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Pride in the Sky (Closed: Wonderbolts)

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The stiff northern winds were the worst type of flying headwind out there, though headwinds as a class were notoriously unkind anyway. Wonderbolts often trained when they were strong as a way to increase wing strength and learn to persevere despite the challenges presented. That was what it meant to be a Wonderbolt. Ot wasn't about how flashy your moves were or how fast you were, your name or style or promotion. In the face of challenges how you reacted defined you, and a Wonderolt always came through despite the odds. It is what separated them from the dozens of local flight demonstration teams who did amazing acrobatic moves at the drop of a hat and risked their lives to make a name but when the going went tough couldn't keep up. That was what the Wonderbolts were about more than anything- endurance. Enduring a gruelling schedule, the training, the pony eat pony world of high-class flying. It was all about endurance.

So was the Derby. The public Derby was a short series of races they ran for charity in Canterlot. The Wonderbolts raced each other as well as other teams for a full day. Exhausting but something they were used to. The money they raised for charity was enough to offset any complaints they had about fatigue that day. But this was not that derby. There would be no fawning fans looking for autographs or reporters to write glowing reviews about their formations and ballets in the sky, nor Princesses to open and close ceremonies or money to be made. There would be no audience for what they did and no rankings to be had. For all of their inherent showponyship, nothing could be more important than the few events that were restricted to Wonderbolts only. And the Derby today was the sort of event that was kept closr to the breast of the Wonderbolts for all of the right reasons.

It was a team-building exercise. They had a few but none were wrapped up in a supposed race-type atmosphere. Nopony got anything for winning and truth be told it wasn't important if you did. The naturally competitive tried to win and those that did not have the same fiery ambition took it a bit easier. What was important was how you flew with your partner. Adjusting to one another's flight styles was perhaps one of the most important lessons a Wonderbolt had to learn and no amount of training could give you the proper experience. Only away from a highly structured environment and in the open Equestrian sky could you see how another honestly flew and only after you saw that could you adapt. For the Derby the Wonderbolts were paired up and would go from Cloudsdale into the lakes and around the edges, returning along the Arod River. The started at six in the morning and would end whenever the last pair came back to camp, usually around six or eight in the evening. Then they would have a huge meal and be merry and break for the week before returning back to the schedule.

Soarin' always liked the Derby. It may have mostly been because he was a little older when he joined the Wonderbokts but he always loved the lore and the style of the Derby. It had been started centuries ago, back when the Wonderbolts were transitioning from the REA into the civilian sector by orders of the Princess as part of a grand military downsizing. The REA had a rigorous training schedule that the Wonderbolts suddenly lacked. More than simply keeping skills and physical attributes up the Derby was created as a way to keep the team close together and to teach lessons about teamwork. That was why highly talented individuals were paired with individuals who were more skill, evening the teams out. The real secret you learned once you saw a dozen derbies was that those on the way out of the main team were often paired with up and comers to give theur perspective. Only rarely did somepony try and play a self-serving role. Maybe it was good old fashioned Equestrian honesty or maybe it was the knowledge that the final act had been written one way or another and all you could do was delay it and hurt the team in the process with a lie, but Wonderbolts on their way out propped the new kids up quite a bit.

Perhaps that was a role he was expected to play this year. That would explain his pairing with Rainbow Dash. She was clearly the single most talented pony to have joined the Wonderbolts in generations. She moved at such a crackling speed that she was often less than a blur. Her moves were both abundant and crisp and she had the confidence to back it up. She was a natural performer once her demons were conquered and had all the energy of youth that would be needed once she was out performing five or six days a week. She wasn't flawless, though. While it hadn't reared its ugly head since, stage fright was rumored to have plagued her at least once. She was brash and at times hard to deal with based on reports. And while she moved like lightning, a Wonderbolt had to learn to regulate his or her speed so the audience could actually see. Considering everything that could be wrong with a pony though, and knowing two of her three so-called 'issues' may have been based on single incidents or the past and not play a part in her future.

Compare with Soarin'. He was getting older. His wings carried him to less and less speed every year. His moves were still crisp and clean but the more demanding moves were being shuffled out of his repertoire. The travel was getting harder and harder and he was doing less and less shows. He wasn't proud of his stuttering ineffectiveness when he was at the end of his rope but it wasn't a question of will or attitude. He had been doing this for more than twenty years. He was rich and happy and ready to enjoy some nice pies in retirement. But he was a competitor, a challenge seeker, and somepony not willing to give in to the dying light just that quickly. He would drag his body through on event after another until somepony came around and beat him out of his position. That would explain his pairing with Rainbow Dash. She was much better than he was now. Heck, even at his best she was still probably better. But he would watch and observe and see how she handled adversity. That was his Captain's orders,

And so he waited at the end of the ramp at camp. Some teams had already arrived and taken off- no set point for everypony to go since winning and losing didn't matter. Once Dash arrived, they'd jet. He couldn't wait to fly with his eventual replacement.

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Spitfire squinted her eyes for a moment. She was up quite high, so high that is was hard to make out what ponies were on the strip below. She assumed a couple of Wonderbolts pairs would already have taken off for the Derby. Some of them, the newer ones, might have arrived even before the six o'clock start time and taken off. She couldn't blame them really. Being part of the Wonderbolts derby added excitement to the life of every professional flier on the team. She had arranged to meet up with Lightening Streak at a little after six for the take off.

The yellow mare dropped altitude, coming in for a hover landing at the edge of the landing strip. Soarin' was there. It seemed Soarin' was always there. She could count of him like no other pony. The leader of the famed Wonderbolts nodded to her counterpart, a slim smile spreading over her muzzle.

"Kinda early for a workout, don't you think Soarin'?" It was a leading question. Everypony knew Spitfire was up and stretching her wings before the crack of dawn most mornings. she had in fact scheduled practices with the whole team at rather unsightly hours. Starting the event at six seemed late to her. But she would never dream of changing the start time. This Derby was all about tradition! Spitfire loved tradition, it was part of the reason she had taken on the role of Captain for the Wonderbolts. Participating in this event was an honor, an honor she deeply felt. Especially in her position of procuring the Wonderbolts name.

"Funny that we're not paired together this time huh? I guess it would have given us unfair advantage." She smiled again, savoring the feeling at being an old hack at these sort of things. Not a springy newbie like some of those other teams.

"Lightening Streak should be here soon... Got yourself the firecracker this year didn't you?" Spitfire let her mind wander to Dash. There was just something about that mare that made Spitfire think a little to long on her. "Way to go."

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Dash was excited. Very excited. She was going to fly with the Wonderbolts! Sure, she was only a reserve, but ... WONDERBOLTS! And she was going not to a public exhibition, but at the private, Wonderbolts-only event! She wasn't sure exactly what was going to be expected of her there, but she could guess that it would be some sort of hazing or test ... She had barely slept last night, she was so excited, (and a few bouts of being scared of messing up) that she hadn't even gotten to bed till the wee hours of the morning.

Of course, that didn't help. And she wasn't a morning pony, anyway. And THEN Spitfire had this terrible habit of making the recruits get up at horrifying hours ... like this one ... how was a pony supposed to get in their normal, healthy 10 hours of sleep? So she might be a little bit laggy this morning ... that's fine. She'd wake up for competition and stuff. And she'd squeeze in some naps later. And she had coffee. Coffee was good. Her wings were spread as she flew carefully through the sky, taking small sips of the large mug cupped in her forehooves.

And she might have been pushing the line as she came into the camp area, but she was on time. By at least thirty seconds. She dropped altitude, not realizing she was following in the wake of Spitfire not too long ahead of her, her eyes scanning over the strip. She'd been told to report to Soarin' as she got in. And her lifelong-trained eye to pick out Wonderbolts in their aerial events found him instantly. He was one of those few constants of the Wonderbolts. As long as she could remember, since she was a little filly, Soarin' had been there, leading the aerial team, showing them how it was done. He wasn't far behind Cirrus McCloud on her list of childhood crushes. But that was when she was little, she was much more mature now. That wouldn't affect things at all.

She came into a slightly unsteady landing, her hooves beating out a chaotic pattern on the strip. She was a bit more tired than she thought, it seemed. And she had been flying carefully to preserve her cargo.

She stopped before Soarin' and Spitfire, saluting crisply, her head high, her back arched, and all traces of tiredness gone from her, except for maybe in her eyes. She was wearing her sleek and aerodynamic recruit uniform, as she assumed she was supposed to, complete with a proper set of flight goggles and a small flight satchel that hugged close to her side instead of a full, unwieldy set of saddlebags. "Rainbow Dash, Wonderbolt Recruit!" eeeeeeeeee! "reporting for duty!"

Then she nosed into her satchel and pulled out a small, triangle-shaped, cloth-wrapped package. "And I was sent ... that is ... I wanted to give ... um ... somepony made some carrot-squash crumble pie and I thought you might want a slice?" She gave a big, bashful grin, so that one could almost hear the faint *squee*.
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Overhead, the last to arrive, was a orange mane'd wonderbolt gliding like he had all the time int eh world, he did a slow spiral descent and landed without so much as bending the nearby grass "Well" he said "quite a nice morning for a flight I must say, I do hope you all remembered to eat at least five cans of beans yesterday so we can make our smoke trails" he said, with a smirk - by now spitfire and soarin would have been tired of the joke, but since it was the first time dash had been present, streak was clearly trolling her instead of the others.

Streak leaned lazily against a nearby tree. Many thought he was getting too old, after all he was past his prime, though that hadn't affected his performance in the least. In fact there was some rumor that Dash had been recruited to replace him when he retired (and soon) and while times like this did make him seem to be getting slower and mroe carefree, anyone who had seen even one of his performances at a ralley or race would know he was fast, he was sly, and he was cutthroat, there was a very good reason he had the nickname "trick lightning"

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"Kinda early for a workout, don't you think Soarin'?"

Ahh, there was the firecracker leader of the Wonderbolts. She loved her traditions and her schedule a bit too much for his taste at first but as he got older and woke up earlier he found her schedule a bit more to his liking. Old man Soarin' and his old man early rising style certainly fit better than equivalent members of the Wonderbolts could likely handle. “Not early enough. Start at four next time, captain. Gonna miss my radio dramas!” He responded to her leading, poking fun at his age. Sure he wasn't quite that old and the elderly pony stereotype didn't quite fit but it was funny enough to him.

“Funny that we're not paired together this time huh? I guess it would have given us unfair advantage. Lightening Streak should be here soon... Got yourself the firecracker this year didn't you? Way to go."

Soarin' snickered. Pairing with Spitfire in the past had provided more than a few in-jokes and good memories, but in all honesty he was happy to have somepony else. It was always good to fly with somepony new during the Derby to get a feel for them, only rarely literally. It was also always good to compartmentalize but they both knew why he was paired with Rainbow Dash. Oldest Wonderbolt on the active team, closest to being on his way out and known for his ability to evaluate talent fairly, paired with the most talented flier in generations? Nopony had to be genius to figure that out. He would be gone soon and unless Dash messed up royally she would be his replacement. “Well, we don't want to hoard all the shortcuts to ourselves now, do we? No fun if we're the only ones racing through the Gap every year. And yeah, Rainbow should be exciting. You can expect my report in the morning, no matter what though,” he finished in a whisper as he saw his charge land terribly. Spitfire would know the drill.

Rainbow approached, her landing seemingly drained but quickly perking up. She still hadn't conquered one of the flaws he had gathered during the interview process, but it was a minor point for now. For a pony as amazingly talented and athletic as she, too many complaints about a poor sleep schedule. That'd be beat out of her by her travel and show schedule eventually.

"Rainbow Dash, Wonderbolt Recruit! Reporting for duty! And I was sent ... that is ... I wanted to give ... um ... somepony made some carrot-squash crumble pie and I thought you might want a slice?"

Also, still a bit too nervous around her fellow Wonderbolts. Common for a recruit. Unknown to her however, Rainbow was on the fast track to stardom. She needed to have those issues laid to rest quicker than most. That was the biggest reason she had been assigned to the Derby, even before the potential for Soarin' to figure her out became a focus. He also liked pie. He took it, lifted up his flight mask, and started eating it before he could even mash out a reply to her. After a few bites of her pie he nodded and smiled, licking the pie off of his lips.

“Welcome, Rainbow. Glad to see you're all bright and sunny this morning and ready to go. Pie is pretty delicious! Who made it?” He asked as Lightning flew over and came to a stop at his normal perch.

"Well, quite a nice morning for a flight I must say, I do hope you all remembered to eat at least five cans of beans yesterday so we can make our smoke trails."

What a bad joke. Nopony was going to mistake Lightning, a fellow oldy, for a comedian. He was a good flier though. Him and Spitfire would have a ball. He nodded towards them and waved, excited to see them off. He was still eating his pie.

“Nice to see you too, Lightning. Don't quit your day job,” Soarin' replied sardonically before shaking his head and turning back to Rainbow. At firs he spoke loudly so they could all hear.

“Four teams have already taken off, so they'll be real sorry when we fly right up their flanks in a few," he refocused on his partner, "Dash, this is a Derby. A team building exercise- we fly in pairs. Gosh, this pie is so good...anyway, we fly in pairs. We go from Cloudsdale around the Lakes and come back on the edges of the Arod. We get back and have a big meal at the camp and break for the week. This IS a race, but it doesn't matter if you win or lose. It matters how you fly with your partner...who made this pie oh my Celestia...anyway, anyway GULP I am your partner this year. Ready to fly, Wonderbolt Dash?”

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Spitfire had to admire Rainbow's enthusiasm. It was obvious she was straight out of speed training and would need more work on the team ethics of the Wonderbolt, but there would be time enough for that later. Right now they could focus on their flight and leave their cares behind. At least that's what Spitfire was hoping to accomplish. it seemed so seldom that she got to just fly, just feel the wind in her wings and not care about anything. Not rosters, or ranking, or flight competitions, or sponsors, or any of the things that came with being Captain. That was her hope for today, to just fly.

"I'll pass on the pie, but thanks Rainbow. I don't need anything weighting me down up there." She nodded up to the sky that they would soon all be flying through.

The Captain had rolled her eyes at Streak's joke. The first time it was sort of funny, the second not so much, what was this? The fifth time she had heard it? She knew it was for Rainbow's benefit...but still! She smiled to herself. Nothing like working with the Wonderbolts, especially the old hacks like Soarin' and Streak.

"Ok Streak? You ready to catch up with some of those other teams? See you up there Rainbow." The Captain winked mischievously at the recruit. "If you can keep up."

Spitfire flexed her wings once before lowering her flight goggles and jetting into the sky. She stretched forward, feeling her flight muscles flex. It was a good day to be a Wonderbolt!

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Rainbow Dash let out a *squeek* as Lightning Streak descended from the sky, and her eyes widened at his question, brief panic surging through her. "Oh no! Nopony told me - I mean, I forgot - I mean ... " Then his question actually clicked, along with the smirk on his face ... "Oh! Oh, I get it! Ha, good one!" She giggled her squeaky little giggle, ending with a snort, and then turned her attention to Soarin'.

He kept asking after the pie, but she didn't really have a chance to answer as he kept talking ... she'd start to talk, wait... start to talk ... wait ...

Wait, what?!

"Doesn't matter?! Whu... but ... I don't understand! How ..." She looked up as Spitfire flew off into the sky. "YOU BET I'M READY!" she called after Spitfire, then back to Soarin'. "How can it not matter if we win or lose, if it's a race?! What other reason is there to have a race, than to win?!"

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((sorry, Stuff happened and I've not been on the site for a while >.<))

Streak shook his head, 'foals' he thought to himself, but he smiled, still remembering back when he acted like that... was it last Wednesday? Yes, he might be older but that only meant he had more tricks in his bag than a lot of the others and he would use them whenever he got the chance, or if he noticed someone bending the rules too far... after all the fans never knew when a 'mistake' in a smoke-stream that knocked a pony back a little or out of the way of a dirty move, was planned or not...

He shifted his weight back to his hooves "I was ready back before you were born" he quipped with a warm smile, his tongue may seem barbed at times but it was blunted by his good nature, even if sometimes he might accidentally go too far... he'd have to watch himself around the new recruit until he knew where her 'soft spots' lay so he would upset her too much... He took to the skies, at first he seemed to not even care about what he was doing or how fast he was going, then for a moment he was just a blur, but just a moment, as if to remind them all he still *was* one of the top five wonderbolts on the team "remember everypony, we want a nice clean fight, I mean flight" he snickered "And for celestia's sake, dont think you can sneak in a.... *ahem* stink bomb into your smoke trails... like somepony tried last time..." he said, glancing about

"Now, lets see if we can get this right on the first try" he smiled as he flew over to his partner, it would be fun messing with the new recruit, he hoped he'd get the chance since she clearly was not aware of all the protocol or history of the races and his behind-the-scenes antics that were neigh infamous at times...

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The Wonderbolts were a rare breed for more than their talent and skill honed to a razor's edge and put on display fpr the world to see. Granted, that was their rare-breed right as well and one they flaunted exceptionally. Instead, what made them rare was when you combined all that skill and talent with elite teamwork and that did not begin in the sky, it began on the ground, in the classroom, when bunking together, through word and action. Today, Rainbow Dash would learn the value of teamwork whether she wanted to learn it this way or not and Soarin' was excited to teach her. And toy with her, which was honestly half the fun of teaching this lesson, doubly so when the target was some cutie with the need for speed and an itch to win. So much like Spitfire, so much fun to play around with. He had to get his revenge somehow!

Soarin' finished the pie to the last morsel, licking the plate clean as he did so. He then casually and slowly put it all away and smiled at Dash, flapping his wings lazily. Then he put an arm around her and beckoned to the sky in a grand fashion, still smiling as wide as he could manage.

“Dash, don't be so intense all the time. Sure, whoever wins gets a nice, big meal cooked by the greatest chefs in all of Equestria and a plaque on the wall. Sure, losers are considered losers who lose, but none of that matters in this Derby. It is all about good, solid teamwork and today you're going to show everypony what a great teammate you can be,” Soarin' said as he stepped away, flapping his wings and hovering in place.

“Okay. You ready? I'm ready. Remember, no matter what, we need to finish together. Let's fly!”

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Now, lets see if we can get this right on the first try.

Spitfire couldn't help but smirk as her teammate for the derby flew up next to her. That Streak, he always had some kind of quip or off color comment to share with those nearby. No doubt he would be using the derby as a chance to try some of his jokes out on new recruits and she would just have to put up with it.The thought turned her smirk into a smile. A closed mouthed smile considering she wasn't exactly flying slowly, but nonetheless a smile. She kept her front hooves in a forward position, cutting down on wind resistance and turned her head just slightly to speak to Lightening.

"Well, that shouldn't be too much of a problem for the Wonderbolts captain and an old hack like you eh Streak?" She had been eying a bank of clouds that was building in the direction in which they were flying. Clouds were nothing to a flier like the Wonderbolts produced. "I just hope I don't get so sick from bean jokes that my wings cramp up..."

Spitfire chanced a glance backwards by looking down and to the side. She was certain Soarin' and Rainbow would soon be tailing them. "I bet it's all Soarin' can do to keep Rainbow Dash in one piece. There's nothing like being invited to fly with the best, would you say Streak?"

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Rainbow Dash made more of those spluttering confused noises. Losing Losers who Lose. Not important?! "I don't... but that's.." She shook her head. Confusion or not, they were getting away! "We'll be the best team AND we'll win!" she declared, and with a spring and a downthrust motion fo her wings, she took to the air. "What's the route, Sir?" she asked, though she took the lead right off the bat - she could follow the other Wonderbolts for now, trusting that they knew where they were going.

That was a heck of a big bank of clouds up ahead, though! She grinned. She loved racing in storms. It was such a rush! "Are we headed through there?" she asked. "We can let a few of them take the lead ... if they punch through, we can follow after their wake, let them use up their energy clearing the path while we take advantage of the channel. If the ones in front waste their time going around, then we can punch through and gain a lead on them! Sound like a plan?" She paused ... Not that Soarin' was slow, but he was getting on in years, and she had the energy of youth on her side! "If we punch through, I'll take point, and you can follow my wake! I do weatherwork for a living just now, so it just makes sense!" she tried awkwardly to hide the fact that she was covering for him.

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Streak snickered, a dark grin on his face as he passed *just* close enough to hear Dash's plans

When he caught up to spitfire he nodded above the cloud-bank, indicating his suggestion that she take that rout discretely, fromt he look on his face she would no doubt know he had some plan... the pegasus then began rubbing his hooves together, teh pads producing a charge that would work to aide in his little stunt. Once he was sure spitfire was a safe distance away he dove into the clouds and began kicking them, the charge on his hoofpads causing them to become unstable and within moments start discharging lightning! These were not storm clouds, though, the charge was weak and wouldn't last long, but it would be enough to sting and disorient the hot-shot newbie. He'd teach her not to underestimate them. The first rule of the wonderbolts, heck of all of life was 'There is always somepony better' so even if dash was 'the best' there would be somepony above her, and streak had his doubts, especially right now, that she was anywhere near 'the best' ...maybe in time, but right now she was too rough around the edges, and this might serve as a nice wakeup call before she really landed herself in trouble...

He grinned as he set his plan in motion. he wasn't called 'trick lightning' for nothing!

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Rainbow's flabbergasted look of complete confusion cockled the fires of Soarin's at times playfully cruel heart. Rainbow needed to learn that good humored vindictiveness that ran through the team as easily and readily as they disseminated skills and lessons amongst one another. But she banged up the negativity pretty well, quickly getting herself up and ready to go. Within moments they were in the sky, Soarin' following behind the lightning fast recruit with a gentle lazy streak empowering his wings to hard but slow flaps that brought him steadily behind Rainbow. Her plan was sound, and he definitely knew of her background as a weather pony. Following behind the other teams as they busted the clouds would surely make the trip easier on them both and would undoubtedly save their energy. But Soarin' was wise enough to realize that with Lightning just in front of them something negative would go down. Nopony around seemed to hide such niggling doubt and dislike of the new fliers like Streak did. He tested them beyond a reasonable limit at times. This would be no great difference, Soarin' believed.

Belief was vindicated nearly immediately. Lightning up ahead made his move, transforming several clouds into smaller storm clouds. It didn't take a weather pony to feel the change in air pressure that followed any storm cloud around like a rueful puppy. More importantly, he had positioned it directly in their path. There would be no circumventing it or going around as they were already moving into it. Sort of a poor move on Lightning's part and one Soarin' would have to talk to him about. It wasn't generally a good idea to try something that could hurt somepony if it goes even a little wrong. Pegasi were naturally far more resistant to the fury of the storm than others but being more resistant did not equal immune. It would hurt a little and if mistakes were made somepony could get hurt, a fact that Soarin' was pleased to use to his advantage. As silly a move as this was Soarin' knew he could use anything to his advantage as he went about the task of testing Rainbow Dash all day long.

The duo flew into the path of the mini storm, wracked and attacked by small-scale lightning bolts. One hit Soarin's right wing, which in truth did little but give him a mild shock. Nothing out of the norm. But it was the same wing he had hurt not too long ago during trials for the Equestria Games and he did like a bit of hamminess to his life.

“YiiiikKKKES!” he yelped, right wing nearly folding. He lost about two dozen feet of elevation before both wings started to flap and bring him back, albeit at a largely reduced speed, “unnf, I think that did a number on my wing. No biggie though, we'll just have to be cautious going forward. You can be cautious, right Dash?”

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Spitfire was slightly disappointed that Streak hadn't made any comments on what she had said. It was meant to be a jibe in good nature and she had been expecting one back from her teammate. Oh well, maybe Streak would feel more like joking around a bit once he got some tricks out of his system. She watched as he began to charge some of the smaller clouds inside the storm.

"Watch it Streak! Let's not get too carried away..." She spoke as a small lightening bolt almost shocked her tail end as she flew through the storm. Spitfire knew Soarin' could handle anything a storm could throw at him and he would take care of Dash so... why not just enjoy flying through a storm? "Look out storm, the Wonderbolts are comin' through!" She grit her teeth and sped up her wing beats. This would be fun!

As she moved through the storm Spitfire found all kinds of fun air currents and drafts to fly through. A particularly strong upwards flow caught the pegasus up and its swirling wake. Spitfire let it carry her up, up, up as she spun around. Having all this fun was costing her the lead but for some reason she let that thought go. Plus, she could always catch up later. She would over take any other pony out there...when she was ready.

Spitfire squinted down, trying to locate Streak, Soarin' and Dash. They couldn't be too far away. Ah! There they were...and it looked like Soarin' was having a little trouble. Spitfire waited to see if he would be alright. She figured he would be...this was Soarin after all!

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Rainbow Dash's eyes widened at seeing Soarin's sudden discomfort, and she remembered him getting hurt not too long ago. She gathered herself up as he recovered, her wings speeding up to a blur as she prepared herself... After all. She was the lead Weather Pony of Ponyville, a town known for its wild and unpredictable weather out of the Everfree Forest! She had to deal with weather-staggered team-mates all the time. If this sudden mini-storm thought it was gonna throw HER off, it had another thing coming!

Soarin thought they had to be cautious, eh? She knew exactly what 'cautious' meant. It meant she took all the danger onto herself so that her team-mates didn't have to worry about a thing! "Just watch me," she stated firmly, then 'took off the brakes'. She zoomed forward, leaving a streak of rainbow behind her, going into a barrel roll that increased in speed till she turned into a living blue drill, burrowing through the stormclouds. Her wings drove her forward, her hooves out to tap against the edges of this cloud tunnel she was building, letting off the electric charge contained within in a series of micro-lightning strikes, which followed after her in greater and greater number. Thudthudthudthudthud, her hooves rattled over the cloud, and the lightning followed along with a crackle and buzz, getting closer and closer, till she burst out the far end of the cloud and kept going, long spiralling tendrils of cloud pulled along after her. She straightened out and then dove as hard as she could, accellerating towards the ground, pulling the lightning after her and racing it down. At the last second, right before it hit her, she ducked to the side and let it fly past her to ground harmlessly out against the mountainside, pulling that speed around in a smooth arc to bring herself back up to where Soarin' was floating, wounded, in the lightning-drained cloud, with a clear tunneled path before him.

"Told ya it was awesome to swerve around lightning!" she crowed! "You OK?"
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((lol +1 for the call-back, noir ;)))

Lightning watched and frowned, of the two ponies affected, soarin was the one who apparently couldn't handle it, while the recruit not only had no problems but diffused the storm "Your Getting old, Soarin! Letting that filly show you up!" he teased, though good-naturedly, he was going to have to step this up, but this time he woudl have to make sure that soarin wasn't affected... well all that would take was seperating them, then lightning would charge up something even mroe pwoerful... he didnt like the new recruit's cocky attatude and (he assumed) empty boasts... she needed to be brought down to earth and realize she wasn't perfect just because she was recruited... becides, tehre was only room for ONE egomaniac on this team, and he had seniority over her!

Lightning grinned as he glanced over at spitfire, motioning to the two below and making motions with his hooves that they needed to seperate them, and no doubt spitfire woudl see that light in the stallions' eyes that he was going to do something crazy... and he was warning spitfire to get her mate out of there before he did...

((sorry it took me so long to reply, I was out of town))

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Rainbow Dash took care of the storm impressively, of that there was no doubt. All those skills and moves she had learned in trying to corral storms as the lead weather pony of Ponyville came in hoofy more times than not. The control needed, the sheer skill required, it was all quite impressive. In what seemed like a single blink of an eye she had beaten and diffused the storm, much to Streak's likely chagrin. If Soarin' knew Lightning at all he knew that Lightning wasn't likely to let it go this easily. He was a braggart and a showoff at heart and would need to feel as though Dash was toeing whatever imaginary line existed between proper respect and his fantasies. He would not take kindly to his little plan being foiled so effectively by Dash. Sadly for Dash, Soarin' wasn't looking to be saved. He didn't need it. He wasn't hurt. His job today was to test her patience and temperance and ensure that she had the maturity to fly on somepony's wing. Soarin' wasn't looking for a heroine, he was looking for a team member.

In this instance it had turned out that she had every skill available to handle it, but Soarin' had wanted her to follow orders and be cautious. Fly with him, ensure he was okay, move on with caution in deference to an injured team member. She was brave and highly skilled but she had also failed this small test. Many more would come and Soarin' was confident she would wind up on top, but not the best way to start. As she started to clear up the storm Soarin' made sure to clear up his flying pattern and regain wing composure, catching up to her as she finished and keeping his old pace with powerful thrusts of his wings. When the turbulence of her moves and the dissipating storm ended Soarin' took the lead.

“Good moves, Rainbow! Keep that up and you'll make first team soon for sure!” Hey, it never hurt to pump the recruits up. It also allowed him to ignore Lightning's old comments, which was funny coming from him. They'd probably enter the retirement home the same day. In any case, time for an extra test.

With Spitfire and Lightning up ahead and above them a bit, that gave Soarin' some room to move. He dove beneath the clouds and found the good start of the Tiny Wing Valley Current. A small and manufactured air current, Wonderbolt Sensation Tiny Wing had made it generations ago. So powerful and effective was her weaving of the wind that the little route she used every year to cheat and get ahead of the others was still active. With just a small turn of the wing Soarin' and Dash could get far ahead on the track and more or less guarantee victory. Only a few members of the Wonderbolts knew of the current and it wasn't something they let out of that tight circle because it was considered a dishonest path. While it was understandable to do so, taking this path instead of racing honorably was a faux pas of some magnitude. The fact that winning or losing the derby meant nothing made this a great place to test a pony's integrity.

“Psst, Dash,” Soarin' whispered as he got close, nodding over to the left side as they started flying through the current with cloud cover from above. One move to the left and they would soar and make the others as flustered as Spitfire around foals, “wanna take a shortcut? Might make the others mad but its just a derby, no reason not to cut a few corners to get ahead, right?”

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Spitfire continued to fly forward, though slowly as Lightening was motioning to her. He was bound and determined to give Rainbow a run for her bits today... and why not? The derby was a great place to test the mettle of a possible new first stringer. She had glanced at Soarin' a couple of times and noticed that he was fine. She knew he would be. It would take more than a few tiny sparks to shut down Soarin' of the Wonderbolts! Though she would never admit it to him, Spitfire had to admire the stallion. He was honorable to a tee and always had a way of making others feel comfortable. Maybe she would tell him how she felt... someday...maybe... Those thoughts would have to wait, it was time to make a decision when it came to Lightning's continued antics.

She watched a little longer than then nodded to her derby partner. Honestly she would have rather just had a good day of really stretching out her wings but well, this was a good opportunity to see what Rainbow was made of. Soon Spitfire had changed directions, making her way towards Soarin' and Rainbow. When she got near she called out to them.

"Hey guys! How's the derby been treatin' you?" She chucked Rainbow none too lightly on the shoulder. "Havin' a good time recruit?" After this she flew to Soarin's side and spoke quietly to him. "You know the Little Wing current is coming up soon... you haven't thought about slipping ahead have you?" She winked at him in good nature. If she could get Soarin' talking she might be able to get him away from Rainbow for a little while...

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Rainbow Dash eyed Soarin' carefully as he flew onwards - there was no evidence just now of the injured wing he'd been cradling just a few moments ago, but she'd heart that initial cry of pain. Well, Dash could understand why somepony might want to pretend they weren't as hurt as they really were, and she wouldn't bring it up if she didn't have to, but she'd just have to keep a close eye on him. When he wasn't looking, she bit quickly at her hooves in nervousness, looking over his wings for signs of serious damage. But as he turned back, she was back to her confident self. No way she was going to embarass SOARIN'! of all ponies! If he wanted to keep going, she would stick with him, she just had to be careful of her injured teammate.

At his whispered suggestion, she scrunched up in mid-air, double-hoof-pumping as her voice squeaked, "Sweet!" She barrel-rolled over Soarin to his other side and whispered back, "Totally! That sounds awesome!" Not to mention it'd get him off his wing sooner. "Wait, why would-"

She was going to finish that 'Make them mad?' but then Spitfire was suddenly there. Rainbow Dash grinned at Spitfire's attention. "Oh, it's all right, so far. Nothing really big happened yet." She couldn't help but glance nervously at Soarin' when she said that. But then it seemed like Spitfire wanted a quiet word with Soarin', and she let herself float a short distance away, politely. They weren't flying near hard enough, and she did a few barrel rolls and loop-d-loops to burn off her frustration. What kind of a race was this? But she didn't want to hurry Soarin' too much, so what was she going to do?
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Lightning looked down and frowned, Really? _3_ of them were going to cheat? Well, he couldn't abide by that! He headed down that way and stopped, he saw Dash all by herself... this would be almost too easy and no risk of hurting soarin...

Lightning blasted by her, cloud trail behind him as he looped around, trying to not only encase ehr in a cloud but completely disorient her so that she would fly the wrong way, possibly even crash...

The sad part was that Streak was going to keep escalating until he finally 'got her' at which point he'd stop, and if he didn't pull at least one prank over on her, he'd just keep escolating it upto and past the danger zone... much like his 'opponent' he didn't know when to quit either...

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That answer was unexpected. Taking a shortcut during a race, even a laid back one such as the Derby today, was something a competitive mare or stallion should frown upon. Equal opportunity and fairness under the rules were the cornerstone of sportsmanship and you had to have that to ever be a good teammate. You could play it off as if you cared for one another but if you didn't abide by a certain code of conduct then you ran the risk of being a dishonest user of your team member's abilities and honor. Another sour mark which made Soarin' rethink his upcoming retirement a bit! Just that tiny bit, though. Such things were shockingly common in youth and could be worked out with training and education. A pony of more substantial experience and temperament may not need such an education but Rainbow Dash was brash and exciting and in need of a bit of help before she could truly be a member of a team and not just an incredibly talented flier.

Soarin' opened his mouth to inform Rainbow that they had in fact just passed the shortcut and would have to rough it when Spitfire showed up. Quickly she moved to have a word while Dash flew off a bit to give them privacy, doing some loop de loops to burn off her energy. Good, good. She wasn't showing it much but she was getting frustrated! Testing her patience was part of the test and hopefully she wouldn't give him a third thing to check off. Dashie's education was getting specialist level and swiftly. As Spitfire started speaking, Dash was caught in another one of Lightning's little pranks. Well, little- little wasn't doing it justice. Per Lightning's usual MO it was big and dramatic, encasing Dash in a cloud. Not only did that further distance Dash from the crowd but it gave them even more privacy, allowing Soarin' to give Spitfire a half-lidded look and a vexed chuckle.

“Yeah, I was testing. You know, its hard to test Rainbow when every single moment I came up with something to test her with Lightning up there gets in the way...HEY, LIGHTNING BUDDY- MUZZLE IT!” Soarin; bellowed, his bellicose tone rumbling through the storm like a windcaller as he turned back to Spitfire, “you know she's an elite weather pony, right? If Lightning is trying to work out his crush this way he'll be frustrated in more ways than one. By the way, back to the main job- zero for two so far. Hopefully that score'll improve, right?” He offered pleasantly, hoping against hope that Dash wouldn't kick Lightning in both wings when she came out. Or maybe he was hoping for that- hard to tell sometimes.

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Spitfire glanced over at Lightning's latest antics. She knew he wouldn't quit until Rainbow had gotten a good taste of his trickery. Perhaps this move would finish his need to antagonize the new recruit. She could only hope so, all these tricks were getting in the way of a good solid day of flight. She had really been hoping to try some new moves with her partner but he seemed more intent of getting the attention of Rainbow at the moment.

By the way, back to the main job- zero for two so far. Hopefully that score'll improve, right?

The yellow mare frowned slightly. "Yeah, let's get things going here." She was going to ask about his wing at that point but she decided against it. If he really was hurt, Soarin' would let her know. It was unwritten that Wonderbolts tell their captain if they were too hurt to be doing their current tasks. No, Soarin' would be fine. He was always fine. Just having him around gave her confidence. She would never tell him that, but it was true.

Spitfire continued to watch the proceedings of Rainbow and Lightening. She wondered what the blue pegasus would do when she got out of that cloud...

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Rainbow Dash lifted an eyebrow as Lightning Streak started looping around her dragging clouds in a blatent attempt to disorient her. Really? Stories said that Lightning was a great pranker, but this was ... amateur stuff! She backwinged a little, hovering in place as the cocoon pulled in tighter, her weather training keeping her from becoming disoriented at all. But she did keep track of him making his way through the stormclouds, pulling them around her. Three ... two ... one ... she gave the surrounding stormcloud a little *tap* with her hoof to just suffuse it with the lightest *zap* of lightning, barely worse than you'd get from shuffling your hooves over shag carpet, while Lightning was passing his way through it.

"Psst, Lightning!" she hissed through the clouds, making sure her voice wouldn't carry to Soarin' and Spitfire. "Come'ere. Look, don't tell anypony, but Soarin' took a bad lightning bolt to his bad wing through that last batch of clouds ... he's trying to play it off like he's not hurt, but I saw how unsteady he was at first. Usually I'd love to trade pranks, but I wanna get Soarin' to the finish line ASAP, okay? Then we can prank war each other til we can't stand! And keep it quiet, 'kay?"

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Streak was starting to see red now, he was being undercut by a new recruit! Of all the things that could happen he was losing all his respect and authority to a newbie! He opened his mouth to let out something that probably woudl not have been appropriate for a stallion of his stature when a cloud rainbow had shaken loose bounced off the side of the rocks and hit him right in the wing, making him lose his balance and crash right into the side of the mountain!

Had this been a mission he might have been in trouble, but instead since it was a race the medical team was there in a hurry to take the barely-contious streak off to get medical attention... though at least this stopped his current antaginization of Dash, though no doubt it would only get far worse in the future since he saw his position, status, and supposed authority being undermined and stolen from him by her...

it wasn't long before he was taken off to the medical pavilion...

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Sometimes Soarin' had to reconsider who was a Wonderbolt and who wasn't by something other than skill. Actually, it was more than sometimes. It was the defining trait of what made a Wonderbolt a Wonderbolt. There was no shortage of highly skilled and gifted pegasi who could rocket across the sky in brilliant arrays of color and show off their wonderful tricks. What separated the wheat from the chaff was teamwork and adherence to the foundational philosophies of the team, the framework that allowed the Wonderbolts to become something more than the random flight teams that dotted Equestria. It had served them well all these years and Soarin' was excited to see if Rainbow Dash possessed the necessary moral fiber to really advance. What he hadn't expected was Lightning to continue his attempted pranking so far that he ended up harming himself- medical crews raced to pick him up, but Soarin' just hoped that it wouldn't be a problem in the future.

“Well, change of plans,” Soarin' announced with a laugh as he hovered in place. Great. It would be much harder to test Rainbow Dash now. They would have to fly as a trio- no member of the team was to ever fly unsupervised and/or alone- which would make his plan unbalanced. If Soarin' and Spitfire disagreed, then it would be blindingly obvious what the correct call was. If Soarin' and Spitfire agreed, Dash would likely follow regardless of what the proper decision was. Uggh. Okay, so maybe he'd have to shelve it for a bit, or maybe the two leaders could take turns being alone with her so they could test her. They'd ave to think of something no matter what though- Dash's test was only starting. “I guess we're flying trio now. Rainbow, you're the youngest so take the lead. If we run into any sky serpents you distract it while we run,” Soarin' smirked and went about getting the show on the road.

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