PART 42 - Pie In The Sky
Miles away Twilight, Rarity, and Apple Bloom clustered around the crystal radio in the Friend Ship's cabin, eyes wide in shock and horror as they listened to the live newscast from Canterlot. Static crackled through the brass bell of the speaker as the announcer's tinny voice could be heard. "... a scene of unimaginable chaos and destruction, as the stray fireworks have damaged the hull of the Ambrosia and have apparently punctured the gas envelope. The timely arrival of the Royal Air Cavalry means that rescue operations are underway, as our brave boys in bronze work to move the collapsing airship away from inhabited areas."
A buzzing crackling thud could be heard. "Fillies and gentlecolts, the airship's lightning chamber has just breached. I repeat the lightning containment chamber has broken open. Citizens of Canterlot are advised to stay clear of tall trees or rooftops, and any unicorns be advised not to go outside with wet manes. I've been assured by the guard that Captain Shining Armor's shield will protect us but we urge you to stay indoors."
A rustling of paper followed. "This just in, several of the stray projectiles were seen headed toward the castle. Once again, the guard urges calm."
A panicked voice in the background could be heard rushing past. "Princess Celestia was hit! The Princess has been hit by a missile!"
After a stunned silence the announcer came back on, his voice edged with hysteria. "Er... R-remain calm, and s-stand by..."
The sound of hooves receding followed. "Aaagh! The sun will never rise again! We're doomed! DOOMED!"
The three mares in the Friend Ship blinked at one another for a moment, then Twilight scrabbled out onto the terrace and grabbed the telescope, spinning it toward Canterlot. Apple Bloom and Rarity tumbled out the hatch behind her, gasping as they saw what she was seeing magnified through the lenses, a boiling, rising cloud of dark smoke and the silvery cylinder of the airship crumpling and wilting as it drifted away among a swarm of gnat like winged motes.
The lavender unicorn reared back from the telescope and grasped the railing in her hooves, clenching her eyes shut as her horn began to glow a blinding white. "Hang on, girls!"
Rarity let out a piercing shriek as the entire gondola of the Friend Ship vanished in a percussive burst of white light.
A moment later, the wind howled in the empty sky as the purple gas bag emblazoned with the Harmony Aeronautics crest rose silently toward the stratosphere, trailing ropes with smoking ends beneath it.
Soarin's world was a wind tunnel, with nothing but his labored breathing and the distant mirage of Canterlot beyond his outstretched fore hooves, the relentless thud of his heartbeat in his ears, the roar of the wind in his face. His wings ached bitterly, as did his sides as he fought back against the pain and strove to keep his breath even, keep his pace up, keep his mind sharp from the creeping haze that threatened to envelop it.
Ahead was the goal. Ahead was his proof. Ahead was his prize. A better prize than all the medals and all the trophies and all the photo ops and autograph signings in the world. A home, a family, Applejack. To look into those green eyes of hers and see admiration and pride.
But first, he had to climb this last mountain, and he hoped his body would hold out. An alarming tingle was making itself felt down his left side, and in spite of his effort to control his breathing, he found himself gasping as he pushed himself against fatigue and the resistance of the very air ahead of him.
A sharp crack rang out, followed by a cry, startling Soarin out of his desperate reverie. His head whipped around to see Pip tumbling into a dizzy tailspin, flailing his legs and struggling to regain control of his flight path. With a sparking curse, the sky blue pegasus pulled a wobble winged chandelle and dove like a hawk toward his plummeting wing pony. In short order he grasped hold of the harness in his fore hooves, grunting with effort as he fought to gain altitude with his newly added burden. He spoke in clipped gasps as they rose. "Pip... Talk to me... What happened?"
The spotted test pony shook off his dizzyness and craned his neck with a frown, looking over the harness as best he could. The left forward vane seemed to be flapping erratically. "Bally hinge snapped a shaft. It was one of the patch jobs Doctor Sparkle and Apple Bloom did. Ugh... I can make it move but it's numb, like my ruddy leg fell asleep and I'm trying to walk on it."
Soarin let out a sigh as he tightened his grasp on the harness straps. "Okay. I guess we'll get the bosses to look at it once we get to Canterlot."
Pip's brow furrowed. "What do you think you're doing, mate? We should put down hooves and send up a flare."
The older stallion gave a shake of his head. "I'm doin' my job, kid, getting you and the Moth across the finish line."
The spotted earth pony cast a glare at his partner. "See here, mate..."
Soarin let out a chuckle. "You want me to let go."
Before Pip could reply, another crack sounded and one of the spars snapped. He nervously cleared his throat. "Er... perhaps not..."
He pulled the harness and its wearer closer to his chest with a grim smile on his face. "Just give me what lift you can. We don't have far to go now..."
The Friend Ship's gondola re-materialized over the royal parade grounds, smoking slightly as the trio of mares clustered at its rail stared with wide eyes out of soot blackened faces. Twilight's horn was glowing white at the tip fading through yellow and orange to deep red at the base. All three glanced upward, staring blankly at the utter lack of a gas bag overhead. A beat later they opened their mouths wide in a full throated scream as the basket plummeted earthward.
They cut off with a threefold squeak as the un-tethered gondola came to a sudden stop, enveloped in a shimmering aura of golden magic. They clung to the rail and craned their necks to watch in amazement as they drifted gently down and settled onto the blasted, scarred turf. As they sat blinking in disoriented relief, a snowy white shape with broad, gleaming wings flashed overhead and fluttered down for a landing in front of them, trailing disorganized swirls of ethereal colors.
Princess Celestia's violet eyes widened as she looked them over with concern creasing her soot stained brow. "My little ponies! Are you all right?"
Twilight practically launched over the rail, throwing her forelegs around her mentor's graceful neck in a joyful embrace. "Princess! Oh thank... thank you that you're all right!"
The eternal sovereign of the sun's voice cracked slightly as tears pooled at the corners of her eyes, and she brought her tapering wings forward to return her former student's hug. "Thank me and Luna that you're all right, my darling Twilight."
After a moment they disengaged from their embrace and pushed back to look one another in the face, both suppressing wry smiles as each saw that the other was wearing a layer of soot on their face.
Rarity let out a tremulous giggle as she spoke up, wiping a bit of the black stain on her own alabaster cheeks. "Well... we all seem to have hit upon a new style, n'est ce pas? Tres avant garde, non?"
The three mares and their immortal ruler shared a brief laugh, before Twilight looked her teacher in the eyes. "It's certainly been an... interesting week, hasn't it?"
Celestia sighed and let out a chuckle with a fond shake of her head, a warm smile settling on her face. "That it has, my ever faithful student... that it has."
Unicorns and alicorn alike turned as Apple Bloom's concerned voice sounded from down the rail. She was peering through the telescope with a her brow furrowed beneath her pink bandanna. "I hate t' interrupt, gals, yer highness, but it's fixin' t' git a mite more interestin' if'n somepony don't drop that shield spell 'fore th' racers git here."
As one they turned to see the expanding ring of a sonic rainboom in the distance.
A look of resolve settled on the princess' face as she turned, stroking Twilight's mane with a wing tip as she raised her head. "Pardon me, my beloved ponies, but duty calls."
She stepped a few hooves away and braced her long, slender legs as she regarded the shimmering purple dome overhead. With a complex motion of her blackened, tapering horn, she drew her sun shaped cutie mark in the air in a gleaming tracework of light. She gave it a gentle tap in the center, and it rose up, growing into a vast spinning glyph a hundred hooves across until it contacted the shield dome. The magical barrier flickered and vanished with a gentle fzzt sound, followed by a low, rumbling BOOM in the distance as the sound from the rainboom finally reached Canterlot.
A split second later, a cyan blur trailing a rainbow contrail slashed low across the turf, cutting twin stripes of blackened grass across the finish line. It snapped into the familiar figure of Rainbow Dash, who stood with her wings flared looking around frantically. "What happened? What's going on? Is everypony okay? Are we under attack?"
She looked up at the banner overhead, and then looked around her with dawning realization in her maroon eyes. "Did... Did I just win?"
A thunderous roar of applause arose from the crowd of ponies, relieved to have something to cheer about instead of screaming in terror. A giddy smile came to Dash's flushed face. "OhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygosh! I won! I won the Pegathalon!"
A shout came from the edge of the field accompanied by the thudding of galloping hooves. "YEEE HAW!"
They all turned to see Applejack and Pinkie Pie bounding onto the field, with the pink mare's daughter Puddin' bouncing and blowing spit bubbles in her foal carrier. Her elder sister Tootsie screamed ahead with her Dash doll clamped in her dainty muzzle and her best friend Windfall trailing close behind. Fluttershy was at the edge of the grandstands, Staring down a security pony and several bronze armored guards who'd tried to stop them from getting onto the field. They huddled back apologetically as she wheeled and trotted out to catch up with her friends and daughter.
Twilight, Rarity, and Apple Bloom kicked up their hooves with a shout of joy and galloped over to join in the group hug, the Elements of Harmony and their families reuniting with laughter and smiles all around.
Princess Celestia stood back and smiled a beatific smile as Princess Luna and Shining Armor popped into being beside her in tandem bursts of teleportation magic. As soon as they'd ascertained what was going on, the unicorn guard captain tossed aside his enclosed helmet, revealing the close cropped stubble of his formerly singed off mane over his glistening eyes and wide grin as he bounded over to greet his sister with a hug. The pale princess of the sun gave a contented sigh and laid her wing across Princess Luna's dusky withers, sharing a private smile with her sibling.
A few minutes later, another roar went up from the crowd as a dusky purple pegasus stallion with a comet tailed star for a cutie mark glided in for a landing. Dash disengaged from her friends and strutted over to greet Shootin' Star with a hoof bump up high, down low, and too slow, before leaping forward to hug him. "Way to go, Star! That's one for the record books!"
The young Wonderbolt let out a merry laugh. "I gotta get ya to teach me that move, darlin'."
They turned as the spectators set up another cheer, as the tawny, blonde maned figure of Golden Bay, with his life partner Granola close behind, sailed across the finish line with an exultant whoop.
After a few more minutes of excited chatter and horseshoe shaped garlands of flowers being brought out and hung over the first, second, third, and fourth place winners withers, another roar went up from the crowd, tinged with murmurs of uncertainy. A double pony with two sets of wings approached, flying erratically as it dropped precipitously toward the field.
Twilight galloped forward with her tail hiked, wrenching the telescope free from the wreckage of the Friend Ship's gondola and raising it to her eyes. "It's them! It's Pip and Soarin!"
The Harmony Aeronautics team wobbled in the air, the left wing creaking as they dipped drunkenly toward the battle scarred turf. Pip kicked his sturdy earth pony legs and bounded them both back into the air, sending them on a final weaving nosedive over the line.
He tripped on the ripped up sod, the damaged wing snapping loose and fluttering in a crazy spiral as he skidded face first to a stop. Soarin flipped end over end and rolled to a stop with his wings splayed and his hooves sticking up in the air. His tongue flopped out of his mouth as a gargling sound bubbled up from his throat and he eyes faded out to X's.
The Apple sisters were instantly on the move, galloping toward their beaus with a loud cry of their names.
Apple Bloom skidded to a stop and knelt down beside Pip. He reared his head up and shook it, and spat out a mouthful of sod before giving her a gleaming smile, which was quickly buried in a passionate kiss.
Applejack stood over Soarin with a frantic look on her face, tears streaming down her freckled cheeks. At the sound of her calling his name again, he stirred, the X's in his eyes rolling aside to reveal his unfocused green irises. He looked up at her, her golden tresses and the white circle of her stetson's brim outlined in gleaming sunlight. He murmured, entranced by her beauty. "Am... am I in Elysium?"
Her expression melted into a smile of boundless relief as she shook her head. "No, darlin'. Yer in Equestria with me..."
Soarin smiled through his aches and pains as he pushed himself up, his lips meeting hers in a kiss. "Even better."
Nearby, Rarity sidled up to her partner's side and let out a sigh as she laid her forehead against the lavender mare's neck. "We did it, darling. We did it."
Twilight nodded, beaming with satisfaction. "Yes! Harmony Aeronautics' team tied for fifth place. Which is rather good considering nopony's ever done it our way before."
They leaned on one another as the majestic figures of Spike and Quillina could be seen making their final approach, with Flies Like Thunder and Long Range wheeling over the hills in the distance, bearing the end of a very eventful Pegathalon on their wings.
Flights of royal guard pegasi began to drop off the disheveled, shellshocked passengers of the Ambrosia after rescuing them from the airship's catastrophic deflation. To a pony, despite their finery being in tatters and their faces smudged and soot stained, they all wore expressions of extreme relief and joy at having their hooves on good old terra firma. Several were actively kissing the ground.
A cadre of the armored unicorns had winked in and formed a cordon around the Princesses, Harmony Aeronautics, and their friends at Shining Armor's command, allowing them some privacy and respite from the clamoring crowd. Twilight expended the last reserves of her magical energy to duplicate the grooming spell she'd seen the Spectacular Trixie perform in Los Pegasus, cleaning and combing Princess Celestia, Rarity, Apple Bloom, and herself in a shimmer of purple sparkles as more cameras came to be pointed in their direction.
Pinkie Pie pondered the proceedings, pouting pensively as a plethora of ponies populated the parade grounds while the paparazzi procured pictures. She stroked her chin with a hoof, watching as more and more spectators found their way down from the stands to gather on the field in merrily chattering clusters, talking excitedly about the results of the race while flashbulbs sparkled all around.
After a few moments of alliterative analysis, the pink mare brightened up, jabbing a hoof skyward. "I know just what we need right now."
Twilight cast a look toward her with a cocked eyebrow, well aware of what the answer would be when she asked. "What's that, Pinkie?" Her shared glance with the Princesses, Rarity, Fluttershy, Dash, and the Apple Sisters confirmed to her that they all knew what their cotton candy colored friend would say next as well.
The frizzy maned earth pony drew in breath and bunched up her knees in preparation to give her answer, when she was interrupted by her infant daughter Puddin' waving her little hooves and calling out in a loud squeak. "Pawtee!"
Pinkie's legs stiffened as she looked down at her tiny, burbling foal. "Chocolate and Peanut Butter! Puddin' just said her first word!"
She cocked an eyebrow of her own as she looked back at her friends with a mystified expression. "Funny, it was Tootsie's first word too. What're the odds?"
They all exchanged bemused looks as she reached up with a hoof and gave her infant daughter a gentle poke in the belly with the tip of a hoof, eliciting a bubbly giggle. "That's right, Puddin', it's time for a party! Yes it is! Yes it is!"
She started bouncing on her hooves. "A Yay for Dashie Winning the Race, Yay for Twilight and Rarity Winning the Royal Charter, Yay for Applejack and Soarin' Getting Engaged to Get Hitched, Yay for Apple Bloom and Pip Making Up and Going Steady, Yay For Princess Celestia Not Blowing Her Top Over Her Guards Having Accidents Anymore, Yay For Everypony Else Not Getting Blown Up, Glued Together, Burned, Poison Joked, Lost In a Sandstorm, Replaced by Changelings, Thrown In Jail, Getting Crushed by a Blimp or Hit By Any More Pies Than Necessary, Glad We Made It to the Pegathalon After Party Party!"
She took a deep breath, and turned to fish through her laden saddle bags, producing a brightly blue and pink striped object roughly the size of an orange, more a large grapefruit, actually. She held the sphere on her hoof, catching a pin in her teeth and pulling it free, then lobbing it high overhead with an exultant cry. "Heads up, everypony!"
It exploded about a hundred hooves up in a burst of pink and moments later it was raining multicolored balloons, streamers, and confetti across the breadth of the parade ground over the startled, then mystified, then delighted crowds of ponies below. As the brightly hued decorations rained down without sign of stopping, the other Elements of Harmony looked around in amazement. Tables full of cake and punch and a surfeit of other tasty treats seemed to have been set up out of nowhere, along with colorful blue and white striped pavilions for revelers to gather beneath.
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.