Trains, Carriages and Airships

by JohnPerry

Chapter 8: Chapter Eight

Previous Chapter

Chapter Eight

Applejack felt like she was in heaven. She snuggled into her soft bed, her comfy blankets draped over her as she grasped her pillow within her forehooves. A soft breeze from outside her bedroom carried the sweet scent of Sweet Apple Acres apples in through the open window. She could just barely sense the curtains waving softly in the wind and hear the rustle of leaves outside as she gave a contented sigh and held her cushiony pillow closer to her head.

“Um…Applejack?” Rainbow Dash said.

Rainbow Dash. Applejack frowned. What would Rainbow Dash be doing in her bedroom? Then logic kicked in and she realized that if Dash was here, she couldn’t be at Sweet Apple Acres. A flood of memories washed over her as she remembered the details of the trip, and now she could hear the bustle of the Manehattan street beneath the window and feel the scratchy covers of the bed she was sleeping in. Applejack groaned, not willing to open her eyes and accept her present circumstances just yet.

“What is it, Rainbow?” Applejack grunted, still keeping her eyes firmly shut.

“Where are your hooves?” the pegasus replied.

This seemed like an odd question. Applejack felt around with her front hooves for a second, feeling the feathery down of the pillow beneath its case.

“Between two pillows. Why?” the earth pony asked.

“Because those aren’t PILLOWS!” Dash shrieked. Applejack’s eyes flew open and she realized that the object she had been grasping was in fact the pegasus herself and that both of her front hooves were buried underneath Rainbow Dash’s feathery wings.

At the same instant, both ponies yelled in horror and quickly detached themselves from each other by leaping off the bed in opposite directions. The blanket went flying off the bed and landed on the floor as Applejack and Rainbow Dash stood across from each other, squirming in disgust.

“Eeewwww…eeeeggghh…” Dash shuddered, giving her wings a few quick flaps to try and get her feathers back to normal after her friend had rubbed them the wrong way. “Eeeeehhhh… Woooooo… brrrrrr! Uhhh…so, how about that WonderCon? Gonna be a lot of fun, huh?” she said bracingly, blushing violently and avoiding looking Applejack in the eye.

“Oh yeah, yeah, gonna be a good time…” Applejack muttered, rubbing her hooves on the blanket as she also avoided her friend’s gaze.

Dash turned around to see Twilight still asleep on the couch, snoring gently and drooling slightly on the cushion her head was resting on. The pegasus trotted over to the window and threw open the musty curtains, letting the warm sunlight stream in.

“This is it,” Dash said quietly, inhaling deeply and taking in the glow of the morning’s rays. “WonderCon. After all the waiting, all the traveling, all it took to get here, it’s finally here.”

“You said it was at the Marritrot Hotel, righ’?” Applejack asked, finally looking up at Rainbow Dash. “When does it start?”

“Ten O’clock,” Dash replied. “So we have…” She glanced over at the small clock on the night table.

It read nine-fifty. They had ten minutes before the start of the convention.

There was a brief second of deathly silence in the room. Then Applejack heard the sound of a gasp so deep she couldn’t help but wonder if it would suck out all the air in the room before there was an explosion of air and a flurry of activity so sudden it was as if a tornado had hit the room. Rainbow Dash raced over to the couch to roughly shake Twilight awake, screaming at her to get up before bolting over to her saddlebags and hastily throwing what few objects she had taken out back in the bag before strapping it around her. Then, faster than either of her friends could follow, she grabbed both of the other saddlebags and shoved Twilight’s bag into Applejack’s hooves and Applejack’s into Twilight’s hooves. A second later she realized her mistake and grabbed the two bags once more, shoving them at their correct owners.

“COME ON COME ON COME ON! WE HAVE TO GO! WE HAVE TO GO NOW!!!” Rainbow Dash screamed, forcibly lifting Twilight to her hooves.

“Wait, what’s going on?” muttered Twilight, who was simultaneously tired from being woken up, confused and alarmed at Dash’s panicking, and slightly dizzy from being so violently awoken.

“No time, Sugarcube, just get movin’!” Applejack cried as the pegasus streaked out the door and proceeded downstairs, with the earth pony and the unicorn in hot pursuit.

Heywe’recheckingouthere’sthekeyokayBYE!” Dash uttered in a single breath, slamming the key to their hotel room on the reception desk, much to the alarm of the mare sitting behind the counter. The pegasus raced outside in a streak of color, quickly followed by Applejack and Twilight.

RD, wait!” Applejack yelled as Dash tore down the street. “The Marritrot is the other way!” No sooner had the words gotten out of her mouth that her eyes widened in fear as her pegasus friend whipped around in mid-air and came flying back towards them in a brilliant streak of color. The earth pony clutched her Stetson to her head as Dash rushed past, blowing the hats (and a wig or two) off some nearby ponies and sending dust and stray newspapers into the air. Applejack and Twilight galloped after her in a mad pursuit.

It didn’t take long for Rainbow Dash to find her destination. Despite all its faults, the cheap hotel they stayed at did have the benefit of an excellent location, situated a mere couple of blocks and around the corner from Thyme Square, the most bustling open space in all of Manehattan. A sea of ponies milled about the square, surrounded by massive, prominent buildings: great theaters and music halls with bright, illuminated marquees, office buildings that towered over the square (including one that was owned by the herb and spice company that had lent the square its name) and upscale hotels. Among those hotels was a building that overshadowed one side of the square – a grand structure adorned in brick with arched windows and intricately decorated metal work that wound its way along the edge of the roof. A large Equestrian flag hung over the words “MARRITROT HOTEL” that were displayed above the door.

But if the exterior suggested grandeur, the interior screamed luxury. As Dash rushed inside she was momentarily taken aback by the marble floors, the finely carved wooden furniture, the sitting area with its plush sofas and the crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Between the finely dressed employees and the wealthy patrons of the establishment, Rainbow Dash felt distinctly out of place as she trotted across the room to the reception desk.

“Excuse me,” Dash said breathlessly, looking up at the receptionist. “Is this where WonderCon is being held?” After asking the question, she immediately gritted her teeth and braced herself. With all the bad luck they had encountered, she thought for sure that something would go wrong: that the convention was at a different Marritrot, that she was too late, that the convention had been canceled…

But nothing of the sort was said. Instead, the receptionist smiled at the pegasus and gave an affirmative nod. “Yes, this is indeed the place! And I believe they’re running late in setting up the first event, so you have some time before the convention begins.”

To Rainbow Dash, it was like hearing a choir of angels sing. Her mouth hung open for a moment and her eyes grew wide as a grateful smile grew across her face. “Thank you,” she breathed softly. “Thank Celestia, I made it! …I…I made it!

She turned around to see Applejack and Twilight gallop in through the front door, breathing hard and looking worried, but their expressions instantly turned to relief upon seeing Dash’s smile. “We made it!” the pegasus cried. “We made it with time to spare!” Applejack and Twilight smiled. They were tattered, bruised, and in severe need of bathing. Indeed, at that very moment several fleas from the cheap hotel, unseen by any of the ponies in the room, leapt off of the three travelers and on to the floor, deciding that even by their admittedly low standards these ponies were simply too filthy to act as a suitable living space. But the three mares had overcome all obstacles and made it to the convention on time.

“Welcome to the Marritrot,” the receptionist greeted Applejack and Twilight. “I can have somepony direct you to the ballroom where they’re holding WonderCon. I just need to see your tickets.”

“Tickets! Right!” Dash exclaimed. “The…the tickets…” she trailed off as her face fell.

“Uh, Rainbow?” Twilight asked, looking concerned. “Are you alright?”

“The tickets…” the pegasus muttered quietly, looking horrified. “I…I forgot about them…”

“You forgot them?” Applejack said skeptically. “You mean you left them in Ponyville?”

“No, no…they were in the bags we checked…the ones on that airship! The bags we lost!” Dash cried in horror. “How could I have forgotten them?! I’ve been holding on to those tickets for months now!”

Twilight gulped. “Well…you bought them in advance, right? I’m sure there must be a list with our names somewhere, right?” she said, looking up imploringly at the receptionist.

The receptionist looked uncertain. “Um…I’m not aware of such a list. And I’ve been specifically instructed not to let in anypony who doesn’t have their tickets. We have a large waiting list of people who didn’t buy their tickets in advance,” she said, pointing out a group of ponies sitting on one side of the lounge, some of whom were fitted out in Wonderbolt gear and assorted merchandise. “They’ve been here all morning, hoping to catch any remaining spots for the convention. I’m still going to have to turn most of them away. If you don’t have your tickets, then…” she trailed off, suggesting the worse.

“Well…well surely there must be somethin’ we can do!” Applejack exclaimed. “Come on, we…RD?” she asked uncertainly. “RD, you okay?”

Rainbow Dash had grown very quiet. She sunk down into a sitting position on her haunches, blankly staring off into space.

“That’s not fair…” she whispered, barely audible to her friends. “That’s not fair at all. There was time now. We made it with time to spare. There was time…” Her face screwed up as she gritted her teeth and clenched her eyes shut, a small tear forming in the corner of each of her eyes. “That’s not fair!” she wailed, raising her head to the ceiling.

“Rainbow…” Applejack muttered, looking heartbroken. “It’s…it’s okay, y’hear? We’ll fix this, it’ll be alrigh’-“

What’s the point?” Dash cried in anguish, the tears falling freely from her eyes now. “This whole trip has been a disaster from the very start! And I get it now, okay?! We were never going to get to WonderCon! Every time we got through one bad thing another bad thing happened, then another and another and ANOTHER! I walked across a desert, I went without sleep, I lost my stuff, I sprained my wing for Celestia’s sake! AND I’M DONE NOW! I GIVE UP!!!” she yelled at the ceiling. By this point nearly everypony in the room was either staring at them or unsuccessfully pretending that they weren’t watching.

“I’m done…” the pegasus sniffed. “I give up.” Twilight and Applejack looked up at each other, at a lost for what to do. Dash was now curled up on the floor, crying bitterly. Everypony in the room had now decided to ignore them, with the exception of one elderly pegasus stallion who had been chatting with the group of Wonderbolts fans sitting in the lobby. After watching the three travelers for a moment he started approaching the trio.

“Dear me, what’s going on here?” he asked kindly. He had a light gray coat and a short mess of dark hair, both of which suggested a certain shine. He was well built for somepony his age and despite his wrinkles, it wasn’t hard to imagine this stallion being quite handsome when he was younger. At the moment he was giving the three travelers a pleasant smile.

“Hang on a second, don’t I know you from somewhere?” he asked, looking at Rainbow Dash. As she looked up at him the elderly stallion gave a gasp and a look of joyful surprise. “Of course! You’re Rainbow Dash, aren’t you? I saw you at the Young Fliers Competition! You saved those Wonderbolts!” He immediately offered a helping hoof to the pegasus mare, who wiped the tears from her eyes and took his hoof. Standing up now, Dash realized this pegasus was quite short for a stallion – indeed, he seemed a hair shorter than Rainbow Dash herself.

“Forgive me for not recognizing you! Memory goes with age,” he added, giving Dash an apologetic grin. “I take it you’re here for WonderCon!”

“Yeah,” Dash muttered, looking down. “But I lost my tickets.”

“Oh?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “And you mean to tell me they don’t recognize a hero when they see one?" He shook his head and sighed as he reached into his saddlebag to pull out a few sheathes of glossy paper. "Here, I've got a few extra tickets on hoof I don't need, you three can have them.”

Dash, Twilight and Applejack each had shocked looks on their faces. “Are…are you sure?” Twilight said hesitantly. “I mean…that’s awfully generous and we don’t want to be a bother…”

“Think nothing of it!” he proclaimed as he reached into his bag to retrieve a quill and scribble something on the back of one of the tickets. “After all, we 'Bolts fans gotta stick together, right?" he said, winking at Rainbow Dash. "To be honest, I’ve been to plenty of these conventions. In fact..." he leaned in as if giving a conspiratorial whisper. "...I used to be quite the Wonderbolts fanatic. But I've been to so many of these events that the novelty has somewhat worn off. I just keep coming because my friends keep dragging me along. But don't tell anypony I said that,” he added, winking at Dash again.

“Anyway, here you go!” the stallion said, his voice returning to normal volume as he handed the three mares his tickets. “I’m afraid I have to get going now, but it was an honor to meet you! Have fun!” he called back as he trotted over to the elevators.

“You are…the most wonderful…” Dash said, her eyes welling with tears again, only now those of joy rather than sorrow. “…Thank you,” she breathed.

“Thank you!” Applejack cried, waving at the stallion as he left. “Well, how do you like them apples! What a nice fellow!”

“I’ll say!” Twilight agreed. “That was really generous of him! I…Rainbow? Are you okay?” she added, looking over at the pegasus with concern. Dash was holding the ticket in her front hooves, staring at the back of it. Her mouth was agape and her eyes wide.

“Um…Rainbow?” Applejack asked uncertainly. “…Are you alrigh’?”

In response, Dash merely looked up at them, her expression not changing in the slightest as she held out her ticket. Twilight took it with her magic and she and Applejack read what the stallion had scribbled on the back of it.

Don’t ever give up!

Your fan,


Mustang?!” Twilight exclaimed.

“As in that famous Wonderbolt you kept going on about?” Applejack asked, blinking at the ticket. She and Twilight looked up to see that Dash’s expression still hadn’t changed. The pegasus was standing there, still as a statue.

When she retold the story of how she met the legendary Mustang, Rainbow Dash would talk about how awesome it was and give some account that suggested a perfectly calm, dignified response. What she would not tell other ponies was that she promptly fainted as a result of being utterly overwhelmed by a series of conflicting thoughts and emotions that bombarded the pegasus in a very short period of time. She had just met Mustang. Mustang had given them tickets. They were getting to go to WonderCon after all. Mustang was nice and generous. Mustang was a lot shorter than Dash had imagined. Mustang was a fan of hers. Mustang had likely seen her crying. Mustang had given her advice. Mustang. Mustang. Mustang.

In the end, it was too much and it took Twilight and Applejack a good ten minutes to bring Rainbow Dash back to a state of consciousness. Afterwards the pegasus would plead with her two friends not to reveal the actual events that transpired and it became merely another one of the many secrets the three ponies would share about that trip.

The day’s convention schedule was broken up into a set of morning events and a set of afternoon events, with a long break in between. The three mares sat in a packed ballroom to see a discussion panel made up of several Wonderbolts coaches who spoke for a while before taking questions from the audience. Twilight and Applejack enjoyed it, although they felt somewhat out of place in this very 'in' crowd. The members of the audience were mostly pegasi, although they were many unicorns and earth ponies as well. They were of all colors, sizes, heights, mane styles and other physical characteristics, the only common attribute being that many of them were wearing Wonderbolt gear, from goggles and masks to cutie mark patches of winged lightning bolts to some even wearing complete uniforms. There were dozens of stands selling all manner of Wonderbolt merchandise, from the giant official team store that commanded the most space and attention to individual sellers who made their own fan creations. The bustling rooms were decorated with huge banners depicting the Wonderbolts logos or images of the stunt flyers adorned seemingly every surface.

Through the remainder of the morning Rainbow Dash looked like she was in heaven. Even Twilight and Applejack, who weren’t nearly as enthusiastic about the Wonderbolts, still thoroughly enjoyed themselves. But come the afternoon break, Twilight and Applejack decided to leave the pegasus to her own interests and departed the hotel to head over to the post office. There they found, to Twilight’s immense relief, a message waiting for her that showed that Spike had successfully carried out the unicorn’s instructions and wired her a substantial sum of money.

Under pressure from Applejack, Twilight agreed to make up for stealing the balloon. She prepared a money order to send to the salespony back in Fillydelphia. Initially Twilight suggested just sending the money with no explanation or only a very vague one, but Applejack wouldn’t stand for that and insisted on some sort of admission of guilt. In the end they enclosed a note which took them a long time to compose despite its short length but managed to balance the earth pony’s desire for honesty with Twilight’s wish to remain anonymous.

Dear Mr. Trotter,

It has come to my attention that one of your hot-air balloons, a Shetvy Colt model, was taken from your establishment without your knowledge. I now realize that a friend of mine, somepony who I didn’t know as well as I thought, stole the balloon from your premises. The balloon then crashed in a field, which is why we are unable to return the balloon itself. While I have promised my friend that I will not reveal her name, rest assured she will never do anything like this again.

To that end, we are enclosing a money order that will cover the rental cost, the deposit, and a little extra by way of apology. We also strongly suggest you report a missing balloon to the authorities – I assume your fleet is insured and sincerely hope you will be able to make back enough to cover the full cost.

Our deepest apologies.

With the matter thus resolved, Applejack and Twilight returned to the Marritrot, now accompanied by the jingling sound of a bulging sack of bits in each of their saddlebags, to book a room for a few nights. While WonderCon was only scheduled to last until the following day, the two ponies agreed to make up for the time they lost and extend their trip . Hopefully the added time to take in the city would make up for all they had gone through to get to Manehattan. And even if it didn’t, nopony would deny they had earned a little vacation from their vacation.

That evening, the three ponies could be found sitting in their room on the tenth floor of the Marritrot, freshly bathed and relaxing. Rainbow Dash was reveling in all the merchandise she had purchased and the multiple autographs she had acquired and still taking in the memory of getting to meet Mustang. The following day the pegasus would get to meet the legendary Wonderbolt once more and thank him properly. Applejack was looking out the window at the lights and bustle of Thyme Square below and thinking about the last time she had come to Manehattan. Though she didn’t know it now, come tomorrow she would take her friends back to the airport and find that their luggage was still missing – indeed, they would never manage to recover it. But over the course of the next couple of days it would fall to the earth pony to lead them around the city and help her friends accept their loss and appreciate the wonders the city held, a task she would do splendidly at.

Twilight Sparkle was sitting at a small desk in the room, writing two different notes – one to her friends in Ponyville telling them when they would be returning from Manehattan and another to Princess Celestia that had been coming together in the back of Twilight’s mind all day. After signing her name she put down her quill and reread what she had written with a critical eye. At the very least it was a decent start, a good first draft. Ever since she wrote that letter following her discovery of Pinkie Sense, which the princess had returned to Twilight with a bunch of notes asking for further clarification scribbled in the margins, the student had taken on the practice of writing multiple drafts of her friendship reports to ensure her point got across clearly.

Dear Princess Celestia,

I am currently having a very enjoyable time in Manehattan, but I must admit that getting here wasn’t easy. But in the course of my travels I learned a lot about friendship and about myself.

In the past I’ve told you about the power of friendship and how a true friend will stand by you no matter what. But what I haven’t told you is that sometimes a friend will fail you, just as I failed my friends these past couple of days. Sometimes our friendships drive us to do things we could never imagine ourselves doing, and sometimes despite our best efforts we don’t succeed in giving our friends what they want.

But now I see that a true friend is one that will understand and accept you even if you don’t succeed in delivering on your promises, so long as they know you tried your best. I was afraid to fail my friends and rely on somepony else when I felt sure I could get my friends to Manehattan myself, but when you’re far from home often you’re not afforded the luxury of total independence. While our friends are the best ones to turn to in times of trouble, I now realize that there’s no shame in accepting the kindness of a stranger.

Your faithful student,

Twilight Sparkle


A huge thanks to all who read this story and made it by far my most popular work to date! This was a blast to write and even more of a blast to get feedback on, so thank you all for reading, liking, tracking and/or commenting! And a huge thanks to Equestria Daily for posting this story. And of course, a massive thanks to Steve Martin, the late and great John Candy and John Hughes and the other fantastic creators of the film Planes, Trains and Automobiles - while this story wasn't a strict remake, that film did give me the inspiration to try out a road trip story.

Return to Story Description


Login with