• Published 30th Dec 2011
  • 7,131 Views, 155 Comments

Higher Flier: Mach Two - AdmiralTigerclaw

  • ...
13
 155
 7,131

Act One: From Stalliongrad With Love

" Don't worry, is all part of plan. We are professionals. Hey! Get that out of your mouth! "
- Dr. Jumba Jookiba, Lilo & Stitch


“I can’t believe you guys!”

Rainbow Dash slammed into a cloud bank at high speed, scattering it as she went. From there, she careened at an oblique angle towards a blinding sheet of falling snow as the wind sent icy chills right up her spine. The azure pegasus looped a sharp turn around the highest spire of Canterlot Castle before rocketing upward to punch a hole in the cloud above it. A half-a-dozen other pegasi followed in her wake, panting hard as they tried to keep pace with the clouds that needed corralling as they went.

“Look at this mess!” she continued to shout. “You should have had this storm cleared away half an hour ago! The dawn schedule for this place was clear skies by seven-O-clock! Not seven-fifteen. Not seven-o-two... SEVEN, on the dot! Princess Celestia had a photo over flight planned for this morning, and if the pony taking it is who I think it is you’ve already botched it up by being so SLOW! Never have I ever seen the weather this far out of control! Has working Canterlot made you LAZY?”

Dash was furious. After a long hard night of partying and general merry-making, she had been woken up by Twilight in a near panic over something about the weather.

As it turned out, the pegasus team on duty had not managed to clear the storm at all. It wasn’t the fact that she had to come out in the cold and work on what was supposed to be a day off that bothered her. It wasn’t even the short notice that sent pangs of fury bristling through every fiber of her being. She could handle having to lend a helping hoof if it was needed.

Rather, it was the fact that despite having a six-pony weather team scheduled exclusively to deal with Canterlot ALONE, it seemed like they hadn’t made any progress. In fact, it was more like they were moving BACKWARDS. Above them, the weather seemed to put an emphasis on the point as the hole she’d just punched through the clouds started to close up. Never, NEVER would Ponyville have been allowed to deteriorate to this level. Not even Winter Wrap Up had ever been this much of a mess.

“Let’s go!” she yelled over her shoulder. “Pick up the pace!”

“It’s COLD!” one of the pegasi trying to keep up panted.

“You think I’m not cold?” Dash snarled back. “I had to get out of a nice warm bed at the castle and come out here in this blizzard to help you! Now hurry it up! The faster you move, the warmer you’ll be! Snap to it!”

Dash turned her attention back to a winter storm that was determined to fight back, mind simmering over the thought of whichever genius had the bright idea to schedule a bunch of lightweights like this to handle a weather configuration meant for veteran teams. This storm cell should have been isolated, broken down into localized chunks, and made ready to dissipate hours ago. Instead it had been allowed to gain momentum and develop into quite the formidable force of nature. One she wasn’t exactly experienced in handling, not that she would tell a bunch of rookies that. But if the conditions got any worse, she’d have to use her authority as the most senior weather pegasus out here in this mess and declare it Wild. At which point maybe Celestia could just give it a good clearing zap.

“Ma’am!” One of the newbies called.

“No excuses!” Dash snapped over her shoulder. “Either keep up, or quit!”

“Not that ma’am!” he shouted and then pointed with a hoof. “Look!”

Dash followed the rookie’s outstretched hoof towards a bank of cloud that was glowing orange from the inside. It was a little hard to see through the sheets of blowing snow, but it was definitely not rare, but amazing winter lightning. It was the wrong color for that.

“Meteor?!” One of the pegasi following her asked with a shout.

“Too slow!” Dash called back.

Whatever it was, it was on fire. That much was obvious when it finally broke the lower surface of the cloud, flames and smoke trailing it as it fell.

“Stay in formation and keep Canterlot in sight!” Dash called back. Then she broke away from the group, ripping forward in a Technicolor blur. The distance was easily covered as she forced her way through the ferocious winds.

As she got closer, she realized the shape at the center of the blazing ball of fire looked, rather like a pegasus.

Then it clicked.

It WAS a pegasus, on FIRE!

“Oh my-“ she began in a shocked tone. What to do, what to DO! Catch a falling, burning pegasus? That’s… that’s crazy talk! But she couldn’t just let whoever that was smack into the mountainside! That would be like… so uncool. Steeling herself for the insane, Rainbow Dash mentally prepared a maneuver that would allow her to catch the victim, and then take them both into the nearest snow bank as fast as possible without dashing their insides (Rainbow grimaced at the unintended pun) all over the cliff faces. It would probably hurt, but there was no time for anything less risky.

“HANG ON!” she shouted, ripping into a dive. All she needed was a good path, a nice bank of snow, and a good lead on the-

“NO!” the fireball suddenly screamed at her. “STAY OUT OF WAY!”

“What?!” Dash screeched to a halt in mid air.

“DO NOT GET IN WAY!” the fireball screamed once more. “MOVE IT PUNY PONY!”

“Puny?” Dash blinked for all of a second.

“MOVE!” the flaming equine snarled again. “MOVE NOW!”

Dash spun and dove sideways just in time for the burning pegasus to zip past her, blinding her for a moment with his trail of smoke and flame. After coughing to clear her nostrils of the acrid smell of burning feathers, she watched in muted horror as the fireball made a screaming bee-line for the currently impassible roadway below.

For ten helpless seconds, she sat there in shock until with a loud ‘thoomp’ sound the fireball struck the mountainside, kicking up a blast of ice, steam, and smoke in its wake. Dash continued to stare for several more seconds after impact, just watching the cloud expand until the wind caught it and whipped it away before she finally began to react to what happened.

“Oh… my… gosh…” she began. “Oh, my…. gosh… Oh, my, gosh...”

Dash started to drift toward the crash site.

“Oh my gosh… oh my gosh. Oh-my-gosh. Oh-my-gosh…”

In a blur, she shot forward, racing down where the snow was whipped up by the wind into a nearly blinding wall of white death, already starting to cover up any evidence that a pony had come down there at all.

“OhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygosh!” she panted in near panic as she started scrabbling at the snow.

“Please be alive,” she dug at the snow bank forming around her. “Please don’t be dead!”

The wind immediately buried her attempt to dig, causing the pegasus to silently curse the fact that the team on duty was inexperienced. A veteran team would have had this storm cleared already. A veteran weather team would already be down here helping her dig this guy up!

Another blast of wind dumped more powder over the hole she was trying to dig. Dash felt a twinge of desperation as she attacked it again. But every time she did so, the wind just covered it back up.

“Hello?” she began, fear starting to creep up on her. “Are you here?”

Hope was already starting to fade. The snow looked all the same now, and if she risked leaving for even a few seconds, she’d lose the spot.

“HELLO!?” she began louder. “Can you hear me?”

No answer aside from the howling wind.

“More importantly…” the desperation and frustration in her voice started to climb. “Are you ALIVE?”

Rainbow Dash silently kicked herself.

“Should’ve asked that first…”

Still no answer.

Rainbow dash glanced around. Everything looked the same now. She wasn’t even sure if this was where he had hit the ground. In minutes it would be too late to find this pegasus and it would be all over for him.

One more try and then she’d tornado this place if she had to. Nopony was going to freeze to death on her watch.

“CAN YOU HEAR M-“ she began. Then suddenly she found herself being thrown backwards as something rose right up under her hooves.

A moment later the head of a stallion popped up through the snow.

“HAHA!” he shouted as if he’d just won a race. “I am ALIVE AGAIN!”

Rainbow Dash quickly scrambled up, lest the next gust of wind bury her in a drift.

“Are,” she began, panting. “Are you okay?”

The stallion looked at her as he started pulling himself out of the snow. There appeared to be some kind of small contraption wrapped around his head, though it seemed like it had melted or burned.

“I am fine puny pony!” he replied, reaching up and wiping his face. Then he stopped, grabbing the strange, half-melted device off his head and examined it with a frown. “This however, not so much.”

“A-are you sure?” Dash asked, hesitating again at the word ‘puny’. “I mean, you just-“

“Is no problem,” the stallion continued, tossing the blackened item away into the snow. “Is more important to ask, where is place?”

Rainbow Dash examined the larger pegasus for a second. Gray and blue seemed to be his color scheme as far as she could tell. Though, the gray of his body had just the slightest blue hint to it. She couldn’t tell if that was natural, or because he was colder than he suggested.

“Canterlot,” she answered at last. “We’re just down the mountain from the castle.”

“Ah,” the stallion nodded as if to say ‘of course’. Then he glanced around with a frown.

“Raging snowstorm,” he commented in a seeming casual tone. “Is reminding me of home. It is normal for weather of Canterlot is being like this?”

“Uh…” Dash pondered what exactly the stallion asked for several seconds.

“Say again?” she asked.

“Apologies,” he smirked. “My Loshad is being better than my Equestrian. I rephrase. Is snowstorm normal?”

Dash blinked. Oh… OH!

“No!” she snapped, mind going back to the actual reason she was out in this mess. “Is NOT normal! Some genius put a bunch of rookie ponies on weather duty this morning, and it’s getting out of control. I have to get back to work if we’re going to clear it up.”

“Oh…” he looked up at the sky for a moment, spotting a flight of six pegasi circling, just visible through the blinding white curtain. “You is needing help then?”

“Yeah,” Dash had turned to take off but stopped. “But only if you’re certified. I’m already babysitting six at the moment. If you don’t think you can handle it, just go wait at the castle.”

“Hah!” the Stallion barked a gruff, loud laugh. “Is being lucky for you then. Mikoyan has six years experience on weather team in Stalliongrad. Puny pony need not worry. If wings can be working, he can be helping.”

Dash twitched at another repeat of the word ‘puny’ while ‘Mikoyan’ examined his wings. The edges were blackened and a good number of feathers were charred, most likely from when he’d been diving for the ground. How he had caught fire in the first place was beyond her. But any help was good help at this point. After a moment, the stallion tested his wings by taking flight in a hover.

“Is good enough,” he nodded. “Might have lost power, but can fly.”

“You better be able to fly fast,” Dash warned as she picked up off the ground. “I’m not waiting for you-”

“Puny pony is still talking?” the stallion blinked, interrupting. Dash glared daggers back at him and just turned.

“Just TRY to keep up,” she growled, and bolted into the sky.

Mikoyan quickly took off after her, catching up a moment later as she cleared the blowing snow and rose up to meet the weather team currently orbiting above them.

“Alright pay attention!” she snapped once they were close enough. “We’ve got a veteran here to help! So I expect you to follow his instructions as well as mine. Got it?”

“Yes ma’am!” the team chorused.

Mikoyan just nodded in greeting to the group as they took in the burnt patches of fur he had in a few spots, and his slightly charred wings. Some of them obviously weren’t sure if it was a good idea to let him help them. However, none of them dared to argue.

“Alright!” Dash continued. “Let’s give this one more try. We’ll use a center radius expansion on this monster!”

Mikoyan blinked in surprise.

“Start above Canterlot Castle,” she continued. And then work your way outward. And don’t give me any more excuses. Just give it everything you’ve got. Ready!”

“Wait!” the newcomer shouted.

“WHAT NOW?!” Dash snapped. “I don’t have all day!”

“Storm is too big for Radius Expand,” Mikoyan explained. “You just waste time!”

“Too big?” Rainbow Dash yelled back. “What are you talking about?”

“Storm has grown,” Mikoyan turned to face the wind. “Radius Expand only poke hole in storm. Hole then get closed over in minutes. Do not be wasting time.”

“Well,” Dash cocked her head to the side. “You said you were from Stalliongrad, how do you deal with winter storms?”

“You is having to think BIG,” the stallion advised.

“What?” Dash asked.

“You work Local weather team yes?” Mikoyan asked.

“Yeah,” Dash nodded. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Is main problem,” he pointed out. “Is not local, is regional. Winter storm this big is powered by large scale polar vortices, not moist updrafts. Unlike local storm which can be breaking down directly, you have to break up wind flow first. Otherwise you just flailing at clouds like imbecile. Is great way to stop storm if you want to keep busy until spring.”

“Right!” Dash turned to the weather team assembled. “Then we’ll head upwind and start taking the storm apart at the source. Once we cut it off, we can start breaking it u-“

“NO!”

Dash growled, turning to Mikoyan again.

“You is not understanding scale of storm,” Mikoyan warned. “Is regional as Mikoyan said. Local mechanics not work on it.”

“Look!” Dash shouted over the wind. “Do you want to be in charge? I could be sleeping right now! If you want to take the reigns on this one, be my guest.”

“You wanted Mikoyan’s help,” the stallion replied. “He help, but only if you listen. Winter storm easy to lose control. Is created by low pressure region. Wind circles around it over big huge area. If puny pony-“

Dash very visibly twitched this time, causing the other pegasi to back up.

“-want to stop storm. She must be finding low pressure center first.”

“And just how do you do that?” Dash shot back, some sarcasm in her voice.

“Is easy!” Mikoyan pointed out, rotating in the air. “Wind always flow counterclockwise around storm. So you put back to wind and look down left wing. That always lead to center of winter storm. That is target.”

Rainbow Dash snorted and glanced in the direction the stallion had indicated. She hadn’t even known this pegasus five minutes and he was already infuriating her beyond what she'd been experiencing before. That’s all she needed, a team of rookie incompetents topped off with a know-it-all nobody from Nowheresville.

But if she wanted to get this done some time TODAY…

“Alright,” she turned to the Canterlot weather team. “You six, get back to the castle. Take a break, grab some breakfast and be back by eight.”

“Yes ma’am!” they chorused, then quickly turned, making a bee line for the castle.

Dash then turned to Mikoyan.

“You,” she pointed. “Follow me.”

Dash took off in a spectral blur, surprising the stallion with her agility.

“I be doing that!” he shouted, tearing after her.

A few minutes later, both pegasi rocketed through the storm, icy winds and blowing snow lashing them as they dove deep into the heart of the monster. They emerged from a near whiteout conditions into a section with strong winds, but much lighter snowfall.

The first thing Rainbow noticed as they crossed into the center was the change in wind direction. It was a gradual shift, but enough to be noticeable enough to prompt her halt in mid-air.

“Is this it?” she turned to Mikoyan, who was glancing around suspiciously.

“Is place,” he confirmed after a moment.

“So how do we break up the wind flow?” Dash continued impatiently.

Mikoyan glanced about again then indicated above them with a hoof.

“Storm is powered by low pressure circulation,” he explained again.

“I got that much,” Dash crossed her forelegs. “How do we STOP it?”

“Mikoyan was getting to that,” the stallion rolled his eyes. “Low pressure circulation spins counterclockwise and sucks in air as it travels. Is like whirlpool in sky. In order to stop, center of whirlpool must be disrupted. Normally it is done with weather team making big disturbance in air.”

“So we just need a loud bang?” Dash asked.

“It is being something like that,” the other pegasus shrugged. “But now seeing it, I am thinking we are needing bigger team. Vortex is far too large for-”

“I’ve got this,” Dash turned, racing to the center and looking up.

“You!?” Mikoyan gave chase. “Do not be wasting time. Is minimum five pony team.”

“And I want to go back to BED!” Dash snapped. “Now watch and learn!”

Rainbow Dash took a deep breath then pumped her wings, rocketing skyward into the cloud bank above them.

“Ahhh!!” Mikoyan rolled his eyes in frustration and moved to climb after her. “Stupid Equestrians... They think they do anything.”

Dash continued to climb, surprised at the depth of the clouds as she fought through layer after layer. She’d learned about winter storms, of course. That was required to make the cut for any weather team. And she had also managed her fair share of winter systems. Winter Wrap Up was a particularly busy day. But the rule was that beyond a certain size, a winter storm just wasn’t worth the effort to contain and control for a local team. Usually they’d just be declared ‘wild’ and handed off to either a special regional team, or a powerful unicorn.

Of course, now that the annoying know-it-all had explained to her how a regional team handled it, she knew just what to do. Wait until that guy got a load of this…

With a burst of sunlight, Dash broke through the highest cloud bank into the dawn. The air below her was gray from horizon to horizon; deceptively calm despite the raging winds deep within.

Arresting her climb, Dash drifted lazily into a summersault, enjoying the brief moment of weightlessness before she took focus on the clouds once more. Angling her wings, she set up to do her all-time favorite stunt.

“Sonic rainboom mark TWO!” she announced to nopony in particular. Then with a snap, shot earthward.

As she picked up speed, she adjusted her wings and gave them a careful, but heaving ‘crack’, snapping them like a bullwhip. It had taken her three months to figure out how to do it correctly. But with the newfound ability she was able to push her speed to its extremes much faster than ever before.

Mikoyan paused in his climb as he heard the snap, guessing, but not quite certain what he just heard. Then suddenly, a rainbow blur ripped by, diving dead vertical for the ground, only just missing him by a wing’s length. The whistling sound she made as she did so left the stallion’s ears ringing.

“What is doing?!” he began in a shout, glancing down.

Dash of course, didn’t hear, and didn’t answer, just picking up more speed until she felt that familiar pressure on the tip of her nose.

With one final snort, the pressure reached its peak, and in her mind, one thought registered.

‘Now!’

Her wings rose, curled, and-

‘CRACK!’

“BOOM!”

The clouds lit up with every color imaginable as bright as the noon sun on the longest day of the year. The concussion, not hindered in the slightest by mere snow, ripped the heart out of the storm as it tore a hole in it the size of a small town. In an instant, the ferocious beast that had been giving Rainbow Dash such a hard time had been exposed to the warming rays of Celestia’s sun and began to die, winds collapsing as they were blasted outward in an ever expanding ring of luminescent waves.

High above, the stallion that had followed her into the heart of the storm barely managed to stay in the air. He watched in shock as the blast decimated what had been, less than a minute ago, a force of nature that would have taken an entire team of experienced pegasi to get control of. After a few seconds, the shockwave faded into the distance, scattering the clouds it came into contact with until the former storm had been shredded down to just a few scattered low clouds.

With a brief surprised laugh, Mikoyan glanced down, spotting where Rainbow Dash was now standing on an outcropping of rock, looking rather proud of herself. Then he shouted, dropping into a dive.

“That!” he called as he came flying down. “THAT! Was most stupid, imbecilic, insane move Mikoyan has ever had pleasure to not believe is being happened!”

Dash tried to understand what had just been said as the larger pegasus landed next her. Somehow she had the feeling that the stallion had managed to both praise and insult her intentionally at the exact same time.

“Uh...” she blinked, her smugness evaporating as fast as the clouds as he glared right in her face. Then, just before she thought it might be a good idea to run, he suddenly grinned almost from ear to ear.

“I am liking!” he announced, reaching out with a hoof and yanking her into a hug. “Comrade is being having more guts than entire team back home. Why, if Mikoyan had not seen with own eyes, he would not have believed it! He was thinking Equestria had nothing but puny, spoiled ponies who is having easy lives. But Puny Pony is having proved Mikoyan wrong!”

“Okay!” Rainbow Dash suddenly cut in, ducking out of his grip. “Just what is it with you and calling me PUNY?”

“Eh?” Mikoyan suddenly looked confused. “Is problem? Pony is smaller than Mikoyan. Puny is correct word yes?”

“I don’t think you quite know what it means,” Dash sighed, rolling her eyes.

“Then how about comrade?” Mikoyan asked. “After what Mikoyan has seen, he is being very impressed with fellow pegasus. After all, she is having done what entire team is needed for.”

“Comrade?” Dash asked.

“Is you being preferred ‘Puny Pony’?” Mikoyan asked.

“No! no...” Dash quickly waved her hooves. “Comrade’s fine... uh... ”

She frowned.

“What’s your name again?”

“Oh?” the stallion blinked. “OH! How is being rude of me. I am not introducing self like is polite. I am Mikoyan Ivanovich Gustaav the thirty first. You may call me comrade, or Mikoyan, or Miki, whichever you find is more easiest.”

Then he turned his head to the side and gave her a questioning glance.

“And what is name of you?” he asked. “So Mikoyan may know who is new comrade.”

“Heh,” Dash rolled her eyes. This guy was going to be a big male version of Pinkie Pie, she just knew it.

“Dash,” she shrugged at last. “Rainbow Dash.”

“Ah, is good name,” Mikoyan nodded. “Rainbow D-“

Then he stopped, glancing at her twice, his eyes getting very large.

“RAINBOW DASH!?”

“What?!” Dash jumped back. “What’s wrong?!”

“Wrong?!” Mikoyan matched her by stepping forward. “Is not wrong. Is very good! Mikoyan is very fortunate to meet famous Rainbow Dash at time like this!”

“Why?” Dash absentmindedly shifted into a takeoff posture.

“Is hard to explain,” Mikoyan looked off to the side. “Mikoyan is kind of embarrassed to admit it... but.”

He then locked both eyes on Dash.

“I is having problem.”


“BWAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”

Rainbow Dash fell over laughing, getting the attention of several other guests in Canterlot Castle’s dining hall as she did so. After hearing the stallion had a problem only she could help him solve, she’d decided it would be best to talk about it over breakfast. Mikoyan seemed delighted at the prospect, and had been admitted to the hall as her guest. The stallion had quickly devoured a plate of treats before he’d begun his story. When he was finished, Dash could only be amused at what he desired to do.

“You-" she began, fighting chokes of laughter. “You want to CATCH Dainty Dish? How hard did you hit that snow bank?”

“You is making fun of Mikoyan?” the stallion let his eyes wander to a pair of snobby looking unicorn mares as they trotted past. Upon making eye contact, he smirked. In response, they ‘hmphed’ and stuck their noses in the air, picking up the pace. Mikoyan snorted a quiet laugh before turning back to Dash.

“Oh no no no...” Rainbow Dash waved her hooves as he did this. Then after a pause she fell down again laughing. “Okay I am! But seriously...”

Dash managed to sit up, wiping tears from her eyes.

“You think you could ever even HOPE to catch that girl?” she continued. “Let me tell you something pal. I’ve seen her flying first hand. You can’t catch her. I can’t even catch her. In fact, the only ponies in Equestria who might be able to are the princesses. And THAT is with magic.”

“But Mikoyan thought Comrade Dash was fastest-”

“Listen,” Rainbow Dash interrupted. “The way she flies is different from every other pegasus in Equestria. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like she skips across the top of the sky. Down low, she’s actually not all that fast. We can go much faster than her easily in fact. But once she starts to climb...”

Dash paused, her gaze growing distant for a few seconds before she suddenly snapped back to reality.

“Look,” she crossed her hooves. “It’s just not happening. It’s something about how big her wings are.”

The stallion sitting across from Rainbow Dash tilted his head to the side. In the mean time, Dash stuffed a coffee cake in her mouth, secretly loathing the fact that she wasn’t going to be getting any more sleep this morning.

“Mikoyan thinks he can do it,” the larger pegasus frowned. “He came close this morning but fell short.”

“Cheh,” Dash scoffed between bites. “Like, how close is close?”

“He is missed timing by two seconds,” Mikoyan informed.

Dash choked on her cake and started coughing. Several ponies dining nearby looked over at the two as she did her best to clear her airways.

“T-Two?!” Rainbow Dash commented through a hack. “Ho-HOW did you-“

Dash stood up and paced for a moment, finally managing to dislodge the offending crumb.

“How did you manage that?” she turned back to the table.

“Intercept,” Mikoyan shrugged. “When is knowing where fast pony going, is easy to be getting in path.”

Dash sat back, rubbing her hoof against her chin thoughtfully. The stallion’s explanation made sense. But that still didn’t answer how he got that high in the first place.

“How did you manage to get all the way up there?” she asked suspiciously. “I ran myself ragged and passed out.”

“Mikoyan had help of comrades,” the stallion informed her. “Manestay and Tupohoove were with him. Comrade Tupohoove is very strong. We call him Ursa he is so strong. But not very fast. He carry Mikoyan for many hours to get here. You should have heard him complain. Was non-stop all the way just, blah blah blah… You heavy Mikoyan. Blah blah blah… why you pick so long flight Mikoyan? BAH!”

Mikoyan snickered for a moment, getting a few out of Dash as well.

“If Mikoyan was listening to Tupohoove’s complaints, Stalliongrad would be buried by storm. He is being very strong, but also being very whiny comrade at times.”

“Wait a second,” Dash cut in. “You went down in a FIREBALL this morning. Where were your so-called ‘comrades’ when that happened?”

“Eh…” Mikoyan shrugged. “Is not concern. Comrades flew twelve hours and were tired. Is no way they could handle storm. Mikoyan was being expecting it.”

“Talking about dropping the ball,” Dash grumbled, crossing her hooves.

“Do not be worrying,” Mikoyan advised.

“Rainbow Dash!”

Both pegasi turned to see Twilight trotting up, a look of relief on her face.

“Hey Twilight,” Dash smirked.

“I just wanted to say that was a really good job out there this morning,” Twilight smiled brightly. “I was so worried the weather was going to be too much even for you.”

“Hah!” Dash laughed. “No weather is too much for the great Rainbow Dash. You should have been there! I took it out with a sonic rainboom with EASE.”

“Hahah!” Mikoyan followed with his own laugh. “She is being telling truth you know. Mikoyan saw whole thing first hoof.”

Twilight glanced at the stallion at the table with a look of confusion.

“Who’s he?” she asked.

“Oh him?” Dash aimed a hoof at the larger pegasus. “Just somepony who helped me out this morning. No biggie.”

“You is too modest,” Mikoyan began before twilight could get a word in edgewise. “Mikoyan gave no actual help with storm. Comrade Dash takes all credit.”

“Comrade Dash?” Twilight turned back to her friend in surprise.

“It beats ‘Puny Pony’,” Rainbow shrugged.

“I am still not seeing what is being wrong with word,” Mikoyan frowned. “Is meaning offensive?”

Twilight Sparkle laughed lightly at the stallion’s comment. Of all the strange ponies and creatures her friends knew, this pegasus was certainly different. With an accent that thick, the stallion must be from some place far off.

“Puny,” Twilight adopted an intelligent look. “Is a word that means small-“

“I is being knowing it!” Mikoyan interrupted.

“But it is used mostly in a derogatory manner,” Twilight continued, having become used to such interruptions from her friends. The pegasus frowned back at her, seeming lost.

“Mikoyan is not understanding word,” he began. “What is being: ‘D-rog-A-tree’?”

“Derogatory,” Twilight corrected.

“Is being what I said,” Mikoyan blinked. Twilight just rolled her eyes in a smile before continuing.

“Bad,” she simplified. “Derogatory means bad. So when you called Rainbow Dash ‘puny’, you weren’t just calling her ‘smaller’, you were calling her a weak, pathetic little foal completely incapable of taking care of herse-“

“Hey hey HEY!” Rainbow Dash leaned forward. “No need to go that far. I think he gets it.”

“Yes, Mikoyan understands,” the stallion agreed. “He is being sorry to Comrade Dash for D-rog-a-tree-“

“Derogatory,” Twilight corrected again.

“Is what I said,” Mikoyan frowned. “But yes, he is sorry for that. In Stalliongrad, we do not be talking bad about our comrades.”

“Stalliongrad?” Twilight seemed to brighten at the mention of some far off place. “I’ve read all about it! What did you say your name was? Mikoyan?”

“I is sorry,” the pegasus stood up. “Name is Mikoyan Ivanovich Gustaav the thirty first. Stalliongrad fifth storm control team, second in command after comrade Berkut.”

Rainbow Dash frowned. He hadn’t told her what weather team he was on.

“Is pleasure to be making acquaintance,” Mikoyan continued, laying on a rather heavy smile. “And what is being name of pretty purple pony?”

Dash blinked in surprise at that one as her friend immediately blushed and took a step back.

“I-uh… Twilight Sparkle,” she answered, though not without hesitation.

“Ohhhh…” Mikoyan continued, his voice growing almost husky. “Is very pretty name for pretty pony. Tell Mikoyan…”

The pegasus glanced past Twilight for a second, then smiled and leaned his face down close to hers.

“Do you really sparkle in evening as name suggest?”

Twilight Sparkle about choked on thin air, stammering to find something worth saying as her blush deepened to the color of one of AJ’s finest apples.

Then, without any warning, there was a breath of warm air on her neck, and another, gentle voice added.

“Be careful with this one, he’s shameless.”

Twilight let out a loud squeak that once again caught the attention of those eating nearby and jumped a good two feet in the air. She landed facing the other direction, her face fixed with a look of mortified shock as she recognized her mentor, Princess Celestia, standing right in front of her smiling pleasantly. Behind her, Mikoyan burst out laughing.

“P-p-p-p-p-p-Princess!” she stuttered. “You scared me!”

“Good morning to you too, Twilight Sparkle,” Celestia greeted her student with a barely suppressed giggle. Then she raised her head and glanced at the stallion that had been messing with Twilight.

“And good morning to you,” she continued. “Is that really you Mikoyan?”

“Celestia!” Mikoyan boomed, but then paused, glancing around. Several of the unicorns that had been disturbed a moment before just stared in shock.

“Stratos is busy,” the princess drew the stallion’s attention back to her in reassurance. “Though my guard must be slipping if rascals such as you can get into my castle without notice.”

“Is not hard when snowstorm blind them,” Mikoyan shrugged. “Plus, being guest of famous Rainbow Dash can only be helping.”

Celestia turned her smile on Rainbow Dash, who glanced left, then right as if she’d accidentally done something wrong. Then she nervously raised a hoof and waved to the princess.

“I see,” the Celestia nodded. “And I see that you haven’t changed at all. No sooner do you get in than you start hitting on my most faithful student.”

“Pretty purple pony is student?” Mikoyan looked at Twilight in surprise, who was still blushing but managed to beam with pride. “Mikoyan is impressed. He did not realize you were teaching beauty. But then again, student has wonderful teacher.”

“You see?” Celestia lowered her head next to Twilight. “Shameless…”

“Mikoyan is having good teacher as well,” the stallion shrugged. “You would know.”

“I would,” Celestia laughed.

“Uh, Princess?” Twilight asked, her blush fading as she settled down. “How exactly do you know him?”

Celestia laughed again, turning a smile on the stallion.

“Mikoyan?”

“Oh! Is very good story,” Mikoyan turned to the two fillies. “It go like so… Five years ago when Mikoyan was still colt new to weather team at Stalliongrad, comrade Manestay is being invited by his older brother Sentry to Celestia’s Grand Galloping Gala.”

“Oh I can tell where this is going,” Dash rolled her eyes.

“Is being getting better quickly,” Mikoyan turned his attention to Twilight, who was now practically hovering right under the Princess’ wing. “Mikoyan had always wanted to see big huge Gala, but never got invitation. Comrade Manestay, is very great comrade by the way, agreed to sneak Mikoyan in.”

“You SNUCK into the Gala?” Twilight blinked.

“Yes!” Mikoyan laughed. “But was funny thing, it be seeming too easy. Was very strange. But anyhoof, Mikoyan try best to keep quiet whole time. But then something crazy happen.”

“Crazy?” Dash asked.

“Mikoyan is talking comrade. Please listen close like.”

Dash crossed her hooves and settled into a reclining hover.

“Just when he is thinking he get away with it,” the pegasus continued. “Mikoyan is making mistake, and ask who he thinking is Sentry where little colt’s room is being. Problem is, was not Sentry, was Big Biff Stratos, head of guard. Stratos chase Mikoyan all over hall, and make big huge commotion.”

“So how’d you meet the Princess?” Dash asked, a smirk forming on her face. “Did Big Stratos catch you and haul you in front of her?”

“Is best part!” Mikoyan threw his front hooves in the air. “Mikoyan was so busy he not really looking where he going. He crash into what he is thinking just another unicorn on accident.”

Both Twilight and dash covered their mouths in realization.

“But he soon discover mistake,” the stallion continued. “To Mikoyan’s horror, unicorn have wings.”

“You CRASHED INTO THE PRINCESS?!” Twilight gasped.

“Mikoyan is not best at turning,” the stallion rubbed the back of his head. “Much like you, much like Stratos, he thought was last mistake he ever make. But is being funny thing… Princess starts laughing like it biggest joke in world.”

Rainbow Dash’s hoof fell from her mouth, the look of horror on her face quickly replaced by one of confusion.

“What?” she asked.

“Mikoyan was thinking same thing,” the stallion nodded. “Princess Celestia stops Stratos from breaking Mikoyan’s wings and makes him guest of honor, saying it was most fun she have in many years. Mikoyan is confused of course, but is later told by Manestay and Sentry all guards but Stratos being ordered to leave Mikoyan alone before hoof.”

Celestia let out a small laugh.

“Then Mikoyan realize,” he continued. “Was big huge practical joke between Haywax brothers and Celestia. Was very funny once Mikoyan stopping hyperventilating.”

“I didn’t expect him to crash into me though,” Celestia added. “The look on his face was priceless.”

“As was look on your face when you thought Mikoyan was being suffocating,” he returned. “So comrade is being warned. Princess is most greatest prank master in world.”

“But she’s already the princess,” Dash protested suddenly. “How can she be a prankster too?”

“What? You is thinking princess always be nice?” Mikoyan blinked. “Get up, raise sun, take nap, talk to snobby unicorns, take nap, reflect on universe, take nap, lower sun, go to sleep… Wake up next day and be doing again. Is very boring job. You try doing it for thousand years. You find need for entertainment too!”

Mikoyan sat back, pausing to take a bite for the meal he’d had sitting in front of him.

“Mikoyan spent next week in castle,” he continued after swallowing. “He learn many things from princess as guest. Was very fun week. Mikoyan learned to appreciate beauty at time.”

“Perhaps I taught you a little TOO well,” Celestia smiled. “I’ve heard stories about you in the last few years.”

“Is likely being truth,” Mikoyan returned. “Mikoyan has putting things he being taught to good use.”

“Oh?” Celestia raised an eyebrow. “Have you now?”

“Would be big huge waste not to,” the stallion nodded. “As we say in Stalliongrad. Work hard, and party harder.”

“Did somepony say PARTY?” a voice piped up.

All heads turned to see Pinkie Pie come trotting up, mouth partially stuffed with a large coffee cake similar to the one Dash had yet to finish. She was carrying a decent sized stash of additional cakes and assorted breakfast treats as well, looking like she’d just raided the buffet line.

But that was just the beginning.

Directly behind her, even more treats and cakes were held in the grip of levitation. Such a feat may have seemed odd for the earth pony. But luckily the explanation was a little more normal, as Princess Luna brought up the rear, a half-eaten cake floating next to her.

“Hey Pinkie Pie!” Rainbow Dash waved to her friend. “Good morning Princess.”

“Good morning Princess Luna,” Twilight joined in, a smile growing on her features. “It’s nice to see you again.”

Luna paused, swallowing the bite she was working on, then regarded the small group that had formed with a regal, but pleasant smile. One covered in crumbs.

“A very good morning to you as well Twilight Sparkle,” she nodded. A previously unnoticed handkerchief rose up from her side and dabbed at her face. “And happy Hearth’s Warming Day.”

“You’re up late sister,” Celestia smiled. “Decided to enjoy the festivities with us?”

“We were hungry,” Luna turned to her elder sibling. “So we decided to partake in some of the breakfast items available before resting for the morning.”

She then turned to Pinkie, her posture dropping.

“I ran into my arch nemesis while I was at it,” she continued. “The leader of the screaming children herself.”

Celestia stifled a laugh at Luna’s description of the earth pony next to her.

“She was eating a slice of cheesecake right from the buffet table,” Pinkie ribbed Twilight. “I caught her red-hoofed. Not even her own plate. She was like-…”

Pinkie Pie made her eyes big and stuffed a cake in her mouth, making sure to scatter crumbs all over her face in the process. The goofy look made the other ponies laugh slightly at her antics.

“I did NOT look like that,” Luna denied. “And it was the last slice on the tray anyway. I do not see why you make such a big deal out of it.”

Pinkie Pie swallowed and shot a devious grin at the younger princess.

“She’s just upset I caught her,” the pink pony winked.

“Am not!” Luna snapped, a hint of red in her cheeks. Then she raised her head again, returning to her regal posture. “We saw no harm in taking the last cake from the line. We levitated it after all, so it was perfectly clean.”

“Excuses,” Pinkie winked again. “But I figured I’d let her get away with it.”

“For a price,” Luna eyed the many sweets in her levitation field. “We did not think it possible for one pony to consume so much and yet retain one’s lithe figure. ‘Tis enough to make us jealous.”

With a blink, she spotted a breakfast sweet she had yet to try and plucked it from the group, lowering it down to her mouth to give it a bite. Pinkie Pie frowned disapprovingly at the theft of one of ‘her’ treats. In response, Luna glanced back and forth to make sure nopony was really paying attention before closing one eye and sticking her tongue out. Celestia giggled at her sister’s antics during this exchange.

“At least you seem to be getting along with Pinkie Pie,” Twilight joined in. “I almost didn’t think it was going to work out last time.”

“We must admit that seeing her did make us a bit…” Luna paused, glancing at Pinkie, whose frown flipped into a grin. “Nervous.”

After another bite of the treat she’d procured for herself, Luna continued.

“However,” she spoke. “Miss Pie has impeccable taste in sweets. Thou MUST try the blueberry. ‘Tis DIVINE.”

“It sounds like I missed the fun,” Celestia commented.

“Indeed,” Luna regarded her treat once more. She was just about to take a bite when her eyes drifted to Rainbow Dash.

“Oh,” Luna stamped a hoof lightly. “That reminds us…”

She lowered her treat, turning to face the pegasus.

“Commendable job this morning handling the storm,” she began. “Normally conditions around Canterlot wouldn’t be allowed to reach such levels. However we weren’t aware of the inexperienced nature of tonight’s shift when we mandated some minor changes to the weather schedule.”

Then Luna glanced around again before lowering her head and speaking in a quieter tone.

“I must apologize actually,” she stated. “I wrote little Pipsqueak a few weeks ago and promised I’d come to play today. I wanted to make sure there would be LOTS of snow for the snowball fight I wanted to partake in.”

Then Luna’s cheeks turned red again.

“Unfortunately I’m still a little rusty on large scale storm systems and that one got away from me. To be honest, moving the moon around is a lot easier than trying to micromanage two sky streams, an upper-level low, a cold front, and a surface low all at the same time. My sincerest apologies for making you clean up my mess.”

“Naw… It was nothing really,” Rainbow Dash stuck a hoof behind her head and tried to pretend she didn’t enjoy the praise. “It’s my job after all.”

“Comrade is trying to be modest again when she is no good at it,” Mikoyan interrupted. This time he reached out and swatted her on the back, causing her to tip forward with an ‘oof’. “Be enjoying praise. You is having done very extra special good job. Worthy of praise from very pretty princess.”

Celestia hid an amused smile behind her normal poker face as her younger sister glanced at the large stallion as if noticing him for the first time, a surprised blush forming on her cheeks yet again.

“And who might thou be?” she asked after taking a moment to regain some semblance of stoic features.

“Mikoyan Ivanovich Gustaav the Thirty-First,” the stallion responded, matching the haughty posture Luna was using. “Stalliongrad fifth storm control team. Is being pleasure to be making acquaintance of great and beautiful Princess Luna.”

He then turned his head to the side slightly.

“Mikoyan was not aware she was so lovely as Celestia. Or he would have brought flowers.”

Luna blinked in surprise and Celestia just barely kept from giving away a smile.

“Charmed,” she said at last, casting her older sister a questioning glance.

Celestia took that as her cue to let her smile grow slightly as she stepped forward, nodding at the pegasus.

“Little sister, I believe you recall the story about that stallion that crashed the Gala a few years ago?”

“It seems familiar,” Luna frowned, then her eyes widened. “Was it the one you spoke of where the stallion had pushed you down in his excitement?”

Celestia closed her eyes, her smile widening.

“Why yes, I believe that was the one,” she nodded. “That night was anything but boring.”

Luna cast a glance back to Mikoyan, the red on her cheeks deepening. Noticing that, Mikoyan glanced at Celestia, a smile forming on his features.

“Was very much fun time once princess let Mikoyan catch his breath,” the stallion added. Celestia blinked at the statement in surprise. Luna’s head whipped back, the red on her cheeks increasing a little more. The elder princess quickly hid her look of shock behind an innocent smile as she countered.

“As was the entire week after,” Celestia’s smile was almost too innocent. “Mikoyan was simply wonderful.”

Luna’s eyes widened in scandal. However before she could say anything, Mikoyan spoke again.

“He was taught many wonderful things,” the stallion returned in a tone that seemed to be almost playful. “Was very pleasurable experience.”

Luna’s expression was priceless. Between the words spoken by this foreign stallion, and the seeming blithe admittances of her sister, she couldn’t seem to make her mouth work adequately. In front of her, Rainbow Dash stared in mute shock at the exchange. A glance at Twilight Sparkle showed her to be in a similar state, her cheeks betraying her own thoughts.

Pinkie Pie seemed completely unfazed, and was in fact watching the whole exchange in rapt fascination while munching on a snack cake.

“Perhaps beautiful princess would be liking to enjoy company of Mikoyan for few hours?” the stallion continued, a sly grin on his features. “Would only be fair to offer.”

Luna took a step back in surprise, her face now practically glowing.

“What is problem?” Mikoyan asked. “Is princess afraid Mikoyan is being too much stallion to handle?”

Luna attempted to work her mouth but was unable to find words. Mikoyan in the mean time, eased back turning his sly gaze on Celestia.

“Mikoyan remembers being very much to handle at time,” he continued. “Was maybe too much for Celestia too?”

Pinkie almost choked at the statement, barely controlling a laugh that was lost to everypony. The look on Princess Celestia’s face was one that shouted ‘Enguard!’ around her now completely open smile.

“I remember differently,” she said.

“Mikoyan is not being sure of that,” he grinned. “Perhaps is being better if he spend time with princess Luna. Maybe he teach what he learned from Celestia. Or maybe being that he is so much stallion, only princess of night can handle him in darker form.”

This time Luna backpedalled a good three steps, her face changing from embarrassment to a haunted look. Even Celestia’s warm smile faded.

“Speak not of such things,” the lunar princess warned. “We doth not wish to be remembered for such dark deeds.”

There was a long silence in which the lighter tone evaporated. The stallion simply eyed the princess for several long moments before he let a knowing smirk cross his featured.

“Is afraid…” Mikoyan turned his head to the side.

“Am not!” Luna protested, stamping forward again.

“Is so!” Mikoyan fired back, his grin returning. “But is nothing to be ashamed of. Many are the rumors of the great Nightmare Moon.”

And then the sly look returned again as he let his eyes drift.

“Many also are the rumors of her dark beauty,” he continued in a lower voice. “Mikoyan sees it in Luna’s eyes. The hunger he was told consumed the princess a thousand years ago. A hunger she could not satisfy with a hundred Equestrian stallions who pitched themselves at her hooves. Is perhaps that hunger was not for night eternal, but perhaps other things.”

Mikoyan stood up, creeping around the table, and got right up next to the princess’ ear, and all but whispered.

“Is perhaps maybe princess wanted night to fulfill her own dark dreams.”

Luna’s face went right to the color of an apple. At the same time, there was an odd choking sound as Celestia finally cracked, unable to take it anymore. The princess of the sun stifled a laugh as she turned away.

“I’d better check on the weather team,” she commented around a partial giggle. “We wouldn’t want to make Rainbow Dash have to go back out there again.

With that, Celestia wasted no time in quickly trotting away, leaving a now thoroughly red-faced Twilight Sparkle where she’d been standing under her wing, completely lost in her own overactive imagination. Luna in the mean time, releasing a breath she didn’t realize she was holding until her sister had left, inhaled sharply and cast a withering glance at the Stallion in front of her

“Where,” she began, trying to fight down her blush. “Where hast thou learned such bewitching words so as to work us up thusly.”

Mikoyan shrugged.

“As Mikoyan has being told you,” he smiled. “He is having good teacher.”

“We see,” Luna nodded, another deep breath to control her color.

Then suddenly, she stopped, blinking in confusion. After a moment, her eyes half-lidded and she turned her head. Then with a start, she began trotting after the receding form of Celestia at a rapid pace.

“Sister!” the lunar princess raised her voice to project across the room, an undertone of scandal in it. “What manner of debauchery hast thou been implying that we partaketh in!?”

For several seconds, there was nothing but a stunned silence between the three remaining fillies. Finally Rainbow Dash, face screwed up in disbelief, found her voice while Mikoyan began chuckling to himself.

“What,” she began. “Just happened?”

Pinkie Pie finished swallowing the remains of the latest cake she’d been eating.

“Isn’t it obvious?” the pink pony asked. “Miki just hit on both the princesses at the same time, AND got away with it.”

“I- I get that!” Dash turned to her friend. “I mean, how… WHY?”

Mikoyan just laughed louder as he returned to his seat.

“Is funny no?” he asked. “Was good fun, and good laugh.”

“Y- YOU’RE INCORRIGIBLE!” Twilight snapped in shock as she remembered her own voice.

“Mikoyan is not knowing meaning of word,” the stallion frowned.

“It means you have no SHAME!” Twilight snapped.

“But of course,” Mikoyan took a bite out of his cake. “Was you not being listening to Celestia?”

“Eh?” Twilight blinked. “But…”

“But what, pretty purple pony?” he asked.

Twilight turned beat red again at the compliment.

“Hey hey hey!” Dash reached out and waved a hoof in front of Mikoyan’s face. “That’s my friend you’re hitting on! Just what do you think you’re doing?”

“Is called flirting,” Mikoyan replied. “Is problem? Perhaps comrade Dash should try some time.”

“Problem?” Dash snapped back. “I thought you wanted to meet Dainty Dish? And here you are flirting with the princesses and my friends. What’s the matter with you?”

“Was joke for fun,” Mikoyan seemed taken aback by Dash’s hostility.

“Fun?” Dash blinked. “FUN? You were making passes at Princess CELESTIA-“

“Was comrade not being listening to anything Mikoyan has been saying this morning?” Mikoyan interrupted, crossing his hooves. “Celestia is most biggest prank master in world. Entire thing was being joke. Did comrade not notice setup?”

“Setup?” Dash stopped.

“Setup?” Twilight recovered from her blush.

“Was telling Mikoyan what doing with eyes,” the stallion nodded. “Was playing joke on little sister as big sisters are liking doing. Mikoyan only playing along.”

“I noticed!” Pinkie grinned. “I saw it coming a mile away!”

“Hahah!” the larger pegasus laughed, turning to the pink pony. “So Mikoyan is seeing. And what is name pink pony?”

Pinkie stopped, standing up on her hind legs and taking on a formal air similar to what Luna had been using.

“Pinkamena Dianne Pie,” she announced in a mock regal tone, then she dropped back to all-fours and continued in her normal hyperactive voice. “But you can call me Pinkie Pie, or just Pinkie like my friends do, or even ‘PINKIEEEEEE!’ Like Twilight does sometimes when she gets mad.”

“Hah!” Mikoyan laughed again. “Is funny. Mikoyan is liking Pinkie pony.”

“So you just hit on any cute filly you see?” Twilight asked. There was a hint of disgust in her voice at the thought.

“Is very fun if pony can relax,” the pegasus shrugged. “Mikoyan obeys very strict rule. Look, but no touch. Is fair no?”

“I- I guess,” Twilight looked away in embarrassment. “It’s just kind of awkward and all…”

“Mikoyan understand,” the pegasus let his tone soften a little. “Flirting is being like teasing for fun. Flirt with wrong pony, and make them very angry. Mikoyan learn hard way many times.”

Mikoyan absentmindedly rubbed his chin with one hoof as he reached over to one of the cakes on his plate and picked it up, handing it over to Twilight. The gifted unicorn accepted it hesitantly.

“OH! OH!” Pinkie bounced up and down. “Hit on me next! ME! ME!”

“Eheh,” the stallion chuckled. “It work better if you catch off guard,” he turned to Pinkie. “Target must be unprepared, unsuspecting. Like delicious prey for predator.”

“WAIT a second…”

The three turned their eyes to Rainbow Dash, who was hovering in the air, forelegs crossed and a displeased look on her face as she glared at the larger pegasus.

“So why weren’t you flirting with me if it’s so much fun?” she asked. Then she fluttered forward, glaring right in Mikoyan’s eyes. “Is there something I should know about? Is something WRONG with me?”

“Eh,” Mikoyan shrugged. “Is nothing wrong. Is just other rule Mikoyan be having.”

Dash blinked, but maintained her glare.

“And that is?” she asked. Mikoyan returned the glare with an even gaze of his own before saying…

“Mikoyan does not flirt with comrade. Ever.”

Dash just stared for a moment, hoping to see if the stallion rescinded on the comment. But after a moment, it was clear he meant exactly what he said.

“Rats,” she sighed, dropping back into her chair. A moment later she grabbed up the last of her coffee cake and stuffed it in her mouth. Bed was starting to sound nice again. And there was this luxurious four-poster up in the castle guest suite just screaming for her to come back to it.

“Oh Rainbow Dash,” Twilight rolled her eyes. “It’s not really that important.”

“Yeah,” Dash nodded, speaking through her chewing. “I know…”

“Is Comrade Dash upset she is left out of fun?” Mikoyan asked. “Is not big huge loss. Mikoyan has other ways to have fun with comrades.”

“Like what?” Dash asked, swallowing her cake.

“Mikoyan still wonders if you can be teaching him what he needs to know to catch Dainty Dish,” the pegasus tilted his head to the side. “He never got final answer.”

Dash sighed.

“Look,” she began. “I already told you that catching her is impossible and there’s no way we’re going to-”

“Wait,” Twilight interrupted. The two glanced at her.

“Did he say ‘Dainty Dish’ just now?” she asked. “As in, mach three, eighty thousand feet Dainty Dish? THAT Dainty Dish?”

Mikoyan and Dash nodded silently.

There was a pause. Then suddenly Twilight started laughing, falling on the floor in her mirth and continuing to giggle out of control.

“Why is unicorn laughing?” Mikoyan glanced at Dash. “Is difficult Mikoyan knows, but is really that funny to be wanting to try?”

“I’m- sorry,” Twilight continued to laugh, fighting to regain her feet. “I don’t mean to- But there’s no way you could do it even with Rainbow Dash’s help.”

Dash frowned.

“After all,” Twilight wiped a tear from her eye. “Dainty schooled her so bad…”

Twilight broke out in a fit of giggles again. Dash’s frown deepened.

“And Applejack,” she laughed. “Applejack wouldn’t let you go two days without hearing about it for a MONTH!”

Rainbow Dash’s frown reached a record low as she glared at her friend, rolling on the ground again. After a few more seconds, enough was enough.

“You know what?” she stomped a hoof. “I’ll have you know that my ‘comrade’ here got within’ two seconds of catching her.”

Twilight stopped laughing, still breathing heavily as she blinked at Rainbow Dash.

“So you know what we’re going to do?” she continued. Then she turned to the stallion who was watching the exchange with a confused look.

“You,” she snapped. “Finish eating, grab a shower, and meet me in the palace courtyard in thirty minutes.”

Dash then turned and stuffed one last cake in her mouth, chewing it quickly before swallowing it and hovering into the air towards the exit.

“We’ve got training to do.”

Twilight Sparkle crawled back to her hooves as her friend went. A moment later, Mikoyan caught up with what was said and quickly started stuffing his face with everything left on the table. It was as if he’d never eaten before.

A sudden tap on the shoulder alerted Twilight to Pinkie Pie’s continuing presence as she turned a grin on her.

“Challenge, accepted,” the pink pony enunciated. Then she reached out into the hovering stack of treats and plucked a slice of chocolate cake out of it, then began to munch on it as she continued to eye Twilight. After a moment, she paused, glancing at the glowing levitation magic.

“Wow,” she blinked. “Luna’s got range.”