Trains, Carriages and Airships

by JohnPerry

Chapter 5: Chapter Five

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Chapter Five

“I really don’t care for the way you’re speaking to me, ma’am.”

“Oh? Well I really don’t care for the way your bucking airline left our bucking flanks behind and took our bucking luggage and how your bucking pilots couldn’t bucking notice three brightly colored bucking ponies running on to the bucking field obviously trying to catch the bucking airship,” Twilight growled in response to the mare at the ticket window.

It had been several hours since the ordeal had ended, most of which the three travelers had spent in the office of airport security trying to explain why they had been found in a restricted area on the reported site of a huge fireball. While there, they realized that they had stored most of their bits inside their checked luggage, which was now well on its way to Manehattan. This left them with a small supply of bits in the satchels the three travelers carried between them, which while enough to survive on wouldn’t be enough to buy three more airship tickets on short notice. So while Applejack escorted Rainbow Dash to the first-aid office, Twilight had returned to the ticket window in the hopes of exchanging their tickets for a different flight. But the long wait in line coupled with the ticket mare’s unsympathetic attitude was wearing down the remnants of the unicorn’s already short supply of patience. Her right ear was twitching violently with each sentence she spoke and her eyes were narrowed to slits.

“All I want is a bucking flight. A bucking airship, a bucking hot-air balloon, two bucking pegasi carrying a bucking sheet between them!” Twilight went on, drawing scandalous looks from the ponies immediately behind her in line. However the ticket mare, a yellow unicorn dressed in a uniform that matched the colors of the Equestrian Airlines logo prominently displayed behind her, had an uninterested expression on her face, merely raising an eyebrow at this purple unicorn’s salty language.

Twilight continued to her ultimatum: “I want a bucking flight to Manehattan, right, bucking, now.

“You are more than welcome to purchase another ticket to Manehattan, ma’am,” the ticket mare responded.

“I told you, I don’t have enough money for another ticket,” Twilight growled. “Unless you’d like to refund my ticket, which I will accept.”

“Ah, well you see…” the ticket mare began. The faintest trace of a smile appeared on the corner of her lips, as if she was enjoying this rare opportunity to torture someone and dictate over their situation, given that her job usually involved bowing to the hurried demands of often rude customers. “You purchased a non-refundable ticket, so I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

“I purchased a non-refundable ticket because the refundable ones cost three times as much!” Twilight yelled. “If you won’t give me my money back, then just give me a different ticket!”

“That benefit is not covered under non-refundable tickets, unless the traveler is unable to board as a result of the airship not being able to depart, which I’m afraid is not the case here. So in short…” the mare leaned forward towards Twilight as a small smile did truly cross her lips and she whispered so as not to be overheard by anypony in the vicinity: “You’re bucked.

Twilight grinded her teeth sharply and gave the ticket mare a glare that would have caused a normal pony to back away as quickly as possible. Certainly if any of her friends had seen it they would have been running for their lives. “I will rain hell upon you. Do you have any idea who I am?” she growled with an intensity that would have frightened a timberwolf.

“Well right now,” the ticket mare replied loudly enough for everypony in the vicinity to clearly hear as she leaned back in her seat. “You’re a very foul-mouthed young mare who I can not help at this time and who is now blocking the line for the next waiting customer.”

Twilight narrowed her eyes and pointed a shaking hoof at the ticket mare as she spoke loudly. “If you think I’m going to take ‘no’ for an answer-“

“Ahem.” Twilight heard a low cough behind her. Turning around, she saw two security guards, both tall, imposing stallions who gave the purple unicorn before them a long, terrifyingly cold stare.

“Um...” Twilight’s nerve failed her when confronted with the presence of these intimidating figures. “Uh…Then…I guess I will just have to accept that answer!” She smiled weakly at the guards and trotted away from the ticket window as quickly as she dared without breaking into a full-on gallop and drawing more unwelcome attention.

As soon as she was far enough away she chanced a glance back and saw with relief that the guards weren’t following her. The unicorn breathed a sigh of relief and sat down on a nearby bench, feeling disgraced and ashamed of her abrupt retreat. She looked up to see her two friends returning from the first-aid office. Applejack was once again wearing her hat and Rainbow Dash was now sporting a bandage wrapped around her right wing.

“Is your wing okay?” Twilight asked the pegasus once they had gotten close enough. Rainbow Dash was obviously still angry with the unicorn, given that she was currently still keeping her distance and avoiding meeting Twilight’s gaze.

“Yeah, fine,” Dash muttered. “Like I said, few hours and it’ll be fine.”

“So, any luck?” Applejack asked Twilight, who shook her head in response. “Well look, we still have enough bits between us for a train ticket,” Applejack pointed out. “Let’s just head back into town and-“

NO,” Twilight growled, cutting the earth pony off. “No train. No airships. No buses. So far every time we've put our faith in somepony else to get us where we needed to, it failed. It’s time we took matters into our own hooves and got ourselves to Manehattan.”

“Oh, and what are we going to do, rent another carriage?” Dash replied bitterly. “Cause that worked so well the first time.”

“More importantly, we wouldn’t get to Manehattan on time if we took a carriage,” Applejack said, raising an eyebrow at her unicorn friend.

“Not a carriage,” Twilight corrected. “Come on girls, I saw a place on the way here. You’ll see,” she stated, marching towards the exit out of the airport. Applejack and Rainbow Dash exchanged a glance before the earth pony shrugged and followed her friend out of the building. The pegasus sighed to herself before following suit.

Their journey didn’t last long. It took all of ten minutes to trot down the road that led from the airport out to the edge of the complex, where Applejack and Rainbow Dash instantly realized what Twilight’s plan was. Adjacent to the airport entrance was a large flat field that was lined with dozens upon dozens of large baskets big enough to hold several ponies in. Some of the baskets, especially those positioned at the front of the field facing the road, had massive, colorful balloons tied to them that were tethered down to stop them from floating away. A massive sign over the entrance read in large lettering that practically screamed for attention: ‘BOB TROTTER’S HOT-AIR BALLOON & YACHT EMPORIUM.’

“Is…this what ya had in mind, Sugarcube?” Applejack asked uncertainly.

“Yep! It’s perfect!” Twilight exclaimed, clapping her front two hooves together in a display of eagerness. “I own a hot-air balloon, so I know how to operate one! We’ll still fly to Manehattan, but we’ll do it our way!”

“Uh…no offense, Twi,” Dash began, giving the unicorn an annoyed look. “But hot air balloons are usually slower than trains.”

“Just you wait!” Twilight declared just as a stallion from the dealership approached them.

“Well, how-dee!” the stallion loudly declared. He was a tall, fairly handsome figure with a gleaming smile, tan-colored fur and a slick black mane that was partially hidden under a white Stetson. On his body he wore a white jacket that had several turquoise gems embroidered on it. His voice was loud and carrying and his accent and mannerisms were obviously meant to emulate those of farmer folk in Equestria, but Applejack couldn’t help but cringe at this stallion’s fake accent and wondered if this slick pony had ever worked an honest day in his life. “Welcome to Bob Trotter’s Hot-Air Balloon and Horsepower Emporium! I’m Bob Trotter and it is a pleasure to meet you fine mares on this splendid morning!” At this he tipped his hat at the three travelers and Applejack could have sworn he gave her a subtle wink, which caused the farmer to involuntarily shudder in disgust. “What can I do for you lovely fillies?” he asked, showing off a pearly white set of teeth.

“Well, we’re looking for a hot-air balloon,” Twilight said, deciding to cut right to the heart of the chase.

“Well, you’ve come to the right place!” Bob Trotter proclaimed, gesturing widely at the many baskets surrounding them. “We’ve got the finest pleasure and recreational craft this side of Equestria! What do you have in mind?”

“Actually, we’re looking for something that’s fast,” Twilight explained. “We’re trying to get to Manehattan by tonight and were hoping to rent something.”

“Ah, didn’t want to be cooped up on one of those stinking airships, eh?” Bob Trotter replied, giving what he must have thought was a knowing nod. “Oh, I sympathize completely, never could bring myself to fly with the riff-raff in coach and first class is a snore fest, hoo-wee! Flying solo, free as a bird – that’s the way to do it!”

“Do you have something or not?” Rainbow Dash interjected, looking like she was ready to leave if this conversation went on any longer.

“Righ’ this way, fillies,” Bob Trotter said enthusiastically, leading the three mares around to the side of the lot. There they saw a massive hot-air balloon, one that made the ones surrounding it look downright typical in comparison. The envelope of the balloon was gleaming white and more spherical in shape than standard hot-air balloons. But what was most unusual about this balloon were the two large propellers attached just above the basket on either side of the envelope.

“Fillies,” Bob Trotter said, smiling at the three mares as he saw them staring up in awe at the balloon. “Allow me to introduce you to the Shetvy Colt, the finest in modern hot-air ballooning technology. Not only is the envelope aerodynamically designed for speed, but these two magically powered babies,“ he paused, indicating the twin propellers, “can produce an output of fifty horsepower, allowing you to operate at sustained speeds that rival that of most commercial yachts. And should you decide to turn the engine off and enjoy the peace and quiet of a scenic balloon ride, you can always switch to pegasus power,” he explained, indicating a rope with a harness attached hanging off the side of the basket.

“It’s perfect,” Twilight said breathlessly, her eyes gleaming with excitement.

“We’ll take it!” Dash exclaimed, looking thrilled at the prospect.

“Ah dunno, Twi,” Applejack said anxiously, looking at the unicorn nervously. “Are ya sure we all have enough bits to afford this contraption?”

“Oh, I think you’ll find our rental rates quite reasonable,” Bob Trotter said, smiling at the three mares again. “If you’ll just step inside with me, I can get you on your way,” he finished, indicating the small shack on the grounds where he apparently did transactions.

“Here, go ahead and give me your bits and I’ll take care of this,” Twilight said quietly to her two friends. “I’ve got 35 bits in my saddlebag, what about you?”

“Erm…23,” Rainbow Dash responded, pulling a small sack out of her saddlebag and peering inside to do a quick count of the bits inside. “No wait, 24,” she corrected herself.

“17,” Applejack said, not needing to look inside the small burlap sack she retrieved out of her bag, as money was tight enough for her that she always kept track of how much she had on hand. Twilight took both of their bags with her magic and placed them in her own saddlebag before following Bob Trotter inside the shack.

Fifteen minutes passed by as Applejack and Rainbow Dash waited next to the Shetvy Colt for Twilight to return. Applejack stood patiently, occupying herself by looking at the other hot-air balloons on the field, but Rainbow Dash fidgeted, tapping her hooves on the ground anxiously or examining her bandaged wing in detail. Under normal circumstances she might have struck up a conversation with Applejack in this sort of situation, but both mares felt too exhausted to have any kind of discussion at the moment.

At last, Twilight returned, trotting towards them quickly with a huge grin. “All right, we’re set to go!” she called. “Let’s fire this balloon up!”

“Really?” Applejack replied in surprise. “Well, alrigh’ then, let’s get going!”

“Yes! Finally!” Dash cried in joy, jumping into the air with glee before clambering aboard the Shetvy Colt. Applejack and Twilight followed in short order, the unicorn examining the motor on the side of the basket. Her horn glowed as she inserted it into a cone-shaped hole on the motor, which sent a magical charge racing up three wires, two of them connected to the propellers which immediately begin spinning rapidly, while the third connected to a burner above the basket that sent a jet of flame into the envelope, heating the air inside. Applejack undid the ropes tethering the basket to the ground and in short order they were rapidly rising into the sky, leaving the green pastures and forested hills surrounding the airport behind. Already the ponies traveling along the road below looked like specks. The three mares felt exhilarated, racing into the blue sky past clouds as the small hamlets and villages surrounding Fillydelphia passed by underneath. The propellers were noisy and drowned out any other sound, but they were doing their job marvelously as the balloon sped north towards their destination.

“Manehattan, here we come!” Dash yelled triumphantly.

A few hours passed and it was now almost sunset as the balloon continued to travel north. Twilight Sparkle sat in front of the small steering devise, eyelids heavy as she watched the clouds pass by and the sun dip towards the western horizon. According to the navigational charts that came with the balloon, they had already traversed almost three-quarters of the distance between Fillydelphia and Manehattan. If Twilight’s calculations were correct, this meant it would only take another couple of hours for them to arrive in Manehattan – soon, but not before sunset. Still, this balloon was equipped with night lights, so despite the unicorn’s inexperience with flying after dark she felt it shouldn’t be too difficult to handle.

The engines of the propellers continued to loudly drone on as they flew. They were almost irritatingly noisy but after the first half-hour the ears of the three ponies had acclimated to the repetitive sound. Indeed, its ongoing droning had an almost hypnotic quality to it, lulling the unaware to a state of sleep. Applejack and Rainbow Dash had already fallen to its drowsy-inducing nature, with their exhaustion and lack of sleep last night aiding on the way. They were both laying on the bottom of the basket, completely passed out and snoring softly, leaving Twilight alone to steer the balloon.

Twilight slowly rubbed her eyes with one of her front hooves, massaging her eyelids gently before shaking her head and giving a quick shudder in an attempt to stay awake. She wanted so badly to drift to sleep as well, but the task of steering the hot-air balloon, which both of her friends were inexperienced at, required her to remain alert. Still, there was very little to keep her attention given the relative simplicity of the task at hoof. The droning noise of the engine, the serene setting of a cloudy sky and the warm light of the setting sun combined with a sleepless night all contributed heavily to the unicorn’s drowsiness.

Twilight blinked her eyes slowly. Then she blinked them again, leaving them close for a couple of seconds before opening them again. Her head leaned forward slightly and she sighed, closing her eyes for a third time.

When she opened them again after what only felt like a second, Twilight noticed that a number of things had changed. Firstly, there was a harsh light glaring into her eyes, not yellow and warm like that of the sun but cold and bright. Secondly, even while this light was shining into her eyes, the rest of the world around her seemed to have gone dark. Thirdly – and this was the change that had necessitated the opening of Twilight’s eyes – there was the loud, reverberating sound of a foghorn echoing through the air and rattling the unicorn’s ears. And finally, both the harsh light and the sound of the foghorn seemed to be coming from the same source: a pleasure yacht in front of the balloon that was barreling towards them at high speed.

It took Twilight Sparkle a split second to observe these changes and come to the conclusion that she had fallen asleep. She was just about to ponder how that yacht had appeared in front of the balloon before logic finally caught up and the unicorn screamed loudly and slammed the steering mechanism to one side. Rainbow Dash and Applejack, also awoken by the foghorn, were a little slower to come to grips with the situation but they soon realized what was happening and they gripped the nearest object they could, either too terrified or too shocked to make a sound as they braced themselves and awaited what was to come.

Despite quick action on the part of both the balloon and the yacht, the mid-air collision that followed was unfortunately inevitable by this point. Having fallen asleep, Twilight had never turned on the lanterns that would have illuminated the balloon and alert other aviators of its presence. By the time the pilot of the yacht had spotted the balloon it was far too late. While the two aircraft swerved out of each other’s path, one of the stabilizing fins sticking out of the side of the yacht caught the left propeller of the balloon square-on, and both components of their respective aircraft were smashed to pieces in a sickening crash of metal against metal. Fragments of steel sliced through the air, the larger pieces embedding themselves within the hull of the yacht while the smaller ones peppered the surface of the craft with scratch marks. With one of its fins completely destroyed and two more on the same side extensively damaged from the flying debris, the yacht began to list to the side and soon shuddered to a snail’s crawl.

But the damage to the yacht was nothing compared to that of the balloon. The sharp fragments of the propeller sliced through the envelope of the balloon, tearing a large hole in the side. For a moment the aircraft swung wildly to the right as the remaining propeller spun the balloon around before it stopped functioning.

Rainbow Dash, finally fully coming to terms with the situation, flew up into the air and looked back at the yacht. “Whoa, who were those guys?!” she yelled angrily as she left the basket of the balloon. “HEY! WATCH WHERE YOU’RE-“


The blue pegasus turned around at Twilight’s scream, only now realizing the damage the hot-air balloon had taken. The craft was now rapidly losing altitude and air was quickly leaking out of the side of the envelope. The balloon was doomed, and it seemed ready to take Applejack and Twilight Sparkle with it.

Next Chapter: Chapter Six Estimated time remaining: 46 Minutes
Return to Story Description


Login with