened between his mother and big brother than anypony else. Spike also noticed Turquoise walking over, the young hybrid deep in thought. "Nice flying out there!" Spike said, trying to lighten the atmosphere around them.

Rarity joined in. "Oh I must agree! You were spectacular, sweetheart."

Turquoise gave an unenthusiastic thanks. Suddenly, his eyes lit up. "Hey mom, I'm going to go pay Claire a visit," he said.

The years had taught him and his sister to always pose questions or requests to their mother. It wasn't that they had anything against their father, but his answers were usually 'ask your mother'.

Rarity blinked once in surprise. Claire, like her mother, had moved out early and opened her own shop. Barely over twenty years of age, and she already ran quite the classy jewelry shop. She had more restraint than her father and brother, which kept her from eating her stock. Turquoise actually worked for her, going into the mountains and gathering the raw jewels she needed. Turquoise supplied the gems, and Claire refined them.

"I thought you made your deliveries at the end of the week?" she asked.

"Yeah, it's just a visit. Nothing work-related," he explained.

Rarity gave a cunning smile. "Alright, just don't bother her for too long. You know she is in the middle of a big order."

"Of course," he said with a smile, bounding off into town.

Prism Bolt hadn't even had the drive to fly up onto a cloud. He laid on his back, in one of the many fields surrounding Ponyville, just watching the sun move through the sky. He heard the grass shifting under a set of hooves, and looked up to see a familiar purple coat. It didn't look like Whirlwind had seen him yet.

Prism Bolt rolled over, standing up and looking towards her. She noticed him, and her expression showed it. As soon as he stood, she shot him the most murderous gaze he'd ever seen from her.

"Well, are you happy? You got to show off how awesome you were. Only half a dozen ponies got higher than you. Just what you wanted, right?" She was spitting the words at him, as if they were a curse.

"Hey, gimme a break! I didn't mean to laugh at Fluttershy, it just sort of came out," he said, backing away from her gaze.

"Oh yeah? How did you feel when T destroyed your score?" she asked, eyeing him carefully.

Prism Bolt clearly had no idea what that had to do with anything. "Well, he's part dragon. Of course he'd beat me. He's got an advantage I can't top."

"How would you know? Have you even tried?" she said, raising her voice slightly. "Urgh, I can't even look at you right now. You don't even understand why everypony is upset with you."

"Then tell me!" he shouted, galloping up to her and putting his hoof onto her shoulder. This proved to be a poor decision, as she spun and slapped her wing across his face.

"Grow up and figure it out!" she said with a huff, storming off.

Prism Bolt didn't have the energy to follow her. He laid back down on the grass and watched her vanish from sight. She was upset, obviously, but she wasn't going to tell him why. If it wasn't because he laughed at Fluttershy, then why?

"Arrrrgh! What the hay do they want from me?!" he complained to the air.

"Well, that is simple, darling. They want you to understand how you hurt them."

Bolt's ears perked up as her registered the new voice. He groaned as he recognized who it belonged to. "Claire, I'm having a real bad day. I'm not in the mood for you telling me that I'm an idiot. I already know."

Crystal Clarity walked next to him, sitting down on the grass. She was a pink-toned hybrid, smaller than her younger brother. While Turquoise had wings, Claire had a pair of horns she could channel weak magic through. "Honestly, Prism Bolt, now you are hurting me as well. Do you really think that I came here just to pour salt in your wound?"

He rolled his eyes. "Well, why not? You've always been the first to chew me out when I did something dumb. Why stop now?"

"Oh please, darling. Self-deprecation does not suit you at all. Just because I reprimand your impulsive behaviors does not mean I don't want to help. And it certainly doesn't mean that I am not your friend."

Prism Bolt and Claire had never been that close; at least, Bolt never thought so. Still, she was a friend willing to help.

"I just... I dunno, Claire. Everypony is upset, and I know why. Well, I thought I did, but I guess that was wrong too. I want to fix it, but nopony is telling me how."

Claire plucked a piece of grass between her claws, twirling it about. "Because they want your apology to be sincere. They don't want you to just say what they want to hear. They want you to realize why."

Bolt snorted. "Fat chance. If they aren't angry at me for laughing then I have no idea."

"Well, let's start with a question. Why were you faster than Whirlwind?"

Bolt blinked once. "What, should I have let her win or something?"

Claire shook her head. "Not at all, just answer the question. What makes you faster than her?"

"I always have been, once I started flying. It just came naturally to me."

"I see. So you have natural talent, right? Then why is my brother faster than you?" she asked, watching him closely.

"Well, he's a dragon. Bigger and more powerful wings, stronger muscles to push himself with, it's no contest," he answered.

"Assume that T never practiced flying for the Tornado Drill. Would you feel that T's speed was something for him to be proud of? Would he have been right to feel accomplished for flying faster than you, just because of his natural talent?"

"Well... no but—"

"Then is it right for you to show off beating Whirlwind, who has been training all week, without having done any work?"

Prism Bolt didn't respond.

"You don't realize it, but the way you acted was an insult to every pony your 'natural talent' surpasses. You did nothing, and gloated as if you had something to be proud of. Are you really surprised that they are upset with you?"

He winced as she said that. Claire always had a way of cutting right to the center of the issue. "I guess not, when you put it like that."

"Your mother was right with what she said. When you laughed, you really were laughing at everypony there. Everypony who wasn't blessed to be as good a flier as you. You looked at the pegasus there who works harder than anypony else at that drill, and you laughed because her skill was below yours. How did you think they were going to react?"

"So... what do I do now?"

Claire shrugged, standing up. "How should I know? I just gave you some insight. What you do with it is your choice. Just try not to screw it up this time," she said with a smile.


She looked over her shoulder as she turned to leave.

"Thanks," he said, rising to his hooves as well.

"You should probably thank the one who asked me to talk to you, first of all. Loyal friends are valuable, wouldn't you agree?" With that, she left him.

Prism Bolt was focused. He knew what had to happen—where he had to go. It might not be enough, but maybe it would be a good first step.

It was starting to get dark as Prism Bolt walked up the path to Fluttershy's cottage. He hadn't eaten since breakfast, but he pushed aside all thoughts of his rumbling stomach, and focused on the task at hand. He raised his hoof, and rapped three times on the door.

There was no answer.

Prism Bolt raised his hoof to knock again, but stopped when he hear the sound of female voices, coming from behind the house. It must have been Fluttershy and Anthea. The former was likely practicing. He quietly walked around the house, and arched an eyebrow at what he saw.

Anthea was there, laying on the ground and watching a pegasus in the sky. However, the pegasus was not Fluttershy, it was Whirlwind. She hadn't noticed him yet, so he could slip away without causing a fight.

"Hello? Who is there?" Anthea said. Prism Bolt cursed softly. Anthea may have been nearly blind, but those ears of hers could pick up anything. Prism sighed, and came out into the open.

"Hi Anthea. Is your mom around?" he said, trying to not engage Whirlwind unless he had to.

Anthea was about to answer when Whirlwind flew down, right in front of Prism. "What do you have to say to her? Not just some hollow apology, I hope," she said with a glare.

Anthea’s ears perked up, and she moved between her two friends. If either of them had been paying attention, they would have noticed her horn glowing for a moment. "Please, calm down. We're all friends. We should listen to each other, right?"

It was mostly a rhetorical question, but Whirlwind took a deep breath and nodded.

Prism Bolt thought carefully. An apology wasn't going to cut it here. Whirlwind would never believe he was sincere.

"I came to train."

The look of shock on Whirlwind's face was a small victory. Without losing momentum, he continued. "You were right; I don't have a lot of endurance. I'm gonna need that for the Tornado Drill, so I was hoping Fluttershy knew some good exercises for it."

Whirlwind looked shocked for a second time. "I thought you were already the best flier in Ponyville?"

"Well, maybe. I mean I am fast and agile, but if I pass out after two laps, what good does it do? Also, there is what my mom said to T today. Every pony has to give everything they've got and more. I can't be the only one not improving."

Whirlwind eyed him suspiciously. After a moment, she turned away from him.

"Yeah, I know a good exercise for endurance. We'll do laps, but you have to fly next to me the whole way. Not in front, not behind, side by side. It's a low-speed flight for a prolonged period of time. Now come on, we've got a lot of work to do." Her voice was still cold, but at least it wasn't as malicious as it had been.

Prism Bolt took to the air with Whirlwind, as Anthea laid back on the grass, listening quietly as she followed them with her weak eyes. Whirlwind began flying at about half her speed, pulling into a tight loop to simulate what she would be doing on Tornado Day. Prism Bolt pulled up next to her, and matched speeds. The pacing was slow, and he grumbled in annoyance. He restrained himself, however, and flew at her pace.

He felt his wings starting to stiffen up after the thirtieth lap, but he pressed on. He was fast and agile, so he could get most places quickly and easily. Flying for a prolonged period of time was not something he often did, and it showed. Despite his discomfort, a chuckle broke past his lips as they continued.

"Something funny?" Whirlwind asked suspiciously, breaking the silence between them.

"I was just thinking... doesn't this remind you of anything?" Prism Bolt said, breathing much harder than he would have expected.

"Not really. Should it?" she asked him. Her voice softened, but she was still guarded against him.

"We used to do the same thing... back when we were little, and I was learning to fly," he said, pressing on against his burning wings as they approached the one hundredth lap.

Whirlwind thought for a moment on his words. "That's right, I remember. We'd fly in circles maybe ten feet off the ground, with your mom following us on the ground to catch you if you fell. How long did it take you to not need her to do that?"

Bolt chuckled nervously. Being an acrophobic colt had been an interesting experience. He'd gotten over it as he grew, for the most part. "Too long... I think at least two or three months."

Whirlwind laughed, finally. "Hard to imagine who you are now when I remember who you were."

"Hey Whirlwind?"


Bolt paused for a moment, unsure of how to say this. He decided to just spit it out, and leave the fancy speaking to ponies like Claire. "I don't remember if I ever said it back then but... thanks. You were with me every step of the way back then. I don't think I could have done it without you." Whirlwind did not immediately respond, so he continued. "You've been a better friend to me than I deserved, considering once I was the strong one, I was a total jerk about it."

Whirlwind gave a surprised look to him. "Well, you aren't a bad friend when you're not being an egotistical brat," she said. "I mean, remember when we built that cloud fort?"

"With the clouds they were going to use for a whole week's worth of rain? I can't believe we got away with that. I thought Mom was gonna kill me when she found out."

"Grounded for two weeks, but it was totally worth it," Whirlwind said, with a fond smile, remembering the trouble they used to get into. “It seems like so long ago. Whatever happened to us, Bolt? When was the last time we just went out and got into trouble?"

Prism Bolt shrugged, no longer feeling the burning in his wings from their prolonged flight. "Well, I don't know about you, but I've been pulling my pranks, same as always."

"Oh yeah, I heard about that one with Claire. How is your coat, by the way? Growing back in nice and even?" Whirlwind couldn't remove the smile from her face.

"Ok, so it wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done, but it sure wasn't the dumbest."

"Oh? I didn't think you were keeping track. That must be quite a list," she said, poking her tongue out slightly. "So what is the dumbest thing you've ever done?"

When Prism Bolt didn't respond, she looked over to him. "Bolt? What's up?"

"...Nothing. It's nothing..." he said. He broke off, steering towards the ground slowly. "My wing is starting to lock up, I think I need to stretch it out for a little bit."

How exactly could he say with a straight face that today was his dumbest mistake ever? Not because of his mother chewing him out, or getting kicked out of Tornado Duty, but because he'd been a total, insensitive jerk to his best friend.

Prism Bolt sighed. Life sure was complicated.

Prism Bolt felt something pull him out of his dream. Something was gently prodding against him. His ears weren't working right, but he could swear someone was whispering to him. He grumbled and rolled over, taking flight in an instant.

Wait, that wasn't right.

He heard a shout coming from both above and below him. His eyes shot open as his wings spread out. His 'flight' slowed down, and he touched down on the ground with shaky legs. His body had responded before his mind did, and he blinked twice, taking in the surroundings.

He was in the meadow behind Fluttershy's house. Fluttershy had returned after his training session with Whirlwind, and was delighted to offer him a meal and a place to stay for the night. Bolt had accepted the meal, but said he didn't feel right staying here. Going home to confront his mother was the mature thing to do.

He had only intended to rest on the cloud until he'd thought up what to say to her, but sleep had taken him. He looked up towards the cloud, seeing a very relieved Fluttershy floating there. Turning about, he saw that the voice he'd heard from the ground was Anthea, who looked similarly relieved to see him unharmed.

"Oh my gosh, are you okay, Prism Bolt? I'm so sorry! I didn't think you'd roll off the cloud. Ooh, what was I thinking?"

Prism Bolt just shook out his mane, banishing the last bits of sleep from his eyes. "It's alright. I'm okay. Sorry for scaring you."

Fluttershy flew down, hovering a few inches off the ground. "Oh, I'm so relieved. I was just waking you up so you could make it to today's training," she said with a smile.

Prism Bolt's looked at her curiously. She had to know the results of his outburst yesterday. Everypony did, after all. "I'm not part of Tornado Duty anymore. Mom was probably right to do that. They don't need a slacker like me."

"I said that a long time ago. When I only had 2.3 Wingpower to give them, that was how I felt. But we're a team, and a team needs all of its members. If you're willing to work hard and give it your all, I know she'll let you fly."

"I don't know. Mom is pretty serious on stuff like this."

Fluttershy giggled. "I've known Rainbow Dash since we were both little fillies. Trust me, okay? Now, come on. We've both got to do our best. Annie, are you coming to watch?"

Anthea shook her head. "Oh, no I have to go visit Claire. She's making something for Tornado Day for me."

Fluttershy and Prism Bolt exchanged confused looks as Anthea trotted off into town. She'd been getting a lot more independent lately. Moving around on her own and keeping secrets like this.

Prism Bolt wasn't blind. He saw the worry on Fluttershy's face. "Well, we better get going. Don't want to keep them waiting. I'm sure Annie will be fine. She knows the way to Claire's shop since she’s always going there with T," he said.

"Ooooh, I hope you're right. I'm just worried she might get lost, or hurt, or..." she continued her fretting as the two of them walked towards the athletic field. Prism Bolt worked his hardest to avoid rolling his eyes.

They arrived at the field, and saw most of Ponyville already present. Nopony said anything at their arrival, but that was the oddity. They seemed scared to talk, as if his presence was going to cause more shouting.

After all he'd learned yesterday, Prism Bolt couldn't exactly blame them. He looked up and caught the gaze of his mother. She dropped what she was doing and walked over. She wasn't snarling like the other day, but she was in his face, just like before.

"What are you doing here?" was her question. Just her tone caused Prism to take half a step back. He had a huge speech planned, but in the heat of the moment, he'd forgotten it all.

So he did the only thing he could do, and answered her question. "I'm here to train."

There was silence for what seemed like hours, but may have only been a second. "Get to the track and do fifty laps, then! And I better not see you walking!" she shouted.

Prism Bolt was shocked that had worked, but he didn't waste any time thinking on it. He ran off to the track and started his laps, just as he was ordered.

Rule one, her orders were law.

He became aware that the tension around the field had dissipated once he began running. Ponies went back to their exercises, and a cheerful atmosphere came up around them. Bolt took a moment to glance around at his fellow pegasi. Many of them had worked up quite a sweat, a testament to their hard work.

A large shadow constantly passed overhead, eventually causing him to look up. In the sky, Turquoise and Whirlwind were doing laps, every time tightening the loop. It must have been hard for someone of Turquoise's size to make such small circles, since it made him fly in a permanent bank. Still, he tried to keep pace with the nimble pegasus. Every flap of T's dragon wings threatened to send him out of formation, and it made gaining speed difficult.

Prism Bolt was on lap thirty-seven when he heard the whistle. All the ponies were gathering on Rainbow Dash, so he joined them. He hadn't noticed, but his brow had a fair share of sweat on it too. He usually didn't work that hard, and he had no desire to make this a permanent thing.

"Alright, everypony, listen up! We've got a few first-timers here, so I'm gonna review the tornado structure," she said, pulling out a small diagram that somepony had drawn up for her.

Or some dragon.

"Ok, so the tornado is wider at the top than the bottom. That means that the stronger fliers go closer to the top, where they have longer laps. It is essential that every pony stays at the altitude they are assigned, or they could cause a spin out." She gestured to the drawing of the tornado and the small ponies inside of it. "For that reason, one of the stronger fliers is assigned as the Lead Flier. Their job is to fly all throughout the tornado, and to ensure that ponies are not slipping out of formation. If they see a problem, they are expected to use a series of hoof signs to correct it. Normally, I do this job."

Rainbow Dash paused for a moment before continuing. "As many of you know, we have a flier of... unexpected size joining us this time. Turquoise Blitz, as the flier with the highest Wingpower, you will be at the top of the formation. However, as a new flier, I can't leave you up there alone. Myself and Soarin will be on the top tier with him, and nopony else will be at that level. I don't want anypony else near him, in case something goes wrong. You all don't have the training we do." Rainbow Dash paused, looking around the pegasi gathered there.

"Therefore, we need a new Lead Flier. There are conditions for this, of course. Number one, you need at least a Wingpower of 10.0. You need to jump between all levels of the tornado, so you have to be able to mesh in well. Second, you need agility. You aren't flying in a simple loop. You may have to pull in and out, adjust higher or lower, or make any number of split-second maneuvers."

She looked over the ponies gathered there, some of them speaking to each other in hushed tones. "Not counting myself and Soarin, five ponies meet the Wingpower requirement: Thunderlane, Blossomforth, Solar Wind, Rumble and Prism Bolt," she finished.

Now the murmurs only got louder. Of the five, Prism Bolt was the only one younger than thirty. By the day of the drill, a few more might make it to 10.0, but they needed to start training the new Lead Flier early.

It wasn't a surprise to anypony when he stepped up. "I'll do it," he declared. Rainbow Dash's gaze fell upon Prism Bolt as he stepped up, digging into him.

"What makes you think you have what it takes?" she asked him.

Prism Bolt gulped, but held his ground. "My last Wingpower was 10.2, and everypony knows that I'm more agility than speed." His cutie mark was proof of that. He could change direction so fast, it would seem like a beam of light bouncing off a mirror.

Rainbow Dash narrowed her eyes. "So, you were born to do something like this?"

Thankfully, the way she had phrased her question clued Prism Bolt in to her intent. "I think I have what it takes. And if I don't, then I'll get what it takes."

Bolt could swear he saw a hint of a smile on her face. If it was there, it vanished quickly. "Alright then, Bolt. You volunteered, now you get my special Lead Flier training regimen. I hope you enjoyed those warm up laps."

Prism Bolt gulped, wondering what he had just gotten himself into.

Prism Bolt was quite sure he'd never worked this hard in his life. As nice as clouds were, sleeping in his bed felt like paradise after the training days he'd had this week. The group didn't meet until afternoon, since most of them had jobs. Prism Bolt, however, had been woken up at dawn every day since he'd accepted the challenge. They'd start with a few dozen laps around Ponyville, then they'd break for breakfast. After a quick 'athletic meal', as his father called it (Bolt had another name for it) they'd be out to work on mastering all the hoof signs he'd need to remember to guide the fliers. Once training began, in the afternoon, he had to fly a gauntlet of more experienced pegasi trying to crash into him. Finally, they would do visibility training, making him fly through a thick cloud at dusk.

This continued until the day before the trial, when Rainbow Dash forbid further training. Everyone needed to be rested up and ready to go. Prism Bolt did so by sleeping for nearly twelve hours.

Today was the day, however. They'd practiced hard all week, and Spike's projections put them at an astounding 1100 Wingpower, utterly annihilating the old record. Since they'd done the first practice, almost all of the fliers had raised their Wingpower above 10.0. Prism Bolt managed to get his own up to 13.7, something he would not have thought possible.

It didn't bother him as much as it would have earlier to hear that Turquoise Blitz broke the 20.0 benchmark. Not even Rainbow Dash had gotten that high without using a Sonic Rainboom, which was far too dangerous to use in a Tornado Drill—not to mention too difficult with the curved nature of their flight path.

Whirlwind, Prism and Turquoise were standing off to the side, chatting idly amongst themselves as they waited for the observer to arrive. Prism was more worried than he wanted to admit, but the casual conversation kept him distracted; at least, it did until a shout caught his ears.

"Hello? T? Prism? Whirlwind?" a familiar voice called. The three of them looked up to see Anthea wandering through the crowd. She could hear their voices, but there were so many ponies here that she was having a difficult time finding them. Finally, she seemed to lock on to Turquoise's large form, and bounded over. "Oh, there you all are. I was worried I wouldn't make it," she said, giving a quick nuzzle to Turquoise before opening her saddle bags.

She pulled out three necklaces, each with a gemstone in the center. She hovered them to their recipients slowly. Each necklace was gold with a different type of jewel as its centerpiece. Prism Bolt's had an onyx, Whirlwind's was an amethyst and Turquoise's was the gemstone that he shared his name with.

"Well, thanks Annie. What's the occasion?" Prism Bolt asked, looking over the piece of jewelry, this had to be Claire's handy work.

"Oh, it is so I can follow you in the tornado. I can follow the gems!" she explained, her horn glowing softly to illustrate her point.

Prism Bolt understood now. Rarity had taught her one-of-a-kind gem finding spell to Anthea. Claire's magic wasn't strong enough to use it, and Rarity had wanted to pass it on to somepony. Since Anthea normally went gem hunting with Turquoise anyway, it seemed like an obvious choice.

"I have to go give my mom hers, but I'll be cheering for you all! Good luck!" she said, giving a quick peck on the cheek to Turquoise as she ran off.

Prism Bolt watched her go, and a curious thought attacked his mind. Where was Starburst? She'd been at every training day, working hard on her own alongside the other fliers, but she was nowhere to be found today. Would she just not show for the main event, even to watch?

His thoughts were stolen away by the arrival of the observer. Overseeing Tornado Day was normally something delegated to a younger member of the Wonderbolts, but Ponyville always got the personal attention of Spitfire. Though no longer an active flier, she still commanded the entire organization with an experience and skill nopony could possibly challenge. She landed in her flight suit, and instantly greeted her old wing mates.

"Soarin, Rainbow Dash, good to see you again. I take it we're ready to fly?" she said, cutting right to the heart of the matter. All business. Some things never changed.

"Well, hi to you too," Soarin said with his goofy smile. "How's it looking, Spike?" he asked the dragon, who was setting up the larger anemometer.

"It looks good, Soarin. Whenever you guys are ready."

Pegasi all around the reservoir donned their goggles and spread their wings, waiting for the cue from their Lead Flier to take the air. Spitfire took a look around the pegasi gathered there and saw something very odd.

"Hold it!", she shouted, holding up a hoof. She gestured towards Turquoise Blitz, who was wearing a set of goggles as well. "Is he flying?"

Rainbow Dash knew, without looking, that Spitfire's question had caught the attention of Rarity and Spike. If Rainbow was right in her guess, she had about fifteen seconds to defuse this situation before it got out of control. "He's a flier and a member of our town, so yes," she answered.

Spitfire chose her words carefully. "Anyone can help with the tornado, that is true. But the record is for pegasi only. No griffons, no dragons and no... er... sorry. I don't even know what to call you," she admitted awkwardly.

It was a question he got often, and Turquoise didn't seem bothered by it. "Turquoise Blitz," he said, knowing full well that was not what she meant.

"Right. So like I was saying, the record is only for pegasi fliers. I’m sorry, Rainbow Dash. I know how much you want to break this record, but if he flies, I’m not allowed to count it," Spitfire said with a downward look. “And I know that isn’t an easy choice I’m asking you to make,” she added.

"It's ok, I'll stay on the ground," Turquoise said with a smile for Rainbow.

"No, you don't have to—" she started.

Turquoise held up a clawed hoof. "No, it's ok. You all let me fly with you, and it was a lot of fun. But you guys have the chance to get the record, and I'm not gonna make you choose between me and it. I'd rather see all you guys happy for finally doing it."

Spitfire looked between Turquoise and Rainbow, sensing the tension growing there. Rainbow was still conflicted about this, but Turquoise had made his decision, and nopony could make him fly.

Until a shout came up over the field. "I can't believe this crap! Who cares about some stupid record?" All eyes went to the new voice, and the rainbow-maned pegasus it belonged to. "You know what we are here? We're a team. We win or lose as one, not as individuals! He's trained just as hard as the rest of us, so there is no way I am letting him stay on the ground!"

Spitfire turned towards her 'nephew', walking up to him. "Your heart is in the right place, Bolt, but that isn't your call. If he doesn't want to fly, you can't make him."

"The hay I can't, I'm Lead Flier!" he shouted. "And I'm not ordering a single set of wings into the sky unless he's with us!"

The entire crowd was stunned by the outburst. There wasn't a sound in the air as all eyes were on the pair of them. Finally, a small snort of laughter could be heard. Rainbow Dash couldn't contain it for long, bursting into a full laugh.

"Sorry, Spitfire, but he's right. He's Lead Flier, which means we all follow his command." She turned to Turquoise, who looked more embarrassed and confused than anypony else. "Well, are we flying today or not?" she asked him.

Turquoise looked at those around him. From Rainbow Dash and Spitfire, to Anthea and Fluttershy, to his parents, and finally to Prism Bolt. When their eyes met, Prism Bolt gave a childish smile, and Turquoise knew what the answer had to be.

"I guess I don't have much of a choice!" he said with a laugh. "That water isn't going to move itself!"

Prism Bolt stood tall, raising his voice. "All right then, Ponyville! Let's show Equestria what we can do!" he ordered. At his command all the ponies took to the sky, closely following Turquoise Blitz, Rainbow Dash and Soarin, who took their spots at the top of the formation. Slowly, the tornado began to take form.

Spike was splitting his gaze between the machine at his feet and the tornado whipping in front of him. Rarity hid under one of his wings, which spared her from the worst of it. It seemed she would be wearing the 'Windswept Mane' look for the rest of today, however. Spike's attention was stolen when he saw a streak of yellow out of the corner of his eye. It came from the ground, though he wasn't sure where exactly, and shot right into the tornado before vanishing.

"That better not be who I think it was..." he growled.

"What?!" Rarity shouted at him, unable to hear anything over the roar of the tornado.

The water was already being pulled up. They'd gotten the 800 Wingpower they needed easily. Now, where would they top out?

Inside the tornado, Prism Bolt had his hooves full. Fliers who has practiced perfectly all week would veer off course by a fraction of an inch. It was hard for them to notice, but since he was traversing the entire tornado, he could easily see such things. He kept his mind on his job, for the most part, zipping around the formation. There might have been a moment where he got a reproachful glare from Cloudchaser for staying behind Whirlwind longer than was strictly professional.

It wasn't until the water was cascading around them that he saw something that made his blood run cold. A yellow pegasus mare with a blue and purple streaked mane. Starburst was in the tornado.

An underage flier was a huge deal, likely bigger than Starburst realized if she'd gone so far to do this. It would come down like a ton of bricks on anypony who was in a supervisory position here. That would be himself, his parents, Spitfire, and even Princess Twilight.

Prism Bolt signaled to Whirlwind to speed up. He saw the confusion in her eyes, but she did as instructed. When she saw who Bolt was flying next to, her jaw nearly fell open. The last of the water was pushed through, meaning the signal for stopping would come any second now. The two of them flew on opposite sides of Starburst, who had just now become aware of their presence. Whirlwind and Prism Bolt were both larger than her, so their positioning effectively hid her from anypony not directly in front or behind her.

Spike made a mental note of the anemometer reading as the reservoir dried up. He then took a deep breath and let out a mighty roar, easily being heard over the wind. In that instant, the tornado broke apart as the fliers disengaged from their work. Most of them started to come down by the machine, crowding around Spike so they could hear the results.

Prism Bolt and Whirlwind, however, came down on the other side of the now-empty reservoir. They flew so close together that they had to time their wing flaps to not hit each other, or the pony between them. The three of them touched down and Prism Bolt wasted no time ripping the flight goggles off of Starburst and tossing them into a nearby bush.

"Are you crazy?! Do you have any idea how much trouble we could have gotten into?" he whispered.

"Oh wow!" Starburst nearly shouted. "You guys did so good! I wish I could have flown with you."

Her outburst drew some attention, but anypony who looked thought that they had just flown over to her after the tornado was done. They were well-known friends, after all.

The commotion was interrupted by a loud voice. Spike had stood up, towering over every pony there. "The final number is..." he started. He paused for a moment, savoring the dramatic tension.

"One thousand, one hundred, and twenty-four Wingpower!"

The crowd exploded. Nopony seemed to care that this wasn't a record breaking run by the official rules. This was a Ponyville record, and they'd done it as a team.

Prism Bolt jumped into the air, letting out a whoop of delight. What a rush that had been! Whirlwind was just as excited, jumping with him. The pair of them looked like a couple of foals, bouncing around in joy. They turned toward each other, smiles plastered on their faces.

And then they froze as their eyes met.

Prism Bolt had worked harder in the last week than he ever had, and this moment of triumph was worth it. He'd repaired his relationship with his parents, with all the ponies of Ponyville, and with his best friend.

The best friend with whom he was locking gazes currently. Something odd was happening, and it felt like he wasn't in control of his body. Even the cheers around them seemed to be drowned out in his mind.

"Oh sweet Celestia, are you two back to making kissy-faces at each other again? I thought you weren't an item anymore."

And with that one remark from Starburst, the mood collapsed like a soap bubble on the tip of a needle. Prism Bolt and Whirlwind both blushed profusely, averting their eyes.

"T-That was a long time ago! We were just dumb kids back then!" he argued. They'd been school house sweethearts years ago. But really, how much did fillies and colts know about a relationship? It was all going for milkshakes and little pecks on the cheek. Probably a good idea that they decided to break it off when they did.

"Well, at least you aren't a kid now," Starburst remarked dryly.

The jab did not go unnoticed, and Prism Bolt looked across the way. "Oh, the little princess has been talking to Claire, I see. Maybe I should go tell your godfather where you were five minutes ago?"

The color drained from Starburst's face. Spike wouldn't tell anypony here, but he would certainly tell her parents. She didn't want to imagine what her mother would do if she found out. "W-Wait! Bolt, hold on a second!" she cried out, flying after him as he took off.

Whirlwind had been oddly quiet. She watched the two of them fly over to the others and let thoughts run through her mind. She'd been the one to suggest breaking off their 'romantic relationship', if one could have called it that. She enjoyed being rowdy, but Prism Bolt was just a colt back then, obnoxious and stupid. Not to mention, his massive ego could be really grating.

Still, ponies changed over time. Earlier in the week she'd slapped him across his face for being an insensitive, showboating jerk. Now that she looked at him, she didn't see any of that. He was certainly acting more like a grown-up.

"Hey, Whirlwind! Come on! Cotton Candy's got the party all set up! It's gonna be awesome!"

She smiled as his playful nature shone back through. That part of him would never go away. That was probably for the best, because that playful and happy nature of his was what she'd really found appealing in the first place.

Perhaps, she thought to herself, it was time to reassess things.