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Aces High 16: Ring of Fire.

Mandroid Oct 16th, 2014 (edited) 365 Never
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  1. =Aces High 16=
  2.  
  3.  
  4. >Race Day.
  5. >The team locker room.
  6. >Suited up, strapped in, pre-race bathroom break done, the team was bouncing off the walls on adrenaline as the seconds towards race time ticked down.
  7. >”Who’s ready!?” Spitfire shouts.
  8. >”We’re ready!” you all repeat.
  9. >”Who’s like us!?”
  10. >”Damn few!” the five of your chorus.
  11. >Spitfire nods. “Damn straight, and they’re all dead.”
  12. >These times for a team were important, confidence could make or break you on the racetrack.
  13. >A door at the back opens up, momentarily letting in the cheer of the crowd in the stands as Fancypants slips in.
  14. >”Okay ponies, we are less than three minutes out! Are we ready?”
  15. >Spitfire salutes to Fancy as he approaches. “Locked, stocked, and ready to rock, boss-man!”
  16. >Fancy puts a hoof to his earpiece before nodding. “Good…good. Huddle in, team.”
  17. >The six of you mass around Fancy who removes his mic and looks you each in the eye.
  18. >”Now, look, I don’t think I need to tell all of you our need to impress out there.”
  19. >The team nods all around, Fancy continues.
  20. >”Our last races…haven’t shown our best. So let’s go out there and show them why –we- are Equestria’s premier flying team, eh?”
  21. >The race partners around you grin and nod, playfully nudging their partners.
  22. >”It’s all or nothing here, team. We need this win or else…” Fancy goes silent for a moment. “Let’s not thing of “elses”.”
  23. >Crap.
  24.  
  25. >Fancy breaks the huddle and heads back outside. You feel your stomach clench up.
  26. >Spitfire looks over her shoulder at you, sensing your trepidation
  27. >”Why the long face buuuuuuuuuddy?” she asks.
  28. >You chuckle once, dryly.
  29. “Oh, you know, fate of the team, fate of decades of legacy riding on my shoulders, no biggy.”
  30. >Spitfire rolls her eyes and goes “Pfffffft.”
  31. >”Who cares what a bunch of old or dead pegusai think? It’s not like they’ll get on our ass if we screw this up, which we won’t, because we’re AWESOME.”
  32. >You knew that talk, you’d known that talk before things became what they were, and you knew Spitfire was trying to misdirect you from your anxiety.
  33. >Surprisingly, it was working.
  34. >You laugh at her bravado.
  35. >”Hey. Hey. Anny. Who’s like us?”
  36. “Yes, yes, I get it.”
  37. >”Good! I hate repeating myself. Now you gonna help me trash these losers or am I gonna have to show you up again?”
  38. >You grab your goggles and snap them on as you make your way to the door, the others already heading out.
  39. “Last one out hit the lights!” you tease as you slide out of the lock room into the stadium.
  40.  
  41. >As the team walks out into the roaring field of the stadium, the announcer begins to speak.
  42. >”Ladies and gentlemen, mares and stallions, fillies and colts of all ages! Welcome to the New Saddle Sporting Arena! BuiltbytheRichCorporation.” He says, adding the last part in a single syllable.
  43. >”Entering onto the field now, the one! The only! Equestria’s Premier stunt flying team! The Woooooooonderboooooooolts!”
  44. >Spitfire shoots into the air and waves to the crowd, soaking in the adoration while the rest of you get to start positions.
  45. >”And from Stalliongrad, our second team, born of over a hundred years of service, protecting the Trussian region from dangerous weather! The Valkyries!”
  46. >The Trussian regional anthem, a throaty chorus of chants fills the stadium as the team flies out from their area and takes positions facing the opposite direction from your team.
  47. >”The Valkyries are in their element today, folks! Because the draw for today’s race is weather prevention! Each team will have to stop a trio of radical and weird weather phenomenon! All to meet at the final big blowout finish! First to return to the stadium with all four weather patterns complete is the winner!”
  48. >”Are the teams ready?”
  49. >Fancypants and the Valkyrie leader both give their individual ready check.
  50. >”Racers?”
  51. >All of you raise a hoof/fist to the air, the signal that you were each prepared as much as you could be.
  52. >”Then on your marks…”
  53. >The stadium falls silent.
  54. >”Get set!...”
  55. >You tense your body, releasing the stored up energy right as a trio of cannons fire.
  56. >”GO!” the announcer cries.
  57.  
  58. Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It2jlKdeJI4
  59.  
  60. >The crack of a gunshot echoes like thunder, but barely had the molecules of air even begun to vibrate than they were drowned out by the breaking of the sound barrier.
  61. >By the time the bullet leaves the barrel you’re confident that to the observers you and your fellow racers are mere specks on the horizon, gone with a speed that no arrangement of words may accurately describe.
  62. >The howl of the wind whipping past you mixes with the roar of turbines to create a kind of chorus, a super sonic choir that you like to imagine heralds your coming victory.
  63. >Dozens of leagues in the distance rages a terrible blizzard, its fury only barely contained by the course handlers. It looms on the horizon as an impenetrable mass of grey and black, inevitable and implacable.
  64. >Suddenly your earpiece crackles to life, It’s Fancy.
  65. >”Anon! You and Spitfire are headed towards the blizzard course.”
  66. “What’s in store for us there, boss?”
  67. >”One moment…” you hear him say among the sounds of flipping through a book. “Ah, the flag course! Anon, you and Spitfire will be racing against the enemy team to find a single flag amidst the snow and win. First team to return to the stadium with their flag is the victor!”
  68. “Copy that!”
  69.  
  70. >You cast a quick sideways glance at Spitfire, her expression unreadable with her eyes so concealed by the glare upon her goggles. For a moment you wonder if she’s in any way anxious or scared.
  71. >A slight turn of her head banishes the glare from her goggles and for a brief moment you make eye contact with her. In that fraction of a second you feel that unspoken connection with her again and any doubts you may have felt about this race are immediately quelled.
  72. >It won’t be long until the real action begins and you savor these brief moments of calm before the coming storm, a stupid grin coming to your face as you recognize the unintentional pun.
  73. >With a deep breath to calm yourself, you angle your goggles so that the glare catches her eye, any vocal communication being completely out of the picture at your current speed.
  74. >A shift of her head and a nod lets you know you have her attention.
  75. >She nods once towards the clouds, and then again down beneath where the storm rages.
  76.  
  77. >The barest of movement, but the message is loud and clear; she’ll take care of the clouds while you search for the flag.
  78. >As clouds black as night fill your vision you angle yourself downwards while Spitfire arcs upwards and disappears into the roiling darkness.
  79. >Likewise you notice the other pair of racers splitting apart in a similar fashion; one heading towards the clouds and one into the storm with you.
  80. “Oh no you don’t…”
  81. >As you decrease your speed in preparation for the storm, you enter a wall of shadow as the sun dips behind the towering mountains of clouds.
  82. >With the glare of the sun gone you’re able to get a look at the terrain you’ll have to be dealing with.
  83. >Rocky crags, sheer cliffs, and wicked peaks populate the terrain, all of it covered in a thick blanket of white that makes its features seem to blend together, something that could prove dangerous while moving at the speed you are.
  84. >Though the time for thinking soon runs out as you hit the wall of white, winds buffeting you from every direction and threatening to tear you from the air and send you hurtling towards the rocks below.
  85. >From outside it seemed far less intimidating, but from inside with the snow whipping all around you seeing even your outstretched hands is a challenge. Finding the flag under such conditions will likely prove near impossible, but that’s where Spitfire comes into play.
  86. >Though as you ponder the task at hand the wind shifts violently, catching you off guard and veering you off course. In reaction you decrease your speed to give yourself some semblance of control, but while you’re busy trying to right yourself you shift your attention too much away from your surroundings.
  87.  
  88. >For an instant the wind dies and the impenetrable wall of white abates, giving you a clear view of the rocky outcropping you now find yourself on a direct path towards.
  89. >In alarm you swing your legs down and bring them up in front of you so that your back is facing downwards, gunning your engines as you do to try and slow your forward momentum.
  90. >It doesn’t do much, but it’s enough to reduce the collision from fatal to simply painful.
  91. >Even as you collide and pain flares through your body your hands scrabble for purchase on the snow-slicked rock.
  92. >After a gut-churning moment that feels like it stretches minutes, your hand finds a hold and you grab tight for dear life.
  93. >Struggling to slow your breathing, you simply hang there for a few moments trying to regain your bearings. Chancing a glance downwards, you notice a small ledge a half dozen meters down the rock face where the elements had worn a shallow depression in the stone.
  94. >So long as a shift in the wind doesn’t angle the storm directly at it, it could provide sufficient shelter until you can plan out your next move. Continuing on in the present conditions will more likely than not accomplish little other than potentially injuring you and taking you out of the race.
  95. >You release your death grip on the rock as your pack flares to life, slowing your fall and allowing you to land safely on the ledge below.
  96. >So sheltered from the blinding snow you’re afforded a slightly better view of the terrain, and off in the distance a glint of light catches your attention.
  97. >Barely you’re able to make out the other team; one carves a path through the clouds above while the other follows beneath, searching the course in the illumination provided.
  98. >After a moment you lose sight of them, but they return moments later moving in a different direction. The scene repeats itself a few times and you begin to notice a pattern to their movements.
  99. “Hmm, a grid pattern,” you muse.
  100.  
  101. >Not bad in theory, it allows them to keep up the blistering pace they had coming in and gives them the advantage of covering more ground.
  102. >However the trench carved through the storm is shallow, only as wide as the racer’s body, and the path soon disappears as clouds move in to fill the empty space.
  103. >And at such speeds the chance of spotting such a small object are slim, one would need to be nearly skimming the ground to make it possible. Though in such hazardous terrain the only way for the other team to maintain their breakneck speed is to search from a higher altitude.
  104. >This puts you at ease, only a stroke of pure luck would allow them to pull a victory out of this. All that’s left for you to do is wait for Spitfire to make her move.
  105. >She doesn’t leave you waiting for long. Scant seconds later a thundering boom echoes through the storm and a great hole rips open in the clouds above sending light streaming onto the course.
  106. >The storm abates slightly in the wake of the sonic boom, but for that brief instant you’re granted a significantly improved view of your surroundings.
  107. >A small smile comes to your face as you watch the clouds slowly begin to fill in the hole. Her method might not be as graceful as the other team’s, but there’s no doubting the effectiveness.
  108. >Another boom cracks the skies and another hole opens up further away even as the first one fills in. This time, rather than admiring your partner’s work, you begin scouring the terrain from your vantage point alert for any sign of your objective.
  109.  
  110. >Out of the corner of your eye you catch sight of your partner as she dives in and out of the clouds, her movements timed perfectly so that each time she enters with sufficient speed to break the sound barrier. It appears for all the world that the clouds flee at her barest touch as though fearful of her.
  111. >Seconds tick by like minutes, Spitfire ripping open holes in the storm all across the sky in a display that at any other time would fill you with awe were you not so consumed by the task at hand.
  112. >After a time something nearby catches your eye, a glint of reflected sunlight. For a moment you think to dismiss it as ice, but just then Spitfire parts the clouds directly above you, driving away the blinding white of the storm and illuminating the area.
  113. >There it is again, that same gleam, but this time you see it for what it is. Not shine of ice, but of a meter long steel rod topped with a triangle of scarlet cloth.
  114. >Your eyes widen as you see the flag, and for a moment you can’t help but laugh. This whole time you’d been scant meters from it without ever knowing.
  115. >As the hole in the sky begins to close, you notice to your dismay a path being carved through the clouds directly towards your position, Spitfire’s methods having inadvertently given them sight of it as well.
  116. >Without another moment’s hesitation you bring your pack to life and leap from the ledge and out into the open air.
  117.  
  118. >Your opponents remain at a higher altitude, keeping away from the hazardous peaks of the course and maintaining their blistering speed. If luck is on your side their attention is too fixed on the flag for them to have noticed you yet.
  119. >The flag is barely a hundred meters from your position so you can afford to move slower and closer to the ground to keep hidden. If the other team spots you it could make the situation difficult, you decide it best to let them think they’re closing with the flag unopposed.
  120. >You fly as fast as you dare through the course, and though you occasionally lose sight of your opponents behind towering rock formations you know they must be moving at least twice your speed as unhindered by the terrain as they are.
  121. >You push yourself ever faster in your single-minded desire to win, zipping by rocks at such speeds that a single misstep, a single inch of displacement could spell your end.
  122. >The journey lasts mere seconds, a bare handful of heartbeats, but to you it feels like an eternity.
  123. >As you emerge from a cluster of rocks you catch sight of the other team and your heart stops. Either they were moving faster than you had assumed or you had been moving too slow, but whatever the reason they’re almost right above the flag and the one in the storm is angling himself downwards to snatch it up.
  124. >With little by way of obstacles between you and the flag you gun your engines, accelerating as fast as the machine will allow, but in the end you know it will not be enough. The other racer is too close and moving too fast.
  125. >But just as all seems lost another boom cracks above you and another hole opens up in the clouds easily twice the size of all before it.
  126.  
  127. >As high in the air as he is, the other racer is powerless to avoid the shockwave produced by the sonic boom and is sent spiraling through the air like a doll before a hurricane.
  128. >Seizing the moment, you push your pack to the very limits of its structural integrity.
  129. >A millisecond later your fingers close around the flagpole, your momentum tearing it from the earth it was embedded in.
  130. >Almost too late, lost in that split second of euphoria, you notice the sheer cliff face you now find yourself hurtling towards.
  131. >Simultaneously you cut the power to your engines and flip yourself around, angling your feet towards the rock.
  132. >The instant before you hit you reignite your pack’s thrusters, softening the blow as you land on the wall in a crouch.
  133. >For a moment you stand completely horizontally on the wall before you kick off and take to the air once more on wings of fire.
  134. “Haha! Yeah!”
  135. >You wave the flag over your head and get Spitfire’s attention, the two of you blitzing back to the stadium.
  136.  
  137. >A quick pit stop to douse your face in warm water and drink some cold and you and Spitfire are rocketing back out the northern portcullis of the stadium.
  138. >The trees and forests give way to mountains and you and Spitfire are riding high.
  139. >”That was some bomb-ass flying back there Annie! A bit more like that and we got this in the bag!”
  140. >You nod as you fly.
  141. “Let’s see what we’re-“
  142. >Whatever encouragement you were saying is lost on the wind as you head over a ridge and spy something lighting up the entire area.
  143. >”What…the figaty-fuck is that?”
  144. “It looks like a tornado, Spits…one that’s on fire.”
  145. >Indeed the infernal cyclone stretched from the ground up to a layer of smokey black clouds high in the sky. It whipped around violently pulling trees and rocks into its wall cloud before hungrily searching for more.
  146. >And the worst part? It had a twin a mile or two off to the right of itself doing the same.
  147. >You cue up your headset.
  148. “Fancy, what in the hell is this?”
  149. >A crackling voice cuts through the interference caused by the storm. “That’s the final obstacle, Anonymous. Finish that and get back here and we win.”
  150. >You look at the cyclone and feel a coldness in your gut.
  151. “What in the hell are we supposed to do to it!?”
  152. >”Stop it.” Fancy says before his line is consumed in static.
  153. “Gah!” you shout as you turn off the mic.
  154.  
  155. >”What’s the sitch?” Spitfire asks.
  156. “Fancy says we’re supposed to –stop- that thing.”
  157. >Spitfire looks over your shoulder with concern. “Well we aint the only ones.
  158. >You turn around in time to see the Valkyrie team soar over the nearby mountaintop and rocket towards the twin tornado.
  159. “Shit! Did you count them!?”
  160. >Spitfire nods. “Ahuh. Four.”
  161. “And no sign of any other ‘bolts…”
  162. >You glance between your twister and the oppositions, you can already see them beginning to circle the base of the funnel to slow it down.
  163. “Any ideas, fearless leader?”
  164. >Spitfire looks at the top of the twister and then at the bottom, doing math in her head before speaking up. “I got one, but it’s risky as hell.”
  165. “Those who dare, win, boss.”
  166. >Like hell were you letting some drunk weather specialists beat a trained racer.
  167. >Spitfire chuckles and points to the top. “We gotta get up and over the rotating clouds and fly straight into the center! The diameter will be smaller in there so if we push ourselves hard, we can do cut through and outpace the Valks!”
  168. “What have we got to lose?” you ask.
  169. >Spitfire begins listing things off like a smartass. ”Well, our roguish good looks, our charming senses of humor, our careers, our lives.”
  170. “Still better than losing a title.”
  171. >”Damn straight! You ready, partner?” she asks as she holds her hoof out.
  172. >You wordlessly bump it and the two of you rocket into the air.
  173.  
  174. Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8zU8paFops
  175.  
  176. >Spitfire and you put some distance between you and the tornado before you start your ascent.
  177. >You take your position behind her and clench your fists to maximize your speed. The two of you climb and climb, breaking through the darker clouds and into the white ones forming above.
  178. >You anticipate Spitfire’s intention and cut your thrusters at the apex of your climb, hoping you’re right.
  179. >Tense moments pass with your heart thundering in your ears before you’re vindicated and Spitfire arcs herself backwards and let’s herself fall directly into the tornado like a bullet. You bring your arms to your chest and follow her.
  180. >Past the cloud wall there wasn’t as much debris that could knock your head off, but the winds were doing a decent job of that.
  181. >Gusts of air so fast they could cut you blew past your head and made it difficult to breathe, but you had to soldier on. That being said, the hardest part was the heat.
  182. >Sweltering heat that would make Tartarus itself jealous blasted you from all side and made you regret for not the first time that your uniform was a skintight bodysuit.
  183. >Spitfire flares open her wings and peels out of her freefall, beginning her counter-rotation on the cyclone and once again you flare your jets and follow.
  184.  
  185. >You fall in behind Spitfire as the two of you give it your all and pull as tight of corners as you can inside the cylinder of wind.
  186. >Around and around and around you go some more as you block out everything except the sight of Spitfire in front of you blazing the trail.
  187. >Through your observations, you notice her wings stuttering occasionally and her teeth gritting as she presses on through squinted eyes.
  188. ”She’s pushing herself too hard, she’s gonna black out.” You thought.
  189. >And as her second, that wouldn’t do.
  190. >You clench your fists and peel out from behind spitfire, getting a nice smack of opposing wind in your face as you push ahead alongside her.
  191. >Spitfire peeks out of the corner of her eye and catches you signaling for her to fall back.
  192. “I’ve got this for a bit.” You mouth, the tornado roaring too loud for vocal communication.
  193. >Spitfire acquiesces and falls back, taking position behind you and resting in your slipstream as you angle your knuckles to turn yourself into a blade that cuts through the wind.
  194. >You reach back and flip a red switch on your pack in an instant, the overdrive switch. Your pack rumbles as you release the flow of fuel into the engine and dump it all into the thrusters.
  195. >It was now or never time.
  196. >Spitfire sticks on you as you both carve the tornado up.
  197.  
  198. >Either an eternity or an instant passes in that tornado, you couldn’t tell, but eventually you open your eyes and notice you can see out of the flaming shell of the twister, it was quieter too.
  199. >Bingo!
  200. >Spitfire knows what you’re thinking before you say it. “Let’s bring it on home, Anny!”
  201. >Spitfire breaks away from behind you and takes position next to you as the two of you continue flying the same pattern you had been, but this time not combatting the wind but creating it.
  202. >You spin and spin and spin some more and create a twister of your own, one that sucks the first up into the sky and throws it into the clouds.
  203. >Up in the sky with the thinner atmosphere and colder temperatures, the fire of the tornado snuffs out; unable to sustain itself any longer.
  204. >Spitfire looks up in awe at the spectacle before she snaps back to reality.
  205. >”Come on Anny, back home! Double time!”
  206. “On your six!”
  207. >Spits pulls a hairpin turn and zips back towards the stadium, you right on her tail.
  208.  
  209. >The stadium gets comes into view within moments and into earshot moments after that; such was the result when you were hauling as much ass as the two of you were.
  210. >You enter the stadium in a heartbeat and stop in the center of the field, Spitfire flapping her wings and you pulsing your jets and expending the last of your fuel to do so before you stumble to the ground.
  211. >The entire stadium is silent for one brief and shining moment before a loud BANG rouses them to thunderous applause as your sonic boom catches up with you.
  212. >The stadium is almost louder than the tornado as ponies hoot and holler and stomp and chant your names.
  213. >”WON-DER-BOLTS! WON-DER-BOLTS! WON-DER-BOLTS!” they cry.
  214. >You take a knee and the necessary heavy breathes as you go over what you just did.
  215. “Hah…nice race…Spits.”
  216. >Spitfire takes a deep breath and lets it all out before taking off her goggles and winking. “Fancy flyin’ there, Slick.”
  217. >”YOU DID IT!”
  218. >Behind the two of you from your pit comes running Fancypants along with the rest of the team.
  219. >Fancy does what you’d never expected to see form him and throws himself around your neck, hugging you tight.
  220. >”I don’t know how you pulled it off but by Celestia you two did it! You saved the team!”
  221. >Spitfire punches your shoulder lightly. “Couldn’ta done it without him, I’d be dead from exhaustion if it weren’t for him.”
  222. >”This’ll keep us afloat for sure.” Misty says.
  223. >”Not to mention give the rags on the shelves a story to run with.” Comments Soarin.
  224. “Pulling off a win is reward enough.”
  225. >”I got your reward and your story right here, big guy.” Spitfire says.
  226. >If the crowd was loud before, they go absolutely ballistic as Spitfire pulls you away from Fancy Pants and plants one on you for the entire nation to see.
  227. >In your shock, you can see Fancy’s jaw hit the floor and Soarin cover his face and shake his head.
  228. >…Ho boy.
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