As trails went, Ponyville Elementary's flight class was hardly a test by fire, though there was a considerable drop involved. Situated on the far side of the playground behind the school house a two story high wooden scaffolding had been erected over a large pit filled deep with pillows and mats. Patrolling the edge of the landing zone a pair of earth pony nurses waited just in case some pony took an awkward tumble from the platform. Pulling on a wooden handle a gray pegasus with golden wall eyes and blond mane giggled as a section of the floor dropped way, the trap door swinging on it's hinges before being pulled back up into position though the use of a hand crank.
Nodding in satisfaction at the preparations a blue pegasus with rainbow mane, whistle about her neck, coach's cap on her head, and clip board in hoof walked down the line of young colts and fillies inspecting the young fliers as she went along. The nervous foals each struggled to put on a brave face as the fastest and coolest pegasus ever walked by hoping to impress one of the most noted aerial acrobats in all of Equestria. Moving along the line of waiting students a pale golden pegasus with a pink mane strapped on padded helmets and knee pads assuring all participants are wearing enough protection before the test. As the safety coordinator fastened an over sized foam cap to a small orange filly with purple mane, the blue pegasus taped her clip board on her hoofs impatiently.
“Are you done yet?” Rainbow Dash asked Fluttershy hurrying the cautious mare along, “We're burning day light here. If we don't start soon we won't get through the whole list and we'll have to do it all over again tomorrow.”
“Almost done Rainbow Dash,” The golden pegasus stated as she snapped a pair of knee pads onto Scootaloo, making the short filly wobble in place, “That should do it, everyone is ready to go. But don't you think the platform is a little too high for such an early test?”
“Are you kidding? In Cloudsdale we were a mile up when we did the first jump test, they'll be fine,” The brash flier snorted as she moved to a podium in front of the foals and set down her clip board, “Attention all you fillies and colts, settle down and listen up. My name is Rainbow Dash and I've been put in charge of leading this year's fliers class for Ponyville. Now I know most of you haven't taken to wing yet or have had any real extensive flight time, so we're going to take it slow for the first time out. Today we're going to test your innate ability, see were you're at, what your strengths are, and what we need to work on. It is my personal promise that by the end of these classes you'll all be 100% faster, and at least 20% cooler.”
Scootaloo listened along intently as her idle laid out the basics of flying, tugging on the helmet Fluttershy had placed on her head struggling to get it to rest over her violet eyes so she could see properly. Despite the height she would soon be launching from the little pegasus felt reassured that she had such an accomplished flier watching over her and giving her tips. Also the fact that only other pegasus students were present eased the tension all around, no one was an expert yet and they all were clearly nervous about preforming well. It was as even a playing field as one could get with no antagonists or hecklers shouting insults or mocking the foals during their first test.
“Now when I call your name step up onto the edge marked by the white line,” Rainbow Dash pointed out the trap door hanging over the open pillow pit, “All you have to do is jump off and give it all you got. Hover, slow your descent, take off for the stars, whatever you can do we want to see it. But you have to do it quickly cause after fifteen seconds, BLAM! the door drops and you're free falling.”
The gray mare jerked on the lever dropping the door out from the platform smiling brightly for the young pegasus clearly enjoying her part of the class intensely. Eying the trap door the foals gulped and murmured amongst themselves nervously.
“Now we've taken a lot precautions to make sure its safe for everyone,” Fluttershy spoke up moving close to reassure the class as the platform was reset, “There's no need to be scared, both Rainbow Dash and myself will be flying by to help anyone that needs it. And the landings full of soft comfy pillows so it won't hurt, even though it's so high up and the drop is so sudden.”
Looking over the lip of the scaffolding the golden flier epps softly to her self, “Oh Rainbow Dash I don't know, maybe we should make it voluntary.”
“If they don't start to learn now, they never will,” The blue pegasus said pushing Fluttershy out into the air with her head, “Look, it's all real easy but fear can paralyze any pony. That's why we use the trap door, to force the issue. Instinct will kick in and your wings will start flapping and before you know it you'll be flying. This is a trusted method perfected in Cloudsdale and it worked out fine for both me and Fluttershy, isn't that right Fluttershy?”
“Well I guess so, sort of,” The timid pegasus said softly then gulped and straighten up in mid air as the blue flier gave her the evil eye, “Of course it did, you're right Rainbow Dash. There's nothing to worry about honest.”
As Fluttershy gave a nervous smile and a squee Rainbow Dash moved back to take up the clip board and moved into the air opposite her keeping place with steady beats of her wings.
“O.k. enough messing around, Rumble you're up,” The blue pegasus called out to a gray colt with out a cutie mark, “Step up to the plate slugger and give it all you got.”
Watching Rumble step onto the trap door Scootaloo cheered him on along with the rest of the class offering up encouragement and well wishes. Looking over the edge the young flier blinked his purple eyes flexing his tiny wings as he bent his knees. After a few seconds of nervous waiting Rainbow Dash pointed to her wrist and the drawing of a watch on it while Derpy took a hold of the lever waiting for the signal. Not giving the older pegasus a chance drop the floor out from under him Rumble bent his knees and leaped out into the air wings fluttering fast.
As the small colt plummeted down towards the ground Fluttershy gasped and covered her eyes unable to watch the foal crash into the pillows below. From the scaffold a cheer went up causing the golden pegasus to look between her hoofs cautiously and down at the pillow pit. Hovering a foot above a pink laced throw cushion Rumble beat his wings rapidly looking strained from the exertion but clearly air borne. Scooting up inch by foot in a jerking motion the little colt gained altitude and returned to the platform and his cheering class mates.
“There you go Rumble that's the stuff!” Scootaloo cried out hooping up and down as the gray foal landed awkwardly looking relieved.
“Easy Peasy,” Rainbow Dash called out as Fluttershy did a loop-d-loop out of excitement, “Alright, Muffin you're up!”
“Yay! Go Muffin!” Derpy shout out as the little filly with matching wall eyes bounced and bounded right off the edge fearlessly and into the air.
Twisting and tumbling down the tiny pegasus plunged into the pile of pillows then shot back up giggling madly as she jumped up and down getting extra height from the springy mattress and her miniature wings. Managing only to hover a short distance above the ground the young filly is never the less delighted in this new game climbing the stairs up to the platform and getting in line to go again.
The line steadily got shorter as Scootaloo waited her turn watching each of her class mates sink or swim while critiqued by Rainbow Dash or encouraged by Fluttershy. Cherry a pink filly was the first one to be dropped by the trap door, though she quickly recovered and was able to hover back up on her own power. So far all of the young pegasus had been able to at least hover off the ground a foot or two, with Featherwieght displaying the most proficiency and speed so far setting the bar at a lofty position. As her name was called out the orange filly wished her friends Apple Bloom and Sweetie Bell were here to cheer her on as she stepped onto the trap door looking over the edge.
Peering down at the pile of pillows Scootaloo felt a bit dizzy as vertigo took a hold making the distance seem to stretch out forever. Blinking purple eyes the little pegasus shook her head as the ground sank away and clouds drifted below. Nerves set in as all the past failed attempts ran through Scootaloo's head and her wings went rigid locked into place at her flanks.
“Come on Scootaloo, don't let me down,” Rainbow Dash called out looking on disapprovingly, “I know my biggest fan isn't afraid of a little fall right?”
“Don't worry Scootaloo,” Fluttershy said as she floated close, “Just take your time, there's no rush. We won't let anything bad happen to you.”
“But you're almost out of time,” The blue flier called out as Derpy took a hold of the lever, “Come on scaredy pants, I know you got it in you.”
“Just one more second,” The orange pegasus asked sliding closer to the edge struggling to lift her wings, the calls of her class mates seeming to turn into jeers, “I'm almost ready.”
“No can do Scootaloo,” Rainbow Dash said giving Derpy the thumbs down motion, “Time to fly short fry!”
With the jerk of the trap door Scootaloo felt weightless for a few moments before gravity asserted itself and dragged her screaming down towards the ground. Suddenly the little filly's wings sprang to life beating harder then her heart was as they attempted to slow the descent towards the on rushing ground. Kicking her hoofs as well Scootaloo grasped for air doing everything in her power to slow her fall but nothing seemed to work as Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy shrank to pin pricks over head. Fear forced the little pegasus to look down and she was shocked to find that the pillow pit, and the play ground had disappeared leaving empty blue sky in all directions.
“Help! Help! I can't fly!” Scootaloo cried out praying Rainbow Dash or Fluttershy would hear her and come to her rescue before she found the hard unforgiving ground. No reply came and the terrified tumbling foal could not see her friends in the distance, realization dawning on her that she was all on her own.
As she dropped Scootaloo passed through a cloud pink in color shooting through with little resistance and trailing threads of pink fluff behind her. Closing her eyes so she didn't have to watch the ground rushing up at her the little filly sobbed out loud begging for assistance from anyone. When she fell into the pink cloud's shadow a voice called out from above grabbing her attention.
“Flap your wings, and believe you're flying,” A young colt with a dark blue coat with a black mane, black hoofs and face marking shouted out, “You're dreaming, you can control it if you believe you can.”
“I'm not dreaming I'm falling!” Scootaloo cried out looking at the young foal that had short blue wings and a tiny black horn, “Help me please!”
“I'm trying too, but you got to trust me!” The little alicorn called back keeping pace, “You are dreaming, think about it, if this wasn't a dream won't you have hit the ground by now?”
Looking at the other foal in shock Scootaloo forced her self to look down again praying she won't land just as she did. Oddly enough the ground hadn't moved an inch closer even though the small pegasus was still free falling and air borne. Flapping her wings hard and focusing on the surreal moment the small orange flier slowed her descent coming to a stop mid air and floating in place. Drifting down beside her the little dark blue alicorn smiled friendly as he circled around holding out a hoof to shake.
“My name's Catcher,” The strange colt greeted warmly, “And you're dreaming.”
Looking about Scootaloo returned the gesture a bit numbly looking down at the top of the Everfree Forest and then back up at the pink cloud covered sky.
“Thanks, nice to met you, I'm Scootaloo,” The filly replied looking about nervously, “But aren't you just part of my dream if I'm really asleep?”
“Well I'm not really here my self,” Catcher said with a grin as he spun about the stationary filly pulling strands of pink cloud from her mane, “This is just an illusion of me, a projection of myself that I used to enter your dream. Mmm, cotton candy.”
Scootaloo looked at the other flying foal confused as he ate the cloud thread happily. Taking a taste herself the small pegasus licked the sticky pink thread from her face cleaning up from her free fall through the candy cumulonimbus.
“What do you mean projection?” The filly asked as she maneuvered about in the air, “You mean like magic? If your not really here where are you for real?”
“I'm hiding in the Everfree Forest,” The dark blue alicorn said flying lower and into the woods themselves, “There's a cave I'm staying in while I astral project. It's like magic but only I can do it cause it's my innate ability. Just like your flying is your innate ability.”
“How come your out in the forest?” Scootaloo asked as they floated above the ground and entered the cave, “I never meet an alicorn other then Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. Are you related to them?”
“Related to Princess Luna, but very distantly, a thousand years distant,” Catcher lead Scootaloo next to a small fire and his body that was knelt before it meditating and using the light to cast his shadow out into the forest, “And Princess Luna is the reason I'm out here in the first place. She's in trouble and I'm the only one that knows about.”
“What kind of trouble?” Scootaloo asked leaning in close as the world about them started to grow dark and the voices of her parents' could be heard in the distance.
“I'll tell you all about if you come see me in the woods,” Catcher said as the shadows closed in blocking out all the light but his fire, “You're about to wake up, but you should remember what happened. Find me in the woods and don't tell anyone, I'm counting on you.”
“Alright I'll be there this afternoon after school,” Scootaloo called out as the darkness encompassed the fire too, “I promise to keep it a secret.”
With that the image faded as the dream broke, sun light shining through the drapes of the window as birds called out the hour. As the sound of her parents calling up and the smell of breakfast reached her nose Scootaloo crawled out of bed and got ready for the day recalling the dream vividly. As the young filly throw on her saddle bag the small pegasus smiled as she finally had a suitable quest to share with the girls. Her cutie mark was a good as gotten.