Heart of Silver
So far the Weather Patrol's field base had withstood the wind beating against it. The storm cloud itself hadn't grown much, but the wind was starting to reach even the distant hill where the base had been set up. Since Firefly was expected to return with the Cloudsdale team any moment, Rainbow and the rest of the pegasi present had come out of the makeshift field hospital to stretch their wings and ready themselves.
The blue pegasus paused from her stretches to face her friend. "Yeah Fluttershy?"
"I was just wondering..." she began, pawing the ground gently, "if it wouldn't be a problem, could I maybe fly with the team?"
"Wait, you're seriously asking to go up against that?" Rainbow pointed the ominous thunderhead over Sweet Apple Acres. "No way. This thing's grounded enough pegasi already." she finished, shaking her head.
"I won't get in the way, I promise."
Sighing, Rainbow tried not to let her frustration show too much. "Honestly Fluttershy? How about helping Cloud Kicker and Honeysuckle deal with the medical supplies? You'd be more useful to us as a medic than a flyer."
"Right. I can do that." she replied, her countenance lifting slightly.
As she started to resume her pre-flight stretches, Rainbow thought of something. "By the way, what's with the sudden desire to fly into danger?"
"It's, it's nothing." Finding herself starting to blush, the yellow pony looked away. As it happened, she ended up looking at Angel. The little rabbit had switched from his yellow rain slicker to a uniform befitting an air traffic official (complete with glowing red wands), and was giving her a glare. With a gulp she turned back to Dash. "I I mean, yes, there is something. I'm really worried about everypony lost in this."
"So that's it." Moving to a more relaxed position, Rainbow Dash grinned. "As soon as this storm gets taken out, I'll find them all. I'm not the greatest flyer in Equestria for nothing you know."
* * *
The Day of Reckoning was just around the bend for Diamond Tiara and her friend Silver Spoon. Their game of Life nearly over, it was clear that the pink filly was going to win. As the game drew nearer to a close, their attention was starting to wander.
"Hey," Silver Spoon began, her ears perking, "there's that sound again."
"I thought we'd like, agreed about it already. I mean, you're just hearing that box thing rub against the branch it's caught on. Ignore it."
As she watched Silver move her carriage, Diamond Tiara changed the subject. "So who do you think like, owns this place? I'm thinking it's owned by somepony daddy knows from work or someplace."
"I dunno; I think we're still totally on the Apple family property. It probably belongs to them." Silver Spoon replied, adjusting her glasses.
"Pfft, yeah right. Everything they do is apples. Apples on their carts, apples on their clothes, apples on seriously everything. Do you like, see any apples around here?"
"Well no." Shortly after Diamond Tiara had spun the wheel, Silver thought of something more and added, "But isn't this house built against an apple tree?"
"I don't think so. I mean, I don't remember seeing apples on it." After moving her carriage a few spaces, Diamond Tiara stopped. "Now I totally can't think of anything else. I hate not knowing something stupid like this." Glaring at the darkness out the window, she muttered "It's totally too dark out there to see if anything is like, actually on the tree."
"There's that silly flashlight you know."
"Great idea!" Bolting up and over to the window, the little filly took up the flashlight and shown it upwards. "I seriously can't make anything out." After fiddling with the flashlight further, she sighed and set it back down. "Great. I'm going to be totally bothered by not knowing this for the rest of the day."
* * *
"What'cha looking at Cloud Kicker?" Dash asked as she walked over to her teammate.
"The stress of the day must be getting to me," the gray mare began as she continued staring at a spot in the trees a distance away, "but for a moment there I could've sworn I saw a flicker near ground level."
"Um, a flicker?" Fluttershy asked, walking over and looking more timid than usual. "You mean like, a fire?"
Cloud Kicker shook her head. "No no, not like that at all. It was a white light, like a flashlight or something." After a pause she added, "I guess I was just seeing things."
Rainbow Dash rubbed her chin, looking over the orchard. "Tell ya what. Once we get the sky under control, that's the first area we'll check."
* * *
"Can you like, give me a hoof here?"
Silver Spoon walked over to the window where her friend was struggling to aim the toy flashlight. Looking through the glass, she couldn't make anything out. "I think the problem is the glass is totally smeared from all of the rain." Moving to the side of the window, she reached up and undid the latch. "Ready Di?"
Diamond Tiara moved to a better spot (namely, one that would likely remain dry once the window was open). "Totally ready."
As her friend shined the light at the window, Silver Spoon shoved it open. She quickly recoiled from the initial burst of wind and rain, but climbed up to get a better look a moment later. Looking skyward, she tried to make out what was in the tree above them. "Can you like, shine the light up more? There's totally something in the branches."
Wincing a little at the errant rain drop that reached her, the pink filly moved slightly closer to the window and held the light high. With a snort of disgust, she set the flashlight on the windowsill. "Apples."
"So I was totally right!"
"Yeah," Diamond Tiara said as she looked away. "Whatever." She was already headed back to the board game when she heard a muffled noise and paused. "What was..."
"Di! Come quick!"
Racing back to the window, Diamond Tiara looked where her friend was pointing the flashlight. She'd aimed it back at the box they'd seen earlier, but now there was something white on top of it. Squinting to see clearer, she soon realized there were two of whatever it was. "What are those?"
"Whatever it is, I think it like, heard you." Silver Spoon said as both of the creatures on the box turned to face the ponies in the window, their blue eyes shining in the flashlight's beam. As they began crying louder, she realized what they were. "Oh my goodness! Di, those are kittens!"
"What in Equestria are kittens doing out here?"
"I don't know. Maybe that box was their home and it got washed down here?"
Diamond Tiara shrugged and turned away from the window, heading back to her position at the game. "Well, now that we know what that noise was and what kind of tree this is, maybe we can totally get back to the game."
"But what about the kittens?" Silver Spoon asked, pointing out the window, "Shouldn't we like, do something?"
Rolling her eyes, the pink pony replied, "Why bother? I mean, they've been out there this whole time and they're already wet. A little more rain isn't going to make that much of a difference."
"You really think so?" Silver asked as she looked back at the kittens. They were still crying, and climbing over each other and the wreckage of the box.
"Seriously. Come on. It's your turn you know."
Closing the window, she started to rejoin the game. Glancing back out the window one last time, she winced as one of the kittens lost its footing momentarily and slipped down the cardboard, stopping an inch or so from the water.
* * *
The crowd gathered on the hilltop watched the skies, anxiously waiting. In the distance, a cluster of objects could be seen rushing towards them. As they drew closer, the Ponyville Weather Patrol began cheering. In front of the pack was Firefly, and behind her flew in the entire Cloudsdale Weather Team and several additional ponies that had volunteered to assist with dispersing the storm.
Shortly after they landed, everypony hurried to gather around them. Firefly, tired from her round-trip flight, walked over and saluted Rainbow Dash. "I'm back and ready to give this thunderstorm what for!" Gesturing to a large brown stallion next to her, she continued, "Meet Al. He's in charge of the Cloudsdale Weather Team."
With a nod, the unshaven pegasus stepped forwards. "You can count on us, Miss Dash." Pausing to scratch his chin he added, "Say, you look familiar. Aren't you the filly that won the last annual Best Flyer competition?"
"Yep, that would indeed be me!" Rainbow said, beaming with pride.
"Well, if you handle this like you did that mishap at the contest, things should go pretty quickly. What's the plan?"
* * *
Diamond Tiara's carriage sat contentedly on its spot on the number strip, having successfully made the journey through the Game of Life and become a Millionaire. Now she just waited for Silver Spoon's carriage to reach the Day of Reckoning. "So, are you going to like, take your turn or just sit there fidgeting?"
"Sorry." Silver began as she turned back to the game again. "I just don't feel like playing this anymore."
"What? Afraid of losing?" Diamond Tiara replied as she eyed the promissory notes Silver Spoon had collected during the game.
"It's not that." Getting up, the gray filly walked back over to the window and pointed beyond it. "It's just that I keep like, thinking about those poor kittens out there."
With an aggravated sigh, Diamond Tiara stood up. "Let me get this straight," she began as she started walking over to her friend, "You're not going to be happy until we go outside where it's like, dark and storming, then work our way through the muddy water to prevent two totally soaking wet cats from getting a little more wet?"
"Yeah, kinda." Silver replied, "But wouldn't getting them inside and dry be a good thing?"
"Maybe we'd even be called heroes!"
"Heroes...?" The prospect of getting lavish amounts of praise and attention wasn't completely lost on the pink filly. After a few moments of thinking it over, she nodded. "Okay. Let's get those kittens inside. But I'm still not going to do anything that will get me totally covered in ick."
"First things first though; Let's like, put the game away. There's not much room in here, and that will totally clear up some floor space." A few moments later, with the game was safely back in the toy chest the pair was ready to begin their task. Turning for the door, Silver Spoon started taking off her pearls. "Di, if you just aim the flashlight and light the way, I think I can get the kittens back here on my own. I mean, this way you'll stay out of the mud."
Nodding, Diamond Tiara walked over to the window. As she set down her infamous tiara, she paused. Picking up the flashlight, she asked "What about your glasses?"
"What about them?"
"What happens if they get dirty or lost in the water?"
"I hadn't thought of that..." Silver Spoon paused. "I guess I'll have to leave them here too." Setting them aside, she looked over at the pink blur in front of her. "Don't worry, I'm not totally blind without them. They just correct my astigma... ashtingma... er, whatever's wrong."
The two fillies headed over to the house's only door, and braced themselves for the inevitable blast of cold rain and wind. Wincing at the first splash of rain, they walked out onto the ramp and walkway around the cabin. The darkness was nearly complete; though there was light coming from the house itself, the only visible areas were those caught in the flashlight's beam. As Diamond Tiara lit the way, Silver Spoon walked slowly to down the ramp, stopping at the edge of the muddy water.
Testing the water by dipping in a single foreleg, she shivered as the chill liquid ate away the warmth in her. Biting her lip, she quickly skipped down the ramp, submerging herself. Thrusting her head above the water, she started paddling vigorously. The water was deeper than it looked; it was easily a good deal higher than she stood. Once she'd stabilized herself, she called over to her friend and the journey towards the wrecked box began.
Concentrating on keeping her rhythm, Silver Spoon swam through the water towards the stuck branch. As she passed a tree one of her back legs clipped it, causing her to temporarily flounder. After getting herself stabilized again and spitting out some water, she continued towards her goal.
As she drew nearer, the two kittens became more excited and animated. They danced about their ruined home, crying and pleading for attention. Once she was close enough, Silver Spoon reached out and leaned on the branch as she stopped for a quick breather. Looking things over, the filly called over to her friend on the edge of the walkway. "Small problem here Di!"
Diamond carefully set down the flashlight, freeing her mouth for replying. "What is it?"
"I don't think I can get them both!" the gray filly called back.
"Then don't try! Just bring over the first one and go back again!"
Silver Spoon turned back to the crying kittens and moved quickly to grab the nearest one by the neck. Holding it up out of the drink, she pushed off the branch and started her journey back. Even with the speed she gained by pushing off the branch, she moved much slower. Paddling faster and tapping her resources, she held her head high enough to keep the kitten out of the water.
After what seemed like an eternity of swimming, she reached the ramp and set the soaked kitten down. Weary but still determined, she immediately pushed off again and started working her way back to the branch. This time around she was more careful to avoid the nearby trees, aiming strictly for the white blur in the distance.
As the gray filly swam, Diamond Tiara slowly moved around the house's walkway, carefully keeping the area in front of her friend lit. Focusing solely on her friend's progress, she was oblivious to the kitten walking up beside her. When its cold nose touched her flank, she shrieked and dropped the flashlight.
"Oh Celestia! I'm so sorry Silver! I-it was an accident!" As she watched the flashlight bounce off the walkway and disappear below the murky water, she panicked and started crying.
Silver Spoon looked about in the dim light. Without her glasses to clear her vision and now without a light to guide her, she was left floating somewhere between the house and the branch where the kitten was left stranded. As Diamond Tiara continued to cry and shout from the walkway, Silver had an idea and started swimming away from her friend's voice. After a few minutes, she heard the crying of the other kitten and began swimming towards the sound.
Finally, her forelegs hit a familiar piece of wood. Turning her head, she yelled back at the pink blur in the distance. "Diamond Tiara! Keep talking! I'll head for your voice!"
Wasting little time, Silver Spoon felt around for the second kitten. Upon finding it, she picked it up and started swimming towards her friend's constant calling. Once they drew near to the cabin, Diamond started guiding her friend around to the ramp.
At last, the gray filly came ashore with her passenger. Exhausted from the effort and numb from the cold water, she shook off as much of the mud and debris as she could. Once free of the gunk, she walked inside and collapsed.
Diamond Tiara followed quickly, ushering in the kittens and shutting the door behind her. Hurrying over to the gray filly, she hugged her tight. "Never leave me alone like that again! You had me so scared!"
Looking up at her friend, Silver Spoon asked "Is there like, anything around here for us to dry off with?"
"I don't know..." Diamond Tiara looked around the sparse cabin, but came up empty. "I don't see anything."
"What about the picnic blanket?" Pointing to the saddlebags by the wall she asked, "Isn't it still in your saddlebags?"
Recoiling from the idea of having her new blanket get dirty, Diamond quickly searched for an excuse to keep it clean. "But, that's my blanket. Mom just bought it for me." Pausing to look over the wet group, she sighed. "Okay fine, but don't tell anyone about this okay?"
* * *
With an authoritative boom, Al called out "Gauntlet One! Take off!" Obediently, a group of pegasi took off and flew towards the back of the thunderhead.
As they began to take their positions, Rainbow Dash followed up. "Gauntlet Two, take your positions!"
With the second group zooming into position in front of the cloud, Fluttershy walked over to her friend. "Um, Rainbow? If I'm not interrupting,"
"DITZY DOO! More to your left! No, your other left!"
Rainbow sighed. "Sorry Fluttershy. You wanted something?"
"I was just wondering, um, what exactly are they doing up there?"
"Gauntlet Three! Go!" Al suddenly boomed, and another group took off.
"It's actually pretty simple Fluttershy," Rainbow began, "Normally we take out a thundercloud with a swift buck to the top, but that didn't work this time. Hang on a sec; Gauntlet Four! Get your flanks up there!" As she watched the next group fly up and take their positions she continued, "So we've come up with a little round about plan. Four groups of pegasi are going to form gauntlets, two in front and two in back." Looking over, Dash asked, "You know what a gauntlet is right?"
Fluttershy shook her head. "No, not really. Sorry."
"I'll make it quick. A gauntlet is when two rows of ponies form a hallway, and then somepony tries to make it through this hallway while the ponies pelt them."
Fluttershy shuddered. "That sounds terrible! Why would anypony do such an awful thing?"
"Well, it used to be done to prisoners by the military, but these days it's just a hazing ritual."
"Anyway, this time around, groups of flyers are going to skim the thundercloud. If timed right, small amounts of the cloud should get caught in their wake and pulled along through the gauntlets where the ponies will buck it to bits."
Al's voice boomed again. "Flyers, take your positions!"
"Sorry," Rainbow said as she moved to take off, "That's my cue. I gotta go kick some thundercloud flank!"
* * *
Cheerilee smiled as she handed out another blanket. "You've just been full of good ideas today Applejack."
The orange mare set another piece of furniture against the wall. "Yeah, ah reckoned this would be a good way ta handle things." As she looked over the foals finding comfortable spots around the room she continued, "When me an' Rarity got trapped out in a storm like this we ended up havin' a slumber party at Twilight's. Ah just thought maybe it'd work again."
"With any luck, the skies should clear soon."
"Really? What's makin' ya think that's the case? Didja see somethin' out there yonder?" Walking over to the windows, Applejack tried to see into the sky. As she watched, several streaks became visible darting across the clouds. "Ah see. The weather team's upta somethin'."
With a yawn Cheerilee walked over to her friend. "Come on, we'd better see about getting some rest while they work. It's been a long day for us too."
* * *
Having split the leftovers from their lunches, the two foals watched the kittens fussing at them. As one started batting at Silver Spoon's braids, Diamond Tiara sighed. "Do these things ever like, sleep?"
"Maybe they're just as totally board as we are." Heading over to the toy chest, Silver Spoon rummaged through its contents again. As she pushed aside a figure of a white unicorn clad in red armor, she sighed. "Sorry Di, but I'm like, not seeing anything in here than the kittens would play with."
Diamond Tiara turned and frowned at the kitten attempting to tangle itself in her tail. "Any other bright ideas?"
Closing the chest, Silver rolled onto her side. "Honestly, it's like, late. Maybe if we stop moving around and fussing the kittens will too."
"I guess." she replied as she turned out the light and tried to find a comfortable position.
* * *
"Is everyone back already?" Fluttershy asked the two team leaders. Group by group, the pegasi had started returning to the hilltop.
Rainbow looked over the remaining clouds. "Not quite yet. A few are still going after what's left of the storm clouds."
"Um, I was wondering, what are we going to do about the flood itself?" Gesturing to the mess beyond the hill, she continued, "I mean, the sky's all clear, but the ground is still under water."
"I was wondering about that myself," Al said as he walked over. "I don't suppose you have some trick up your sleeve?"
Chuckling, Rainbow grinned and shifted her goggles over her eyes. "Oh be serious you two! Of course I have a plan for this." Taking off, she flew low between the trees. "Just watch as I whip out the ol' patented Rainblow Dry!"
Speeding up, she started circling around rapidly, causing her multicolor trail to turn into a sizable funnel. The whirling air started sucking in water vapor from the flood and as the spinning continued, the flood water itself began to be drawn up into the vortex. As the group on the hilltop watched in amazement, the water trapped in the pegasus' wake began to vaporize, drying the land below it.
Moving her miniature tornado outwards and deeper into the forest, Rainbow kept a watchful eye out for the missing children and animals. As she approached the area where Cloud Kicker had glimpsed a light she discovered a small building nestled in the trees. Breaking off, she allowed the vortex to dissipate before she got too close to this oddity.
Hovering quietly next to her find, she peeked in the only window she could see. After seeing both foals and the two kittens inside the building, she let out a satisfied sigh returned to the task of drying up the flood waters. With her famous speed, she managed to dry off the entire orchard in just under half an hour.
When Rainbow Dash arrived back at the hilltop, she found several ponies had been waiting for her. Fluttershy hurried over, eager to help. "Now that the water's dried up, we can look for the foals and kittens!"
"Sorry Fluttershy," Rainbow laughed, "but I spotted where they are while I dried up the place."
"They're fine. Turns out there's some kind of tree house over there. Come on, let's go get the others and I'll show you where it is."
"Well, " Al began as he walked past his small counterpart, "I guess our part in this is over. We'd better be heading home."
"What?" Rainbow asked as she poked him in the ribs, "and let us be the heroes?"
"Nah, you gals go on ahead with that." Motioning for his team to start gathering up to leave, he continued, "We're needed back in Cloudsdale; while our weather isn't this exciting, it won't tend to itself."
When Al gave the signal, the Cloudsdale Weather Patrol lifted off and started flying back home amid the cheers and cries from the Ponyvillians. As she watched from a distance, Rainbow Dash quietly muttered, "We owe you one pal."
* * *
"So where is this tree house?" Cheerilee asked as she followed behind the little group.
Calling back over her shoulder, Rainbow replied, "It's just over here."
"Ah know these parts of the farm." Applejack muttered as she walked along. "We're all headin' ta our old club house. Ah knew it was a great place to hold up fer a spell, but ah never thought it would end up bein' a storm shelter!"
"And you said the kittens are here too?"
"Yeah, they're here too Fluttershy." Dash said as she came to a stop a few steps from the stairs leading up to the club house. Turning around, she motioned for everyone to be quiet. The door to the house in the orchard opened silently as the four mares let themselves inside.
"See?" Rainbow grinned, "I told you I'd find them all safe and sound."
"Land sakes," Applejack quietly muttered as she took in the scene. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon were fast asleep on the floor, with the kittens curled up against them. "Ah never thought ah'd ever see those two lookin' all angelic like."
Fluttershy nodded, "They look so sweet."
Smiling herself, Cheerilee walked over and gently nudged the foals. "Wake up my little ponies; it's time for you to go home."