• Published 23rd Jul 2020
  • 1,869 Views, 30 Comments

Going out with a boom - Shaslan

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The second day

Rainbow heaved herself onwards, just one hoof at a time. She hurt everywhere. Usually her legs weren’t too bad, aside from the one hind leg she had fractured in a crash once. The pain was usually decent enough — or cruel enough, depending on how she viewed it — to confine itself to her wings. But today it was spreading all over.

She had been walking for hours, dragging herself laboriously over each hump of cloud as she crawled up its vast surface. The impact of her hooves was slight, but it had been enough to shake the rain loose out of the cloud, which had unleashed its considerable burden on whatever town had been unfortunate enough to be underneath it. Rainbow had been glad.The rain had meant more cover from the ground. Nopony would be able to see the small blue shape inching its way skywards, and that was just the way she wanted it.

She thought she might have stopped to sleep for a few hours, but she wasn’t sure. She kept slipping in and out of the present. It was too good a way to detract from the pain for her to bother resisting. She had been deliberately trying to prompt herself to think about the glory days, when the Element of Loyalty had made its home on her breast and shaped itself after her cutie mark. When she and her five friends had worked together to save Equestria, time after time, and nothing had been able to stand against them.

Ah, her friends. What would they all be doing right now? For the first time, Rainbow’s steady pace faltered. Rarity would probably just be going to bed, after having been up all night working on a new piece or attending some ball or other. Fluttershy would be getting up to sweep out her animal pens. Pinkie and Cheese Sandwich would be unshuttering the doors of Parties ‘R’ We, their joke shop and party emporium. And poor old Twilight would be attending some endless meeting on grain prices or something equally dull. Rainbow didn’t know how even Twilight, with her love of lists and filing and all things boring, could make it through all those royal duties. They would have driven her bananas years ago.

Rainbow sighed out a long breath. She had never really lied to any of them before. Or at least, not for a long time. Applejack had looked most disapprovingly on any white lies, and Rainbow had stopped being anything but transparent many years ago.

She’d told her colleagues at the Academy that she was visiting Sweet Apple Acres, and she’d told Sugar Belle she was visiting Twilight in Canterlot. She’d told Twilight she was visiting Rarity, and she had told Rarity she was going to be working at the Academy all weekend.

Hopefully it would take them all a few days to figure out the web of — not lies, per se, that felt like too strong a word — the web of mistruths. She hadn’t said anything at all to Pinkie Pie, for fear of activating some sort of Pinkie-sense that would thwart her grand plan. And Fluttershy was safe enough to be left out of it, of course; when she’d gotten sick, almost twenty years ago now, Discord had removed her, animal sanctuary, cottage and all, to the chaos dimension where his magic would be strong enough to sustain her indefinitely. They wrote letters, of course, but they only saw her once a year now, at a little party Twilight threw at the Crystal Castle, with catering by Pinkie and Lil Cheese. Regardless, Rainbow had never liked lying to Fluttershy. She didn’t deserve it, somehow. Not that anypony else did, either — it was just that Fluttershy deserved it even less.

She would miss Twilight’s next annual party. She winced at the thought of that. Twilight always threw it just after the Summer Sun Celebration. The Wonderbolts Academy and the School of Friendship both had their summer holidays around that time, so Rainbow usually had a few uninterrupted weeks to spend in Ponyville, staying with her family at the farm, and visiting Pinkie and Scootaloo whenever she could.

Rainbow breathed out again and began to walk once more. She had taken a looping path that circled around the gigantic cloud like a mountain track. The cloud was as responsive to her shaping as they all were, and over the course of her long night’s walk, it had taken on a taller and slenderer shape. Hopefully nothing unusual enough to excite the attention of any local weather patrols, though. Rainbow glanced down. The ground was miles beneath her now. She had made good progress, but she would have to stop to rest soon. Her hooves were growing even more shaky than usual, and the last thing she wanted was to fall off this thing and have to fly her way back up.

She thought once more of Scootaloo and chuffed air through her nostrils. Her friends would be heartbroken, and furious with her, but Rainbow felt confident that given time, they would come to understand. At least in a way. Even Zap Apple would probably get it. He knew she wasn’t happy. But Scoots…she was a different story.

It had been Scootaloo who had first come to rouse Rainbow from her darkened room, in those first black few days after Applejack left. She had thrown back the curtains, kicked the debris of food wrappers and cider bottles down the stairs, and dragged Rainbow Dash from her stained and soiled lair. Rainbow had protested, but Scootaloo had been implacable.

She had forced Rainbow to get up, get dressed, to clean her house, and go to work. She had come back, every morning, to do the same thing. Every day for four months. Rainbow had never said thank you, and Scootaloo had never seemed to expect it. She had just got on and done it.

“You’d do the same for me,” was all she’d ever said on the subject, after Rainbow, in a rare flash of anger, had demanded why Scootaloo wouldn’t just let her be.

Rainbow wasn’t altogether sure she would. Sure, maybe twenty or thirty years ago. But she was no longer the mare she had once been.

Nor was Scootaloo. Rainbow’s ‘little buddy’ had grown into a strong, powerful mare, a serious athlete with enough scooter-related titles and records of her own to rival even Rainbow’s collection.

Rainbow loved Scootaloo, admired her hugely, but Scootaloo just wasn’t like other ponies. She was tougher than anypony Rainbow had ever met. More than physical ability, the thing that Scootaloo was truly strong in was willpower. Scootaloo never gave up, she never even considered it. Time and again, Rainbow had seen Scootaloo’s dearest dreams be dashed to pieces on the rocks, and every time, Scootaloo had weathered the storm. When her parents abandoned her for the umpteenth time, when her wings failed, year after year, to develop past their stunted state, Rainbow had expected Scootaloo to collapse, but the disappointment just seemed to harden Scootaloo’s resolve even more. She used it to stoke herself up and drive her on.

And Rainbow…she just didn’t have that fire in her anymore, if indeed she ever had. Scoots had somehow managed to hang on to that childlike, rosy view of Rainbow Dash the heroic areonaut, but Rainbow knew better. She wasn’t what Scootaloo thought she was; heck, she wasn’t half the mare Scootaloo herself was.

An ache in Rainbow’s bad leg brought her back to the present once more. Funny how the mind wandered nowadays. Reluctantly, she hooked her forelegs over the next hump of cloud and hauled herself up.