• Published 4th Sep 2015
  • 1,361 Views, 25 Comments

Flock Together - Corejo

Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash come to terms with the lives they've shattered and those that lay ahead.

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II - Vanhoover

Rainbow Dash had never been to Vanhoover. “The Little Town on the Shore.” Only half right, if she had a say in the matter. ‘On the shore’ definitely stood true, but she drew the line before ‘town,’ and way before ‘little.’

Buildings sprung from the ground like those of Manehattan—tall, concrete things that reached up to punch holes in the sky. Heads move past the windows, shut in with their busy lives and busier work schedules. She heard how little ponies in big cities lived from minute to minute, never ceasing, never slowing down. She didn’t much care for it. Speed might have been the most exhilarating thing in the world, but even she knew it needed a counterbalance. Those could only truly be found in the smaller, quieter towns. Even at this height, she could glean from the ant-sized ponies scurrying through the streets that there was no resting in this sort of city.

Neither did she have a moment to rest, the sun well on its way to nine o’ clock. She checked the waterproof flight sleeve on the inside of her suit’s foreleg. Maretro Park, Vanhoover. Warm-ups nine. Show nine-thirty, her messy notes read. A little late for the warm-ups. She grimaced and kicked in another burst of speed. So much for her spunk about ‘five minutes.’

The outlying skyscrapers gave way to smaller and smaller buildings as they neared the city’s center, where Rainbow Dash spied a prominent grassy clearing among the many parks and tree cover. She honed in on the congregation of ponies and the bright fanfare of waving pennants and poster boards.

Adrenaline pumped through her veins at the sight of so many ponies, all there to watch her soar. Her leg muscles tensed as a grin swept across her face, and she couldn’t banish the thought of an early sonic rainboom to announce her arrival.

She laughed at the thought. Spitfire would have a heart attack if she strayed from the plan like that. And then she would probably clip her wings or something equally extreme. That mare didn’t know how to lighten up sometimes.

Rainbow Dash withheld the urge and glided into a canter beside the Wonderbolts gathered in the middle of the clearing. She felt the eyes of spectators gravitate toward her as the Wonderbolts greeted her with smiles.

“Hey,” she said, flashing a grin.

“Bout time you showed up,” Soarin replied. He stepped closer, a bent hoof absently raised. There was something about his smile that seemed more genuine. “Get everything squared away?”

“Yep, good to go. Were we gonna start soon? It’s getting close to showtime.” She squinted up at the sun, checking that it hadn’t jumped to high noon just to mess with her.

“Soon. Spitfire’s brushing up the last-minute details with Fast Clip in the tent. Then it’s just whenever Fleetfoot decides she’s done chatting up her fans.” Soarin nodded over her shoulder, where Rainbow Dash spotted Fleetfoot’s snow-white mane and winning smile far across the field, a cluster of colts all jostling to be at the front of her fanclub.

Rainbow Dash smirked, wondering when she would gather a following like that. A month? A week? Hay, maybe even this afternoon. “Oh, man, I’m so excited!” Her legs shook with pent-up energy, and her heart hammered against her ribs. It was all she could do not to scream.

“Don’t let that excitement get to you too much,” Jet Stream said, striding up beside her. A stocky second-year flier. He had an edge to his voice only matched by the icy blue of his eyes, but Rainbow Dash had quickly learned it was merely the outer shell of a loving father of two. The photograph he kept in his flight sleeve had been there since the first time he wore it. “Too much adrenaline now will screw you over later.”

Certainly true. Many a time had she psyched herself out before some performance or race and lost her competitive edge. She still won, of course. That never changed. But personal records were still records meant to be broken. Not beating herself was the same as losing.

“Yeah, but too much adrenaline then and you sometimes don’t think straight.” Soarin grinned, nudging Jet Stream with an elbow.

Jet Stream laughed, his eyes slowly shifting to another Wonderbolt chatting nearby. “Surprise came up with that stunt just to watch me screw up and you know it.”

“Still doesn’t make crashing through the officer showers while Spitfire was taking a bubble bath any less hilarious, or the toilets any less shiny.”

“And they were immaculate the whole damn season.” Jet Stream punched him on the shoulder. He spread his wings. “Come on, Spitfire’s coming.”

The three joined the half moon of Wonderbolts gathering around their leader. Rainbow Dash leaned toward Soarin. “When did that happen and what did he do?”

“His first week,” Soarin whispered back. “Surprise’s Super Spiral Surprise stunt. Rest of us call it the Barf Barrel. But I’m not supposed to tell the new ponies that.” He winked. Rainbow Dash snickered, remembering to file that away in her ‘don’t fall for it’ pranks folder.

They filled in a staggered second row. Spitfire paced inside the half moon, the grey of her windbreaker rippling in the breeze like smoke. A quick whisper to Fast Clip, the team coordinator, standing beside her before sweeping her gaze over the group. She pushed her aviators up the bridge of her nose, and a small grin turned up one side of her mouth.

“Bolts,” she said. There was a relaxedness to her voice, softer than the tough-mare growl Rainbow Dash had adjusted to. “Today’s the day. The first show of the season. You veterans know how often I say this, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I’m excited to be here. I see a lot of talent standing before me, both old and new.” Her eyes flicked to Rainbow Dash for a moment, then to the other cadets in order.

A mumble rippled through the group, shared grins and nods. Rainbow Dash couldn’t help her smile, and only after Soarin nudged her did she notice how high she had been holding herself.

“This crowd…” She nodded beyond the group. Behind them, the stands swelled with ponies. Banners and posters waved to a rising din of cheers. “They don’t know you. They don’t know you” —she pointed at Soarin— “they don’t know you” —at Misty Fly— “and they sure as hay don’t know you.” She pointed at Fleetfoot, who smirked.

“You know why? Because you aren’t who you were last season. They know that Jet Stream and that Lightning Streak and that Wave Chill. They don’t know the newer you’s, the stronger you’s, the faster you’s. And not a single one of them’s even heard of you newbies here.

“But that’s what tonight is.” She removed her aviators, hooking them into the V-neck of her windbreaker. She swept her grin across them, infecting each in turn. “They don’t know you now, but by Celestia will they be naming their damned foals after you tonight.”

The team raised a disorganized cheer at that, Rainbow Dash among them. She glanced around at the ponies beside her, their triumphant grins and unwavering confidence. The static practically danced between each and every one of them, their collective energy charging the very air. It and the weight of the goggles about her neck made her hold her head all the higher.

“That little warm up we just had? Nothing. Damned nothing next to what they won’t even believe they’re seeing next. We’re gonna go out there, and we’re gonna make sure these ponies are dragging their jaws all the way home!”

Another cheer rose to the skies, with just as many hooves. Rainbow Dash found herself flying without even realizing she had left the ground. An instant of anxiety smacked her hard in the chest, but vanished at the sight of so many others hovering in place.

They rose as one, and together they formed a V ripping the sky in two, Spitfire at the lead, windbreaker cast off, her cool-blue flightsuit the flash at the tip of their arrow. Rainbow Dash had taken her designated position third back on the right, with the pleasant view of Soarin’s right flank and the sky above. He gave her a quick look over the shoulder. A smile and a wink, and he looked ahead. She smirked, donning her goggles. This was where she belonged.

The wind roared in her ears, far louder than any shout, but she learned quickly in her two days of basics that they operated under a different set of rules.

The Wonderbolt ahead was her lifeline, as was she to the one behind her. A break in the chain and the whole thing fell apart. Simple in theory, intense in practice. A dozen ponies acting as one. There was a reason everypony called them the Wonderbolts.

Soarin’s right forehoof, held relaxed against his chest, twitched to the right. She sent the signal down the wing, and less than a second later Spitfire veered the formation into a wide sideways turn that gave Rainbow Dash an arcing view of the cheering crowd far below.

Forward twitch. Down the wing. Spitfire straightened the team into a nosedive, the cascading signal for speed clear in Soarin’s outstretching hooves, wings flat against his back. Rainbow Dash followed suit, and she felt the familiar press of wind against her goggles.

They barrelled straight for the crowd. Soarin tilted his head upward. Down the wing. They pulled up not even ten meters above the highest-reaching poster boards, close enough to feel the pressure draft as they swept overtop. Excited and frightened shouts found her ears in the split second before the team again climbed toward the heavens, and after half a minute’s flight they righted into a wide turn.

Soarin relaxed his forehoof and flipped up the tips of his primaries, Rainbow Dash mimicking before falling into single-file. He gave one last grin over his shoulder. “Take ‘em to the cleaners!” he shouted over the wind.

Rainbow Dash laughed before rocketing into the sky. This was it. Her moment to shine. Her limelight in Wonderbolt history as the season opener—the first rookie to ever hold the honor.

The frozen air filled her lungs, crystallized on her flight suit, as she rose to skirt the edge of space, far above the anvil heads of far-off thunderstorms, where the wind forgot to howl and only the warm sun could touch her. When her ears began to pop and she felt the blood inside her veins pulsing in anticipation, she reclined her head and breathed out a final plume of frost. Barely a speck below, the Wonderbolts encircled the stands, but she knew as true as the sun and moon she would reach them in seconds.

She powered her wings, wresting the reins from gravity and pushing them further. The wind pressed her goggles deep into the skin around her eyes and blew back her mane. Her flightsuit clung tight about her, keeping her sleek and stretching with her as she lengthened herself pencil thin. The cone formed at the tip of her hoof, aimed at the middle of the circle the others spun. It pulled tight around her, honing to the point of an arrow soaring for its mark.

She held it there, feeling it unravel thread by thread. It came to a hair’s width as she passed through the circle of Wonderbolts, then snapped to the sudden silence of the world.

Feeling washed away in the void of sound, and color to the corners of her eyes like paint running down a wall. The crowd cheered below, voiceless yet wild as she peeled above them.

She craned her neck back toward the others and the expanding ring of grey they used as a backdrop to begin the rest of the show.

The Wonderbolt’s season opening stood as a monument to the mystery behind the team’s coordination—that only two days after their annual recruitment they had designed and perfected a dance tailored to each individual pony. But really—and Rainbow Dash had to grin at the simplicity—the beauty lay in each pony’s signature trick.

Wave Chill’s cloud freezing. High Wind’s spinning gales that shaved them into snowflakes as they fell toward the earth. Blaze’s knack for friction, turning half of the spontaneous snowstorm into a torrential downpour.

The whole of it was merely a melting pot of talent, choreographed to complement one another. A show. A display of already perfected instincts and quirks given direction. Calling it a performance gave it too much credit. Performance implied effort.

They were having fun.

A way of kicking back and laughing at the impossible standard of perfection they vaulted like the smallest of puddles. Buckling down came later. Here, now, the void of sense and unending grey enshrined the beginning of her career.

And so she laughed, relishing the silence, counting the heartbeats pounding solely in her chest.

She powered between buildings, through the bustling streets, not a cart’s height over the heads of the ponies below. Little glances over her shoulder brightened the grin on her face for all the silent, wind-swept papers and hats of surprised ponies and excited foals.

Out of town she led her streak of grey, brought her silent world to the rolling fields that lapped against this side of the city as the ocean did the other. She banked wide to wrap around the city, keeping her speed with hardly a wing flap to fight off the air slipping past her.

The thrill of the nothingness tingled in the tips of her hooves and wings, little pins and needles urging her to go faster, to pitch the script and show them what Dash really meant. Her heart pounded in her chest, drawing the air deep into her lungs and filling her with the crispness of her noiseless world.

Every instinct cried out in agreement, but her mind knew better. She stayed her inner yearnings. The team needed her for the finale.

Poetic, Twilight would have probably called it, or some other eggheaded word, her rainboom both the opener and closer of the show. The first rookie to ever hold the honor.

Definitely one for the history books.

She swung out over the ocean, waves breaking away in sprays of foam. The smell of sea salt filled her nostrils, and only the finest mist of crashing waves speckled her face. Beach-going ponies gathered along the water’s edge, their eyes and hooves following her across the shore.

In her circle, she brought a large splash of water overtop the gathered crowd, grinning at what she imagined would have been cheers and laughter had she the senses to hear them.

Back around to the grassy fields, the tail end of her rainbow dissipated into the wind. She veered down the street as the final traces vanished, and she again flew over the heads of the cheering ponies.

The park’s trees fell away, and she saw the final loops and dives of the others, the spiralled and spiralling cloud no wider than a barrel awaiting her moment of glory.

Rainbow Dash took a final breath. She held it in, flattening her wings against her sides. The thinnest filaments of a cone formed at her hooftip as she returned to subsonic speeds, each colored thread loomed in by physics’ invisible hooves as the milliseconds passed.

She stretched herself long like a swimmer from the highdive, the faintest whispers of wind in her ears as she threaded the needle of the spiral cloud. A simple surge of her wings tore a hole through the cloth of color, and she rocketed out the other side.

She held onto the silence for but a moment before eagerness gripped tight and called for her to admire her handiwork. A flare of her wings, one held just wider than the other, and the wind whipped her about. Supine, free falling, she smiled at the rainbow bursting outward from the cloud’s center, its rainbow hues snaking its length and splintering outward. Her grin couldn’t have widened any further.

Rainbow Dash rolled over into an easy glide, swooping overtop the crowd, their raucous cheers finally able to reach her. She made no attempt to hide the swelling pride in her chest as she drank in their praise. A thousand ponies whooping and hollering at the spectacle she had perfected, her icing on the cake. Surreal beyond all expectations, but still somehow unsatisfying.

She landed in the middle of the field with the other Wonderbolts. They gazed up at the falling rainbow glitter, sparkling as it caught the light of the sun.

“Nice,” Soarin said.

“Fast Clip was right about that,” Jet Stream added.

Rainbow Dash raised a brow at him. “About what?”

Jet Stream smirked. “Ending it on a bang like that.” He glanced down at his flight sleeve, then smiled back at the fading spectrum of vapors above.

“Fast Clip came up with that?” Rainbow Dash asked. “I thought the whole ‘boom in, boom out’ thing was Spitfire’s idea.”

Jet Stream shook his head. “Nah, Spitfire actually wanted to end it with Heat Lightning’s thunder trick. Old Clippy’s the traditional one.”

Her eyes naturally gravitated to the smoke-blue stallion at the other end of the gathering. He reminded her of one of those surfer ponies. A little too laid back, even for her.

“You’re a little green to be calling him ‘Old Clippy,” Soarin said. Rainbow Dash shook her head, refocusing on the conversation. Soarin had flashed Jet Stream a smile. “And a little old to be calling him old.”

“Hey, us old geezers are allowed to call each other nicknames, unlike you kids.”

“Alright, Streamer, I’ll keep that in mind. And I’ll stay off your lawn while I’m at it.”

They shared a laugh, one Rainbow Dash shared in with a nostalgic smile. Stream’s mention of ‘geezers’ reminded her of a conversation she once had with Scootaloo’s dad after a morning practice, how excited he had been to hear a stallion his age actually made it on the team.

You were never too old to be awesome, she remembered saying. That had earned her a ruffle of her mane and a winning grin. A phantom of that grin traced her lips, but blew away with the breeze.


After years of hard work and dedication, she had finally earned her place among the stars, yet her number one fan hadn’t been there to see her shine. She should have asked her to come. That smile. Seeing it in the stands would have made the world seem complete. But they both had a regimen to maintain, and she couldn’t let hers get in the way of Scootaloo’s.

Not that today was part of any sort of regimen. Today had been nothing more than a bunch of pegasus ponies flying around for kicks. She hadn’t even been scolded for showing up late. Knowing the team, she had expected at least a few more jabs than just Soarin’s. They gave each other more flak for less than that. The friendly kind, though—the kind only shared between friends. She sighed, staring at that violet-eyed smile etched into the grass.

“Hey, Rainbow,” Soarin called from the group gathering at the tent. “You comin’?”

She forced a smile to her lips. “Yeah.”


The team had booked the Hayseed Hotel and one of its six ballrooms for the reception. Apparently it was some prestigious place, despite the down-on-the-farm-y name. Sure, it had a bunch of fancy chandeliers and shiny bar counters, but who really cared about all that? Besides Rarity, anyway. Clouds looked—and were!—cooler than any sparkly gems and polished brass and those wood panel things that ran along the wall and ceiling with little dancing ponies carved into them. Rarity would have cared about what those were called, too. At least the refreshments were good, if a little strong.

Rainbow Dash rolled into the place with the rest of the Wonderbolts, laughs and cheers and fanfare in tow. She knew to expect reporters, but hadn’t quite prepared for all their flashing cameras and millions of questions. Spitfire intercepted all but the most basic ones, to which Rainbow Dash had the pleasure of answering. Minutes stretched into hours, and before she knew it, she lay face up in bed, staring at the underside of the top bunk.

Nopony slept there. While the rest of the team stacked the front of the barracks, she chose to sleep in the back corner by herself. It gave her room to think. Something about the Wonderbolts Academy made it hard to close her eyes. It wasn’t excitement or an eagerness for tomorrow. Something just didn’t feel right.

Scootaloo wasn’t there.

Tomorrow would come with its crack-of-dawn workout, but not with the filly she had grown close to, that little tired-but-happy smile flying beside her. She would fly with the ponies she looked up to, the ones she had always dreamed of becoming. Had become.

Rainbow Dash rolled over. Everypony had long since dozed off, their gentle snores sparring with the buzz of nighttime insects outside her window. She could make out the shapes of her teammates in the far bunks, chests rising and falling in the darkness.

How many of them left behind somepony they cared about? She spied Jet Stream’s smoky-grey mane in a top bunk. He had two fillies of his own back home. At the reception, he mentioned a piano recital he’d have to miss tomorrow morning. Not something she’d want to sit through, but knowing him, that was like telling a pegasus not to fly for a day, or a unicorn not to use magic. But he wanted to be here, too. It’s why he was here. He had dreams and aspirations just like everypony else in the room.

She rolled over again. Above, in the metal wires supporting the top bunk, she had hooked a covert feather. Even in the washed-out darkness it retained its definitive orange and the crisp sharpness needed for flight. She reached out a hoof to touch it. Smoother than silk, despite the months spent between the pages of a Daring Do book.

“One month,” she whispered. She rolled to her side, tail tucked between her legs, and closed her eyes. “One month.”

Author's Note:

Special thanks to Cold in Gardez for his review of this chapter.

Onward and upward!