• Published 26th Apr 2015
  • 4,203 Views, 283 Comments

Wonderbolt Trials and Tribulations - White Comet

Rainbow Dash finally gets the opportunity of a lifetime; a chance to join the Wonderbolts and fulfill her lifelong dream. She presumes that from this point on, it'll be smooth sailing. She was wrong...

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Chapter 6

“UP AND AT ‘EM LADIES AND GENTLESTALLIONS! THE FIRST PONY I HEAR BITCHING ABOUT THE TIME GOES HOME!” Fleetfoot’s voice, with the assistance of a megaphone, echoed throughout the halls.

Rainbow Dash groaned as she lifted herself up. Her groan was one of hundreds that came from the surrounding rooms. She saw that it was still dark. Very dark. So dark the lights in the hallway hadn’t been switched on yet. She tried to read the time, but it was too dark for her to even see that. She rubbed her eyes as she moved into a sitting position on the edge of the bed.

“Didn’t hear me the first time!? Alright, let’s make this interesting…” Fleetfood said, then cleared her throat as she held the megaphone to her mouth. “THE LAST PONY TO MAKE IT TO BREAKFAST GOES HOME!”

With that, the whole academy exploded with the sound of hooves hitting the ground. Rainbow Dash didn’t even have to blink to register what Fleetfoot had said. Even though her vision was still slightly disorientated, and her wings weren’t fully optimized, she took flight and bee lined it for the door. Although as soon as she took flight, she heard the lock click. Somepony had beaten her too it. She cursed herself as she changed course and headed for the exit into the main hallway. If she couldn’t use the shower in their room, she would have to use the one in the locker rooms.

She bumped into 2 of her roommates on the way there, but she couldn’t see who they were, due to a combination of it being so dark, she wasn’t paying attention, she was moving too fast to notice, and they were also too tired to give any kind of vocal response to her shove.

As soon as she got to the main hallway, she got hit by a backdraft of other pegasi trying to fly their way to the showers. Since there was loads of pegasi who’d obviously had the same idea as her, and the narrow hallway provided a great tunnel to direct the airflow, it was giving her a huge workout. Not the first thing she was ready for at stupid O’clock in the morning, but that meant that the other pegasi were feeling the same way. They were all in the same boat. No excuses, she would just have to flap harder.

She eventually made it to the showers, where she spotted a gap through the crowd of mares and dived right through it into the shower rooms, only bumping a few more mares on the way in. Once she was inside, most the mares that had already made it in were fighting for a free shower. She saw Dahlia next to her try to turn it on, but as she reached out to the tap, she was shoved out the way by another mare. Dash expected as much, but what she didn’t expect was Dahlia’s reaction.

Dahlia raised her hoof, and gave a powerful right hook to the cheek of the mare that just barged her out the way, sending her to the floor. Dash’s eyes, along with the eyes of some other mares who saw the tussle, went wide at the sight. She knew Dahlia wasn’t a morning pony, but wow, she was definitely not a mare you’d want to get on the wrong side of.

With that over, Rainbow Dash started frantically looking around for a free shower again. When she spotted one, she pushed off, but slipped on the wet floor. But she managed to take flight just in time to prevent herself faceplanting. She dashed for the free shower and yanked it up all the way when she got there, quickly dousing herself with water. She felt a few mares try to push and shove their way into her spot, but she wasn’t budging. She didn’t bother with soap, as she was only going to be getting hot and sweaty by the end of today anyway. Plus, the situation didn’t really give her time for soap.

About a minute later, once she was clean enough for her standards, she stepped out of the shower, with some mares immediately dicing for the position as soon as she left. She took flight and used her speed to dry, flying back to her room where she grabbed her flight suit and goggles from the cleaning box. She didn’t care that she wasn’t getting changed in the locker room, she didn’t have time. She saw that Crash Dive, Hoizon and Riptide were all getting changed as she raced in. She landed by her bed and quickly started throwing the suit on, throwing any processes and procedures for putting it on out the window and pretty much just diving her body straight into it and wiggling around to get it to fit.

“YYEEEOOOWWWW!” A sudden scream emanated from Crash Dive, making Dash jump and spin, but not making her lose her focus as she put the headpiece on.

“Oooooohhhh…” Riptide cringed, “Getting it caught in zip is the most painful one.” He shuddered just thinking about it.

Rainbow Dash cringed and looked away, thanking Celestia that as a mare, she would never experience that pain. She finished pulling her headpiece on and let her goggles dangle around her neck. She was ready. Not needing to confirm it twice, she took off and headed straight for the mess hall, practically bursting through the doors where she found…barely anypony. Despite all of her rushing around to try and beat everypony else, she still had a massive buffer gap, and was one of the first few ponies in there.

She saw Fleetfoot waiting for them in one of the seats, she had already grabbed herself some breakfast. With a few minutes to spare, Rainbow Dash looked up the clock. Now that her adrenaline was pumping, and her eyes had adjusted, she could see clearly.

It was 3:30 AM.

Her legs almost deflated as they saw the time. Why so early? Fleetfoot would probably explain it in a minute, but still…WHY?

Rainbow Dash shook her head to wake herself up a bit more as she headed to the canteen. She would probably have been better off not looking at the time, as it just made her feel even more tired. She trotted over to the canteen to grab herself some breakfast. She didn’t even pay attention to what she was getting, she just grabbed whatever was in hooves reach and dragged it onto her plate. When she was done, she went over and sat in whatever seat came first and started to eat, face-down in her drowsiness, not paying attention to what was going on around her. The commotion of everypony rushing around trying to not be last becoming like white noise to her.

She sloppily shovelled food into her mouth as the minutes flew by. Lots of ponies came and sat with her, but they didn’t speak. They were probably feeling the exact same way she was, and couldn’t be bothered.

“GOOOOOOOOD MORNING SLOWPOKES!” Fleetfoot suddenly shouted using the megaphone, causing the walls to vibrate.

Rainbow Dash choked on her food, causing her to spit it out onto her plate, coughing as she did. Luckily, everypony around her was surprised just as much, if not more than her, so they didn’t notice.

"Sorry, didn't catch who the last pony was, so I guess we'll just ignore I ever said that." She said with a shrug, but still with a slight smile on her face. It was obvious that she wasn't really going to kick the last pony ready out from the start, she just said something to make them get ready faster.

“We’re starting so early because when you’re fatigued, it gives you less control over how hard or not hard you’re pushing yourselves, which is something I wanna see.” She addressed without the megaphone. She was just using the megaphone to get their attention, but spoke without it for the rest. “Get yourselves a couple of gallons of black coffee and get ready to rumble.”

Rainbow Dash didn’t need telling twice. She was already drinking a small cup of coffee herself, but she didn’t like to drink too much. She used it as a pick-me-up every once in a while, but she knew she couldn’t have it all the time, otherwise she’d build up a dependency on it, which is not something she wanted.

After finishing breakfast, and feeling a little more energised, she followed the crowd to the training area outside the complex. It looked pretty ominous walking down the corridor, as there was no natural light like she was used to.

When they reached the outside, she was expecting to see something that Fleetfoot had setup, but she saw…nothing. It was still dark, with the clouds forming overcast weather. Something Rainbow Dash had become used to identifying from her many years of working on the weather team.

They all lined up on the cloud as Fleetfoot descended to greet them. “Alright, let’s have a fun little warm up for the first test, shall we?” She said with a slight smirk on her face as she twisted around. “Race from one side of the compound to the other. That is all.”

From one side of the compound…

To the other…

That’s it? That was barely anything. She got them up at 3:30 to do THAT? Rainbow Dash internally groaned at the thought, but she was thinking more about the task they had been given more than anything. There was no way it should be that simple. Was there some sort of catch?

She didn’t have much time to think about it though, as she saw a few ponies take flight in front of her. To prevent herself being left behind, she took to the skies and followed them. She pumped her wings hard to catch up. She was closing the gap, but then faintly saw something coming from above her. She made a sharp turn up to avoid it, only missing it by a split second. Her rivals below her, however, were not so lucky, and got hit with a soft ‘poof’. The sound it made when it impacted indicated to her that it was some sort of cloud.

“Oh yeah, and I might’ve forgot to bring in the pressure changing devices we use for our training from yesterday. And I might’ve left them on…” Fleetfoot chimed in a sarcastic manner. “Have fun dodging clouds!”

It all suddenly slotted together in Rainbow Dash’s head. They had to make it from one side to the other whilst dodging clouds. And in the dark, it made them harder to see as they came towards you. That was Fleetfoot’s plan all along.

She narrowly dodged a cloud coming from below her whilst lining up to dodge another coming from her right, but somepony bumped into her from the left, throwing her off course. She gasped and quickly regained control, but the cloud clipped her on her hindquarters, sending her into a little spiral.

When she felt her wings bite the air, she quickly glanced around to make sure she wasn’t going to run headfirst into a cloud. After confirming, she gave a powerful pump of her wings to put herself back on the right course…

…Only to have somepony bump into her from the right side. ‘OH COME ON!’ She internally screamed as she regained control. She gritted her teeth at the frustration of ponies constantly bumping into each other.

As she flew and dodged some more, she began to realise why she was getting bumped into so much. It was simply because there was no other choice to avoid clouds amongst the loads of pegasi racing each other to get to the other side first. If you couldn’t find a space, you would have to make one.

Rainbow Dash saw a cloud fast approaching her from her 2 O’clock. She checked to her side to see a Pegasus male much larger than her. There’s no way she would win that battle. She glanced back at the cloud, then around her to see if there was anywhere else she could move, but there wasn’t. At least not without being intercepted by another cloud.

With no other option, she drove into the stallion beside her with all her might. Luckily, she had caught him off guard, and he yelped and moved out of her way with ease. However, it only too him a split second to realise what had just happened and launch a retaliation attack on Rainbow Dash. Since she now had room to move, she just moved out of the way into another available space where she wouldn’t get hit by a cloud.

She briefly met up with Bright Skies mid-flight before they dodged their separate ways. Bright Skies being the small pony she was made her very nimble and agile. She managed to squeeze herself into whatever space that was available to her with ease, no matter how tight it was.

She climbed over the top of a cloud and then plunged into a dive to level out her altitude, and to give herself more momentum and inertia to throw around in the event that she needed to make a split second manoeuvre. She saw Riptide below her driving his way past the clouds. He was so big that he could pretty much steamroll anypony that got in his way. Nopony really challenged him when he demanded space…well, nopony apart from Torque. Torque pushed with all his might to resist Riptide, but knew it was a losing battle, and yielded, taking another path around the cloud.

She didn’t have much time to watch the 2 of them tussle as she had her own objects to dodge. She pushed into another pony below her to dodge clouds coming at her from all directions, accidently throwing the pony into the path of other clouds. It wasn’t intentional, but it was all she could do.

All was going smoothly as she steadied herself out, until she felt something land on her back, only slightly destabilizing her. She looked up, but the last thing she saw was the hind hooves of a pony, who proceeded to kick her hard in the head.

The shock temporarily made Rainbow Dash forget that she was flying. It wasn’t until she felt herself going into a spin that she realised that something was wrong. She tilted her wings and stabilized herself the best she could, blinking a few times to try and see through her googles, only to get hit by an oncoming cloud.

Rainbow Dash grunted as she stabilized herself yet again. She looked around briefly to see if she could see the pony the kicked her, but to no avail, she continued racing towards the end, the other side now in sight through the fast flying clouds.

‘That moron!’ Rainbow Dash thought. The nature of this test meant that you couldn’t exactly play fair, but that was just downright playing dirty. Rainbow Dash could feel a bruise forming on the side of her head, but she was sure that it wouldn’t distract her too much. Her suit was protecting it from harm anyway, she would just have to make sure that she didn’t fly into anything headfirst, as it would double-hurt.

“Ignore her Dash, you’re doing fine,” the voice of Horizon suddenly appeared to her left. She glanced over and looked at him.

“Yeah, you’re holding up better than most other ponies behind us.” Crash Dive added from her right, which caused her to glance that way.

“STEEP DIVE!” Crash Dive suddenly bellowed as the 2 of them broke away from Dash. Realising that they were heading straight for a cloud, Dash followed them a split second later.

“Cloud incoming bearing three-four-zero degrees!” Crash Dive yelled with military precision.

“Bank right, thirty degrees!” Horizon replied with the same precision as the 2 of them veered away from Dash.

Dash chuckled at their antics before regaining her concentration. Those 2 were always so random...

The remaining distance was hard, but Dash held her pace, dodging and barging her way through the best she could. She didn’t like having to dump ponies out of the frying pan and into the fire just to make her way around, but she was smart about it. She didn’t try and pick on anypony bigger than her, which she saw quite a few ponies do in desperation, and fail miserably at.

She landed amongst other ponies at the finish line on the other side of the compound, where Fleetfoot was waiting for them. She panted as she caught her breath, still waiting slightly for the early hours to catch up to her.

“WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!?” She heard the familiar voice of a certain ladies-stallion.

She spun around and saw Riptide with his eyes big and angry, teeth gritted, and shoving his face right into Torque’s.

Torque shoved him away. “You got in my way. I got you out of my way. Simple as that.” He replied calmly and precise.

“Could you have done it WITHOUT shoving me into a cloud!?” Riptide yelled in response.

“There was miles of space around you, you chose to go into the cloud!” Torque retorted, closing the gap to Riptide. Dash could sense that Riptide was beginning to piss him off. “If you had even an ounce of talent in that talentless thick brain of yours, you could’ve figured that out!”

“ooooooh,” a couple of ponies chimed in response at the insult Torque just threw at him.

Riptide grunted in frustration, then raised up his right foreleg. “TELL ME IF YOU STILL THINK SO AFTER THIS!”

He laid his right hoof into Torque’s lower chest, but Torque didn’t budge, merely wheezing as the air was forced out of his lungs. He bought his left foreleg up and landed a shot right on Riptide’s chin.

Dash watched the 2 of them tussle as Fleetfoot approached them. She was amazed that Torque was holding out so well. Riptide was a huge pony in comparison to him, but he seemed unfazed every time Riptide landed a blow.

“Easy there, fellas.”

But what Fleetfoot just did topped it. She stood between the 2 of them and pushed them apart with her forelegs. Given the way these 2 were going at each other, nopony dared to get between them, in the fear of getting something broken. But Fleetfoot just waltzed on in there like it was business as usual. She was also holding them back at the same time, which was even more impressive.

“Are you two lovers gonna make up and kiss, or do I have to send both your asses home?” She put bluntly.

Torque just huffed and walked away, losing interested now that that was settled.

“Hehe, sorry ma’am,” Riptide straightened himself out and gave his mane a quick brush-through. “We got a bit rough there. Sorry you had to get in the middle of it. You didn’t hurt anything that I can help with did you?”

Fleetfoot rolled her eyes as she picked up on his tone, which implied that he was hitting on her. If it was any other mare in the Wonderbolts, they would’ve chewed him out right there and then. But her? She liked to make things interesting…

She smirked, “actually, I think I did pull a muscle near my wings, sort of in my back. Can you massage it for me?” She turned her back to him and spread her wings.

“With pleasure, Ma’am!” Riptide replied with plently of cooperation in his voice. His smile grew as he laid his hooves into Fleetfoot’s back. “Right there?”

“A little lower,” Fleetfoot commented as she smirked to herself, thinking about her plan.

Riptide lowered his hooves to just above her plot. “Better?”

“Almost. Lower still.”

Riptide was now essentially almost rubbing her butt. His face was just above the base of her tail. The amount of saliva gathering in his mouth caused him to swallow, and his eyes were wide on the prize. “Is that it?”

“Oh yeah…” Fleetfoot replied. “Right…” She bought her hind legs forward and bent them slightly. “THERE!” Her hind legs suddenly sprung from their position and bucked Riptide hard just below the neck, causing him to tumble backwards. It took him by surprise, meaning he wasn’t really able to react. He was still trying to piece it together in his mind as he lay in a heap on the cloud.

Fleetfoot turned and trotted towards him. “Thanks Sweetie, I feel better already.” She said cheerily as she ruffled his mane, then walked off to collect her clipboard to continue writing her comments about the recruits.

Dash really hoped that she wouldn’t be the first one who would fail to hold in her laughter. And her wish was answered as everypony else around her seemed to burst into fits of giggles at Riptide’s misfortune. She watched as Riptide picked himself up and rubbed his neck. He looked like he’d learned his lesson that hitting on famous mares that have probably heard it all before produces some…interesting results…

“Nice going there, Comet,” Fleetfoot commented as she approached him. “You seemed to predict those cloud movements pretty well.”

White Comet shrugged, “it’s not that hard. All I need is the cloud course, wind speed, wind direction, estimate of cloud size and weight, inertia, surface area--”

“Alright, I get it,” Fleetfoot interrupted. “You seem to know what you’re doing,” she said as she wrote, “and you can do it on the fly as well. That’ll be useful later on.” She started to walk off, “keep it up…”

“Well,” Riptide slipped in next to him. “She seemed to like you, eh?” He nudged him with his elbow. “Ehhh?” He bounced his eyebrows at him.

“More than you, knucklehead.” Comet replied, causing more laughs from various ponies after his words were combined with what just happened to Riptide.

“Grr…” Riptide backed off, gritting his teeth as he had no comeback for that.

Dash watched as her fellow cadets finished their runs against the clouds. Some of them looked pretty beat up from being shoved around so much.

“Well, hope that got you worked up this morning, ‘cus there’s plenty more where that came from!” Fleetfoot announced. “This test made you think on your feet at a time where your brain isn’t fully functional yet. That’s the whole reason I got you up this early. To test how you operate with only a bit of your brain working.” She turned around, “follow me, next test!”

Fleetfoot took them back over to the other side of the training grounds, where she appeared to have an obstacle course laid out in the sky, with clouds, rings, and other things that they had to work around.

“So here’s the next test,” she motioned her hooves towards the obstacle course. “You’ve got to complete this obstacle course…”

Nopony spoke, as Fleetfoot’s tone implied she was pausing for dramatic effect…

She suddenly pulled 2 black discs out from behind her back. “Blindfolded!”

A few gasps escaped from some of the ponies in the crowd. An obstacle course blindfolded? Impossible! What was the point?

“Here’s how it works,” Fleetfoot moved into a more central position so they all got the best view of her. “You put these discs in the slot between the lenses of your goggles so you can’t see,” she demonstrated with her own dangling around her neck, “and then you’ll have a partner who has to guide you around the obstacle course as quickly as possible. Partners will be randomized by drawing names out of a box. Any questions?”

Questions? This test raised a lot of questions for many ponies, but seeing as the instructions were pretty clear-cut as to how it needed to be handled, everypony kept quiet in fear of asking a stupid question and lowering their score.

“Well then, let’s get started.” Fleetfoot announced as she flew down to a set of 2 boxes she had put there in hindsight. One contained the names, the other contained the black lenses that the cadets would need to slip into their goggles.

Fleetfoot started calling names for the recruits to pair up into. Dash listened closely to the names that were being called out and who they were being paired with. She wanted to know the chances of getting paired with somepony she knew, so at least she could have a bit more reliability in her partner. Or unreliability, as it could potentially be.

“Rainbow Dash!” Fleetfoot called, causing Dash’s ears to prick up and look around, getting ready to spot her partner. She raised her hoof so her partner could easily identify her when Fleetfoot said his or her name.

“Strider!” Fleetfoot added.

“Right here!” A young stallion’s voice replied as Dash saw something take to the sky. He was a navy blue stallion with a short front bit of his mane, but the back part had been entirely shaved off. His mane and tail was a dark green colour that matched the shade of his fur.

As Fleetfoot continued to pair up the remaining ponies, Dash prepared to take off to meet him, but it appeared that he beat her to it. He shot over in a flash and landed about a foot away from her.

“Hey, how ya doin’?” He introduced himself.

“Uh, a little tired, but great,” she replied, not expecting him to be so energetic. But then again, he did look younger than Frostbite.

“So, first things first, we need a plan. A strategy. Like, a translation guide so we understand what each other means when we direct each other.”

Dash simply nodded in response, as he hit the nail straight on the head with that answer. She couldn’t have put it better herself. Well, she probably could’ve, just without as many words…

“So, when we saw ‘down half’ or ‘up half’, that means a forty five degree tilt. Agreed?”

“Sounds good,” Dash replied. She liked the sound of this system. It sounded nice and simple, which was the way she liked to keep it.

They went through and agreed on what each of their signals would mean. Dash noticed that Strider really did seem to be on the ball with this. However, she did get the sense that he was a little over-enthusiastic.

“Well, that’s that sorted,” Fleetfoot said, “make two lines. Flyers on the left, spotters on the right. When you complete your run, rejoin the line, but in swapped positions.”

Dash looked at Strider, “who first?”

“All you!” Strider replied, then bit his lip awkwardly at his sudden outburst. “Uhh…please?”

Dash simply nodded and headed for her place in the right line. ‘Well, at least he’s enthusiastic…’

Since Dash and Strider happened to be near the front at the time, they managed to snag quite a forward spot in the lines. They were behind a few ponies, but not many.

Dash watched as the ponies in front of her took their turns. No matter how much planning that seemed to go into this, it wasn’t as simple as it looked. Most of the ponies bumped into something which caused a chain reaction of events, or simply flew too slowly in order to avoid everything, causing them to take forever.

When Dash got to the front of the line, and got the all clear from Fleetfoot to start her test, she picked up a few of the black lenses and slid them into her goggles, rendering her vision completely blank.

She slowly took off and flew in a straight line. “Dive halfway in about three seconds.” Strider’s voice instructed above her.

Taking into account what he said, Rainbow Dash waited 3 seconds then gently tilted herself into a dive. Since she was unable to see what she was doing, it made her feel a little dizzy, but it was nothing she couldn’t handle.

“There’s a left-right corkscrew down, then level out.” Strider continued to instruct her.

Rainbow banked left, at an almost 90 degree angle. She wouldn’t have normally gone that far, but there was a reason for it. When she felt her wing begin to brush across the cloud, she switched into a right hand turn.

“Alright, you’re coming out of the turn, level out.”

Rainbow did as she was instructed and resumed a stable flight. She picked up her speed a little, trusting her partner to warn her of anything incoming or whether she would need to do anything else.

“Incoming cloud on your ten O’clock! Barrel roll left!”

Rainbow Dash pulled up and began turning left, feeling the breeze of the cloud as it brushed past her back. She completed the roll and flew straight again, although she couldn’t tell if she was still flying in the exact same direction. She could tell that she was going in roughly the same direction, as the wind felt the same, but she didn’t know the specifics. But if she was doing something seriously wrong, Strider would’ve called it out to her, so she just proceeded like it was business as usual.

“There’s a up and down slalom coming up, about ten yards between each gap. I’ll tell you when to pull up.”

Against her will, Dash trusted his voice. She only met him a few minutes ago, so wasn’t entirely confident in his judgement. However, she didn’t exactly have a choice when she couldn’t see. She accelerated towards what she presumed was going to be the start of the slalom.

“Okay...annnnnd...pull up now, part way!”

Dash simply tilted her wings to adjust her angle of attack. She pictured in her head what he said about the slalom. It went up and down, with separations of about 10 yards. That was a pretty wide berth she had, so she didn’t have to sacrifice too much speed to make it through.

“Is this alright?” She asked as she moved through it. She presumed the answer would be ‘yes’, but she wanted to make sure. The last thing she wanted to do is faceplant and screw up her whole test.

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Strider replied, “in fact, you could probably speed it up a bit.”

Not needing to be told twice, Rainbow pumped her wings to give herself some extra thrust. She compensated a tiny bit by turning tighter, but she presumed from what Strider was telling her, she didn’t need to do that.

The slalom went on for what seemed like forever, until “you’re clear, level out!” Strider instructed. “There’s a long straight here. Fly fast, then in about a mile, we’re gonna get to a spiral turn, turning left and up, for six revolutions. I’ll alert you when you get there.”

‘This guy seems to know what he’s doing, but...something just doesn’t feel right...’ Dash thought as she accelerated in a straight line across the sky. She picked up a lot of speed. The sensation, coupled with the fact that she couldn’t see, and could fly at potentially fatal speeds into something, gave her goosebumps.

“The corkscrew is coming up in about fifteen seconds, slow up.” Strider called down to her.

Dash obeyed and gracefully began slowing down. 15 seconds, in her mind, was plenty of time, so no need to rush.

“You need to start banking left…...now!”

Rainbow immediately put herself on a knife edge, facing left. Her head naturally looked to where she would be going, but of course, she couldn’t see anything.

“Turn in, turn in.”

She began the turn, throwing herself into the turn and hoping for the best.

“You’re going too fast, slow down!” Strider called.

Dash felt her heart stop at his words and instantly held her hooves out below her to try and push herself off of whatever she might bump into as she attempted to slow down. She grazed her hind hooves along something that felt like cloud, and tried to push off it, only for it to give way under her hooves. The sudden realization that she had nothing to bounce herself off made her panic. She switched tactics, banking some more and trying to pull up. It worked her wings hard, but she managed to pull herself away.

“That’s good, hold that position right there!” Strider praised.

“Roll back right and straighten up.”

Rainbow obeyed and levelled out her flight. The feeling of being out of control...the feeling of not knowing your fate...it made Dash’s heart go wild. She’d never experienced such a feeling before. It got her adrenaline flowing by the gallons, and she loved it.

“There’s a couple of rings ahead, about ten of them. They’re moving side to side out of sync with each other. They’re in sync for a split second, but that’s all I can do. There’s nothing much I can do for you here, Dash. You’ve just gotta fly as fast as you can. I’ll help you adjust your approach, but you need to start accelerating hard now!”

Rainbow hesitated at first at what he just explained. Chances are, she was going to hit something. And he was telling her to go faster. She strongly disagreed with the approach, but since she couldn’t see the situation, she just went with him. Besides, he’d got her this far.

“Come slightly to the right.”

Rainbow Dash tilted as little as possible in order to move herself slightly to the right.

“That’s it, you’re good!”

At his command, she stopped moving sideways and concentrated on heading straight on.

“Uh, Rainbow? On closer inspection, it looks like they’re slightly ovular shaped, and easier to fit through if you flew on a knife edge. Can you do that?”

“Uhh, sure!” Dash replied. Flying on a knife edge was no problem for her, but she just couldn’t get her concern for the approach out of her head, making her slightly uneasy. “Tell me when I need to do it.”

“Alright, you’re closing in. I’ll count you down. On the count of three...one...two...three knife!”

Rainbow swung herself around and into a 90 degree bank. She tried her best to hold her course and altitude, but there was some minor deviations which she couldn’t control.

“Alright, you’re going in...now!”

She gritted her teeth at his words and closed her eyes, even though it didn’t make any difference. She was just bracing herself for the worst. She heard the ‘whoosh’ sound of the metal as she screamed past at ridiculously high speeds.

She went so fast she lost count of which ones she was passing. But since there were only 10, she knew she was near the end. The tip of her wing suddenly brushed against one of the hoops. She yelped in surprise, causing her to shift position slightly. It didn’t hurt that much, it just startled her.

Suddenly, on what she thought was the last hoof, she felt her right hind leg catch on what must’ve been one of the lower sections of the hoop. It acted as a pivot and completely redirected her.

Without hesitation, her sense of balance sprung into action. She tilted her wings in an attempt to generate upforce and keep herself going, twisting her body to try and redirect herself. She managed to get her head facing upwards, which was good enough for her. With that, she gave some huge powerful pumps of her wings as she tried desperately to pull herself out of it.

“You’re fine, keep going, you’ve still got this!” Strider encourage as he watched her fight the spin.

As she stabilized, she nosed-down slightly to make sure she didn’t over-correct. “Which way, which way!?” She shouted in desperation to Strider. She didn’t want to sacrifice any speed in order to compensate for her screw-up.

“Pull up about fifty degrees, then level out after about four seconds!” He replied, picking up on the urgency in her tone. “There’s a narrow, square cloud tunnel that goes around in a loop. Careful Dash, it’s really narrow. This is the final part of the course though.”

“How’s my approach!?” She asked as she levelled out.

“Good, good. You’ll be entering the start of the loop in about five seconds. I’ll tell you when to start pulling up.”

Rainbow Dash counted down in her head. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

She was in. She immediately felt the air pressure change. She was definitely in some sort of narrow space.

“Start banking back gently, a couple degrees at a time.”

As Rainbow followed his instructions, she felt like she could go way faster. So, throwing caution to the wind, in what was probably one of the dumbest things she’d ever do in her life, accelerating down a narrow tunnel blindfolded, she pounded the air hard with her wings and began to accelerate.

“Dash, watch out! You’re gonna hit the cloud if you’re not careful!”

She ignored the words of her spotter, since it was a loop and didn’t change. When she felt herself begin to pass the 90 degree mark, she held her hooves under her chin in an effort to protect herself from what she predicted was about to come. She felt her belly begin to slightly graze the side of the clouds. She took note of it, but was still committed to pushing as hard as she could in the final section.

Gravity helped her out substantially after she started rolling over. It more or less pulled her to the ground, away from the cloud she was brushing against, meaning she could fly harder.

“Heads up Dash, there’s a sharp incline at the exit of the loop. Be careful.”

“Got it,” she barely managed to slip past her lips as she was trying so hard to go as fast as possible.

She felt herself begin to level out. She held her breath and cautioned her speed slightly as she prepared for this sudden change of incline at the exit. She counted down in her head to the point where she would be flying level again. 3...2--

“OOOF!” Rainbow huffed as she hit the cloud belly first a bit harder that she would’ve liked. It threw her off slightly, but nothing that didn’t stop her continuing.

She flew straight for a bit longer until she felt the pressure return to normal. She was out. She had done it.

She gently slowed down until she was only hovering, panting as she was still catching the breath that was forced out of her lungs when she hit the cloud. She reached up to her goggles and pulled out the black pieces blocking her vision, revealing the skies around her. Since it was still relatively dark out, it didn’t hurt her eyes too much when they returned to normal lighting levels.

“An aggressive attack you had there, Dash. Do you normally dive into things you can’t see head on?” Fleetfoot commented as she wrote on the clipboard.

“Well...hehe…” Dash weighed her hooves up as she thought about it. “Not usually…”

Fleetfoot smirked, “well, at least it paid off this time.”

"Nice recovery you had at the end," she heard her partner say as he dropped down next to her.

"Yeah, I do that a lot...anyway, your turn next." She said with a smile.

Strider smirked in response, "Well, at least I've got a target to beat." He replied with a wink.

"Ha. Think you can beat me? Good luck with that one!" Dash's ego kicked in to full blast.

The pair of them joined the back of their respective lines. Much to Dash's dismay, she couldn't see the course being so far back in line. However, she could hear the voices of the ponies that were being directed around the course. She also heard, as they progressed, all the bumps and bangs that came from various ponies misjudging what their spotters told them or the spotters miscalculating and resulting in a collision.

She watched the ponies go ahead of her in line as she thought about the course that she had just ran. She was trying to picture in her mind what it should’ve looked like and combined it with the instructions given to her by Strider. By combining the 2, she hoped that she would be able to form her own instructions to guide Strider with. She found Strider’s instructions, whilst clear, were slightly long-winded, so she was trying to think of a way to shorten them.

She watched the ponies on their way back to rejoin the lines. Some of them looked like they’d taken a few knocks. It really did stress how hard this stress really is. Communication is vital. If you fail to get the required info to your partner in time, they’d crash. It was as simple as that.

The lines got shorter and shorter until Rainbow and Strider were both at the front again. Strider put the black plates in his goggles then raised a hoof at Rainbow Dash to signal that he was ready to go.

“Take off when you’re ready,” Rainbow instructed as she took flight and hovered above him to monitor where he was going.

Strider blasted off the line, much faster than Dash had anticipated. However, since she had the altitude advantage, she didn’t have to fly much faster.

“Half dive coming up, about three,” she instructed. “That leads into the corkscrew that starts left, then goes right. Level out after that.”

Strider simply nodded in response, then started marking his approach. Once he reached his mark, he turned down aggressively, harder than Dash was expecting, but still on target.

He accelerated as he approached the corkscrew...and accelerated...and accelerated…

“Whoa Stride, check up, you’re going in too hot!” Rainbow called to him as she tensed up, waiting for the impending impact.

If Strider heard, he didn’t acknowledge it. He ploughed straight into the corner at full attack, turning in early and clipping the inside cloud. It didn’t seem to affect him too much, but it sent him in the opposite direction towards the other cloud, which he ran his back along all the way up until the exit, leaving an indent in the cloud. There was already a few indents from where other ponies had hit it, but he just ploughed straight through them all and left one big indentation.

“Level out, level out!” Rainbow Dash called, ignoring what just happened and continuing, just like he was.

Strider acted like it was business as usual and continued to accelerate towards the slalom.

“You’re coming up to the slalom!” Dash called as she flew to catch up to him. She didn’t expect to be flying this fast, but it wasn’t exactly a challenge to keep up with him either. “You’re gonna need to ease up a notch. I’ll tell you when to start slaloming. Up first.”

Strider nodded, but he didn’t seem to follow her instructions. He just carried on towards the slalom.

‘Well, I tried to warn him...’ Rainbow Dash. Part of her wanted to try and convince him, but on the other hoof, he got to these trials the same way she did. He was just as capable a flier as she was. If he felt like he could make it, then he probably could. Although the last time was a bit of a scrape…

“Okay...pull up...now!”

Strider reacted immediately to Rainbow Dash’s voice. He lurched upwards, then prepared to move downwards to move between the clouds.

As he passed through them, Dash could hear a few “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” come out of him as he bumped against the clouds. She presumed it was due to the speed he took it at.

He came out the other end of the slalom very quickly, clearing a bit of cloud off his muzzle.

“Alright, we’re onto the fast bi--Whoa…” it appeared that Dash didn’t even have to remind him, as he just sped off without waiting. Dash accelerated after him. She seemed to be playing catch-up most of the time, since she wasn’t expecting this much speed from him.

“You’re gonna be on top of the corkscrew in about twenty seconds. You’re gonna need to slow up big time.” She instructed, feeling as if she was just talking to a brick wall again.

But in fact, he did slow down, which surprised Rainbow. Although, she went faster than he suggested on her run, so maybe he’d picked up on that and was being a bit more cautious.

“Bank and turn in...now!”

Strider banked left and did the tight turn whilst climbing. The whole manoeuvre itself was very demanding, because of the requirement to turn at such high speeds, meaning heavy banking, meaning not a lot of force left to climb with. It was a big test of wingpower, and Dash was pretty sure that Strider was down on her in that department.

After the 2nd revolution, Strider pushed a bit harder and started pushing himself through the cloud like Rainbow did. On noticing this, he immediately slowed down, but it caused him to move onto a tighter line and scrape the inside wall instead.

“You’re too tight, speed up or turn less!” Rainbow called to him.

Strider immediately accelerated, but over-corrected and threw himself way outside the course, pushing himself through the cloud.

“Now you’re off course completely, slow right down, I’ll guide you back in.”

“No you won’t, I’ll just add on a time penalty. Guide him to the final portion.” Fleetfoot called over to Rainbow as she wrote on the clipboard.

Rainbow looked away from Fleetfoot and back at Strider. Even from this distance, she could see that he was gritting his teeth, obviously pissed off that he fucked that up.

Dash sighed, “alright, fly in the opposite direction, and halfway up. I’ll tell you when to level off.”

Strider hesitantly complied. Part of him was screaming to push on and try and recover the turn, but the majority of him went with his brain on obeying Fleetfoot’s orders. He flew in the direction that Rainbow put him in and ascended at the rate she set.

Rainbow waited until she got a better eye on his course and rate of ascent before issuing her next orders. “Bank left, about thirty degrees for four seconds. You’re coming up on the loop, the final bit.”

Strider accelerated hard, much harder than he did in any previous attempt. Rainbow almost felt like facehoofing at the sight. He’d tried this before and he screwed it up. What made him think he could do the same thing again, yet alone faster?

“Level off, then correct a bit to the right!” She called down to him.

Not having to fight the force of gravity anymore, he was free to flap his wings as hard as he wanted to get to his top speed plus some.

“You’re on target,” Rainbow called. And with that, she didn’t have much more to say. She had guided him as much as she could, but the rest was up to him.

She watched him fly into the tunnel, and called to him to tell him that he was in and started ascending. Now he was on his own.

Rainbow tracked with her eyes the rough position he should be in. Because the clouds that made up the loop fully enclosed him, she couldn’t see where he was. She just tried her best to predict where he was based on his speed when he entered.

She didn’t hear anything happening, which was good. That meant he must be doing alright. But then suddenly, she heard the sound of a ‘THUMP’ followed by an “OW!” that came from his voice.

She heard a few more “ooh’s” and “ow’s” as he eventually appeared in a heap at the exit of the loop. She presumed that he pushed too hard and clipped the cloud, causing a chain reaction. She was probably about to get a more detailed explanation. Or maybe not, considering how pissed off he looked.

Strider removed the black plates from his goggles and huffed as he flew slowly back towards Fleetfoot. He was almost hanging his head in shame, but he didn’t quite have that look to him. To Dash, it looked as if he was too frustrated to think of anything else.

“A strong attempt…” were the only words that left Fleetfoot’s mouth as she wrote some notes.

“Hey,” Dash landed next to Strider as they walked off, having now completed the test. “What happened?”

“I pushed too hard,” he huffed, “went straight into the upper wall.”

“Oh…” Dash wasn’t really sure how to respond. He’d just guided her through the same course, very precisely, and telling her when she needed to calm it down. She also warned him of the same things when they swapped places. To see him make the mistakes that he warned her about...it just didn’t add up.

“I try too hard,” he spoke up, breaking Dash out of her trance. “The Wonderbolts are looking for the best. I’m trying to be the best, but…” he lowered his head and sighed, “I’m just not…”

Dash had to do a double take on what she was listening to. This was the very same pony that was all enthusiastic and happy go-lucky before the test began. Now he was the complete opposite, all mopey and depressed, completely devoid of life. It made her think about what she would feel like if she wasn’t at the top like she was. This meant a lot to her, just the same as him. To simply not be good enough...it made her want to cry.

“When I was spotting for you, you were actually pretty fast at times. You were just...pushing yourself harder than you needed to. You heard what Spitfire said at the beginning, one-hit-wonders aren’t gonna cut it here. Aim for consistency.” ‘Whoa, did I really just give advice like that? Damn Rainbow, you should’ve taken up flight tuition. That felt like I took a page out of Comet’s book...’ It did sound like something he would way.

Strider huffed again, “whatever,” he said then walked off.

‘Well, I tried...’

Rainbow waited around for the rest of her competitors to finish. She was curious as to how her friends got on. Given the nature of the test, it took quite a while for them to get through. The sun had arose by the time the last pair had gone.

“So much natural flight instincts this year…” Fleetfoot commented as she wrote her final notes on the clipboard. “This is gonna make today's eliminations tough…”

She flew up above them to get into speaking distance of them all. “That rounds up this half of the tests. Since we got up early, I’m gonna let you go to lunch early. Be sure to fuel up good, because the final tests we have are all gonna be focused on racing. First, an endurance race round our practice derby track. After that, we’ll finish the day with a couple of head-to-heads. Now go get fed up then get ready for some real competition!”

The tone in Fleetfoot’s voice said that she’d been waiting quite a while for this moment. Dash remembered Soarin telling her that he was supposed to take them today, but Fleetfoot asked her to swap. She was itching for something, but for what?

Dash followed the crowd towards the entrance back to the locker rooms. Her stomach produced a faint rumble, which was unusual, as she didn't normally get hungry at this time. But then again, they did have breakfast early, so it made sense. Although eating Lunch at what was probably around 8 AM would probably screw with her body clock later.

She was about midway in the line going into the canteen. The room sounded a lot more lively, now that everypony has woken up. When she reached the front of the line, she examined her options and started to shovel them on. She felt a bit fat for choosing a slice of pie, but at the same time, she felt like she deserved it.

She found a free seat and took it, her belly immediately thanking her for putting food into it. As she ate, she noticed a Wonderbolt dart into their private room. She didn’t look in time to catch who it was, but it appeared that everypony was up and at it now.

“You have great natural instincts,”she heard the voice of White Comet say. She looked to her right as he took a seat next to her.

She shrugged, “just something I’ve developed over the years I guess. Who were you paired with by the way.”

“Bright Skies,” he replied as he took a drink of water, “she’s very detailed and accurate, but I could barely hear her voice. But when I could hear her, she was pretty much saying exactly what was going through my head.”

Rainbow chuffed, “if Bright Skies had your initiative, she’d be unstoppable.”

“I think she does, she’s just afraid to use it.” Comet picked up some food on his spoon. “Guess it’s just a matter of time…”

The 2 of them, along with some other ponies who sat on the same table as them, conversed about the 2 tests they had just taken. They compared their mental notes on what went right and wrong and what the test tested them on in general. Hearing lots of ponies complain about how hard it was made Dash feel slightly cocky, since she didn’t find it that hard at all...alright, she spun out, but she recovered and still made it to the end in decent time.

“Okay, whilst we’re having lunch, I’ll explain the rules for the next test.” Fleetfoot said with her mouthful as she took the last bite of her apple. She tossed the core into a bin a few feet away from her.

Dash leaned forward and listened tentatively. Fleetfoot sounded a lot more enthusiastic about this next series of tests. This was gonna be good...

Author's Note:

I split this chapter into 2, because otherwise it'll probably turn into a 20,000+ word monster. :rainbowderp:

Welp, after my hard drive failure, I pounded the keyboard all weekend to get this out. :rainbowdetermined2:

In the meantime, I'm working on Chapter 7, but until my new SSD arrives, I'm writing it on my phone, so progress will be slow. I literally wrote half this chapter on my phone, and it was painful. XD

I think this is one of my worst chapters when it comes to scene descriptions. I may tweak it slightly, but I'm not sure yet. Let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading. :twilightsmile: