"Ma'am, there's somepony here to see you. An earth pony."
Spitfire lifted her eyes from the two perfect piles of paper in front of her and placed the stamp she's been using on the desk. She raised a brow to the pegasus at the door, a young stallion wearing the uniform of the Bolts in training. "An earth pony?" and he nodded. Having unicorns and earth ponies at the Academy, taken how tricky was for them to get up there, was always an occasion by itself.
"Send them in," she said with curiosity.
The mare that entered the captain's office that morning had a sway in her walk, a reminder to the unremarkable fact to pegasi in the complex that the floor was made of clouds, not solid ground. Spitfire noticed the coiffed mane, not a strand out of place, the buttons she had for her cutie mark and the expensive saddlebags over her body. Somepony she never met before.
When the bolt closed the door behind him, the yellow pegasus offered a hoof politely.
"I'm Spitfire, captain of the Wonderbolts."
"Suri Polomare." she shook it with unexpected strength, an affected smile on her lips. "Fashion designer. Love your mane, by the way."
She took the seat in front of her with ease, the stripes from the blinds on the windows decorating her crossed legs with their pattern.
"So, how can I help you?"
" Are you familiar with Manehattan's Couture Festival, Spitfire?"
"Negative." She placed her elbows over the white desk, joining her hooves in front of her chest. "Sounds like a fashion show."
"It's the biggest event in the industry. All the best designers in Equestria shaping the way ponies will dress from Las Pegasus to the Crystal Empire next winter. A very important event." Wrinkles formed in the side of her eyes when Suri smiled. "This year I finally have a chance to exhibit my work."
"Please, call me Suri."
"But I don't see how the Wonderbolts fit in the kind of event."
"Oh, no. I'm not here for aerial stunts," she said, dismissing it with a sassy flick of her hoof. "I'm here for you."
"Of course. You have the presence, you got yourself a strong name out there and on top of it all you have this gorgeous curve on your wings that will look good in any dress; you are exactly what I need for my debut."
"Is this some kind of joke?"
"I never considered myself a funny pony, m'kay." Suri giggled.
"I'm a elite flyer, not a model," The captain raised a brow and stared at the pony sitting in front of her. "Why in Equestria I would take part in a fashion show?"
"Because you're a smart mare, Spitfire, and you know the value of what I have to offer."
"Save your bits."
"I'm here to offer you connections," she stated. "In ten days, some of the most influential ponies in Equestria will be sitting down in the front row of the Couture Festival. Fancy Pants, Upper Crust, The Oranges and many others. I believe you know that that means."
"I do. The answer is no."
"You heard me. I'm not interested."
"Dear, it's the perfect opportunity to associate with ponies of another level. Shake the right hoofs, bring the eyes of some generous new patrons over the Wonderbolts."
Spitfire chuckled and leaned against the back of her chair. Suri tilted her head slightly, eyes narrowed, and the captain offered a sympathetic grin to the confused mare in front of her.
"Don't get me wrong, my job is politic as it is athletic. But we fly at the Orange's charity events every year. Haven't seen Upper Crust miss a Derby since I joined the main squad."
"I see." Suri cracked open a strained smile that showed too much of her teeth, a metallic giggle filling the air.
"If this is all, I have a lot to take care of."
"It's not. I mean, listen. I'll have to be super honest with you now, okay?"
The pegasus made a mention to grab the stamp in her desk once again, but used the last strand of her patience to keep herself in place watching the pony across the desk.
"Fashion industry is rough, Spitfire. Everypony is brawling for the spotlight and not all of us can toss on ponies muzzles how close we are to the Princess of Friendship to get what we want." She rolled her eyes. "It's my debut, I need to set my collection apart from other designers."
The captain stood in silence.
"Nopony expects you walking down the runway, so have you opening my show would turn heads and keep my name running in the mouths of everypony that matters for weeks. Photo Finish would never get enough." Suri leaned forward putting her elbows on the table, hoofs together in a pleading manner. "This is why I'm asking - no, I'm begging you, to be my model at the festival."
Spitfire sighed. She look at those half lidded eyes in front of her and rubbed the spot between her brows.
"The tryouts starts in a week and I have a lot on my hooves already. I don't know the first thing about whatever you do in a fashion show, but ask around the academy if you want, I'm sure High Winds would be thrilled to help you."
"That won't do. You can expect me to put some third-class Bolt to open my collection, that's ridiculous."
"I recommend you watch your mouth." she cautioned.
"It's true. You're the only mare I need for the job, m'kay."
"And I'd rather spend a whole afternoon in the Dizzitron with my wings tied on my barrel than walk down in heels and giant hats to a bunch of frilly ponies." Spitfire raised her voice, her wings open to the sides of her body. "Am I making myself clear?"
"Wow, what an attitude you have." Suri smiled, but her eyes didn't follow.
"Get off my office, we're done here."
"Not until you take my offer. I won't take no for an answer."
"Then I'll have to call security to take you out." Spitfire grabbed the whistle around her neck, but was interrupted before blowing the small piece between her lips.
"Wait. Wait. That won't be necessary, m'kay." The fashionista stood up and passed a hoof over her perfect combed bangs, clearing her throat with affectation.
She reached for her saddle bags laying over the chair, taking a brown envelope from inside. The wrinkles reappeared in the corner of her eyes as she slid it across the table. "There's something you'll want to see before I leave."
The captain snatched the envelope and furrowed her brows when she saw three pictures of Soarin, taken in the competition they took part a few days before. In the first one, the stallion appeared exchanging bits with a grey unicorn in the backstage, then grabbing a round bottle and then drinking it's contents with open wings, carefree.
Spitfire was in the background, casually smiling to Fleetfoot.
"What is this?"
"That, Dear, is the front page of Manehattan Times tomorrow morning."
"Hate to break it to you, but we already got our faces all over the first pages when we won four days ago." She scoffed. "And we looked way better than this."
"That's right, the day the Bolts mopped the clouds with the Washouts." Suri sustained an affected smile. "Soarin was the best flyer of the day, if I recall."
"A Major victory, what's your point?"
"Wouldn't it be a shame if ponies knew the truth about that day?" She watched the pegasus face contort in confusion. " I mean, having your best flyer caught drinking a magic potion right before a race is a quite compromising situation, I'd say."
"Magic potion?" She snapped, opening her wings. "We follow strict rules, a Wonderbolt doesn't need to cheat to win."
"Yet there he is, doing it under the eyes of his teammates and his captain."
Spitfire's lips disappeared in a thin line and she creased the space between her brows. "That's ridiculous. It's just lemonade, we can prove that he did nothing wrong."
"Maybe you can. But a stain like that will follow his reputation for a long time." Suri walked across the room, taking attention to the posters on the wall. "Just like the press will be buzzing and following you all for weeks."
"Why are you doing this?"
"Soarin is a good pony. He does his job and stays out of trouble, you have no reason to spoil his career."
"It's nothing personal, m'kay." She giggled. "If you won't help me put my collection under the spotlight, I know some ponies in the papers that would be glad to write about it in exchange for those pictures. Call it a plan B."
"You can't be serious." Spitfire stormed, slamming her hooves over the desk and standing, wings open to the sides of her body.
"A mare does what she has to do." Suri shrugged. "Of course you can avoid the cameras and Cloudsdale investigation department if you just agree to work with me."
"Not a chance."
"So you rather see your wingpony crash and burn into the news? Be my guest."
Spitfire clenched her teeth, the open chest full of badges contrasting with the unnerving calm of the earth pony. Suri stared at her and the captain held her gaze with harsh eyes, almost daring her to look elsewhere.
Outside the windows they both could hear a pegasus in the distance shouting instructions to his team about placing clouds for an obstacle course. Soon the sun entering from the windows disappeared, dimming the lights and leaving the office colder.
The pegasus looked away, dropping her body on the chair, defeated.
"That's what I thought."
"You're going to regret this." She snarled.
"Oh, Spitfire." Suri grabbed her saddlebags with ease, a gracious grin across her muzzle. "I'll send you a letter with details about the show."
The mare that left the office that morning had a sway in her walk that had nothing to do with the floor made of clouds. The Bolt in training watched in silence she traveling down the hallway as the sound of furniture being trow and breaking exploded inside the office.