• Published 15th Mar 2012
  • 20,799 Views, 677 Comments

Wild, Sweet & Cool - Kwakerjak



Rainbow Dash wants to add strength training to her regimen by having Twilight Sparkle ride her.

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Name of the Game

“So the next time you’re wondering, ‘Where does all that extra rainwater come from?’ just remember: it comes from ordinary pegasi like you, working together as a team!”

Tornado Power!


For all the drama it produced, the “attraction” problem had a remarkably anticlimactic resolution. After several hours of fruitless research, Twilight Sparkle eventually hit on the idea of using a scrying spell to determine what exactly had gone wrong with the attractive spell in the first place. As it turned out, something (more than likely the Sonic Rainboom, though Twilight couldn’t be absolutely certain about this) had caused the spell’s intensity to increase to the point where she was no longer strong enough to dispel it under her own power, which sort of made sense, since she hadn’t been able to undo the effects of her first encounter with the Rainboom—that had been Celestia’s doing.

Nothing else, however, had changed about the spell, which meant that it had its own solution built in: its attractive effect had been originally designed to be temporary, specifically in case something went wrong. In other words, all they needed to do was wait, and its effect would eventually weaken. Sure enough, within 24 hours, the two ponies were able to separate themselves with relative ease—although they had to allow several more days to pass before they could be in close proximity to each other without starting to lose their balance.

Once everything had gotten straightened out, Rainbow Dash had briefly wondered if Twilight would still want to continue helping her train. She needn’t have worried: by this point, Twilight Sparkle had caught the flight bug, and now that she’d been released from any obligation to pretend otherwise, she began doing training on her own to improve her skill as a rider, starting a daily exercise regimen to strengthen the muscles in her barrel and hind legs so that she wouldn’t have to rely on the flawed attraction spell for stability. Meanwhile, during her actual practices with Rainbow Dash, she began developing her own tricks. The most notable of these was a surprisingly daring maneuver where she had her friend fly so high that she actually stalled out; the pair then let gravity pull them back towards the ground as they tumbled backwards four, five, or even six times before pulling into a corkscrew nosedive which leveled off into a flat pass shockingly close to the ground. Twilight Sparkle decided to call it the “Element of Loyalty,” much to her flyer’s flattered embarrassment.

Obviously, Rainbow Dash was well aware that her friend was becoming more and more interested in flight, but it wasn’t until an incident about a month later that she realized how serious the unicorn’s dedication had become, when Twilight invited her into the library’s basement to check out her brand new egghead toy.

“An anemometer?”

“It’s a device that measures—”

“Twilight, I’m a professional weatherpony. I already know what an anemometer is—the number-crunchers use them to measure wind speed.”

The unicorn sighed. “You’re right, of course, but you didn’t let me finish. This anemometer is intended for a somewhat different purpose. When you fly past it, it measures your accelerative velocity and translates it into wingpower.”

“That doesn’t sound very useful. Wouldn’t the wind throw everything off?”

“You’re right; it would, which is why it can be adjusted to take current wind speed into account before measurements are taken. Really, it’s similar to the large anemometer the Weather Factory is going to loan us for Tornado Day.”

“Oh, okay...” This seemed reasonable to Rainbow Dash, until she realized that there was something odd about that last sentence. “Hold on a second, what do you mean by ‘us’?”

Twilight silently chastised herself for a split-second before answering her friend. “That’s right, I forgot to tell you: I’m going to be helping out with the tornado.”

“Twilight, you can’t ride me in winds that fast.”

“I wasn’t going to. My job is going to be to collect data on each of the pegasi so you can reach your goal of 800 wingpower. Besides, the Mayor asked me to do it personally, and it’s not like I’m going to turn down a chance to help out.”

“Okay, first of all, my ‘goal’ is not 800 wingpower. That’s just the minimum threshold for success. My goal is to beat the record set by Fillydelphia. And by ‘beat,’ I mean ‘completely obliterate.’”

“So, we’re looking at... what, 900, 950 wingpower?”

“Try 1,000!”

Twilight was a bit taken aback by her friends ambition. “Are you sure about this? That would require an average wingpower of about 10 per pegasus, and that’s assuming that every able-bodied pegasus in town is able to show up.”

“Oh, they’ll show up, or my name isn’t Rainbow Dash.”

“Well, nopony can accuse you of lacking in confidence; I’ll say that much,” Twilight replied. “What was the other point you wanted to make?”

“Uh, well, it’s great that you want to help, but did you really need to buy a specialized piece of equipment?”

“No... but then again, did you really need to buy a specialized fitness saddle?”

Rainbow Dash would have answered this, but she found that she couldn’t really come up with a decent response. “Point taken.”

——————————

Before anypony could even stop to think about it, Tornado Day had come and gone. The pegasi of Ponyville managed to deliver the rainwater that the Cloudsdale Weather Factory needed, Fluttershy learned an important lesson about believing in herself, Rainbow Dash had unquestionably demonstrated why she had been designated Ponyville’s lead weatherpony, and Twilight Sparkle had more data about pegasus flight than she knew what to do with. All in all, it was a very successful day, if not the record-breaking one that everypony had originally hoped for, and as an added bonus, all of the pegasi got a chance to meet Spitfire, one of the biggest celebrities in Equestria.

Of course, it wasn’t every day that a huge waterspout was formed over the Highland Reservoir, and as a result, Tornado Day was a major event to everypony living in Ponyville, not just to the resident pegasi. Naturally, as was the case with all major events (and the overwhelming majority of minor events), Pinkie Pie had deemed it worthy of a celebratory afterparty. Fortunately for Twilight, the presence of a public figure as prominent as Spitfire meant that the town hall could be used as the venue, rather than the library (which in turn meant that she wouldn’t have to worry about drinks getting spilled on her books).

Just as fortunately for Rainbow Dash, the party also provided an informal setting in which she could discuss her potential future as a Wonderbolt with the squad’s captain. The problem was that the pegasus’ nervousness around Spitfire had formed a near-insurmountable obstacle to bringing up a topic of such obvious personal interest. After several flubbed attempts to bring the subject up, Ponyville’s lead weatherpony retreated to the adulations of the masses (to the extent that a town as small as Ponyville could have more than one “mass”).

Eventually, Twilight Sparkle decided to take matters into her own hooves, as she wasn’t really encumbered by hero worship where Spitfire was concerned (particularly since her hero worship was reserved for somepony who was much, much more intimidating). After a few pleasantries, she launched right into the metaphorical fray: “So, do you think Rainbow Dash would be good Wonderbolts material?”

Spitfire smirked. “Did she ask you to bring this up?”

The unicorn chuckled a bit before responding, “There’s no way Dash would ever ask me to do that. She’d be too worried about the impression that it would leave.”

“Yeah, I felt the same way about approaching Aileron when I was her age.”

“Aileron? I thought he lived about a century ago.”

“This is a different Aileron. His great-grandson was the squad leader until about ten years ago.”

“Right. So, about my question...”

Twilight’s refusal to let the subject change was starting to make Spitfire uncomfortable. “Er, that’s... sort of complicated, actually.”

“Look, I understand if the Wonderbolts have a policy against giving a direct answer to that kind of question, but Rainbow Dash is a really good friend of mine, and I feel like I owe it to her to try.”

“Trust me, everypony knows that you’re good friends. You guys are Elements of Harmony, after all.”

“Oh, right.” Sometimes, it was easy for Twilight to forget that she and her friends were relatively well-known outside of the Ponyville area. “Still, you have to admit, she’s certainly talented enough for her to get a chance to join, at least.”

Spitfire nodded slowly, as if she knew her rebuttal was going to be a weak one. “Actually, we’ve been well aware of her talents for a while now. She did save three of us at the Best Young Flyer competition, after all. Really, her physical abilities aren’t an issue. She’s probably got enough talent to fly circles around most of the squad’s members.”

“So what’s keeping you guys from inviting her to try out?”

Spitfire paused before continuing as diplomatically as possible. “In my opinion, Rainbow Dash needs more experience with teamwork. I mean, her performance today certainly shows leadership abilities, but the Wonderbolts already have a leader. Now, I’m guessing she has a massive ego...”

“Is it that obvious?”

“Actually, it’s an educated guess based on the fact that most top flyers, including me, have egos large enough to fill lower Manehattan. If Rainbow Dash is going to be a successful Wonderbolt, she needs to show that she can keep her ego in check and work as an equal or subordinate—not just as a leader.”

“Is that really the only thing?”

“Officially, yes.”

“Uh-huh. And unofficially?”

Spitfire sighed before continuing. “The Wonderbolts are a quasi-military squadron, which means that we get our paychecks from the government, and that means that we have to take politics into consideration when choosing new members.”

“Politics? But Rainbow Dash is the Element of Loyalty; she’s a personal friend of Princess Celestia. That has to count for something.”

“Actually, it’s the Element of Loyalty that’s causing most of the problems.”

“Huh?”

“Look, there are basically two things to consider. The first is that most of the Wonderbolts had to put in a lot of effort to even get noticed in the first place, and most of them did so in the military. If Princess Celestia is seen as playing favorites so a civilian can ‘jump in line,’ it could cause resentment—maybe not from the other Wonderbolts, who are usually pretty professional about this sort of thing, but definitely from those who want to protect our status as a symbol of pegasi pride or some other nonsense like that.”

“I’m sure Rainbow Dash wouldn’t mind waiting her turn, though, as long as she gets one.”

“Oh, you misunderstand me: there isn’t a line for tryouts: they’re by invitation only. But a lot of ponies think there should be some sort of ‘line,’ and so they act as if it exists.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Of course it doesn’t. We’re talking about politicians, after all.”

Twilight sighed. She could remember the few times that she’d tried to reason with unicorn politicians in Canterlot, and the results were generally less than ideal. “What’s the other thing?”

“The other thing is that you Elements are widely admired throughout Equestria, and if the Element of Loyalty—who just so happens to be the only pony to successfully perform a Sonic Rainboom in recorded history—fails to pass her tryout, the PR fallout would be... well, I’d honestly rather not consider the possibility.”

Twilight winced. “Yeah... I can see how that might be a problem.”

Spitfire responded with a very slight smirk. “Listen, off the record? We really do want Rainbow Dash on our squad. But we’re not willing to give her a chance until we’re absolutely certain she’ll pass.”

The unicorn paused as she digested this information. “But... it’s just the teamwork issue, right?”

“Basically.”

“Well, then you don’t need to worry about a thing! Rainbow Dash takes orders from me all the time when we’re acting as the Elements of Harmony, and she’s always respectful and helpful to the other Elements.”

“Really? I heard she ditched you guys when you fought Discord.”

“That doesn’t count. She was under the influence of his magic at the time. When she came to her senses, she was her usual loyal self.”

Spitfire sighed. “I suppose you have a point, but using her experience as one of the Elements runs us into the same political problems as before.”

Twilight looked a bit befuddled. “Well, then what kind of experience do you want from her?”

“Ideally, coordinated flying experience of some sort.”

Twilight knew that Rainbow Dash didn’t really have that, since there weren’t any other pegasi who even approached her level of talent living near Ponyville. Still, she was able to think of another possibility: “What if she was ridden by another pony?”

“You mean tandem flying? Eh, I suppose that could do the trick, in theory.”

“In theory?”

“Well, letting somepony else take control of your instincts certainly shows that you’re willing to put your trust in others, but simple casual flying doesn’t really establish whether you’re willing to work collaboratively. I mean, I’m not saying it can’t demonstrate what we’re looking for... but it would have to be something really impressive.”

“Impressive?”

“Yeah, like some sort of recognizable achievement that would imply that Rainbow Dash and her rider had spent a lot of time working together towards a common goal.”

“Such as...”

The pegasus merely shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know, but it has to be something that nopony could deny was spectacular.”

“In other words, you’ll know it when you see it?”

“Not just me. Everypony will.”

——————————

Twilight Sparkle, being the ever-diligent pony she was, set to work on a solution almost as soon as Spitfire left Ponyville. Her initial idea was to get in touch with other ponies who engaged in tandem flying to see if any of them would be interested in coordinated aerobatics, but she rejected that rather quickly, since finding tandem flyers as good as Rainbow Dash would be even more difficult than finding solo flyers at her level. Thus, she dove into the books in her library, and after several days, hit upon a notion that seemed like it was absolutely perfect—if it worked, it would definitely be “spectacular,” and the unicorn was confident that she and her friend had the skills needed to pull it off. After making the necessary contacts, Twilight Sparkle made the proposal to Rainbow Dash at the end of their next practice session.

“The Las Pegasus Stratochase?!”

Twilight was a bit surprised by the pegasus’ incredulous reaction. “Of course! If we enter, it would be a great avenue for you to display your capacity for teamwork, which would allow them to avoid all of the politics that are currently getting in the way.”

“You’re... you’re kidding, right?”

“Why would I be? A strong performance at such a well-known event would definitely demonstrate your ability to work as part of a team in a flight-related context, which is exactly what Spitfire said the Wonderbolts want to see from you.”

“That might be true, but couldn’t you have picked a different well-known event?”

“Look, I know that choosing the marquee event in tandem racing might be intimidating—”

“Yeah, if by ‘intimidating’ you mean ‘boring as all get out.’ The Las Pegasus Stratochase might be the worst spectator sport ever, thanks to the stupid way its rules are set up.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, basically, at the end of a the race, there’s a long straightaway, where the teams can perform barrel rolls and get seconds taken off of their final time. The more inversions you do, the lower your official time is.”

“That makes sense.”

“Yeah, but it also means that you can be the first team across the finish line, and not commit any penalties, and still lose!”

“So why is it so well-known?”

“It’s Las Pegasus. Ponies come from all over to gamble on the outcome. That’s how you know it’s lame: nopony cares who wins unless they’ve got a chance to get money out of it. And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous hats and cucumber sandwiches.”

“There’s something wrong with cucumber sandwiches?”

“Never mind. Besides, that seems a little bit out of our reach. I mean, do you really think they’d let a couple of amateurs walk in and start competing?”

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about that. I’ve contacted the Stratochase’s organizers, and it shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Uh, no, actually, it should be. We’ve never done any professional tandem racing, and boring or not, the Las Pegasus Stratochase is the sport’s premier event, like you said.”

“Um, well, I might have gotten a little bit of help there from somepony I know with a few, um, connections...”

Rainbow Dash sighed. “Don’t tell me Princess Celestia got us in.”

“How’d you guess?”

“You had that sheepish ‘I don’t wanna admit that I’m being a hypocrite’ look on your face.”

Twilight sighed. “For what it’s worth, I didn’t intend to get the Princess involved. But getting Spike to deliver letters to anypony but her is tricky—she accidentally intercepted my letter and after I explained what was going on, she offered to help expedite the process for us.”

“And you accepted? I thought you said we were trying to avoid political crap.”

“No, we’re trying to avoid the appearance that you’d be getting a tryout with the Wonderbolts just because you’re a personal friend of Princess Celestia. This is a matter of Princess Celestia convincing some bureaucrats that having two of the Elements compete could drum up some publicity.”

“Which in turn gets me a tryout all thanks to the Princess. It’s no different.”

“It is different, since you’d still be earning the tryout on your own merits. And given the reputation that you say the Stratochase has, they probably could use the publicity. It’s a win-win.”

“Sure, unless we lose.”

Twilight rolled her eyes in exasperation. “We don’t actually have to win. We just need to make a good showing. After all, like you said, we’re amateurs, so the expectations will be lower.”

“No way. When I get into a competition, I play to win.”

“And I’ll do the same. But even if that’s our goal, we don’t necessarily have to reach it to prove that you’re a good teammate. It’s kind of like how you didn’t need to break the wingpower record to get the rainwater to Cloudsdale on Tornado Day.”

“Ehh... I still don’t know about this...” The pegasus’ resolve against the idea seemed to be wavering, so Twilight decided to move in for the coup de grace.

“Rainbow Dash, I need you to trust me on this. I trusted you on the Sonic Rainboom, didn’t I?”

“Yeah... and look how well that turned out.”

“Okay, I’ll grant you that the aftermath was a hassle, but I still don’t regret doing it. I learned more about what drives you in one second than I did in an entire year.”

Dash sighed. “You really think this is going to work?”

“Absolutely.”

“Okay... let’s do it.”

“Great. We’ve got two months.”