Trains, Carriages and Airships

by JohnPerry

Chapter 6: Chapter Six

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Chapter Six

“Hold on, I’m coming!” Rainbow Dash yelled, bolting for the falling balloon. By the time she caught up to the basket – which only took a few seconds – she had already reached several conclusions, the most important one being that at the rate the balloon was losing air there was no way it would reach the ground before the envelope completely deflated.

Unless I can get it there before then,” Dash thought as she threw open a small cabinet attached to the side of the basket and pulled out a length of rope from within. Twilight was struggling with the controls, which had now become unresponsive due to the damage they had taken on, while Applejack was clutching her hat with one hoof and firmly gripping the side of the basket with another, looking completely out of her element and unsure of what to do except hold on for dear life.

“Applejack, tie this off!” Dash shouted, tossing both ends of the rope to the earth pony, who promptly caught them. The pegasus bit down on the grip at the very center of the rope and strapped the simple harness on before leaping out of the basket and letting gravity take hold. Applejack, catching on to what was going on, immediately tied the two ends of the rope to a pair of rings attached to the edge of the basket that were designed for this particular purpose. Dash paused her free fall just long enough to glance back and see Applejack give her an affirmative wave to signal the rope was ready. The pegasus then tore through the air, heading straight for the ground and pulling the balloon down with her.

“RAINBOW, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” Twilight screamed, giving up on the broken controls at this point. “WE’RE ALREADY FALLING AND YOU WANT US TO FALL FASTER?!?

“We gotta land the balloon before it deflates!” Dash called back, her voice slightly muffled by the rope held between her teeth. She beat her wings harder, her right wing throbbing painfully under the bandages she was still wearing as she tried to get the balloon to earth faster, although gravity was already doing a marvelous job aiding their rapid decent. The pegasus squinted her eyes as she tore through a small cloud in the way and she opened them fully to see the ground rushing towards them. Even in the dark, the moonlight provided enough illumination to allow them to see the fields stretching out below, punctuated by the occasional tree. A few lights from the lanterns of passing carriages beneath them marked the location of a road.

Finally feeling that they were close enough, Rainbow Dash leveled out her dive, her wings spreading wide to catch an air current and her right wing still aching as she started flying towards the horizon, tugging the balloon along behind her. Twilight and Applejack were thrown back against the rear of the basket as the balloon abruptly changed direction and the fall suddenly slowed. Dash tugged on the rope, trying to pull the balloon back upwards slightly to slow its decent now that it was closer to the ground. The fields below raced past as the basket narrowly grazed the top of a stray tree. Realizing that the balloon was still going too fast, Dash swung around to the right, yanking the aircraft around a full 180 degrees before she started pulling in the opposite direction. The pegasus strained against the rope, desperately trying to slow the balloon, but despite her best efforts the aircraft continued to race towards the ground and was now in danger of collapsing at any moment as air continued to leak out the envelope.

At last the rope could take no more. As Dash gave a mighty tug the rope snapped and the pegasus was sent spinning away in mid-air while the balloon continued to steer itself towards the ground, approaching the field at a moderate angle but still too rapidly for a safe landing.

“Brace yourself!” Twilight yelled at Applejack, throwing herself against the earth pony and clutching the rear of the basket. Applejack followed suit, clutching the unicorn in a tight hug and shutting her eyes as she prepared herself for the worse.

The balloon sailed downwards before the basket finally hit the ground in an impact hard enough that it sent Twilight and Applejack flying out of the basket, landing on the grass of the field several pony-lengths away from where the basket had impacted. The balloon tilted precariously before the envelope, still with a moderate amount of air in it, began dragging the basket along the ground. Twilight and Applejack had but a few seconds to recover from their landing before they noticed the basket sweeping towards them. Both ponies narrowly dodged the basket as it was dragged past them before the envelope finally expelled the last of its air and the basket was pulled down onto its side, the envelope deflating fully as it came to a rest flat on the ground, smothering a small section of the field due to its massive size. The remaining propeller snapped off its attachment to the motor and crashed to the ground, resting against the rest of the destroyed aircraft.

Twilight and Applejack stood up, breathing hard and watching the envelope of the balloon rustle slightly in the breeze, mimicking the swaying grass in the field around them. Then they turned around to see Rainbow Dash catching up to them, panting from exertion and lightly rubbing her right wing, which had been freed of its bandages during the pegasus’ flight and was looking sore again. Finally they turned to face each other, seeing the scratches and bruises each other had sustained from being ejected from the basket and landing on the ground. But scratches and bruises aside, they had escaped the ordeal unharmed.

“Heh,” Applejack gave a weak chuckle.

“Hee hee…” Twilight responded with a chuckle of her own.

“Ah heh heh heh…” Dash joined in.

It’s an interesting fact of pony psychology that after experiencing a life-or-death situation and not perishing, the realization that a pony has survived his or her near encounter with death and is now safe will cause said pony to laugh uproariously. And so it was with the three travelers in this field as they broke down into wild peals of laughter, lying on the ground and letting the relief that they made it in one piece wash over them. The three ponies remained there for several minutes, just laughing and resting their heads against the ground, each pony’s laughter magnified by that of her two friends.

Eventually their laughter finally died down to mere chuckles as they wiped the tears from their eyes and caught their breath. Applejack was the first to fully recover. She stood up, placed her hat on her head and brushed some grass off herself before offering a hoof to Rainbow Dash.

“RD, we owe ya one,” the earth pony said. Dash smiled and took her hoof, pulling herself up to her hooves.

“Hey, it was nothing…” the pegasus replied, blushing slightly but enjoying the praise all the same. “So, uh…could anypony tell me what just happened up there?” She turned towards Twilight as she asked the question, as did Applejack. The unicorn blushed and looked down at the ground.

“I…may have fallen asleep,” Twilight muttered, avoiding her friends’ gazes.

Applejack shook her head softly. “Tsk...Ah thought as much.”

Rainbow Dash gave Twilight an alarmed look. “Wait…does that mean…we don’t know where we are?!” she yelped, standing up and looking around her.

“I don’t know exactly where we are…but I have a general sense!” Twilight quickly added, seeing Rainbow’s panicked expression. “Let’s see…judging from the position of the moon in the sky and our surroundings, I think I was only asleep for an hour. If we maintained our course – and I don’t see why we wouldn’t have, as the wind current was acting in our favor – I think we only had another hour or so by balloon to get to Manehattan, which would be about…several hours on hoof,” the unicorn explained, quickly running through several calculations in her head as she spoke.

“So…we’re near Manehattan then?” Dash asked, too impatient and slightly too panicky at the moment to go over Twilight’s explanation and hoping for a quick summary.

“Well, relatively speaking, yes,” Twilight finished.

Yes,” Dash breathed, grinning widely and pumping a hoof into the air. “Then we can still make it! It’ll still all be worth it!”

“Alrigh’, let’s get our stuff then,” Applejack suggested, standing up and trotting over to the balloon to retrieve their luggage. She trotted up to the overturned basket and spotted a saddlebag lying on the ground nearby, having been tossed from the aircraft when it crashed. Upon closer inspection she realized it was Twilight’s and that the bag had opened when it hit the ground, spilling most of its contents on to the field.

“…Twilight?” the earth pony called out slowly.

“Yeah, Applejack?” the unicorn responded, catching up with her friend.

“Ah, uh, found your bag,” Applejack said.

“Oh, thanks!” Twilight replied gratefully, reaching down to pick it up.

“It’s more than that…” Applejack paused, holding out a hoof to stop Twilight before pointing at one of the objects that had spilled out of the bag. “All our bits are still here.”

Rainbow Dash caught up with them and looked at where the earth pony was pointing. Sure enough, lying on the ground was Twilight’s sack of bits, lying next to the two smaller sacks of bits that belonged to Applejack and Rainbow Dash.

“Oh! Um…” Twilight paused, biting her lip slightly. “Sorry, I forgot to give you your bits back! Let me just-“ She reached down to retrieve them but was interrupted mid-sentence when Applejack rushed past her and started running a hoof over the spilt bits, counting them quickly.

“Twi, all our bits are here,” the earth pony said, looking up at the unicorn after she finished counting.

“Yes, well as it turned out I didn’t need your bits!” Twilight said quickly, using her magic to levitate the two smaller bags of bits and push them into the hooves of her two friends. “I’m really sorry for not giving them back, I just forgot-“

“Twilight,” Applejack said sternly, staring the unicorn down. “Yer not followin’ me. All of our bits are here. Yers included.” At this point Rainbow Dash, who had finally caught up with what Applejack was suggesting, stared at the unicorn, who had started sweating slightly and was looking around with a nervous smile on her face.

“Um, well…” Twilight replied slowly. “I left an I.O.U.!” she chuckled nervously, looking from one friend to the next, but both ponies were giving her blank stares.

“Twilight, you can’t rent a balloon with an I.O.U. I know that for a fact. But, um…don’t ask me how I know that, okay?” she added, giving a nervous grin at Applejack, who raised an eyebrow at the pegasus but decided to focus on interrogating the unicorn.

“Twilight, all yer bits are here, all our bits are here, so how did ya rent that balloon without any bits?” Applejack asked, giving the unicorn a look she usually reserved for when she was about to punish Apple Bloom.

“Well…” Twilight began, her voice becoming increasingly quiet and high-pitched the longer she spoke. “I may have…um…” She coughed slightly. “Have…um…taken it without permission.”

“I’m sorry, wha?” Applejack replied, feeling sure her ears were deceiving her.

“I…uh…might have taken the balloon without…um…the salespony…knowing?” Twilight stammered, her smile becoming increasingly awkward with each word that came out of her mouth.

“You STOLE IT?!” Rainbow Dash shrieked, looking at Twilight with a shocked look on her face. Applejack’s jaw had dropped and she was giving her unicorn friend a horrified look.

“No, no, no! It’s not like that!” Twilight yelped, frantically shaking her head in an attempt to dissuade her friend’s fears. “I didn’t steal it! I mean I took it, but I was going to give it back, I swear!”

“How could you do this?” Applejack asked, looking aghast and deeply disturbed at what her friend had done. “You, of all ponies, a thief? Why, Twilight?”

“But that pony said he had reasonable rates, didn’t he?” Dash asked, still looking at Twilight with no small degree of surprise.

“Yeah, reasonable rates for a balloon!” Twilight yelped. “I-I still didn’t have enough bits to cover the rental cost, especially once you factored in the deposit, so I just used my magic to put him to sleep for a bit. And then when we got to Manehattan and got our luggage back, I was going to send the balloon back with enough bits to cover the cost! Plus a little extra! I had to get us to Manehattan somehow! I was going to give it back!” she added pleadingly, but by this point Applejack was looking deeply hurt and Rainbow Dash seemed to be on the verge of a panic attack.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no, ohno ohno ohno…” Dash muttered, her eyes wide as she clutched her head in her hooves and an expression of absolute terror took hold of her face. “Oh, we’re in so much trouble, so so so much trouble…we can’t possibly return the balloon now! Ohno ohno ohno ohno…”

“Look, maybe…” Applejack began, pausing to figure out how best to phrase what she was about to suggest. “Maybe we ought to come clean and just confess. Who knows, maybe it’s not as bad as we’re all making it out to be!” she added, smiling nervously and hoping this would calm her own fears, but Rainbow Dash’s expression at her suggestion banished that hope in an instant.

CONFESS???” the pegasus shrieked, grabbing Applejack’s head in her front hooves and yelling in her face. “Are you out of your mind?! Do you have any idea what they do to ponies like us? We’re not talking about breaking into a hospital to take a book here! WE STOLE A BALLOON!!!” At this she let go of Applejack and stood on her hind legs, screaming hysterically at the sky. “AND THEY’RE GONNA LOCK US UP FOREVER!

“Rainbow, shush!” Applejack said, frantically forcing a hoof over the pegasus’ mouth and looking around to make sure nopony had heard her. Despite the earth pony’s earlier suggestion of being completely open and honest, it was clear Rainbow Dash’s words had gotten to her, if the fearful expression on Applejack’s face was any indication.

Dash pushed herself off Applejack and knelt on the ground, her panic attack showing no signs of relenting. “We’re fugitives now! I can’t be a fugitive! The Wonderbolts won’t take anypony with a crime record! MY LIFE IS RUINED!” she cried in anguish, her head and front hooves held up to the sky in a show of despair.

“We are not fugitives,” Twilight said sternly. “Nopony is going to come looking for that balloon!”

“How in Equestria do ya reckon that?!” Applejack cried, looking at the unicorn like she had lost her mind.

“Because when I was in that salespony’s office I cleared that balloon off their inventory records,” Twilight explained. “Then while he was still asleep, I used my magic to wipe his memory of us. There’s no trace of that balloon ever existing now and nopony knows we were ever there, much less the ones to take it.” She gave her friends a slightly pained expression, hurt that her friends thought Twilight wouldn’t have taken precautions. “I had to get you girls to Manehattan somehow. I promised I would. But I had to make sure nopony would come after us. I was thorough – it’s what I’m good at,” she added in an almost pleading tone of voice, as if begging her friends to see it from her perspective.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash gaped at Twilight Sparkle, still barely able to believe what they were hearing. On the bright side for Twilight, Dash had stopped panicking and neither she nor the earth pony looked gripped with fear. On the down side, Twilight herself was now beginning to get fearful, wondering if her revelation had just cost her two of the best friends she had ever known.

“I…I realize this looks bad, but I did this for you!” she said imploringly, but the increasingly horrified expression on Applejack’s face told her this probably wasn’t a tactic Twilight should attempt to employ. The last thing she wanted was to make it seem like she was shifting the blame from her to her friends.

A long silence passed, Twilight unwilling to say anything more for fear of digging herself deeper into this hole while Applejack and Rainbow Dash remained too shocked to speak. But finally, the pegasus spoke.

“Twilight…you…are insane,” Dash said, her face mostly devoid of expression. The purple unicorn lowered her head shamefully.

“But…” the pegasus continued. “I don’t think I’ll ever call you an ‘egghead’ ever again.”

Twilight looked up at her friend. Was that…a smile on Rainbow Dash’s face?

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but…” Dash paused. “I’m kinda…proud of you, I guess. I mean, what you did was bad and all,” she added quickly, shooting a glance at Applejack. “But I didn’t think you had it in you, Twi. I’m…impressed.”

Rain. Bow. Dash,” Applejack said sternly, accentuating every syllable as she glared death at the pegasus. “Ah can’t believe you. How can you stand up for what Twilight just did?”

“I didn’t say it was good!” Dash replied hotly. “But…you know…she did get us here, right?” she added uncertainly.

“Ah can’t believe what Ah’m hearin’!” Applejack cried. “Ah might expect this sort of trouble from you Rainbow, but not a nice pony like Twilight!”

“Oh, well aren’t you just little Miss Honesty,” Dash responded, getting increasingly heated.

“For yer information,” Applejack started angrily, getting into the pegasus’ face. “Ah am Miss Honesty – it’s my Element!” Dash was about to reply when the two of them heard giggling. They looked away to see that Twilight was laughing at her two friends.

“…What’s so funny?” Dash asked uncertainly, raising an eyebrow at the unicorn.

“Oh, sorry…” Twilight laughed, recovering. “It’s just that, well, it felt like a long time since I’d seen you two arguing.” She fell into giggles again as Applejack and Rainbow Dash stared blankly at each other for a moment before they both began to chuckle and soon succumbed to their second long fit of laughter in the field that night.

Next Chapter: Chapter Seven Estimated time remaining: 33 Minutes
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