Part 18 - Chandelles
The gentle wind undulated the surface of the meadow far below as two stallions hovered a furlong above in the warm summer air, one on the sky blue wings he was born with and one on wings of canvas and wood that he had been given by his employers. Said employers, in the person of a lavender colored unicorn mare who made up half of the partnership that helmed Harmony Aeronautics, watched them from the ground with her horn glittering as her young dragon assistant stood by to write down her steady stream of observations and readings from a small weather station.
Soarin met Pip's eye as he laid out the latest challenge facing the dashing test pony, gesturing toward a three sided box formed from shimmering purplish magic. "Okay, now this last maneuver is called a chandelle, which is essentially pulling a tight U turn while gaining altitude. It comes in real handy if you find yourself in a box canyon, or a blind alleyway if you're flying street level in town."
He hovered casually in place, demonstrating the desired flight pattern with a turning hoof. "You're gonna start at normal cruise speed, then kinda roll your way into a banking turn at maybe a thirty degree angle. Then you're gonna wanna power flap a couple times and pull your pitch up while keeping your banking angle steady. When you're at about ninety degrees of your turn, you're gonna feel like you're maybe gonna stall, but just keep it smooth and ease your banking angle back down to level and you'll find yourself heading back the opposite direction on a straight and easy. Got it?"
The spotted earth pony raised a hoof to his brow and snapped off a brisk salute. "Quite so. Wish me luck, old bean."
Soarin gave him a wry grin as he nodded toward the floating magical construct. "Work on your skills, and the luck'll follow, kid. Now get going, I don't have much left of my lunch break here."
As Pip gave an eager nod and wheeled away, the pegasus murmured to himself as he looked down and saw Applejack trot out from among the apple trees into the billowing grass of the meadow with a bushel basket perched on her back and a sunny smile on her freckled face. "And anyway, I don't know how much luck is left over, 'cos I seem to have gotten it all."
With that, he leaned into a shallow dive, pulling up into a low hover as the blonde mare fished a juicy looking apple out of the basket with her tail and lofted it skyward. He caught it easily in his fore hooves and gave her a wave. "Thanks, sweetheart."
Applejack chuckled. "No problemo, darlin'. It's only proper that ya get fed if'n yer gonna spend yer whole lunch hour out here day after day."
Soarin gave her a wry smile as he glanced down at his tightening waistline. "Well, I could still stand to skip a meal or two, hot stuff, but never one from you." He paused to admire the gleaming red and gold fruit cupped in his hoof, then took a large bite, his eyes rolling skyward in a blissful expression as he savored its crisp sweetness.
The blonde earth pony deftly flicked another apple to Spike, who snapped it out of the air like a striking quaray eel and went back to jotting down wind speeds, chewing contentedly while Twilight immobilized a third specimen of the farm's namesake fruit in the air with her magic with the barest flick of her horn. The lavender hued inventor kept her attention riveted on Pip's approach to her conjured walls. "Make sure to keep a tally on all the food we eat, Applejack. Harmony Aeronautics will recompense you."
At this the farm mare shook her head solemnly. "Sugarcube, y'all're same as family, which means yer money's no good here."
A smile flitted across Twilight's face. "All right, I'm not going make an issue of it until we actually have money to convince you to take. A lot hinges on our demonstration for the princesses." Her brow furrowed as a tense expression spread across her face. "If we fail to get that royal charter we may have trouble getting ponies to invest in us."
Soarin finished off his apple in a couple more bites, then tossed the core over his shoulder, catching it with a kick of a rear hoof and sending it flying in a long arc over the apple trees. He gave her and Applejack a grin. "We pegasi have an old saying. 'A fall feels the same as an updraft 'til you hit the dirt, so keep your wings spread and hope for the best."
Seeing Twilight's pensively furrowed brow, the blonde mare spoke up with a wry smile. "I reckon he means 'y'all gotta plant th' seed before y'see if it's a weed', sugarcube."
Spike chimed in in a helpful tone of voice. "Yeah, or like the old draconic 'If you fear the lance you'll miss your chance.' or 'Your treasure never grows if out the cave you never goes.' Crackle told me that one the last time I saw him." He rolled his eyes. "Of course, Crackle says a lot of stuff once he gets a couple barrels of aqua regia in him..."
Twilight flicked an ear and twitched her tail in irritation, floating her apple over and taking a terse bite. "All very uplifting, I'm sure, but right now the quantum flux state of this endeavor is enough to make my horn curl, and we've only got another day to get it right."
All four of them winced as Pip went wide on an attempt at a chandelle and rebounded off of one of her magical walls. Her apple bobbled slightly in the air while another cloud of sparkling purple magic caught the young stallion as he tumbled out of the magical box with wings askew and hooves flailing.
His shaky voice echoed over the meadow as he hung upside down in the grip of her telekinesis. "Splendid catch, Doctor Sparkle! Just wait a tick for Equestria to stop spinning 'round and I'll give it another go!"
Soarin tossed his head with a grin and an exasperated roll of his eyes. "I guess that's my cue to get back in the game." He turned and launched toward Pip with an easy flap of his wings, sailing through the sun soaked air to come to a hovering stop at Pip's side.
As the sky blue pegasus and the spotted earth pony huddled up to talk flight techniques in the distance, Applejack set her bushel basket down and sidled up to Twilight, sitting down next to her with a gentle sigh as she stroked the lavender mare's back with an outstretched hoof.
The scholarly unicorn stiffened, startled at the unexpected contact, and then relaxed a little with a sigh of her own. "I know... I know... I'm doing it again, aren't I? Freaking out about an assignment from the Princess. You'd think I'd have gotten over that once I got my doctorate."
The blonde earth pony let out a chuckle. "Th' more things change, th' more they stay th' same, I reckon. Celestia could spend half o' her lifetime tellin' ya she's right proud o' ya for everythin' ya done, but ya still get all wound up tryin' t' impress her."
Twilight gave her a fragile smile. "She's lived for millennia, and her wisdom and experience runs so deeply. No matter how much I learn, how much I accomplish I feel like... like a tiny violet sprouting by the root of an ancient oak tree when I'm in her presence. I can't help it."
Applejack smiled back, a kindly expression on her freckled face. "Yeah, but that li'l flower n' that big ol' tree both grow outta th' same soil, and soak up th' same sun n' rain in their time. They both got their place in th' world and a purpose that th' maker above put 'em there for."
The blonde mare shaded her eyes with a hoof as she glanced up briefly at the noonday sun. "Now, I ain't gonna claim t' know more 'bout Celestia than ya do havin' grown up studyin' at her hooves n' all, but th' times I been around her I always try t' look at her as straight on as I can without bein' disrespectful. Just lookin' at th' pony she is n' not bein' dazzled by her crown n' all her power n' majesticality n' whatnot."
She turned back to Twilight with a frank smile adorning her features. "There are two things that just plumb tickle her pink, that make her smile a real, sure as th' sunrise smile that ain't put on t' be nice or proper or royal or what have ya.
Applejack tapped a hoof on the ground once. "One is bein' with her sister. Y'all can just feel th' joy shinin' offa them two when they're in th' same room together. It makes me shine inside too, knowin' I had a part in bringin' that back t' her after what must'a been a powerful long stretch o' loneliness fer both of 'em, and it oughta make ya proud too, 'cos y'were th' gal who made it all come together. Celestia owes ya a debt the likes o' which all th' treasure in th' world could never repay."
She tapped her hoof twice, then lifted it up to lay it on the lavender unicorn's shoulder. "And th' other thing that just sets th' princess grinnin' like ol' RD after a mug o' Sweet Apple Cider is when one o' her little ponies up 'n tries t' make th' world a better place."
The honest farm mare gave a nod toward Pip and Soarin as the young test pony lined up for another attempt with the former stunt flyer hovering watchfully above, then turned back with earnestness radiating from her apple green eyes. "And I reckon that's what yer purpose is, sugarcube, t' bring somethin' new n' wonderful into this ol' world, and it just makes th' princess happy as all get out."
Twilight let out a fond sigh and reached up a hoof to her eye to brush away some of the moisture that glistened there. She leaned against her friend with a gentle smile gracing her lavender features. "She must have been smiling like Pinkie Pie the day you were born, Applejack. I think I feel a lot better about this weekend, however it's gonna turn out."
A whoop of triumph echoed across the rustling grass as Pip executed a nearly flawless chandelle with Soarin circling above the floating magical box. The sky blue pegasus kicked up his heels and dropped into a steep dive, gliding into a parallel flight path with a wide grin on his face. The two stallions reached out and bumped hooves as they rocketed over the two mares heads while Spike shot out a triumphant gout of flame and pumped his fist in the air.
A few hours later, Twilight remained alone on her blanket with a clipboard and quill hovering at the ready, observing and analyzing as Pip practiced, dodging and weaving among an assortment of magically generated obstacles in the sky over the meadow. Soarin and Applejack had both gone their ways back to their daily labors, after exchanging a brief kiss and fond wishes to see one another again soon. Spike had succumbed to a late afternoon bout of reptilian drowsiness, and was currently sprawled on the roof of the Harmony Aeronautics barn basking in the warm summer sun, the hazy black trails from his snoring rising up like smoke from a chimney.
The lavender mare's ears twitched at the sound of heavy hoof falls behind her, and she turned with a startled gasp, jarred out of her reverie as a figure loomed behind her.
She let out a breath, holding a hoof to her breast. "Oh, Pound Cake. You startled me. I was miles away."
The strapping young colt dug his broad hoof and bashfully averted his gaze. "S-sorry, Doctor Sparkle. I didn't mean to scare you."
Twilight gave him a fond smile. "No harm done, sweetie. So what brings you out here today?"
He gave a slight, skittish toss of his jutting brown mane. "Oh, lookin' for Tootsie, as usual."
The lavender unicorn pursed her lips. "Oh no. Did she fly off without telling her mom and dad again?"
The colt shook his head. "No, but she forgot to bring a box of cookies that Pinkie wanted to send along with her for her n' Windy's afternoon snack, so I said I'd bring 'em over."
There was a pregnant pause, as Pound's focus drifted past Twilight's shoulder toward the darting, looping figure of Pip. The beige colt turned and fished under one of his wings, and produced a blue and yellow foal's bit bag marked with the symbol of the Wonderbolts, which he hastily set down on the blanket beside the older mare.
His gaze was steady and earnest when he met Twilight's eyes. "I wanna buy a flying harness. For my sister. For our birthday. I don't know how much one costs, and these are all the bits I've got, but I can get more. I just started a paper route, and Dad says if I take on some extra chores he'll raise my allowance, and my Aunt Angelfood in Fillydelphia always sends us each a check for fifty bits for our birthday and you can have that too once her card gets here."
Twilight cleared her throat and caught up the bag of bits, floating it back toward him. "I'm sorry, Pound. We're not even making them for full grown ponies yet. Why don't you hold on to your money for now, and as soon as we start making flight harnesses for fillies you'll be the first to know."
The burly colt's ears drooped in disappointment, but a determined look settled on his young face as he drew himself up, pushing the hovering bag back toward her with his wide hoof. "I... I'd rather you took it, if that's okay with you Doctor Sparkle. It's... it's not just my money. It wouldn't be right for me to just keep it."
He shifted uncomfortably as Twilight cocked a quizzical eyebrow. His deep brown eyes wandered from her violet gaze. "My... my b-best friend Zephyr. Well... He... he came out here with his big sister Gale to see what was going on the other day and he saw Pinkie Pie flying with Tootsie n' Puddin' and he went home and... and got all his money and brought it over to my house and... g-gave it to me and said I should get a flying harness for Pumpkin so we can all play kites together like... like I always wanted... 'cos he was s-s-sorry about this... this stupid fight him and me... had... I... he d-d-didn't have to DO that... but... "
Pound trailed off with a choked sob, his shoulders shaking as he reached up with one of his almost comically oversized hooves to wipe away what tears were squeezing out from the corners of his tightly clenched eyes.
Twilight rose to her haunches and took the colt into a hug, shushing him gently. "Shhh. I know. I've got friends just like that. Shhhh. It's okay. In fact, it's incredible."
She floated a hoofkerchief out of her nearby panniers and dabbed it on his face as she lifted his quivering chin with her hoof, and then gave him a smile as she took up the colt's bit bag in her magic and jingled it. "My friend Rarity, for example, who'll be just pleased as punch that we made our first sale."
Later that night, a rustle of shrubbery, the patter of scurrying hooves, and the intermittent squeak of a wagon wheel disturbed the lucid calm in the gardens around Ponyville General Hospital.
A squat, shadowy figure trailing a tiny cart made its way among the hedges, ducking behind a low bench as a grizzled pony in a security uniform marched past, playing his flashlight around the ornamental trees and flower beds. As the guard's steady hoof falls receded down the path, the intruder scuttled out from behind his concealment and crossed the path, bringing the cart tight up against the foundation of the medical building.
Suddenly, a clamor arose from the upper floors high above, and a trailing rope of knotted bedclothes dropped down into the little wagon. Soon afterward, a scrawny yellow unicorn came shimmying down, losing his grip near the bottom and landing with an indignant squawk on his frayed tail.
He wore a drab hospital gown, with a myriad of scuffs, bruises, and missing patches in his pallid coat visible between the ties that kept it wrapped around his skinny frame, and his head was wrapped in bandages, with an enchanted, magic suppressing safety cork on the end of his horn and a bristling black brush of a mustache on the end of his snout.
The fugitive patient reared up with a triumphant laugh and jabbed a hoof toward the open window above. "HAH! Psychiatric observation my aching RUMP! More like psychiatric inattention! No mere padded room can hold the incomparable Professor Destiny!"
He settled down into the tiny wagon, which was just barely big enough to hold him if he tucked his skinny hind legs up to his belly, and gave an imperious wave to his accomplice. "Giddyap, Otto! Get us out of here!"
The dwarfish pony reared, kicking his stubby little forelegs. "Hokay, bozz! Giddying up."
Destiny fought to keep upright as his awkward conveyance lurched into motion, the sound of galloping hooves and the glint of flashlights in the soft summer night closing fast all around them.
Meanwhile, across town, a pale blue mare with her flowing, powder blue locks done up in an elegant coiffure raised a glass of sparkling grape juice and smiled at her beloved husband across an intimate table set for two. The two ponies clinked their drinking vessels and raised them to sip from the delicate beverage.
As she brought the glass to her lips, a shadow fell across her features, her teeth clenching in a feral grimace and her eyes glaring in opposite directions as a gutteral growl rose from her throat. She let out a series of sharp, harsh edged barks.
A moment later she gasped, shaking her head to clear it as she slouched back in her seat. The stallion set aside his glass and laid his hoof on hers. "Are you all right, my dear?"
She rubbed her temple with a shaking hoof. "I... I'm sorry, darling. I just had an almost overwhelming urge to run out into the street and chase a passing cart."
He looked at her with a raised eyebrow as a gently chiding tone came to his voice. "Did you forget to take your medication?"
The mare let out a breezy laugh as she climbed down from her chair and trotted toward the bathroom. "Oh, silly me. It slipped my mind. I'll be right back..."
Otto Bomb began to breathe heavily as he maintained his rapid, scurrying pace, moving his stubby little legs so fast they almost blurred beneath him. He didn't care to stop despite the fact that he'd managed to throw off the last of their pursuers by combination of low, animal cunning and completely random, dumb luck. He didn't want to let his boss down again.
The Professor had been furious with him upon waking up in a hospital ward with a concussion and a host of abrasions and contusions, and had shouted at him for the entire visiting hour even after Otto had brought him a pretty bouquet of lilies with some lockpicks and files mixed in. How was he to know the unicorn was allergic to them? He was slightly hurt that the Professor had attempted to strangle him with his bare hooves instead of gasping out a simple 'thank you' before his face swelled up. The yellow unicorn had only just managed to choke out a rudimentary escape plan in his ear as the orderlies pulled him off of Otto, jabbed an adrenaline injector in his haunch, and dragged him away.
All of those peccadillos aside, the diminutive henchpony preferred to allow his leader to continue operating under the misapprehension that the fall from the rafters had caused most of the damage, rather than banging his head on the door frame, a couple rocks, and a tree stump after Otto clamped his boss' tail in his teeth and beat a hasty retreat from the barn with the unconscious unicorn dragging behind him. The couple miles of gravel road with a few shortcuts through the woods hadn't done the Professor any favors either.
Otto took a furtive glance over his hunched shoulder as they bumped and careened over the cobblestone streets of Ponyville, appraising the condition of the scrawny unicorn who sat weaving slightly in place after taking a few low hanging tree branches to the face in their escape from the hospital grounds. He hoped nothing had gotten knocked too loose, at least not 'til after payday. After deeming his employer conscious enough to engage, he called out in his gravelly voice. "Hey bozz, where to now?"
The Professor shook off his dazed stupor, casting off the last fragments of a birds nest that had caught on the tip of his horn, dropping its cargo of eggs onto his face where they were beginning to congeal and harden in the breeze. "The train station, to catch the earliest train we can back to Cutica."
He drew himself up, a manic gleam in his bloodshot eyes as he stabbed a hoof skyward. "And from there, to Canterlot!"
A bustling multitude of ponies caused the platform of Canterlot station to echo with a thousand hooves as Twilight Sparkle, Spike, Pip, and Apple Bloom stood waiting by the luggage car of the Friendship Express from Ponyville. Burly earth pony porters were busily hauling carts full of bags and boxes down the ramp and unloading them for the passengers to claim.
Spike craned his long neck and gave a nod toward the cargo doors as a large traveling case that looked like it might have contained a big musical instrument like a harp or a xylophone emerged, its sides adorned with the Harmony Aeronautics crest. Twilight levitated the claim slip out of her panniers and proffered it to the attendant as Spike and Apple Bloom took charge of it, setting it down on a set of built in wheels that popped out of the bottom of the case with a tap from the young handymare's hoof.
As they shouldered their bags and satchels a clarion voice, louder even than the public address system, boomed over the milling throng of passenger ponies, causing the entire crowd to sputter into stunned silence. "TWILIGHT! APPLE BLOOM! SPIKE! OTHER PONY! OVER HERE!"
All eyes turned to see a slender, primrose white unicorn mare with her powder purple and pink mane bound up in a gold kerchief and a pair of sunglasses hiding her eyes. She was poised on tip hooves with her swirling tail hiked behind her, and waving with a wide grin on her open, earnest face. A group of ponies stood around her, shaking their heads to clear the ringing from their ears and levitating their autograph books and pens back up off of the floor. The pretty young unicorn extricated herself from among them with nods and apologies, stumbling a little as she emerged and came skipping through the crowd toward them.
Apple Bloom bounded forward to meet her with a grin of her own lighting up her features. "Sweetie Belle, ya ol' dingaling, how the hay are ya!?"
The two young mares entwined their necks in a hug as a scintillating giggle escaped the primrose unicorn's throat. "I'm great! The R.O.'s been packed every night and all the ponies have really been loving the show! It's a good thing I'm a unicorn 'cos I woulda gotten lock jaw signing so many autographs with a pen in my teeth."
Pip came trotting up as they disengaged, a gleaming smile on his face as he took Sweetie's hoof in his own with a gallant bob of his head. "Good day, Miss Belle. Sounds like you're garnering some well deserved fame for your stellar performance."
The primrose colored unicorn gave him a slightly puzzled glance as her sunglasses slid a bit down her nose. "Oh, um, thanks Mister..."
Apple Bloom rolled her eyes. "Y'all remember Pip Squeak from Ponyville. He was my date when we came n' saw th' show."
Sweetie Belle's face lit up. "Oh wow, yeah. Okay. Now I remember. That night of the cast party was kind of a big blur of lots of stuff and champagne happening and..."
She paused, her dark glasses slipping a bit further down to reveal her wide, green eyes. In spite of the resumed clamor of the platform you could almost hear a bit dropping. "Wait... you mean little Pip, the kid with the funny accent and the mountain climbing cutie mark?"
Pip and Apple Bloom shared a bemused look, and the spotted earth pony gave a polite nod. "Er... yes, that's me."
The youthful opera singer's eyes gleamed over the tops of her sunglasses, her gaze settling on his cutie mark and the taut flanks it adorned. "Wowza! You grew up to be sha-mokin' hot! Are you available or are you and Apple Bloom going steady?"
The red headed handymare blinked and stammered, blind sided by the directness of the question as she reached out and jerked his hoof out from under Sweetie's. "Uh.. what the.. y-yeah, we're goin' steady!"
Pip turned to her with a raised eyebrow. "We are? Oh, that's jolly good to... I say, you seem to be gripping my fetlock a bit tightly there, luv."
Sweetie Belle shrugged, completely oblivious to the grinding of Apple Bloom's teeth or the spotted test pony's politely strained attempts to extricate his hoof. "Oh, okay. You make a cute couple."
She turned to Twilight and Spike as they approached, the looming adolescent drake rolling the heavy case along at his guardian's side. The young mare bounded forward and almost tackled the unicorn with a hug. "Heya Twil... er... Doctor Twilight. Rarity sent me to come pick you all up 'cos I've got the day off before tonight's show and because she's royally ticked off at you guys right now."
Twilight blinked and shook her head as she pushed the vivacious singer back with both hooves and looked her in the eyes. "Wh-what?"
Sweetie Belle nodded matter of factly. "Yeah, the guys at the Carousel have been on the horn to the Bijou for days saying that all kinds of ponies have been asking about your wing thingies, so Rarity's been kinda busy coming up with answers along with all the stuff she's been doing here in Canterlot."
She stuck out her lower lip as a solemn expression settled briefly on her innocent face. "Plus she heard about how Pinkie got to go flying with her kids, and she also heard about Applejack and that Wonderbolts guy hooking up and going flying too. You shoulda heard her shriek when she found out about that. She told me to tell you she's not speaking to you for three days."
Twilight brought a hoof to her face with a heavy sigh as Sweetie Belle darted past her and knocked Spike back on his tail with a leaping hug. The large case rocked back and forth and slammed onto its side with a sharp impact, startling all the ponies around it.
A chilly mood hovered over the glittering, glass and mirror lined foyer of the Bijou Boutique as the hooves of the new arrivals from Ponyville click clacked on the marble floor alongside the low rumble of the large, wheeled case. An tense silence descended as they stopped, looking up the grand staircase to see Rarity standing there on the first landing where it split toward the galleries. Her lips formed a tight line as she tapped her hoof in counter rhythm to the low ticking of an ornate brass clock by the reception desk. The cold gleam in the boutique owner's eyes seemed to be mirrored and amplified in the stylized eyes adorning a large, jewel mosaic of her cursive R logo that loomed on the wall behind her.
Twilight sheepishly cleared her throat as she took a halting step forward. "R-rarity. I just want to say I'm so sorry about..."
She bit her lip as the alabaster mare's manicured hoof snapped sharply up to silence her, accompanied by an indignant flaring of her sapphire glare. The elegant unicorn pursed her lips as she lowered her hoof to the floor with an emphatic click.
At the same moment, the minute hand on the clock reached twelve, and the assembled ponies and dragon all flinched as it chimed out the hour.
The atmosphere in the huge room suddenly shifted to a bright, congenial warmth as a smile curled the corners of Rarity's lips. "Well, time's up!"
She came forward, lightly traipsing down the steps like she was floating on a cushion of air. "I simply must tell you all about the week I've been having. We've got ever so much catching up to do, and I want to hear every juicy detail."
Twilight cast a boggled glance at the elegant fashionista's younger sister. "Wh... but... but Sweetie said that you said you weren't gonna talk to us for three days."
Rarity chuckled and rolled her eyes as she leaned forward to lightly kiss the lavender scholar on both cheeks. "I said that three days ago, darling, and I certainly hope you all learned your lesson."
She swirled past her business partner with a toss of her curled violet mane to share similar greetings with the rest of them, her staff at the boutique materializing soundlessly around them and relieving them of their luggage with brisk efficiency.
Seemingly out of nowhere they suddenly found themselves provided with elegant sun hats and scarves, with trilbies and ascots for Pip and Spike, as Rarity paused by the door and beckoned them with a flick of her horn. "Now come along, my darlings. I've got us reservations for lunch at La Pomme D' Or, and then we'll need to come back here so I can get our suits fitted. You simply won't believe who I've charmed into coming to the demonstration tomorrow. It is going to be quite the event."
The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.