• Published 26th May 2012
  • 4,679 Views, 60 Comments

Above the Clouds - Lynked



Rainbow Dash is accepted into the Wonderbolts. But what isn't Spitfire telling her?

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Cloud 1

Despite the lashing winds and pouring rain outside the windows, the Wonderbolts' Headquarters were as warm as ever, mostly thanks to the crackling fire that roared in the thick cloud fireplace before them. The light thuds of the rain added an air to the lounging hall; everything seemed still, even the breathing of the four ponies, two of which were slumped on the couch, and the others in adjacent chairs. Half-eaten bowls of cereal sat on the wooden table before them, along with four unopened envelopes and a poptart.

Soarin let out a long sigh, looking around at the white cloud walls, observing the plaque upon plaque, medal upon medal, and trophy upon trophy that decorated it, each protected by a shiny glass case. Beside him, on a table that severed the couch and a chair, a radio was buzzing away a personal favorite of his, one that used to make his fur stand on end. But today his fur was as flat as his face.

Beside him, Rapidfire was leaning on his hoof, staring down at his bowl. His orange mane was frizzed and unkempt, completely drowning out its white stripe from view. On the chair beside him, Fleetfoot was picking away at her white fur almost mechanically. She had brushed her light blue mane neatly, as always, and had done well to make her pale stripe shine. But her eyes were downcast, and her ears were flat.

"So should we open them or what?"

Soarin turned to face a white mare with a spiky blonde mane. "I don't think I really want to. You guys?"

Fleetfoot bit her lip. "I actually agree with Goldrush. Waiting only puts off the inevitable," she said in her soft tone, leaning forward and grasping an envelope. As she sunk back into the couch, she eyed it with a hard gaze.

"Yeah, I'm with ya," Rapidfire said. He bent forward, knocking the poptart to the cloud flooring in his attempts to grab his own envelope.

Goldrush already had hers in her hooves, and was rubbing it between them with her eyes closed. "You never know," she said as she looked down at it. "At the same time?"

"Might as well," Soarin grumbled as he took up the last envelope on the table. They nodded to each other, and ripped into the corners of the paper with their teeth. The tops of the envelopes ripped off easily, and they spat them in different directions.

In unison, they yanked out the contents: folded pieces of white paper, each with a little rectangular slip tucked inside. Soarin bit his lip and drew a sharp breath, carefully unfolding the edges and making the paper flat. He leaned in and squinted, and then crumpled the paper up and tossed it into the fireplace with a scowl.

"A thousand bits!" He whipped his check down on the table, turning away and forcibly regulating his breathing.

Fleetfoot offered him a soft smile. "Hey, it's not so bad... I mean, at least we aren't barely scraping by, right?"

Goldrush rubbed her temples. "This sucks. Don't even bother trying to sugar-coat it."

"Thank you," Soarin said, nodding to her. She sighed and rolled her eyes.

"Well," Rapidfire said, "we could... um... no, no I don't have anything funny to say." He set his check down on the couch arm, leaning back and quietly looking up to the ceiling.

"How did this even happen?" Soarin asked, stomping his hoof down on the sofa. "We were at the top. Fame, fortune, parties, pie... we performed at the Gala for Celestia's sake. We were her team!"

"Well we're not anymore," Rapidfire huffed, crossing his forelegs.

"Jeez Soarin, chill," Goldrush said, looking up at him with a frown. "I don't like it either, but don't explode or anything."

Fleetfoot shifted in her chair. "She's right. We shouldn't let this blow our tops."

Soarin glared at her. "I'm not 'blowing my top'."

"Well you certainly aren't the laid back, easy going, pie loving Soarin you usually are," she said with a shrug.

He sat up tall, his mouth open and ready to respond. But a pair of voices cut him off. One was quick and well spoken, and the other was slower, with an edge to each word it spoke. As soon as Soarin's ears perked up, he saw two mares casually trot out of the doorway leading to the kitchen on his right.

Spitfire had a small frown on her face as she spoke. "It'll be fine."

The mare beside her--a scrawny grey mare with a deep blue mane--was biting her lip and shuffling along. "I don't think it'll even work."

"Sure it will," Spitfire said.

"It's mean."

"It's worth it." She trotted away from the mare, taking a place in front of the table. She eyed the reclining team over with a strong gaze.

Stormcloud took a seat between Soarin and Rapidfire, wedging in between them and receiving slight grunts from the stallions.

Just as she was settled, Spitfire stretched her wings out and yawned. "All right guys," she said. "Did you open your pay?"

"Yeah, and it was about five thousand bits short," Goldrush said with a flat face.

"What? Let me see this." Spitfire picked up one of the checks from the table, quickly scanning over it. "That's not right. I was told we'd at least have three thousand," she said as she slammed it back down on the table.

"Yeah," Soarin said as he stood, "Just like we had a show at Manehattan. What's up with that?"

"Don't start," she said, turning away from him. She trotted up to the opposite wall, peering out the long rectangular window that spanned it. Being close to Cloudsdale, she could see the whole city from her position.

"What's the deal with you lately?" he asked, trotting over to her. "Spitfire, we're on the edge of being wiped off the map. That means we're nothing, nada, zip. We'd be as useless as Rapidfire's brains."

"Hey! I'm smart," he said, sticking his tongue out.

He pressed his hoof to his face, turning back to Spitfire. "Right... look, what I'm saying is, we need to do something fast."

"I know," she said. "Do you guys remember last year's Best Young Flier Competition? The one where that flashy unicorn almost killed us all?" She squinted and looked through the rain at the large cloud city beyond.

Fleetfoot nodded. "I do. What about it?"

Spitfire crossed her front forelegs and leaned on them. "All right, now remember the one who did the rainboom. I think her name was Rainbow Dash."

There was silence for a moment. "Oh... oh!" Soarin's eyes shot wide. "No, no, no, if you're thinking of letting her join--"

"I'm not," she said in a flat tone. "We cut about half the team already. But..."

"But what?"

Spitfire pushed off from the windowsill, trotting back to her place in front of the table. "You saw her talking to the princess, right? She's an Element of Harmony. So I was thinking, oh, I don't know, we could take her in for a while, right?"

Goldrush stood now, biting her lip and eyeing Spitfire. "And what? Dump her later?"

"Well, I wouldn't say dump her."

"I told you it was mean," Stormcloud said with a gulp.

Rapidfire leaned in. "Are you guys joking? This is genius! Imagine the look on the Starstrikers' faces when we make our triumphant return!" He stood on his hind legs, pumping his front hooves in a strongpony pose.

"At the expense of another pony?" Stormcloud pushed herself away from him with a scowl.

"Hey, from a logical standpoint, it works rather well," Fleetfoot said with a shrug. "Think about it; we make it to the top, impress Celestia, then tell her we need to cut a team member. Simple. No one gets too hurt, and hey, she was a Wonderbolt for a while, right?"

"See?" Spitfire said, throwing her hooves out to Fleetfoot, "It makes sense. And besides, I'm still Captain of this team, I'll do what I think is best for it. And right now, anything is better than the way we're headed."

Goldrush cleared her throat. "Do you really think that it's best to crush somepony like that?"

Spitfire bowed her head and drew in a deep breath. "Look," she said, glaring to her team, "I put this team together from dust and dreams. This is everything to me, and I can't let it go. I don't want to hurt anypony; I just don't want to let go of what I--what we--tried so hard to make. Look at us, we were at the top! It took hard work, determination, and skill, and I won't let that go to waste just because some rip-off, rag-tag team of pegasi wormed their way up."

Everything grew still.

"So... no, I don't think it's best. But it's all we have."

Stormcloud's gaze lightened for a moment, but grew somber once more. "Then what will we do when we don't need her?"

Rapidfire rolled his eyes. "Yeah, and we're back to this. Look, cutbacks happen, and it's just an unfortunate accident that it's her."

"And what if she finds out?"

"Well we won't let that happen," Spitfire said with a nod.

Soarin, not turning from the window, shook his head and said, "And how do you think we should pull that off? Pretend to be all friendly? I don't know about you guys, but I'm gonna find it pretty hard to be all happy and laid back when I know how this is gonna end."

She rolled her eyes. "This is simple. We make her happy, comfortable, then when we reach the top, we gently let her down. Easy."

Once again, there was silence, with only the roaring fire and the pattering of the rain to fill the air.

"Fine," Soarin eventually said, turning away from the window with his head hanging low. "Where are we supposed to find her?"

Spitfire flashed a grin. "I guess we'll have to make some calls."

~A~T~C~

Rainbow Dash looked out the window from the bed she sat upon. The room she was in was like any other in the hotel: boxy walls, dual beds, blue cloud carpets and a fireplace. The fire roared in the hearth, filling the room with a dull orange glow and a light crackling that blended with the thumping rain.

She turned from the window, looking to the other bed in the small room. Fluttershy was fiddling with her suitcase latches, biting her tongue with a look of determination. Then, the top popped open, sending her flying back with huge eyes and sporadic breathing. Clutching her chest, she looked over to Rainbow Dash, who was doing her best to contain her laughter with a hoof.

"Hey, you okay?" she asked, biting her tongue and snickering.

Fluttershy drew a heavy breath. "Oh my... I-I think so," she said.

"Cool." Dash's composure returned swiftly, and soon she let herself fall to her back with a grin. "So, back in Cloudsdale again. Y'know, I miss this place sometimes."

"Oh, me too. I mean, I like the ground, but sometimes it's nice to get away," Fluttershy said with a smile as she dived back into her suitcase.

"Totally. Cloudsdale's where it's at," Dash said, sitting up. "You have an idea of what you wanna do first? I mean, we can't do anything today," she said, looking behind her to the rain-blurred window, "But I hear tomorrow's supposed to be sunny."

Fluttershy pulled out a rather fancy crimson saddle with Rarity's trademark R on its back. "I'm not sure. We could always go to the park, or the Cloudiseum. Whatever you want to do."

"Hey, Fluttershy, we're here on vacation. Not just me." Dash offered a wink. "Look, I've seen Cloudsdale a hundred times. I'll go where you want."

Fluttershy set the saddle down, shook her head and opened her mouth to respond, but was cut off by a triplet of knocks. Both of them turned to face the wooden door with confused gazes.

"Who's that?" Dash asked. Fluttershy only shook her head and shrugged. So Dash slid off of her bed to the floor. She trotted up to the door, took the handle in her mouth, and revealed a scrawny colt who stood in the hallway. In his mouth was a small slip of paper.

"Miss Rainbow Dash?" he asked.

"Yeah? Who're you?"

"This is for you," he replied, giving her the paper before buzzing off on his tiny wings. Dash took it in her mouth as she receded back into the hotel room and shut the door.

"What's that?" Fluttershy asked, leaning in to see the paper.

Dash shrugged. "I dunno," she said. She took a seat beside her friend and dropped the paper into her hooves. "Says it's for me though."

Fluttershy covered her eyes with her foreleg. "Oh my, well then I shouldn't look."

"It's not like it's a secret," Dash said, grinning. She nudged Fluttershy gently with her hoof, grabbing her attention. "It says somepony's in the lobby to meet me."

"Well you should go then," Fluttershy said with a nod. "It might be important."

"What? Nah, it's probably not. I got the week off from cloud patrol, so..."

"Oh, but you should still go. It's not polite to keep somepony waiting."

Dash looked down to the paper again, then sighed. "I guess you're right. You stay here, okay? I'll be right back."

Fluttershy nodded as Dash fell to the floor and trotted out of the room. Just as soon as Dash was gone, she rested her head in her hooves. Her cheeks flushed a deep scarlet as she drew in a breath.

"Okay Fluttershy," she told herself. "Calm down."

~A~T~C~

Dash trotted out of the stairwell, into the large hotel lobby. The walls were high here, and the ceiling higher, with a chandelier hanging from the center. There was the oval reception desk in the center, stairwells and elevators on either side, and fireplaces tucked into the walls. But what stood out the most was an orange mare reclining on a couch by a hearth, nonchalantly waving to Dash.

"Ohmygosh," she muttered as she stared. "Oh. My. Gosh."

Spitfire motioned for her to come over. Dash didn't need any more coaxing; she was already flying through the lobby. "Sp-Spitfire?"

Spitfire grinned and leaned down on the sofa arm. "Hey Rainbow Dash. Mind if I call you Dash for short?" she asked.

"Uh, s-sure," Dash stuttered.

"Have a seat. We're cool, right?"

She blinked. "Wha- um, yeah. Yeah, we're cool." She took a seat and fidgeted.

Spitfire turned to the crackling fire. "So how's life treatin' ya?"

Dash bit her lip and clenched her muscles to contain her bouncing. "Good! Uh, good. It's good. You?"

Spitfire gave a small chuckle. "Not so good, actually. Notice how I'm not getting crowded by fans?"

Looking around, Dash's eyes dropped to a confused look. "Yeah... what's up with that?"

"Exactly what I said: life's not too good right now. Tell me Dash, you ever heard of these ponies?" Spitfire pulled out a little pamphlet from behind her, tossing it to Rainbow Dash. Dash picked it up and scanned the front cover. There was a picture of six ponies, all of them dressed in red suits that covered everything but their manes, eyes, and tails. They were staring up at a starry night sky in a proud stance. The bottom of the leaflet read Starstrikers, Best Flyers in the Galaxy.

"Cheesy, right?" Spitfire asked, noticing Dash's confused sneer. Yet Spitfire's grin never fell. "But they're at the top. And we... we somehow hit rock bottom. Or further, I suppose. Equestrian mines bottom?"

"These guys don't even look half as awesome as the Wonderbolts," Dash said, tossing the pamphlet aside.

"I know, right?" Spitfire said, sitting up. "It's amazing they got as far as they did. But they did, and that's just a fact. They went up, and we went down. Look, Dash, we--the other Wonderbolts and I--did some talking. We need a way to oust them, knock them off their high place, y'know? So..."

Dash's eyes shot up, looking at Spitfire with an eager fire. "So what?"

"Oh c'mon Dash, I think we both know," she said. She reached behind her once again and pulled out a neatly folded uniform, a lightning bolt with wings displayed right on top. "We need something--or somepony--who can win the game for us. Somepony who is strong, agile, and energetic. Somepony who's fast... almost the fastest flyer in Equestria."

Rainbow leaned in, her body beginning to shake as her eyes grew wider and wider.

Spitfire slowly turned her head and winked. "And that, Dash, is you."

Rainbow reached out with shaking hooves, carefully taking the suit in her hooves. "I-I... this is so sudden... I don't know what to say..."

With a grin, Spitfire leaned in and whispered, "You in?"

Rainbow Dash dropped the suit and gripped Spitfire tight, squeezing her until her face turned redder than her coat. "Yes yes yes yes yes!"

"Hey... kid..." Spitfire gasped, "we're gettin'... looks!"

Dash looked around with a huge grin. Sure enough, most of the ponies in the lobby were eyeing her with raised brows and frowns. She let go of Spitfire and back up. "Oh, uh, heh... sorry."

"It's all fine," Spitfire said as her breath returned. She rolled off the couch to her hooves. "Look, I gotta go. How long are you staying in Cloudsdale?"

"A week!" Dash instantly said with a quick nod.

"Well you're staying a bit longer now, don't you think?" Spitfire winked. "Whenever you're finished with whatever you're doing, come on by our headquarters so you can get adjusted. We can wait a week." Then, she turned and headed for the hotel doors.

"Hey wait!" Rainbow called. Spitfire turned around and cocked her head. "How'd you find me?"

Spitfire thought it over for a second. "Simple! We're the Wonderbolts!"

She spun back around, and trotted out the doors and into the rain.

Dash turned down to the folded uniform in front of her. Tears were welling in her eyes. She bit her lip to suppress a small cry, but the growing smile made it hard to do. She pressed a hoof to the suit, grazing it across the cold rubber.

"I'm... a Wonderbolt..."

Dash charged away with her prize, up the stairs and onto her floor. She dashed down the hall, made a few turns and bends, and nearly crashed into her own door. Picking herself--and the uniform--up, she threw the door open and stumbled in.

Fluttershy shot up, rushing to her side. "Rainbow Dash, you look sick. Oh my, um, c'mon, come sit." She guided Dash to her bed, helping her up. Dash set the blue square beside her and looked to Fluttershy with her eyes still bulging, and her breathing becoming sporadic.

"Are you okay? What happened?"

"I-I'm in the..." Dash's voice trailed off to a series of unintelligible garbles. Then, her eyes lapsed shut, she let loose a sigh, and she fell back on the bed, limp. Fluttershy squealed and jumped on top of her friend.

"Okay Fluttershy, you've handled this before..." she said to herself as her own breathing became light and shallow. She licked her lips and leaned forward. A crimson heat filled her cheeks as her face neared Rainbow Dash's, and she tensed up as she felt their lips brush.

Dash shot up with a twitch.

"Eep! I'm sorry! I-I thought you needed CPR, a-and I--"

"Whoa, 'Shy, calm down, it's cool," she said with a grin. "What happened?"

"You fainted," she quietly said, retreating to the front of the bed. She hid her face in her mane as her cheeks grew impossibly redder.

Dash cocked her head. "I did? Why?"

"I-I don't know. You stumbled back in and said something about you being in something. You had that too." She slowly pointed to the folded Wonderbolts outfit.

As she looked down to it, Rainbow's eyes widened again. Her breathing nearly stopped, and her eyelids grew heavy again. With a thud she landed on the bed, her head lolling limply on her shoulder.

~A~T~C~

"So how'd it go?" Soarin asked as Spitfire emerged from the hotel. The rain had gotten heavier, though the wind had died down a bit.

"Fine, I guess. I think I saw some tears in her eyes," she said. Her smile faded, and her face was flat once more. They turned into the long, green sidewalk awning. "She asked how we found her."

"And you said?"

"Eh, I told her 'we're the Wonderbolts'!" She quietly laughed.

Soarin rolled his eyes. "Forgot to mention the four hundred phone calls to everywhere but Tartarus?"

She shrugged. "It may have slipped my mind. Either way, she's in."

"Great. So step one in this ingenious plan is finished. Now what?" he asked as they rounded the corner. The streets were considerably busy today, with ponies on either side rushing to their destinations. The sound of clopping hooves stomping on wet cloud blended with the pounding rain and the distant roar of thunder. They worked their way through the crowd, the wind lashing at their faces. But they eventually met up again and continued down the sidewalk.

"She's on vacation for a week or something. So we wait, and then we show her her new home. Then we find out a way to get up to the princess, and boom. We're done." Spitfire planted her hoof firmly on the cloud for emphasis.

"No, we--or actually, you--still have to figure out a way to tell her that all the training she's doing is worthless. Good luck with that."

Spitfire stretched out her wings as they approached the next corner. "Whatever. We'll probably keep in touch after it's all over anyways, so no hard feelings. C'mon, we need to get back. Rapidfire said he was going to try to fix the toaster."

"What? He's gonna blow a hole in the clouds," Soaring said with a growl and a grimace as he too spread his wings. "Seriously though, we can't afford his antics. We don't have a backup backup headquarters."

Spitfire nodded and hoisted herself into the air. Soarin did the same, and together the pair flew off into the storm.

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