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Against the Red Lightning by Esuka Against the Red Lightning by Esuka
Hey all. So for the MLP Subreddit's 25k contest, I offered a commission as part of the grand prize. This is thus at the request of the generous JNew. Unfortunately, while I streamed nearly every minute of its creation, about 4 hours of footage was not saved. Thanks, Livestream. I can go ahead and create the video if people wish to see, but there would be a pretty... obvious gap. And, as my brain does on occasion, have a story following the break. I will offer up the pic for download unless JNew wishes me to take it down.

Done in CS4
MLP:FiM is (c) Hasbro

edit: 1920x1080 wallpaper version can be found at [link]

~***~

I never leave my friends hanging. That's not a guideline or a motto; that's a rule. So when my buddy AJ, one of my oldest friends, asks for a favor, all I need to know is where and when.

Turns out the favor wasn't for her, but for one of her friends. Shame, I would have liked to meet up with the gal again. It's been too long, but work, if you can call it that, keeps me moving around. AJ tells me to meet her friend at some landing strip outside of Appleoosa. She starts telling me how to find it, as if I don't already know. It's a miserable spit of pavement wedged between a rock and a hard place. Horrible for landing on. Great for getting in and out unnoticed.

I set down a day early, leave the bird perched in one of the makeshift hangars someone threw together at some point too far gone to give a feather about. As I step off the wing, I give Tank a look over. Poor girl needs a new coat of paint, but now's not the time. I add it to the list of things to do and head down the dirt road to town.

Appleoosa's a great place-- small, but it's got anyone and anything you could need. I make a beeline for the tavern, and, sure enough, I find the one stallion I couldn't love and hate to see more. Braeburn passes off another pint to some chunky colt; the tower of empty mugs is a few past you're-not-walking-home-tonight drunk, but he's downing the newest victim like a champ. I sidestep around the disaster waiting to happen and toss Braeburn a disbelieving look. He just shrugs; bits are bits.

“Well, if it ain't the fastest flier this side of the Griffon Empire. What can I do ya for, Dash?” He offers me a cool cider. I turn him down. One drinking contest with this guy's enough to last a lifetime. He shrugs again and starts in himself.

“Just passing through, Brae. Thought I'd drop by and see how you were.”

“Always passin' through. And how's Tank?”

“Needs paint, among a million other things.”

“Tsk, now that won't do, Dash. A plane's like a good mare. Treat her wrong and she'll be gone 'fore ya know it.”

“Yeah, tell the mare how to treat a mare.” Ass. “Must be why Prairie Flowers had such a thing for you. How far back was that again?” That annoying grin falls off his face.

“Now don't you start on that-”

“And then there was High Noon-”

“Rainbow-”

“Oh, and Peach Surprise! Well, the surprise part sure wasn't a lie.”

“You're evil.”

“I learned from the best.” You'd think the air would ignite from how hard we were glaring at each other. Braeburn cracked first. For as long as I've known the colt, he's never had a good poker face. He offers me another cider. I think better and accept it this time.

“Honest, Dash, y'all should come around more. Always nice ta see a friendly face.”

“Nothing personal, Brae, but there's too much rock here. I need the sky, y'know?”

“I know, I know,” he mutters over the rim of his mug,
“too much energy for your own good. So if it ain't the grand Appleoosa scenery, what's got ya in these parts?”

“Favor for your cousin. She needs me to meet someone for something, real hush hush.”

“Applejack? Hush hush? We talkin' 'bout the same mare, here?” He's got a point. Not many things make Applejack cautious. Then again, I laugh at half the stuff she backs away from.

“Guess I'll find out tomorrow. Speaking of that, you wouldn't happen to...”

“There it is.” Braeburn snorts, but his annoying grin betrays the frustration. “Cot's in the back. You know where the wash is.”

“Always a pleasure, pardner.” I tip my invisible hat and make my way to the door. A draft off my wing is all it takes to send the tower of mugs crashing down. The big lug was too plastered to notice.

***

Up before dawn, I have Tank fueled and greased up before the first sunbeams lick the top of the ravine. My helmet sits on my seat, goggles polished like a mirror. At this point, I can't remember when I started flying with the old girl. We've seen every inch of the world, it seems like, and she's never once given out on me. I rub my hoof across the gold paint spelling out her name. I'll get it repainted soon, honest.

A yellow blur flits across the corner of my eye, and I crouch down behind the wing. Something's out behind my hangar. I'd never opted for carrying any kind of weapon; there's nothing I can't out-fly or, if needed, out-buck. Right now, though, even a slingshot would be kind of nice. Two, three, five minutes pass, but nothing else stirs. The other two hangars are silent as the grave, one open like an angry dragon's maw, the other shut tight. Strange, I thought no one else had landed here.

With a huff, I inch my way around the hangar to see what happened. As I get out behind the shanty, wedging myself between the metal wall and the stone, I find my yellow ghost. She's a timid little thing, the color of buttermilk with a flowing pink mane. All dressed up in a seafoam dress and hat, she seems like some kind of celebrity. Her cyan eyes look up at me, nearly flying out of their sockets from fear.

“Hey, easy,” I whisper, though she's put another good ten feet between us, “I'm not gonna hurt you.” How can she move so fast in such a small space, anyway? “What's your name?” The whimper she lets out might have been mistaken for the wind if I hadn't seen her lips move. “Are you Applejack's friend?”

Her whole form perks up, and she closes the distance by a hoof. “You know Applejack?”

“Yeah, she said she needed a favor. And I'm guessing you're it?”

“Um, I, yes, I guess so.” Another hoof. “I'm Fluttershy. Applejack said she knew someone who could, well, help me.”

“Well, I might be able too. What you need?”

“... I need to go.” She starts huddling in on herself again. I'd swear I could see the shadows closing in around her.

“Well, the bathroom's right over there. It's nothing fancy but-”

“No, I mean, I need to leave.”

“Where to?” Fluttershy creeps over to me, eyes flitting about. One of her eyes is behind the cascade of her mane, but the other is a jitterbug on zapapple extract.

It's not until we're close enough that I could count her eyelashes that she whispers, quieter than anything I'd ever heard, “Anywhere far.” I'm gonna throttle AJ good next time I'm around Sweet Apple. I'm never one for asking questions, least of all when a favor's riding, but this filly's trouble. That much is plain as day. I nod slowly and tilt my head back towards Tank.

I practically have to pull Fluttershy up to Tank's side, she's watching left and right so much. I can't help but steal a glance over my shoulder myself as I help her into the passenger seat behind mine. A moment later, with grace that only comes with practice and, let's face it, being awesome, I have Tank's rotor shredding the air. A quick hop up on the wing, and I'm in.

“Best hold on to your hat, missy. I don't do 'slow.'” Tank drifts from her perch in the hanger, and with a gentle turn, we're lined up on the runway. I flip my helmet up on my head; as much as the wind blowing free through my mane is better, the cold morning winds are never good for the eyes. With a gathering roar, Tank races forward until I feel the ground let us go. If Fluttershy's making any noise, it's too quiet to hear.

***

Midmorning is a great time to fly; warm, crystal blue skies, and plenty of sun ahead. I take a swig from the water canteen and pass it back. Fluttershy's been quiet the whole time, stealing glances into the clouds below. Something's following the girl, that much I get, and the rest, I'll get from her later. She hands back the canteen untouched. As I place it back in its pocket, my ears perk up.

“Do you hear something?” I call back to the yellow mare. She shakes her head at me, worry twisting what I'm sure what would be a pretty face into something mighty depressing. For about three hours, there had been only two voices up here: the whistling wind and Tank. Now Tank, she makes a low rumble, the kind a manticore makes when you give it a belly rub. There's a third voice now, and it's angry. A swarm of hornets' buzzing fills the skies below us, getting louder and an unnerving pace. I lean my head out to the left to see down through the clouds.

A bloom of blood red fills my vision. I grab the throttle and tear us off to the right as crimson fury races up. The plane races overhead, looping over like a dancer. Across its top wing, I see a worn emblem painted across either side. A flaming lightning bolt. In an instant, it's gone again, back into the clouds.

“That was Spitfire,” I breathe to myself. I look back at Fluttershy. “Is Spitfire after you?” If I thought this filly had been scared before, I was clearly mistaken. She's all wide eyes and drained complexion. “Why in Equestria is Spitfire, the most dangerous flier ever, after you!?”

“I...” Her tears start to well up. Last thing I need is her breaking down on me. I turn around and lift my goggles up. Darn things are gonna fog up on me in a minute. Somewhere below, I hear the hornets come back around.

“Hang on.”

~***~
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:iconstormalchemist15:
StormAlchemist15 Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
..................................................................wat?
Reply
:iconilleatyourself:
IllEatYourself Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Wait, since when was Tank a girl?
Reply
:iconesuka:
Esuka Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2013
Since he became a biplane.
Reply
:iconilleatyourself:
IllEatYourself Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Oooohhh.  I didn't catch on to that.  I thought Tank just wasn't in the picture. XD
Reply
:iconctrlaltbatman:
ctrlaltBATMAN Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2013
SH*T YEAH!
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:iconpiopenix:
piopenix Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
LOL!!!!
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:iconcosmiccourage:
CosmicCourage Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Intense!
Reply
:iconchibimooshi:
ChibiMooshi Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2013  Hobbyist
Goodness, the picture is amazing, and the story is really pulling a person in :happybounce: I would love to read more of it
Reply
:icondjp15:
DJP15 Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2013  Student Digital Artist
i'm such a huge fan of the old birds, coupled with Equestria's best flier, this just made my day :D
Reply
:icontimstro59:
timstro59 Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2013
description? tl;dr
Reply
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