Megan clenched her jaw and stepped back. She turned to Mike and held up a hand. “I'm all right,” she said, forcing a smile. She looked down at Twilight, then back to the kitchen, even as Danny, Molly, Michelle and Danielle entered the living room. “The government knows.” She looked back to Chip. “All right, Mister Chase.” She spread her arms out and smiled. “You got me. There's a portal to another world in the backyard.” She turned and meandered over to a bookcase, plucking out a copy of My Little Horsey. She turned and flipped it open, displaying an image of a blue pegasus with whistles for a cutie mark. “Wind Whistler was my best friend back then.” She turned more pages to another image, this time of a pink pegasus with lightning bolts on her flank. “And of course, Firefly.” She glanced down at the floor and smiled. “I believe this is the one Admiral Delgado mentioned seeing in his memoirs.”
Danielle spoke up. “Mom's not in trouble, is she?” She swallowed and her cheeks grew red as everyone turned to her. “Well, I mean she didn't do anything wrong... right?”
Chip adjusted his glasses before speaking. “She didn't do anything wrong, Miss... Danielle, right?” At her nod, he continued, sweeping his gaze over everyone and the living room. He walked over to a radio on a stand, turned it on and began adjusting the dials. “It took a lot longer for the FCC to figure out where the radio signal was coming from.” The radio speakers squelched as he moved through various stations. “Radio signals through an inter-dimensional gateway apparently don't behave normally.” He looked back as he stopped turning the dial. “I can't wait to examine it!”
A tinny voice came through the radio's speakers, somewhat flat. “You're listening to K-Colt, Ponyville's first radio station! Stay tuned for a repeat of the premiere of Vinyl Scratch's radio program, and a concert from Canterlot, featuring Octavia.”
Mike snorted and shook his head. “I knew you'd track that down.” He narrowed his eyes at Chip. “Okay, so Megan's not in trouble, good.”
Megan suddenly cleared her throat. “Okay, everyone.” She stepped forward, pivoted on her heel and held her arms up. “If it's all right, I'd like a few minutes to talk with Mister Chase alone.” She held up her hands as her family began protesting. “Please, this will be a lot easier for everyone without a lot of interruptions.”
Mike locked eyes with her and took her hand. “Are you sure?”
Megan leaned forward and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. “I'm sure, and thank you.”
Danny raised his hand, then placed it on his wheelchair's wheel and spun around. “Come on, kids,” he said, rolling off. “I think your mother needs some time alone with Mister Chase.” he suddenly stopped and looked back. “We'll be right here,” he said, locking eyes with Megan.
Megan smiled at her brother before looking to Twilight as Mike, Danielle, Michelle and Molly followed Danny back to the kitchen. “You might wanna stay, too.”
Twilight cocked her head to the side as she regarded Megan. “Why wouldn't I stay? This is huge!” She looked back to Chip, walked up to him and extended a foreleg. “It's an honor to meet you, Mister Chase! My name is Twilight Sparkle. I'm the personal protege of Princess Celestia, ruler of Equestria.”
Chip grinned and knelt down. He gently took Twilight's foreleg in his hand and lightly shook it. “The honor's mine, Twilight.” He rubbed his chin. “So, an alternate reality? Or could you simply be from another planet in the Milky Way Galaxy?”
Megan spoke up. “I think it's another dimension.” She turned and pointed to the back yard. “It's been twenty years since I went to Twilight's world, but there about fifteen hundred years passed.” She rubbed the bridge of her nose. “It's... almost totally different from when I left. There's a nation there of ponies, with their own government, their own territory. It's incredible what they've done!” Her face lit up with a smile. “They're safe.”
Twilight's eyes narrowed. “Yes, we're 'safe'. Not counting the Everfree Forest, the Griffin Empire up north, the Ursa Majors and Minors in the northeast tundra, outcasts from the Dragon Clans, mercenary bands near the south and the Desert of Illusions in the southeast. Perfectly safe,” she concluded with a roll of her eyes.
Megan waggled her head a bit. “Okay, but compared to Dream Valley you're living in paradise.” She placed a hand on her chest. “Trust me on that.” She looked to Chip. “Those books I wrote are softened slightly, but what happened back then is in there. And trust me on this, I still have nightmares about some of the horrors I saw. And I'm not just talking about monsters either.”
Chip glanced to the ceiling. “I know what you mean, Missus Richards. I still get the shivers thinking about my first encounter with a Decepticon.” He looked back down, focusing on a spot on the floor to Megan's left. “There's nothing like a laser-spewing condor strafing your car to really wake you up to the real world.” He looked to Megan. “Sort of like forging a treaty between the Sky Clans of the Peak, the Ponies of the Plains and the Mages of the Rock?”
Megan snorted. “Maybe a little less lethal, but I learned a lot from those talks. Danny, Molly and I had our hands full trying to get everyone on the same page with the Equestrian Alliance, but Pansy, Smart Cookie and Clover smoothed things over. King Blueblood I especially wanted peace after his daughter was lost.” She sighed and her shoulders slumped. “I still wish I could've helped Platinum. She was a bit stuck-up, but her heart was in the right place.”
Chip nodded. “Some of the negotiations with the Autobots about technology exchanges went way over my head. I just wanted everyone to sit down and help each other.” He rolled his eyes. “I'm glad Spike got stuck with being Earth's ambassador and not me!”
Twilight looked up at Chip. “'Spike'? I'm guessing he's not a dragon?” At his look she shrugged. “My assistant is a baby dragon named Spike. He's annoying at times, but he's also my best friend and surrogate brother.” A warm smile drifted across her face before she gasped. “And he might be wondering where I am!”
Megan glanced at Twilight, then to Chip. “Mister Chase, there's-”
“Please, call me Chip.”
There was a pause before Megan continued, a small smile on her lips. “Okay, Chip. As long as it's Megan and not 'Missus Richards'.” She coughed into her throat. “Anyway, the thing is we do have appointments over in Equestria.” She looked back to the kitchen. “Mike promised to do some work at Sweet Apple Acres, and I had plans with Princess Celestia. And my kids were gonna meet up with the friends they made over there, too.”
Chip nodded. “All right, fair enough.” He knelt down, placed his briefcase on the floor, opened it up and pulled out three pieces of machinery. He hooked them together to form an oblong black rectangle with an aperture at one end and a touch-sensitive screen at the other. “But I have to get readings on the inter-dimensional hole, to determine its true nature and any possible dangers it might pose,” he said, his expression turning somewhat serious.
Twilight blinked. “Dangers?” she repeated. She looked to Megan. “Wait, what dangers? Were there any dangers back in Dream Valley?”
Chip pressed the screen and the scanner began emitting a mild hum. “Well, I have no idea. What if the hole's unstable and explodes, or begins expanding to encompass all of Earth? There are any number of possibilities.”
Megan blanched and she looked back. “Expand? Explode? But it hasn't done done anything... yet.” She lowered her head and stepped back. “All right, Chip. Lead the way.”
Chip nodded. He walked through the living room and kitchen to outside, Megan, Twilight and Megan's family following. Megan stood by Danny and Molly. “Nothing was wrong then,” she said. “Why would anything be wrong now?”
Danny looked up to her as he rolled along. “Well, not like we ever found out how the Rainbow Bridge was formed in the first place, right? Firefly just sort of appeared over the rainbow one day and asked for your help.” He glanced up at the hole in the sky and the solidified rainbow arcing down from it. “Did Firefly punch a hole through time and space, too?”
Chip stopped before the rainbow. His gaze drifted up and over it. “Outrageous,” he whispered, reaching out to it. He suddenly stepped back and held up the scanner. A haze formed in front of the emitter and he swept it over everything. “This is... solidified light, literally frozen! The photons...” He barked a laugh. “Oh, I could spend a year on this alone!” He looked to Twilight and stepped over to her. “What happened? How did this form?” he asked, dropping to one knee.
Twilight glanced up. “I was in a balloon with Spike near the Everfree Forest when a dragon tried to incinerate it–long story–and Rainbow Dash flew over to grab me just as I was teleporting away. She was going so fast she initiated a sonic rainboom and my teleporting combined with that ripped a hole in the space/time continuum, sending us right into Megan's backyard.” She suddenly slapped her face with a foreleg. “And you don't know who Dash is or what a sonic rainboom is, right.”
Danielle spoke up. “Hey, is the hole in space dangerous, Mister Chase?” She hopped from foot to foot. “I mean, I only just met them, but Michelle and I have some good friends over there. I don't want anything bad happening.”
Chip stood back up and looked to Danielle. He held his scanner up and looked at the screen. “You'll all be happy to know that the hole is stable and is not expanding.” He turned and looked up at it. “Kind of a shame, though. It's a bit small. Twilight, you said you can teleport?”
Twilight's horn glowed and she disappeared in a flash of light. There was a pop and she reappeared in front of Chip. She looked up at him as he stumbled back. “Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry!” she exclaimed, blushing. “I figured a practical demonstration would be better!”
Mike stepped over and grabbed Chip's arm, steadying him. “You all right?” At his nod, he motioned to Twilight. “Just be glad she didn't teleport you. The headaches and dizziness aren't fun at all.” He held up his hand at Twilight's glare. “But it's getting better!”
Molly held up her hand and waved it about. “Okay, so the hole's not a danger to Earth, Megan's not in trouble and I assume there won't be military intervention of any sort?” She spread her arms out. “Okay, good then. So now what?”
Chip looked to her. “Well, probably some sort of formal first contact procedure. I know I have to report to President Abernathy about this.” He rubbed his chin. “Normally first contact is carried out in space, not on Earth itself. Twilight, would it be possible to carry a message to your princess?”
Twilight stood up straight and nodded, her mouth a thin line. “You can count on me Mister Chase!" she said.
Chip smiled at the purple pony. “Thanks.” He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and held it up, pointing the built-in camera at himself. He turned it on and began speaking. “Princess Celestia, my name is Chip Chase, and on behalf of the President of the United States and humanity itself, I wish to invite you or a representative to Earth. We mean you no harm and wish to learn more about you.” He flipped it off and knelt down to Twilight's level. He held his phone out to her face. “All right, Twilight. Just have Megan or someone play that back for her.”
Twilight's brow furrowed and she levitated the phone out of Chip's hand. “Megan, this is like your own cell phone, right?” She turned it over and examined the screen. “Touch-sensitive, icons for telling it what to do.” She looked up at Chip. “The big arrow plays it back, correct?”
Chip blinked. He looked to his hand, then to Twilight. “Telekinesis?” He pointed at her horn. “You have telekinesis?!” He stood up. “That's incredible! And explains a bit how you built a civilization. Do all ponies have that?”
Twilight shook her head. “Just unicorns, but it took more than that to build Equestria.” She drew herself up straight and looked up at him. “Earth ponies, pegasi and unicorns all worked together to build build our nation. “ She turned her head around and looked at Megan. “But if it wasn't for three young humans, we never would've started in the first place.” Her gaze swept around to Molly and Danny, a smile on her mouth and in her eyes.
A voice sounded out, steel coated by velvet. “And we owe them a debt that can never be repaid.”
Chip's head darted about, his eyes wide behind his glasses. “Okay, what's that?”
Sunlight streamed out of the hole stopping in mid-air and collecting into a large circle. It grew, changing from yellow to white. Limbs extended and a head emerged. A multicolored mane and tail flowed out like the solar winds and wings unfurled as Princess Celestia floated down. “My apologies,” she said to Chip. “I didn't mean to startle you too badly.” She looked to Megan, her right eye winking.
Megan snorted and bit her lip. “Right, Celestia. You could've come over at any time.” She walked up to the alicorn and wrapped her arms around her neck in a hug. “What are you doing here?”
Celestia leaned into the hug. “I realized how draining teleporting could be for Twilight, so I decided to help out with that. And I had some news to deliver.” She looked to Twilight, but stopped as she beheld her student's mane and tail. “Twilight, are you taking lessons from Rarity?”
Twilight flicked her ribbon-festooned tail and rolled her eyes. “It was last night.” She looked to Michelle and half-smiled. “Michelle does excellent work. If humans get cutie marks, I think hers would be a ponytail.”
Michelle beamed back at Twilight. “Thanks.”
Celestia looked to Chip and stepped forward. “Chip Chase, my name is Princess Celestia of Equestria. I am the diarch of the nation with my sister, Luna.” She held up a foreleg and extended it to Chip. “I extend a hoof of friendship to the people of Earth, on behalf of all Equestrians.”
Chip looked Celestia over before reaching out and grabbing Celestia's foreleg. “On behalf of the people of Earth, I accept your offer, your majesty.” He leaned forward in a short bow before straightening up.
Celestia let out a sigh. Her wings unfurled and her horn lit up, casting a golden light into the sky. “May this day mark the beginning of a new age for my people, an era of peace, friendship and harmony with humanity!” She leaned forward. “I invite you to Canterlot, our capitol, for a meeting.”
Mike stepped back and leaned in close to Danny. “A bit dramatic?”
Danny shook his head. “You should've seen Luna in the old days. She loved theatrics. Maybe a bit too much, to be honest.”
Chip tilted his head down and scratched his forehead. “I'll have to make some calls, but it shouldn't be a problem. I was given wide latitude with this assignment.” He looked to Twilight and held his hand out. “So can I have my phone back?”
Twilight floated Chip's cell phone back into his hand before trotting over to Celestia's side. “Princess, is there anything else?”
Celestia looked down at her student and nodded. “There's two ponies over there with some good news.” Her smile fell away. “And the Elements of Harmony might be needed sooner than we think.”
Megan's eyes widened. “Discord?”
Celestia hesitated. “I'll explain over in Ponyville.” She looked up as Danny and Molly approached. “My friends!' she said, the smile returning.
Danny bowed at the waist while Molly curtsied. “How's Luna?” Danny asked.
“She's well,” Celestia replied. She looked from one to the other and her brow creased. “Is there something wrong?”
Molly grabbed her right forearm. “Celestia, Danny and I... won't be coming with you this time. I have to get back to my clinic to check in.”
Danny glanced away at the grass. “And I've got to get ready for class tomorrow. I've got students depending on me.” He looked up at Celestia, not quite meeting her eyes. “Sorry.”
Celestia blinked. “Sorry? For what, Danny?” She raised a foreleg and scratched her forehead, right below her horn. “Of course you two have duties here on Earth. I would never presume otherwise!” She stepped forward and leaned her head down. “I'll miss you, but please don't feel some obligation to visit every day. That would be rather selfish of me.”
Both Molly and Danny patted her on the muzzle, scratching her nose. “Thanks,” Molly said.
Chip approached Celestia. The scanner was gone, in one hand he held his briefcase and the other held his cell phone. “All clear,” he said. “I'm to report everything I see and hear and hopefully conduct an interview with either you or Princess Luna, and I must be back by 6:00 PM local time.” He glanced at his phone. “It's 9:30 AM now.” He rolled his eyes. “Sorry, I forgot. On Earth-”
Celestia held up a hoof. “We adopted Earth’s timekeeping customs, since before there was no standardized practice among the pony tribes. But it might be better to discuss that in Equestria.” She looked around. “How much time does everyone need to get ready?”
Danielle and Michelle ran up to Celestia's side, while Mike jogged over to the shed. He emerged a half-minute later, hammer in one hand and a tool box in the other and made his way to Megan's side. “Sorry, just made a promise to Big Mac I'd help with his apple cart, and I also told Applejack I'd help her with something else.”
Megan leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “You're so sweet.” She suddenly looked to the house. “Think we'll need any money?”
Twilight's horn flared and she disappeared. A few seconds later she reappeared, a bag of bits floating next to her. “Is a hundred enough?” she said rather dryly.
Megan snorted. “Should be.” She looked to Danielle and Michelle, standing on Celestia's other side. “You two all set?” At their nods she looked to Celestia. All-”
“Wait!” Molly shouted. She ran inside the house. A few minutes later she emerged with Megan's backpack and handed it to her big sister. “Your emergency supplies,” she said. “Just in case.”
Megan took the backpack with one arm and wrapped the other around Molly's shoulders, pulling her in for a hug. “Thanks.” She slung it over her shoulder, banging it against her rifle. “Now we're all set.”
The tip of Celestia's horn glowed. She looked to Danny and Molly. “Until next time?”
Danny held up an arm and waggled his fingers. “I look forward to it!”
Molly waved an arm in the air. “Take a lot of pictures!”
Megan looked to Chip as he stood in front of Celestia, Twilight to his left. “Ready to visit Equestria, Chip?”
Chip barked a laugh. “As an old friend would say, let's roll!”
Celestia, Megan, Mike, Michelle, Danielle, Twilight and Chip were all enveloped in a golden light. When it faded, they too had vanished from Earth.