by kudzuhaiku

Chapter 1: In which a colt fails to keep himself up for two mares...

Celestium. A colourless, odourless, tasteless gas that was also non-toxic, inert, monatomic, and oh so very noble. Based upon helium, Celestium had two neutrons, two protons, and two electrons. What made helium into Celestium was the addition of at least one thaumaton particle.

By itself, Celestium was rather unremarkable, with properties no different than those of helium, but if one added an electrical charge to a sufficient quantity of Celestium, something magical happened. Airships flew. With the proper magical containment and the proper application of current, the impossible became possible.

One colt hoped to harness the impossible for his own dreams of flight. His name? Sumac Apple. Small, sleek of build, slight of body, and according to the Lord of Chaos Himself, Sumac was beige. The colour of boring and blah. Sumac however, was far from boring, as he was a colt with a dream—a dream to fly.

Ever since almost plummeting to his death five years ago, Sumac developed an obsession with flying, which wasn’t the easiest thing to do when you were a unicorn colt. It was something he had to do, because he was terrified of heights and even more afraid of falling. The thing was, he didn’t want to fly on an airship, or a gyrocopter, or a hot air balloon.


He wanted to fly. Just himself, his ingenuity, and the sky. Unable to live with his own shame, his own extreme disgust with himself for being a great big crybaby with a fear of heights, he was determined to snap the shackles of gravity and fly. He would join the regal pegasus ponies and invade their domain.

There had been many attempts already, and his very first attempt involved trying to levitate a carpet. That had earned him some staples on his noggin. Other attempts had gone no better, and some had gone worse. The past five years involved broken bones; numerous cuts, scrapes, lacerations, and gashes. There were also some pretty grody bruises that had made his flesh look like a rotten apple.

Some of his failures had been outright disastrous, including explosions, being on fire, and one time, he knocked down Applejack’s barn when he crashed into it. That attempt had indirectly led to this attempt, because he had launched himself from a cannon while wearing a self-made body-hugging flight suit, with membranes stretched between his front and hind legs.

During his two week stay in the hospital, Applejack came Every. Single. Day. to lecture him. She also brought treats and read to him. For his entire stay, Sumac Apple lay thinking about how to do better the next time, because as long as he drew breath, there would be a next time. As an Apple, Sumac was stubborn and prideful. Perhaps too much pride, some might say.

Today, Sumac was going to fly, he was certain of it. His pride depended upon it.

High atop Princess Twilight Sparkle’s castle, Sumac Apple tried not to look down over the rail of the balcony. He wasn’t supposed to be up here, but up here he was, up on Twilight’s own private stargazing balcony. Boomer, his best friend, accomplice, and loyal assistant, gave him a claws-up of encouragement. Getting past Twilight, the castle staff, and making it to the balcony was the hard part. All that remained was to throw himself at the ground and miss.

Easy peasy, Lemon Hearts squeezy.

Swallowing, Sumac found that he couldn’t get rid of the lump in his throat. His flight suit was tight, maybe too tight, and it didn’t fit very well. It was something that he and Boomer made together from an old salvaged Wonderbolts juniour flight camp uniform bought from the thrift store with his hard-earned allowance. It was, of course, heavily modified.

Membranes had been added between the front and rear legs, mimicking Boomer’s membranes. The tree dragon became a natural source of inspiration for Sumac, and he had studied her from top to bottom. In the membranes, ribs had been added, made of inflated pockets of Celestium gas. Bladders of gas were also added all over suit, thin pockets to keep his profile sleek. For the most part, it just made his barrel and his abdomen look a bit more bulky than usual.

Initial tests were promising. Sumac had reduced his weight on the bathroom scale down to about three pounds with the suit when he applied an electrical charge. This time, he was certain that everything was going to work. He was going to fly like a leaf on the breeze and he was going to cure his fear of flying by spitting on the loathsome ground with utter contempt.

“Wind?” Sumac asked.

Whipping her head about, Boomer let her long tongue unfurl. It had grown to be about twice the length of her body somehow. It flapped in the breeze like a ribbon and after a few moments, she slurped it all in. With a nod, she said, “Wind is north, from Canterlot, and blowing at about a steady nine miles per hour. Tastes like tea and backed up sewers. Must be a bad day for the Underwatch.”

“Great.” Sumac felt encouraged by this; the breeze would give him a little uplift, something he needed. His stomach was churning and for a second, he was almost absolutely certain that he was going to blow chunks of oatmeal, strawberries, and zucchini bread over the rail.

Stretching a bit, Sumac had to ensure that he was good and limber. While he planned to succeed, a crash was inevitable. Today, he would learn to fly. That in and of itself was quite a task: complicated, and tricky. Landing was something that he would have to figure out as it happened, and he didn’t expect it to go very well.

“Ready Boomer?” Sumac turned to look at his steadfast companion. “Got your end of the tether?”

She nodded and began to jitter with excitement while tying a rope around herself. Boomer, a glider, couldn’t fly very far, but she loved being towed along behind Sumac during his many flight attempts. Of course, when things went wrong, she popped free of her tether and glided down to a safe landing, first on the scene to offer first aid to Sumac.

Boomer had a knack for making the bleeding stop in a hurry, or at least hold most of the blood in until responsible adults arrived and began fainting, prompting more responsible adults to arrive. This continued until responsible adults arrived who weren’t squeamish. It was the reason why Boomer tagged along, and why Sumac was still alive to talk about his many, many crashes.

The little dragon also had an uncanny knack for calming down an irate Twinkleshine, yet another reason why Sumac Apple still drew breath.

Making a few adjustments as Boomer tethered them together, Sumac Apple prepared for flight. His body suit was uncomfortable, riding up in all of the wrong places. His dock felt as though it was being crushed, because the tail opening needed some adjustment. He could feel the sharp, hard edge of the fabric biting into tender skin.

“Boomer, when was the last time that I said I loved you?”

“This morning, during breakfast,” Boomer replied.

“Good, then we’re squared away and good to go.” Sumac turned his face into the wind and felt his mane billowing back in what he hoped was a heroic profile. He couldn’t tell. For all he knew, he might look like he was a huge dork. If Pebble was here, she would be honest and tell him. “You know, Boomer, even if this goes wrong, it still goes right for me.”

Rolling her eyes, Boomer shook her head, already knowing where this was going.

“All those fillies coming into my hospital room, feeling sorry for me. It’s gonna be great. When I get older, I’m gonna invent a cologne that smells like bandaids, and no mare will be able to resist me!”

Sighing, Boomer rolled her eyes again and stuck out her tongue in disgust.

“In the immortal words of Prince Gosling, ‘I’m too pretty to die!’” And with that, Sumac lept over the rail.

Almost right away, the wind lifted him, and Sumac came close to widdling himself. Up and up he went, smashing through some clouds and gaining altitude. This hadn’t been part of the plan, not at all. A fall from this height would kill him for certain. Concentrating through his mortal terror, he reduced the amount of electrical current he was providing his Celestium-filled flight suit.

Back through the clouds he plunged and the ground was now rushing up to greet him. More current was necessary, and he focused on making it happen. He stretched out his front and hind legs as far as they would go, mimicking a flying squirrel or a tree dragon. Much to Sumac’s shock and terror, it was working.

Sort of. He had no real control over anything and he was at the mercy of the wind. All he could do was rise and fall by changing how much electrical current went into his suit. He screamed a few times, just to get the terror out, and then screamed once more for good measure, because why not?

Behind him, Boomer was having a good time, her legs fully extended, her membranes stretched tight as drums, and even her webbed fingers and toes were stretched out. Her long, prehensile, ribbon-like tail allowed her a great deal of control in the air. A big grin could be seen on her small snout as she drifted along on the current behind Sumac.

From above, two pegasus ponies popped through the clouds to investigate. Sumac wasn’t sure of the proper etiquette for invading their airspace or smashing their clouds. With the sun overhead, he had trouble making them out until they were flying on either side of him.

“Miss Dash, Miss Hooves, how are you?” Sumac shouted, trying not to scream yet again.

“Not about to be killed by Twinkleshine,” Rainbow Dash replied in a voice that bubbled with laughter.

“Hey, you’re flying!” Miss Hooves gave Sumac an encouraging wave with her hoof. “You look like a flying squirrel!”

“Yeah!” Sumac’s voice was only just a little bit screamy. “I can’t believe this is working!”

“Eh, you’re a smart colt, you were bound to figure out something sooner or later.” Rainbow Dash rolled over in the sky beside Sumac, flew on her back for while, then leveled out once more. “How did you do this?”

“Celestium!” Sumac replied, the subtle nuance of a scream causing his voice to crack and squeak like he was five years old again. “Celestium and electrical current! I made an airship that I could wear!” As Sumac spoke, he became aware of the fact that there was a problem, he was sinking. This did nothing to help his voice, which cracked even more.

What a rotten problem to have.

Though he tried giving his suit a bit more current, he failed to rise to the occasion. Failing to rise while performing between two mares was mighty embarrassing. His sinking was slowed by the increased current though, which was a small relief. Frantic, he turned his head from side to side to see what the problem was, and after a cursory glance, he could see the ribs in his membranes were no longer taut, neither tight nor stiff. They were going limp, much to his dismay, which was embarrassing and terrible.

No colt ever wanted everything to go limp and flaccid while showing off in front of two mares. Of all the worst possible things that could happen, this was the worst possible thing. He gave himself enough electrical current that his mane started to crackle with static, but to no avail. He was going down, his two pegasus pony companions remaining by his side.

Turning to look at Rainbow Dash, Sumac gulped and said, “Don’t save me. Whatever you do, don’t save me. I need to do this on my own, no matter what. I do my best thinking while I’m laid out in a hospital bed.”

“Okay, Sumac.” Rainbow gave the slow falling colt a mid-air salute with her wing. “You heard him, Derpy. We’re going to pretend that he’s a little pegasus colt, so hooves off.”

“But we’ll be with you every inch of the way!” Miss Hooves cried as Sumac’s descent picked up speed.

Knowing that his time was limited, Sumac focused, hoping to learn everything he could in the precious moments of flight he had left. He kept his legs out as best he could and his body stayed level. He was still gliding and experience told him that this would not be his worst crash ever. It was still going to hurt though. This wasn’t a total loss, but for a brief time, he had flown. Learning how to crash was every bit as important as learning how to fly. Rainbow Dash had told him so, and she was the best crasher he knew. During high risk encounters with the Wonderbolts, she went down all the time, developing quite a reputation.

Even though he was about to eat dirt for lunch, Sumac Apple believed this was a win.

The next attempt would go better. Perhaps he would seek out Rarity’s help and construct a suit that didn’t leak. He didn’t know what had gone wrong, perhaps stress and strain on the suit damaged the stitching and the glue he had used to create the pockets where Celestium was stored.

He soared over the roofs below him and angled his body to veer away from any painful obstacles. When he had the road beneath him, he leveled out. All of his experience had brought him here, to this moment, this glorious moment. Behind him, Boomer untethered and glided into formation just behind Rainbow Dash, riding in her wake.

“Rainbow, I’m scared!”

“I know.” There was nothing teasing in Rainbow’s voice, no mirth, no repressed laughter. “If you change your mind, we—”

“NO!” Sumac hollered, more from terror than anger. “Lemme finish what I started!”

“Brace yourself, Sumac!” Miss Hooves cried.

Pulling his legs up against his body, Sumac remembered Rainbow Dash’s advice to tuck and roll. He slammed into the edge of the dirt road, which knocked the wind right out of him. Then he bounced a few times, skidding and sliding over gravel, which shredded his flight suit. The colt then rolled into the grass, which wasn’t as soft as one might hope. At some point, his head slammed into the hard earth, and his vision filled with many tiny Silver Linings, all circling around his head, all of them chirping a cheerful song, reminding him that every Gloomy cloud had a Silver Lining.

He came to a skidding halt on his back, minus some of his hide and pretty much all of his pride. Gasping like a fish, he lay there, trying to suck in some much needed wind. Already, his body was twitching with pain, and he knew from past encounters of flirting with greatness that some of his ribs were probably cracked. All he could do now was do his best not to cry, because Miss Hooves and Miss Dash were watching, and right now, crying would suck after going limp mid-flight.

Amidst the circling Silver Linings, Sumac saw a flash of blue, but it was not the blue he expected, no, not at all. He felt two lips brush up against his ear, and the brief touch brought him some much needed comfort. Everything was about to be all better. She always made everything better.

“Kiddo, I’m so proud of you…”

Author's Notes:

Get your minds out of the gutter... :rainbowhuh:

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