Part 3 - Research, Experimentation, Testing, More Testing
Over the following week, the usual sketches and fabric swatches of high fashion dress designs that lined the walls of the Bijou Boutique's workroom were rapidly covered over with a profusion of diagrams and drawings of different wing shapes. A chalkboard filled with magical equations stood in the corner, with disused ponikins shoved behind it looking as if they were taking shelter.
Twilight Sparkle reached up to pull a pair of goggles down over her eyes and skimmed over her notes for the umpteenth time, calling out to the adolescent dragon stationed in the corner with a quill and clipboard in his claws. "Okay Spike, lets start recording the proceedings now." She cleared her throat, assuming an official tone of voice. "Sparkle/Belle Personal Flight Harness, Mark One, Test One."
She stood on the turntable platform, decked out in a stripped down version of the Princess Celestia costume comprised of the basic harness attached to a considerably simplified pair of wings made of muslin in the fashion of a butterfly or moth, that draped down to either side of her onto the floor.
Spike nodded as he jotted down the date and time. "Okay, go ahead Dr. Sparkle."
Rarity, Sweetie Belle, and the elder sister's three assistants Bangle, Bobbin, and Snap looked on with perked ears and hiked tails as Twilight responded. "Allright. I am proceeding to cast the spell."
With that, she closed her eyes and concentrated, sparking her horn to life with glittering purple magic. The luminous glow spread out along the limp material draped from her harness, and then faded.
Twilight spoke up in the expectant silence. "I will now attempt to fly."
She furrowed her brow in concentration. The muslin wings twitched, and a shudder ran down their length.
As they began to move, the onlookers let out a cry of excitement that quickly died back down to nonplussed silence, then mutterings and exclamations of alarm, as the spans of cloth started to wildly twist, flutter, and warp as if they were caught on a clothesline in a hurricane.
The lavender unicorn to braced her legs as she was violently tugged from side to side by their attachment to the harness. The wings thrashed harder and harder, kicking up a gale that rustled the papers on the walls with greater and greater force until several started to tear free and float in the clouds of dust that were being shaken loose.
Twilight let out a shriek over the din, desperately trying to command the errant wings. "Ahh! Stop! STOP!"
Rarity's voice rang out in response. "MY HAIR!"
A moment later a loud ripping noise filled the air, as the wings exploded in a burst of shredded muslin.
Twilight's strained cough broke the silence as she stood on the platform with loose papers and bits of cloth fluttering down all around her, her mane and tail both hopelessly tangled and sticking in all directions. The ragged tatters of what little remained of the wings bristled out from the harness in similar fashion.
The assembled ponies who had gathered to observe looked like they'd been in a tornado as well, standing stiff legged with stunned looks on their faces.
Rarity spoke up, her right eye twitching as her voice took on a bright, vivacious tone with a palpable underpinning of tightly suppressed hysteria. "Well! Back to the drawing board, eh? If you'll all pardon me I'm going to go lie down."
Twilight was back on the platform a couple of days later with a look of renewed determination on her face. "Sparkle/Belle Personal Flight Harness, Mark Two, Test One."
The wings were now made of sturdy canvas, and braced with wire along their leading edge. Rarity stood off to the side next to Spike with her hair bound up in a scarf and goggles over her eyes, as were her younger sister and shop assistants. The drawings on the wall had all been secured with extra tacks.
The looming young dragon scribbled the date and time and nodded to his guardian. "Ready when you are, Twilight."
Twilight nodded and sparked her horn to life once more, enchanting the improved wings. "I am now casting the spell."
She cleared her throat after the glow of her magic faded. "All right. I will now attempt to fly."
She closed her eyes and concentrated. A moment later she let out a startled cry as the wings tore themselves off of the harness with a single flap, rending the air with the harsh sound of ripping canvas.
Rarity met Twilight's chagrined expression with a wince, as the detached wings settled on the workroom floor like falling leaves.
Rarity stepped down from the platform after checking and double checking the reinforced attachment points for the canvas wings. She crossed over to stand next to Spike, Bobbin, and Snap, and gave her old friend an encouraging bob of her horn.
Twilight responded with an obstinate nod. "Sparkle/Belle Personal Flight Harness, Mark Two Point One, Test One."
She cast the spell without even bothering to announce it. When the purple glow had diffused along the wings, she braced her hooves and hiked her tail. "I will now attempt to fly."
A moment later it looked to the assembled witnesses like Twilight had suddenly performed a prodigiously acrobatic backflip with a single beat of the artificial wings, which sent her arcing head over hooves through the air. She cleared the blackboard and landed among the ponikins behind it with a loud crash.
Rarity and the others rushed over to the tangled pile of cloth dress forms, with a set of lavender hooves sticking up out of them. A shaky voice sounded out from beneath the wreckage as one of the forelegs feebly jabbed at the air. "E-eureka! They work!"
Twilight tightened the straps on her crash helmet. "Sparkle/Belle Personal Flight Harness, Mark Two Point One, Test Two."
Rarity exchanged a worried glance with Spike, who gave her a helpless shrug and started jotting notes. "Ready."
Twilight gritted her teeth and nodded, the purple glitter of her magic blossoming around her horn and flowing across the wings. "Casting spell now."
She stomped a hoof. "Attempting flight."
The wings beat, then again, then again, in a steady rhythm, again, again, again, picking up speed as a soft breeze off the platform fluttered some stray papers and sent them dancing across the floor. Twilight began to rise into the air, her legs braced against nothing as her hooves hung limp beneath her.
Rarity drew in her breath, trading a look of hopeful elation with the adolescent dragon at her side. Her voice came in an excited whisper as she turned to face her friend once more. "Twilight! It's working! You're flying."
The lavender unicorn allowed her eyes to open a crack, which slowly widened to reveal her violet irises and dark pupils sparkling with wonderment. A soft, giddy laugh escaped from her. "I am. I'm doing it!"
She cleared her throat and tried her best to assume a serious expression. "All right, encouraging. I will now attempt to gain some altitude."
Her brow furrowed, as the wings began to beat a bit harder. She began to rise higher and higher, with a smile that grew wider the closer to the ceiling she got.
Twilight's smile turned to a grimace of alarm as the left wing suddenly bent in half with a loud creak, sending her tumbling toward the hard wood floors far below.
Spike's own leathery wings flared as he tossed aside the clipboard and launched himself toward her, spinning on his long axis as he hurtled through the air so that when he arrived under the unicorn mare's plummeting form she landed on his padded chest as his serrated back spines cut a furrow in the wood of the platform. He folded his arms and wings around his guardian as they skidded across the floor, slamming into the opposite wall with enough force to cause the entire building to shake.
The other ponies galloped over to his side as the purple dragon popped open a green, slitted eye and looked around. He looked down at the unicorn cradled in his claws. "Y-you okay, Twilight?"
The lavender mare let out a groan and stirred, shaking her head to clear it and then looking ruefully down at the bent wing on her harness. She cast about for his clipboard and quill, and when she spotted them she levitated the writing implements over to him. "Spike, take a note. We're going to need something more rigid than wire supporting the wing structure."
A small gout of black smoke puffed out of the dragon's nostrils as a cross expression settled on his face. He grudgingly grasped the pen in his dextrous claws and wrote on the clipboard. "Gotcha. Anything else?"
Twilight gave him a fond smile as she let out a chuckle, stroking a hoof across his chest. "Yeah, thanks for catching me. Thunderpony's got nothing on you, my number one assistant."
The adolescent dragon's expression softened with a bashful grin, as he helped his guardian gently down to the floor.
Rarity stepped forward and gave Spike a kiss on the cheek. "That was very heroic, Spikey Wikey."
She found the resulting blush that blossomed on the young drake's features so adorable that she withheld any comment about the deep grooves his dorsal spines had carved in her floors.
The alabaster unicorn turned her attention to the crumpled wing hanging limply off of the lavender mare's harness, looking it over with a critical eye. "This is the heaviest gauge wire I have in stock, darling. I suppose we could try steel corset stays, but I think we'd run into the same problem."
She met Twilight's gaze. "I'm afraid we're moving out of my area of expertise. Aesthetics is my specialty, not building things."
The scholarly mare sparked her horn to life and undid the buckle on her crash helmet, levitating it off of her head and setting it down on Spike's chest. She gave Rarity a canny smile. "I think I know just the pony who can help us."
She raised a wry eyebrow. "What do you say to moving this operation to Ponyville?"
The alabaster fashion designer gave her partner a sly grin of her own. "Only that it was bound to happen sooner or later."
A week later the two unicorn mares were standing in a modest woodworking shop at the edge of Sweet Apple Acres' main compound, where the sweet smell of wood shavings and sawdust, the acrid tang of paint and varnish, and a subtle hint of sweat mingled in the air into an overall scent of productivity and honest labor.
Apple Bloom, the shop's youthful proprietress, scrutinized the diagrams and sketches that Rarity and Twilight had laid on her workbench, as well as the damaged prototype of the winged harness. The unicorns fidgeted nervously as the red headed earth pony pursed her lips and furrowed her brow, thoughtfully waving her braided tail behind her and idly rolling a well chewed pencil back and forth on the scarred boards as she pored over their work.
Finally, she looked up from the plans and shook her head. "Y'all're nuttier than a bucket o' cashews."
She held up a hoof to forestall their protests as their faces fell in disappointment, and she gave them a grin. "I can't wait t' get started."
Twilight smiled broadly as she extended a hoof. "In that case, I'd like to officially welcome you to the team, Chief Engineer Apple Bloom."
The young earth pony let out a chuckle and spat into her hoof, extending it to the lavender unicorn. After a moment of awkwardness, Twilight withdrew her hoof, spat into it, and brought it together with Apple Bloom's.
They both looked over at Rarity, whose lip curled back in revulsion. "Eeeeuhew! Why do you ponies always do that?"
She let out a weary sigh, then spat daintily into her own hoof and brought it into fleeting contact with the young handymare's as a shudder coursed up her pale foreleg and down the length of her whole body. She forced a smile as she withdrew her hoof and held it as if she wasn't intending to walk on it anytime soon.
Twilight and Apple Bloom shared a chuckle as the lavender unicorn passed Rarity a clean hoofkerchief from her panniers.
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.