Piercing the Heavens
By: Calm Wind
Three… Four… Five… Dash counted in her head as she steadily pressed the barbell up again and again.
She and Scootaloo had a nice morning flight. Scootaloo couldn’t go too long without having to rest, but it gave Dash a chance to show her little fan a few speed drills. Now they were back in the cloud house, making good use of a surprise gift Soarin had given Dash during his last visit.
Dash remembered it well. It was the day before Spitfire and Fleetfoot stopped by again so they could all fly back to Canterlot together. It was strange at first. The whole night it felt like Soarin was stalling her. Every time she tried to drag him back to her house, he suggested something else and led her away. He was stalling her, buying enough time for a hired crew to stop by her house and set up something.
When they finally returned, Dash found her house had an extra extension of clouds on one side. Cloud houses weren’t very hard to build or add to. Unlike conventional board and nail architecture, it was a simple matter of professionally molding and shaping an enchanted cloud that was incapable of being dissipated or changed once set in place.
So she had a new room? Neat.
What was in the new room was the real surprise. Soarin led her in through a new door cut into the wall of her living room to reveal a complete home gym. Everything she would need to do strength training like the Wonderbolts. A bench with an attached barbell and plates, a rack of dumbbells, a stretching mat, and a few cable machines, a whole set of magically imbued equipment that would stay afloat on the cloud floors. The room was complete with a wall length mirror, a few Wonderbolt motivational posters, and a large framed and signed mug shot of Soarin smiling suavely for cameras at a recent news conference.
He claimed the picture was meant to be a joke, and she didn’t have to keep it there, but she kept it up anyway.
“Nothing motivates me more than your smug shit-faced grin,” she had said to him jokingly upon seeing it.
He also ended up giving her full, written up workout and matching diet plans to go with it. He had thought of everything all for her. Damn she loved him. He went out of his way to provide her with everything she would need to work hard, get stronger, and be the best she could be. Come time for Wonderbolt tryouts, she would be ready. Thanks to him, she’d be more than ready.
Then she pressed him to the bench and…
Dash realized she did twenty five warm-up reps when she was supposed to only do ten.
“Whoops, pay attention Dash,” she chuckled, blushing lightly as she remembered the night that followed his gift. She set the bar back into the rack and released her hooves from the hoof holds attached to the bar. Obviously a bar is pretty hard for a pony to grab. There were special circular caps welded to it that a pony could slide their hooves into. It kept the bar steady so Dash didn’t have to worry about it slipping and landing painfully on her stomach or neck. That would really suck.
She stood up from the bench and circled around to add weight to the bar. Something had become clear to her during her experiences with the Wonderbolts. It wasn’t just all about the wings. For the longest time throughout her life, she had lived by the belief that simply being fast and having lots of wing power was the essence of being the prefect flyer.
She sure was proved wrong quickly. The first indication she got was just how buff every Wonderbolt was, even when just the lead squad visited Ponyville. Soarin was obviously very big and muscular due to his role as a thrower and he could only pull off the Sonic Blast-off so easily because of his pure strength, but the others weren’t beanpoles either. Spitfire and Fleetfoot, while not quite as toned as Dash had recently become, both sported rather impressive bodies for mares. Rapidfire was in shape too, but screw that douche.
Having a strong, sturdy body was almost more essential than the wings. The Wonderbolts were able to perform complex maneuvers at extremely high speeds. Pitching and turning while under the intense pressure of wind resistance required ridiculous core strength. Then if one managed to hold strong under the pressure, they’d also have to sustain it. Strength and endurance: they were beyond important.
This was the answer Dash had been readily searching for in terms of the question: just how the hell could Soarin turn and maneuver so easily in tandem with using the Sonic Blast-off? Whenever she did it, she could barely shift from a straight line. Conclusion: Soarin was a beast. He was clearly the strongest Wonderbolt. Dash had seen multiple male Wonderbolts while she was last in the compound and none of them compared to him in terms of size or strength (or good looks). She saw him bench press over two hundred pounds multiple times in one set for crying out loud.
“Heh,” Dash chuckled to herself as she slid the weight plates onto the barbell. Two hundred pounds? Forget it. The most she had managed was a hundred twenty five, and she could barely do it once before having to put it down. At least she had made progress. She had effectively increased the amount of weight she could press by thirty pounds since she started. She most likely had the diet to thank for that. Soarin’s advice rang true: “Want a strong body? Better eat right along with the training.”
Another place a well-trained body would help her was in the combat department. Nightshade beat the tar out of her during the tornado incident. When they fought the Shadowbolts again, it was after a good three months of heavy work at Sweet Apple Acres. Dash found herself staying toe to toe and exchanging blows, especially when she fought Lightning Dust. Dust was quicker and landed so many punches, but Dash proved to be sturdier and shrugged each one of them off.
She had nearly forgotten that the Wonderbolts’ combat capabilities were technically secret. There was such a huge focus on it at the compound, but they were just stunt flyers to the general public. Dash planned to use this to her advantage. She’d be combat ready before the rest of the recruits even knew about it. All this extra training would make her shine.
She put one hundred pounds on the bar and laid back down to do another set. She counted in her head again as she made sure to keep good form. She got to eight and her right arm seemed to give out slightly. With an extra effort, she pushed the bar all the way up and set it back in the rack.
“Ow…” she winced as she shook her right hoof. It seemed like it was still a little tired from hoof wrestling Applejack. Whatever, it was minor, nothing she couldn’t deal with by just sucking it up. She rotated her arms to keep her chest muscles loose—
“HALP!” A voice came from nearby. Dash blinked. She was thinking so much about Soarin and the Wonderbolts that she had completely forgotten about Scootaloo. Dash turned to check on her.
“Pffff!” Dash snickered as she looked towards the mat. Scootaloo had managed to get a fifteen pound dumbbell off the rack, but somehow also managed to get pinned beneath it upon landing. She wasn’t being crushed or choked by it, but she was effectively stuck. Dash chuckled as she rose from the bench and trotted over.
“HAAAAALP!” Scootaloo repeated while kicking her back hooves and trying to push the dumbbell off. She got it to move an inch or so each try, but it fell right back down before she could get free. Dash reached her wing out and placed a few feathers on the handle.
“Try again, I’ll only help a little,” Dash explained, knowing Scootaloo would prefer doing it mostly herself. Scootaloo held her breath as she tried pushing again, “Whoa!” Dash stopped her, “You’ll blow your brain out of your ears like that. Take a deep breath and release it as you push,” she nodded with a small grin. Scootaloo did as she was told. She took a breath and exhaled as she pushed the dumbbell up and off of her, rolling it to the side.
“This is hard,” she said as she remained on her back, looking up at Dash upside down.
“I didn’t help you at all actually,” Dash said while briefly preening the wing feathers she had on the dumbbell.
“Huh?” Scootaloo looked over at the dumbbell. Dash chuckled.
“It makes a difference when you breathe,” she winked, “holding your breath makes it harder.”
“Okay, I’m definitely not imagining it. Scoots, do you keep hearing something?” Dash looked about the room. She stopped when her eyes fell on the doorway to the living room. There was a little yellow head with a pink mane peering around the wall. “Fluttershy?” Dash lifted an eyebrow.
“Um… Hi,” Fluttershy spoke up a little as Dash noticed her, “I’m not interrupting anything… am I?”
“Not at all, how long have you been there?” Dash asked, estimating she’d probably been standing there for at least five minutes.
“I’ve been here for an hour,” she admitted quietly while walking out from behind the wall and looking up at Dash.
“An hour?!” Dash stared at her in disbelief, “I’ve only been home for twenty minutes!” Dash couldn’t hold back a few chuckles, “You’ve been here the whole time? You’re like a ninja.”
“I was sitting on the couch, you walked by me twice,” she said while looking away. Something was definitely eating at her. Fluttershy was generally not rambunctious, but she looked a little sad.
“You just really blend in then,” Dash commented while trying to recall her surroundings just minutes ago. How did she miss Fluttershy right in her living room? She was a small pony but sheesh…
“I just, didn’t want to get in your way, you looked busy,” Fluttershy swayed back and forth while looking at the floor, “and I didn’t want to bother you during a workout,” she kept trying to justify her lack of assertiveness. Dash shook her head.
“Fluttershy, my home is your home, we’ve been over this. At least you made it into the house this time,” she smiled, recalling a time Fluttershy waited outside in the rain for half an hour before Dash realized she was at the door. “So what’s up? Why the long face?” Dash picked up on Fluttershy’s expression.
“Oh nothing,” Fluttershy looked up at Dash, “I just thought I’d… you know…spend some time with you,” she kept her sad expression as she explained herself.
“Fluttershy stop looking at me like that, I’m gonna start crying,” Dash joked while placing a hoof down on Fluttershy’s shoulder.
“I’m just sad you’re leaving soon, I know it’s a week away, but…” tears started welling up.
“Oh man, c’mere,” Dash quickly drew her into a hug, “I’m only gonna be in Canterlot, I won’t be too far.”
“I know, it’s just that you’ve always been there for me my whole life! I’m going to miss you so much,” Fluttershy held back the tears in an uncharacteristic show of resolve. “I’m happy for you… but I’m going to miss you.”
“Hey, now!” Dash put her at arm’s length. “I may be going, but you’ve got Mac to take care of you now! Be happy! But I’ll still visit as much as I can, so no tears okay?”
It was true. The two of them had been friends since they were young fillies. They even moved to Ponyville at the same time. Fluttershy really cared about her. The violent tackle and questioning when Dash disappeared after the royal ball was a clear indication.
“Okay,” Fluttershy smiled.
“HAAAAAAAAAALP!!!!” Scootaloo suddenly yelled from behind them. Dash turned around to see Scootaloo stuck beneath the dumbbell again.
“Dammit Scoots,” Dash mumbled with a smirk. She briefly turned to Fluttershy and patted her shoulder. “I gotta get back to my workout. I was supposed to do my next set like, five minutes ago.”
“Do you mind if I just, stick around? I want to spend as much time with you as I can,” Fluttershy asked.
“Like I said, you’re always welcome,” Dash answered as Fluttershy followed her into the room. Dash stopped by Scootaloo and this time just easily lifted the dumbbell off. “Take it easy Scoots, you’re gonna hurt yourself.”
“But I wanna be like you!” she huffed and crossed her arms as she sat up. Dash ruffled Scootaloo’s mane with her free hoof.
“Patience, young one. I didn’t get like this overnight,” Dash flexed her arm and gave Scootaloo a smile before turning towards Fluttershy, “Hey could you put this back for me?” she asked while holding the dumbbell towards her. It seemed like a logical request, seeing as how the dumbbell rack and bench were on opposite sides of the home gym.
“Oh, okay,” Fluttershy reached out. Dash handed her the dumbbell, and only realized just as she let go that it was probably a horrible idea, “EEP!” Fluttershy was instantly pulled to the ground by it. Dash winced as Fluttershy crashed softly against the mat.
“Seriously Fluttershy? It’s only fifteen pounds,” Dash lifted an eyebrow. Fluttershy was flat on the floor, stomach first. The dumbbell had bounced and was leaning against her right shoulder. She tried to move, but it was too heavy.
“Um… help?” she whimpered.
“You’re too delicate for your own good,” Dash sighed and shook her head. Maybe it would be a bad idea for her to leave Fluttershy behind. The poor tiny pony would break in two if a feather landed on her. She had Big Macintosh now though. If he couldn’t keep her from harm, nothing could. It was sad that she would be leaving her friends behind, but they were all finding new directions in their lives. Dash’s path just split off a little, they would never truly go separate ways. Never.
Soarin stepped into Spitfire’s office as Fleetfoot guffawed her lungs out. He flattened his brow, eyes, and mouth as he glanced at her angrily. She rolled back and forth on the ground, clutching her sides and kicking her back hooves up in the air. Soarin sighed and tried to ignore her. Spitfire sat behind her desk, eying him quizzically with one eyebrow lifted.
“Uh, do I want to know?” Spitfire asked while switching which eyebrow was up.
“Well—” Soarin tried to start, but…
“HAHAHA WHA… WHAT THE HELL… OH GOD, MY SIDES HURT AHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!” Fleetfoot rolled onto her stomach and flapped her wings while pounding a hoof on the floor.
“Is that a prop or something?” Spitfire asked while eyeing the horn and how it was fastened to Soarin’s head. “Nightmare Night isn’t until next month. How the hell did you buckle that strap with hooves?” Spitfire made small circular hoof motions in front of her as she contemplated it.
“No it’s not a prop, it’s—” he tried speaking again, but…
“I just… can’t…” Fleetfoot walked up to him while still engulfed in her own laughter.
“Fleet…” Soarin glared at her.
“Just when I thought you’d never surprise me again… ha ha ha! Seriously Soarin what the—” she reached up and tapped the horn with her hoof.
Art by Scootafail/Chiwee
Soarin felt a pang of discomfort shoot through his head, down his neck, and over his back all the way to the tip of his tail.
“Rgh! Fleet!” He growled. Suddenly he felt a strange sensation. It felt like every nerve in his body from his hooves to his ears was firing. The sensations condensed and seemed to gather in his forehead. The horn began to glow bright blue. “SHIT!” Soarin yelled as Fleetfoot’s eyes widened and she pulled away. Spitfire stood up from her desk sharply, rubbing her eyes to make sure she wasn’t seeing things. Soarin quickly crouched down and aimed the horn at the floor. He cupped his hooves over the tip and braced himself.
Luckily, the magic spasm was only a fraction as strong as the one that destroyed the window back in the palace. The magic discharged towards the floor at point blank. A loud POW sounded out, followed by a weak shockwave and small bits of blue light squeaking out between Soarin’s hooves. The wave pushed Fleetfoot and Spitfire back a few inches from where they stood. Stacks of papers on Spitfire’s desk blew into the air, the loose chairs in the office all shifted, and the potted plant beside the door fell over.
“Ahhh! Damn!” Soarin stood up quickly and shook his hooves as a small trail of steam rose from both them and the false horn. Fleetfoot’s jaw dropped.
“Holy shit…” she blinked. “That was real magic, wasn’t it?”
“What tipped you off?” Spitfire said sarcastically as she sighed at all the papers in a mess on the floor. She made her way around the desk and approached Soarin carefully. “Soarin, what in Equestria is going on?” she asked in concern as he blew on his hooves. He glared at Fleetfoot who kept her mouth shut. It wasn’t as much of a joke anymore.
“Do you want the long, confusing version? Or the short and blunt version?” Soarin rolled his eyes as he sat down and looked towards his longtime friend.
“I’d prefer the version that makes sense,” she pointed at Soarin’s head, “cause I’m pretty sure I just saw a pegasus use magic through a fake horn,” she stated.
“Okay,” Soarin tipped his head back and forth, “Apparently the dark magic Celestia used on me back in Ponyville should have killed me by now. When I went to see Luna, she and Discord slapped this false horn on me so the magic would have the means of being channeled. I’m gonna be summoned later for instructions on how to control the basic forms of magic,” he turned to Fleetfoot, “I was told it would remain under control for now, but apparently making me mad makes it react so I’d appreciate you not pushing it Fleet,” he tipped his head towards her and raised both his eyebrows. “Okay?”
“Yep,” she answered simply with her eyes still wide. Spitfire scrunched her face for a moment before shaking her head.
“That’s the version that makes sense?” she blinked as she thought it over. Soarin shrugged and sighed.
“I don’t get it either and I wish all this damn crap stopped happening to me,” he complained as he looked up to see the tip of the horn in his vision, “but I guess I have no say in it so I’m gonna have to be a pseudo alicorn for a while,” he shifted his eyes to Spitfire. “I was told to rest today too, I hope you don’t mind…”
“Fine,” Spitfire said with a deep breath and a hint of annoyance. Soarin caught on.
“Spitfire, you know this wasn’t my choice, right?” Soarin made it clear. Spitfire shook her head and looked at him sternly. He knew that look and knew exactly what was coming along with it.
“First of all Soarin,” she began as she leaned her side into her desk, “you picked a great time to have issues. If you had listened to me before and seen Luna earlier, you would’ve dealt with this off-season and not right before a major recruitment drive. Secondly,” she pushed off her desk and pointed at him, “you have my support in this situation as your best friend, but keep in mind that it’s my job as the lead captain of the Wonderbolts to keep active members in the lead squad. If you don’t get this figured out and under control, you WILL get replaced. It’s how our system works. It’s fair and it’s honest. I can’t let personal matters get in the way. Understand?” they stared at each other, Fleetfoot glancing between them without making a sound.
“Yes, ma’am,” Soarin replied professionally.
“Good, now go figure this stuff out, and please try not to blow any holes in the walls or through other Wonderbolts,” she nodded to him.
“I’ll… do my best,” Soarin’s voice was filled with very little confidence. Add one more thing to the list of stuff bothering him, possibility of losing his job he worked so hard for. It wasn’t his fault, not in the slightest, but Spitfire was handling this like a good captain should. She wouldn’t be the captain if she didn’t handle things sternly and without emotion guiding her decisions. Soarin turned to leave, but Spitfire trotted up and put a hoof on his shoulder.
“Soarin,” she said his name. He stopped and turned to look at her, but was surprised when she hugged him before he could fully turn.
“Spitfire?” he blinked and looked up at Fleetfoot, who still had her mouth clamped shut.
“Just know… that I’m here to help you, as your friend, not as your captain. The decisions I have to make do not change the fact that I care and that I’m worried about you,” she squeezed him tight. It was unexpected, but Soarin smiled. He was glad Spitfire made the simple gesture. He needed support right now. The one pony that could give him the most was out of his reach, but Spitfire always found a way to help him out no matter what.
“Thanks Spitfire, I URF!” he grunted as she jabbed him in the side and grinded her hoof against his body.
“Seriously though, it was that bad?” She released the embrace and looked him in the eye sternly, “Next time I tell you to get something checked, don’t be such a damn stallion. Your stubbornness could have gotten you killed. I don’t think Dash would like that very much either,” she winked, “Promise me?”
“When you put it that way, how could I deny?” he chuckled, referring to Dash. Spitfire rolled her eyes but smiled as he nodded. “I promise.”
“Now go rest your head… horn… thingy,” she struggled to find the right word. As Soarin turned, Fleetfoot began to snicker. Soarin stopped and turned to her with a flat expression.
“What?” he asked in annoyance. She shook her head and waved a hoof.
“Oh… nothing, nothing at allhhrrnkkkk,” she couldn’t keep it down and started giggling quietly. Spitfire lifted an eyebrow towards Fleetfoot.
“Real big help as always Fleet,” she shrugged. Soarin turned and faced Fleetfoot.
“What is it Fleet? Say it now while I’m in a better mood so I don’t blow up the compound,” he requested. She glanced up at the false horn, her lips wobbling as she tried to hold in the laughter. She couldn’t contain it. Soarin and Spitfire waited patiently, whilst both tapping a hoof on the floor, as Fleetfoot’s laughter rang through the office once more.
“Sorry!” she apologized while still shaking with giggles, “You have my support too Soarin… it’s just…” she looked up at the horn again, then to Spitfire, “Spitfire what do all the alicorns we know have in common?” she suddenly asked. Spitfire blinked and looked between Fleetfoot and Soarin.
“What do you—” Spitfire’s eyes widened. She flinched and quickly put a hoof to her mouth and puffed her cheeks, letting one snort go. Fleetfoot lost herself in a fit of giggles before doing a pirouette, throwing her wings out and extending her arms towards Soarin.
“Presenting! Princess Soarin!” she shouted at him with the goofiest smile imaginable plastered to her face. She keeled over, kicking all four hooves in the air as she lost herself in laughter again. Soarin stared dumbly at her with his ears and brow flattened and his mouth agape.
“You know, I should’ve seen that one coming,” he said with a grumble. Then he heard more snorting. He looked in disbelief towards Spitfire. She was clutching her stomach and had a hoof placed firmly over her mouth, but she was shaking and letting a few giggles escape. Spitfire. Giggling. Was it really that funny? “Seriously Spitfire? You too?” he said with a heavy sigh. “Thanks, I guess,” he shook his head and turned to leave.
“Oh, no!” Fleetfoot continued with a comically dramatic tone, "Our princess left the premise without her strap on!” Soarin froze hard, but Fleetfoot continued, “…horn!” She added with fits of uncontrollable laughter. She didn’t know that’s what it was really called, but came dangerously close to making him spill the beans. He quickly trotted out the door before she could go any further.
Spitfire watched him leave while still trying and failing to hold it in. She let go of her mouth and let the laughs out while getting up, stepping towards Fleetfoot, and roughly pushing her head down with a wing.
“DAMMIT FLEET! I was trying to be supportive!” she said while trying calm down.
“Aw, c’mon! That wasn’t too far!” Fleet giggled as she pushed free of Spitfire’s feathers.
“You always go too far Fleet,” Spitfire shook her head. “But seriously, how many more things can go weird for him? I know we’re busy, but if we get the chance, we should take him to Rusty’s or something…”
---To be Continued ---