• Published 12th May 2017
  • 3,550 Views, 138 Comments

Embracing the Fog - SunnyDays

Clearly, Spitfire and Fleet didn't seem to need him anymore. There was no turning back after this, no amounts of "I'm sorry"s that could make this right. Soarin was done being a Wonderbolt.

  • ...

2 - Pizza, Man!

“Alright, people, stand at attention!” Nightshade’s order was really only paid any serious attention to by the elder grey stallion, Stratus, her second in command. Blitz, Charger, and Starry Skies stood there without taking the stance to an extra mile. Nightshade continued, “As you’ve probably already noticed, Soarin’s joined us here at the base today.”

“Hey guys…” Soarin grinned sheepishly. He had never really met the five ponies before him other than Blitz, but had heard all of their names in passing. Standing before them at such an embarrassing time as pretty much begging to live with them wasn't really a good first-impression, on either side. Still, he tried to betray his worn thoughts and keep a smile on his face.

“Care to tell us why, big brother?” Nightshade asked, motioning for him to go on.

“Uh, because I retired from the Wonderbolts.”

Retired? Why?” Starry Skies jerked back in shock.

Soarin looked at Nightshade, asking her with his eyes if it was alright to just tell the full story. She nodded, “Go ahead.”

Soarin took in a deep breath, “Okay. It started when Cloudsdale chose Spitfire, Fleetfoot, and I to represent the city for the Equestria Games tryouts…” He gave the full story. His near death, Rainbow's neutrality, Spitfire and Fleet’s eagerness to give away his spot, Rainbow deciding to pretend to be hurt in order to not choose, and no one coming to visit him in the hospital. It all led up to his angry rant that announced his split from the team, mid-season, in front of everyone in Rainbow Falls, costing Cloudsdale the Games. It burnt inside to have to retell it, to relive the sensation of the fall, and the throbbing in his wing.

Spitfire and Fleetfoot had disaster training. They had specific training as rookies just in case a teammate was downed, and it meant dropping everything to rescue them. It meant giving up any races they would attend, or any target they were chasing. The 'Bolts, in the end, weren't Equestria's military, and the loyalty of the group was what should have mattered to them. Should have.

At the conclusion of the story, the Shadowbolts were slackjawed. All except for Stratus, he just looked a bit gruffer. “Disgraceful.” He growled. Soarin bit his lip before silently looking away.

“But, wait, if that happens, you’re supposed to forfeit the competition out of respect for the team member, right?” Starry asked Nightshade. “Or at least, that’d be the honorable thing to do, if no agreed replacement was on hoof.”

If you have an agreed replacement, yes. But that didn’t happen.” Nightshade growled. Her pace only sped up, “But that is why he will be staying with us until further notice. He’s agreed to cook for us, and I can vouch for his skill.”

Starry looked over at the light blue stallion, “You can cook?” She asked curiously, smiling at the shy pegasus. He was clearly hurting, and Blitz wasn't jumping to that as usual, so Starry stepped in.

Before Soarin could speak, Charger frowned at their captain teasingly, “You replacin’ me, Nightshade?”

“Oh, thank goodness.” Blitz put a hoof to her head, before pausing, looking over at Charger, “Heh… Sorry.” The weak reply made her teammates glance at her strangely.

Stratus snorted, “Anyways, it’s only fitting. You’re an alchemist, Charger, not a cook.”

“I can be both!” The gray stallion insisted indignantly.

“The key word there is can.” Starry said, earning a chuckle from the group around her.

Soarin laughed with them, if only to fit in, and even Charger caught onto it after a few moments. Nightshade, meanwhile, couldn’t help but stop herself from sighing. ‘Thanks, guys.’ She looked up and down the line of her team, her heart swelling with pride at the ragtag group before her, showing her brother the kindness she expected from them. Nightshade crossed glances with Stratus, and the gruff old stallion nodded to her. She nodded back, eyes motioning to her office.

“So! Chef.” Charger’s voice cut through the laughter, “What’s on the high-and-mighty menu tonight, then?” He asked, approaching Soarin and tapping the stallion’s chest with a hoof.

Soarin puffed up, sticking out his chest with pride. “Pizza.”

“Oh, thank the divines.” Starry laughed, “It's been forever since we’ve had something like that.”

“Sorry I don’t know how to throw dough.” Charger rolled his eyes, “And we can’t really order out.”

“Well, it kinda was your idea, Charger!” Soarin said.

“I’m known for my good ideas.” The Detrot stallion smirked. Starry and the others, barr Stratus, smirked and shook their heads.

“Well, I’m going to need everyone’s topping orders to make it happen.” Soarin said.

“Olives.” Starry smiled.

“Whatever’s convenient.” Stratus shrugged uncaringly.

“I prefer classic cheese. I’ll add my own toppings if needed.” Charger smirked.

“...really, Charger?” Starry sighed, dragging her hoof down her face.

“Shut up.”

“You already know my preference.” Nightshade nodded to Soarin. “Blitz?”

The mare Soarin normally knew to be as hyperactive as Surprise only gave a distant look before realizing that she was being spoken to.

“Huh? Oh, I’m good with anything.” She shrugged, “I’ll eat whatever you make.”

“...You, uh, doing okay?” Soarin asked her.

“I'm fine.” She responded simply. Despite this assurance, the other Shadowbolts gave each other nervous looks. Soarin was concerned by that alone. Yeah, this wasn't Blueball Blitz at all.

“In that case, I’ll make a huge batch of cheese pizza and put everything on the side.” Soarin said. “That okay?”

“Sounds good.” Nightshade nodded, glancing to Blitz. Her eyebrows furrowed, looking Blueball over. “Starry, if you wouldn’t mind, think you could show Soarin the ropes and answer his questions?”

“Of course.” Starry nodded graciously, “Come on Soarin, let's… check out my bunk.” She smirked, eyelids lowered and thick Canterlot accent oozing with mischief.

“Oh, okay!” Soarin nodded innocently, trotting along after her.

“Here we go… Starry’s got him in her clutches.” Charger shook his head.

“...What have I done to my poor brother?” Nightshade asked, pausing dramatically.

Stratus gave them all an even look, “...It's time for our meeting, Nightshade.”

“Okay, yeah, let's go.” Nightshade replied, the two heading into her office.

“...I’m gonna be in my bunk too.” Blitz turned around, closing her door behind her and leaving Charger to himself.

The grey stallion sighed loudly, putting his head on the back of the couch. “So… you free?” He casually asked the training dummy leaning against the wall of the lounge.

It responded by falling over.

“...Thought so.” Charger said, walking out the main entrance.

Starry's bunk was well-furnished, but Soarin wasn't surprised by that. Considering that Starry's family was originally from Canterlot before moving their estate to Cloudsdale, he was surprised he didn't see plastic all over the ornate furniture, or a giant painting of herself in the room somewhere. Then again, he was glad he didn't, really.

Nightshade had described her as being the most "socially active" of the group due to her upbringing. And considering the look she was giving him as she adjusted herself onto her bed, Soarin had a feeling he would find out just what his sister meant by that.

He was a Wonderbolt, and his name meant big things in both Canterlot and Cloudsdale.

“Thank you for joining me, Soarin~” Starry tittered, grabbing a few things from around her room as she gestured him over.

Soarin walked over as he was told, sitting on the bed next to her. “Hey, my pleasure.” He smiled weakly. In all honesty, it was nice to have a break from thinking about the incident. He swallowed down the anger from having to relive that experience for the third time. “So, you had something to show me?~” His smile was more genuine as he laid beside her.

“Oh, indeed~” She chuckled, turning down the overhead lights and activating a few on either side of the bed.

Soarin smirked, “Oh? Well then why don't you and I get comfortable so that you can give me a little glimpse?~”

“Do you think you’re ready? Yet to meet a stallion that’s interested.” She giggled softly, her cheeks warm and flush.

“Oh, I’m interested alright.” Soarin grinned, “I’ve heard good things.” He winked, leaning into her. Their bodies pressed together, and Soarin was thankful for the heat. These past few hours had been so lonely, and he needed the time to let off some steam. It seemed Starry was just willing enough to let him have that moment.

Nearly cheek to cheek, Starry pulled herself on top of him, and grabbed the comic book on her bedside table, handing it to him. "Well, great, because I have plenty to show you!"

“A Brown Recluse number 1! Aww yeah, Starry, your collection does not disappoint so far!” Soarin beamed, “Nightshade was right!”

...Starry Skies was a gigantic nerd.

“Gotta start with the Marevel! We can move to Snooper Comics later~” She giggled.

“Sounds great! Geez, I haven't read this stuff since I was a colt!” Soarin flipped through the comic gleefully, “...Hmm. Hey Starry, you're supposed to answer any of my questions, right?”

“Well, Nightshade did ask me to, yes.” She smiled, “And if you ask me if one hero is better than the other, you best agree with me, lest it earn you a hundred lashings.”

“Iron Mane, right?”


“Captain Equestria.”

“Hmm, the stallion with the bottomless checkbook versus frisbee colt?” She rolled her eyes, “Iron Mane is a genius and can buy anything he can’t build.”

“So, Iron Mane.” Soarin snickered. “But that wasn't my real question. What exactly do you guys do? Shadey’s never been able to give me a full answer.” She never gave him even a hint of an answer, in fact. Any time that he'd ask, his little sister's response was a smile and a pat on the head. A pedantic one, at that, which was a gesture no older brother wanted to receive from his younger sibling. She was lucky Soarin was so merciful and patient. Well, now his patience was running thin, and he wanted to know. It wasn't like they could hide it while he was living with them.

Starry twisted her mouth into a slight frown at the question, as if trying to decide how to answer him, “Well, you were a Wonderbolt at the time...what we do is kinda hush hush, you know?” She shrugged, “We’re really not supposed to tell. Why do you think we're literally underground?”

“Charger said that you guys are hiding. ...You're not criminals, are you?” Soarin asked. He didn't really believe it, but it was the first thing that came to mind. Clearly, he had been watching too many Godstallion movies.

“We’re not criminals…” She deadpanned, “And Charger will kick your flank is you call him one.” Starry added as a warning.

“Got it, sorry.” Soarin rubbed the back of his head.

“We’re a black ops squad that answers to Luna. We deal with threats that go beyond the Elements of Harmony, you know, civilians.” She nodded, “We were on our way to Canterlot during the wedding incident, but by the time we got there, Empress Cadence had already dealt with it, it seemed.”

“Makes sense that you're in Hollow Shades with all the thestrals, then.” Soarin pondered.

“And the bunker. No one looks for pegasi underground.” She nodded, “And we have a few enemies at this point. We’re meant to be a more...permanent solution to serious problems. Far more so than Twilight or-” Starry paused, chuckling, “‘Smile’.”

Soarin sighed, “The Wonderbolts are just your decoys, aren't we?”

“Pfft, what? The Wonderbolts have a similar suffix. That is the only facet the two teams share.” Starry laughed.

“Does Spitfire know about this, or is she in the dark too?” Soarin asked.

“Why in Tartarus would she know anything about us?” She scoffed, “She’s a stunt flier with no relatives here.”

“I dunno; maybe Celestia told her something?”

“You think Luna told Celestia about us?” Starry laughed.

“...Celestia doesn't know you guys exist?!” Soarin nearly dropped the comic in his grip, eyes narrowing.

“You think Luna would run a team of assassins by Celestia? She’d try and shoot it down every chance she got!” Starry tittered, “Luna just approved us herself. Cited that cute little group of Celestia’s as all the reason she needed.” She snorted again, "How does she even think Smile will ever get anything done? Love the threats to death?"

Soarin was too busy panicking to hear her last retort, “You don't understand, Starry! What if Celestia tries sending Rainbow and her friends to settle something you guys should be settling?! They’d be killed!”

“I like to believe one of our rulers aren't that stupid," Starry smirked, casually taking Celestia's name in vain. In another part of Equestria, a loose strain of hair in Princess Twilight Sparkle's mane sprung up.

“Luna doesn't exactly have a say in what the bearers do, though!” Soarin said, still flailing around like an idiot.

“Not our problem.” Starry shrugged, “Equestria is our priority. If Celestia wants to send civilians after something that dangerous, she can. It’ll be on her head.”

Soarin made a few different unintelligible noises, “B-But Dash!” He choked out finally.

“Yes. Dash. Five other ponies too.”

He took a deep breath, closing his eyes, “...right. They're a princess and five civilians. ...How does Celestia think that's a good idea again?!”

“Why are you asking me? I’m a Cloudsdale aristocrat!” She chuckled, “What would I know about those Canterlot ponies anymore?”

“Right, I should've asked Misty.” He joked to himself. “Let's… get away from this, politics makes my head hurt.” He rubbed his temples with a hoof as if to prove his point, “So, uh, I need to be getting to the kitchen. Is there anything specific I need to know about your barracks?”

“Not much. Pretty basic setup. Had to build it quickly and quietly.” She nodded.

“Well come on, I need to get dinner started like I promised; we’ll have plenty of time for more comics later.” He smiled, “But I do have more questions for you.”

“Aww.” She chuckled, “Alright. Kitchen’s this way. Follow me.” Starry hopped off the bed, gesturing him onwards with a wing.

Soarin smiled and followed her into the kitchen, getting out the ingredients while Starry settled in at the table. As the two sat in silence, Soarin's mind drifted back to the incident still so fresh in his mind. In a panic, he looked back at Starry, trying to get a conversation going and saving himself from thinking about it again.

“So… It isn't exactly a question per se, but since I’ll be staying here for awhile; I wanna know about you. Who is ‘Starry Skies’?” He chuckled.

“Who am I?” She chuckled, “Well, I was born in Canterlot but moved to Cloudsdale when I learned that a pegasus mare can’t get respect there. Applied for the Wonderbolts and was ignored. Tried to buy my way into training and got laughed out the door.” She frowned, “Princess Luna and your sister found me while recruiting.”

“You kinda did get laughed out.” Soarin rubbed the back of his head, “I remember Spits complaining about it afterward.”

“Ugh, great. Typical.” She shook her head, “I was desperate to make a mark at the time.” Starry sighed, dragging her hoof down her face.

“Well… So was Shadey. I guess you two bonded through that.”

“She tells me that buying my way in wasn’t nearly as bad as her incident.” She chuckled weakly, “And I guess that’s fair.”

“Yeah… That was… That day hurt.” Soarin flinched. Great, there was another incident to try not to think about.

“Well she’s started to joke about it, so she must be getting over it.” She smiled, nodding.

“That's good.” Soarin said, “It's best that she is. She's healing. That's important.” He mixed together the batter while Starry finished talking. Soarin tried again, “What do you think about the other Shadowbolts, Starry?”

“Weirdest family ever, but a good one. All of them have my back as much as I have theirs.” She nodded, “Nightshade’s a good leader for how young she is. Stratus knows his stuff, even if he’s as cuddly as a cactus. Blitz is our heart, which is odd considering she’s trained how to cleave someone’s head off. Charger’s so much fun to tease, too.” She smirked, “Yeah, they’re good ponies.”

Soarin’s eyes widened a bit, “Y-Yeah, sounds like quite the family alright.” He yelped.

“Uhh, you alright?” She chuckled, glancing back, “There something behind me?”

“J-Just, you know. Getting used to the whole ‘my sister’s team are a bunch of assassins’.” He grinned nervously. The words 'she's trained how to cleave someone's head off' didn't escape his mind.

Starry chuckled, “Relax, we’re not gonna off you, Soarin.” She rolled her eyes, “You’re a friend.”

“I know; it doesn’t make you all any less scary.” Soarin chuckled.

“Well, at least we do our jobs well enough!” Starry laughed, “No harm meant, but we are supposed to be scary.”

“Honestly, Stratus just seems like a quiet royal guard type, not exactly scary,” Soarin said. “And Shadey is… Shadey. So… It’s basically just you and Charger.” He chuckled.

“Stratus was a guard so that’s not surprising.” Starry nodded, “Though he may train you to death.”

“...Someone except me doing the training? Now that’s scary.” Soarin chuckled, tossing the pizza batter, “Besides, I’m just your cook, remember?”

“So it seems.” She giggled, “So you’re not going to be joining us?”

“Huh?” Soarin blinked, “Join you, as in the team?”

“Well, yes.” She smiled, “You do have years of experience in both training and flight itself. Not to mention you're our captain’s older brother. A bit of combat training and I'm sure you’d fit right in.”

Soarin paused. For whatever reason, he never considered joining his younger sister’s team. A team he never really knew the true purpose of, only the general location from the letters he was sent. “Do you think Shadey would actually want me?” He laughed, “Are you kidding? I’m just a stunt flier, one of the slowest in our ranks. ...Who wouldn’t stand up for her when she got kicked out of those ranks…” The humor slowly drained from his voice. No! No! He tried to shake out the guilt. 'Stop thinking about it!'

Starry didn't seem to notice him rapidly shaking his head, “Speed doesn't matter. We have Blitz for that anyway. Its overall skill that matters most, and while we prefer to not recruit at all really, I’m sure Nightshade would allow such for you, if you’re interested at least.” He stopped the shaking as she looked over at him.

“I mean… I was going to find something else to do.” He said, throwing the batter once again before putting it down, “I don’t know what, but I wasn’t going to trip Shadey up for too long.”

“Trip her up? You know she loves having you here.” Starry laughed, “Come on, she’s your sister!”

“Yes, and I love her too.” Soarin rolled the batter, “But I’d feel like a burden if I just bummed around here and cooked for you guys.”

“Cooking alone isn’t bumming it. You’re providing a service.” She shrugged with a wing, “And as a full fledged Shadowbolt...” She trailed off, “Something to consider, I suppose.”

Soarin spread the tomato sauce on the pizza, “...Maybe so.” He hummed to himself, “What would you say, Starry? Do you think I’m a good fit for being a Shadowbolt?”

“We’d have to see you in the field, the training field at least. Need to see that before we could judge anything.” She nodded thoughtfully, “I’m sure it’d be curious.”

“By curious, you mean I’d absolutely blow it, right?” Okay, now he was joking.

“No way to know until we see~” She sang, “After all, you’d never look at Blitz and assume she was an assassin, would you?”

“Soarin the assassin… That’d take some getting used to.” He chuckled. He didn't think he'd ever get used to it, honestly.

“All things do, dear cook.” Starry tittered, “But that’s life.”

“Would I get like, a disguise and a codename?” Soarin asked, adding the cheese.

“You’d get a flight suit and a nickname.” She shrugged, “Does that count?”

“Well, sorta.” He put the pizza in the oven, going over and sitting across from Starry. “...So, you’ve been here for awhile. Have any good stories to tell about being a Shadowbolt?” Not that it would help much in making up his mind. He had just been through Tartarus and back on one team. He didn't think anyone would blame him for hesitating with the idea of being on another.

“Do I ever.” She nodded eagerly, “But where to begin…” Starry hummed, rubbing her chin, “Perhaps I should start small. Not everything we do has the fate of Equestria hanging in the balance. Yeah, that’ll do. Okay, it started on a frigid winter night about three years ago…”

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