“Welcome, fillies and gentlecolts!” Apple Bloom’s country twang rang out over the loudspeakers. “It’s been over six years in the makin’ but me and my friends wanna welcome y’all to the grand opening ceremony for Crusader Park: Ponyville’s first and only full-service outdoor entertainment emporium!”
The young mare had designed the stage from which she now spoke to handle everything from small school functions to performances by the Royal Canterlot Theatrical Society so that now, all by herself, she couldn’t help but feel very tiny. Nevertheless, it gave her the perfect vantage point to look out over the rest of what she and her friends had created. All around the outer edges of the property, new grass had been planted along with trees and flowers to transform the rather plain fields that had once bordered Ponyville into exceptionally beautiful gardens perfect for picnics, stargazing, or just about anything else a pony could think of. Inside of that, they had designated fields for every popular sport, even making four hoofball courts to allow for tournament-style championships. A few custom-built playgrounds, complete with all manners of slides and swings, made sure that ponies of all ages would have a place to play.
The centerpiece of the whole project, however, had to be the skate park that, as far as the three friends had been able to determine, was the largest of its kind in Equestria. The design was mostly concrete and metal with all sorts of ramps, pipes, rails, and ledges, though the occasional wooden structure found its way in where appropriate. The true eye-catcher was a massive wooden ski-jump style ramp, twenty yards tall and featuring a nearly vertical drop transitioning into a perfect launch angle.
With a proud smile, Apple Bloom turned her attention back to the ponies in front of her. Ponyville had never been a very large town so the crowd was relatively sparse even though almost everypony was in attendance. Despite this, the roar of applause that washed over the stage could have rivaled any of the Princesses’ royal addresses. Apple Bloom soaked it all in, patiently waiting for the ruckus to subside before continuing.
“Thanks, everypony! We’re gonna get this show goin’ in just a couple a’ minutes now so y’all should make your way over to the stands over there and get yourselves ready for the performance of a lifetime!”
Stomps of applause surged again for a few moments as the gathered ponies began filing into the sturdy bleachers set off to one side of the nearby skate park. Excited murmurs rippled through the crowd as everypony slowly found their seats.
Far above the park, an orange mare in a blue helmet stood on a small cloud, staring intently down at the largest ramp. Her tiny, filly-sized wings twitched in anticipation.
“Okay,” she called over her shoulder. “Now just a couple inches back. No, that’s too far! Go back! Almost... Little more...”
Rainbow Dash’s head popped up over the edge of the cloud. “Don’t you start this again. Just tell me where to put the thing and be done with it.”
Scootaloo chuckled. “Sorry, Dash. I just want to make sure everything goes perfectly. This is my first real show in front of a crowd this size.”
“Ah, I’m just razzing you,” the rainbow pony laughed as she flew up to stand next to Scootaloo. “You’re not nervous are you?” She jabbed a playful hoof into the younger pony’s ribs.
Scootaloo giggled. “Nah, not ‘nervous’ really. More... anxious, I guess. I just want to get going!” She eyed the shuffling crowd below eagerly. “And what about you? Are you ready?”
Rainbow Dash scoffed. “Kid, a Wonderbolt is always ready!” She struck a pose to accentuate the striking colors of her jumpsuit. To almost nopony’s surprise, the mare had finally succeeded in joining the famous flying squadron a couple of years ago and had rarely taken off her uniform since. Despite the heavy use, the normally rough-and-tumble mare had taken special care to keep it in extraordinarily pristine condition.
“Well, I sure hope so. I appreciate your help and all but if you had come out yesterday, we could have at least practiced your part once or twice. You read all my notes, right? Cuz I‘ve got this thing all planned out. You need to hit your marks just right or it won’t work.”
“Hey, who do you think you’re talking to here?” Rainbow puffed her chest in fake indignation.
Scootaloo backed off. “I know, I know. I trust you, it’s just... doing it for the first time in front of a crowd seems a bit... risky.”
“Risk is all part of the job,” the mare said with a smirk. "And this way, you get to be as impressed by my performance as the audience will be.”
“Or as impressed with you as you are,” she said in a loud whisper.
“Hey!” the Wonderbolt barked in mock-anger. “At least I’ve done my trick before. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you use those... things before.” She lightly tapped one of the twin cylinders strapped to either side of the little blue scooter lying on the cloud next to them.
Scootaloo quickly waved the other pony off. “Don’t go poking at those! Apple Bloom said they should be pretty stable but I don’t want them going off early!”
With an exaggerated gasp, Rainbow Dash dove dramatically through the air and took cover under a tuft of cloud. Slowly, she peeked over the top. “Is... Is the gigantic explosion over?”
“Ha ha ha. You done?” Scootaloo dead-panned.
“Yeah, I think so.” The mare wiped a few wisps of cloud off of her uniform as she rejoined her friend.
Rolling her eyes, Scootaloo peered down over the edge of her cloud where she could see Sweetie Belle and her band doing last minute sound checks behind the stage’s curtains. As she watched, the curtains rose and a powerful crash of cymbals marked the start of the show.
“That’s your cue, Squirt. You ready?”
“Oh yeah.” Scootaloo lowered her goggles into position and hopped onto her waiting scooter. “Just make sure you hit your mark, okay?”
“You just worry about your part. I’ll be there.” Rainbow Dash lowered her own eyewear and took off into the sky, quickly disappearing from view.
Scootaloo turned and listed intently to the beat rising from below. She counted out the measures, bobbing her head in time, before taking a deep breath and diving off the cloud just as the electric guitar rang out its opening chord.
An expectant silence had fallen over the bleachers when the rock-and-roll anthem had begun blaring over the speaker system. However, after a few moments without any noticeable activity, some of the ponies had started idly chatting with one another or singing along to the music. All this stopped immediately when one pony pointed to the sky and screamed.
“Oh, Celestia! That pony is falling!”
Scootaloo couldn’t hear the collective gasp of the audience over the roar of the wind in her ears, though. Her tiny wings buzzed, making slight corrections to her trajectory as she fell, as she aimed herself directly toward the largest ramp. Seconds later, the wheels of her scooter contacted the wood with a satisfying clunk. She crouched as low as she could and braced herself. The g-forces as she hit the curve were substantial, but she maintained her balance and launched off the end of the ramp without losing any noticeable amount of speed.
The assembled ponies, slowly realizing that the show had actually begun, cheered loudly as the orange, purple, and blue blur proceeded to perform a dizzying series of back-flips and twists as she soared over the entire length of the park. At the last moment, she pulled out of her spin and hit the small landing ramp dead-center.
“Perfect!,” she muttered to herself. “That’s the first big one down. Should be smooth sailing for a while.”
Wheels still screeching with the momentum of her fall, she fired herself off of a nearby quarter-pipe. More rapid-fire rotations actually nauseated a few observers, but Scootaloo remained in control with practiced ease. Sparks flew as she slid her scooter across one of the long metal hoofrails leading her into a large wooden loop. Her world inverted, giving her a momentary glimpse of the bleachers. The gathered ponies’ faces wore strange mixtures of excitement, shock, and fear: exactly the reactions she was hoping for. She tried but failed to control the smile growing on her face.
The little mare buzzed her way through the rest of her set, being sure to utilize as many of the fixtures as possible. This was a grand opening ceremony, after all. She had to show off what they had built. Eventually, her momentum finally waning, she lined herself up for the finale. She hunkered down a bit more and pressed the shiny red button that looked like it had been hastily screwed onto her handlebars. The scooter’s twin rockets fired, the sudden burst of speed nearly sending her into a nearby wall. With a small shriek, she corrected her course and successfully found the ramp that would launch her straight back up into the sky.
Higher and higher she flew, the small rockets powering her ascent before sputtering to a halt over thirty yards above the ground. Moving quickly, she pulled her scooter up and threw the strap over her shoulders. She raised her forehooves high over her head and closed her eyes just as she reached the peak of her arc. “Come on, come on, come on...” Her stomach rolled as the weightlessness faded and a momentary panic shot through her mind before the impact. In the blink of an eye, she was soaring vertically into the stratosphere, her hooves locked tightly around the jumpsuit-clad legs of a Wonderbolt.
“‘Bout time you showed up, Dash!” she yelled over the rushing air. “What happened to the whole ‘A-Wonderbolt-never-misses-her-mark’ thing?”
“Yeah, yeah, keep your horseshoes on. I caught you, didn’t I?” She flicked a quick salute to her passenger. “All part of the show!”
Scootaloo just rolled her eyes as the clouds rushed by her face. Her chest was heaving after her performance and the thin air up here was certainly not helping. Closing her eyes, she took a few deep, slow breaths to try to relax. It was no use. The excitement and anticipation was too much for her. She opened her eyes and marveled at the scenery. In the short time her eyes were closed, the pair had risen another hundred yards into the calm blue sky. The flightless filly had never before been so high. She could even see the curvature of the planet from up here. For a moment, she almost wished that she could stay for a while, but she had more important business to take care of first. She looked down and searched for her target: a tiny gray circle against a largely gray background.
“Top floor!” Rainbow Dash called, slowing her ascent. “Last chance to back out, Squirt. What d’ya say? You ready for this?”
Scootaloo took one more glance at the earth so far below before returning her ride’s confident smirk.
“Let’s do it.”
“Now that’s what I like to hear!” Her blue wings flared as she began to dive, momentum building slowly but steadily. “Oh, yeah!” She practically had to scream over the turbulent air. “You’re probably gonna want to keep your mouth closed!”
Scootaloo just shook her head and laughed as she pulled her scooter off of her back. She had to get ready now because in a few moments she would be out of time.
Far below the two plummeting mares, the gathered ponies were chattering away. Confusion seemed to be the most common theme of the discussions as ponies tried to determine what was happening, or rather, not happening. Minutes ago, while in the middle of an impressive display, the lone performer had suddenly been swept up into the sky by a strange blue blur with no evidence of their intent. A single pony had begun applauding slowly but stopped when those around him hesitated to join in. Some faces showed signs of worry, perhaps wondering if this turn of events had been planned at all. As time passed, and with nothing else to do, the conversations grew louder and more causal.
“Did you see that part where she did that loopy thing?” an excited colt asked his group of friends. “That was so cool!”
“That really was an odd way to end a show,” a mare whispered through the side of her mouth to her husband. “Where do you think she went?”
“You know foals these days,” he said back, a disgruntled frown growing on his face. “So many of them have such awful definitions of ‘entertainment.’ I remember back when I was a colt, nopony would just disappear like this in the middle of a show. A performer would always close with a finale, a flourish. Ponies had class back then. Not like these little-”
The sky exploded with a blinding flash of light. Dozens of blood-curdling screams rang out from the bleachers, many of the ponies instinctively starting to run from the source of the tremendous noise. Those that remained, frozen in shock, were treated to one of the most stunning displays of color that Ponyville had ever seen. A massive ring of light, consisting of all the colors of the rainbow, was expanding rapidly across the sky, clearing every cloud and bathing the park in a warm, golden glow. From the epicenter of the blast, two mares descended at an astonishing rate, a rainbow trail following behind them.
Even with the goggles on, Scootaloo’s eyes were watering. She had done it! A sonic rainboom! Well, technically she had just been along for the ride while Rainbow Dash did it, but the exhilaration was no less intense. She held her breath and promised to celebrate later. For now, she had to concentrate on her part to play in all of this. She had spent weeks working out the precise moves on paper but Dash’s rather ‘inconsistent’ practice schedule had kept her from doing any kind of practical test. She braced herself for impact as the Wonderbolt released and sent her hurtling directly toward the skate park’s largest semi-spherical pool. Right on target.
As she contacted the lip of the pool, she quickly wrenched her handlebars to one side. Her scooter’s wheels screamed as the force of the supersonic turn threatened to split the admittedly cheap plastic. Luckily, her equipment held and Scootaloo was able to redirect herself into a spin around the circumference of the pool without losing any appreciable speed. The wind whistled ominously for a moment before coalescing into a small funnel cloud around the rapidly rotating pony. Scootaloo felt herself become lighter and lighter as tornado slowly gained enough power to lift her over and out of the pool she had used to form it.
Just as she had calculated, her entry velocity had ensured that the whirlwind would accelerate and grow to immense proportions. In no time at all, she was in a flat spin at the top of a fifty-foot tall tower of twisting turbulence. More screams came from the stands as any small unsecured objects took flight to join the show. Popcorn, pretzels, sandwiches, and at least a few hats swirled into the ever-expanding funnel of air.
Scootaloo gritted her teeth as the g-forces climbed. She could feel the blood being pushed out of her head. Her vision was shrinking into a narrow tunnel of darkness. Unable to see much anyway, she closed her eyes and fought against the urge to slow down. She just needed to hold out for a few more seconds.
Suddenly, that signature rainbow trail reappeared in the sky above the raging torrent of wind. Rainbow Dash dove straight down, falling through the eye of the storm, to connect directly with the heart of the tornado. A blinding flash of white light followed by a rush of wind exploded outward, washing over the bleachers and knocking everypony that had managed to stand right back into their seats.
As the dust settled and their eyes readjusted to the mid-afternoon light, the audience got their first view of the cause of the disturbance. Where a tornado had thundered moments before now stood two mares, hooves high in dramatic poses. Slowly, the shocked ponies began to realize the magnitude of what they had just seen.
Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo stood in silence except for their heavy breathing. Their eyes darted from pony to pony looking for any reaction but they received only blank stares in return. After an uncomfortably long wait, the sound of a single pony stomping his applause broke through. Slowly, the sound built, more and more ponies joining in, until the performers had to shield their ears from the raucous cheering.
Scootaloo sighed. She looked over to Dash and mirrored the smug grin she was wearing. “Well,” she said, still slightly out of breath. “I guess we did it, didn’t we?”
“Oh, you bet we did!” Rainbow gave a little kick to the smaller mare’s side. “Great job, kid!”
“Heh, thanks, Dash.” Scootaloo was unsuccessfully trying to hide her blush as a yellow earth pony and a white unicorn came running toward them through the crowd.
“Wow, Scootaloo!” Apple Bloom cheered. “Ah had no idea you could do anything like that! What the hay was it? Some kinda... Sonic Rainboom... Tornado... Explosion, uh, thingy?”
Sweetie Belle shook her head at the farm pony. “Okay, we are really going to have to come up with a better name than that. Anyway,” she turned back to Scootaloo. “That really was a great trick! I think you scared the audience half to death but it sure was a memorable performance.”
“Yeah, maybe we should move the stands a little further back next time...” she said as she pulled a rogue nacho out of her mane. “I’m just glad everything else went to plan. I still can’t believe it worked!”
“Neither can I. That was quite a show you put on there,” came a new voice from behind.
The three friends turned to see a bright orange pegasus mare approaching them accompanied by an entourage of at least a dozen ponies all grouped behind her. “Uh, thanks... Miss, uh...” Scootaloo stalled, hoping these unfamiliar ponies would take her hint and introduce themselves.
It was Rainbow Dash, however, who did the honors. Swooping over, she gave the mare a playful nudge. “Don’t mind her. I think her head is still a little scrambled from all the spinning,” she said in an exaggerated whisper. After giggling at Scootaloo’s reaction, she stepped between the two mares. As they each raised a hoof to shake, Dash made the introductions. “Scootaloo, Spitfire. Spitfire, Scootaloo.”
Scootaloo immediately wished that she had had all four hooves on the ground at that moment. She tipped and stumbled to one side, nearly bowling over Apple Bloom in the process, before finding her balance. She couldn’t keep the blush out of her cheeks as she heard the results of her fumble.
To her credit, Spitfire at least attempted to restrain her amusement though Rainbow Dash had no such inhibitions. The blue mare rolled on the ground attempting, but failing, to say something through her fits of laughter.
While Scootaloo waited for the laughter to subside, she was able to get a good second look at Spitfire. Having previously only seen the famous performer in various souvenir photos and once from a distance at Rainbow’s initiation to the Wonderbolts, it was understandable why she had not recognized the team’s captain. She was out of uniform. Without the jumpsuit and goggles, she looked like an entirely different pony: almost normal even, though certainly far more trim and fit than the average pony. In fact, all of the ponies with Spitfire seemed to be in exceptional shape. She scanned a few more faces before the realization finally hit her.
“A-Are you all W-Wonderbolts?” she fumbled out through her slack jaw.
Rainbow Dash popped up off the ground. “Wow, you catch on quick, don’t you, Scoots?” she said, wiping the tears from her eyes. “Say hello to Equestria’s greatest flying team!”
Various greetings and congratulations were offered by the crowd of celebrities, with Scootaloo only able to manage a tiny ‘hi’ in return.
Rainbow Dash smiled proudly. “Yep, they all took time out of their busy schedules to come down here just for your show! Isn’t that cool?”
Spitfire cleared her throat loudly. “As I recall, you pretty much begged us to come down here, Dash.”
“Well, okay, maybe I had to talk them into it at first, but it was worth it, right guys?”
A powerful roar of assent was issued, with the occasional whistle or cheer added on top of the noise. Scootaloo was taken aback at seeing such a positive reaction from ponies that she considered far above her own ability.
“In fact,” Rainbow addressed Scootaloo directly. “The team and I got you something to mark your first big show.” This earned a raised eyebrow from Spitfire. “Or... I guess I got you something for your first big show. But they helped! Just bring it out guys!”
Two Wonderbolts, who Scootaloo identified as Soarin’ and Fleetfoot, approached with a large roll of paper that they quickly unfurled between them. Even before it was fully unrolled, she knew exactly what she was seeing.
“Rainbow Dash got all of us to sign it for you,” Spitfire said, coming around to the front of the massive Wonderbolt team poster. Just like her previous present from the day she earned her cutie mark, it displayed every member of the current squad with their signatures, this time including Rainbow Dash wearing one of the smuggest grins that Scootaloo had ever seen. “After she told us what happened to your first one, we figured we could help out a friend of a friend and replace it for you.”
Scootaloo’s ears drooped. “She... told you about that?”
“Oh, yeah,” Spitfire said cheerfully. “We were just glad to hear that nothing else was damaged in that fire.”
Scootaloo shot a glance to Rainbow Dash who offered a smile and a wink in return. “Yeah... fire. That was... um, really bad... Uh, anyway,” She quickly regained her thankful tone. “This... this is amazing! Thank you all so much! I can’t believe you all came down here for me! I really- Wait... Did you say Rainbow Dash talks about me? To you guys?”
Spitfire chuckled. “We can’t get her to stop talking about you. You’d think she was your mother! Every day it’s ‘Scootaloo is awesome!’ and “You guys should see my buddy, Scootaloo!’ Frankly, we thought she was overselling you.”
Rainbow Dash flew down between the two mares, glaring at Spitfire. “Hey! You’ve seen her for yourselves now, right? You just try to say that I was ‘overselling’ now.”
“Calm down, Dash.” Spitfire pulled the mare down out of her hovering position. “If you had let me finish, I would have said that we were quite pleasantly surprised. You’ve got some real moves, kid!”
“Aww, t-thanks, S-Spitfire,” Scootaloo stammered. “I’m just trying to do my best, I guess, and you guys have always been my heroes.” She could no longer look any of them in the eyes so she resorted to kicking a small rock at her hooves. “I just hope I can be half the performer you guys are someday.”
“Well, don’t be too modest there,” Spitfire said with a smile. “Like I said, you’ve got some real talent. You could probably show some of us a thing or two.”
Before Scootaloo could even attempt to articulate her gratitude for such praise, she was once again cut off by her friend in blue flying up to block her view of Spitfire.
Rainbow Dash grabbed her captain’s shoulders, forcing their faces uncomfortably close. Spitfire didn’t even pull back, apparently having become used to Rainbow’s lack of boundaries. “So, does this mean...” she practically squealed.
“Go ahead...” Spitfire rolled her eyes as if she were allowing a foal one last piece of candy before bed. Rainbow’s reaction followed suit. She whooped and pumped her hooves with a loud ‘Yes!’ before disappearing in a shower of excited giggling.
“Uh... what was that?” Scootaloo asked, her star-struck nervousness temporarily drowned out by raw confusion. “Where’d she go?”
Spitfire simply smirked and looked back over her shoulders at the rapidly returning pegasus.
Rainbow Dash landed with a thud and dropped a small square package on the ground in front of Scootaloo. It was about four hooves long on each side and only a few inches deep and, as with any present prepared by the mare, it had none of the trimmings most ponies would expect on a present: no bow, no ribbon, not even wrapping paper. It was just a plain white box. It even had a few dents in the corners where it looked like it had been dropped.
Scootaloo cocked an eyebrow at the gift-bearing pony but received only an ecstatically goofy grin in return. Clearly unable to get any clues from that expression, Scootaloo said a quick ‘Thanks’ before nosing the lid off.
Blue. Inside the box, there was nothing but a bright, striking shade of sky blue. Taking a closer look, she could tell that the object was made of some sort of fabric with very tightly woven strands of fiber. She was greeted by an odd, stretchy texture when she grabbed it in her mouth. As she lifted it up, a part of the back side unfolded revealing a longer run of blue fabric, this section lined with a jagged yellow pattern. If she didn’t know better, she could swear it almost looked like-
The cloth fell into the dirt. Scootaloo stared at it, wide-eyed, unable to move her mouth, or anything else for that matter. In some distant part of her mind, she did register the sounds of uproarious laughter but even that could not pull her from her stupor.
After a long while, the laughter died down, many of the ponies wiping their eyes as they regained their composure. A few elbows were thrown to alert some of the more oblivious by-standers. Slowly, the jovial disposition turned to slight concern as everypony noticed that the object of their mirth remained still as a statue.
“Oh, not this again,” Rainbow Dash sighed. “Come on, Scootaloo,” she said as she knocked on the mare’s head. “Don’t do this thing again. Come on back. Equestria to Scootaloo! Come in, Scootaloo!”
“Th-th-this... It’s... But...” Her mind was racing, frantically trying rationalize what lay before her. Every possible reason flashed through her brain, most being immediately dismissed as ludicrous. Then again, this was ludicrous. Eventually, she settled on what seemed to be the most likely reason behind this unexpected gift.
“A s-souvenir?” she squeaked, an almost pained look of confusion on her face.
“Nope!” Rainbow Dash quickly replied, the smile on her face widening. “Are you kidding? They don’t make those as souvenirs! Come on. I’m sure you’ve got a better guess than that, right?”
“O-one of your spares?”
“One of my- ha!” Rainbow Dash let out an exaggerated laugh. She was enjoying this almost too much “No way. Got your measurements from Rarity. Should fit like nothing you’ve ever worn before. Come on, try again.” She rested her chin in her hooves, eagerly awaiting the next guess.
Scootaloo had exhausted her reasonable scenarios. The only ones left were too ridiculous to fathom. Her jaw fell open uselessly. Unable to form words any longer she just stared at Rainbow Dash, her eyes pleading for an explanation.
“Aw,” she said with a pantomime frown. “Done already? Fine, I’ll give you a hint.” She flew over to whisper in the orange pony’s ear.
Those two words seemed to snap Scootaloo back to reality. She stumbled backward, shaking her head and mumbling. “Nonononono, i-it can’t- I can’t- How can-?” She swallowed roughly. “A W-W-Wonderbolt?”
She stared at the jumpsuit in disbelief. There was no mistaking it. The colors, the pattern, the material, all perfect matches to the outfit worn by her mentor just inches away. The gears of her mind felt like they were spiraling out of control with nothing rational to latch onto.
This was impossible. She had figured that out years ago. It hadn’t been quick or easy, but she had gotten over her dreams of flying with the Wonderbolts, relegating them to the same place she put her desires to use unicorn magic as a foal. A far-fetched fantasy that, while fun to imagine, had no place in reality. And yet, here it was. Right in front of her.
Rainbow Dash continued to grin madly. Indistinct chatter could be heard from the assembled performers, the occasional muffled laugh providing the only evidence of their mood. A sudden thought popped into Scootaloo’s head. Her bewilderment progressed through disgust before landing on an odd, unconvincing smile.
“Oh, you jerk!” She playfully pushed at Rainbow Dash who spun in the air before reorienting herself. “You actually went through all this just for a prank? Wow! You... You got me good! You really got me.” Scootaloo laughed a bit too loudly, quickly fading into silence when nopony else seemed to follow her lead.
“A prank?” Rainbow Dash scratched her chin as a devious smirk crept across her face. “You know, now I almost wish this was a prank. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before. Ponyville has plenty of pegasi. I bet if I get a few extras I could-”
Spitfire stepped forward. “Oh, don’t you even think about it, Rainbow! The last thing we need is to have you handing out fake uniforms all over Equestria.”
Rainbow pouted. “Aw, you’re no fun, Spitfire.” Her mood quickly rebounded as she landed next to Scootaloo and gave her a gentle bump with her shoulder. “Anyway, yeah, it’s no joke, kid. You’re a Wonderbolt now. Welcome to the club. Try not to be intimidated by how awesome I am. There’s still plenty of room for everypony else.”
“But... how?” Scootaloo’s attention drifted to her own wings that, as predicted, had failed to grow much beyond the size they had been so many years ago. “Why would you want me? I can’t even fly...”
Rainbow Dash sighed and rolled her eyes. “I think I’m well aware of your flying abilities. But, really, that’s the best part! You don’t need to fly! Princess Celestia is letting us start up a non-flying wing- uh, branch, sorry- of the Wonderbolts! Just for you!”
“Dash...” Spitfire interrupted. “I think there’s a little more to it than that.”
“Yeah, whatever,” she said dismissively. “As long as Scoots is in, who really cares?”
Scootaloo’s curiosity was not so easily satiated, however. “What does she mean?” she asked. “Why would you want to have Wonderbolts who can’t fly? Doesn’t that defeat the whole point of being a Wonderbolt?”
“You might think so, but we’ve actually been kicking the idea around for a while now,” Spitfire said. “We wanted a way to...” She drifted off and scrunched up her muzzle in thought. After a brief pause, she started over. “Our motto, the Wonderbolts’ motto. Do you know it?”
“Uh, no, I don’t think so,” Scootaloo answered, slightly surprised that such a topic had never come up before despite her long-held interest in the team.
“To Entertain and Inspire.” Spitfire’s voice took on a lyrical quality, clearly practiced from hundreds of recitations. “We may have a few other official functions, but those are our two primary goals as an organization. And, up until now, we’ve been failing at that for too many ponies.” She took a slow, almost sad, breath. “Sure the ‘entertain’ part is easy. Everypony likes a good show, but how could we really ‘inspire’ ponies who could never, ever, hope to be one of us, all based on how they were born. If you’re a unicorn or earth pony, we could only ever fulfill half of our creed for you.”
“... or a pegasus who can’t fly,” Scootaloo added sheepishly.
“Exactly,” Spitfire said. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to talk to a little unicorn foal when they come up for an autograph and ask if they can join the team?” General low murmurs came from the other Wonderbolts indicating that this was at least a semi-frequent dilemma. “So, we’ve been talking to the Princesses for some time now about expanding our ranks to include all types of ponies. You know, get some members that anypony can look up to. Thing is, progress has been a little... slow. Turns out that it’s a kinda hard for a team of pegasi to find non-flying performers. They don’t exactly come out of the woodwork to find us so we usually have to do a bit of digging.”
“Wait,” Scootaloo threw up a hoof. “How many other ponies have you found so far, then?”
“Well...” Spitfire rubbed her neck. “One? You know... uh, you?”
“W- I’m the only one you’ve asked?” Scootaloo’s surprise seemed to be over-ridding her paralyzing shock now. “Why? Why me?”
“I think you’ve got Dash to thank for that.”
At the mention of her name, the mare puffed up proudly. “Yeah, I’m pretty famous around Canterlot. All I had to do was ask, and these guys were more than happy to give you a shot.”
“Oh, sure, Dash!” came Soarin’s voice as he released his side of the large poster. “Your stories are getting more ridiculous by the day. Next, you’ll be telling her that you won that race in Fillydelphia last week!”
“Hey!” she snapped back. “I beat you fair and square, Snorin’! Maybe if you laid off the pie once in a while you’d be able to keep up!”
“Oh that’s it!” Soarin’ yelled as he took to the air.
A faint cry of “Horseapples!” was all that could be heard as the two ponies blasted through the clouds in playful pursuit.
“So...” Scootaloo said as she pulled her eyes away from the aerial chase. “How did this really happen?”
“Really?” Spitfire shrugged, still watching her teammates. “She’s been begging us for weeks to come down here to see you perform. We finally just had enough of her whining and agreed.”
Scootaloo’s face fell despite Spitfire’s laughter. “Oh... so, you don’t really want me? It’s just to get Dash to stop bothering you?”
“Huh?” The orange mare snapped back to attention. “Oh, no, no, no. It’s not what you’re thinking. Sorry, we just really thought she was lying, to be honest. Or at least exaggerating. In case you haven’t noticed, Dash isn’t exactly above spinning a tall tale or two. Don’t worry. We wouldn’t have offered you the job if you hadn’t really impressed us. And believe me, you definitely did.”
“So you guys really want me?”
“Sure do! You and Dash really showed what kind of shows we can do with non-flying members. I’m pretty interested to see what other tricks you’ve got in-”
A bolt of lighting crackled through the air just feet away, a familiar giggle following soon after.
“Rainbow Dash!” Spitfire yelled into the sky. “Cut it out and get back down here!”
Rainbow’s signature mane poked out over the edge of a nearby cloud. “Geez, Cap, you need to relax. It’s Soarin’s fault anyway. If he would just stay still I would have hit him instead of almost getting you guys. Why don’t you go yell at- WAH!” Her accusation was interrupted by the cloud beneath her suddenly evaporating. She fell several dozen feet before the shock wore off enough to allow her to extend her wings. She looked up and scowled at the stallion hovering where her cloud had been, his tongue sticking out mockingly. “Oh, now you’re gonna get it!” She lunged upward but felt herself suddenly pulled backward. As she spun through the air she saw her tail in Spitfire’s mouth yanking her away from her attack.
“I think that’s just about enough of that, Rainbow,” Spitfire said sternly through her teeth. “You don’t want to ruin your buddy’s big day, do you?”
“Oh, crud,” the mare said sullenly as she returned to land next to Scootaloo. “Sorry, kid. Guess I got a little carried away.”
“No, that’s fine, Dash,” Scootaloo said with a laugh. “I’m still having trouble believing all of this. I mean, what do I do now? Now that I’m a... a Wonderbolt?” She was unable to hide the joy she felt at saying those words for the first time.
Rainbow Dash threw a leg over her friend’s shoulders. “Well, there’ll be a lot of training and hard work, but we’ll get to those later. First things first, I think it’s time for-”
“A PARTY!” Pinkie Pie screamed as she leapt from the now empty box in front of the two ponies.
Within minutes, the celebration was in full swing. Cakes and pastries of all shapes and sizes lined large, colorful tables while balloons and streamers fell in a near-constant cascade of colors. Sweetie Belle and her band had retaken their places on the main stage, providing most of the music, while ponies danced together across the sizable open spaces of Crusader Park.
The party raged for hours, continuing on long after the sun had fallen below the horizon, the stage and surrounding fields now lit by an array of lanterns hung from specially made poles. Scootaloo was reasonably confident that every single one of Ponyville’s residents had come to congratulate her at some point but the crowd had become such a raucous mob that she couldn’t be sure. Her front hooves were so sore from the near-constant shaking that she now found herself barely able to stand.
Despite this, the newest Wonderbolt recruit could have continued all night, but eventually the guests had begun filing away into the darkness. Most spoke of work or school the next morning, though quite a few had to be forcefully dragged away from the festivities by their friends and family. After a time, only a dozen-or-so ponies remained, most of whom had split into small groups milling about on the grass.
Scootaloo smiled as she surveyed the remnants of her party. Confetti blanketed to ground like sparkling snow except where the now-empty tables of food had blocked their spread, leaving odd rectangles of bare field. Despite the fact that most of the guests were choosing to strike up casual conversations with one another rather than dance, Sweetie Belle was still singing, though her songs had grown much slower and quieter over the course of the evening. Scootaloo let out a contented sigh just as Rainbow Dash stumbled up from behind her.
Scootaloo couldn’t help but laugh at the state of the mare after what had clearly been a very busy evening. The Wonderbolt’s hood had been lowered at some point during her activities and her goggles sat crookedly across her forehead. Small bits of confetti and cake frosting were dotted through her mane and tail giving her a thoroughly disheveled appearance, though, amazingly, her jumpsuit was still completely spotless. Despite all this, Rainbow seemed as energetic as ever, if a little wobbly.
“Woohoo! Great party, Squirt!” Scootaloo’s ears folded back subconsciously to protect her from her friend’s excessive volume. “Did you see that crazy jelly bean cannon that Pinkie brought? She was like ‘Betcha can’t get all of them before they hit the ground!’ And I was like ‘You’re on!’ And I totally did it! That last one was close but no stupid beans can out-fly The Dash!” Rainbow Dash held her proud pose for a few seconds but had to peek when she didn’t receive any adoring responses. Slowly, she cracked one eye open to see Scootaloo still staring out across the park, seemingly oblivious to the mare beside her.
“Alright... What’s on you mind, kiddo?” Rainbow asked, lowering her voice and stepping closer.
Though the question was much quieter than the previous speech, the sudden change in tone was enough to break the younger mares concentration. “Huh? Oh! Sorry, Dash. I don’t know... I guess I’m just wondering... what’s next, you know? This whole Wonderbolt thing... I don’t really think it’s sunk in yet. It all still feels like some kind of weird dream. But I know that it’s real and in the morning I’ll have to... do... something. There’s going to be so much pressure, so many expectations. What if nopony wants to see a Wonderbolt who can’t fly? What if I ruin a show? I don’t think-” She was cut off by a soft hoof on her shoulder.
“Shut up, Scoots,” the mare said with a smirk. “You’ll do fine. No... You’ll do better than ‘fine.’ You’ll be great. You’ve already proven that you’ve got the chops. Now it’s just a matter of showing them to the world. Don’t worry so much.”
“Thanks, Dash,” Scootaloo said, only slightly reassured by the vote of confidence. “If it weren’t for you, I’d never have had this opportunity at all, so thanks... for everything really.”
“Hey, don’t mention it!” Rainbow Dash said with a firm pat on the back. “It’s the least I could do for you!”
Scootaloo began laughing at her mentor’s usual flamboyance. “‘Least you could do?’ That’s rich. You’ve done so much over the years. You were always there when I needed you and now you’ve helped me achieve something that I never even thought was possible! What in the world could you possibly owe me?”
“There you go again, squirt. Always selling yourself short. Don’t you get it?” Rainbow saw the other mare cock her head at this but continued on, looking to the stars contemplatively. “Kid, I’ve always needed you. Over all these years, you’ve been the one pony I could count on to always have my back, no matter what, even when you probably shouldn’t have. Just knowing you were there, always in my corner, always cheering me on... well, it meant way more than you might think. Any time I was nervous before a show-” She caught the other mare’s quiet scoff. “Oh, it happened more than you might think! But all I had to do was find you out there in the crowd and... I guess, in a lot of ways, I wouldn’t be here either if I didn’t have-”
A cymbal crash interrupted her thoughts. The two mares turned to see Sweetie Belle bowing politely as the few mingling ponies stamped out their applause before quickly returning to their activities. The young singer trotted off stage toward a nearby water cooler, taking a quick break before packing up for the night. She only managed one gulp before Rainbow Dash was upon her.
Scootaloo did a double-take. She hadn’t even seen Dash leave the ground before she was suddenly on the other side of the field and striking up a conversation with her friend. She couldn’t hear any of the discussion from where she stood, but it was certainly a quick one. Only a couple sentences were exchanged, followed by quick nods and smiles from both ponies. In no time at all, Rainbow Dash was back at the newest Wonderbolt’s side.
“What was that all about?” Scootaloo asked though Dash’s devious smile implied that she wouldn’t get a straight answer.
“Oh, nothing,” came the obvious lie. “Just come over here.” Rainbow led her to the area directly in front of the now-darkened stage and motioned for her to sit. Still confused, she obliged and slowly took a seat in the soft grass. Rainbow Dash sidled up next to her, wrapping a comforting wing across her shoulders just as she had done so many years ago. A moment of silence passed before Dash spoke again.
“Look, Scootaloo. It might sound a little weird but if I didn’t have you there, I probably- No, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be who I am today.”
“Oh, it was nothing, Dash. I didn’t-”
“It’s not nothing!” the mare interrupted. “And I wanted to show you that. I’m not exactly the best with... stuff like this so I asked your little friend to sing a song I picked out.”
“A... song? I never took you for the musical type.”
“Hey! I can sing just fine! I just thought... well, I wanted to be here when you hear it.”
Scootaloo was very curious now, but from the look in her eyes, Rainbow Dash was having enough trouble expressing herself that pushing the issue seemed cruel. Instead, she just nodded silently and turned to the stage.
Through the darkness, a single, stark spotlight clicked on to illuminate the small white unicorn. After a beat, a quiet but distinctive piano melody rang out through the night. With a small gasp, Scootaloo recognized the tune. It was an older song, not exactly her usual type of music, but she had definitely heard it once or twice before. It was one of those songs that everypony knows whether they like it or not, just because of its ubiquitous place in society. It took a few moments to pull the the lyrics from the annals of her mind but when she did, she immediately understood. Before Sweetie Belle had sung the first word, Scootaloo felt the tears forming in the corners of her eyes. She could only offer a soft ‘Thank you’ before resting her head on her mentor’s shoulder.
Rainbow Dash laid her own chin down into Scootaloo’s purple mane, nuzzling affectionately.
“Thank you, Scootaloo.”
The two Pegasi sat in the calm glow of the stage lights as the small unicorn began singing.
It must have been cold there in my shadow,
To never have sunlight on your face,
You were content to let me shine, that’s your way.
You always walked a step behind.
So I was the one with all the glory,
While you were the one with all the strength,
A beautiful face without a name for so long,
A beautiful smile to hide the pain,
Did you ever know that you’re my hero?
You’re everything I would like to be.
I can fly higher than an eagle,
Because you are the wind beneath my wings...