• Published 15th Dec 2011
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Wild Sky Yonder - Mysecsha

Basic training turns into a harrowing adventure for Spitfire and Soarin'.

  • ...

Chapter 01: Uphill

Wild Sky Yonder

By Mysecsha

Chapter 1: Uphill

Spitfire tumbled through the sky, wings flared out, scrambling to find purchase in the air and stabilize herself. She was in a bad way. She could feel burns and cuts across her back and there was a wrongness to her wing strokes that probably meant she was down a few primary flight feathers. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she might be missing some of her left ear. She tucked her right wing in, letting the drag spin her around to face her attacker.

The thing that was chasing her let out an angry squawk. It was a giant bird of some kind - a white raptor with a wingspan thrice her own and talons that cracked and blazed with tiny lightning bolts. Whatever it was, it wasn’t letting up: it tucked its wings and dove at her. She twisted herself around, narrowly avoiding its talons. Spinning, she snapped a kick at its midsection as it passed, whipped her head back around and snagged several of its tail feathers in her teeth. She spread her wings wide to brake herself, and the force of the bird’s dive pulled the feathers free with a satisfying rip. The bird screamed and flailed, disoriented by the pain and by the sudden loss of balance. As it struggled to regain control, Spitfire looked past it and made a grim discovery.

The treetops were too close. With her feathers in their current state, she didn’t even know if she could still fly -- and the trees weren’t going to give her long enough to find out. She beat her wings in a frantic attempt to slow her fall, curled her legs up under her body and squeezed her eyes shut. The sudden feeling of ice in her belly told her that she was going too fast; there would be no walking away from this one. She heard a sickening crunch and a pained cry as the bird-thing struck a tree. Tears filled her eyes.

Harmony console me, and receive me unto Thy care, in the name of the Sun and of the Moon and of your Eternal Servant, Celestia.

A voice startled Spitfire out of her silent prayer, cutting through the wind whipping by her ears.

“No! Wings in! I need you to pull them in so I can catch you!”

Her eyes snapped open. She folded her wings in close and craned her neck to look for the source of the mysterious voice. Another pegasus was just behind her, but with the sun in her eyes, Spitfire couldn’t make out any details. Within seconds the mystery pegasus had caught up with her. Four legs wrapped around her flanks and two powerful wings beat furiously. Their descent slowed. They began to pull out of the dive. For a moment it even seemed that they’d make it.

It was almost enough, but in the end they had simply run out of altitude. They crashed into the treetops, punching a ragged hole in the evergreen canopy. Spitfire took a pine bough in the chest and was torn from the embrace of her rescuer. She tried to tuck and roll and hit the ground on her back, protecting her feet and belly. She hit her head on a tree trunk and everything went black.

Spitfire lay on the forest floor, slipping in and out of consciousness. She saw a big white blot struggling to stand. she saw two other blots join it; one black, one red. They were upside down, standing on the ceiling. She giggled. They were talking, but she could only make out bits and pieces of it.

“---n’, what were you thin---”

“---led pulling a stunt like th---”

“---d’ve hit the ground ten ti---”

“---ying the hero? Are you al---”

“---d me, is she al---”

“---ack to base?”

It was getting harder and harder to listen to them. She was so tired. Spitfire felt herself floating gently through the air, the way it felt to nap on a fluffy white cloud on a breezy fall afternoon. She nuzzled the soft cloud and let it take her up and away.


Spitfire awoke face down on a bed in a dimly lit room. She tried to sit up but some sort of... something was holding her down. She grew frantic and struggled against her bonds.

“None of that, now. You’re going to need to keep those wings immobilized for at least a few more days while the grafts take.” An older stallion with a light tan coat and an IPSaR uniform came into her field of view. There was a glimmer of good cheer in his eyes and he wore a reassuring smile. “I know it’s bothersome but really, the more you struggle the longer you’ll be grounded. Be a good recruit and follow doctor’s orders.” The stallion, whoever he was, picked up a pen in his mouth and began taking notes.

Recruit? “Then I made it to Camp Solar?”

He raised his eyebrows and grunted, but said nothing.

“Who are you?”

No response.

“Who brought me here?”

No response.


He very calmly and meticulously closed her chart and replaced the pen, then fixed her with a disapproving stare. “Hmm, well before we address that issue I think I’d better ask a few standard questions just to make sure you’re all right.” The officer walked over to the window and drew back the curtain, gentle morning sunlight filled the room. “We’ll have to start at the beginning, I’m afraid. Can you tell me your name?

She groaned. It hurt to talk, it hurt to breathe, it hurt to think, too. And this uniformed ass wasn’t telling her anything. “Spitfire.”



“You’re a long way from Cloudsdale, Miss Spitfire. What brings you all the way out here?”

She gritted her teeth. “I don’t know. Maybe you ought to tell me where ‘here’ is.” She knew she was probably mouthing off at a superior officer. A tiny part of her knew it was a terrible idea but dammit, it hurt to be. She could be forgiven for losing her cool.

The stallion sighed, exasperated. “You have indeed reached Camp Solar, I’d have thought that much was obvious. Would you be so kind as to answer the question, so I can figure out if you’re brain-damaged or just rude?”

“I’m here to join the Corps, sir.”

“Indeed. I’m Captain Firelight -- or Doctor Firelight, if you prefer. I’d welcome you to the Corps but I suspect Captain Aurora will wish to do so personally. She’s giving the rest of your cohort the old tough mare act right now: ’Welcome to SAR, your flanks belong to me now, watch me be gruff and intimidating and say things that’ll terrify you so you know that you’re not in Junior Flight Camp anymore,’ that kind of thing. It’s an Induction Day tradition, she really gets a kick out of it. Especially since most of the recruits have spent the last few days playing grab-flank and cavorting around at the Corps’ expense.”

Spitfire groaned. “I’m missing the first day of basic training? I thought that wasn’t until tomorrow.”

”And just what day is today, little lady?”


“Hmm. Monday, actually. Still, seems you’re thinking clearly enough overall. You’ve been out for about eighteen hours. Based on the somewhat scattered and excited reports I got from your flight team, it seems you had a bit of a tussle with a thunderbird yesterday. You were extraordinarily lucky that they arrived when they did -- that anyone found you was miraculous, that it would be the other cadets assigned to your flight team simply beggars belief. They carried you here, I found your orders in your satchel - technically you reported for training on time. Unfit for duty, but on time nonetheless. Latecomers get turned away, you know, so you really should thank them when you get a chance. Particularly your wingmate; Cadet Soarin’ all but refused to leave your side yesterday, and had to be ordered back to quarters.” Firelight turned, looked at the clock and sighed. “Cadet Spitfire, I’m glad that you’re awake and I’m delighted that you’re not a vegetable but I do have other duties to perform. One of the corpsmen will be along presently to fit you with a smaller, portable wing restraint. I’ll see to it he brings you a meal and I’ll summon a sergeant to see you to your quarters. should you need anything else there is a bell on the night stand. And do remember that the more you move your wings the longer you’ll be grounded.” With that he hurried out of the room.

“Thank you-”

The door slammed shut



Spitfire was left alone with her thoughts. She wished they’d leave her be. Every time she let her mind wander, she heard her uncle’s voice. His hateful, drunken, slurred voice, saying, “Yer parents’d be ‘shamed, they could see you now. That there on yer rump, it’sh no cutie mark, thems’ for talents: thingsh that adds beauty to the world. Fightin’ ain’t no special talent. Fightin’s an ugly thing t’be good at, so that there’s an ugly mark. Oughta honor the memory of my dear sweet sister ‘n’ cut it offa ya.” She’d left that very instant, gathered up every bit she could sneak off with, spent the night on a lone cloud above town and gone to the recruiting station first thing in the morning.

An orderly arrived with her breakfast and what looked like some sort of bizarre bondage harness. The scent of food highlighted the fact that she hadn’t eaten in more than a day and she fell on the food ravenously, pausing only occasionally to wince or cry out while the medic got her strapped into the restraints. By the end of it her wings hurt so much she could hardly think straight. After a time -- could have been five minutes, could have been an hour, it was hard to tell -- another stallion appeared. This one was charcoal-gray with a white mane, a uniform that identified him as Sergeant Thunderhead, and a smile that identified him as way too friendly to be a sergeant. He was also carrying her satchel.

“Cadet Spitfire! Welcome to the Corps! Ready to show us what you’re made of, soldier?”

Spitfire shrugged, drawing attention to the ridiculous contraption holding her wings up. “Absolutely, sir! Right now I’m made of bruises and pain and I’m wearing some kind of fetish torture suit! Hopefully I’ll be made of something more impressive by next week. Doctor Captain Firelight told me that Captain Aurora would want to see me?”

Thunderhead grinned conspiratorially. “Oh she’s busy leading your classmates on a wild goose chase -- I mean ‘training maneuvers.’ I just pulled the Unlucky Sergeant statue out of storage -- seems there’s a cockatrice on the loose, and it’s gone and turned me to stone!”

Spitfire managed a look of mock alarm. “Oh my heavens! How terrible!” They both laughed, though Spitfire cut off quickly. “Oh Harmony it hurts to laugh. Please, sir, no more funny.”

“Oh, fine. Up with you, then. It’s time we re-settled you into the dorms”

She crawled off the bed and limped to the door. She summoned up her best have-pity look. “Please, go slow.”

Thunderhead laughed. “Don’t worry kiddo, we’ll get you there in one piece.” His voice became stern, “By the way, kid, I heard you having it out with Firelight. I like your spirit: not many raw recruits have the guts to go hoof to hoof with their officers, but the ones who do need to learn when they can’t. When we’re on duty I’m your superior, not your friend. Give me any lip when I’m giving orders and you will find yourself on the long road home. And I’m miles more lenient than the likes of Firelight. Got it?”

Spitfire hung her head. “Sorry sir.”

He grinned and pitched his voice up in a passable imitation of the doctor. “Cadet Spitfire, even a lack-wit like you should recognize that your response is insufficient to the question.” She grinned back.

“Sir yes sir! I got it sir! Absolutely sir!”



It took nearly twenty minutes for the two of them to exit the infirmary - each step on the three flights of stairs had been an ordeal, but by the end of it she’d become accustomed to the aches, and figured out how to work around the pain. They crossed a green parade ground, hemmed in by ancient military buildings. Beyond them, snow-capped mountains dominated the skyline.

“All right, listen up; this is the condensed version of the welcome speech. Welcome to Camp Solar, welcome to the Corps. Contrary to what you’ve heard, we don’t have delusions that we’re soldiers from the bad old days. This is good for you, because if it was the old days we’d push you ten times as hard and break you inside of a week. Good for me, too: the ancient Corps was a mares-only outfit. But just because we’re Search/Rescue now and not Strike/Recon doesn’t mean you don’t need to learn discipline, so get used to the idea following orders immediately and without question.”

“This base is enormous. It’s a relic from another era when the Corps was a fighting machine ten-thousand strong. All but four of the buildings are off-limits to you: the dormitory, the mess, the infirmary, and the armory.” He pointed them out to her in turn. “Going anywhere else on base, except under orders, is a great way to wash out of IPSaR. Other fun ways to wash out include leaving the base, disobeying a direct order, being miserably incompetent at any one of the four prime disciplines, and getting caught rutting a squadmate. There’ll be plenty of time for your love life after training.” He glanced over and saw that she was blushing fiercely. A wicked smile appeared on his face. “Of course, that last one’s probably the most fun, so if you decide you’ve had it with the Corps and want out, grab somepony to your liking and go for it. Preferably right here on the parade grounds. At noon.”

She didn’t know what to say to that. Her mouth hung open in mortified disbelief. He laughed. “Lesson one: I’m never going to let you stay safe and cozy inside your comfort zone. We’ll be teaching you to get past your personal hang-ups, and weeding out the ones who can’t. You’re already doing a great job overcoming pain, and you held your ground against a thunderbird -- and with Firelight -- so I doubt we have to worry about fear. But there are other distractions. You can’t afford to let any of them get you. More importantly, the people you’re going to be searching for and/or rescuing can’t afford it.”

She shot him a dubious look.

He sighed. “Let me tell you a story, kid. My first rescue, somepony fell into an open vat at a waste-processing center. I had to swim in a tub of fermenting manure to pull her out. It remains the worst thing I’ve ever had to do, but do you know what would have been worse?” He looked her in the eye. She shook her head. “Telling her family that mama drowned in shit because her situation was too icky for me.”

“Y-- yes sir.”

Thunderhead led her into the dormitory. “Anypony give you your squad assignment yet?”

She shook her head. “You’re the second person I’ve spoken too, and Captain Doctor Firelight didn’t tell me.”

“Right. You’re assigned to Northwing Squadron. Because we’re so very creative here, that means your room is in the north wing of the dormitory. You’re Northwing Seven, which means you’ll be in room N2-2 along with Eight. It also means you should be prepared to answer to ‘Seven.’ Chances are good you’ll be called by a nickname or by your number more often than your name. It’s kind of a Corps tradition.” He slowly led her up a flight of stairs to her door and deposited her satchel on the floor. “Five and Six are next door in 2-1, they make up the rest of B Flight. Technically you’ve already met, but you were taking a little nap at the time. Get to know them. Trust them and make sure they can trust you. Tightly knit teams of four are the core of the Corps.”

She ignored the rapid-fire rhyme. “So Eight is my wingmate? Firelight said her name was... Soarin’?”

Thunderhead’s lip twitched, like he was trying to hide a grin. “That’s right.”

“Do you know her?”

“Pretty well, yeah.”

“Is she nice?”

Now he was clearly trying not to laugh. “Oh yeah, she’s a real sweetheart. I’ll see to it that your friends know you’re here. They’ll be along shortly.” The sergeant retreated. She heard him laughing in the stairwell. What did that mean? Maybe Soarin’ was a real bitch. That’d be just her luck.


Spitfire busied herself unpacking and arranging her things, then re-arranging them. Then un-re-arranging them. Anything to keep her too busy to think about home or worry about meeting the rest of B Flight. There wasn’t much. Three new cadet uniforms that had been waiting for her on the bed. She unfolded one to have a look. It was beige with red trim, festooned with pockets, and marked with a big red 7 on the flanks. She’d have to do without these for a while, there was no way to get one on around her restraint. There were goggles to go with the uniform, a small coin purse with about a dozen bits left in it, a few little snacks left over from her travel provisions, a journal she’d kept for as long as she could write.

The last item gave her pause: an ornate canteen with a compass set into the lid. She smiled sadly as she remembered that last birthday when her father had still been around. Opening her presents, hearing Dad say “I can’t say I understand why you like traipsing about on hoof in the forest so much, but it seems to make you happy. Please keep that with you so I’ll know you’re not lost... or thirsty.” A tear fell from her eye as she savored the memory of that last hug, of his deep, musical laugh. She set the canteen in a place of honor on the little desk and for the first time caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She winced.

Have to face myself sooner or later.

The reflection that greeted her was every bit as ugly as the picture painted by her uncle’s tirades. Her wings were a riot of color. A full eight or nine of her primary flight feathers had been replaced with mismatched donors, these were the grafts Firelight had mentioned. She’d been expecting that: even before her tumble through the trees that damned bird had damaged a few of them. Young pegasi molted often, and her wings would be yellow and whole again within three months -- less than half that time with some magical help -- but in the meantime she’d have to be careful. Grafts weren’t quite as durable as her own feathers would be.

There was a cut under one eye, and the medical staff had shaved a small patch of her coat to stitch it shut. She saw several similar bare patches on her flanks. That same eye was bruised and blackened, and the white was blotched with red. Her left ear had been split, and it too was shorn and sewn up. Her forelegs were a mass of bruises from her withers to her fetlocks. Under the wing restraints, a long white bandage ran the entire length of her back. She looked like death warmed over.

She tried to keep her spirits up by counting the positives. Both eyes still work. I still have all of my teeth. I don’t have any broken bones or split hooves. I thought I’d be missing an ear. It hurts bad and it looks bad, but I’m in much better shape than I had any right to expect. The captain had been telling the truth: she was lucky. None of the damage would hold her back for long, and she already had proof that her flightmates would put themselves in harm’s way for her sake. She sighed and smiled at the mare in the mirror. She had really done it. She’d gotten away from Cloudsdale, flown hundreds of miles across a hostile unbound forest, gotten into and out of trouble a dozen times along the way. And she’d made it -- with a little help from three friends she didn’t even know she had. Things weren’t really so bad, and they had to go uphill from here.

...Didn’t they?