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Practice, Not Perfect


by erika_of_night_vale

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      Blaze was probably not supposed to be outside.

     Alright, that was a lie. She knew she wasn’t supposed to be out at this hour, sneaking out in the middle of the night. Only dark faeries and insomniacs were up and about at this hour, and while Blaze wasn’t the former, she certainly fit the latter. It made her stand out, to say the least. Most Fire Faeries tended to follow their Light sisters, and set their sleep schedule to the sun. Just another thing that made Blaze weird.

     But the moon provided enough light to see by, and the streets were mostly quiet, so Blaze was left alone. It wasn’t the first time she’d snuck out, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. Just so long as her mother didn’t find out, everything would be fine.

     Besides, there were better things to do than sleep.

     The Cloud Racers garage was mostly quiet at this time of night. The only other inhabitants were a trio of Dark Faeries near the end, all bent over the same racer. They looked up at Blaze’s entrance, but didn’t react, beyond one of them waving, and returning to her work.

     Blaze was a good racer, especially for her age. She’d cleared all of the junior tournament, and had been dominating her age bracket since her mother first threw her hands up, gave into the begging, and let her start racing. This was the first year she’d be eligible for the real races, not the kiddie tournaments. She’d be up against real competition this time.

     Sure, the tournament wasn’t for a few months, but Blaze was allowed to be worried. Maybe she was a bit more worried than the situation warranted though. It seemed like most nights she’d be unable to fall asleep, fears of losing the tournament burning through her mind and setting her skin alight with anxiety. She had to fly for it to get better, go out and up in her racer and practice until she could barely keep her eyes open. Only then was she able to return home and sleep.

     She got in her racer, fired it up, and took to the skies.

     She didn’t turn on her trail, knowing better than that. It was illegal after all, creating hazards like that. Dodging clouds would have to do, the fluffy white masses considerably more solid than they seemed. Guaranteed crash if she hit one.

     Good. The danger and adrenaline was what made it all worth it.

     She wasn’t sure how long she was flying, losing herself to the wind and clouds and speed, until something brought her out of her calm.

     The steering wheel jammed.

     It was just for a moment, barely a second, but it was a second too long, considering the speed she was going at, and the cloud she’d been shooting towards, intending to turn off at the last moment. A standard maneuver.

     ...Which had not worked out for her.

     She had enough time to grit her teeth before she slammed into the cloud. Metal shrieked and bent, her engines sputtered out, and she was falling, cockpit refusing to open, racer refusing to work, speed picking up, but not in the way she wanted it-

     Impact.

     Another cloud had been beneath her, and the racer slammed into it, smashing it further with another awful, grating shriek.

     And then it was quiet.

     Blaze stayed perfectly still for a long moment, breath coming in frightened, short gasps, her heart pounding almost painfully hard in her chest. The dazzling panic from the crash and the fall refused to fade, her entire world shrinking down to nothing but a mindless loop of fear. But slowly, after a minute or two had passed, she calmed down. Her breathing evened out, and she began to move again, checking to see if she really was alright.

     Well, she could have gotten off a lot worse.

     She had scrapes and bruises from being slammed around by the crash, the fall, and the other crash. She’d pulled one of her wings as well, and the joint between her wing and her back seemed have quite a few complaints to voice. Attempting to move the wing just made it worse, causing her to hiss sharply in pain.

     She decided not to move the wing unless she had to.

     But overall, she was remarkably unhurt.

     She tried the cockpit release switch, and was unsurprised when nothing happened. The engines had likely been destroyed, considering they’d taken the brunt of the impact from her fall. No more power. The battery was also dead, either damaged, destroyed, or simply disconnected from the knocking around it had taken.

     Blaze pulled the emergency escape lever, and was considerably more surprised when nothing continued to happen. And also worried. The emergency escape was just springs and levers, entirely mechanical - no power required, for obvious reasons. If it wasn’t working…

     Alright. Now she was in trouble.

     She undid her seat buckle, and sat up to properly examine the cockpit, firmly forcing herself not to panic again. There would be a way out. There was always a way out. She just needed to find it.

     She ran a hand along the metal, feeling the way it had crumpled like tinfoil from both hits,badly distorted in the front and back. The glass was cracked all the way through, but Blaze doubted that would help much. Even if she could finish the job and smash the glass, she had designed the cockpit to have a steel lattice through the glass, to improve the structural strength in case of… well, situations like this.

     It was backfiring on her now, clearly. While the metal wasn’t anywhere near small enough to qualify as a mesh - there were only four beams on the horizontal, and two on the vertical - they were close enough that she wasn’t going to be able to squeeze out between them. At least, not with them bent the way they were.

     If only she was strong enough to bend the metal herself…

     But she wasn’t, so the point was irrelevant.

     Blaze returned to examining her cockpit for a way out.

     ~

     An hour later, she was forced to admit that she was stuck.

     There was no other way out of the cockpit, and no way to get it open. Nobody knew where she was, and given the way the cloud was drifting, it was unlikely she would be found. She had to get herself out of the craft, but there was no way to get herself out of the craft.

     Great.

     So far her best idea had been shattering the glass, but she was reluctant to do that without a solid plan. If she broke the glass and couldn’t squeeze through, then she’d just be trapped in a cockpit full of glass shards. Not really an appealing prospect.

     She sighed, and slammed her head into the back of her chair. Fire crackled along her shoulders, a sign of her frustration.

     ...Wait.

     Fire.

     Heat.

     Blaze didn’t have the strength to bend the metal as it was, cold and hard. But the hotter a solid was, the more ready it was to bend. And as a Fire Faerie, she could manage it all with bare hands, her skin naturally immune to any sort of burns. She’d had to be thrown into the sun before she even starting to tan.

     Admittedly, she wasn’t entirely certain if she could get her flames hot enough to let her bend the metal. But there were no other options presenting themselves, and honestly? She was getting claustrophobic. Blaze wanted out.

     No other choice then.

     It took some awkward maneuvering, and some truly uncomfortable contortions, but she managed to turn herself upside down in the ruined cockpit, so that her back was braced against the dead dashboard, and the steering wheel that had gotten her into so much trouble, and her feet were up by the damaged glass.

     She lined up her leg, wrapped her arms around her face, squeezed her eyes closed for good measure, and kicked.

     There was a cracking sound, loud and promising, but not quite enough. She kicked again. Another crack.

     It took another four kicks before her foot broke through the window.

     The glass shattered, and shards rained down onto her chest and arms, but that didn’t matter. Step one, complete.

     Once she was certain no more glass would be falling, she very carefully moved her arms away from her face, making certain that the broken glass wouldn’t fall through and onto her face, instead sliding off onto the floor. It was awkard to get upright again, having to repeat her earlier twisting now surrounded by dangerously sharp glass shards, but she managed it without further injuries. Soon enough, her head was sticking out of the new hole, and she was breathing in the cool night air.

     Right. Work to do.

     She pressed her hands against the beam, called on her fire, and started pushing.

     It took a long time before it was hot enough to be malleable, and it had grown hot enough to take on a faint, dark red glow before she had pushed it far enough out of the way. But what mattered was that she’d done it, and had bent the beam enough that she could clamber out of the hole, tumbling out of the wrecked racer and onto the cloud.

     The adrenaline caught up to her, and she giggled in relief. And if it had a bit of a hysterical edge to it, well, there was nobody around to call her out on it.

     Finally, after a long moment, she stretched, humming in satisfaction as her back cracked, and got back to her feet.

     The cloud had drifted a ways from Faerieland while she was stuck. Getting back down would be a bit of a flight.

     She flexed her wings, a movement the strained one did not appreciate, judging by the way it set to throbbing in pain again.

     But there was nothing to be done about that.

     She shook her head, getting the last of the broken glass out of her hair. She gave her broken racer one last mournful look, before writing it off as a complete loss. It’d be easier to start from the ground up than to try and fix the damage she had caused it.

     And with that, she took off from the cloud, right as the sun started to rise. She was tired, wounded, and still somewhat shaken up from the close call, but for some reason, she felt a strange sort of peace come over her.

     She’d handled the crash. She’d escaped her racer’s wreckage.

     She was going to be okay.

     As she carefully flew back home, there was only one concern in her mind.

     Her mother was going to kill her.

     The End.

 
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