Years Prior to Fireball's Public Debut...
(The Limit... For Now)
On a secluded, massive cloud, Rainbow Dash paced back and forth in front of a group of assembled pegasi.
"You are the very first officially enrolled class of the Supersonic Stormcloud Speedsters' School! You are here because you want to be the best of the best of the best! Short of landing a spot in the Wonderbolts, simply standing on this cloudspace right now is the greatest honor you can receive as a flyer..."
Rainbow Dash's grin showed teeth and energy.
"...and one day, I won't even have to make that qualifier. This school was created specifically to train up and coming pegasus ponies for the most demanding of flight tasks--but for those with a one-track mind, yes, the Wonderbolts will be watching closely for exceptional students, who will be placed in a special elite group to serve as their direct backups! So for those of you with dreams of fame and glory... well, if you put in the work, you too can have the awesome opportunity to be part of the S.S.S.S.S. Squad!"
Rainbow Dash paused in thought.
"Name's still a work in progress. Anyway, lessons start tomorrow, so make sure you're rested. Before you do, though, I've totally got some homework for you guys!"
The assembled ponies gave off murmurs of general disapproval.
"Hey, hey, now! That is NOT the can-do attitude I expect out of my pupils! Tonight, your homework is a one-page essay on just what you want out of this class... and out of life. And tell the truth! The only one who'll ever see it is me, and I've got nothing to gain from laughing at anypony's hopes and dreams... because odds are I share them. My aim is for you to come here green... and graduate mean!" She pumped a hoof in the air. "That sound like a plan to anypony?"
The class let out a cheer.
"Now THAT'S the spirit I'm talking about! See you starting tomorrow. Class dismissed!"
Rainbow Dash watched her class gradually fly off... and turned around once she was sure her work was done. In the process, she neglected to take notice of the single student who stayed behind--a young orange pegasus mare who finally got her teacher's attention by tugging on her wing.
"Hey, Rainbow Dash?"
Rainbow Dash turned around to see Scootaloo, wearing a small smile, and matched it. "Oh, hey, squirt. So, this is how it finally starts, huh?"
A blush appeared to complement Scootaloo's smile. "Yeah, looks like. You wanna know why each of us are here, right? Well, I can answer that already."
"Really now?" Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow, already fairly sure of what was coming.
"Mm-hmm." Scootaloo nodded. "You probably already know, but it's been my dream since I was a filly to become as great as you are. After waiting so many years, this is my best chance!"
The periwinkle pegasus beamed. "Got that right. Okay, answer accepted! I always liked your drive. But remember, if you're trying to be like me... well, that means you're trying to be the absolute best--like nopony EVER was. The road to that isn't always fun. Sometimes it can be draining... and sometimes it can really smart."
Rainbow Dash turned around, looked up towards the stratosphere, and sighed.
"You're the youngest student in my class, Scoots. I know you used to be my one-pony cheering squad, but some time's gone by since then. Is this still something you want to commit to? There's still a chance to change your mind, and follow what your heart really tells you."
After a half-minute of considering Rainbow Dash's words, Scootaloo joined her at her side. "Look, I'm a pegasus, right? Well, I think it's time I started acting like it. I've been ground-bound for too long. So whatever you need me to do, I'll do it. And then... we'll fly together."
Rainbow Dash's smile returned. "I'm okay with this idea. But only if it's at top speed the whole way."
"I wouldn't have it otherwise." Scootaloo stepped closer, matching her new teacher's smile, turned to the side, and wrapped her in a heartfelt hug.
Rainbow Dash fidgeted upon receiving her new student's embrace. "Huh? Scoots, wha-"
"Thanks for understanding, Dash. And that's not from the me who thinks you're totally awesome, but... from my heart. The one you just told me to listen to."
With a relenting sigh, Rainbow Dash returned the gesture. "Hey, it's what I'm here for. Especially now."
"And I'm really glad to hear that. Just so you know... this is the happiest day of my life."
(Still As Packed As If We Never Left)
The morning breeze ruffled Rainbow Dash's hair as she gazed into the distance, awaiting her opponent. While the years had taught her some valuable lessons in the art of patience, there never was any stopping her from getting restless before a race.
"Where is she?" she asked the clouds nearby...
Rainbow Dash looked down to see Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle waving from the ground. She flew lower, hovering just over them. "Hey, guys! Came to see us off?"
"Not if we don't hafta! Y'all sure you wanna do this? We can still try to talk to Scootaloo when she gets here!"
Sweetie Belle nodded. "There's got to be a way we can make her see reason. Though Apple Bloom and I searched the entire town and miles outward last night and found no trace of her. Perhaps she hid in the skies?"
Rainbow Dash shook her head. "I... also checked said skies further outward and for longer than I really wanna admit. Nada. Wherever she hid, she-"
The conversation was interrupted by shouts and points from the gathered crowd. Sure enough, looking their way, one could make out a bright orange ball approaching fast.
In time, the ball came close enough to reveal a scarfed pony moving at cruising speeds until she reached the arena, whereupon she buzzed around the stands, then sailed, twirling upward, into the path of the sun. Once silhouetted by its light, she took a few seconds to pose before finally flying down to Rainbow Dash's level onstage.
"Your main attraction, as promised!" she addressed the crowd and her rival. "I'm here to race, and I'm here to win!"
Rainbow Dash flew closer. "Hey... Scootaloo?"
Scootaloo turned to face the blue pegasus with an annoyed glare. "I told you. To you, it's Fireball. Now and always."
"And I told you--you'll have to prove it. Unless you wanna... you know. Talk?"
Scootaloo raised an eyebrow. "What about?"
"Duh! Everything! Look, if this is still about what happened years back, I-"
"-haven't changed, the way I see it! You're still so conceited! You think everything's about you!" Scootaloo paused to calm down and catch her breath. "It's not. Well, not really. Look, all you need to know is that I'm doing this is as a final test for myself--and to prove to myself that chasing you for the longest was the biggest and dumbest mistake of my life."
And once more, she was in Rainbow Dash's face, simmering anger all too visible as their eyes met.
"As far as I'm concerned, you're my own personal Nightmare Moon. So prepare to get owned by the element of better than you."
The invocation of the name that had held Equestria in a grip of fear for a thousand years had an immediate effect on all gathered. Shocked and muted murmurs buzzed through the stadium, nervous looks crossed numerous ponies' faces as the tension hung thick in the very sky where the two rival pegasus ponies hovered...
...and Rainbow Dash's expression shifted from sympathetic to solemn.
"That does it. I thought about feeling just a little bit sorry for you... but if your mind's that made up, kid, then I think it's time I gave you your spanking."
Scootaloo scoffed. "Hah! Look at you finally trying to sound like some kind of big sister! Sorry, but it's a little late for that. Couple of days from now, all you'll be is a has-been!"
She slipped on her personal orange flight goggles, at the same time as Rainbow Dash slipped on yellow ones.
"Not if I put you in your place first," said the elder pegasus as the countdown to the starting bell began.
When it rang, neither heard it, but instead, a cry from the other in tandem:
One second later, two trails were all that could be seen at the starting gate... and three seconds later, a pink jet kicked wind into the stands...
A My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fanfiction
by Bookish Delight, 2011-2012
All characters and referred properties belong to Hasbro.
Pinkie Flyer, Version 17
(Complete With Mock-Frosting Outer Trim)
"...and believe me... you won't want to miss a minute."
With a raising of her hoof, the feed was cut.
"Wheeeeeee!" Pinkie Pie twirled around in her chair. "I love it when a plan comes together! Gearloose's twin magic drives are keeping us cruising, Twilight's broadcast equipment's working without a hitch, and I've got enough cookies and candy to keep me going for days! Oh my gosh, Spike, it just feels so good to be back on the airwaves! Can you feel it too? Can you smell it? The sweet scent of spreading smiles from the spotlight?"
"More like the sweet scent of a subpoena." Spike crossed his forelegs. "You know if we're gonna have any chance of living this down, all of Equestria needs to love this broadcast, right? I mean, enough to not care about all the shows we just preempted."
"Hah! Ask me how much I'm worried!"
"Technically, I just did."
"And technically, not in the slightest! I've got the perfect event, I've got guests, and I've got my own winning material! What could possibly glmmmmph!"
Spike held his claw fast to Pinkie's mouth. "Just so you know, not even Twilight's ever survived saying that line. I doubt the two of us, even combined, could."
The pink pony nodded in agreement, then took a deep breath once Spike moved his claw away. "You're right, Spike. Gotta stay at least a little humble for this. Besides, if somepony really has enough of a stick up their backside to sue us, we'll just call up Apple Justice."
Pinkie Pie beamed with pride. Spike stared back, slack-jawed--eventually prompting her to blink. "What?" she finally asked.
"Um, Pinkie, Apple Justice... isn't... real."
Pinkie's smile remained unaffected. "Says you. I see her on TV every week... just like us!" She leant forward with a challenging leer. "Does that make us not-real too, Spike?"
Officially dumbfounded, Spike simply continued to stare. "I... I..."
Pinkie nodded in satisfaction. "Thought so. On in five!"
"Time's up! And stop stuttering!" She showed her teeth to the camera. "Welcome, one and everypony, to the race to decide all races! I'm Pinkie Pie, your Party In The Sky, and with me is my cohost, Spike!"
"But she's not... I-I mean-..."
"He's here to lay on the exposition! The floor's all yours, dragonboy, while I make preparations!"
"I-I, uh..." Spike shook his head to come back to his senses. "R-right! Thanks, Pinkie! Okay! In case you missed yesterday's Wonderbolts Derby--and its constant rebroadcasts--Rainbow Dash, the Wonderbolts' current head honcho, was challenged to a race by one of her original students, Scootaloo--or, 'Fireball,' as she wishes to now be called!"
The onscreen feed switched to video archives of Rainbow Dash flying and doing air tricks, with Spike relegated to voiceover.
"But longtime Dashers know that that kind of challenge doesn't come cheap. Not only does Rainbow Dash's celebrity status make her one of the busiest and thus unavailable ponies in all of Equestria--but nopony has ever gotten up the nerve to challenge her in years! She's lightning fast, her maneuverability's off the charts..."
The video feed played, in sequence, Rainbow Dash breaking the sound barrier, drilling through a mass of clouds, and her infamous impromptu demolition of Applejack's old and dilapidated Ponyville barn, which yielded a rainbow mushroom cloud.
"...and she's got special moves for every occasion."
The feed switched back to the airborne studio, whereupon Pinkie Pie returned to the camera. "Well said! Still, there is one thing our challenger has going for her. Can you guess what that is, Spike?"
"Oh, absolutely! Scootaloo's been out of the public eye for so long that nopony knows just what tricks she's got up her sleeve... not even Rainbow Dash! She made quite a showing against her opponent yesterday, and if she can keep up that kind of energy, there's no telling what could happen!" He looked over to Pinkie. "How'd I do?"
Pinkie blinked. "...I was just going to say that her short-cut mane makes for less wind resistance--but your answer was way way better! Great job!"
Spike laughed sheepishly. "Hehe. I do try."
"We'll go with it! That's right, viewers--Scootaloo here is a complete unknown! She disappeared off the map years ago, making her the perfect example of a princesslunaifyourewatchingthisrightnowimsosorryinadvance dark horse! Fortunately, we've got just the cure for that--but first, I think it's time we checked in on our two racers as they glide through the Everfree Forest!" In excitement, Pinkie Pie stood on her hind legs, and pointed her front ones in various directions as she barked out orders. "Cue up the long range cameras! Fire the afterburners! Deploy the Pink-Eyes! We're going liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive-"
Stage 1-1: High-Speed History
(Challenge: Ultimate Slalom)
Rainbow Dash hated to admit it, but even she couldn't risk too high of a speed if she wanted to avoid crashing into any of the dense, sturdy fauna which made up the Everfree Forest. Fortunately, she had enough faith in her skills to allow herself to maintain a constant pace. Having flown through the forest before several times during training and class lessons, she'd learned to stay as low to the ground as possible to avoid branches, but just high enough to avoid poisonous flowers.
She'd also learned to keep her eyes straight ahead, visually probing every shadow and every vertical line in the distance, so as to be able to shift her angle from horziontal to vertical at a moment's notice, whenever any sort of natural obstacle appeared in her immediate view. And so she went, shifting back and forth, and sometimes upside down; her body a constantly rotating, undulating bullet, weaving in and out of the path of every tree to come into her vision, and even a few to their sides. To the view of the pink-painted cameras who were following alongside, yellow trails of light could be seen wrapping around every tree in Rainbow Dash's path as she speedily and expertly navigated the forest, only fading long after she had made her presence known there.
Every break in the foliage, she used to catch her breath; every lake, every stream, every cave, and every once in a while, every house. She resisted the urge to look back as she passed Zecora's old hut, technically still in use but gradually showing signs of abandonment as its resident had long since found a far better home in which to pursue her studies.
The bridge where she'd proven her loyalty against a trio of malevolent illusions; the dense, secluded area where she and Gilda had once gotten hopelessly lost during an eclipse; several ultimately failed scouting sites for Sweet Apple Farms; on and on she went, memories of the past zooming by in a blur as fast as she was; and only when the forest had thinned out a bit was she able to look over in short bursts, only to see that Scootaloo was copying her maneuvering techniques almost to the letter. She was also slightly ahead due to her flying faster--clearly throwing caution to the wind.
Hmm. Hot-dogging risk-taker. Maybe things haven't changed all that much... wait, what's that up ahead...?
Seeing an all-too-familiar structure up ahead, Rainbow Dash decided that it was time she decided the race's pace for a while. With a quick cry of "Hey!" to her rival, she poured on the speed, making a beeline for...
"...Everfree Castle?" Pinkie gaped at the feed from her own cameras. "Whoa, I forgot all about that place!"
Spike took a step back. "Wait, haven't you been there before? It was the original home of the Elements of Harmony. You quested there to defeat Nightmare Moon! How do you forget something like that?"
"That was years ago, Spike. I still remember going there, but I don't remember it looking like that!" She pointed to her feed, which showed a lustrous, regal, but most importantly complete building in the distance. "Last time I was there, it was barely half a castle! Besides, like most ponies, I make it a point to go into Everfree as little as possible!"
"I guess I don't blame you. Twilight kept me up to speed, though. A few years after the whole Nightmare Moon thing, some ponies got together and decided the castle was a worthy landmark, so they paid to have it restored. The original plan was to have it turned into a museum; which they did for a while."
"Huh." Pinkie scratched her head. "So why's it still look kinda... unused now? Abandoned? Where is everypony?"
Spike chuckled. "Actually, you answered that question just a little while ago. Since the dangerous and mostly-still-uncharted Everfree Forest surrounds the castle, it... didn't get much tourism. Imagine that. The museum folded pretty quickly."
Pinkie shivered. "I get it. Even if you were a unicorn or pegasus and could get to it easily... hoo boy, you didn't want to stay there!"
"Exactly! But it looks like we're here now! Let's see what happens as they tackle the inside!"
Stage 1-2: Castle Crashing
(Challenge: Indoor Flight)
The few tourists who had attended the Everfree Castle Museum before its imminent shutdown often never got past the main hall without being herded elsewhere. All would stop, hypnotized at the immediate surroundings, whose drab gray building stones had been repainted in pearl tones and had jewels embedded throughout. Even through the dusts of misuse which had settled over the years, the castle still had the air of an unearthed regal treasure as opposed to the near-ruin it once had been. Going at Rainbow Dash's speeds, it was a rainbow unto itself; however, it was also a rainbow that she was less able to appreciate as she darted from room to room, looking for her opponent.
Main hall, nothing; thrones, nothing (a shame, as on a more casual visit, she probably would have played around with them for a bit); kitchen, studies, a lavishly restored princess's bedroom (again, such an opportunity missed!)... all nothing.
Back in the main hall, Rainbow Dash growled in frustration. Where was she-
Then she remembered. There was one more very important place.
Zooming to one side of the castle, she quickly found a spiral staircase and flashed up it as quickly as possible, to the castle's highest tower--and the place where she and her friends had originally confronted Nightmare Moon. From what Twilight had once told her, that tower had become something very different now... and as soon as Rainbow Dash entered it, that difference became all too clear.
She remembered the name the second she saw it. Where once had been rubble was now the Tower of Tribute. It reminded her of Celestia's main hall in Canterlot--only dedicated entirely to the ponies who had put their lives on the line to saving Equestria from all those who would do it harm.
Along the walls, surrounding all who would enter, were stained glass windows, each one designed in the image of a different pony who had gone above and beyond duty's call: Star Swirl. Clover. Platinum. Cookie. Puddinghead. Pansy. Hurricane. Celestia. Luna. Twilight. Fluttershy. Rarity. Applejack. Rainbow Dash. Pinkie Pie.
In the room's center, Scootaloo looked around, observing each window with an awed expression on her face... that was, until she heard Rainbow Dash's entrance. She looked behind herself, then back up at one of the windows. Rainbow Dash followed her eyes--and gaped, getting the message just as Scootaloo turned around with slanted eyebrows and a toothy grin.
Rainbow Dash held up a hoof. "Ohhhhhh, no you don't. Don't you dare. Scootaloo, I'm warning you... you do it, and-"
Scootaloo didn't wait for the pegasus to finish her threat. "...whoops! Sorry, but wrong name! Thanks for playing, though."
The sound of Rainbow Dash's window shattering marked Scootaloo's exit from the castle--and a second later, the destruction of Commander Hurricane's window was completely drowned out by the roar of a furious Rainbow Dash.
As the race climbed into the skies, a small square showing Pinkie Pie cut into the live footage.
"Whoa, check me out! I'm a picture-in-a-picture! No, wait: Pinkie-In-A-Picture! Anyway, that's some awesome action going on outside, isn't it? Our challenger's actually keeping up with our champion move for move, and still finding time to rub it in her face! I wouldn't want to be Rainbow Dash right now!" She walked over to a set of comfortable recliners. "But how did we get here in the first place? And how might this race turn out? They say the past holds the key to the future--so to help try to answer these questions, we've rounded up some notables from Scootaloo's life, to remind us all of how she used to be!" With that, she gestured to a unicorn and earth pony sitting in the seats beside her. "Please join me in welcoming Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle!"
Sweetie Belle waved. "Hello, Pinkie and Equestria! Glad to be here, especially given the circumstances."
Apple Bloom waved as well. "Totally! Thank you kindly for lettin' us follow Scoots around."
Pinkie smiled. "No problem! But you two aren't my only guests of honor!"
Apple Bloom blinked. "We ain't?"
"Nope! There's one more figure in all of this that that I want to bring to light! One who I managed to pick up from her vacation spot while you two were fixed on Scootaloo's racing feed!"
Apple Bloom gasped. "Y'all mean... one of her parents?"
"W-W-What?" Pinkie wiped her brow sheepishly. "Ahahahahahhahahaha.... hahahahahhaha.... hahaha... gosh, looking into that probably wouldn't have been a bad idea. Especially before we started our trip." She sighed. "Little late now, though..."
Sweetie Belle cocked her head in confusion. "So, if not one of them, then who...?"
"I'm naturally speaking of her old schoolteacher--and yours! C'mon out, Cheerilee! You're clearly the missing link to all of this!"
The two ponies sitting close by gasped as a smiling cherry-colored earth pony walked onset. A squeal of "Miss Cheerilee!?" was heard by both, in stereo, just before they jumped out of their seats to tackle their former teacher.
"Oh, gosh, girls, that's quite the welcome!" Cheerilee hugged them back. "I'm so very glad to see the both of you as well! Oh, and you don't have to call me 'Miss' anymore, by the way. You're grown enough. How have you been?"
Sweetie Belle shrugged after letting Cheerilee go. "Stable, if nothing else."
"Well, you know what they say--no news is good news." The three sat back down. "Especially in this case. Though it looks like the last of my graduating class can finally be accounted for."
"Indeed!" said Pinkie. "With that, let's get straight into the interviewing! Now, Cheerilee, you taught Scootaloo as a young filly, right?"
Cheerilee nodded. "That's correct."
"Whew! Thank goodness, I was afraid I might've messed that up too. What was she like?"
Cheerilee 'hmmm'ed in recollection. "I suppose the three best words would be... 'enthusiastic, when conscious.' I had to scold her more than once during any lecture I held on complicated subjects to keep her awake. Still, when she decided to join the class, she was always a bouncing ball--sometimes literally! And of course, there was always one subject which got and kept her immediate attention... Rainbow Dash." She smiled. "I used to sometimes find ways to tie my lectures into the principles of flight just to keep her engaged. It seemed to be the easiest way."
Apple Bloom gasped. "I knew it! Always wondered why y'all would just switch up your lessons like that... then I saw Scootaloo actually listenin' to em."
Cheerilee smiled and nodded. "Indeed. Strangest thing, though--for all of her interest in Rainbow Dash and flight in general, I'd never seen her making so much of a hover at recess. Always with the wagons and scooters... though given her name, I suppose..."
"Believe me, Cheerilee, we noticed that too." Sweetie Belle nodded. "When she gave that all up cold turkey to go to Rainbow Dash's flight school, it just felt really sudden, you know?"
Pinkie Pie cut back in. "Wait, wait, wait, let me get this straight. What you're saying is, we're dealing with a pegasus who never flew all that much but still wanted to be just like a Wonderbolt in the making?"
Cheerilee nodded. "I'm sure the irony's lost on nopony. I even remember her heading up a Rainbow Dash fan club at one point." She looked at the live feed of the race. "Given recent events, though, you'd never know it..."
Sweetie Belle sighed. 'We're still trying to figure that one out. But to do that, we have to keep up with her. Thanks again for helping us do that, Pinkie Pie."
"Oh, no problem! And Cheerilee, thanks so much for your time."
Cheerilee giggled. "Oh, think nothing of it! Honestly, it's good to have some excitement in my life again."
"Glad to hear it! We'll be back with more from our guests soon, so sit tight, everypony! Before we get back to the race, a word from our sponsors!" Pinkie smiled to the camera, and the room went silent...
"Spike, I said cut. Sponsors."
Spike hissed from off-screen. "We don't have any sponsors yet."
Pinkie froze. "...right. Because..." She slumped... then perked up again. "Wait, sure we do! Sugarcube Corner! That's all anypony ever needs! Quick, Spike, I need a jingle! What rhymes with 'Corner'...?"
"I, um..." Spike pored over his copy of The Big Book of Words (by Twilight Sparkle; Revision Number Three Hundred Thirty-Five)!, continuously flipping through pages. "...nothing good. 'Goner', 'mourner,' 'coroner'..."
Pinkie sighed again. "Oh, I give up. Just give the race its full picture back..."
Bonus Stage 1-X: The Skies Above
(Challenge: Cutting Loose!)
The green canopy of the Everfree Forest became smaller and smaller as both pegasus ponies rose from its vertical boundaries, relishing the opportunity before them.
In seconds, the racers stretched their wings... and with energetic flaps and thrusts, the two burst forth in twin explosions, their signature colors both shining around and trailing behind them.
For Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash, the skies became a blur of blue and white, the wind sliding across their faces as they made sure to breathe through their noses for as long as possible. As much as Rainbow Dash wanted to breathe deep and enjoy the cool ultra-breeze, she knew that doing so--would risk inviting a rush of air even she wouldn't be able to take in fast enough.
Besides, an open mouth would mean drag. Drag would mean lower speed, and in this race, everything counted.
The two cruised in high gear, twisting around each other, climbing higher into the sky, then descending; parting in horizontal arcs, then reuniting; and finally, slowing down to conserve energy.
"Still mad?" Scootaloo taunted as they flew side-by-side.
"Kinda, yeah," Rainbow Dash replied. "Make no mistake: you're paying for my window. Both of 'em."
"Beat me and we'll talk. Safe bet, don't you think?"
"Maybe. I..." Rainbow Dash did her best to hide catching her breath. "...I won't lie. You're pretty good."
For once, Scootaloo directed a genuine smile towards the elder pegasus. "Thanks..."
Then her competitive look returned.
"...but I already know. I don't need your compliments... or your pity."
"Figured you'd go that route. So I think it's time I ended this race quick and early. Give you the chance to concede out of pure embarrassment, you know?"
Scootaloo laughed. "Oh, really? And how do you plan to do that?"
Facing forward, Rainbow Dash went into her most aerodynamic formation. Muzzle forward. Wings and limbs as close as possible.
Speed doubled in an instant.
"By digging into my patented bag of tricks!" she said, just before leaving Scootaloo completely behind.
It'd been a while since she'd done this. Since she'd had to do this. But maybe, just maybe, if she could shock Scootaloo into seeing reason; or at the very least make the kid see the futility of challenging her in the first place...
She poured on the energy, converting it all into pure velocity. The world went faster. Faster. Faster still... until she could feel herself getting close. She did a quick check of the horizon to make sure no dangers were present... then allowed herself to let go.
The yellow light around her doubled its output. Lightning began to crackle around her as her body appeared to stretch, contort...
...and with a final thrust...
Rainbow shockwaves dazzled all for miles around, but Rainbow Dash never saw them. She rarely ever did.
Scootaloo, gone. Everfree Forest, gone. Entire miles, coming up--then gone in an instant. She couldn't stay supersonic indefinitely, of course, but then again, she didn't plan to. Only until she was a safe distance away from Scootaloo; then she'd call for an early end to-
She saw a fireball fly beside her just then, at comparable speeds.
She took the chance to look behind her for a moment... and in that moment, saw brilliant red, orange and yellow waves booming behind Scootaloo.
She couldn't talk now. Not yet. Instead she kept the speed up, waiting, hoping, for the fireball to tire. When it was clear that wasn't going to happen, however, she gradually slowed her flight. The fireball followed suit, until they were both back to a subsonic cruise.
Scootaloo was the first to speak. "All right! Sonic Rainboom, meet Sonic Sunburst! Cool, huh? Or should I say hot!"
Rainbow Dash could barely find the words. "What the... but how... I thought you weren't trying to be me!"
"I'm not trying to be you! I'm trying to beat you! Which means knowing your enemy--I've studied all your moves! You think I'd challenge you if I couldn't even break the sound barrier? Come on!"
"I'm not your enemy, Scoots!" Rainbow Dash yelled. "Get that through your head already!"
"It's Fireball! And gosh, it's so weird you keep saying that. Your name is 'Rainbow Dash,' right?"
"-but nothing! If that's your name?" Scootaloo gritted her teeth. "Then we're plenty rivals. And you're still going down!"
"Whoa! Talk about tensions flaring!" said Pinkie-In-A-Picture as the two pegasi streaked off again. "We've got all thrusters on maximum and we can barely keep up! But we wouldn't have it any other way, 'cause the Pan-Equestria Challenge is quite the journey, covering every major territory Equestria has to offer! Fortunately, it's also a freeform race; so long as our two ponies touch upon every place the race asks for a set amount of time, it doesn't matter what route they take! Now that they've left Everfree... Spike, check the map! Where're they headed next?"
"Calculating now... based on their current direction, it looks like they're headed to Appleloosa!"
Apple Bloom gasped. "Big Sis's town? We're there!"
"You got that right! We'll see you in Appleloosa, folks--the first populated area of this race! How will the addition of extra ponies affect things? You'll just have to stay tuned to find out!"
Canterlot Castle, Throne Room
(This Is Where The Magic Happens)
Amidst a swirling flurry of words and letters, Twilight Sparkle appeared--and promptly prostrated--before the Solar Princess of Equestria. "Your Highness, I return with news of my latest mission."
Princess Celestia smiled serenely. "Then rise, my faithful student. What have you to report?"
At her Princess's behest, Twilight rose to a standing position... then began hopping up and down in giddy squeals. "Ohmigosh! Princess Celestia, I did it, I did it! I made it to the moon and back with just one spell! I didn't need the Elements of Harmony or anything! It was so cool! Though I did need to cast a breathing spell while I was up there, as predicted. I wonder how Princess Luna survived up there all that-"
"Mare In The Moon," said Princess Luna, cutting off Twilight as she walked in. "Lots of air to be had when you don't need any. Not that I noticed much; I wasn't quite myself back then." She mock-scoffed. "Honestly, all these years, and we're still talking about that? I've brought three new holidays to Equestria and devised ways for crops to grow without sunlight since my return! Why doesn't anypony ever talk about those?" She scoffed again, looking straight at Twilight with a half-smile, half sneer. "Oh, right. Because that doesn't make for good TV."
"Oh, Luna, let Twilight be. As if she could have predicted what nonsense would come to fill the airwaves these days. "Besides, if you really want to see what makes good TV..." With but a thought, Celestia teleported a set before them, already powered on and showing Rainbow Dash cruising at high speeds in the sky, with Scootaloo trailing just behind. "Not that I'm complaining yet, but this has been on all day for some odd reason..."
"That's what I meant to talk to you about! Has Twilight told you how this came to pass? The TV feed, I mean, not the race." Luna manifested a remote control in front of herself, then proceeded to press its buttons with her horn through repeated nods. "For moon's sake, who made this clunky interaction device? I can't see anything like this--accursed newfangled magitechnology, you and Twilight keep so much about it from me!--tell me, are the channels actually changing or not...?"
"They're changing, all right," said Celestia (while suppressing several giggles), "but they're all showing the same thing." She looked at Twilight, who looked away bashfully. "Do you know something about this?"
Twilight sighed. "It happened while I was on my mission. Pi-..." She stopped herself. "Somepony who I share my central communications center with took over all the signals without my permission. Even if I disabled that center, I'd have to go to every other one and shut down all of Equestria's TV for who knows how long while I reset everything back to normal... and then upgrade the equipment so this doesn't happen again."
Celestia nodded. "That is pretty severe. Any idea who was behind this, and why?"
"Yes on both accounts. You'll probably see her pop up again before long. And I can sympathize as to why she probably did it, I truly can, but-"
"Oh, never mind why! The simple fact of the matter here is that somepony has stolen television! A service meant for all of Equestria! Is this not a crime worthy of punishment? Of banishment?" Luna rubbed her hooves together with a toothy grin. "One might say I know the perfect place..."
Celestia laughed. "Oh, my dear sister, you of all ponies know that moon-sending is only for the most grievous of crimes. Besides, Twilight is the one who spearheaded the original Equestrian Broadcast Project. The frequencies are all hers--thus, I think we should let her handle this matter."
"Huh?" Twilight did a startled double-take. "Princess, I..."
"Let kindness and rationale reign over our fair land," said Celestia, extending a hoof to the heavens. "Let us henceforth rule with honor! Is that not the promise we made once we were finally reunited, sister? Besides... is this not entertaining for you as well? The speed and spirit on display here--it certainly reminds me of our filly days..."
"I..." Luna hesitated as she watched the screen. "...I have to say it does ring nostalgic." She grinned mischievously. "Though when we raced, we used to count laps in terms of full planet rotations..."
Twilight nodded. "Theft or not, I must admit the culprit is--for once--putting the signals to good use." After some thought and a shrug, she teleported three bags in front of them. "Popcorn, Princesses?"
"Ahhh, Twilight, my favored student..." Celestia sighed in satisfaction as the three munched away. "You have truly learned so much... and you know us all too well."
As the three unicorns--two winged, one ordinary--gazed, entranced, at the screen, they were profoundly unaware of a hooded figure watching from the doorway, whispering to herself.
"So... the Fireball has still come to pass. Despite our best efforts, events have held fast. Twilight cannot possibly be oblivious to this fact."
The figure turned and slowly retreated towards her laboratory.
"Perhaps it is time I reminded her of our pact."
To Be Continued...