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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.”

~***~
Add a Comment:
 
: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!
Reply
:iconpiopenix:
piopenix Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
LOL!!!!
Reply
: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
:icondevineemperormeiji:
DevineEmperorMeiji Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2012
Wow...
Reply
:iconenteringthenethery:
EnteringTheNethery Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2012
how do you people draw this well??
Reply
:iconesuka:
Esuka Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2012
:iconlincolnosirisplz: Hey, What do you mean "you people?" Jokes, jokes. I can't really point to anything specific other than iteration and experimentation. I can never quite seem to do something the same way twice. Bad for comics, that is.
Reply
:iconenteringthenethery:
EnteringTheNethery Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2012
so true
Reply
:iconbatosan:
batosan Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Canvas and wire! When a good mechanic was a priceless thing to have! Great scene!
Reply
:iconavengerxd1:
AvengerXD1 Featured By Owner Jun 20, 2012
AWESOME!
Reply
:icondj-ghetto-headphones:
DJ-Ghetto-Headphones Featured By Owner May 22, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Spitfire von Richthofen!!
Reply
:iconultimatebloodmoney:
UltimateBloodMoney Featured By Owner May 22, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh derp watch your six!..no not a cloud i mean teh actual..nvm keep flying XD
Reply
:iconzelenabojica:
ZelenaBojica Featured By Owner May 22, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Awesome...
Reply
:iconklice:
Klice Featured By Owner May 21, 2012
I didn't read all of it, but the picture's quite awesome :D
Reply
:iconwesty543:
Westy543 Featured By Owner May 20, 2012  Hobbyist
Wow, this is amazing. Nice work and nice of you to donate a commission for the contest!
Reply
:iconthorlol:
Thorlol Featured By Owner May 18, 2012
I need more story, I need more art
Reply
:icontadashi--kun:
Tadashi--kun Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Now that is one intense picture! :wow:
When I see this I can almost feel the speed. :D
Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are nicely done. There are some neat details on the plane as well.
I also love the way you made the clouds. Especially when the other plane is flying through them.
Nice work!
Reply
:icontheleadfarmer:
TheLeadFarmer Featured By Owner May 18, 2012
Amazing, is the background story a part of a fanfic? I would love to read it.
Reply
:iconesuka:
Esuka Featured By Owner May 18, 2012
I'm afraid not. What's there is as far as the thought process carried me. I never had much in the way of material or intention to write an ending.
Reply
:iconwiskeymike1:
WiskeyMike1 Featured By Owner May 18, 2012
awesome
Reply
:iconlightning5trike:
Lightning5trike Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow awesome picture with a nice view.
Reply
:iconcalamarithesquid:
CalamaritheSquid Featured By Owner May 18, 2012
So you're gonna write the rest of the story now, right? :D
Reply
:iconesuka:
Esuka Featured By Owner May 18, 2012
Most likely, no.
Reply
:iconlongshotlink:
LongshotLink Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Me likey!
Reply
:icontwistedkestrel:
TwistedKestrel Featured By Owner May 17, 2012
That's a fairly awesome back story.
Reply
:iconsire-sword:
Sire-Sword Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
That Description is TL;DR. I bet it's gilda in that plane.
Reply
:iconmultifish:
multifish Featured By Owner May 17, 2012
Gah! I really want a series of images and accompanying stories, now! Fantastic universe and intriguing storyline already.
Reply
:iconlulamoonsage:
LulamoonSage Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
Welp, it's official. I, a wannabe aviation nut, (I say wannabe because I love aviation, but know next to nothing about planes or flying) am in love with you for this. Both the picture, and the story excerpt below it.

Also, why can't we have this in 1920x1080 res?
Reply
:iconesuka:
Esuka Featured By Owner May 17, 2012
I tried making it into a 1920x1080 image, but the aspect ratio is different enough that I have to start really chopping stuff off. I can get it another go, however, see if it works any better
Reply
:iconlulamoonsage:
LulamoonSage Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
Oh. Well, that was just a spur of the moment thing. I really don't want to ask you to do something that's troublesome for you.
Reply
:iconderpington1337:
derpington1337 Featured By Owner May 19, 2012
Mind if I creatively wallpaperize this and post on my deviant ? with credit to you ofcourse in desc', and the signature stays on the pic itself.
Reply
:iconesuka:
Esuka Featured By Owner May 23, 2012
Well, since I didn't get the notification that this was here, I only just saw this. I already made an attempt at making a 1920x1080 version, and have updated the description to include the link. As for your request, I suppose it's ok. Be sure to shoot me a note with the post.
Reply
:iconlulamoonsage:
LulamoonSage Featured By Owner May 19, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
Huh? Are you asking me? Because this is Esuka's work, not mine. I'm full of too much fail to be able to draw something this epic.
Reply
:iconderpington1337:
derpington1337 Featured By Owner May 20, 2012
... This is the only comment about wallpaper he responded to, so I decided to make a request here.
Reply
:iconkeairan:
Keairan Featured By Owner May 17, 2012
Now I have to wonder, where is the rest of the story to go along with this awesome post.
Reply
:iconesuka:
Esuka Featured By Owner May 19, 2012
There actually isn't one. This is as far as the thought carried me, and it didn't seem worth forcing any more.
Reply
:iconkeairan:
Keairan Featured By Owner May 19, 2012
This make sad.
Reply
:icontoasterrepairunit:
ToasterRepairUnit Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Student Digital Artist
PA-PAM PAM PAM
[link]
Reply
:iconcrossoverfiend:
CrossoverFiend Featured By Owner May 17, 2012
Oh my grod, the drawing and the story are amazing on their own, and together they create an irrepressible need in me for more. Not that I want to pressure you to create anything you don't want to. Just... I would love to see this continued.
Reply
:iconesuka:
Esuka Featured By Owner May 19, 2012
Haha, thanks, but I doubt I will be doing any more with this story. Despite the response, which I'm plenty happy to see, there just isn't much, I feel, to do beyond this point. It's certainly open ended, though, so it would be interesting to see what folks come up with.
Reply
:iconalphagamer774:
alphagamer774 Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Holy shit. This is much epic.
Reply
:iconteam-friction:
Team-Friction Featured By Owner May 17, 2012
This story is godlike. And the picture's great too.
Reply
:iconmultifish:
multifish Featured By Owner May 17, 2012
This... This is the kind of thing I LOVE to see from you, Esuka. One of your finest pieces!
Reply
:iconesuka:
Esuka Featured By Owner May 19, 2012
Haha thanks, I try.
Reply
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