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Balloons In The Night Sky

by masterthief1

“Seriously? You managed to make balloons out of lead?”

Torque Wrench rolled her eyes. “No, AJ, not all lead. Just lined on the inside, for strength and heat resistance. The balloons are mostly aluminum and tin. Took a long time to roll it into foil. Then there was the framing that holds them all together and—"

Applejack’s brow stayed raised. “Torque, ah know that you’re a right genius with metal and machines and all that stuff. But how the hay did Rainbow Dash talk you into a project like this?”

“Because it’s an awesome project. She makes exceptions for awesome projects.” AJ turned around to see Dash on the ground, in full superhero three-point landing pose, a huge grin on her face. “Quit being such a worrywart.”

And then came Spike, fresh off of one of his growth spurts, who made his own superhero landing, but with a lot more noise and a lot less control. “Yeah, AJ, you got nothing to worry about! Between my dragonfire keeping the balloon up and Dash steering it, no way anything can go wrong! Torque can count on us!” He sneezed up just a bit of dirt

Now AJ’s other brow went up. “Oh no. Don’t tell me that…”

“I’m going up there with them! I’m gonna be the first earth pony to cross the threshold into the stratosphere!” Torque Wrench smiled, and did a happy little trot-in-place.

“But… but you can’t fly! What if something or other goes wrong? What if you fall? Can Dash and Spike catch you in time and…”

“That’s why I packed a parachute as well as lunch!” She held up a big backpack.

AJ growled in frustration. “Dash, please think about this, ah don’t want to see this end badly.” AJ put a hoof around Dash’s shoulder, like she was trying to keep her friend on the ground and safe. “Ah know how sometimes you don’t know when to stop and…” she trailed off.

Dash took Applejack’s hoof in hers. “We got this, AJ. Torque is an amazing engineer. We’ve made sure that all three of us are safe. Besides, think of what this means for earth ponies and unicorns and everycreature else who can’t fly. They’ll be able to go above the threshold! Higher than clouds! If this design works, you’ll all be able to fly with us Pegasi!”

Applejack looked into her eyes, and sighed. “All right, fine. But you watch out for Torque. And you be safe!”

“Always!” Rainbow Dash said, with a grin. “Nothing can go wrong!”

---

Torque’s design was a work of art in itself. A bunch of silvery balloons, each double the size of a pony, held together in a frame of wires and wood, like a bunch of big metal grapes. The contraption strained at the tethers holding it to the ground. “The frame holds all the balloons together, and if we want to come down slowly we can just deflate them one at a time. Pretty clever, if I do say so!”

“We’ll see,” said AJ. “Now get on up there before I change mah mind!”

Torque got into the balloon’s sleek basket, parachute on her back and a lunchpail clipped to her belt. Spike and Dash took positions beside her, wings at the ready, attached to the basket with their own harnesses. They all had their flight goggles down, ready to soar with the clouds.

“OK AJ, let ‘er rip!” Torque shouted.

“Here goes!” AJ bucked the peg holding the balloon’s tether out of the ground.

She looked up, heard three very distinct screams, and in a matter of seconds, the balloon had vanished into the sky, leaving AJ screaming up into the sky.

“RAINBOW DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASH!”

---

Not that the balloon’s passengers could hear. Torque hooted and hollered with glee. But RD and Spike were just along for the ride and the balloon shot skyward like a cannonball, dragging the dragon and pegasus along.

“THIS THING’S AMAZIIIING!” Torque yelled, a giant grin on her wind-flapping face. She looked over the edge of the basket. “I CAN SEE HOPE HOLLOW FROM HERE! HOW HIGH DO YOU THINK WE ARE?”

“OH… UP… THERE…” Dash was actually panting trying to keep up, and Spike was already wheezing smoke from flapping his wings so fast.

“How… much… higher…” Spike gasped between puffs of smoke.

“JUST A FEW MORE MILES, KEEP IT UP, YOU’RE DOING GREAT! I BELIEVE IN YOU!” Torque yelled encouragement.

---

Fifteen minutes of ascent later, the balloon finally leveled off. With a few last, desperate flaps, Dash hauled herself into the basket. Spike had given up a few minutes before, and Torque had to haul the dragon up by his tether.

“Wooooooo!” Torque shouted. “That was faster than I thought, but sweet Celestia that was a rush! How you doin’, Dashie?”

“Water… please…” Rainbow Dash croaked.

“Oh horseapples, I’m sorry!” Torque blushed, opening her lunchpail, and pulling out a bottle of water for her exhausted friend. Dash drank the whole thing in one go.
“Thanks… that’s better… how’s Spike?” Dash asked, still breathing heavily.

“Still here… I think... did we… cross… ” Spike said, letting out puffs of steam.

“I think so?” Torque said. “I can’t see anything down on the ground. Just a whole bunch of haze down there.”

Dash got on her hooves. “Air’s pretty thin…” she said, breathing heavily. “I think we crossed threshold… into the stratosphere.”

Torque gave Spike a big hug. “Which means we’re the first non-Pegasi to go this high!”

“Woo… go us,” Spike replied, managing a weak smile.

“Are the balloons holding?” Dash asked.

Torque looked up, and counted. “They’re all there,” she said with a smile. “Told you I could make lead balloons fly. And that means--”

“Yeah,” Dash said, “I owe you dinner,” she said with a chuckle. “Heh, maybe we should take AJ up in this next time, picnic among the clouds and—”

Just then, a soft screech. “What was that?” Spike asked. “It sounded like… some kind of bird.”

“No birds go up this high, not that I know of.” Dash shrugged. Probably nothing.

“You think we should head down now?” Spike asked.

“It’s probably nothing. Besides, I kind of wanted to--”

The screech came again, this time accompanied by a low rumble of thunder.

Torque gulped. “I… I thought you told me there weren’t any clouds up here.”

The sky darkened.

“There… shouldn’t be?” Dash replied.

“T-t-t-there are now…” Spike stammered and pointed.

Behind them, in the prevailing wind, a huge mass of dark cloud erupted, seemingly from nothing. Lighting flashed and thunder roared. And before the cloud, swirls of rain formed itself, like a self-solving puzzle. And then, before the tiny balloon, flew a giant blue-striped bird. It screeched, and the sound was deafening

“I AM THE GREAT WAKIYA, THE ONE WHO COMMANDS THE WIND AND THE SKIES,” its voice bellowed like thunder. “WHO DARES ENTER MY REALM?”

Dash and Torque were holding on to each other, faces frozen in fear. “You talk to him!” Torque said. “You’re the flying one!”

“This is your lead balloon, Torque, you talk to him!”

“ANSWER ME!!!” The great bird bellowed, its puzzle-piece wings assembling and disassembling with each great flap, tossing the balloon about.

“O great Sky-Lord Wakiya,” Spike said, striding forward. “I am Spike of the Dragonlands. And these are my pony friends, Rainbow Dash and Torque Wrench. We did not know you still ruled this realm. We beg your forgiveness.” Spike looked at the giant sky-bird, which then smiled back.

“HA! HOW IS IT THAT YOU, A DRAGON, KNOW OF THE GREAT THUNDERBIRD WAKIYA!”

“O great Sky-Lord, I have had a good teacher on the land below. I have traveled with her to many places, and learned your many names. Wakiya was the name given you by the Buffalo-clans.”

Wakiya bowed its great head. “ONLY A BEING WITH GREAT MAGIC COULD KNOW OF ONE SUCH AS ME. ARE YOU SUCH A BEING?”

Spike smiled back. “No… but if you want to meet someone with Magic, I can introduce you. Provided, you see us all safely down to the land below.”

“Spike, what are you doing?” Torque asked. And then, with a giant screech, Wakiya began to spin the balloon, spiraling it down, down, down…

---

“Twilight, thank goodness you came! Rainbow and Torque and Spike went up there in a newfangled balloon and then a thunderstorm hit! We gotta help them!”

A driving rain hit the ground where the balloon had taken off. Twilight Sparkle and Applejack huddled beneath a stand of trees.

“All right, I’ll get the Royal Guards to search on the ground and the Wonderbolts up in the air. Meet me back in—”

Just then, came a great loud screech, mixed in with a rumble of thunder. Torque Wrench, Rainbow Dash, and Spike fell out of the sky, but then drifted down to the ground like feathers. They were followed by the balloon, which didn’t land nearly so gracefully, in a heap of wood and wire and foil.

“Twilight!” Rainbow Dash yelled! “You’re not going to believe what happened! We met some kind of sky deity and Spike managed to talk him out of the clouds and—”

“Wait… sky Deity?” Twilight asked.

From the driving rain, the puzzle-piece form of Wakiya the Great Thunderbird appeared before Twilight, AJ, and the three balloonists.
“HELLO… TWILIGHT SPARKLE,” the great blue bird said with a low rumble. “THOUGH I AM KNOW BY MOST AS WAKIYA… YOU MAY CALL ME… MORDECAI.”

“Mordecai?” AJ asked.

“I think it’s her old boyfriend,” Rainbow Dash said.

“…huh,” AJ replied. “Wonder why she never said anything about ‘em.”