by Pastel Pony

Chapter 1: In The Grip Of The Hurricane

I stood at the edge of the cliff that was home to the Wonderbolt’s Academy and let out a sigh. One jump would send me spiraling down, riding on the currents that would lead me back to my small hometown. I would be back in my own house before the break of day.

I closed my eyes and enjoyed the feel of the gentle breeze that danced across my face, ruffling my mane and tickling my muzzle. The winds up here were incredible…so powerful, so majestic…so dangerous. Against the wind even the strongest fliers had to press themselves, but with the wind…

It was a shame I had to leave before my time was up.

Technically, I hadn’t been kicked out of the academy, but when the Wonderbolt’s captain rips your badge off your uniform and points you out the door…Well, it’s basically code for “get lost”.

I was the first pony to get demoted in five years…I looked it up in the academy archives. I suppose I’ll be put in there now too, not in the records for best in class, but in that small list of failures.

Failure. What would all my friends and family say? They had all been so happy, so excited for me when I got my letter. I, the only pony in our little town to get accepted to the Wonderbolt’s Academy, the first in many years, …had failed.

I sniffled, sitting down and urging myself not to cry. Only weak ponies cried for their own mistakes. No matter what, I was not a weak pony.

“Hey.” whispered a soft voice from behind me, and I looked up in surprise to see Dash standing there.

The rapid beating of my heart slowed. “Hey.” She sat down next to me, and I couldn’t help but feel a bubble of anger at her being so casual after what she had said to me just a few hours ago.

“I got up to use the bathroom and you weren’t in your bunk, so I came looking for you.” Her eyes trailed over the saddlebags tucked under my wings. “Where are you going?”


She frowned, somehow actually managing to look concerned. “Why?”

I shrugged. “Spitfire demoted me in front of everyone. If that doesn’t send a clear signal that she doesn’t want me here anymore, I don’t know what does.” I lifted my head up and gazed at the twinkling stars that were so much more visible up here. “I don’t even have any friends left in the academy now, the one pony who I thought I could rely on turned out to hate me.” I looked at her pointedly.

“You nearly killed my friends.”

Nearly being the key word there, Dash.” I muttered.

Her eyes blazed with anger. “And what’s that supposed to mean?!”

“Exactly what it means.” I said quietly. “You forget, I didn’t plan on losing control of that tornado, and I certainly didn’t set out to hurt your friends. How was I even supposed to know they would be there?”

She was still glaring at me. “Then why didn’t you help them like everypony else?”

I snorted. “When I was thrown out of the tornado, I landed in a rather prickly bush. By the time I managed to pull myself out, your friends were all on the ground with you. I wasn’t even sure what they were doing there until you started yelling at me. As far as I knew, the tornado had just dissipated when we lost control.” I looked down at my hooves. “I was mostly just confused as to why you hadn’t come to check if I was alright.”

She opened her mouth, then closed it again with a frown. “Still…then why’d you act like such a jerk about it?”

A part of me had been wondered that myself. “I don’t know…maybe I was just trying to play it cool.” I sighed. “I guess it’s just that being Lead Pony made me feel like I was in charge. I’m afraid that I’ve learned the hard way that being nice to the ponies below you hardly creates respect.”

She stared at me, aghast. “Where the hay did you learn that?”

“It doesn’t matter now, does it?” I muttered quietly. “I chose to act the way I did, past experiences or not.”

Rainbow Dash stood up indignantly. “Of course it matters, I want to know where.”

Despite my will, I felt a tear trace down my cheek. “…Spitfire.”

“Spitfire?” She slowly sat back down with a confused look. “I know she yells and stuff, but…”

“No.” I shook my head slowly, sadly. “It was years ago. I…don’t really know how to put it.” I broke off in thought. “Rainbow Dash, didn’t you tell me that you were in charge of the last delivery of water to Cloudsdale? From Ponyville?”

She frowned. “You mean Tornado Duty? Yea, why?”

“Knowing you, I’m guessing you went through the records from the last few years to compare.” She nodded. “Did you ever read about a town called Bridleton?”

She pursed her lips in concentration, and then shook her head. “The name sounds familiar…but I can’t remember from where.”

The young mare smiled triumphantly in front of the pegasi of her community, all gathered in the small town hall. They all were looking to her for advice, for direction, and she loved it. No matter what, she was going to make sure the Wonderbolts didn’t regret giving this important duty to such a little town.

“It’s my home.” I said quietly. “We were given Tornado Duty three years ago. We…were the one town that couldn’t pull it off. The worst part was…it was my fault.” I drew a shaky breath.

“I was put in charge of training for the task. I was only seventeen at the time, but it was an almost unanimous decision. I was well respected…the best flier around, everypony expected me to be a great leader.” I trailed off, dragging my hoof through the dirt in a crude sketch of a pegasus. “But I wasn’t. The thing about Bridleton is…well…it’s small. There are a grand total of seventy-three pegasi that are capable of flight. Our weather team is only about fourteen regular pegasi…that means only fourteen well-trained fliers. Several of us had to call in extended family just to have enough numbers to even attempt to have enough power.”

Lightning Dust nodded as she looked around. Admittedly, they didn’t have a large group of strong fliers, but thanks to the Sunset Streak’s rather large family coming down from Hoofington for a few weeks to help, if everypony worked hard they’d be just fine. She beamed with pride, to be such a young pony, and to be put in charge of such an event meant a lot to her. Lightning intended to make her town proud.
She surveyed the practice area, pleased that everypony was working hard. She checked her list, only the five ponies she had dismissed for the day were unaccounted for. Lightning Dust really would have preferred to keep everypony working, but some ponies couldn’t spend their whole day here. The five that had left early were all single parents, and their kids needed them. She could understand. After her mother died, her father had been forced to raise her by himself.

I did my best to wipe the few stray tears that had managed to cut a path down my face. “We’re not known for our…well, anything. Most of the pegasi in town are parents with jobs to do and kids to take care of. They’re not athletes. I set up half-day training sessions for three weeks, but I was too…nice. Most of the ponies wanted to do their best, but they couldn’t afford to take off from their businesses and livelihoods for three weeks, even half-day. Our town doesn’t have a lot of spare cash lying around.” I sighed miserably. “I found myself letting pegasi leave practice all the time, for little things. I told myself it didn’t matter…the rules were everypony had to make 7 full practice sessions, and more often than not the ponies I did those favors were the ones that worked their hardest.” I cast my eyes down, my hooves fiddling with the strands of my tail. “But some ponies took advantage of my lenience, saw it as a weakness. When Tornado Day came, Spitfire showed up like she always does. I took my headcount…and there were eleven ponies missing.”

Lightning Dust tried to keep her concentration, despite her idol standing only a few feet behind her. She quickly took roll, frowning when she realized the numbers didn’t match.
“Where’s Star Catcher?” she asked.
“At home sick.” called her neighbor. Lightning Dust nodded, and crossed out the mare’s name. “And Thunderbolt?”
“He’s out of town for his daughter’s wedding.” Lightning sighed in annoyance, but crossed out his name all the same. Her eyes roamed the crowd. There were still far too many missing. She quickly double scanned her checklist, eyes widening as she realized how many ponies were gone. Desperately calling their names, all the response she got was ponies simply shaking their heads or shrugging in confusion.
Lightning Dust felt close to panic, she was no fool. With so many ponies missing, she knew they’d most likely never pull it off. She glanced back at Spitfire, who looked at her with an expression that quite clearly said “Well?” Lightning Dust turned back to the crowd in front of her. She swallowed, her throat feeling unnaturally dry.
“Up into the air, everypony.” she whispered. “Let’s do this.”

I glanced up to see Rainbow Dash staring at me, eyes wide. “Out of those eleven, only two had legitimate excuses. The other nine had skipped out to see the Wonderbolt’s performance in Trottingham. I didn’t know that they do a performance in the next town over when Spitfire is at Tornado Duty.” Gritting my teeth in frustration, I forced myself to continue. “I should have known, should have made it clear to them that anyone who skipped out would be punished…” I sighed. “I just didn’t think it would happen.”

I studied the little drawing of the pegasus in the dirt. “I told them we would try anyway, that if we worked our hardest, we could succeed…but it wasn’t enough. We couldn’t hold the tornado; it fell apart before the water even started to rise. Five ponies ended up in the hospital.”

Lightning Dust slowly got up from her dent in the ground, wincing from the impact. Looking around, she noted with a thrill of horror that several others lay unmoving on the ground. Those that were already up and about were desperately checking their fallen comrades for broken bones or bleeding.
Glancing behind her, Lightning saw Spitfire leaning against the wind speed recorder, a frown on her face. Slowly, she met Lightning’s glance, and merely shook her head, then turned away and went to help the other pegasi.

I sighed. “Afterwards, she pulled me aside. I told her how sorry I was that we had failed…that once I found the missing ponies, we could try again. She just…shook her head, told me that if I threw those pegasi into the air again, I’d likely kill one.”

“I’ll call in the Wonderbolts, together the team will get the job done. It’s all for the best, I suppose. I did tell them a small town like this wouldn’t handle such a task…” Her eyes flickered down Lightning’s small form. “After all, any large city would know better than to force a teenager into authority.” She said it not with malice, merely honesty, but Lightning Dust still bristled from the remark.
“I’m the best flier in town.” She stated proudly. “The citizens chose me out of appreciation for my abilities.”
Spitfire raised an eyebrow. “And where’s that appreciation when nine of your ponies ditched their duty without reason? A true leader must see to it that everypony listens to her. Respect and authority go hoof in hoof.”
Lightning stomped her hoof in anger. “I had authority! I encouraged them to do their best, I was friendly and helpful, and everypony seemed cooperative! …I certainly wasn’t counting on anypony ditching!”
Spitfire rolled her eyes and snorted. “And that’s what reveals your age. You can’t be nice all the time if you want them to listen. They took advantage of you, end of story. Until you learn how to keep control, you’re not ready to be in charge of anything.”

“She made me doubt everything I thought I knew about being a leader.” I murmured quietly. “When I found out where those pegasi had been…I started to think she might have been right. The town began to see it that way too, and started to question why they’d put such a young mare in charge in the first place. I…I lost the little respect I even had. When I got my acceptance letter, it seemed like a second chance to prove myself.”

Dash looked at me, sympathy brimming in her eyes. “So you came here and tried to impress her.”

I shrugged. “Impress her…annoy her. I honestly have no idea. I just wanted her to recognize me…to acknowledge that she’d made a mistake. The more she stayed distant…professional, the more desperate my attempts to catch her attention became.”

Rainbow Dash looked down with a neutral expression. “I get it.” She said after a pause. “I was feeling the same way. I basically saved her life once, and she treated me like…nothing.” She snorted. “I get that she can’t play favorites or anything, but at least addressing me by my name would have been nice. I…guess it’s just part of the deal with being a professional.”

“Then being a professional sucks.” I muttered sourly. We looked up at each other for a second, before both falling back in hysterical laughter. I chuckled, enjoying the warmth that danced through my body from the action. For a second, we were just two good friends laughing over a silly comment, not a care in the world.

Then as we both quieted, the cold stillness rolled over me again. The reminder that I was leaving this place, a friend I had both gained…and in many ways lost… I was going home. Home, where all the ponies in town would sit there and shake their heads in disappointment at my failure.

“You could stay, you know.” Dash whispered.

“No, I couldn’t.” It was the truth.

“Why not?”

“Because…” I turned my attention to the stars again, studying their twinkling patterns. “I…I’ve spent my whole life thinking I needed to be a Wonderbolt. Growing up, everypony always used to encourage me to be the best, to test my limits. In such a small town, I was the strongest flier by a long shot. I’m not bragging…it’s just the truth. Everypony always expected me to become this…” I lifted a hoof and waved it through the air. “Image, you know? And I heard it for so long, I started to believe it.”

I sat in contemplative silence for a while. “Perhaps I’m not made to fit that image.”

She shifted to look at me. “What do you mean?”

“Maybe…I’m not ready to be a Wonderbolt. “ I whispered. “Perhaps I’ll never be.” I shivered. “I don’t want to end up like Spitfire…she’s just too…cold. Maybe it works for her, but I’m afraid of what I’d be like in that position.” I ran a hoof through the grass beneath me. “I need to go home, figure out how to be more like the mare I was three years ago…before I became so obsessed with respect…with image. I need to accept I’m never going to be a good fit for this. I’m too…reckless.”

Rainbow sighed and got to her hooves. “You know yourself better than I do, I suppose.”

I smiled sadly and pushed myself up to stand next to her, turning my gaze once again to the edge of the cliff, to the jump. “Rainbow…” I murmured quietly. “You’ll make a good Wonderbolt.”

She looked at me in surprise. “What?”

“I’m serious. Your flying is incredible, and you’re just…a better fit for this than I am. You work hard, put others first, and don’t let your ego get the best of you. You’re a natural leader.” I sighed and smiled. “I look forward to seeing you in the air someday.”

She grinned sheepishly, a hint of a blush on her cheeks. Suddenly, she leaned forward and wrapped her hooves around me in a hug. I squeaked in surprise, but didn’t pull away. “Thank you Lightning.” She whispered in my ear. “That means a lot. And remember…if I ever get there…I’ll always want you as a part of my team. I mean that.”

She slowly released me. I gave her a small smile and a nod of my head. Turning, I ran forward towards the edge of the cliff, to that bright starry sky…and jumped. Opening my wings, I released myself to the currents, treasuring the sweet feeling of the freedom I found in the air.

So powerful, so uncontrollable, so…


Just like myself.

Just like the wind.

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