Morning in Ponyville. A small-time country town of a couple hundred equines, max. Located about fifty miles from Canterlot, slightly downwind from Cloudsdale, and adjacent to the Everfree Forest. If you were to chart it, the town would barely show up on a map compared to bustling cities like Manehattan.
Like any morning, the air was crisp, clean, with a sharp cool bite of dew that had yet to be evaporate. The sky was clear, the sun only just peaking over the hills as Celestia got the day rolling. Birds, still asleep in their nests, had yet to fill the air with the familiar sounds of a cool spring morning. It was quiet, peaceful. Maybe even a little dull if you were in that frame of mind.
Others would call it 'Perfect'.
The sound was like a thunderclap that shattered the stillness for miles. A brief flash of light, and a rolling wash of color that flowed across the sky that were the telltale signs of only one possible thing. A sonic rainboom.
“YEAH!” Rainbow Dash shouted as she pulled out of her dive, a rainbow streaming along behind her like a ribbon. “That’s three in a row!”
“Well,” Another pony below commented as Dash ripped by in a blur. “I reckon that if anypony was still asleep in Ponyville, they’re awake now.”
Applejack turned and looked over her shoulder at the village before turning her head back. It took a second to trace the rainbow trail Dash had left at the speed she was going. It wound around and up into a sharp half loop before coming down through a cloud hoop that had been set up just before dawn.
“Still,” she continued. “You’re getting better at this.”
“No kidding!” Dash shot by and made a sharp bank, bleeding off some speed. The color streamer she left behind began to fade as she did so. After a few seconds, Dash brought herself around, swept her wings back, and caught the air in such a way as to bring her almost to a stop. As one last bit of flamboyance… Just before she touched down, she let one flap of her wings pick her up, and did a summersault, landing next to Applejack with a huge grin on her face.
“You were right though,” she continued. “It really is easier to pull off when it’s cold. I punched through the barrier a few seconds early.”
“You can thank Big Macintosh for that one,” Applejack shrugged. “He’s the one who found out about it. Why? I have no idea. And honestly, I probably don’t want to know. But big brother’s like that sometimes.”
“Well, tell him thanks for me.” Rainbow Dash replied. “Maybe I’ll try it during the next Winter Wrap Up. See if I can’t scatter the clouds AND crack the ice on the lake all at once.”
Applejack laughed a little at the thought.
“Make that a three for one sugarcube,” she smirked. “You’d probably wake up all the hibernating animals at the same time.” “Oh!” Dash grinned almost from ear to ear. “Oh! Even better! If I do it low enough, maybe the shock wave will clear the fields too, then I could-“
Applejack tuned her friend out around that moment, squinting when she noticed something small and black in the distance above them.
“Hey,” she interrupted Dash’s excited ranbling. “RD, did we have any odd weather planned this morning?”
“What?” Dash furrowed her brow at her friend. “No. Not that I know of anyway. The only thing on the schedule today is a spring shower, and that’s not until three.”
“Then could you tell me what that is?” Applejack pointed a hoof at the speck.
“Tha-“ Dash looked in the direction Applejack had indicated with her hoof. “I’m not… That looks like a pegasus. But that’s awfully high for this early. It gets really cold when you go high, so I tend to avoid that in the morning.”
“I could be wrong,” Applejack squinted. “But it looks like its falling.”
“Hard to tell from here,” Dash frowned, squinting as well. She was starting to make out details now. “Let me take a look. Yeah, pegasus, jet black, descending fast, odd wobbling moti-“
Rainbow Dash stopped and squinted harder. Wobbling was bad. Pegasi do not ‘wobble’ when flying. They FLY. After a few seconds of hard squinting, she reared her head back, her eyes going wide.
“Oh my gosh!” she snapped. “They’re in a flat spin!”
“Huh?” AJ blinked. “I’m sorry, a what?
Rainbow Dash tore off the ground, shouting back.
“Falling Leaf Spin!”
“Falling leaf…?” Applejack frowned and thought about it for a moment.
“What the hay does THAT mean?” she looked up.
Rainbow Dash was already out of earshot.
“Aw horseapples!” Applejack stomped a hoof and took a glance at the falling pony again. By her guestimates, they looked to be coming down roughly somewhere over the orchard.
Taking off at a gallop, she tried her best to gauge if Rainbow Dash was going to get there soon enough.
Rainbow Dash, on the other hand, already knew she had plenty of time. The pegasus was falling like an autumn leaf. Wings extended but limp, spinning round and round. It was better than a dive, seeing as it slowed it down, but one would still smack into the ground pretty hard. Any pegasus worth their wings knew that a Falling Leaf Spin was easy to correct. Just tuck in your wings, drop for a moment, and straighten out. Presto! No problem.
Assuming of course, you were awake enough to realize you were stuck in a Falling Leaf Spin. Any pegasus in such a condition had more things wrong with them than just losing control of their flight. Yes, so long as she didn’t do anything foalish, like stopping for breakfast, or getting hung up at a snail crossing, Dash would easily make it on time. The issue was predicting exactly where the victim was going to land.
“Alright,” she growled. “Where are you going?”
Rainbow Dash came to a sharp stop in mid air directly below the falling pegasus. Glancing up, she watched the victim for about a second before her eyes darted to the side.
“I gotcha!” she snapped, rushing up and to the side. “I GOTCHA!”
Another quick glance and Dash made a minor correction, drifting backwards a few feet. It was obvious at this point the victim was completely out of it.
“That’s right!” Dash squinted. “Right…”
Dash lept to the side a few feet, hooves out to catch as she got directly below the unconscious winged pony.
They collided with a thump, the velocity of the falling pony dragging Rainbow Dash towards the ground. It was a little harder than she expected, causing her to drop more altitude than she wanted, smacking into the ground with about the same force as somepony falling out of bed.
Rainbow Dash grimaced at ending up the unfortunate bottom of the stack, but was happy to note that the pony she’d caught seemed unharmed. A quick glance confirmed what she thought. Whoever this pegasus was, she was out cold.
“Hey RD you okay!?” Applejack came running up at a full gallop.
“I’m fine!” Dash responded as her friend slowed to a trot. “Help me with her, would you?”
“I gotcha covered,” AJ nodded, bending down to help lift the limp pony.
“Wooo-ee,” she commented as she did so. “Would ya’ look at the wings on her.”
Dash slipped out from under the pegasus and took a glance herself.
“No kidding,” the Pegasus tilted her head. “Only pony I’ve seen wings that large on is Princess Celestia. Think they’re related?”
“No clue,” Applejack shrugged. “Let’s get her over to the barn. Maybe she can tell us when she wakes up.”
“Well, I took a Crash Course.” - Launchpad McQuack
The barn was the closest building to the orchard. An older, smaller, run down barn who’s paint was peeling off in places, and even had holes in the side. The place was in serious need of work. But, even if it was a bit old, it still had some use. Mainly storing some tools and warehousing a small stockpile of hay. Unfortunately, as Applejack noted on her way in, it had a slow creeping infestation of black mold taking over.
Between the two athletic ponies, hauling the unconscious pegasus wasn’t even a problem.
Depositing her on a soft pile of hay, Applejack took a glance around, taking stock of what was in the aging building. Baskets, wagon wheels, a few hatchets… Even a broken hammer.
“Wow,” Rainbow Dash commented with a mild look of disgust. “This place is a wreck.”
“I reckon this place has seen better days,” Applejack nodded. “If I’d done realized it had gotten this bad in here, I’d have had this knocked down a long time ago.”
“Hey,” Dash shrugged. “If you need it demolished, I can tear it down.”
“You sure?” Applejack turned to her friend. “I don’t want to impose…”
“No problem,” RD waved a hoof. “You just tell me when you want it down, and you can consider it as good as destroyed.”
“Okay,” Applejack nodded. “How ‘bout next Tuesday? That’ll give me some time to clear the stuff out of here and get with the rest of the family to figure out what we want to build in its place.”
“Deal,” Dash nodded, looking down. “Now what do we do about her?”
“Hmm…” Applejack followed Dash’s gaze. “Well, I know Big Macintosh keeps some smelling salts stashed somewhere in the house in case one of us passes out workin’. One whiff of that aughta wake her up lickety split.”
“Intense!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed. “They actually make stuff that wakes you up with SMELL?”
“Y’all better believe it,” Applejack nodded. “Some of that stuff’s so strong it could wake a dragon from a coma. Why, there’s this one time big bro used it on me as a joke when I was just takin’ a nap under a apple tree. He said if I’d’a jumped back any harder, I’d’a bucked all the apples outta’ the tree with my hea-“
Both ponies jumped at the sharp noise. Of course, it didn’t take a genius to figure out the pegasus had merely sneezed. A few seconds later, the dark colored pegasus groaned, and slowly began to move.
“Ah, she’s waking up.” Applejack smiled.
“Good,” Rainbow Dash nodded. “ Looks like she’s okay.”
The dark pony’s eyes fluttered open, looking a touch groggy as she blinked a few times.
“Wha-…” she began. “Wha-? Where...?”
“Take it easy sugarcube,” Applejack soothed in an upbeat tone. “You’re just fine. This here is Sweet Apple Acres.”
“Sweet…?” the black pegasus blinked.
“Ponyville,” Rainbow Dash jumped in. “Just downwind of Cloudsdale, near Canterlot.
The pony nodded, though her look of confusion didn’t change.
“We saw you falling,” Rainbow Dash continued. “You were stuck in a flat spin, so I knew something was wrong and caught you. Name’s Rainbow Dash. This here’s Applejack.”
“Thank you- A-PHFPPH!” the pegasus sneezed and then wrinkled her nose in irritation. Then she glanced down at the hay she was laying in and frowned.
“Hay,” she seemed to spit the word out in disgust, and quickly pushed up on all four hooves, delayed only by another sudden sneeze.
“What’s wrong with that?” Dash seemed confused by the reaction. Applejack frowned, but said nothing.
“Oh,” the pegasus looked up, then back as she stepped out of the pile of hay, extending her wings.
“Sorry, I’m just allergic to hay.”
“That’s a new one,” Applejack’s frowned turned to consternation. “A pony allergic to hay?”
“Well, you can’t win em all,” RD shrugged at her friend. In front of them, the pegasus was inspecting her wings for loose bits of straw, fighting back another sneeze as she plucked one out with her teeth and dropped it.
“So,” Applejack began again as the pegasus ruffled her wings up and gave them a good shake, dropping even more bits of hay on the ground. “You got a name, sugarcube? I don’t think we caught it yet.”
“Oh,” the pegasus stopped shaking her wings. “Sorry. My naime’s Dainty… Dainty Dish.”
“Dainty Dish,” Applejack nodded in seeming understanding. Her eyes began to trace the pegasus now that she had the chance. Aside from the monster sized wings, Dainty seemed to be a lighter build than her friend Rainbow Dash. Dark gray, with a jet black main and tail. Some red stripes therein. And her cutie mark…
“What in tarnation?” Applejack moved forward, her face screwed up in confusion.
“What’s the matter?” Dash glanced at her friend.
“Get a load of this here cutie mark,” Applejack nodded at Dainty.
Dash followed Applejack’s lead, eyes falling on…
“What?” she mouthed.
Far as the two could tell, it looked like a stretched diamond. Except the diamond was filled with stripes and triangles in a pattern that made absolutely no sense to them whatsoever. It was white, black, red, and blue. The only thing even marginally comprehensible was a number.
“Three plus?” Applejack looked up and Dainty, who seemed to be turning a bit pink in embarrassment.
“Three plus what? I’m not exactly a whiz with them fancy mathematics, but don’t y’all need another number when you’re adding?”
“Yeah,” Rainbow Dash added. “I’m not getting it either. Is it supposed to be a window or a chalk board? Or maybe both?”
“Actually,” Dainty began, letting her head drop as she looked away in shame. “I don’t even know what it means.”
“Ya don’t?” Applejack began, but then realized that the pegasus seemed really bothered by it. “Oh! I don’t mean it like that it’s just… What I’m trying to say… It’s just… Gosh darnit! I done stepped in that one.”
“It’s okay…” Dainty sighed. “I’m used to it. I think it might be about taking pictures but...”
“It’s got to mean something,” Dash frowned. “It’s a cutie mark after all. It always means-“
Applejack ribbed Rainbow Dash, shutting her up.
“Ex-nay,” Applejack growled, then glanced at the downtrodden pony. “Look. Maybe we got off on the wrong hoof a bit there. So let’s start over. I’m Applejack, and this is Rainbow Dash. You hungry? I could fetch us some apples.”
“I’m allergic to apples.”
Applejack couldn’t find words.
“I thought you said you were allergic to hay,” Rainbow Dash interrupted.
“I AM allergic to hay,” Dainty replied. Then promptly sneezed, nearly knocking herself over with an involuntary wing-flap in the process.
“Sheesh,” Dash shrugged, glancing at Applejack, who only shrugged back. “So you’re allergic to hay AND apples?”
“Maybe a better question,” Applejack spoke up. “What else exactly, are you allergic to?”
That stopped dialogue. Applejack and Rainbow Dash just looked at each other, unable to come up with anything to say that didn’t sound insensitive. It was just…
“Horseapples,” Applejack growled. “I’m oh for two now… This ain’t going well.”
“It’s not your fault,” Dainty Dish turned around. “I really am allergic to everything. No matter what I do I just can’t seem to… To…”
“To what?” Rainbow Dash asked.”
“Stop sneezing?” Applejack sighed.
“Seems like it,” Dash hung her own head.
“Oh no.” Dainty commented, and immediately sneezed again. “Sneeze attack!”
“A what?” Applejack asked. But Dainty was no longer capable of answering. The earth pony just continued to watch helplessly as Dainty Dish sneezed at least ten more times before she could finally stop for air. By the time she finished, she looked positively exhausted and her nose was a bright pink.
“We should probably get out of this barn,” Applejack glanced around. “I doubt the mold in here’s helpin' any.”
“Sobby,” Dainty managed to snort. Her eyes were watering badly. “Id jud habbeds…”
“So…” Rainbow Dash commented as they cleared out of the decrepid building. “What were you doing up there this morning anyway? It’s kinda’ chilly.”
“Oh,” Dainty sucked in another stuffy-sounding breath. “I work for da Equedria Lad Surv-“
The pegasus stopped for a second, growling and did her best to clear her sinuses.
“I work for the Equestrian Land Survey Group,” she continued. “I do aerial photography.”
“That sounds neat,” Applejack smirked.
“It is,” Dainty’s voice jumped up a notch at the compliment. “I was flying over Canterlot on a request this morning. Someone wanted photos of the area at dawn so they could examine the shadows. You can use them in height measurements you know.”
“So why’d you fall?” Dash asked.
“Not sure,” Dainty furrowed her brow. “I was lining up for a shot centered on Canterlot Castle when there was this bright flash of light from the south. I was so startled I-“
Dainty lifted her wings and started looking around her body, confused.
“I…” she continued. I dropped my camera and…”
She looked under one wing and then the other, the motions coming quicker by the second.
“Dove after it…”
Her face went frantic.
“Camera…” she snapped. “CAMERA! I thought I caught it! Did I have my camera on me?”
“Nope,” Applejack shook her head. “Fraid I ain’t seen no camera when we caught you.”
“Ohhhh!” Dainty started to pout. “The boss is going to kill me if I don’t find it. That camera’s expensive!”
“So you were taking a photo, dropped your camera, went after it, and passed out,” Rainbow Dash interrupted. “Well, that explains the fall. Though, what was the flash?”
“Ya gotta’ ask?” Applejack turned to her friend. “She probably got caught off guard by one of them sonic rainbooms of yours. You ever see the flash off that thing?”
“What about my camera?” Dainty interrupted. “I can’t go back without it!”
“No problem,” Rainbow Dash waved the issue away with a hoof. “I’ll help you find that camera. Easy.”
“Are you sure?” the black pegasus’ eyes had teared up again.
“Of course!” RD smirked and took to the air. “You were diving after it, right? So it probably fell somewhere near where I caught you. Just give me a sec…”
Rainbow Dash took off in a blur, zipping out over the orchard where she estimated she’d caught her. The problem with Orchards, is that everything looked the same to her. And she’d been looking up, not down. On the plus side, everything looked the same, so something like a camera was bound to stick out. Much like the shiny object sitting at the foot of a nearby-
“Bingo,” Dash grinned, and zipped on over. The grin faded when she got closer.
“Y’all find it?” she heard Applejack call somewhere behind her.
“Yeah!” she returned over her shoulder, then frowned again. “Kinda…“
It was the camera all right. Keyword: Was. Rainbow Dash wasn’t a photo expert, but she was about ninety percent certain cameras weren’t supposed to look like eggs. The scrambled kind, not sunny-side-up.
“Boy howdy,” Applejack came trotting up, staring at the pile of parts. “I dun reckon it’s been totaled.”
Dainty came up behind, quickly pushing past the two with a high-pitched whine.
“No…” she whined. “The housing’s cracked… The film’s been exposed.“
“It’s more than a little cracked,” Applejack started. “Sugarcube that’s plumb shattered.”
“Captain Obvious…” Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. Dainty started collecting the camera parts, stopping only to sneeze again.
“Whud ab I godda do?” she continued to whine through tears. One would almost think it was the end of the world the way she was reacting.
“Oh come on now,” Applejack jumped in. “I’m sure we can think of something.”
“Like what?” Dash quietly asked, her voice laced with sarcasm. “Fix it?”
“Exactly,” the Earth pony exclaimed. “We’ll get that camera right fixed up. Then she can grab those shadow photos at sundown.”
“Do you even know HOW to fix a camera?” Dash was resisting the desire to smack her face in exasperation.
“Then how are we going to get it fixed?” Rainbow Dash asked. “I don’t know how to a fix a camera either.”
“Rarity,” was the Earth Pony’s answer.
“Rarity?” Rainbow Dash made a face. “What?”
“It’s a fancy camera right?” Applejack indicated the scrap parts Dainty was sifting through. “Who knows more about fancy things than Rarity? She should at least know somepony right?”
“That makes… Some sense,” Rainbow Dash shrugged. “Let’s go. Come on Dainty. We’re gonna’ go talk to Rarity.”
The black pegasus looked up from her broken camera and sniffled.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to Applejack’s brilliant plan.
“I’m afraid I don’t know anyone dear…”
Rarity looked at the pile of parts that used to be a camera and shook her head.
“I appreciate the thought Applejack,” she continued. “But I simply do not deal with this kind of equipment to actually know anyone who would be able to repair it.”
The answer had not served to improve Dainty’s already terrible mood. As Applejack and Rainbow Dash had silently noted on the walk over to Rarity’s shop, Dainty’s allergies did not improve even in the slightest once they got away from the barn. In fact, the poor pegasus had another fit of sneezes she called a ‘sneeze attack’ during the walk over. They left her looking even more exhausted and watery-eyed than before. It was no wonder the pony had such a light build. All that constant sneezing must have been taking a phenomenal toll on her stamina.
The hope of Rarity being able to point her at a fix had kept her from crying for a while, but with that candle extinguished, the tears had started to flow once more.
“Oh come now dear,” Rarity couldn’t bear to see somepony in that state. “It’s not THAT bad. It just means we’ll have to find someone else who might know.”
The fashion designer produced a hankerchief from somewhere and levitated it in front of Dainty.
“Here,” she soothed. “Blow that nose and dry those eyes. And if you want, I can fix you some tea if it’ll make you feel better.”
Dainty sniffled, then took the handkerchief graciously and proceeded to blow her nose with the sound of a small foghorn. When she was finished, she handed the offered item back to Rarity with a brief ‘dank-oo’.
Rarity eyed the dripping wet hanky with a barely concealed twitch of disgust, then quickly levitated it into a nearby trash bin. (To be incinerated later.) Thank the stars unicorns could levitate things without touching them. There was no telling how obsessive-compulsive she’d be otherwise.
“Now,” she continued. “About that tea…”
“I’m allergic to tea,” Dainty sighed.
“You’re WHAT?” Rarity snapped. Then she turned to Rainbow Dash and Applejack.
“Is she serious?”
“Yeah,” Rainbow Dash nodded. “She’s also allergic to Hay, and Apples.”
“Wha-“ Rarity looked between her two friends and Dainty Dish several times. “Hay and a- Just…”
Then she paused, a conspiratorial look coming over her features.
“What else is she allergic to?”
Applejack and Rainbow Dash just shared a glance.
“Everything.” They chorused.
Rarity blinked, then flopped back on her haunches. It was just unheard of. A pony allergic to ‘everything’? Life like that must be torment. It was a good thing Opal was in another room napping. There was no telling what kind of torture that would be if that feline were in the same room with someone this sensitive.
“You poor dear,” Rarity quickly popped back up on all fours and zipped over to Dainty’s side. “That must be terrible. A beautiful pegasus such as yourself, reduced to a life of misery because of mere allergies. You must be unable to wear ANYTHING nice out of fear of ruining it.”
The fashion designer stopped to think about that. A pony unable to wear even the simplest of high class clothing because one sneeze and it could be all ruined. It was pitiful, shameful even. No pony deserved to go through life like that. She couldn’t allow it; WOULDN’T allow it!
There would be JUSTICE!
“No!” she stomped her hoof. “I will not have it! I MUST do something! I MUST!”
Rarity turned and started levitating several of her materials.
“Rainbow Dash,” she began. “If you could do me a quick favor and fly over to Zecora’s. I think she might have something that helps protect clothing.”
Then she paused.
“No,” she continued after some thought. “I’m sure of it. Living out there in the Everfree. She MUST have something like that.”
Rainbow Dash just laughed unsteadily.
“Uh, Rarity,” Applejack tilted her head. “We didn’t come here to dress her up.”
“Oh I know that dear,” Rarity turned and waved it away with a hoof. “But you’re here now, so we might as well look into it. And those wings she’s got. I’ve never seen such gorgeous wings. I just can’t let such beauty go to waste now can I?”
“O~kay…” Applejack turned and eyed the door. “Maybe we best get going then. We found out what we needed to know after all.”
“Oh don’t be so hasty,” Rarity turned, fixing them with a stern gaze. “I’m not going to take up THAT much of your time. Sit down, stay a little while. This will only take a minute.”
“Oh boy…” Dash muttered under her breath. There was nothing quite like when Rarity got into one of her… ‘creative’ moods. If this went on, they could very well be there all day. Not that it was an entirely bad thing. Rarity made some pretty cool clothes when she put her mind to it. It’s just that they didn’t HAVE all day. Between helping out Dainty, Applejack needing to get back to the farm, and Dash herself had weather to manage at three… And Rarity wants her to go talk to Zecora for some gunk she’s not even sure exists?
Yeah, that’s not happening.
“Come on Dainty,” Rainbow Dash motioned to the currently whimpering pegasus. “Let’s go try somepony else. Maybe we’ll have more luck with Twilight.”
“Great idea!” Applejack nodded. “We’ll talk to Twilight. She probably has a book on that camera anyhow.”
“What?!” Rarity spun from her work. “Oh come ON! Just a few minutes! I promise!”
“Sorry Rarity!” Rainbow Dash floated over and quickly started nudging Dainty towards the door. “But we’re in a hurry.”
“And we don’t have all day,” Applejack continued. “We have to get her camera replaced before sundown. Or she won’t be able to finish her work for the day.”
The country pony reached for the door. But just before she could open it, it burst inwards of its own volition, knocking her backwards even as she got blasted by what sounded like a party horn.
“GAH!” she snapped as she tumbled over. “What the hay!?”
“HEY!’ is right!” Pinkie Pie’s voice was like listening to pure cane sugar brought to life and given a megaphone. “Who’s ready to PAAAARTAY?!”
“Wha-“ Applejack tried to regain her bearings.
“Pinkie Pie?!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed. “What are you doing here? There’s no party here!”
“Well,” Pinkie began. The way she dragged the word out and then inhaled sharply was about the only warning the other four eot.
“I was walking by a few minutes ago when I heard this crying," she started, voice lapsing into that tone typical of a sugar high. "I don’t like it when I hear ponies cry, it makes me feel sad inside. ThenI realized it was the voice of a pony I hadn’t heard before. And since you guys know that I know EVERY pony in Ponyville, I realized it must be somepony from out of town who was upset. And since they were upset, I figured they’d need cheering up. But not just any old ordinary cheering up, but an extra special super duper ‘Welcome to Ponyville!’ cheering up that I wasn’t at all prepared to do at the time. So I ran back to the shop as fast as I could to grab some stuff and raced back here even faster, and BAM! Here I am! Ready to cheer up our newcomer with a nice fun, extra-super-de-duper giggle-tastic party! I even brought balloons!”
Pinkie emphasized that last statement by stuffing one of said balloons in her mouth and began blowing it up.
“Yes, that’s lovely Pinkie dear.” Rarity wandered up, looking slightly annoyed with her friend come uninvited guest. Mainly it was the fact that Pinkie’s entrance had messed up a hinge. “But since you’re here,” the fashion designer turned to look at Dainty. “You might as well try and cheer her up while I get an outfit designed for her.”
“But we’re le-“ Rainbow Dash began.
“Okie Dokie!” Pinkie interrupted, spitting the balloon out so that it went rocketing around the room as it deflated. Then she immediately grabbed Dainty by the shoulder and pulled her right out of Dash’s grip.
“You must be the one who’s upset. My name’s Pinkie Pie. And you are?”
“Dainty Dish,” the pegasus sighed.
“Dainty Dish?” Pinkie smiled. “I like that name! Reminds me of a flower dancing on a dinner plate! You DO like flowers right?”
Pinkie jumped back when Dainty sneezed, glancing at the other ponies who just rolled their eyes.
“I’b allegic to flowerd,” Dainty sighed.
“OH! Too bad,” Pinkie shrugged it off like it was no big deal. “I know this really neat place near where Fluttershy lives, and it’s got all kinds of flowers. With lots of different colors like red, and yellow, and blue... Even Pink! But I understand you can’t be near flowers of they just make you sneeze.”
Then Pinkie sat of ramrod straight and grinned.
“HEY!” she exclaimed. “I know! PICTURES of flowers! Those don’t make you sneeze right?!”
Dainty’s otherwise forelorn features perked up ever so slightly at the comment.
“I knew it!” Pinkie grinned. “If you can’t look at flowers, we can take pictures of flowers! Do you have a camera? That would be PERFECT!”
Dainty’s features just fell again as she pouted at the demolished camera sitting in front of her. Pinkie’s gaze tracked her own until it too fell upon the ruined device.
“Oooohhh,” she nodded in understanding. “I get it. You’re upset because your camera’s busted.” Dainty just nodded silently.
“Well, cheer up!” Pinkie snapped with a giggle. “I know some ponies who can get it fixed in NO time!”
The pegasus’ features lit up so fast that even Pinkie wasn’t quite sure what happened.
“REALLY?” Dainty asked, her voice slightly cracked. “Are you sure? It’s a custom camera.”
“That’s not a problem!” Pinkie giggled. “Everyone knows custom equipment is still made with standard parts these days. Let me take a look at that.”
Pinkie Pie practically pounced on the camera parts and started examining them up close.
“OOOOooo…” she cooed. “You’ve got a Neighkon!”
“Is that good or bad?” Applejack asked.
“Good?” Pinkie looked at her friend like she’d grown a few extra hooves. “Don’t you know what a Neighkon is? It’s only the best camera producer in AAAAALL of Equestria!”
“Wait,” Rainbow Dash jumped in. “How do you know that?”
“Easy!” Pinkie grinned. “When you want good photos at parties, you use cameras, am I right?”
Rainbow Dash thought about it for a second. Standard Pinkie Logic was a bit odd to follow at times, but it always made sense in weird ways. This wasn’t a particularly difficult piece of logic to follow as far as that went. Not compared to the mess that was the parasprite incident. It wasn’t until she’d marched the parasprites right out of ponyville that it started to make sense then. Either way, much like Pinkie’s so dubbed ‘Pinky Sense’, she had decided not to question Standard Pinkie Logic too much. If she could justify it, well, it worked.
“This is an NK-2500 Hycon Technical Objective Camera with Eagle Eye High Resolution Lens…” Pnkie Pie had picked up the lens cap and was examining it with a grin. With a snap of her hoof, she popped the cap in the air and caught it again before smacking it down on the table.
“It’s got adjustable exposure timing, and motion blur suppression built in standard. The flash has been removed, but when you’re using the Eagle Eye, the flash is useless anyway since you're probably REALLY far away. And that’s why it has the adjustable exposure control. It’s a specialty of Neighkon. This setup is perfect for photography at long distances, without losing any of the details. You could take a picture of one of Twilight’s letters to the princess from two miles away and be able to read what she wrote!”
“Pinkie Pie, dear,” Rarity tried to unscrew her face. “Not to doubt your seeming expertise, but did you really figure that all out from looking at the lens cap?”
“Of course not silly!” Pinkie smirked and stood up. “I checked the product label.”
“Huh?” Applejack blinked.
"This," Pinkie held up another one of the parts that had been lying face up on the table. There was a small white sticker on it more at home to Twilight's scrutiny.
"You guys don't read these?"
Applejack just looked at Rainbow Dash, who could only shrug.
“Okay,” Rainbow Dash nodded at last. “So it’s a good camera-”
“Good camera?” Pinkie Pie jumped up on her hind legs. “GOOD CAMERA?! Look at her. You see how upset she is? This isn’t a ‘Good Camera’. This camera is better than the one Foto Finish uses. This is a GREAT camera!”
“Wait a second!” Rarity interrupted. “What do you mean, BETTER than Foto Finish? She’s one of the top model producers in Equestria. She has top of the line equipment.”
“And this is BETTER,” Pinkie motioned to the scrap pile. “Well, it WAS better. Now it’s junk. But Foto Finish uses a standard NK-750 Clydesdale in tandem with industry recognized standard lenses. This is fully custom. You can’t buy this in a shop, you have to get it shipped directly from Neighkon.”
“Did you get that from the label too?” Applejack asked with a little more than a hint of confusion.
“What are you talking about,” Pinkie frowned at her friend. “Everypony who reads Vanity Mare knows they publish the kind of camera the models are taken with.”
“News to me,” Dash whispered.
“Anyway,” Pinkie dropped back to all fours. “It’s replaceable, but you have to go directly to the Neighkon factory to do so. Good luck with that though.”
“Why?” Applejack asked. “Did they go out of business?”
“Of course not,” Pinkie gave her friend an indignant look. “It’s just the factory’s in Seaddle. It’ll take a few weeks to get the replaceme-”
Dainty’s sudden shout made the other four ponies jump in surprise.
“Yeah,” Pinkie turned to the pegasus. “Sorry, replacing this might take a bit longer than you’d like.”
“No!” Dainty stomped a hoof, then winced. “What I mean is, I know where Seaddle is! That’s my next stop!”
“What?” Applejack began. “You on headin’ that way on a trip?”
“This is PERFECT!” Dainty continued. “All I have to do is head over to Seaddle and have them replace my camera, and then I can- Cah...”
“Can what dear?” Rarity asked.
“Whoa nelly,” Applejack backed up. “Here we go again.”
Dainty went into a near continuous state of sneezing, causing Rarity to look on in near total shock while Pinkie’s ever present grin started to fade towards something more akin to disbelief. After about twenty consecutive rounds, including one that made dainty accidentally flap her wings, knocking over one of Rarity’s dummy models, she finally came to a halt, moaning in irritation.
“Thad id!” she stomped a hoof. “I’b go-eeg do deaddle! I’b god do ged obb da groud!”
“What?” Rainbow Dash frowned. “You’re going to fly ALL the way to Seaddle?”
“Ob courb!” Dainty sniffed, heading for the door. “Id nod dad bar!”
“Not far?” Applejack cocked her head to the side. “Did all that sneezing knock something loose up there in your noggin? Seaddle’s WAY west’a here so much as to make Apploosa look close.”
“Doh?!” Dainty stopped and glared. “I’b go-eeg! Id NOD BAR!”
And with a snap, she turned and ran out the door. Behind them, Pinkie Pie looked at the table, then quickly back at the pegasus as she vanished, and quickly turned back with a shout.
“Hey, hey HEY!” she began, giving chase. “Don’t forget your-“
Pinkie made it to the door when a freak blast of air picked her up and hurled her backwards, smacking her into Rainbow Dash and depositing them both in a heap.
“Broken... Camera?” Pinkie blinked.
“Great...” Dash tapped her hoof on the ground in irritation. “That makes twice today.”
“I’ll get her,” Applejack turned and trotted out the door. “Hey Dainty! Come Back! You fergot’cher camera!”
After a moment, while Pinkie and Dash collected themselves up off Rarity’s floor, Applejack came trotting back in, looking end-over-end more confused than ever.
Lunchtime around Ponyville can be considered a rather quaint experience. With weather managed by the local pegasus team, and Celestia carefully managing just how much sunshine Equestria gets, it was almost ALWAYS perfect for any outdoor activity one could imagine.
“So Fluttershy tried Mrs. Cake’s new recipe for Strawberry Strudel,” Pinkie began to Rarity, who was listening in rapt fascination. "She almost didn’t want to take a bite at first… You know how she is.”
“Definitely,” Rarity nodded. “Always the same around anything new.”
Then the fashion designer leaned forward.
“So did she like it?”
Pinkie Pie smirked.
“Like it?” she chirped. “You should have seen her. Once she actually tasted it, she downed it in three bites!”
“Three-!?” Rarity covered a laugh. “Oh, I bet that was priceless to watch.”
“Oh it was!” Pinkie laughed. “And Mrs. Cake was so shocked… The look on her face!”
Rarity continued to giggle at the prospect of Mrs. Cake staring surprised at Fluttershy ravenously gobbling up a Strudel. Or in fact, the idea of Fluttershy ravenously doing ANYTHING. As she did so, Applejack came trotting up, saddlebags loaded down with what was most likely apple products on her back.
“Hey fellers!” she called as she got closer. “Y’all’er a bit early I see.”
“But of course,” Rarity tilted her head back ever so slightly. “As much as I enjoy being fashionably late, I wouldn’t want to keep my friends waiting. Would I?”
“Heh,” Applejack chuckled. “I reckon so. Though I don’t see Rainbow Dash here. You’d expect her to be the early one.”
“Yes,” Rarity pouted. “You would expect her to be first. But then again, she does take those naps…”
“Don’t worry,” Pinkie piped up. “She should be here any second.”
“What, pray tell, makes you reckon that?” Applejack asked. Pinkie just shrugged. “Twitchy Tail,” she chirped.
“Twitchy Tail?” she frowned. “I thought that was for when things were about to fall?”
“If Rainbow Dash is in a steep dive, she’s really just falling…. Right?”
Applejack frowned, then opened her mouth to speak, but stopped.
“I honestly couldn’t tell ya,” she commented after a moment. Then quickly moved to change topics rather than think about that. “So what’y’all got in the basket there?”
Pinkie turned to a basket sitting next to her that had until this point gone unmentioned.
“This?” she asked. “That’s the surprise! What do you have?”
“This?” Applejack nodded to her saddlebags.
“Knowing Applejack,” Rarity began in a teasing tone. “It’s probably six different forms of apple product.”
“Nope!” Applejack laughed. “Nice try though Rarity. Any other time you’d probably be right. Take a look…”
Applejack gave a quick buck and a twist, swinging her saddlebags onto the picnic table they had taken over. With a quick levitating shove, Rarity opened them to get a look inside.
“One of my cousins from outta’ town dropped by on Saturday,” Applejack continued. “He brought us a whole buncha’ nuts as a bit of a gift during his visit. Walnuts, Pecans, Macadamias, Cashews…”
Applejack reached down and pulled a pie out of the top of the second bag.
“Granny Smith even baked us up this here Pecan pie.”
“Oh, that looks delicious,” Rarity eyed the pie expectantly. Then raised her head to look at Applejack.
“Yep!” the country pony smirked. “I’ve had these before. Granny Smith makes a MEEEEAN Pecan. Almost as good as her apple pies. Anyhow, I also brought a few bags of the nuts so we could all enjoy some.”
Applejack stopped when she noticed Pinkie doing her best to contain an otherwise obvious fit of giggles. “What?” she asked. “What’s so funny?”
Applejack turned around, but saw nothing, then looked back at her friends. Now even Rarity was trying to contain herself.
“Come on now…” she frowned. “Out with it. ‘Fore I get impatient.”
Rarity and Pinkie failed to give any clues, and only started laughing harder. Pinkie Pie actually fell over, almost choking as she tried to breathe.
“Okay…” Applejack sighed, reaching up to take off her hat and scratch her head. “I give up, you go-“
There was no hat.
“What the ha-“ she looked up.
“BOO!” Rainbow Dash shouted. Applejack yelped something incomprehensible as she leapt probably about four feet straight backwards and fell over.
Everyone really did fall over laughing then, even Rarity. Rainbow Dash then righted herself, Applejack’s hat firmly pressed to her head, and gently lowered herself to the ground.
“Yeah baby!” she grinned. “Still the master!”
Rainbow Dash pranced in place, seeming to do a little dance.
“Uh huh! Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh!”
“Hahahaha!” Applejack laughed as she pushed herself back to her hooves. “You got me good there RD… Nice one.”
“Of course,” Rainbow Dash handed Applejack back her near omnipresent headgear. “It’s like I said this morning. Nobody EVER looks up…”
“Living proof,” Applejack laughed again. “So, ya ready to eat?”
“Am I ever!” Rainbow Dash bounded over to the picnic table and examined the food. Between the pies, nuts, and whatever Pinkie was hiding, it smelled awesome.
“Hold on just a second there dear,” Rarity commented. “You did remember to bring something right?”
“Me?” Dash gave a sly smirk. “Of course! You didn’t notice that?”
Rainbow Dash pointed to a cloud, placed in just the right spot to cast some shade on the picnic table.
“I always come prepared,” she smirked.
“What about food?” Rarity asked.
Rainbow Dash ducked her head, looking left, then right. Then she quickly brought something she’d been concealing out. A small pink fluff ball no bigger than her hoof.
“Cotton Candy?” Pinkie Pie frowned. “And not enough for everypony even.”
“What?” Dash looked at her hyperactive friend. “No! Watch. It gets better.”
She let go of the cotton candy.
“Just what-“ Rarity began, but stopped.
The cotton candy stayed right where Dash left it, floating about a foot off the table.
“Wait just a cotton pickin’ minute!” Applejack frowned. “Is that what I think it is?”
“Got a glass?” Rainbow Dash smirked. Rarity absentmindedly handed her friend one in response. Then Dash stuck it below the small cloud and smacked the top of it with a hoof. Immediately the glass began to fill… With chocolate milk.
“I tore this off one of the old jerk’s goofy clouds right before we zapped him,” she explained. “Now I get free chocolate milk whenever I wa-“
“Why!” Pinkie pie demanded after tackling Dash to the ground. “Why have you been holding out on me?”
“Holding out?” Rainbow Dash laughed. “I’m not holding out. I just didn’t want Twilight to see it. Can you imagine how much she’d freak out if she saw this thing?”
“Is she not coming then?” Rarity asked, noting the glass was starting to overflow and calmly slapped the cloud to make it stop. Applejack immediately snagged the glass and gave it a sip, a surprised smile popping up on her face.
“Nah,” RD shook her head. “Too busy today. She even had Cheerilee’s chalk board in there. I don’t know what she was doing… But she said that she’d be okay for next week.”
“Ah well,” Applejack finished downing the glass of chocolate milk. “It’s her loss then. Wow, that’s some good chocolate milk.”
“So what about you?” Rainbow Dash continued to Rarity. “What’d you bring?”
“Me?” Rarity blinked innocently, then reached into her bag and brought out a loaf of bread. “Bread?” Applejack asked.
“Not just any bread,” Rarity frowned at the group. “This is fine French bread. Add a little butter and it’s the perfect contrast to what we’ve got here.”
The group said nothing, opting instead to glance back and forth at each other.
“Oookay…” Rainbow Dash shrugged after a moment. “Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starved. Let’s eat!”
“Wonderful idea,” Rarity practically jumped at the change of topic. “I’ll get the plates.”
With that, she practically dove into her bag, then popped out just as quick with a frown. Then rummaged through it for a few seconds before crossing her hooves with a ‘harumph!’
“I can’t believe this,” she frowned. “I brought glasses, knives, forks, spoons, napkins. But no plates… I forgot the plates. I can’t BELIEVE I forgot the plates. That’s like, THE, most, important, thing!”
“You’re going to eat off a filthy table?” Rarity looked appalled.
“If you want it washed I’ll dump a monsoon on it,” Dash rolled her eyes. With a near snap, the pegasus zipped away and returned with a menacing dark thundercloud. The other three ponies jumped and grabbed their things off the table as she promptly hopped up and down on top of it, drenching the table thoroughly in the process. After a few seconds of downpour, Dash zipped away to return the rumbling storm cloud where she’d gotten it and returned to quickly whirlwind dry their spot.
“THERE!” she stated when she finished. “Better?”
Rarity did her best to feign satisfaction, though to be honest... Well, Dash’s methods left much to be desired. But one should never look a gift pony in the- What the heck did that mean anyway?
“Perfect,” Rarity stated in falsetto. “Now, can we eat or what?”
“Wait wait wait!” Pinkie Pie piped up. “Hold on!”
“What now?” Dash hovered in place and crossed her hooves. Pinkie, mean time, was looking around as if searching for something.
“Did anypony just hear that?” Pinkie continued. “I swear I just heard the strangest sound.”
“Like what sugarcube?” Applejack asked. “Cause I don’t hear nothin’ ‘cept my stomach grumbling.”
“It was really quick,” Pinkie frowned, looking around again. “Like a ‘thump’, or a ‘badump’! Yeah, definitely a ‘badump’ sound!”
“You sure it wasn’t just that storm cloud I had a minute ago?” Dash rolled her eyes.
“No, this was different,” Pinkie frowned and sat on her haunches. “It wasn’t all rumbly or anything, but more like Spike’s claws snapping. Really, really, REALLY big claws snapping. But far away.”
They sat in silence for a moment, just trying to hear if the sound occurred a second time.
“Nothin’,” Applejack shrugged after a moment, looking around. “Just birds and the wind. And weird clouds in the sky.”
There was a brief pause before all the ponies looked at her, then looked up. High above, was a single long white line.
“Rainbow Dash,” Rarity frowned. “What kind of cloud is that? I don’t think I’ve seen it before.”
“I dunno,” the pegasus responded. “I don’t even GO that high, and I’ve never seen any patterns call for anything like that.”
“Whatever it is,” Applejack tilted her head. “It goes a loooong ways westward.”
“OH!” Pinkie pie jumped up. “Sky lines! SKY LINES! Maybe Princess Celestia is trying to draw something in the sky!”
“Now why in tarnation would she do THAT?” Applejack asked.
“I dunno,” Pinkie shrugged. “The same reason she invited us to the Gala?”
“I don’t see that happening,” Dash shook her head. “Not her style. And shees, Applejack your stomach really is getting loud. Maybe we should eat and forget about it.”
“That’s not my stomach,” Applejack frowned, turning to face the ever increasing rumble.
They all turned, spotting something swooping towards them across the treetops. Black and red-striped and...
“Well by howdy!” Applejack’s features lit up. “It’s Dainty Dish!”
“Finally remembered to come back for her broken camera,” Dash smirked, hovering up behind Applejack. “Took her long enough.”
“Well, maybe we should invite her to lunch whiles she’s here,” Applejack nodded over her shoulder. Then the country pony started to trot forward towards the approaching pegasus, fully intent to greet her.
“Hey y’all Dainty!” she shouted. “Welcome back! Ya’ hungry?”
The response shouted back wasn’t so encouraging.
“GET OUT OF THE WAY! I CAN’T STOP!”
“What?” Applejack’s eyes widened. Then she saw it. Dainty’s wings were out wide, turned almost sideways to catch the air. That was the source of the growling rumble. And she didn’t seem to be slowing down much at all.”
“MOVE!” the black pegasus screamed as hard as she could. She was most certainly NOT stopping on a bit.
“WHOA NELLY!” Applejack yelped, and dove aside. And just in time. Dainty came roaring into the group, disturbances from her wings kicking up a cloud of dust behind her. Rainbow Dash had only just enough time to see Applejack jump out from between herself and the incoming pegasus before they both collided in mid air.
When the dust cloud dissipated, Dainty was on the ground, caught in a sneeze attack, pinning Rainbow Dash beneath her.
“Whoa...” Pinkie Pie stared wide-eyed at the spectacle. “You okay Rainbow Dash?”
Rainbow Dash just looked up, one of Dainty’s hooves in her face.
“Aww... THAT’S THREE!” She snapped in irritation.
“Sobby,” Dainty Sniffed after heaving one last explosive sneeze. “I cad stop dad gwick.”
“At least Y’all aren’t hurt or nothin,” Applejack trotted up.
“Not hurt she says,” Dash growled in exasperation.
“Well,” Applejack frowned at Dash. “Ya AIN’T. So quit-cher whinin-”
“Complaining,” Rarity corrected.
“Complainin’,” Applejack rolled her eyes.
Rainbow Dash just crossed her hooves and growled. After a moment, Dainty picked herself up and turned to offer assistance. Dash, grateful that at least SOMEPONY cared, reached out and grabbed the outstretched hoof. Unfortunately, the moment she did so Dainty promptly yelped and yanked back. Rainbow Dash was unceremoniously dropped as a result.
“I guess I spoke too soon,” Applejack sighed. Then trotted over to take a closer look.
“Alright,” she continued. “Let me see that hoof.”
“I- I’ll be fine,” Dainty winced. “This happens all the time. I come in a bit too fast and just can’t stop when I land… and p- APFPH!“
“A sprained hoof’s nothin’ to sneeze at,” Applejack Admonished the pegasus, then said after a pause. “No offense…”
“Nub taged…” Dainty sniffed.
“Now just mosey right along over here, and have a seat,” Applejack continued, leading Dainty over to the table with one hoof. “Take a load off. Relax. Ya hungry?”
“Darbig,” Dainty sniffed. “Bud-“
“Perfect,” Applejack interrupted. “Now, I know. Yer allergic to everthin’ and all. But you gotta be able t’ eat SOMETHIN’, am I right?”
“Y-“ Dainty began, but stopped, took a deep breath, and swallowed before she continued in a clearer voice. “Yes…”
“Then no problem,” Applejack smirked. “Just tell us what you CAN eat, and we can fetch it for ya in no time. Right RD?”
“Yeah,” Dash trotted over, rubbing her chin where Dainty’s hoof had caught it. “I know all the best places for grub.”
Dainty looked back and forth at the group as Applejack made her sit down. Pinkie Pie just smiled across the table at her. For some reason, it sent a shiver right down her back. The fact that somepony seemed THAT... Well, happy. It was almost inequine. In fact, the whole group was unnervingly friendly. It made Dainty want to run… After all. She’d only met these four a few hours ago. She didn’t know them.
“I’m not sure I should just-“ she began. “I mean, you barely know me and you’re offering me lunch…”
“It’s okay!” Pinkie Pie’s hyperactive voice chimed in. “We always have extra. Well, except the candy. We always run out of that for some reason.”
“Don’t worry about it dear,” Rarity added before Pinkie could really fly off on a tangent. “There’s usually six of us anyway. So even with you, we’re still one pony short.”
“See?” Applejack nodded. “Nuthin’ to worry ‘bout. We’re all friends here.”
Dainty Dish glanced around again.
“Are you sure?” she asked, her head drooping a little. “I don’t want to impose…”
“Come on already,” Rainbow Dash frowned impatiently. “Just tell us.”
“Okay…” Dainty closed her eyes for a second, taking a deep, calming breath. Unfortunately, that was interrupted with a sneeze that made her almost fall off the bench. After corrected herself, she began to speak. Rapidly, and in great detail.
“I’m allowed to eat berries and nuts,” she began. “However, I can only eat unsalted nuts, since I’m allergic to iodine in the salt. Berries cannot be artificially sweetened or caramelized. In fact, I’m not allowed to have any form of processed sugar because my throat closes off and I start to suffocate in less than a minute. So I can’t have any form of candy, and I’m forbidden from any concentrated juice drinks except lemonade. I can have bread, but only if it’s wheat, not white or sourdough. I can have butter, but only a little because I’m lactose intolerant. And only real butter, not margarine. Milk is right out, so is tea. I’m allergic to caffeine and get a nasty rash. I can have lemonade like I said before, but only if it’s sweetened with honey.”
Somewhere around ‘no candy’ Pinkie Pie’s mouth hit the floor, prompting the other three ponies listening to Dainty’s rather in-depth list of foods to slowly begin screwing their faces up more and more as she explained details right down to the method of preparation.
“Roots and tubers are fine, so long as they’re washed and peeled, but I can’t have leaves or other greens. Fruits, I can only have soft ones like peaches, no apples, no pears, etc… Cherries are okay so long as the pit is removed. I can have baked goods, so long as it doesn’t include any caramelized filling. Cake is okay in limited amounts provided I don’t eat the frosting. I can’t have anything lathered in oil or grease. No fried foods, no fire-roasted foods. Vinegar burns my lungs. Mushrooms will kill me.”
The silence that followed lasted a good thirty seconds. The other four ponies simply blinked, cast glances at each other, blinked some more, and fidgeted uneasily in place. Finally, Rainbow Dash actually worked up enough nerve over her own shock to say something, anything really.
“Whoa…” she began. “And I thought Fluttershy had some strict diets for the animals…”
“I know,” Dainty hung her head. “I’m just-“
Pinkie Pie nearly exploded in a waterfall of tears, and jumped over the table to embrace Dainty in a hug.
“You poor thing!” the party animal wailed. “It’s just horrible! No candy, or sweets! No delicious delicacies or treats!”
“I know…” Dainty sniffed again. Pinkie’s crying was becoming contagious. “Did you know the only candy I ever tried was a sweetie pop? It made me so sick… And all I wanted… was to taste…”
Then Dainty too broke down. And for a moment it was nothing but her and Pinkie, bawling away over the loss of many sweets between croaks from Pinkie Pie sounding a lot like ‘The horror! THE HORROR!’
Applejack, who’d watched Pinkie Pie turn the whole thing into a near sideshow act right before her eyes, had to resist rolling her eyes before stomping a hoof to get their attention.
“Hey!” She snapped. “Don’t y’all be frettin’ none,”
She then reached out to pat the tearful pony on the back. “Y’all’re actually in luck.” Applejack turned and opened her saddlebag again. “Lookie here at this spread. We got just what you can eat. See?”
“Hey!” Pinkie Pie’s tears stopped in an instant. “That’s right! We’ve got all kinds of good stuff right here! And most of it is stuff you CAN have! It’s like it was planned this way!”
Dainty managed to suppress a sneeze between her tears and took a look at the food laid out. In an instant, her eyes shot wide. Nuts, lots of them. A pecan pie, no filling. Walnuts, not even cracked open, macadamias, and even…
“CASHEWS!” Everyone jumped as Dainty exclaimed in a loud squeal. A moment later, the lithe black pegasus had practically ripped the bag of said nuts open and was crunching on them in total delight. Rarity was silently glad she’d kept her hooves off the table, because it seemed possible they would have quickly gone missing.
“I wuv cassoos!” Dainty managed to fire around a mouth full. “You haf no ijea. They’re jush show gooj!”
Applejack just stared for a moment, as did everypony else. Until now, Dainty had been almost as timid as Fluttershy. She just had that kind of air about her. But at the same time, there was a certain edge to it. It was, different from Fluttershy. She couldn’t put her hoof on it.
“Heh,” Applejack began, trying to take her thoughts off that. “Dainty, sugarcube, y’all might want t’ slow down just a hair. Wouldn’t want ya to choke, would we?”
Dainty froze in mid bite and let her eyes flick over to the other four ponies watching her. Then a pink flush to match her nose came to her cheeks, her ears flopping down as it did so. After a moment, she swallowed with an audible gulp and ducked back.
“Sorry,” she all but pouted. “I- I just like Cashews, that’s all. I didn’t mean to act like... Like a-”
“Like a pig?” Pinkie Pie asked. Her tone indicated it was more of a joke, but the way Dainty seemed to recoil as if slapped all but nailed it down for Applejack.
The difference between Dainty and Fluttershy was: You just wanted to cuddle Fluttershy all day because she was afraid of everything. Dainty looked like somepony who was constantly two seconds away from getting yelled at for something she didn’t do. Like what she really needed was just one big HUG.
Well, if Cashews made her that happy…
“Eh,” Applejack shrugged. “If ya like them Cashews that much, they’re yours. I brought plenty of them there other nuts to snack on. So we ain’t exactly short here.”
Then she turned her head to the others.
“That okay with y’all?”
The remaining three ponies nodded.
“Not a problem for me,” Dash shrugged. “Had my eye on that pie anyway.” Dainty’s face lit up, prompting Applejack to smile.
“Well then,” Rarity cut in, giving each of her friends a quick, pointed look. “Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s eat. I’ve got a wonderful French bread here, and Rainbow Dash WAS kind enough to wash the table for us…”
Dash glanced at Rarity, catching just a hint of her earlier distaste in the way she’d spoken the words.
“Dang right!” Applejack took the initiative. “Let’s eat.”
The food got distributed quickly after that. Dainty was left too her Cashews, which she crunched on in delight, though at a more… Sedate pace.
The others divvied up a slice of pie each, and divided the various remaining nuts with plenty to spare. Rarity shared her French Bread, and Pinkie Pie unleashed her surprise.
“Tadaa!” she shouted, removing the napkin covering her basket.. “A fresh batch of Mrs. Cake’s new Strawberry Strudels!”
“Oh!” Rarity commented. ”So that’s what you’d planned earlier.”
“Yep!” Pinkie grinned. “I thought of it back when Dainty Dish here left her Camera at the Boutique!”
“Speaking of that camera,” Dash turned to Dainty. “We left the parts back at the boutique. You can grab them after lunch.”
Dainty stopped chewing for a second, her expression scrunching up.
“You left it,” Dash continued. “Remember? That’s why you came back.”
Dainty sneezed, and then after shaking off the irritation, cast a glance at Dash.
“I didn’t come back for that,” she said. “I already got the new one.”
Rainbow Dash stopped moving and just sat there looking confused.
“But didn’t you need the old one so you could show them what you had?” Rarity asked.
“No,” Dainty began. “I- APFPH! I just memorized the name. NK-2500 Hycon Technical Objective Camera with Eagle Eye with adjustable exposure timing and blur suppression...”
She paused and quickly lifted an object onto the table. It was a camera.
“Check it out!” she giggled. “This is a Neighkon NK-3k, Hycon Advanced Technical Objective Camera with Falcon Four enhanced optical tracking. It’s got night vision, and IR field sensitivity with an auto-steadying feature. It’s got auto-focus, auto-zoom, auto-blur reduction... It’s totally amazi-... Am- APFPH!“
The other ponies frowned, silence only broken by a series of sneezes that left Dainty blinking blankly at the table as she tried to work the puffiness out of her eyes.
“Did you understand any of that Pinkie?” Applejack asked at last.
Pinkie Pie just shrugged.
“Nope,” she chirped. “Not a word.”
The other three friends just stared flatly back.
“What?” she asked.
“Wait wait wait!” Rainbow Dash moved her food aside and grabbed a camera strap. “Just where exactly did you get that thing?”
Dainty looked up, sniffling.
“I god id frub Neighkod ub coard.”
“What?” Rainbow Dash furrowed her brow. “No you didn’t, there’s no way-“
“Yed way!” Dainty snapped. “I wed do da Neighkod plad mydelb!”
“You flew all the way to Seaddle?” Rainbow frowned.
“Uh huh,” Dainty nodded, then stopped to clear her sinuses.
“As in, far end of Equestria, Seaddle?” Dash continued.
“It’s not that far,” Dainty frowned. “I flew right to the Neighkon plant and talked with the manager himself. When I told him who I was, he seemed excited and gave me that camera.”
Rainbow Dash sat back and crossed her forelegs.
“Uh uh.’ she shook her head. “I don’t believe you. Covering that kind of distance so quickly is IMPOSSIBLE. You didn’t go to Seaddle! ‘I’ couldn’t even hope to get there and back again in a day. And in case you didn’t know, my specialty is SPEED. Heard of the Sonic Rainboom? That would be me.”
“Well if ya’ll are going to be like that,” Applejack stuck her head between the two. “Maybe she’s just FASTER than you.”
“What?!” Dash all but shouted. “Faster than ME? No! No way! Not this pony!”
“You sure?” Applejack gave her friend a sly grin. “She does have those large, POWERFUL wings. And maybe that’s what that there cutie mark on her flank means. Maybe it’s speed lines or somethin’, and she gets a speed boost of plus three over all other ponies. Like that game Twilight tried to get us to play that one time. Dungeons and Draconequuses.”
Rainbow narrowed her eyes and bit her lip, letting a growl out as her friend antagonized her.
“No,” Dainty shook her head, interrupting the two before they could really start goading each other. “I can’t be faster than Rainbow Dash. That much I know.”
“Hmm?” Applejack turned her head, gauging the dark colored pony.
“I can’t go very fast at all,” Dainty continued, hanging her head. “I’m just not that strong a flier. You saw. I couldn’t even stop properly. I can’t turn; it hurts too much. And I can’t even fly for more than two hours without getting tired. All I’m really good at is just going along in a straight line. And doing short vertical climbs.”
“Vertical climbs?” Rarity had been silent up until that moment.
“Yeah,” Dainty nodded. “I can breathe better when I get high above all the stuff I’m allergic too. So I worked hard to be able to do that.”
Then Dainty sighed.
“It’s about all I can do though.”
The ponies nodded in understanding, save for Rainbow Dash, who just seemed to sigh in exasperation.
“Okay fine,” she continued. “But that STILL doesn’t explain how you managed to get to Seaddle and back so quickly. If you even did so.”
“I’m telling you,” Dainty started to back up, getting a little defensive as her voice started to quiver. “It’s not that far! Why don’t you believe me?”
“I’ve flown it!” Dash snapped. “I know how far it is! And you’re saying you got there and back in five hours!”
“Whoa whoa whoa!” Applejack jumped in before Rainbow Dash could really start ranting. “Ease up a little, you’re scaring her.”
“I’m not trying to be mean,” Dash sat down. “I just know how far it is.”
“Maybe you just done remember it all wrong like,” Applejack did her best calm Rainbow Dash down. “If she’s not faster than you, then you’re just getting your distances mixed up.”
“I didn’t MIX anything,” Rainbow frowned to her friend.
“Easy now sugarcube,” Applejack soothed. “One way or another, there’s bound to be some sorta’ explanation. You don’t have to take it out on her, okay?”
“I’m not taking it out on her.”
“Coulda’ fooled her,” Applejack indicated with a nod. Dainty had scrunched almost right off the table, tears visible in the corners of her eyes.
“What?” Dash gaped as dainty sniffed. This one less an allergy-sounding sniff, and more like someone who was ready to start bawling any second.
“Oh come on!” Dash took to the air and floated forward. “We’re just arguing. Don’t cry! Not over that! You’re supposed to argue BACK!”
Dainty just sniffed again.
“Hey I know!” Pinkie Pie suddenly interjected. The other four ponies looked at her in curiosity.
“If we’re arguing over distances,” the pink pony continued. “Why don’t we ask Twilight? She’s BOUND to have some maps in the library. Then we can just measure the distance on the map, and we’ll know whether or not Rainbow Dash has gone completely psychotic on us.”
“Yeah...” Rainbow Dash started to nod, then gave Pinkie a funny face. “That... could work.”
Then she stopped and asked more to herself.
“Great idea sugarcube!” Applejack agreed. “Let’s head over to the Library and get this settled once and fer all.”
Then Applejack gulped down what was left of her slice of Pecan Pie and trotted over to Dainty with her usual confident smile.
“Cheer up,” the country pony continued with a nod. “And I hope you’re not TOO allergic to books and paper.”
Twilight Sparkle was a unicorn with certain special needs. As THE student to Princess Celestia, and admittedly Equestria’s most talented unicorn, she was constantly studying the ways of magic. She was brilliant, logical, and organized. In fact, her skills at organizing had earned her the position of Team Coordinator from the Mayor during the last Winter Wrap Up. A position that didn’t even exist before then. But because Twilight did such a stellar job in taking what had been an entire Winter Wrap Up almost a day behind schedule, and literally getting it done overnight, well…
“Tone number seven,” the dragon mused idly. “The, ‘I can’t find where I put something and now I need you to find it’ tone…”
Unfortunately, as Spike had come to learn, Twilight’s organizational skills would fall apart in a day if she were left to her own devices. There was just too much going on in that Pony’s head for her to remember every last detail.
“I can’t find the spare chalk!”
So she had a bad habit of misplacing just about everything if someone didn’t at least keep half an eye out… Like a certain baby dragon come assistant.
Actually, as Spike liked to muse to himself from time to time, he was perfect for this job. A dragon had incredible photographic long and short-term memory. If you asked him where any book in the Library was, he could walk right to it without so much as a glance at the catalogues.
Or in this case…
“It’s over here with the new ink and quills,” he called, meandering over to the writing desk. True to form, he managed to get about half way back with the box of chalk sticks when Twilight, patience lacking, yanked it up with her levitation magic, dragon in tow.
Spike never mentioned it, but he loved getting picked up like that. It was fun. So long as Twilight didn’t shake him off and drop him on the ground.
“So what are you working on this time?” the dragon asked as Twilight plucked a single white stick out of the box. The chalkboard in front of her was covered in a series of scrawls that loosely formed equations whose purpose he could only guess at. More equations were on the way as Twilight added a fourth piece of chalk to a group of three she already had writing into various empty spots.
“I had an idea about Pinkie Pie’s ‘Pinkie Sense’,” the unicorn replied. “It just kind of hit me this morning.”
“Oh brother,” Spike rolled his eyes. “Not this again. Didn’t you learn your lesson last time…?”
“I was trying it disprove it as a TRICK last time,” Twilight returned at her assistant. “But now I want to try something new. I understand it works, but I want to know how… or why.”
“You just can’t learn to leave and let be can you?” Spike shook his head. “What about the bees? Or the doors… Or the anvil, dresser, and piano…? Or the HYDRA at Froggie Bottom Bog? All that bad stuff at once- it’s like all that stuff was out to get you. Like the Pinkie Sense was AWARE that you were investigating it and went to town on you.”
Twilight Sparkle paused from her equations for a moment to glance at Spike, one of her chalk pieces tapping the side of her head thoughtfully.
“Good observation Spike,” she smiled at last, then turned, picking up a parchment and quill and wrote on it.
“Theory number five,” she dictated to herself. “Pinkie Sense possibly self-aware?”
“Oh boy,” Spike slapped his face. “This has ‘Bad End’ written all over it.”
About that moment there was a knock on the door.
“Oh quit being such a worry wart and get the door Spike,” Twilight rolled her eyes in exasperation.
“Yeah yeah…” the Dragon grumbled. “I got it. I still think looking into Pinkie Sense again is a bad idea.”
Spike walked over to the door and opened it with a polite ‘Can I help you?’
“Hey Spike!” Pinkie Pie greeted.
Spike backed against the door to anchor it as a muffled ‘Hey!’ sounded through it.
“It… It knows!” he gasped in horror.
“Was that Pinkie Pie?” Twilight looked over in confusion.
“I…” Spike huffed. “I’m not sure we really want to find out.”
Twilight rolled her eyes again, an exasperated sigh escaping her as she trotted over to the door.
“You’re so hopeless sometimes,” she shook her head and levitated the Dragon away. “Just because I have a theory, doesn’t mean you need to get all in a panic about it.” Then she reached out to open the door, but at the last second stopped, and stepped off to the side opposite its swing.
“Hopeless huh?” Spike asked with only the slightest disguise of his sarcasm. Twilight just gave him a withering glare before reaching for the handle aga-
The door practically came off its hinges as it rocketed around to bang against the wall, a pair of powerful orange hind legs having given it a titanic ’push.’
“-tarnation are you thinkin’ slammin the door in our face like that Spike?” Applejack’s voice was just short of outraged as she turned around. “What’s'a matter with you?”
“Eh-” Spike all but squeaked as Applejack trotted in across the threshold. “S-sorry…”
“Much better,” Applejack smiled, then glanced around the library. “Now where’s Twilight, I gots somethin’ to ask her.”
Spike recovered from his momentary shock and fear a little, raising his claw to point toward the door. Applejack turned her head to follow. Twilight was still standing right next to the opening, her eyes flitting back and forth to where the door was swinging freely on its hinges, and where she'd just been standing moments before.
“Oh, howdy Twilight,” Applejack finally noticed the scholar. “Sorry about the ruckus, but Spike was being a little rude.”
Then she paused, noting that Twilight wasn’t moving.
“Say…” she continued. “You’re looking a little pale there sugarcube. Maybe you should get more sun.”
Twilight Sparkle finally remembered how to breathe and started laughing unsteadily. In the back of her mind, she reconsidered Spike’s advice and decided that maybe studying Pinkie Sense would be best done from a safe distance…
“Uh, Twilight,” Applejack asked. “Are you sure two miles is far enough away? Aft’r all Pinkie said it was GIANT EXPLODING MOUNTAIN. And that’s a mighty mean lookin’ volcano.”
“Don’t worry,” Twilight responded. “Even if it does erupt, there’s no way the blast could be that powerf-.”
…Preferably from behind sixteen feet of steel plate.
“Uh, Twi?” Applejack continued, concern growing on her features. “You okay?”
“Y- yeah,” Twilight shook it off and smiled. “Just thinking about research. What’s up?”
“Oh good,” Applejack stepped back. “We was wondrin’ if y’all got a big map of Equestria in here somewhere.”
“Map?” Twilight asked. “What do you need a map for?”
“Well,” Applejack turned as the others filtered in through the door. “We met this here pegasus earlier this morning and she’s sayin’ that she done flew all the way to Seaddle and back again by lunch time to replace her broken camera. And Rainbow Dash here keeps a sayin’ that she didn’t-“
“Hi!” Twilight greeted Dainty when they were close enough, partially interrupting Applejack. “I’m Twilight Sparkle. And you are?”
“Dainty Dish,” Dainty smiled back.
“Anyway,” Applejack continued after the two ponies had introduced themselves. “Little ol’ Dainty here keeps insistin’ that it ain’t that far to Seaddle at all. But Dash keeps sayin’ it’s too far fer the amount’a time she was gone.”
“So you want a map to see how far it is?” Twilight nodded.
“Yeah,” Applejack replied. “Got one?”
“Hmm…” The scholar thought about it for a second. “That’ll be in the cartography section.”
She turned and looked across the library, shelves of books filling every space that wasn’t otherwise used for living.
“Spike,” she frowned. “Can you find the Equestrian Atlas of Captivating Cartographic Captures?”
“Oh!” the dragon exclaimed. “I know just where that is.”
Spike skittered across the room to a section of books larger than he was tall and started pulling on a volume that looked many times too large for his frame to handle. There was a small pop as he finally worked it free, and the book promptly attempted to squash him flat. Luckily, it was immediately caught in Twilight’s levitating magic and floated over to the table where it landed with a frighteningly heavy ‘THUD’.
“That’s a mighty big book,” Applejack gaped at the cumbersome manuscript.
“It’s large so it can show the maps in high detail,” Twilight explained as Spike wandered back over to them. “Now, let’s see…”
Twilight opened the book with a burst of magic, pages flying by as she hunted for the map she wanted. In the mean time, Spike wandered over to where dainty was standing, glancing around nervously, and began to walk around her as if examining her. After a moment he stopped.
“Cool stripes,” he commented. Dainty seemed confused for a second, her voice coming out unsure when she finally replied with a ‘thank you’.
“So,” Spike continued after a moment. “Did you hurt your ankle?”
Dainty glanced down where she’d been favoring the hoof she’d tweaked in the landing. It had gotten a little swollen but she hadn’t complained about it even once so as to keep Applejack from thinking about it. After all, there was no need to trouble anypony about her own woes. Nopony wanted to hear about that kind of thing after all.
“Yeah,” she admitted. “I botched a landing. It’s not all that bad.”
“Maybe not,” Spike shrugged and turned away. “But I think Twilight’s got a magic bandage over here. Let me take a look.”
“Oh,” Dainty chirped uneasily. “You don’t have to do that. I’ll be fine.”
“We can at least get the swelling to go down,” the Dragon replied as he bounced up the stairs. “This won’t take a second.”
Dainty opened her mouth one last time to protest, but stopped once more after realizing she wasn’t going to change the dragon’s mind. Instead, she just smiled appreciatively after him.
“Ah,” Twilight got her attention again. “Here we go. Continental Equestria. Will that work?”
“Ah reckon,” Applejack replied in a tone that said ‘beats me’. “Where’s Ponyville on this thing?”
“Actually,” Twilight nodded to the map. “Ponyville is too small a town to be labeled on this one. You’ll have to use Canterlot instead. It’s close enough.”
“Alright,” Rainbow Dash floated over the map. “And over here’s Seaddle. What’s the distance?”
Twilight glanced down at the Legend on the map as Dainty limped up to look over Applejack’s shoulder. After a moment, the Unicorn levitated a ruler from the chalkboard across the room and placed it on the map.
“That’s roughly…” Twilight frowned, then turned to her desk and levitated a protractor and compass. Then across the room, an eraser hopped up and quickly cleared a section of the chalkboard, and she went to work.
“If radius is- then arc distance is Pi over three minus Pi over eight.” she muttered.
A series of numbers quickly scribbled up on the board.
“Common factor twenty-four,” she continued. “So, arc distance is five Pi over twenty four…”
“Uh, Twilight?” Applejack turned her head. “What are you doing? Just draw a line and measure it. Yer confusin’ me with them maths.”
“I can’t just draw a line,” Twilight frowned. “Equestria is round, and this map is FLAT.”
“We don’t need a perfect measurement,” Rainbow Dash sighed. “Just ballpark it.”
“But I’m almost done,” Twilight returned with a pout
“Oh all right,” Applejack sighed. “But finish quick, yer makin’ my head hurt.”
“There,” Twilight Sparkle turned to the chalkboard again, writing a number down and underlining it. “Twenty eight-hundred miles.”
“It takes about six hours to cover that distance,” Rainbow Dash pointed out. “By the time you get there, you’re too tired and it’s too late in the day to really bother trying to come back.”
“And how long did it take her?” Twilight asked, indicating Dainty.
“Bout four hours round trip, give or take,” Applejack shrugged.
“So about two hours then?” Twilight asked.
“Hour-” Dainty began, every pony instantly looked at her causing her to falter. “-And a half…”
Dainty backed away from Applejack a bit, ears falling flat.
“I-I spent about an hour at the Neighkon Plant talking to the supervisor before coming back.”
Twilight looked at the map one more time and at her numbers, a perplexed look on her face. Two thousand eight hundred miles in an hour and a half? That couldn’t be right. That was absurd. She wasn’t the expert on speed, but the numbers don’t lie. And her numbers were absolutely bonkers.
“There has to be a mistake somewhere,” Twilight frowned, looking at her math. “Maybe I calculated the arc distance wrong."
“I still say she couldn’t possibly have flown that far,” Rainbow Dash floated back and crossed her hooves.
“Well she’s got the camera,” Applejack pointed out.
“Maybe...” Dainty began again. “Maybe the map’s wrong. Maybe the distances are stretched? I couldn’t have flown that far. I’m just not that fast.”
“I doubt that,” Twilight looked at the gargantuan volume. “This book was produced by the Equestrian Land Survey Group.”
“Don’t you work for them?” Rainbow Dash frowned at the dark pegasus.
“Well,” Dainty looked back and forth unsteadily. “Yes, but I’m a photographer. I don’t make the maps. I take the photos they’re based on.”
“Then maybe the photos that were used are off.” Spike commented as he returned with a small bandage to wrap around Dainty’s injured ankle.
“Hmm…” Twilight Sparkle looked at the tome in front of her, skimming the page. “It credits the photos, all six hundred and eighty seven of them, to the photographer ‘Blackbird four-twenty’.”
‘EEP!’ Dainty’s ears shot right up, prompting the other ponies to stare at her for several seconds before her head began to sink again.
“Let me take a guess at this one,” Applejack stated in the flattest tone she could muster. “I reckon you’re this here Blackbird fowar-twenty?”
Dainty nodded slowly.
“So what?” Rainbow Dash landed. “Are you saying your photos are messed up or some-“
“I DON’T MAKE MISTAKES!”
Dash practically fell on her hind quarters as Dainty all but jumped in her face, wings stretched out and raised as if to make herself look as large as possible.
“WHOA!” The speed-obsessed pegasus shuffled back. “WHOA! Calm down!”
“All photos,” Dainty snapped again. “Were taken at exactly high noon local times, using fixed reference points during clear weather on cool days. They were blur-free, distortion-free, and aimed correctly. I did not mess up ANY of those shots!”
“Whoa nelly,” Applejack interspersed herself between the two. “Calm down now. She didn’t mean no offense to your camera ski- are you crying again?”
Indeed, there were tears in the corners of Dainty’s eyes even as she glared back at Rainbow Dash. Applejack just frowned and let out an agitated sigh.
“Look,” she turned to Rainbow Dash. “This is gettin’ us nowhere. I don’t know what you want to prove here, but it’s already confusing as it is-“
“I just want to know what’s going on,” Dash snapped. “This whole thing doesn’t make any sense and I’m just trying to sort it out. That’s all.”
“Well all yer ‘makin sense’ is doin is upsettin’ her somethin’ fierce,” Applejack retorted. “So why don’t you just leave her alone?”
“I’m not trying to upset anyone!” Dash’s voice climbed in pitch. “I just don’t believe her claim that she flew all the way to Seaddle. We know that it’s twenty ei-“
“We don’t know anything fer sure at the moment,” Applejack got in Dash’s face, her own temper starting to flare. “Even Twilight said she might’a messed somethin’ up.”
“I doubt she’s going to mess it up by THAT much,” Dash fired back. “It’s not like some small error's going to make that much difference!”
”Stop it!” Twilight snapped, stepping between them. “Both of you. Just calm down.”
After a pause, Twilight Sparkle stepped back, letting the two friends stare across the gap for a moment before she continued.
“What we know right now,” Twilight stated calmly. “Is that someone here is wrong.”
“Or lying,” Dash muttered.
“Oh is THAT what it’s about?” Applejack reared back. “You think she’s-“
“ENOUGH!” Twilight stomped a hoof. “We’re not going to lob accusations like that around without proof. Okay? Rainbow Dash, why is this bothering you so much?”
“Like I said,” the pegasus continued. “It doesn’t make any sense. Her story just doesn’t match my experience.”
“Unless she’s just faster,” Applejack shrugged. “Lookin’ at it like that makes sense to me.”
“But she said so herself,” Rainbow Dash stood up on her hind legs and exclaimed. “She’s not that fast, she can’t fly for more than two hours at a time, and she’s allergic to what seems to be everything below cloud level. What am I supposed to do? Agree to a story that full of holes?”
There was a brief silence as the ponies thought about it for a moment. Twilight looked over to Pinkie Pie, who’d been strangely silent the entire time.
“What do you think Pinkie?”
“I’m not touching this one with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole,” the pink-one stepped back, shaking her head.
Another brief silence followed.
“How about a race?”
The ponies turned to Spike. The dragon had finished tying a bandage around Dainty’s hoof and was looking at them expectantly.
“Just a quick lap around Ponyville or something,” he explained. “Nothing big.”
“Good idea Spike!” Twilight Sparkle beamed with pride. “You okay with that Rainbow?”
Rainbow Dash developed a rather menacing smile at that moment and quickly nodded.
“Good,” Twilight nodded as if making a checkmark in the air. “Dainty? What about you?”
“I uh, I mean, a, it’…” she stopped, took a breath, and continued. “A RACE? I don’t do well in races.”
“Come on sugarcube,” Applejack leaned over to Dainty. “There ain’t nothin’ to it. Even if ya’ lose, I’m sure you’ll at least make RD here sweat a little with them monster wings a yers.”
“But,” Dainty began to back up. “I... I... Can’t. What if I sneeze, and crash. And then I can’t get home-”
“Nonsense,” Applejack prodded. “Twilight here’s in good with the princess, if something like that were ta’ happen, not that I’m saying it would, I’m sure some of the palace guards would be thrilled to help you out.”
“Come on,” Rainbow Dash landed on the ground and pranced right up to Dainty’s face. “Just you and me. Nopony else. One lap around Ponyville right up to where I caught you at Sweet Apple Acres. If you can beat me, I’ll let the whole matter drop.”
“But-“ Dainty backed up more. “But-”
“But WHAT?” Rainbow Dash snapped. “Spit it out already.”
“But-“ Dainty’s voice was climbing in pitch as the blue pegasus continued to advance on her. Finally, Dainty Dish took a few too many steps back and collided with the chalkboard, going down as she attempted to press up against it like a wall.
“Oh boy,” Applejack frowned as she watched an eraser smack the dark pegasus on the snout. Twilight just glanced at her friend in confusion.
Dainty immediately started to sneeze as the cloud of gray-white powder expanded around her. In a near panic, she bolted to her hooves and immediately ran blindly forward to get out of it, only to crash headlong into Rainbow Dash, unfortunate enough not to get out of the way.
“Let’s get her out of here,” Applejack quickly started trotting forward. “She’s allergic.”
“To what?” Twilight followed her friend.
“EVERYTHING,” the others chimed in almost simultaneously. Unfortunately, Dainty sneezed again, this time her wings pumping involuntarily as she did so. Resulting in a burst of air knocking anything in front of her that wasn’t nailed to the floor over, and practically freeing her from her tangle with Dash.
‘Ob nob!’ she managed to sniff. “I godda...”
Dainty struggled back to a standing position again, only to sneeze, resulting in a reflexive wing flap that propelled her straight backwards over the toppled chalkboard and headlong into more chalk dust.
Spike and Pinky Pie quickly backed away from the scene as Dainty’s sneezes continued to run out of control, the pegasus quickly turning into a highly destructive projectile as she tried to make a break for the door and failed.
“Get ‘er outside!” Applejack gaped as Twilight’s home quickly began to turn into a disaster area. “Come on!”
She bolted forward, intending to tackle the pegasus when another sneeze and wing burst literally picked her up and dropped her right on her flank.
“Sweet mercy!” AJ snapped in shock.
“I got her!” Rainbow Dash growled as she took to the air. “I-“ Dash had no traction with the floor, and no defense against the burst of air that slammed her into the bookcase behind her.
“Five,” she managed to comment in a dazed state.
The situation deteriorated even further until Dainty pinned her own wings against a shelf, preventing them from flapping involuntarily while she sneezed. It was enough that Twilight decided she could safely take action, and trotted forward, her horn glowing with magic.
The next sneeze out of Dainty was strangely silent, cut off by a transparent glowing sphere encapsulating the distressed pony.
“Bubblebrain spell,” Twilight nodded idly as she trotted up to the now contained Dainty Dish. “It keeps your air in, and our air out. Perfect for containing sneezes.”
The unicorn looked around her home, shelves toppled and books of all kind lying strewn about. A complete mess of what had previously been a well-organized library. And it had been accomplished in less than thirty seconds.
“Well,” she continued more to herself than anypony else. “I guess I won’t get any work done today at this rate.”
Dainty sneezed silently again inside the transparent bubble. It expanded slightly before contracting back down to size.
“Uh,” Applejack righted herself. “Will that hold her?”
“Probably not for long,” Twilight admitted. “We better get her outside before that thing pops. Spike?”
“On it,” the dragon quickly came out of hiding. With a light tap, he started batting the bubble, seemingly almost weightless, towards the door. Dainty continued to sneeze at a less prolific rate within as he did so.
“Oooo,” Pinkie piped up as she too emerged from hiding. “That looks like fun. Let me try.”
As Pinky joined Spike in guiding Dainty’s bubble out the door, Twilight trotted over to the shelf where Rainbow Dash was picking herself up.
“You okay?” she asked.
“Fine,” Dash groaned. “Fine... This day has been one headache after another.”
“You still want to race?” Twilight asked.
Dash turned to her friend with a look of grim determination.
“I all but made the challenge,” she began. “I am NOT backing out of it now. Not until I get my answer.”
Twilight nodded in understanding. Rainbow Dash’s pride wasn’t about to let her back out of a challenge, especially not one like this. And being one never to walk away without an answer, she could understand how her friend was feeling.
“I just hope she can get all the way THROUGH it,” Applejack strode up. “That there was the worst sneeze attack she’s had yet.”
“Why’s she so allergic to, ev-” Twilight began but halted.
“She said ever’thin’,” Applejack nodded.
“Why everything?” Twilight finished.
“Beats me,” Applejack shook her head. “But from what I done seen, she ain’t lyin’.”
Twilight turned her head back to the door, a perplexed look on her face.
“A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.“ Arnold H. Glasow
“Okay,” Spike began. “Here’s the course I’ve picked out.”
The group was gathered on the edge of town as they stared at a sheet of parchment Spike had procured. The looks they had gotten on the way there as they bounced Dainty Dish the bubble along had been a little alarming. But with Pinkie Pie hopping along at the head of the group those looks quickly turned to looks of understanding. Dainty had stopped sneezing at some point, prompting Twilight to let her out of the bubble. Despite the student’s previous misgivings about the spell, it had managed to hold surprisingly well.
“Starting from here,” the dragon continued. “Fly north, past the Carousel Boutique, then a left out to the main path where we did the running of the leaves last year. Then left again, past the Carousel Boutique. Over Sweet Apple Acres, loop back around right to Carousel Bouti-”
“Let me see that,” Twilight Sparkle levitated the scroll out of her assistant’s claws and gave a glance at it. It was a basic doodle-sketch of Ponyville, with major landmarks like the Library, Carrousel Boutique, Sugarcube Corner, and so on, marked out. Amusingly enough, Spike’s drawing skills were atrocious, a stark contrast to his otherwise immaculate clawwriting ability.
However, it wasn’t his lack of artistic skills that proved to be the issue. But rather the course he’d drawn. It wasn’t hard. Rather, Twilight found her eyes automatically drawn to the center of something like a dozen figure eight’s. All of which were centered on Carousel Boutique in such a manner that it was like one giant flower petal. It was plain as day to see where Spike’s mind was.
“Right…” Twilight lowered the parchment with some chagrin. “Let’s simplify this.”
With only the slightest thought, Twilight Sparkle made as if to toss the rudimentary map behind her. About a second later, it burst into flames and was reduced to ashes before it even hit the ground, courtesy of a campfire spell.
“Hey!” Spike frowned.
“Here’s the course,” Twilight continued without mercy. “Straight over Ponyville with Carousel as the first checkpoint. Then out to Fluttershy’s house, then double back over Ponyville to Sweet Apple Acres, then back here for the win. Got it?”
Rainbow Dash nodded. Dainty just looked nervous.
“No cheating,” Twilight continued. “No roughhousing, no interfering with each other. No, horseplay. I’m sure you remember how that turned out last fall Rainbow. No shortcuts either. And just to make sure, Pinkie Pie will be watching from my balloon.”
Right on cue, Pinkie popped up between the two pegasi.
“We Pies can see EEEEVERYTHING,” she informed them, her head slowly twisting around like an owl’s, creeping everypony (and one baby dragon) out even as they winced in sympathy at the seemingly impossible move. Then her body quickly followed like some kind of mechanical windup toy whose spring had come undone.
“So play nice, okay?” she continued with a chirp, then leaned down right next to Dainty and Dash’s faces, a grin on her face the size of Equestria.
Pinkie Pie stopped, grin fading to a frown. Then she stood up, stepped back, and wiped her face.
“Gerr-OSE!” she gaped after a few silent blinks. “Warn somepony before you do that!”
“Sobby,” Dainty lowered her head in shame. “I dink I’b allergic to-“
“I know I know,” Pinkie waved a hoof to interrupt the dark pegasus. “Allergic to my conditioner. That was my fault really.”
The pink pony trotted out in front of the group and over to Twilight, one eye still closed.
“Sorry Twilight,” she sighed. “Looks like you’ll have to find a different ref. I have to go sanitize my face in one of Mrs. Cake’s ovens. I should be back just in time to miss the climactic finish.”
And with that, Pinkie trotted on back toward Ponyville, humming to herself as she went. The other ponies just watched in silence until she was out of sight.
“So much for an unbiased ref,” Twilight shook her head.
“Does- Does that mean I don’t have to race?” Dainty asked with a certain level of hope in her voice.
“Hah!” Rainbow Dash gave the other pegasus a cocky grin. “As if. I’m not backing down, and I’m definitely not letting you back out either.
“But-“ Dainty tried to protest, but was interrupted by Applejack’s reassuring voice.
“There ain’t nothin’ to it sugarcube,” the country pony commented. “I done raced her before. Just give it yer best and play fair, and she’ll play fair too.”
Then Applejack gave Rainbow Dash a dark glare.
Rainbow Dash could almost feel the sweat form on her face at the memory of the embarrassment that brought up.
“Right,” she replied.
“But,” Dainty tried one more time. “But I told you, I’m not a good flier. How am I supposed to win?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Spike commented. Dainty looked down at the dragon walked up to her.
“Don’t worry about winning,” he reemphasized. “Just have some fun with it okay?”
“Fun?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Spike replied. “Fun. It’s just a race between the two of you. No big deal.”
The dragon then crossed his arms and shot an unimpressed look at Rainbow Dash.
“Though to some…”
Dainty looked at the young dragon then at the pony who was so insistent on racing her. There was no way to beat that pony. After all, Rainbow Dash performed the Sonic Rainboom. There was no way Dainty could compete.
But then, Spike said to just have some fun with it. Win or lose. Just have fun.
“Okay…” Dainty looked back down at spike. “I’ll try.”
“That’s the spirit!” the dragon grinned. Dainty just grinned back and trotted (still limping) over to the starting line Applejack had drawn in the dirt.
“Now we’re talking!” Rainbow Dash grinned at Dainty. “You ready to rock?”
“I’m...” Dainty looked up and around. “I guess I’m ready.”
“Good,” Dash directed her gaze forward. The pony of Loyalty unfurled her wings as she took a crouch. “You better give me everything you’ve got.”
“Everything I’ve got,” Dainty nodded as if taking notes. Then she gazed up again, allowing her eyes to close. Just for once, not sneezing.
“Headwind,” she mumbled as if pleased opening her eyes. “Perfect.”
“Y’all ready?” Applejack asked.
“Ready,” Dash commented.
Dainty Dish replied by unfurling her own wings. The action kicking up a swirl of dust that rolled away, causing her to glance around nervously.
“Biggest wings on a Pony I’ve ever seen,” Spike muttered.
“Take your time,” Dash commented in a tone that implied exactly the opposite.
“Oh,” Dainty looked at the speedster. “Sorry. Just need to do a few checks.”
Dainty’s left wing came down like an oversized whip, generating a sound a lot like a crack of thunder. Everypony (and one baby dragon) about jumped out of their hides.
Dainty’s right wing came down in the same manner. Kicking yet more dust up and away from her hard enough to spray Twilight in the face with the grit.
“Whoa Nelly,” Applejack cocked her head to the side. “What in the name of all things Equestria was that.”
When Dainty Dish noticed the other ponies looking at her, she lowered her head again and blushed.
“Just making sure they work,” she muttered. “I kinda’ crashed earlier, and it rather hurt.”
Rainbow Dash at that moment honestly began to feel the first tiny inklings of doubt. Whatever it was Dainty just did to her wings, they had moved so fast that even she had a hard time following it with her eyes.
No, NO doubts! There is no room for doubts on this flight. Captain’s orders! Rainbow Dash turned to face the wind and locked a determined smile on her face. No matter how pathetic Dainty seemed, Dash was going to throw in everything she had, even if she blew the competition away in the literal sense.
Dainty winced and glanced at her bad hoof. Sooner in the air, sooner off the hoof, sooner she could... she could... Oh NOT NOW!
Rainbow Dash, as was expected, took off in a blur. Her wake kicking up a wall of dust as she went. In less than four seconds, she was rocketing across the treetops, well on her way to the first checkpoint.
The remaining ponies cheered at the spectacular start. But then they stopped as they realized a now all too familiar sound…
“APFPH!” “APFPH!” “APFPH!”
Dainty, caught in the midst of a full on sneeze attack.
“Whoa whoa whoa!” Applejack trotted forward but on remembering the Library, stopped short. “Now ain’t the time ta’ be sneezin!”
“I cad- APFPH! -heb it!”
Dainty sneezed one more time, hard, before the attack stopped as suddenly as it began. The pegasus just stood there for a moment, gasping for air.
“What’re you doing sitting there?!” Applejack gaped. “RD’s getting away!”
“Go!” Twilight snapped. “Get moving!”
Dainty Dish glanced back and forth nervously again, slightly confused. Then she turned towards the line of settling dust Dash had left and began to trot forward, flapping her wings. Her hoof still hurt, but she wouldn’t be on it for long anyway. Wincing, she picked the pace up to a rapid canter.
“Come on!” she heard Spike’s little baby dragon voice. “Don’t run! FLY!”
Dainty bit her lip, pushing harder and advancing to a gallop as her hoof protested. She could feel tears in her eyes as she started to pick up speed. Her gallop became small bounds as she flapped her wings more. A nice headwind, good takeoff speed.
Dainty felt a grin cross her features.
“Hooves up,” she muttered to herself on the next bound. As she bounded, she brought her wings down firmly, catching air as her hooves tucked away. This was the part she loved. Acceleration into flight pouring on like a snowball rolling down a mountainside. At first it was like a trickle, but soon turning into a full on avalanche of raw power as it picked up momentum. It made her just want to forget this silly race and climb.
But then, Spike said to have fun. And if she had fun with a little race, win or lose, what did it matter? Dash was way ahead, so her winning was certain. But it wasn’t about winning. It was about having fun. There was nothing stopping her from doing that except the next sneeze attack, whenever that came.
“Time to catch the lightning,” Dainty took a deep breath, mentally praying not to inhale something she was allergic to. Then with a grunt, raised her wings, bounded one last time off the ground, and snapped them down with everything she had.
A crack like thunder rewarded her effort, and the ground leapt away as she aimed for the sky.
Back at the starting line, Applejack, Twilight Sparkle, and Spike watched as Dainty’s wings snapped impossibly fast, and she roared into the sky ahead of a dome of dust that rolled away from her in a pair of spiral-shaped swirls.
“Ya’ did remember ta’ bring yer b‘noculars, right Twi?” the country pony asked.
“Of course,” Twilight levitated said item to her eyes. Let me find Dash real quick…”
Ahead over Carrousel, Rainbow Dash checked over her shoulder for the first time, frowning. There was no sign of her opponent anywhere to be seen. And all that did was irritate the competitive pony.
“Aww man,” she moaned. “Don’t tell me she chickened out already.”
Another glance back and still no Dainty Dish. What good was a race without anypony to race? It wasn’t good at all. That’s what. Dash toyed with the idea of slowing down to give Dainty, wherever she was, time to catch up. But immediately scolded herself for even THINKING such a thing. You don’t hold back during a competition just to give yourself a challenge. That was unthinkable! Selfish even! She would never do that, and she would expect nothing less from anypony who challenged her.
Rainbow Dash’s eyes locked forward again. Ten seconds to checkpoint, then a hard turn. No less than the best. That meant a perfect right angle turn.
Some distance behind, and about twice as high, Dainty began a shallow dive, recognizing Carrousel Boutique from earlier in the day. Her initial climb had been a bit too much, but that just allowed her to relax a little as dropped back down to the designated race height. She could see Rainbow Dash way out ahead, a multicolored speck against the pastel greens of a hillside further beyond.
Dainty was really starting to pick up velocity at this point. The wind made her eyes sting, her wings ached as they were pulled back, and the little swirls of turbulence around buildings and clouds made for a bumpy ride so close to the ground. Going this fast wasn’t really her thing. It was just too tiring and stressful. But she’d endure it just this once.
Then ahead, the speck that was Rainbow Dash suddenly became a line ripping off to the left. Dainty’s eyes widened in shock. A turn like THAT? There was no way! And just when she was getting up to speed too!
Angling her wings, Dainty cut her dive as she approached the checkpoint turn. After a moment, she rolled and began a steady turn, climbing up and around. He wings protested angrily as she tried to bleed off speed.
Back at the line, Twilight frowned.
“Dainty’s rounding off the corner,” she protested. “She’s not supposed to do that! I told them, NO SHORTCUTS.”
“Oh Twi…” Applejack rolled her eyes. “This ain’t no fancy grand prix.”
Twilight sparkle just lowered her binoculars and frowned at her friend in an unamused fashion. Then Spike turned and tapped her on the side.
“Can I see?” he asked. In response, Twilight’s binoculars floated down to the baby dragon.
“Cool,” he commented idly.
Back in the lead position, Dash checked over her shoulder again, this time pleasantly surprised to see a pair of black wings in the turn behind her.
“Now we’re talkin’!” she smirked. “Come on! Show me what you’ve got!”
Dainty, coming around out of the turn, glanced over her shoulder, huffing nervously at a touch of wobble. She’d started to lose it a bit in her cornering and slipped at the highest point. A turn like that was not to be repeated. She’d have to take the next one wider and faster or risk losing control.
Down ahead, she could see Dash, a little less than a speck, but still far enough to make catching her little more than a miracle. How long was it to the next checkpoint? Was there enough time to accelerate?
Dainty decided to risk it. If she overshot, she overshot.
Raising her wings and grunting, she brought them down with a snap in the thick air. She was rewarded with the usual thunderclap and the force of the air on her face doubling in intensity. Again, she repeated the process, and the force of the air started to become almost painful.
Rainbow Dash looked over her shoulder at the sound of the second crack, followed by a third and a fourth in rapid succession, and was surprised to see the dark pegasus was now starting to pick up momentum like a pony express train bound for Apploosa barreling down the track.
“Alright,” she grinned. “BRING IT.”
And she accelerated.
Dainty saw Dash put on an extra burst of speed and her heart sank. The wind was blasting away at her face and she was already starting to tire out from trying to put on what speed she had. But she was too close to drawing even with Dash, if only for a moment, to give up yet.
Dainty cracked her wings once more.
Dash glanced back, mentally counting down time to her next turn. Dainty was clearly visible now, coming up strong despite Dash’s extra speed. Her wings would rise gently, and then snap down so fast they looked more like they belonged on a dragonfly, loud cracks audible over the roar of the wind. And for once, Rainbow Dash was genuinely impressed as Dainty slowly drew even with her.
“Not FAST eh?” she called over the wind. But then frowned when she noticed that for all the speed, Dainty’s normally pink-ish nose was turning pale, and the pegasus was panting like she’d been running a full gallop for hours.
“You okay?!” Dash shouted. Dainty chanced a really short glance, then nodded in an exaggerated manner, wings coming down in another crack pushing her just a little bit faster.
“If you say so,” Dash took the time to shrug and put on another burst of speed to push ahead. At about three-quarters of her top speed at this point, she still had plenty of speed to put on. And Dainty looked about maxxed out. This contest was over…
“Left turn in five,” Dash called a warning. “Four… three… two… one!”
Dash broke left so hard that she was in front of, and past Dainty before the darker pegasus even registered the motion. Unfortunately, as soon as Dainty realized Dash had shot directly across her path, she panicked in anticipation of a collision, rearing back hard as she passed through the rainbow-colored afterimage Dash left in her wake.
A moment later she realized her mistake as her wings caught the air, yanking her head further back. Dainty tried to fight it, but was too tired from attempting to catch Dash to force herself back down. Promptly, her wings buckled, trailing out behind her as she was yanked backwards, flipping head over flank.
Dainty gasped a ragged shout of terror as she flailed her hooves uselessly at the air, her trajectory going ballistic. This had happened to her before only one other time. And all she remembered from that was that she never wanted to do it again. Now she remembered why.
She was out of control; recovery was impossible…
Dainty caught sight of the wall of a house rising up to meet her.
…And momma wasn’t here to catch her this time.
Back at the starting Line, Spike dropped the binoculars with a shout.
“WHAT!?” the remaining ponies chorused.
A loud boom rocked the group, pulling their attention to the cloud of billowing smoke coming up from-
“Sweet merciful Celestia!” Applejack shouted. “That was Fluttershy’s house!”
“Oh no!” Twilight’s eyes got large as she yanked Spike into the air with levitation magic. “Come on!”
“You ain’t gotta' tell me twice!” Applejack took off at a full gallop.
Up in the air, rocketing along towards the starting line, Rainbow Dash also heard the loud boom behind her.
“What they HECK?!” She slowed to a hover in a heartbeat, spinning around.
Immediately, Dash’s eyes noted two important things.
One, Dainty was no longer behind her, or even in sight for that matter.
Two, Flutterhy’s house was enveloped in flames and-
“OH MY GOSH!” the pegasus exclaimed. “Fluttershy!”
Race forgotten, she looked around desperately for a cloud, spotting the stockpile on the edge of town she’d procured for the spring shower that was scheduled.
Wasting no time, the pegasus zipped away to grab one, then raced over to the burning home of one of her best friends. She could already see animals fleeing in every direction. And coming up the road at full speed were Twilight and Applejack.
“Looks like today’s rain’s coming a little early,” she glared as she centered the cloud over the burning home. Then she pounced, repeatedly stomping on the dark cloud until it was pouring water and drenching the fire.
“Keep it up!” Applejack shouted as she entered the yard. Twilight levitated a few animals out of AJ’s path as the pony took a full charge at the door, planted her front hooves, and came around with everything she had to bust it open. Immediately smoke poured out of the opening.
“Spike!” AJ shouted. “You’re up!”
“I’m on it!” The dragon replied, leaping off Twilight’s back and bounding through the door. Being a dragon, Spike was all but immune to mere smoke, and being small, he could walk below the majority of it anyway.
“Stupid fire!” Rainbow Dash shouted. The fire was stubbornly refusing to extinguish so she zipped away to add another cloud to the downpour. “GO OUT!”
Twilight took another glance around, trying to find a source of water. With a dozen pessimistic worse case scenarios already playing through her mind, she was anticipating the possibility of the fire leaping to the trees at the edge of the Everfree Forest, and what it would take to prevent that from occurring.
“I got them!” Spike’s voice came out of the smoke pouring through the door. “Twilight, cut the gas valve!”
“Gas valve?” The unicorn paused from her apocalyptic dread and glanced around, quickly finding the object in question half-buried almost inconspicuously near a fence post.
Using her magic to give the valve a crank was a no-brainer.
Immediately, the fire began to diminish in size, prompting a shout of encouragement from Rainbow Dash as she redoubled her efforts.
At the door, Spike emerged, leading Futtershy, who was coughing blindly with Angel Bunny holding firmly on to her mane.
“Where’s Dainty?” Applejack asked hastily as Spike performed a handoff. The dragon said nothing before diving back into the smoke, only to emerge a few seconds later leading a coughing, sneezing, and terrified crying pegasus.
“This way sugarcube,” Applejack instructed, taking the handoff again. “Is that everypony? Any more critters in there?”
“None that I could see,” Spike glanced over his shoulder.
“An-hck-gel!” Fluttershy gasped between coughs. “Where’s Angel Bunny?”
“He made it out.” Applejack informed her. “Just relax a moment and breathe some fresh air.”
Fluttershy nodded, coughing more to clear her lungs after all the smoke she’d inhaled. Above them, Rainbow Dash crowed triumphantly as the deluge she’d released on the fire finally extinguished it.
“Phew,” Applejack wiped her face in relief. “That was a close one.”
Then she turned and trotted over to where Dainty had collapsed in the yard, crying full force between sneezes that were interspersed with hacking coughs and wails that sounded distinctly like she was repeatedly calling ‘momma’ over and over again.
“What’s wrong with her?” Spike asked.
“I-“ Applejack cocked her head. “I dunno Spike. She’s actin’ like when Applebloom had them horrible nightmares.”
“Had?” Spike looked at the wailing pony. “She looks like she’s LIVING it! Do something!”
“I- I don’t know what to do.” Applejack looked on in confusion. “I ain’t never seen it this bad!”
“I-” Fluttershy coughed before she could finish a word, but trotted over. “I’ve got it…”
She quickly knelt down next to Dainty, picking her head up gently and began to coo the best she could between coughs.
“It’s okay… calm down.”
If anypony could handle this, it was Fluttershy. Calming down upset animals and ponies was a specialty of hers. That’s what Applejack was hoping for anyway.
“It’s okay,” Fluttershy cooed again. “I’m here.”
Dainty’s sneezing and coughing failed to slow down. If anything, it seemed to get worse, to the point where Dainty started to squirm away from Fluttershy’s hold.
Fluttershy had to admit getting kicked in the face as Dainty’s squirming turned into an outright struggle to get away was a first for her.
“It’s oka-” Fluttershy tried again. This time Dainty only just missed knocking her silly with a kick as she struggled violently to get away from the gentle pony.
“Hold still,” Fluttershy’s tone became more firm. “It’s okay.”
“MOMMA!” Dainty managed to scream on the tail end of a ragged cough. “I cad stob! MAGE ID STOB!!!”
“Can’t stop?!” Applejack blinked, feeling panic starting to creep into her mind. “Stop what? Coughing, sneezing? What’sa matter with her?”
“I’m not sure,” Fluttershy released Dainty and allowed the pony to scramble away from her, collapsing into an uncontrollable fit of coughs and sneezes. “I’ve never had this problem. Not even with Philomena. She just won’t stop crying… Or coughing… or sneezing.”
“STOB!” Dainty hacked. “MAKE ID STOB!”
“Stop sneezing…” Twilight frowned as she looked at the group. Then suddenly, her eyes got wide as saucers as it suddenly clicked.
She looked around, thinking from the perspective of a hyper-allergic pony who exploded in a fit of uncontrolled sneezes from a puff of dust. And she started to see it. Dirt on the ground. Clouds of dust from the running. Smoke, ashes… And lots of animals all around them watching.
For somepony like Dainty Dish, the entire area was a cloud of pure torture. It made her throat itch just thinking about it. The choking, gurgling, itching, unstoppable sneezing. The wheezing, gasping for breat-
“SHE CAN’T BREATHE!” Twilight tore through the group, her horn already glowing as she threw a Bubblebrain spell down on Dainty. “She’s suffocating!”
“Sweet merciful stars!” AJ realized. “Of course she cain’t breathe! This here place done be her worst nightmare!”
Applejack turned her head to the air, where Rainbow Dash was inspecting to make sure the rain was putting out the fire completely.
“RD!” she shouted. “We needs it to rain on the whole yard!”
“What?!” the pegasus glanced down. “This is no time to water Fluttershy’s lawn!”
“Jus’ do it!” the country pony ordered. “Do I need ta’ explain everthin’ ???”
“Okay!” Dash replied defensively. “Fine! Sheesh…”
Rainbow Dash zipped away to grab more storm clouds, building up a rather substantial rain shower over Fluttershy’s house until the ground around them started turning into mud.
“Good thinking Applejack!” Twilight looked around as the rain drenched them.
“But of course,” AJ nodded knowingly in response. “Cleanest air in Equestria’s right after a storm easy.”
Then she eyed the mud on the ground, giving a satisfied nod.
“Works fast too,” she continued. “Let’s see if she cain’t breathe now.”
Twilight nodded and dropped the bubble, allowing the temporarily isolated air out and the rain-washed air around them in. Dainty was still choking, coughing, and wailing, but the ferocity had significantly dropped off as she tired out.
The dark pegasus continued to twitch and cough for a few more minutes before her breathing finally started to relax. It still came in ragged gasps, but now instead of sounding like she was about to choke to death at any second screaming for her mother, she just continued to sit there whimpering in exhaustion.
“My word!” Rarity’s voice came from behind them. Those who were keeping an eye on Dainty turned to see the fashion designer trotting up with a look of concern and a set of saddlebags.
“I heard the blast,” Rarity commented as she reached the group, frowning at the sky a little as he mane began to get drenched. “So I came as fast as I could. What exactly happened.”
Then she noticed Dainty, still lying in the mud, taking deep ragged breaths.
“And WHAT, may I ask, happened to poor miss Dainty Dish?” “Race with Rainbow Dash,” Applejack admitted. “She lost control and crashed.”
Rarity looked shocked.
“She blows up houses when she crashes?”
“She came through the kitchen wall,” Fluttershy informed her friend. “I was cooking a late lunch, and she must have ruptured the gas line.”
“Well,” Rarity marched right past the group and over to Dainty. “Poor dear’s been through a lot then, hasn’t she?”
With only a slight hesitation about stepping into the mud surrounding Dainty, Rarity kneeled down and nudged her slightly so that she was looking up.
“You’re going to be just fine dearie,” she smiled. “I heard about what happened, and it’s just awful. Now come on, get up. I brought those cashews you were enjoying at lunch. You never finished them you know.”
Dainty’s exhausted face turned to a weak smile.
“Casoos...” she managed to breathe.
“If you can get up,” Rarity smiled. “You can finish them. Come on.”
Dainty sucked in another breath and grit her teeth, twisting until she could get one of her forelegs under her. Then the second followed as she tucked in her wings. Finally, her hind legs we next and after some effort, she was standing.
“There,” Rarity nodded as Dainty wobbled around a few steps. The fashion designer dug into the saddlebag she’d brought with her and pulled out a half-eaten bag of the nuts Dainty had all but attacked at lunch. “Eat, and relax...” Then she added as an afterthought. “They might be a bit soggy though.”
Dainty didn’t respond save for simply diving headfirst into the bag and began to crunch hungrily on its nutty contents. The total lack of stable manners shocked Rarity, but she decided to let it slide considering how much of a wreck the pegasus before her was.
“Boy,” Applejack blinked. “She sure got hungry in hurry. But I think she’ll be okay.”
“Of course,” Rarity smiled. “If she can stand and eat, she’ll be just fine.”
Then the fashion designer looked up.
“Oh Rainbow Dash,” she began. “Could you be a dear and turn the rain down before you flood Fluttershy’s house?”
Rainbow Dash stopped her work and looked around, rubbing the back of her head with a hoof for a moment.
“Yeah,” she nodded. “Just give me a sec.” The localized downpour that had cleared the air began to taper back until it settled at a fine drizzle. The fire that had all but destroyed Fluttershy’s kitchen was completely out at this point, not even so much as smoldering.
Satisfied the situation was well in hoof, Rainbow Dash nodded and zipped on down to the ground, where she landed with a ‘squish’ in the mud near the group.
“So what HAPPENED anyway?” she asked.
“Dainty crashed,” Spike commented. RD just blinked in confusion and glanced at the pony scarfing down Cashews like they were going out of style.
“How’d she manage to do that?” the blue pegasus asked. “It was only a left turn.”
“Don’t know,” Spike shrugged. “You made your turn, and then she just flew out of control. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“I think maybe you’d better call this whole thing off Rainbow Dash,” Twilight nodded.
“Yeah,” Applejack nodded in agreement. “Before somepony really does git hurt. We done got lucky this time ‘round.”
“Yeah,” Dash nodded, glancing at Fluttershy’s house. “I guess you’re right. Besides, after what I’ve seen I know she couldn’t have flown all the way to Seaddle.”
“Oh come off it RD!” Applejack snapped. “Does it REALLY matter?”
“What?!” Rainbow Dash turned back in shock. “Wha’d I do?”
“Yer the one who brought this whole business with not being able to fly that far in a few hours up!” Applejack retorted. “She was plum happy to have her camera until then.”
“Hey,” Dash frowned. “Since when was it wrong to question when something seems off?”
“Yer ‘questinion’ ain’t done nothin but stir up trouble,” Applejack spat back.
“Wouldn’t BE any trouble if she’d just stop claiming she flew as far as she did when it’s obvious she didn’t!” Dash turned and glared in Applejack’s face.
“She ain’t lying!” Applejack returned the glare. “She done got the camera ter prove it!”
“Girls?” Twilight saw a fight coming.
“How do YOU know she got it where she said she did, HUH?” Dash poked Applejack in the chest with a hoof.
“Pinkie Pie told us where those cameras were made,” Applejack glared. “They don’t make them but at that there Neighkon plant.”
“Girls!” Twilight raised her voice but was ignored, much to her worry.
“And Pinkie might have been wrong!” Dash snapped, her tone rising to a shout. “There might be a place that sells those cameras closer. For all we know Dainty was just mistaken about where she went!”
Then Dash stomped her hoof in frustration, yelling point blank in Applejack’s face.
“For all we know, SHE STOLE IT!”
Dead silence reigned as all heads turned to where Dainty had dropped the near-empty bag of cashews in the mud. Her eyes were big, staring right at Rainbow Dash in shock. Despite the soaking the rain had given her, tears were plainly visible in the corners of her eyes.
“I’m a-” she began with a whimper. “Do you, really...”
“Oh horseapples,” AJ looked at the dark pegasus as she sucked in another huff of air. “Now you’ve gone and done it.”
“What?” Dash glanced at AJ for a moment, and then back to Dainty. “She doesn’t really think I mea-“
“You think I-“ Dainty’s eyes watered even more. “I’m a... “
The pegasus lowered her head and she turned away, beginning to trot with a slight limp.
“I’m leaving,” she sniffed. “I can tell when I’m not wanted.”
Rainbow Dash gaped in shock as AJ’s head slowly turned back to her, followed by everypony else.
“Wh-WHAT?!” She asked. “I- I...”
“You done crossed the line,” Applejack commented in a tone so low it sent shivers down Dash’s spine. “You’d best go ‘pologize this very instant. ‘Cause them’s fightin’ words you just spoke about Dainty Dish. Were that me, you’d be in a heapin’ helpin’ a trouble right now.”
“But!” Rainbow began. “I don’t, I don’t GET IT!”
“You’ve done called her a liar, a fake, and a thief,” Applejack’s tone was all but a growl. And as soaked as she was at the moment, she looked downright scary. “And nopony-“
Applejack forcefully poked Rainbow Dash in the chest.
“NOPONY, deserves that kinda’ disrespect. Ye’ hear me?”
“But-“ Dash looked frantically back and forth between Applejack and the retreating pegasus, then to her other friends. Nopony said anything.
“But-“ she tried again. “But I, I wasn’t actually serious!”
“Well,” Applejack continued, the vibe coming off her so frightening even Fluttershy started to creep slowly back. “Maybe if you go ‘pologize, like I know you will. We might convince her you didn’t really mean it.”
There was silence for several seconds as Rainbow Dash glanced around nervously. Then she looked back at Applejack, who just continued to frown at her disapprovingly. Every hair on Dash’s back started to stand on end in icy shivers.
“I-” she began one more time, then suddenly broke eye contact and started to trot towards the retreating Dainty. “I better go apologize.”
And as soon as she finished speaking, she broke into a gallop.
Applejack watched her friend go, her features slowly starting to relax when a slight cough got her attention.
“Dearie,” Rarity glanced between Applejack and Rainbow Dash. “I don’t know what you just did, but it was giving me the shivers. Ooo... I get goose-bumps just thinking about it.”
“Tain’t nothing special,” Applejack let a weak smile grace her features. “My uncle Applewood taught me that fer dealin’ with low down no-good dirty varmints.”
Then she paused, taking a long deep breath.
“Never thought I’d use it on a friend.”
“Applejack,” Twilight joined in. “Remind me never to mess with your uncle.”
“No kidding,” Spike added.
The others nodded in unison as they turned to watch Rainbow Dash catch up to Dainty as she cleared the wet area.
“Dainty!” Dash called, running up to her. “Wait!”
“Don’t talk to me,” Dainty sniffed, sarcasm dripping in her voice. “I’m a thief.”
“But I didn’t mean it!” Rainbow Dash walked up next to the dark pegasus. “I was... I was just angry!”
“You think I’m a liar,” Dainty sniffed, picking her sullen trot up to a mild canter. “You shouldn’t talk to liars.”
“I never said you were lying!” Dash picked up the pace, matching the pegasus. She started to notice at that point that Dainty was still limping and mentally kicked herself for not noticing sooner.
“You don’t believe a word I say!” Dainty took her canter to a slow gallop. “Why should I believe you!”
“Wait!” Dash shouted as she caught up once more. “Just talk to me okay? It’s just a misunderstanding.”
“LEAVE ME ALONE!” Dainty all but snarled, causing Rainbow Dash to slide to halt in shock. For a second she just stood there blinking before a frown crossed her features. Try to be the nice pony, TRY to extend a helping hoof...
“I will NOT leave you alone,” she snapped, quickly jumping into a gallop. “We ARE going to talk!”
“Stop following me!” Dainty’s angry snarl was breaking into a sob again. “Leave me alone! Leave me alone!”
Dainty extended her wings; water droplets spraying off them and mixing with the swirls of dust she generated. All of which sandblasted Rainbow Dash right in the face.
‘Blech!” she stuck her tongue out and spat some of the grit that managed to get in her mouth. “You want to play rough?! I LIVE rough!”
Dash stretched out her own wings and took flight. At this point, she’d just tackle Dainty and MAKE her listen. It was just all a big misunderstanding. There had to be something she wasn’t getting.
Dash had to dodge a swirl of dust as Dainty snapped one of her wings like a whip.
“Ha!” she snapped. “As if th-“
Dash jinked back the other way as the opposite wing snapped down.
“She can’t be-“ she thought for a moment, then accelerated.
“I said, STOP...” Dainty took her gallop to a bounding sprint as she gave her wings a few flaps.
Rainbow Dash did the best she could to stop ahead of the wall of dust that suddenly exploded in her face, and smashed into the ground in surprise before sliding to a stop. Above her, she could see Dainty Dish rapidly ascending away in a steep climb.
“Why I aughta...” she growled, but arrested her temper.
Back at Fluttershy’s house, Rarity jumped at the loud cracking sound that reached her ears.
“My stars!” she turned back to where Dash and Dainty had run off. “What in the world was THAT noise?”
“Spike!” Twilight quickly glanced at the dragon. “My binoculars!”
The dragon complied; handing the magnifying device that he’d left strapped to his neck the whole time over to her. Twilight yanked them away as she galloped to the edge of the yard where the clouds stopped, raising them to her eyes. She was just in time to see Rainbow Dash emerge from a growing cloud of dust as a fast moving rainbow streak. Tracing the direction of the streak, she spotted a dark speck rapidly ascending away from her friend.
“What did Dash say to her NOW?” Twilight snapped in frustration.
As she watched, Rainbow Dash was already closing the gap.
“Rainbow!” she snapped uselessly at the distant ponies. “You better be apologizing!”
Dainty Dish snapped a look over her shoulder, tear streaks staining her face.
“STOP FOLLOWING ME!” she half sobbed, half bellowed.
“Just give me a MINUTE!” Dash shouted back, pausing to inhale. “PLEASE?!”
“LEAVE ME ALONE!” Dainty sobbed ahead into the sky. Rainbow Dash grit her teeth and put a little more push into her climb. The temperature was starting to drop, allowing her to work just a little harder without breaking a sweat.
“Give up!” she was almost even with Dainty now. “You can’t out climb me!”
“WATCH ME!” Dainty snapped in a hurt tone.
Dash frowned as she almost immediately passed through the concussions the wings generated. Then frowned more as she began to drop back. That little- deliberately messing up her-
Then Dainty began to really climb as if empowered by the very challenge, pulling away sharply.
“What the HECK?” Dash blinked in surprise. “She can accelerate in this climb?!”
Back on the ground, Spike was becoming irritated at not being able to see.
“Twilight,” he snapped in eagerness. “Twilight what’s going on?”
“They’re still climbing,” she frowned. “And they’re getting really high now.”
“It’s really cold up high,” Fluttershy began in a worried tone. “I hope they don’t get sick.”
Back in the sky, Rainbow Dash was beginning to feel things other than the cold. Her wings were starting to burn as she worked to gain back ground on Dainty. However, she could feel the shivers as they hit a thin cloud layer made of bits of ice. The kind usually placed only by extremely specialized high altitude pegasi. Normally, Rainbow Dash never came up this high because nobody could see her, and it was too cold to hang around. But Dainty just kept going like she was made for this kind of thing. The ride was also starting to get a bit rough. Getting jostled around in a high-speed climb was never any fun.
“Hah!” she laughed more to herself then anything. “She’ll tire out at this speed in no time!”
Almost as soon as she said that, she saw Dainty begin to decrease the angle of her climb, relaxing her wings as she arched over the top and started to level off.
“Now’s my chance!” Rainbow Dash smirked, putting all the oomph she had into coming out of her climb above Dainty, then twisted and rocketed into a dive.
Dainty Dish just took a deep breath as she adjusted her wings. The flight was so very bumpy, but just a little more...
“Wings back,” she muttered, working her memory. “Breathe in, wings up, breathe out, wings down.”
Rainbow Dash was picking up speed, she could see the air at her nose starting to distort as she plunged towards Dainty. She had to be careful, push too much too soon, or not enough too late, and she’d be in for a WILD ride all the way back to the ground.
Dainty suddenly curved, dropping into a dive of her own, wings snapping down with a crack as she did so.
“WHAT?” Dash gasped but quickly returned her focus to the air at her nose. “The barrier... She doesn’t think she can- Does she?”
The two pegasi continued to dive, Dainty continuing to accelerate at a pace Dash previously thought impossible for the darker pegasus.
Dainty, unaware of Dash’s shock, continued to focus on her dive. Just a little more... It was so rough that she had to give it all her concentration. The pressure on the tip of her nose was so much like a balloon that could pop at any-
Dainty’s ride suddenly went smooth as a clear lake on a calm day, and she smiled in personal satisfaction, picking her wings up and dropping them with a crack.
Rainbow Dash’s eyes widened in shock. The- that was... But- A SONIC- NO WAY! Where’s the rainbow!?
Gritting her teeth, Rainbow Dash threw everything into her dive, forcing her way through the barrier of pressure on her nose. It was cold, that meant she could get through it sooner, she just had to-
And she was through; she could feel the air change almost instantly and pushed after Dainty. She had to catch her, NOW!
On the ground, Twilight lowered her binoculars in confusion.
“I’m not sure what happened,” she began, handing the binoculars off to Spike, who eagerly snapped them up and started scanning the sky. “But I swear I just saw them create two really weird sonic rainbooms.”
“At that altertude?” Applejack frowned. “I cain’t even see them no more.”
“WHOA!” Spike snapped. “I see them, and... Dainty’s climbing still?”
“STILL!?” Twilight zipped back, yanking the binoculars back up and putting them to her eyes. “They’re already as high as a pegasus can fly!”
It took her a moment to find the two, but Spike wasn’t lying.
Now way above the clouds she was familiar with, Rainbow Dash was starting to lose her composure. Dainty was climbing again. AGAIN! After punching through the wall of air that Dash thought separated her awesome speed from any other pony in Equestria, Dainty Dish was continuing an all out climb, and she was STILL speeding up!
“You’ve GOT to be kidding!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed at the pegasus ahead of her, though she was certain that with the roar in her ears it went unheard. “How am I supposed to keep up with a climb like THAT!?”
Dainty only accelerated even more.
How was she doing it? How was she still climbing and picking up speed? Dash couldn’t even figure out how fast they were going at this point, and she didn’t really know how fast she could push it either. After creating a sonic rainboom, she never really pushed herself, opting instead to just enjoy it for the few fleeting minutes she was cruising around, glowing rainbow afterimage in her wake.
And as they continued to go higher and higher, it seemed as if her wings were having a harder and harder time grabbing the air. For every one of those cracks Dainty was now doing almost leisurely, Rainbow Dash was pumping her wings almost to the point she looked like a lazy humming bird. And it felt like it was getting harder and harder to breathe. Dash was starting to lose her breath, already pushing her limits, she would gladly admit when she got back down that she was exhausted from this stunt.
Risking a glance at the ground, she was shocked to see Equestria now looked like some kind of oversized ball. Down, was a long, long ways away.
Looking back ahead and up, Dainty showed no signs of stopping, only slowly starting to pull away even more, prompting Dash to suppress the burning in her wings and drive them faster. The air blasting her face was freezing, but at the same time, was starting to burn, as it did to her hooves.
“Oh my...” she began in a huff. “GOSH! Does she... Ever... Stop...CLIMBING!?”
Rainbow Dash managed to arrest Dainty’s lead for a moment, taking note that she was now trailing bits of white, cloud-like vapor over her wings. Of which Dash further noticed, were now folded back so far between thunderous cracks that they almost looked like she was diving UP.
Miles below, Twilight squinted into her binoculars.
“I’m losing them,” she began in worry. “They’re getting so high that they’re getting too small to see.”
“You want your telescope?” Spike asked helpfully. The comment took a moment to strike home with the other ponies before they realized just how high it was to need a telescope.
“I’ll lose them completely before then,” the unicorn advised. “It’s hard to see them now, just two long white streaks going higher and higher. It almost looks like a pair of clouds made of string.”
“Really LONG string?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Twilight would have nodded, but was too busy holding her binoculars instead. Behind her Applejack’s look changed quickly between surprise, then to horror.
“Sweet apple pies,” she muttered. “It cain’t be-“
“Can’t be what?” Twilight lowered her binoculars, all but giving up on keeping track of the two pegasi.
Back at altitude, Dash was trying one last trick.
“Any... thing.... You can do...” she huffed, attempting to mimic what Dainty was doing with her wings. The way they were tucked back definitely smoothed things out, but Rainbow Dash just couldn’t sweep them fast enough to snap them the way the other pegasus did. And she was close to losing it. She could see sparkles above them as if it was slowly turning into nighttime, despite the sun being plainly visible in the sky.
“I... Won’t... Lose...” she continued huffing. The air was screaming against her face, blasting her nose with heat. Her wings felt like they were on fire, and so did her lungs. And Dainty was continuing to climb, seemingly going on forever into the sky as if she’d fallen from the stars themselves.
Rainbow Dash pushed herself more, but found she just couldn’t make her wings move any faster. She was losing, losing speed, losing a race she hadn’t even realize she'd started. And Dainty Dish, the seemingly timid little pony, allergic to everything that moved, exhausted in minutes, was beating her wholesale. She was like a black arrow, ripping along in front of her trailing two white lines from her wings-
Dainty Dish’s cutie mark suddenly snapped into focus in Dash’s mind. A black triangle, a black ARROW! Lots of lines like a camera flash, but two white lines like streaks. The mark, made sense?
And instantly, Rainbow Dash knew she’d lost. She’d lost before she even started.
“Can’t...” she panted, her vision blurring. “Can’t breathe... Too high.”
And Rainbow Dash understood what Dainty felt on the ground, so far below. To be miserable and unable to breathe, and suffering. It was all so clear, high above it all where she could feel the pinch in her lungs, gasping to inhale as her head swam.
“Daint-“ she began one last desperate pant. “-wait?”
And Dash gave up. Her lungs gave up, her wings gave up, and it was over. And Dainty continued to extend her lead, ripping forward like Applejack said. As if she were empowered with a speed of plus three. Just like that game Twilight got them to play.
Over the roar of the icy hot wind, Dash felt her body drop, her vision fading to black as the bottom dropped out of the world. She could feel the sensation as she began to spin, unable to do anything about it. And one last thought entered her mind as blackness took her.
Any Pegasus in a falling leaf spin had more things wrong with them than just losing control of their flight.
“Though I fly through the valley of death, I shall fear no evil. For I am eighty thousand feet and climbing.” - Sign at Kadena AFB in Okinawa, Japan
How long had she been falling?
There was no telling how much time had passed, or how much time was left. The roar of the wind as it blasted over her face gave no answers.
“-ash...” It was her own fault really, that much she understood. Too caught up in her curiosity to see the clues. Too stubborn to stop for an answer that she’d missed.
That wasn’t true. She didn’t miss the answer. She simply refused to see it. She didn’t WANT to see it. Too absorbed in her own ego, when the answer was presented to her not once, not twice, but three times, she refused to acknowledge it. Because she didn’t WANT that answer.
So stubborn, so full of pride.
And in the end, Rainbow Dash had to learn the hard way. That’s just the way it was. Learn to fly by crashing. Learn to do the sonic rainboom by trying over and over again, only to succeed when her mind was on other things. Rainbow Dash learned her limits, and how to push them.
And now, she’d found a new limit. And this one was going to teach a painful lesson when she finally ran out of sky to fall through.
A little odd though, the sky talking.
“Wake up Rainbow Dash.”
And... And why is she falling face-first? Didn’t she go into a spin?
“Wake up RainbowDash.”
The darkness parted, a blast of wind immediately stinging and drying her eyes out in an instant. The burning sensation made Rainbow Dash jerk her head, clenching her eyes shut on reflex before slowly opening them to a squint.
Her body jerked forward slightly, the intensity of the wind picking up just as it had begun to drop off. It was a strange sight before her. The sky was below her, lazy blue haze stretching to the horizon, where it met... Where it met the night sky, stars twinkling mischievously above her.
Her nose burned, the air seemed to force its way into her lungs as if it were actively trying to reach down her throat. Breathing out was a little more work than expected.
“Wake up Rainbow Dash,” the voice called again.
Dash blinked away some of the stinging, realizing that something wasn’t right. She wasn’t falling. Something... Something had her, holding her by the shoulders and hind-quarters, tight and secure.
“Wha-” she found her throat dry, talking difficult.
Dainty Dish’s head popped down into her view. Upside down for all of one second before she quickly jerked it up.
“You’re okay,” Dainty’s voice sounded clearer than anything she’d ever heard from the pony. “Just relax and breathe.”
“What?” Dash blinked again. “What’s going-“
Rainbow Dash looked down, spotting the clouds far, far below them.
“Keep your head UP!” Dainty’s voice snapped over the wind in a very strong, very clear tone.
Dash jerked her head up, surprised the action made her dizzy.
“Keep your mouth open and face the wind,” Dainty continued in that same, disturbingly strong tone. “If you look down for more than four seconds, you’ll get dizzy. More than six, and you’ll pass out... Again.”
They jerked forward again. Rainbow Dash took a moment to think about where she was, her mind slowly collecting the last few minutes she could remember. Climbing, climbing, endless climbing. How high had they gone? They were above the sky itself so it seemed. Clouds faded into view across the edges of the haze, and slowly crept past.
Sucking in a breath, she risked a quick glance down, silently counting to three as she watched Equestria roll by before snapping her head back to the wind, already feeling light headed.
“Whoa...” she stated after feeling her lungs thank her. Aside from the burning sensation across her nose, it almost seemed like just another day, cruising along the clouds. Only she could feel the nip of the air where it swirled behind her ears, colder than anything she’d ever experienced in the winter. But yet, she wasn’t cold.
Dash recognized what the sound was now, catching Dainty’s wings as they snapped like a whip, propelling them across the top of the world.
Head a little clearer now, she looked around for a brief moment, taking in mixed day and night sky, how it all blended together so perfectly. It was a beauty she’d never seen before. After a moment, she worked up enough courage to speak.
“Where, ARE we?” she asked.
“Cruise Altitude,” Dainty responded curtly. “At least, that’s what I call it.”
“This is AMAZING,” Dash came back, turning her head in awe. “It’s like you can see forever.”
“Keep your head forward,” Dainty warned again. “You have to be VERY careful up here.”
Dash did as instructed, watching the distance ahead of them melt away into a blue haze, and remembered to keep her mouth open as well.
“How did YOU manage to get up here?” Dash continued, curiosity getting the best of her. “You could barely last two minutes in our race.”
“I told you,” Dainty’s voice softened. “I’m good at climbing. And that’s ALL I’m good at. It’s the only way to get away from all the stuff I’m allergic to.”
“Climbing?” Dash suppressed a slightly crazed laugh. “This is beyond climbing. This is... This is something else.”
“It’s what I’m good at,” Dainty replied. “And it’s the best place for photography.”
“And what’s with your voice?” Dash continued to bombard her carrier with questions. “You sounded different on the ground.”
“This is what I really sound like,” Dainty replied, her voice taking on a happy chirp. “I’m so stuffed up on the ground. Ugh... I HATE it. Up here, the wind dries it all out and I can breathe. It’s so nice.”
Then the darker pegasus paused before continuing.
“You feel it, right?” she asked. “Like a blast of heat right on the tip of your nose?”
“Yeah,” Dash went cross-eyed to look at her nose, but saw nothing. “Like fire and sand yet without either one.”
“Best feeling in the world,” Dainty’s voice almost seemed to swoon. “If I could, I’d live right here, at the top of the sky.”
“Sorry, lost more speed then we wanted,” Dainty continued, her tone becoming business-like once more. “You have to keep the wind on your face JUST right, or you start to sink, or the burning gets too intense. Normally I’m up here by myself, so there’s nothing to distract me.”
“No kidding,” Dash smirked, glancing around again before looking forward. They were silent for about a minute before Dainty spoke again.
“By the way,” she began. “I believe it’s seven.”
“What?” Dash looked up.
“I noticed you counting when you ran into things,” Dainty replied. “Wouldn’t this be number seven?”
“You remember THAT?” Dash blinked. “Why would you-?”
“Force of habit,” Dainty replied.
Dash remained silent for another minute. It just felt so awkward. Being carried along by a pegasus she’d been so unintentionally mean to, all because...
Dash lowered her head, sighing, then remembered to keep it up so she didn’t pass out.
“Look,” she began. “About the whole flying to Seaddle thing... I... I’m sorry.”
Dash sucked in her pride and continued.
“I was so caught up with myself that I just couldn’t believe you got there and back so soon. I’ve never seen or heard of any pony doing that before. I didn’t mean to call you a liar, or a fake. And certainly not a thief... That was my bad. I just couldn’t think of any possible way for it to happen. Except one... One I couldn’t accept despite what everypony was telling me.”
“And the reason was because, quite simply...” Dash took a deep breath, inaudible over the roar of the wind. “You’re faster than I am. WAY faster. Impossibly fast. I didn’t want to believe it. And I’m sorry for not believing them... Or you.”
There was moment of silence, punctuated mid-way through by yet another snap of Dainty’s wings before the darker pegasus spoke, some confusion in her voice.
“We’re... not going all that fast.”
“Huh?” Dash’s face screwed up. “Don’t be silly. You outran me every step of the way.”
“We can’t be going that fast,” Dainty countered. “Feel for yourself. We’re going slower than when we were racing and everything's going by so slowly.”
Dash closed her eyes for a second, her face getting even more confused. It felt like they were going at what Dash considered a lazy pace, less than half speed. That... That wasn’t right. Something was wrong, very wrong.
“No,” she opened her eyes. “Something’s not right. I SAW you breach the barrier. You did a sonic rainboom back during that short dive. I’d know that feeling ANYWHERE.”
“But,” Dainty’s voice, while clear, was starting to sound unsure again. “It didn’t feel like that during the race. I never even got CLOSE to going fast enough for a sonic rainboom. And, and you just outran me so easily!”
“And you were so tired so fast,” Dash frowned. “But the higher you go, the faster you go, and it just seems easier for you as-“
“Wait a second,” Dash started to grin. “The higher you go, the faster you go! So the higher you go, the EASIER it is to go fast!”
Then she waved her hooves around.
“And WHERE ARE WE?!”
Dainty blinked, realization dawning on her features.
“We’re so high,” Rainbow Dash continued dramatically. “That if you can get up here, it’s EASY to go SUPER FAST! In fact, in order to get this high, you HAVE to go super fast!”
“R-really?” Dash couldn’t see Dainty’s face, but the pegasus was gaping in shock.
“Dainty Dish!” Rainbow Dash shouted as everything fell into place. “You. Are. AWESOME!”
Dainty’s heart skipped a beat. Nopony had EVER called her awesome. Her pictures, sure. But her?
“And, AND, AND!” Dash continued in excitement. “If you can get to Seaddle and back in four hours what takes me twelve to go both ways... Then, you’re... You’re three times FASTER than I am!”
And the last part of the Cutie mark clicked into place.
“And if that’s me pushing the speed just below what it takes for a sonic rainboom, then you’re three times faster than that. Sonic Rainbooms happen when we’re going about as fast as the sound from a yell!”
Dash started to laugh.
“You’re over three times faster than the speed of sound!” she crowed. “That’s it! I know what your cutie mark means!”
Dainty almost dropped out of the sky in shock.
“Y-YOU DO?!” she shouted back.
“YES!” Dash hollered triumphantly. “It all makes sense! ALL of it!”
If it weren’t for the wind blasting her face, Dainty would have had tears streaming out of her eyes. Her cutie mark, that weird diamond of confusing stripes and triangles. Somepony had figured it out! That was... was...
“Uh,” Dash’s voice came up to her ears. “You okay? You haven’t, cracked the whip or whatever it is you do with your wings in a while. I think we’re dropping.”
Dainty glanced around, focusing on the sensation on her face- WHOA! Way too slow.
“HAHA!” Dash shouted up to her. “That’s more like it! Now can you make a turn back to Ponyville? We’ve got to tell the others!”
“Executing a one-hundred and eighty degree left turn,” Dainty called back. Then she rolled and began to drift slowly left. For just a moment Rainbow Dash frowned at the lack of speed in the turn. But stopping to feel the sensation in her body, she could tell, that traveling at three times the speed of sound, this was a FAST turn.
“Hah,” she laughed. “I’m being carried by a pony with a turning radius of a hundred miles! And it’s SO AWESOME!”
Dear Princess Celestia,
Their friends were waiting for them in the drizzle outside Fluttershy’s house upon their return. The first thing anypony noticed was that both Dash and Dainty were flying side by side, smiles on their faces.
I’m not entirely sure what happened today, as I wasn’t there for everything. But I think Rainbow Dash learned a lesson we should all take to heart.
“That was amazing!” Spike was the first to speak as they slid to a stop in the mud. “You two flew so high we couldn’t even see you!”
“What happened?” Twilight asked.
“Oh,” Dash laughed. “You’re going to LOVE this. And AJ...?”
“Yes ma’am?” Applejack asked.
“You were right,” Rainbow Dash admitted. “So right it’s not even funny.”
It’s good to have pride in yourself and your abilities. That’s what makes each and every one of us unique. But sometimes one’s pride can get the best of them, blinding them to things they would normally see.
“So what happened dear?” Rarity asked. “Don’t keep us waiting. It’s not your style.”
“Well,” Dash put a hoof to her mouth. “How about we start by explaining the meaning of Dainty’s cutie mark.”
“Ye’ know what it means?” Applejack asked in surprise.
“Yep!” Dash grinned. “Figured the whole thing out after Dainty caught me.”
“CAUGHT YOU?” Rarity gaped. “My stars, WHAT happened?”
“One thing at a time!” Dash laughed. “Now, listen...”
Sometimes, the very things that make us unique can lead to adversity, and from that adversity, we often substitute our own beliefs and answers to problems that come up, even if those answers are wrong.
“I knew it,” AJ grinned after hearing what Dash said about the cutie mark. “I knew it had ter do with a camera.”
“But the rest,” Rarity blinked. “My word... That’s simply fantastic, almost TOO fantastic.”
“I know!” Dash grinned. “Isn’t it AWESOME? I can’t believe I didn’t realize it sooner.”
I saw this today, watching Rainbow Dash struggle to come to terms with a pony who’s abilities we couldn’t understand. We each came to numerous conclusions, some of them silly, some that were almost cruel. But none of which were correct.
“Oooh! So that’s what the skyline this afternoon was!”
“Pinkie!” Dash jumped in shock. “Where’d you come from? Didn’t you head home?”
“I skipped on ahead,” Pinkie Pie commented, earning a confused look from her friends to which she replied. “You think I’m going to miss the climax AND everything after it? HECK NO! That’s when all the best parties are held!”
“Heh,” Dash shook her head, not knowing what to think. “Pinkie Pie, you’re just so random sometimes.”
“I know,” Pinkie smiled. “Are you guys ready to party?”
“Uh,” Rarity looked around. “Now? Here? In the MUD?”
“Of course,” Pinkie smirked. “There’s no dust because of the rain, so it’s perfect for Dainty! Isn’t that right?”
Dainty Dish glanced around, confused.
“Uh...” she began.
“A party right here is just fine,” Rainbow Dash hooked a hoof around her neck and dragged her closer. “If we need to wash off, I’ll just drop a monsoon on us. No sweat.”
Dainty just smiled weakly while Rarity sighed, finding Dash's methods still wanting.
It’s important to remember that sometimes, even when somepony seems to be false, they can still be just as mistaken as the rest of us. And as such, it’s best not to accuse them of wrong doing just because things aren’t adding up. Sometimes, the answers you find will amaze you beyond your wildest dreams and show you things you never thought possible.
Your Faithful Student, Twilight Sparkle
P.S. I ran the math I did on Dainty Dish’s flight three more times. I’m sure of it now. Dainty Dish’s cruising speed is Mach three point three four. And based on one of the individual photos from the ‘Atlas of Captivating Cartographic Captures’, and knowing what kind of camera was being used. I calculated that the photo was taken from eighty-one thousand, two hundred feet above the ground. If I’m not mistaken, and numbers don’t lie, that makes her the fastest, highest flying pegasus in Equestria.
Glancing away from Twilight’s letter, Celestia levitated a spectacular photo showing the shadows of Canterlot off the mantle. It was signed in very clear letters.
‘Blackbird 420, Dainty Dish’ ‘Equestria Land Survey Group’
Celestia lowered the photo and levitated a cup of tea and took a sip.
About that moment, there was a small thump that caused the tea to ripple, prompting the princess of the sun to glance out the window. High in the sky, she could see a single string of cloud stretching out to the horizon and the sunset. The front of it was already stretching away to the east, getting longer by the second as if somepony were up there with a paintbrush, gently drawing a single, dainty white line.
First Concept image of Dainty Dish using SR-71 Flight patch for cutie mark placeholder
For many of you who’ve read this story to it’s completion, I’m sure there are many, many questions concerning the character Dainty Dish and just who/what she was.
To begin with, I will start by explaining that Dainty Dish is an import and anthropomorph of the Lockheed Martin SR-71 Blackbird spyplane. Her background, personality, and physical characteristics were based off design and performance statistics for that aircraft. This came about during some thinking time at work. There was no special intent, no 'I must make an OC pony!' involved. I simply had a lot of time, in a large, empty room, with nobody else around, doing mind-numbingly simple tasks. (You have no idea.) She's not meant to be better than any other pony, she's not meant to overshadow Rainbow Dash, she's not there to be anything special. She simply Is.
But she is something special. She's the Blackbird, the 'Habu' as the Okinawa locals called it. And I made her to match it.
Let’s begin by examining the SR-71’s world-renowned records. I know many of you do not know much about the Bird.
The SR-71 Blackbird holds the records for highest speed, air-breathing production aircraft. A speed of 2,200 miles per hour (1,900 knots), roughly mach 3.3, as well as highest flying production aircraft with sustained altitude records of 85,000 feet.
To understand just HOW fast and HOW high this is. This is a speed of approximately one mile per second, 17 miles off the ground. Imagine a trip across town on the highway that takes almost twenty minutes. And that’s how HIGH the SR-71 is flying. Now imagine that this trip occurs in the time frame it takes you to walk across your house.
Fast? Certainly. High? Absolutely.
However, the SR-71 is not an aircraft made by the gods. It performs under a very exacting flight envelope.
To begin with, we’ll examine its speed. The SR-71 is deigned to go fast. However, designing to go fast and designing to fly are two different animals. The blackbird requires much higher speed on the runway just to get into the air from normal planes. Your average passenger liner aircraft needs 130 to 150 knots to get airborne, and often cruises around at 210 to 250 knots at low altitude. The Blackbird takes off no slower than 230 knots. So by the time the wheels come off the pavement, the Bird is already going as fast as most passenger airliners.
Now, that’s just one side of the speed scale. The other tidbit many don’t immediately understand is airspeed in relation to something called dynamic pressure. As you climb up in altitude, the air gets thinner. As the air gets thinner, the pressure it exerts for an object traveling through it at a given speed decreases. This is VERY important in air travel, as what you may see for an aircraft’s top speed is a completely different animal than an aircraft’s rated maximum indicated airspeed. Indicated airspeed is very simple. It is the speed as indicated by the pressure on the aircraft’s front in relation to umoving air around it. (Dynamic Pressure and Static Pressure respectively.)
What’s interesting to note is that the blackbird is FRAGILE. It’s a bunch of fuel tanks strapped to engines and cameras. Thus it has a limited amount of speed it can actually push at low altitude.
Said Limit is 450 knots below seven thousand feet. Five hundred knots above that.
As altitude increases, pressure drops. So to does indicated airspeed drop accordingly. However, a pilot will find they are not actually traveling any slower in relation to the ground. Thus, as altitude increases, so too must your speed in order to remain flying. This is how airliners can achieve speeds up to and including 450 knots while the air pressure around them indicates a speed of only 270.
The Blackbird’s flight envelope is no exception. At altitude, the pilot’s Indicated Airspeed gauge will show 300 to 350 knots, despite going mach 3.3. In addition to limited speed, the Blackbird turns about as well as a jet airliner. It’s long, fragile frame cannot sustain many Gs, otherwise the plane literally risks snapping in half. The upper limits are 2.5 Gs positive, and 0.2 negative. It’s not pulling any dogfight maneuvers.
In fact, rolling the plane upside down is PROHIBITED.
The plane, while the fastest jet in the sky, has all the maneuverability of a loaded 747. And turning only gets worse as it climbs and speeds up. Eventually, it’s going so fast, and requires such gentle turns, that it takes over a hundred miles and takes over five minutes just to turn around.
If that wasn’t exacting enough, the plane has another, DANGEROUS quirk. When flying, the plane tends to settle at an Angle of Attack (Direction the nose of the aircraft is pointing in relation to the direction its moving through the air.) of five degrees. Speed and pitch play important rolls in this part of flying.
Flying low and slow, the Bird can be pitched back without overstressing it. However, sudden pitch maneuvers change the direction the nose is pointing before the plane itself changes direction. This leads to sudden increases in the AoA of the aircraft. In most planes, excessive AoA leads to stalls and the nose of the plane naturally drops, allowing those planes to dive and recover.
In the blackbird, something else happens. If excessive AoA exceeds about 14 degrees, the plane experiences an accelerated tendency to pitch UP, further worsening the condition it’s in. Effectively, pitch up too fast, and the blackbird will enter an uncontrollable backflip. If it’s not caught in time, the plane loses control, and becomes a multi-million dollar titanium ROCK as it begins breaking up in mid air.
At that point, ejection is the only option for the pilot and RSO onboard.
Because of these quirks, the Blackbird requires pilots with gentle hands, and an eye for numbers. At mach three, there’s no room for guesswork.
There is more to the Bird, but let’s talk how the above traits relate to the pony known as Dainty Dish.
We’ll begin with the basic rundown of her name and character.
The Name, Dainty Dish, actually refers to the Mother Goose nursery rhyme ‘Sing a song of Sixpence’. The first half of the rhyme was quoted at the beginning of act two. The rhyme comments about ‘blackbirds’ baked in a pie, and that being a ‘dainty dish’ to be set before the king. It should thus be obvious to the reader how the name for the character was derived in relation to the SR-71 Blackbird. Incidentally, having a instrumental version of the rhyme in song form going for scenes involving Dainty talking makes the perfect background music for her.
As far as character, her background and bio were based upon the traits of the SR-71. First and foremost, was coming up with a trait that made her weak on the ground and low altitude, but strong when she was flying high.
Making her physically weak and pitiful was the perfect choice. Dainty is physically a fragile, miserable pony who tires easily. The main culprit of this being an absolutely nightmarish set of allergies and allergic reactions to just about anything she can inhale. She has trouble breathing, and sneezes herself into exhaustion almost constantly. This is not a pony who could turn and burn with Rainbow Dash. This is a pony you feel sorry for, who might break at any moment.
Of course, she’s more resilient than she looks. The SR-71 Blackbird is made almost entirely out of titanium. And even given that it has limited stress limits, the blackbird is not something to scoff at.
The second thing to think about, was Dainty’s ability to climb the endless miles of sky to get where she wants to be. And why she wants to be there. Which was simple. The higher you go, the less junk is in the air. For a pony that’s allergic to ‘everything’ as was shown in the story, going up higher and higher takes her clear of allergens, allowing her to escape the misery.
However, getting up there is not easy. For Dainty’s background, she had to develop the ability for long climbs. And that’s where her light frame and oversized wings come in. She worked those pegasus wings through trial and error to be able to out-climb any pegasus and match the ability of the blackbird to climb, and climb, and climb. They can be considered the only STRONG thing on her body. They are her engines. And this leads to the second reason she climbs.
Low to the ground, where the air is thicker, actions such as flapping her wings becomes harder. With her weak body and limited stamina, she can only fly for a short time. This actually parallels another tendency of the SR-71. Fuel.
The blackbird’s fuel tanks are not sealed. On the ground, and flying low and slow, the tanks leak. They leak like an open bathtub drain. And they only seal when the Bird is cruising near top speed. Not to worry about catching fire. The blackbird’s fuel (JP-7) is a special mixture which the flashpoint is so high, you could use it to put out a match. The fuel actually requires injection of triethylborane to light.
Back to the wings, Dainty developed powerful wings, but cannot make the most efficient use of them low to the ground. She tires too easily. But flying high in thin air, she can go much further, and extend her time from minutes, to a few hours.
The snapping wing crack, a move that is no doubt very demanding, especially shows off this characteristic, and is in fact, her analogue to the afterburners that provide most of the SR-71’s supersonic power. Dainty’s wings crack like a bullwhip, producing an honest to goodness sonic boom with every snap. The shockwave is how Dainty provides thrust that exceeds what the normal wings of Rainbow Dash can provide. (Though we kind of sideline physics to an extent, as no living creature can actually hit mach one.)
Low to the ground, these large wings and their strength provide a LOT of power but kill her stamina very rapidly. However, in a tactical climb, using that power to escape the ground as fast as possible, Dainty can climb to altitudes of twenty to thirty-five thousand feet in less than three minutes.
The Blackbird performs a climb similar to this after takeoff, usually refueling at a tanker before commencing the next phase. Airborne refueling was omitted for Dainty out of lack of any logical explanation as to why she’d stop to eat in mid-climb. For all the paralelles to the Blackbird’s fuel needs, just take one look at Dainty’s insane diet, and how much she scarves down cashews.
A simple profile of the SR-71 and Dainty's ascent characteristics. Note that the speeds marked in each phase are ONLY attainable for Dainty in THAT part of her flight. Even Mach 2 is impossible for her below 20k ft.
There are many other characteristics Dainty Dish uses that run along side the SR-71. However, examining every last detail, in great detail, is something you the reader should do. For example, explaining the fact that Dainty and Dash had to look forward while flying to breath properly near the end should be looked up under the terms ‘Time of Useful Consciousness,’ and ‘RAMJET’.
I feel the story does a good job of showing off just how finicky and exacting the Blackbird really is, especially when converted into the form of a kid-friendly pony.
If you felt the desire to hug Dainty at any point during the story, that’s normal. Go ahead and relax. If you felt the desire to kick Rainbow Dash for being an insensitive jerk... That’s also normal. Rainbow Dash can be like that, but she’s not doing it out of malice. So keep those boots on the ground where they belong, and be happy to know that Dash learned her obligatory lesson about friendship.
Larger view of the title image:
Image was created using a screenshot of the SR-71 in flight at altitude in Flight Simulator X. Many effects and layers were worked to muddy the blackbird out to an ambiguous triangle that 'could' be a pony at mach 3.4 while highlighting the contrails and low-pressure wingtip vorticies. The cutie mark is reprisented in front of the sun, partially transparent so that it could be 'backlit'.
Dainty's Cutie Mark plain.
Designed entirely in basic microsoft paint, for lack of my FAR better art software.
Below is the preliminary profile that was created for Dainty Dish:
NAME: Dainty Dish* Type: Pegasus (Female) Color: Gray, with jet black mane and tail. Red stripes in mane and tail Cutie Mark: 3+ badge, custom Hometown: Fillydelphia Job: Aerial photography
Dainty Dish is actually a very weak pony. A combination of a relatively frail body, and terrible allergies makes life on the ground all but miserable for her. She spent her filly days essentially being sheltered from the rest of the world because of this.
Flying was her only respite from this. She discovered early on that she could get away from her allergies by flying well above the trees. Unfortunately, her weak body did not allow her to stay in the air for long. So it was but a short reprieve. Playing around, trying to find a way to keep her body in the air longer, she soon discovered that as she got up higher and higher, it seemed to become easier and easier to fly. So Dainty pushed to climb higher, faster, developing strong wings that would allow her to get there in no time. Her stamina failed to improve despite this, so time spent low tired her quickly. Thus, the only option when she wanted to fly was to take off, and head straight to the ceiling. Her tendancy for extremely fast climbs earned her the nickname ‘Dainty Dot’ thanks in part to the fact that if you looked away, the next time you looked up, she’d be a tiny dot far above.
Eventually, Dainty acquired a perchant for extremely high altitude cruising, discovering in the process that while it was super cold, she could stay warm simply by keeping her speed at a certain level.
What she didn’t realize was that as she went higher, what she thinks is the ‘same speed’ is actually much, much faster, and that it is friction that keeps her warm. Dainty doesn’t consider herself much of a good flier, considering her narrow range of flight to be a handicap. Let alone think she’s even remotely fast.
But she’s very, VERY fast once she settles into the top of her cruise. While her frail body and allergies prevent her from doing any of Rainbow Dash’s incredible stunts, she actually goes three times faster than her inspiration… Mach 3.3. She doesn’t realize it however because the only time she can do this is at very high altitude. From there, it doesn’t look or feel like she’s going fast at all. And the air is so thin that she never generates the infamous ‘sonic rainboom’. All Dainty realizes is that the higher she goes, the better her allergies, and the longer she can fly. And if you were to tell her she’s actually the fastest Pegasus in Equestria, she’d just laugh.
Having had such a Sheltered life, Dainty Dish likes to do photography. Capturing the natural beauty of the world is one of her favorite hobbies. This includes her unique brand of EXTREME high altitude aerial pictures. She works for the Equestria Geological Society, using her high altitude photos for survey purposes.
Personality and Personality Flaws:
Dainty Dish, by nature, has low self esteem. She often sees herself as a burden to others, and prefers to stay out of other pony’s manes. A natural side effect of her younger years. She often feels the need to compensate for even the slightest generosity, and often overcompensates for favors.
She is also very exacting. At ‘cruise altitude’, she found that unless she was flying juuust right, she would have to descend and try again, which is very exhausting. As a result, she tends to be very picky about things, and spots even small inconsistencies almost to the obsessive compulsive level.
However, she is a very poor judge of scale. When asked how she gets places so quickly, she just looks confused and mentions that it wasn’t very far
There are people who have complained to me that my 'facts' about Rainbow Dash's speed are in error. They say Dash is super fast.
Now, I've seen these math reports too, and I've seen speculation on her speeds varying from mach five, to mach 6.2, to mach ten. And people will cite the maths of various physics nerds to back them.
There's just one problem with citing these maths.
They are ALL in error.
Mind you, the math itself in each instance was done correctly. However, the fundamental flaw is the principle of execution. Every math calculation done on the sonic rainboom was done based on the principle that what you see is what you get. Like you were watching a video recording of a real event.
The problem is, it's not.
Step your mind back and out of the story world for a moment. Take off those pony filters. What is MLP? Simple. It's an animated cartoon. By the vary nature of the medium, it is a stylized, inaccurate environment not subject to any laws of physics at all. Everything shown on the screen is not shown as it would look in real life. But rather, it is shown as the artist WANTS it to look.
You CANNOT measure this. Here's why.
In the sonic rainboom, there are three ways in which you can calculate the speed of dash's travel. And this is WHILE making the reasonable assumption that the physics they run on in this fictional universe are related enough to real life.
The first, and most obvious method to an aviation geek, is the mach cone that forms during her dive. I've seen two calculations on this first hand. They both use simple right triangle trig to solve it. And the answer was mach two, and mach 6.2 respectively. There appears to be some conflict there already. How fast was Dash going? Mach two? Or three times that fast?
Let's look at the second method. The math presented here calculates based on time. According to the time and gravity values of a falling object, Rarity fell from an altitude of roughly 8,300 feet. (Which is the TOP end of reasonalbe altitudes to find most fair weather clouds) before Dash caught her just feet from impact. According to the time presented in that math, Dash did something around mach 0.35, which isn't even cruising speed for a jet airliner, let alone Dash's supposed fighterjet speeds.
This conflicts with the mach cone measurements above. As at even mach two, Dash would have covered the distance from the cloud stadium to the surface in about two seconds. That's right, not even ten seconds flat.
The third way to calculate, is based of having a fixed, known refference, and measuring the distance they cover. This can only be done right at the end of the fall, with the one fixed camera perspective that shows Rarity (and the blunderbolts) falling as Dash comes streaking in to catch them. I have not seen calculations for speed there, but given the distance covered in compared to their bodies, it did not look terribly fast. Certainly not mach one fast.
So what we have here, is three conflicting values. And this is important. If the maths don't add up, you're doing it wrong because math doesn't lie. In this case, the thing being done wrong is assuming the values calculated in the scene mean anything when they in fact, mean nothing.
Since these values mean nothing, no amount of math is going to do any good in proving anything. We cannot establish a control as is part of the scientific process, therefor, all those values are useless.
As this is an animated story, there is only one other fallback object. 'Intent'.
In this case, the intent was made almost absurdly obvious. It's called a SONIC rainBOOM. Take the 'rain' out, and you have a Sonic Boom. A sonic boom has a threshold point, and only ONE threshold point: Mach One.
To further support this, the difficulty Rainbow Dash has in crossing the threshold for the Rainboom paralelles the difficulty aircraft had in the early jet-age of overcomming the pressure buildup or 'sound barrier' at around mach 0.95. And in the episode, Dash's entire focus was very similar to the historical work that had been done to successfully breach the sound barrier and achieve controlled, sustained mach one flight.
It's pretty obvious what speed Dash was intended to be going. Even if the math doesn't work out very well, stepping back and taking off your 'Ponies are Cool!' filters and looking at it objectively tells you what is right, and what is wrong.
Rainbow Dash does not do mach 2.5, or mach 3, or mach 6.2, and definitely not mach 'a mile and a half a second' TEN. Not only would she cover the distance from the stadium to the ground so fast that we couldn't even air the scene, but she'd reach a temperature of about FIVE THOUSAND DEGREES... CELCIUS. You know... the temperature of molten steel.
And I find such speculation to be wholely unreasonable. Not to mention its completely beyond the scope of what the people speculating seem to realize about the scale of these speeds. Mach one is FAST. Very fast. Mach 3 is even faster. Mach five, mach six, and mach ten? The only people who actually have any comprehension of just how fast that IS are austronauts and astronomy geeks. It takes two and a half, maybe three days to drive from coast to coast on the north american continent. At mach three, you can do it in the time it takes to go grocery shopping for the week. At the higher speeds, the time cuts down to 'trip to the convenience store' length.
I'm going to stick with Dash's mach one speed. It's still plenty awesome. After all, she hit mach one despite the fact that fastest animal in the world is the Peragrine Falcon at 202 MPH... in a dive.
Since I've gotten numerous requests, I thought I'd put this here instead of answer each and every one of them.
To those who are requesting the use of Dainty Dish in your stories and other works, I am granting you permission.
Feel free to use Dainty Dish all you want.
I have only two stipulations.
1: Credit me for her creation.
2: Read and understand the following physical and psychological factors that make up her character.
- She is an import of the SR-71 Blackbird. Her profile and flight characteristics will always follow that as shown in the story. - Dainty easily tires. Strenuous physical activity will exhaust her in a short amount of time. - You may note a lot of the time, various pegasi hovering or otherwise participating in casual flight activities. Because dainty tires, she will never do this. She is either strictly walking/trotting around, or FLYING... Forward, at decent levels of speed. As such, activities such as popping up a few stories to look in windows, or land on balconies, etc... Are technically not possible for her. Her stopping distance would result in her fumbling this otherwise simple move. And she will never be caught in hovers. - Dainty's allergies aggravate her constantly, but even with her, there are breaks in the misery on the ground, just like with real people. A relatively clean room will dramatically reduce her sneezes, and all but eliminate attacks.
- First of all, Dainty's three favorite things, in order: Are 1: The feeling of friction heat blasting her nose (clearing her sinuses). 2: Cashews, 3: Photography. - Dainty dish has low Self-Esteem. She is not 'timid' like fluttershy. She is in fact, rather outgoing. She does however, have a low opinion of herself, and can be easily beaten in an argument, pressured by peers, and otherwise browbeaten into submission by anyone with a stronger personality. This leaves her prone to accaisional bouts of explosive anger that quickly turn to crying. Understand this distinctiveness between her and Fluttershy. - Dainty is incredibly smart. About on par with Twilight Sparkle... Though, Twilight's years of studying put her much further ahead in technical knowhow. Dainty's intelligence doesn't show as clearly, coming up rather in her seeming ease at understanding things, and a very exacting nature, explained in the next point. - Dainty is exacting. Certain things are done certain ways, and those ways only. Not because she likes them, but because they are CORRECT. Imagine Twilight in 'Lesson Zero' concerning the cupcakes and the frosting. Imagine Dainty is like that ALL THE TIME, but more subtle and with things that matter from a technical standpoint. ("No, do it this way, it works better!") - When Dainty's exacting nature comes into question, she can become extremely, explosively defensive about them. As seen in this story, when her camera skills were questioned (something she does in a very VERY exacting manner), she fights back.
DANGER!: Page may contain lethal amounts of 'HNNNG!'
"Three Plus" Dainty Dish's Cutie Mark
Dainty Dish: Final Design
OC Design of Dainty Dish as completed by Larsurus. Noted to be minutes before the race in Act III. Of physical features to note is the red of her nose due to a combination of allergies and wind-burn from high speed flight.
Fun image of Dainty Dish on descent just a minute or two from dropping to sub-sonic. Image commissioned and donated by Atlan on Spacebattles. Notable point is the vapor over her wings.
Dainty Dish logotype for patch or shirt. Sideways orientation cutie mark. I was going for 'above the sky' with the Latin, but someone mentioned it says 'Highest Sky'. Works either way.
An early Dainty Dish image by Jimboebobcarl. Giant, GIANT wings here.