• Published 29th Sep 2012
  • 4,021 Views, 94 Comments

Desert Storm - Some Person

Soarin' and Braeburn look for something different in their lives

  • ...

A Chance Encounter

“You should be lucky you’re hearing this from me, and not from Mrs. Stormbreak,” Spitfire said as she chastised her subordinate within the Wonderbolt’s break room. Soarin’, the room’s only other occupant, sat lazily in one of the blue-and-yellow colored, lightning-bolt patterned plush chairs along the indigo colored wall, which matched the practice uniforms they both wore. He halfheartedly paid attention to his captain’s diatribe as he stretched his goggles. “We’ve got two weeks before we perform in Trottingham, so we need to have this down. When we’re performing a move as complex as the Seismic Explosion, everypony needs to hit their mark on the dot.” She emphasized the end of her sentence with a brief clop on the checkerboard floor.

He let out a nonchalant sigh as he leaned himself backwards to rest against the wall. “I know, I know,” Soarin replied, “it’s the same old song and dance.”

“Which makes even less sense as to why you were nearly a second out of formation!” She began to glare at him, which went unnoticed by Soarin’s averted eyes. Spitfire paced around the room. “You need to understand, Soarin’, when you’re out of sync with the routine, ponies could get hurt. It’s a miracle that Rapidfire didn’t break both of his hind legs on the track today!”

Soarin’ sat up. “So I had an off day, it happens,” he shot back. “I don’t see why you’re getting pissy about this. It’s just practice, nothing more. We can still nail the routine in time, and even then, who’s going to know the difference? It’s not like the ponies out there need to know what’s going on behind closed doors.”

Spitfire quickly flicked her tail as she flattened her ears before letting out a groan. “What is with you, Soarin’? Those ponies are looking for a spectacular show, and we need to give them one.”

“And what if those stuffy Trottingham unicorns aren’t worth giving a show for?” Soarin’ countered, silencing the captain. “What if the ponies in that town are more concerned about one colt’s personal life than how well we do what we can do in our sleep?”

Sympathy quickly replaced anger on Spitfire’s face. “Did it happen again?”

He just looked away and gave a confirming snort.

“Soarin’... you know those are only rumors,” she cooed as she moved to sit next to her friend.

“Yeah, only rumors. Try telling that to the pair of colts I caught painting the words ‘stallion stuffer’ on my door this morning.” Soarin’ shook his head.

She sighed. “They don’t know any better. Besides, if they’re so easily led by baseless speculation, then those ponies aren’t worth your time.”

“Sure, it’s baseless,” Soarin’ replied as he gently rubbed his hooves. “Doesn’t mean ponies aren’t going to believe it."

Spitfire laid a hoof on her teammate’s shoulder. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Nah, it’s just stupidity. Nothing to get worked up over.”

“Well... if you need somepony to talk to. I’m always here.” She got up from her seat and walked to the door.

“Wait,” Soarin’ said. “There actually is something I’d like to talk about.” Spitfire stood attentively as he continued. “You know what the Wonderbolts need? We need something different. For the past five shows now, we’ve been going to these prim-and-proper cities to perform. It becomes a hassle to move anywhere within the city, to get a decent night’s rest, or even to have peace and quiet for five minutes. Then comes the day of the performance, and what do what we get in return? I’ll tell you what we get.

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing. We may put on our best performance yet, but the unicorns in the stands can’t begin to give a rat’s flank about us. We’re just a minor distraction in their eyes while those unicorns join their circle-jerks and see who knows who and who has the best hat. It’s insulting to see how obvious it is that we’re wasting our time!”

Spitfire shrugged. “That’s just how the game works sometimes, Soarin’.” In response to Soarin's agitated gaze, she said, “What are you getting at?”

“What I’m saying is what if I don’t want to play ‘the game’ anymore? What if...” He paused to groan and sink into his chair. “What if we do something... I don’t know, just a little bit different?”

Both ponies were lost in thought. “So what you’re saying,” Spitfire started, “is that we should go to a town where nopony knows who we are and perform there?”

After a moment’s thought, Soarin’ sat upright. “Yeah... yeah! That’s exactly what we need!”

She shook her head. “I think we’d have better luck finding a city where I don’t have horny bachelors hounding me after a show.”

“Oh come on!” Soarin’ whined. “There’s gotta be somewhere out there!”

Spitfire let the possibilities run through her head. Suddenly her eyes lit up. “Appleloosa!” she cried. “It’s far away from all of this city life, and the ponies there probably know close to nothing about us.”

Soarin’ raised both eyebrows. “Appleloosa? I-I’m not complaining or anything, it’s just a little surprising to think of a town like that.” He began to rub the back of his neck.

She also cocked an eyebrow. “I thought you’d be eager to jump onto any option, sounding as desperate as you were earlier.”

Soarin’s shoulders slumped. “I am, it’s just, ugh, do you have any other suggestions?”

“It’s either that or Vanhoover...”

He shuddered at the thought. And deal with all of that cold? No thanks. “On second thought, Appleloosa sounds great.”

“I’m glad you agree,” Spitfire responded with a slight bounce. “Now comes the hard part.”

Soarin’ was confused for only a moment. “Oh.”


The two Wonderbolts stood in front of their manager’s burgundy door, seemingly unnoticed in the stretched hallway where several other Wonderbolts, in and out of uniform, walked up and down the hall, engaged in conversation. Soarin’ gulped as he noted a spot in the middle of the door, slightly worn from the many pegasi before them who attempted to make a personal request. “Okay, so the plan is we go in there, we make our case, give her time to process the idea, and if she releases the kraken, we high-tail it out of there, right?”

Spitfire rolled her eyes. “It’s not going to be that bad, Soarin’.”

“You haven’t asked her for things before, you don’t know what she’s like,” he said with widened eyes. “Celestia forbid you ask her for a favor on a bad day...” His left eye twitched during an unsettling memory.

With a chuckle, the Wonderbolt captain added, “Well maybe I should say this is my idea.”

Soarin’ paused for a moment. “That’s probably a good idea.”

Without another word, she knocked on the door and both ponies waited. After a moment, she knocked again. “Mrs. Stormbreak?” No response. “Mrs. Stormbreak, are you in there?” Still nothing. “Guess we’ll have to come back another time.”

“That won’t be necessary, you two,” said a middle-aged voice to their right. The two pegasi looked to see their manager, Stormbreak, a dark grey pegasus, walk down the narrow hall. Her short, light orange mane and tail slightly bobbed with each step she took. “I trust there’s a good reason you’re both huddled outside of my office?”

Soarin’ quickly looked to his cohort, as if to say, I sense the kraken, tread carefully.

“Actually, there is,” Spitfire said. “I’d like to discuss a possible venue option for the near future.”

“And this is your idea?”

“Absolutely, ma’am.”

The manager shifted her gaze towards Soarin’, who seemed determined not to look into her yellow eyes. With a slight chuckle, she answered, “Alright, Spitfire, step into my office.” Stormbreak unlocked her door, allowing Spitfire access. Soarin’ took a couple of steps forward before being stopped by his manager. “So what brings you by my office, Soarin’? Is there something you need? After all, this is Spitfire’s idea, right?” she asked with a small smirk.

“Y-yeah, one hundred percent her idea. I’m just here for support,” he answered with a dodgy smile. The two ponies stared at each other for an uncomfortable moment.

“Then you wouldn’t mind supporting her out here, would you?” There was no further argument as she shut the door. Soarin’ patiently waited outside of the office as the minutes passed. His boredom eventually enticed him to start counting the feathers on both of his wings when the door opened again.

“Thank you very much, Mrs. Stormbreak!” Spitfire called behind her, perking Soarin’s attention forward. She confidently walked towards her teammate as she held a manilla envelope under her right wing. He waited in anticipation as Spitfire took a deep inhale and let it out, revealing an exhausted look. “You know that kraken you mentioned? I think I almost saw it,” she commented, her wings drooping as though she had flown a full show.

“I told you so. But did it go okay?” Soarin’ asked as he stood on antsy hooves.

“It took a bit of convincing, and a little negotiation, but we might be heading to Appleloosa!”

Soarin’ let out a small cheer as he flipped in the air. “This is great! We can finally get away from all of those unicorns and...” He paused as he noticed Spitfire’s hesitant look. “Wait... might? A little negotiation? What happened in there?”

“I was just about to get to that.” She looked away as she continued. “If we want to go to Appleloosa, the team needs a scout to act as an emissary of sorts.”

Soarin’s expression faltered. “That scout being...”


“Why me?”

Spitfire’s expression turned serious. “I’m not going to mince words, Soarin’. Mrs. Stormbreak isn’t pleased with how you’ve been performing lately. She told me that for the past five performances, you’ve been off in some form or fashion that ultimately affects the entire team. Truth be told, she’s considered cutting you from the Wonderbolts if you don’t shape up, and fast.” Soarin’ sat with his mouth slightly agape, lightly trembling as his captain’s words washed over him. She placed her hoof on his shoulder. “She’s giving you one more chance. You’ll being given one week of time off to explore Appleloosa and try to land an arrangement.”

“B-but... I, uh,” he stammered. “I have no experience making negotiations like this! What if I screw something up, and I’m cut because of it?”

She paused to present the envelope before Soarin’. “All you have to do is give whoever’s in charge this envelope. It’ll tell them exactly what they need to know and who to talk to. You don’t have to do a thing besides give this to them and leave. Though it probably couldn’t hurt to explain what the Wonderbolts are and why a show should take place over there.”

Soarin’ took the package in his wing and lightly jostled it. “Think of this as a little break. Whatever problems you’ve got going on, use this time to get them out of your system. I’m telling you this as both your captain and your friend.”

He sat silently. “I... I guess you’re right,” he reluctantly agreed. “Still, isn’t it a bit much to threaten me with being cut?”

Spitfire shrugged. “I guess she had to get your attention somehow.”

Soarin’ looked away. “Alright, I’ll do it. Maybe I really do need some R and R.”

“Good! First, you’re going to need this,” she mentioned, presenting a small, blue checkbook in her hoof.

He took the object, giving it a once over. “This is...”

“Your money for the trip. You have a limit of one hundred bits, anything extra comes out of your pay. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to have this on you at all times.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Now, if I were you, I’d get moving. She’s letting you off for only a week, so gather anything you think might be important. Once you step out the doors, your week begins,” she added with a supportive smile.

The information processed in the male pegasus’ mind for a brief moment. He started to smile. “A week, huh? Guess I’ll have to make the most of it. Thanks, Spitfire.” He gave his wings a quick few flaps and flew off to gather a few belongings. He skillfully dodged unsuspecting pegasi and various obstacles as he made his way to the locker room. As he set himself down, he thought to himself, There’s no real time to grab anything major here or at home. Just gotta get out of this uniform and—

“Surprise tackle!” a gruff voice suddenly shouted as Soarin’ laid his hoof on the door handle.

He didn’t react, he didn’t look toward the source of the voice, nor did he attempt to fly away, for he knew it was already too late. All Soarin’ could think was, Why?, as a burgundy-colored pegasus, slightly shorter than the light-blue colt, launched himself into his teammate’s side. The two ponies rolled on the floor until Soarin’ was uncomfortably pinned on the floor.

“Oh yeah!” the pony remarked, praising himself, “That’s one more for Rapidfire!” He took a moment to style his curly purple hair in the reflection of his teammate’s eyewear. “And damn do I look gorgeous while being the best.”

With a huff, Soarin’ replied, “C’mon man, I don’t have time for this. I have somewhere to go.”

“Dude, it’s no fun if I just get off. You gotta work for your goals, you know that!”

“I’m serious! Get off of me!”

Realizing his friend was indeed serious, Rapidfire blankly blinked his blue eyes and said, “Okay,” as he lifted himself off of his teammate.

Soarin’ loosened his back muscles and added, “You’re seriously going to break my back one of these days, man.”

With a brief laugh, Rapidfire mentioned, “Then you’d better start hitting the gym if a frail pony like you wants to stay the top colt in the ‘bolts.” Soarin’ didn’t respond as he went inside the locker room, concerning his teammate. “Something bugging you, dude? You usually have some crack you’ve saved to snap back at me, not these quiet horse apples. What’s up?”

As Soarin’ put a few vital belongings into his sports bag, he replied, “Stormbreak’s having me go out for a week.”

“For what, dude?”

He hesitated before answering. “She said I haven’t been at the top of my game, and—”

“That’s complete horse feathers, man!” Rapidfire interrupted. “So you haven’t been all there, it’s not like you can’t get your horse apples together in time for a show!”

“Hey, Rapidfire, relax. It’s okay,” Soarin’ insisted as he held up a hoof. “It’s not a complete loss. I’m instead going to be a scout negotiating for us to perform at a new venue.”

“Where at?”


Rapidfire uproariously laughed until he noticed Soarin’s serious expression. “Wait, for real? Why are we going to hick-country?”

Soarin’ looked over the few extra possessions he contemplated bringing. “It’ll be a nice change of scenery, man. I bet a lot of those ponies have never seen a real air show before! Just imagine the looks on their faces!” His brow slightly furrowed. “Besides, it’ll be better than having to entertain those Celestia-damned unicorns who think that they—”

“Okay, dude, you seriously have to stop whining so much about unicorns. It’s really getting annoying,” Rapidfire chastised.

“I... I know, and I’m sorry,” Soarin’ admitted.

“Why is it always unicorns, man?” his teammate asked. “You got a vendetta or some horse apples?”

“It’s a long story, and I don’t wanna talk about it.”

Rather than possibly antagonize his teammate, Rapidfire said, “Look, dude, it’s the past for a reason. You stay there too long and you’ll lose yourself. You’ve just gotta talk to somepony other than me when life starts to get you down. Besides, if this is something you’ve got against unicorns, you should know that not all of them are stuck-up pricks. Just like how not all pegasi are egotistical flankholes. I mean, sure, that describes me perfectly, no shame in admitting that, but not all pegasi are like me.”

Soarin’ slowly shut his locker door. “Yeah, maybe this trip will help me out somehow.” He fitted his gym bag onto his back and headed out, Rapidfire following close behind. “By the way, man... sorry about what happened at practice, I—”

Rapidfire blew a raspberry. “Dude, what did I just tell you about dwelling on the past? That’s water under the bridge,” he replied with a playful nudge to his teammate’s shoulder.

Soarin’ rubbed the affected area as he chuckled. “Alright, thanks. Anyhow, I oughta get going.”

“Take it easy, man. And bring me back some apples while you’re at it!”

“Please, you’d be lucky to get an apple core out of me when I’m through with the town.” They marched through the halls and towards the arena’s main lobby. He gave a quick wave before walking out the Wonderbolts’ entrance and taking to the sky. He breathed in the morning air as he flew through the cloud city. One week, huh? Better make the most of it. Oh, right, I should take a quick look around home.I might need something there. Soarin’ continued to fly over the cloud structures below until he finally arrived at a small apartment complex near the outskirts of Cloudsdale. He turned to his home and moved to open the door, but stopped. The graffiti from before was still present, freezing the colt in his tracks. He slowly shied away. You know... I don’t think I need anything here after all. As quickly as he arrived, Soarin’ lifted himself into the sky and flew towards his new destination.


Beads of sweat traveled down Braeburn’s forehead as he reared himself up to buck another apple tree in the arid fields of Appleloosa. He delivered a swift kick into the tree’s trunk, successfully removing eleven ripe apples that fell into an awaiting basket below. The light-gold colt momentarily lifted his brown cowboy hat to wipe the sweat from his brow and adjusted his brown vest before resuming his job.

As Braeburn moved onto the tree to his right, he heard a pony yell, “Braeburn!” He turned to see a brown earth pony who wore a white ten-gallon on his head trotting towards him. “What’re ya still doin’ out here?” Black Stone asked in his Appleloosan dialect.

“Oh, y’know, Black, doin’ what ah do best,” Braeburn answered, slightly out of breath. “Somethin’ wrong?”

His friend shook his head, his black mane swishing back and forth. “Didn’t ya hear boss call us in half ‘n hour ago?” Braeburn shook his head. The brown colt sighed as he gave Braeburn a concerned glance through his light-green eyes. “Boss told us that it’s gettin’ too damn hot out here ta work without riskin’ heat stroke. He gave us all the day off, sayin’ we got enough apples to get by fer a day.”

Braeburn gave a confused expression with his equally green eyes. “He said that?”

“Yep. Haven’t ya felt the heat... or noticed you’re the only pony out in the field?”

Braeburn took a look around the area. “Y’know, now that ya mention it, it did seem a lil’ strange.”

With a soft chuckle, Black Stone said, “C’mon, let’s go to The Salt Block.”

“But it’s only the afternoon.”

“Is there ever a time not meant fer some salt?” Both colts laughed as they walked away from the fields and over the dirt hills, heading towards the entrance to their town. Many earth ponies were seen moving in and out of the many shops lined up in two parallel rows. Near the middle of the long aisle of stores was an aged, wooden establishment adorned with a sign that had a painted-on salt shaker. Braeburn and Black Stone walked up the three small steps and through the saloon doors.

Nothing seemed different in the building: its wooden floor was still rickety and the wooden walls were still unpainted, a tan light filtered in through the windows on the first and second floor, and salt blocks and salt shakers decorated the wall behind the counter. They walked past a table where several cowponies were busy with a game of cards and sat in the middle of a row of booth seats, seated comfortably away from a brown earth pony who was at work on his fourth block of salt.

“This is new,” a lanky, grey earth pony with a curly black mustache and short black mane said from behind the counter. “I don’t usually see hide or tail of you two until the evenin’.”

“Howdy, Morton. Lookin’ sharp as always,” Braeburn commented upon noticing the stallion’s ensemble.

Morton Saltworthy seemed to instinctively flex his shoulders, as if to point out the features in his green dress shirt, black vest, and red necktie. He rested his forelegs on the table, donning a set of prim, white cuffs held together by golden cufflinks. The gaze in his blue eyes slightly hardened behind his monocle. “Don’t think flattery’s going to get you a discount this time, Brae. Will it be the usual, gentlecolts?”

“Yes sir,” Black Stone replied as he and Braeburn made themselves comfortable. The bartender eventually returned with two small dishes, each containing a block of salt, no bigger, taller, or wider than two inches. As Braeburn started to happily lick away, his friend spoke up. “So, Braeburn, this year’s harvest of apples sure looks nice, don’t it?”

“Sure does! We’ve been puttin’ a lotta hard work into it, after all.”

Black Stone licked his salt block several times. “Them buffalo will sure be lovin’ the pies this month, huh?”

Braeburn appeared to realize something before saying, “Ah bet. Jus’ like last month... and the month before that.”

“Ah hear we might make enough profits ta create a new spot o’ land across town.”

Braeburn hesitated before carrying on the conversation. “Yeah... ah remember that...”

Black Stone looked puzzled. “Y’alright? You usually brighten up when ah mention the apple fields.”

Braeburn stared at his salt. “Ah’m fine. It’s just... didn’t we talk ‘bout all this last week?”

He put a hoof to his chin. “Now that ya mention it...”

“It ain’t only that though. I just got to thinkin’.” Braeburn also rested his head on his hoof. “There ain’t much happenin’ ‘round these parts, are there?”

“Sometimes change isn’t best for all ponies,” Morton commented as he eavesdropped.

Braeburn now rested his head in both hooves. “Ah know, and don’t get me wrong, ah love everythin’ ‘bout this town. But is it wrong to want somethin’ unexpected? Just... somethin’ that’ll break the norm. Why can’t there be somethin’ different walkin’ in through the door?”

At that instant, he heard the saloon doors swing open, but didn’t turn around. The small conversations floating around the bar died down, and he heard Black Stone say, “Speak of the draconequus.”

Braeburn let his curiosity get the better of him as he looked to see what captivated his peers. In walked a blue pegasus, noticeably out of breath and glazed in sweat. He sat down two seats away from the two bar, taking an equally blue bag off of his back while paying no attention to the customers around him. “What can I do you for, stranger?” Morton asked with his usual friendliness.

The mysterious pegasus moved the dampened navy-blue strands of hair out of his eyes. “I’ve... I’ve been flying for a long time... pretty thirsty. Can I just get a glass of water?” he asked while placing two bits onto the counter.

The grey stallion pushed the money back towards his new customer. “Water’s free of charge in this bar.”

“Oh... I see,” the colt said with a smile. Soon enough, a tall mug of water was placed before the exhausted flyer. Without another word, he gripped the handle and drank until his glass was empty. He then placed the glass back on the counter as he let out a great exhale. “Thanks for that.”

The bartender replied, “I’ll get you another glass. You look positively parched.”

“Yeah, thanks. I just flew in, and my wings are tired.”

Braeburn lightly chuckled, attracting the pegasus’ attention. “Sorry, y’ just... nevermind.”

He turned away and took a controlled swig of water before setting the glass back on the countertop. Braeburn looked over this new pony, noting his features, including a cutie mark in the shape of a lightning bolt with a pair of wings. The pegasus sighed, a deadpan expression in his green eyes, before asking, “Can I help you with something?” with a slight tone of annoyance as he turned to face Braeburn.

“Oh, it’s nothin’,” he replied without missing a beat.

“If it’s nothing, then I’d appreciate it if you didn’t stare at me, okay?”

Braeburn silently nodded as he went back to licking his salt, allowing an awkward silence to set in. The cowpony cleared his throat. “So, stranger, what brings ya to town?”

The pegasus took a small sip of his water, merely glancing towards his interviewer. “I’m just here for... for business.”

“Ah see. So where ya from, stranger?”

“Cloudsdale,” he answered without even looking at Braeburn.

“Cloudsdale, huh? Ah hear it’s mighty nice this time a year. Hay, I hear it’s great all year round!” The pegasus stayed quiet, blankly staring at the wall before him while sloshing his water. Braeburn slowly looked away as both ponies stayed quiet. He felt a nudge in his side from Black Stone, who silently watched the scene unfold before him. “Ah’m sorry,” Braeburn said, “ah’m askin’ ya all these questions and ah don’t even know yer name. Whaddya call yerself, stranger? Ah’m Braeburn.” He held out his hoof towards the traveler.

The pegasus looked at Braeburn, staring blankly for a moment before turning his attention toward the extended hoof. He reluctantly reached his own hoof out to meet Braeburn’s. “Soarin’.” The flyer returned to paying attention to nothing, leaving Braeburn to reluctantly turn away. Guess he ain’t much a one fer talkin’. As both ponies began to finish their order, Soarin’ asked Morton, “Where’s the nearest hotel?”

“You’ll be looking for The Haystack Inn. It’s down the street and around the corner,” he answered.

“Thanks.” Soarin’ got out of his seat and walked out. Braeburn opened his mouth to say something to the passing colt, but the words were stuck in his throat. He stared as Soarin’ walked out of the building.

“Whaddya think brings a pegasus to Appleloosa?” Black said when normalcy returned to the bar. As the saloon doors swung shut, Braeburn took a look at his salt, then back to the doors. He rested his chin on a hoof as he stared at the floor. “Brae, y’alright?”

Suddenly, Braeburn laid four bits on the table as he stood up from his chair and said, “Ahm gonna hafta give ya a raincheck on this salt.”

“Yer leavin’? What’re ya gonna do?”

Braeburn looked to the door once more before turning back to his friend. “Somethin’ different.” He quickly headed outside.


Soarin’ deeply inhaled the town air as he walked towards his destination. A bit dry for my tastes, but this definitely beats any of those hoity-toity towns. A smile grew on his face.

“Hey, Soarin’, wait up!”

Only for it to dissipate as quickly as it arrived. Soarin turned around to face the approaching Braeburn. “You again. You sure you don’t need something?”

“Well, uh, not really,” he admitted, “but ah was just wonderin’... how long are ya stayin’ in town?”

Soarin’ hesitated before responding. “A week.”

“And how much money d’ya have fer all this time?”

His face scrunched up. “I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”

Braeburn took a slight step back. “Oh. Ah’m sorry. Y’see, ponies ‘round here are pretty open ‘bout most anythin’, so ah—”

“I’m not exactly a local,” Soarin’ deadpanned.

“Of course... of course.” Braeburn tried to hide his embarrassed expression with his hat, but to no avail.

Okay, maybe that was a bit too much. “Look, I know I’m being short with you,” the Wonderbolt apologized, “but I’ve been flying for quite some time, and I’d just like to get to a room so I can relax.”

“S’alright,” Braeburn replied. “Ah understand.”

“Okay. Now if you’ll excuse me,” Soarin’ walked off to—

“One more thing!”

He rolled his eyes. “Yes?” the pegasus called out from over his shoulder.

“Room n’ board are mighty expensive ‘round here,” Braeburn advised.

The thought ran through Soarin’s mind before quickly being tossed out. “I’m sure I can afford it.”

Braeburn watched Soarin’ walk a few steps away before adding, “Most places ‘round here charge ya thirty bits a night.”

Soarin’ stopped in his tracks and snapped around to give the informant an incredulous look. “Thirty?! That’s ridiculous! Why would anypony charge so much?”

“It’s because we don’t get many tourists, and a lot of them inn managers r’ lookin’ ta get every bit they can squeeze out of any travelers. Think ‘bout it. How far away is the nearest town from here?”

Soarin’ looked to sky. “About four or five hours, I think.”

“Exactly,” Braeburn explained, “that’s how they get their business.”

“Pretty shady business, if you ask me.”

“That’s not the only reason,” Braeburn explained. “It costs a lot to get food n’ drinks out here. Sure, we farm what we can, but not everypony is satisfied with home-grown cookin’. And it ain’t like yer not gettin’ yer money’s worth. Ya git some fine goods durin’ yer stay. Some pegasi have visited in the past and said the beds there feel better than a cloud! Real quality service over there.”

Soarin’ sat on his haunches. Thirty for a night? I can afford that for a couple of days, but then I’m digging into my own money for the rest of the week! Not only that, but I’ve still got to think of food and anything else I might need. I would never pay that much for a hotel, let alone a motel room... Is it worth it?

Braeburn shuffled his hooves. “If it saves ya time n’ money, you could come rest at my place.”

Hay yes it’s worth it. “I appreciate the offer,” Soarin’ said as he slowly inched away, “but I think I can manage. I’m just going to stick with that haystack place for now.”

Braeburn showed a flicker of disappointment before covering his expression with a smile. “Alright. Ah gitcha. But how ‘bout I give ya mah address in case ya change yer mind?”

Soarin’ stopped moving, now looking skeptical. “Why are you doing so much for me?”

Braeburn opened his mouth to answer, but the words were stuck in his throat. He looked away before saying, “Ah don’t know... ah guess ah just want ya t’ feel welcome here.”

Soarin’ eased some tension out of his shoulders, genuinely shocked at how far this local was willing to go to make sure he felt at home. Maybe if I take it, this Braeburn will get off my back. “Well, alright. I don’t see why not.”

“Great!” Braeburn replied happily. “Ah’ll write it down fer ya. Aw shoot, ah don’t have any paper on me. Gimme a sec!” He ran back to The Salt Block. Soarin’ immediately turned around and walked to The Haystack Inn. “Soarin’ wait!” he heard from behind. He quietly groaned as he faced Braeburn again. “It really ain’t gonna be long, honest. Besides, I forgot ta ask ya if ya had a pen or pencil.”

Soarin’ nearly motioned to his bag, but decided against it. “No, I don’t think I brought one with me.”

“That’s a shame. Oh well, ah’m sure somepony at the bar will have one. Be right back.” Braeburn took two steps before turning back to the Wonderbolt. “Will ya wait here fer me?”

Soarin’ rubbed a foreleg before responding. “Yeah, I’ll wait here.”

Wasting no time, Braeburn returned to the bar, leaving Soarin’ to patiently wait in the shady area of a building on the far opposite side of the bar. I’ll wait here? Why am I even doing this? He let out a sigh. Maybe if I let him think he’s helping, he’ll get off my back. He briefly studied what could loosely be called the city life that kicked up dust as it passed before him, noting how each citizen in town seemed to wear a hat, most commonly either a form of stetson or a coif. Some ponies danced intensely in the direct sunlight while others pulled carriages around the town. These ponies sure enjoy being stuck in yestercentury.

In no time, Braeburn finally returned with a piece of paper in his mouth. “Sorry ‘bout the wait,” he apologized as the pegasus accepted the paper and placed it into his bag. “Took me longer than it should’ve ta find a pen.”

With that matter settled, Braeburn headed back to his saloon and Soarin’ walked around the street corner to his destination. The Haystack Inn was a modest looking building: it was three stories tall with a coat of dark-red paint on its wooden exterior. The only obvious indication that this was the right place was the picture of a pile of hay on a sign outside. With all these pictures for signs, makes ya wonder if the ponies in this town can read.

He stepped inside and was hit with the same musty smell he encountered at the saloon. However, the first room was borderline elegance when compared to the rest of the town. The floor seemed recently polished, and smooth piano music played from a record player in the far left corner of the room. A few chairs and tables were arranged into a breakfast nook to his right, where one unicorn was busy reading a book. Directly in front of Soarin’ was a slightly-pudgy green earth pony with red hair who was busy sorting through paperwork as she sat behind a desk. She glanced up to see the Wonderbolt approach, immediately setting her work aside to put on a warm smile. “Welcome ta The Haystack Inn, darlin’. Ah’m Miracle Fix, what’s yer name?”


How can ah help ya, Mr. Soarin’?”

“I’d like to check into a room for a bit, please.” He replied as he removed his bag and pulled out his wallet and temporary checkbook.

“May ah please see some identification?” the receptionist asked as she opened a red leather book sitting on the counter to the current date. Soarin’ opened his wallet to show a Cloudsdale license inside. “Please sign yer name here,” she said while tapping the next empty box in her book. “N’ how long will you be stayin’ with us, Mr. Soarin’?”

“Probably a week, maybe less time than that. I’m not too sure.”

“A night’s stay is twenty five bits,” she explained. “Deadline to check out is eleven in the mornin’ every day, otherwise the next day’s stay will be billed at that time. You’ll find an information book ‘bout activities ta do ‘round town in the night-desk in yer room. D’ya have any other questions, sir?”

He shook his head. “No, I think I’ll be fine.”

“As of this moment, ah’ll need the first night’s pay.”

“Do you take checks?”

She cocked her head to the side. “Checks?”

Soarin’ stared at her for a good few seconds. “Yes... checks. You know, like these,” he mentioned, pushing his checkbook forward.

Miracle gave him a sympathetic look. “You haven’t been ta Appleloosa before, have ya?”


She sighed. “Ah hate ta be the bearer of bad news, darlin’, but stores in Appleloosa only take cash. We have no means ta accept credit ‘round these parts.”

Soarin’ slowly sat onto his haunches, staring in awe at Miracle Fix. “So... so what you’re trying to tell me,” he began, “is that even though I have plenty of money to my name, I can’t use one bit of it anywhere in this town?!”

“Ah’m sorry, dear.”

Soarin’ stepped away from the counter, turning around as he let out a frustrated huff. “Oh, thank you so much, Mrs. Stormbreak. Not only will you threaten me with being kicked out of the team, but you’ll also send me to a town that’s cash only? This is just perfect. I just can’t thank you enough for this, ma’am!”

As Soarin’ continued venting into nothing, the mare behind the counter looked over the checkbook, then back to him. This happened a few more times until her eyes lit up. “Oh, d-don’t worry, darlin’,” she stammered. “Ah think we can arrange fer ya ta pay when ya leave our establishment.”

He quickly turned around. “Come again?”

“Believe me, yer not the first pony ta come ta town unaware of our economic policies. Ah know a trustworthy customer when ah see ‘em, yes ah do. There’s a bank not far from here, so you can talk to whoever ya need to ta get yer money.” She gave a wink, which set Soarin’ at ease. She turned to the wall behind her and took a keyring off the wall. “Yer room is room 12. Just head up the stairs and it’ll be the room at the end of the hall.”

When Soarin’ finished his internal celebration, he said, “Thank you,” as he grabbed his bag in his mouth and walked away.

“Enjoy yer stay in Appleloosa!” the receptionist called as he went out of sight. Not long after this encounter, a delightful grin broke onto the earth pony’s face as she frantically started to write a letter.

It didn’t take Soarin’ long to finally reach his room, choosing to fly to the end of the second floor. He fumbled with the keys for a moment before unlocking his door and stepping inside. Soarin’ was first met with an unexpected green carpet floor. Next he laid eyes on a single bed in the back right corner. Between it and the wall was a wooden night table with a candlestick, supplied with an unused candle in it. Soarin’ took a quick look around his room, noticing it even had a bathroom, a food pantry, a small table to eat, and a stove-top supplied with its own pots and pans. Man, you really do get your money’s worth in a place like this.

He tossed his bag to the floor, noticing a piece of paper fall out of the opening. That’s right. He picked up the paper and read its contents, becoming slightly shocked. “He actually wrote down his address... that’s kinda stupid.” He crumpled up the paper and tossed it into his trash bin. “Honestly, what if I was a thief?” He chuckled as he began to impersonate the cowpony. “Howdy mister, ah don’t know y’all, but imma give ya my address. Hay, you can come on down any time ya like. Ahll even leave the door open for ya. Don’t steal everythin’ of mine now!” He laughed momentarily before calming down. “Sorry, Braeburn, but I don’t think we’ll be meeting again any time soon.”

His attention was drawn towards his luggage. “I’ll get to that later,” he commented as he turned to his bed and gently set himself into it, immediately noticing the comfort it brought. “Wow”, he said to himself with a relieved expression. “This bed really is comfy. It really does... feel like a... a cloud...” The trek from Cloudsdale finally took its toll as Soarin’s eyes slowly clamped shut, allowing him to fall into a much-needed rest.