Sol Umbrae

by Dream Bolt

Chaotic Situations

Chapter 8: Chaotic Situations

Knuckles and Applejack stepped through the portal into the hot desert sun.
Applejack looked around in shock. “Land sakes!” she said with a whistle. “Those Star Post things sure are a wonder. Is G.U.N. the only ones with ‘em?”

“Tails has a pair in his lab.” Knuckles stated, “but since he’s off who-knows-where, we had to use G.U.N.’s ones.”

“Wish I had a couple.” Applejack mused as she trotted down the sandy dunes. “Would make fillin’ the barn up a whole lot faster. And don’t even get me started on winter trips to the outhouse.”

She wiped her brow. “Whew!” she breathed. “Actually, right now I wouldn’t mind a little cold. Thank Celestia I got my hat.”

“You’ll get used to the heat.” Knuckles said. “Come on. Our goal is that ancient ruin over there. Once we get inside it will be cooler. Let’s crank up the speed a little.”

As he and Applejack dashed along across the sand, the sun beat down upon them, causing them to sweat profusely.
“Lucky you were teamed with me.” Applejack huffed as they ran along. “I’m used to hot work. I can’t imagine what Rarity would have done if she were here.”

“Sonic knew what he was doing when he formed our teams.” Knuckles puffed.

Suddenly, Knuckles pointed ahead. “Dash pads ahead. That’ll give us a boost.”

“A dash what now?” Applejack queried.

“Those things.” Knuckles said, pointing towards a line of flat, fast-moving conveyor belts. “Now be ready. The quick acceleration can cause you to trip if you aren’t careful.”

As Applejack and Knuckles stepped on the dash pads, Applejack felt her hooves tugged along as if of their own accord. She found her hooves barely touching the ground as the wind blasted past her, and she was surprised that her hat managed to stay on. She stumbled slightly as the acceleration wore off.

“What in the hay was that doin’ in the middle of the desert?” Applejack asked.

“An abandoned experiment of Eggman’s.” Knuckles explained. “While he ruled Mobius, he tried to devise ways to provide better mobility for his robots. Dash pads, spring pads, dash rings, power siphons. He placed them all over the world.”

“What in tarnation is a power siphon?” Applejack questioned, galloping along.

“A special container meant to absorb ambient Chaos energies.” Knuckles replied. “They’re kind of specialized to specific types of energy. If you break them open, you can release the energies upon yourself, giving yourself an extra boost in speed or making you invincible for a short while, which is why we nick-named them power-ups. Some of them absorb and collect small amounts of Rings, even.”

“Hate to be a bother, but I have another question.” Applejack said. “What’s so special about a ring?”

“You’re about to find out.” Knuckles replied.

Ahead, a line of golden rings stretched before them. The rings all levitated in the air, spinning in synchrony.

“Grab a few as we pass!” Knuckles told her. “They’ll come in handy later on!”

Applejack grabbed for a few of the rings, but as soon as she touched them, they dissolved with a tinkling sound. Instantly, she felt the effects of the heat less than before, and she felt her sapped strength returning to her.

“Well, twist my tail!” Applejack exclaimed. “What in the hay are these? Eggman’s inventions?”

“Nope.” Knuckles replied. “Solid remnants of Chaos energy. They form in eddies of ambient Chaos energy. They’re an excellent source of power, if you know how to use them, but we mainly use them as either currency or a stamina boost. You could run for ages and not get tired with a few of these. And they will protect you from harm, to some degree.”

“Well, hoo-wee! I could use some of those!” Applejack cried, dashing to grab more rings. “Why with these, I could have all of Sweet Apple Acres harvested in half the time!”

Knuckles gave her a competitive grin. “Want to see who can get the most rings before we get to the ruins?” he challenged.

“You’re on!” Applejack exclaimed, returning the grin.


“Yee-haw! I got seventy-eight!” Applejack whooped as she skidded to a stop in front of the old stone structures.

Knuckles panted up behind her. “Not bad.” he said. “You won the race, but I won the ring competition. One hundred and three. Those ring power siphons come in real handy.”

“Nuts.” Applejack said, kicking her hoof. “Well, I still beat ‘cha here!” She looked up at the ruins. “So… we gotta go in there?”

“Yep.” Knuckles replied.

Applejack looked suspicious. “Are there traps?”

“Almost certainly.” Knuckles replied. “The people who built these didn’t like visitors.”

Applejack shrugged. “Well, might as well get to it then.”

“I’ll go first.” Knuckles said. “I have more experience with booby-trapped ruins.”


As they entered the foreboding ruins, Knuckles took a nearby torch and lit it with the sparks from a pair of stones. He then used the torch to ignite the other torches that hung upon the wall.
“Stay alert.” Knuckles said. “The traps are probably hidden, and could be sprung by the slightest movements.
Suddenly a tile moved beneath Applejack’s hoof. Knuckles tackled her to the floor as a stream of arrows whizzed over their heads.

“I see what y’all mean.” Applejack gasped.

They picked their way through the ruins, walking over precarious bridges and past menacing statues. Applejack barely dodged a swinging ax, while Knuckles would have fallen into a spike-filled pit if Applejack hadn’t caught him with her lasso.

“I can imagine Rainbow Dash would love this.” Applejack mentioned. “This whole thing sounds like something out of one a’ her Daring Do books.”

“Not the same in real life, huh?” Knuckles said. He suddenly paused, and scratched his head. In the firelight, Applejack could see that he was blushing.

“Er… y’know… I just wanted to say… I’m sorry. You know, for fighting you guys back at the library.”

“T’aint no need to apologize.” Applejack said. “You strike me as a right decent fella’. I know you were just tryin’ to do the right thing.”

“But I have history of this.” Knuckles went on. “I always seem to be tricked by people into doing things I regret. I mean, Sonic and I used to be enemies, too, you know. I thought he was out to steal the Master Emerald. But then I found out it was a lie of Eggman’s.”

“Well, all’s well that ends well, sugarcube.” Applejack said brightly.

“But it doesn’t always end well!” Knuckles shouted, punching the wall and sending chunks of stone flying. “My father died because of me! Because I listened to a madman!”

Applejack put a hoof on Knuckles’ shoulder. “It ain’t no crime to be trustin’ of others.” she said softly. “And it ain’t no good to go beatin’ yourself up over what you could have done better. I know from experience.”

Knuckles looked at her. “You lost someone?”

“Ma and Pa.” Applejack said, her voice staying strong, but her eyes shimmering slightly in the firelight. “Timberwolves came on the property. They told me to run back home, so I did. But… they didn’t come back. For a long while, I wondered if they might still be here if I had done something.”
She took a deep breath and went on. “Then I realized I was only foolin’ myself. I can’t change the past. And it don’t do anypony any good to keep beatin’ themselves up. When I get knocked down, I get up again, because that’s what Ma and Pa would have told me to do.”
Knuckles gave Applejack a sad smile. “I guess… Dad would have said the same thing.” He took a deep breath, then began to walk on.
Applejack put a hoof over Knuckle’s shoulder as they walked together. Knuckles looked surprised, but he couldn’t help but smile a bit.
Their concentration suddenly shifted, breaking the moment, as they saw the shimmering light of the Chaos Emerald, sitting on a stone pedestal out over a deep pit.

“At last!” Applejack exclaimed.

“It’s not over yet.” Knuckles stated, looking about warily. “Once I get the Emerald, stay close to me.”

“You get it?” Applejack said. “Sugarcube, I ain’t much of an explorer, but Rainbow Dash has told me enough about Daring Do that I know that the pedestal is always booby-trapped.”

“Well, then what should we do?” Knuckles asked.

“Stand back and let me handle this.” Applejack said confidently.

Pulling out her lasso, she swung the hoop over the Chaos Emerald. With a yank, it leapt off of the pedestal and into Applejack’s waiting hoof.

“Easy as apple pie.” Applejack exclaimed, tossing her mane.

But she was proven wrong as a large stone door slammed shut behind them. Suddenly, the roof began to crumble, and the ground began to shake.

“Looks like you were right about the booby traps!” Knuckles shouted.

As Applejack struggled to keep her footing, her hoof slipped, and the Chaos Emerald began to plummet into the darkness below.

“No!” she shouted.

Dashing past her, Knuckles leapt ahead, holding out his arms. To Applejack’s amazement, he glided through the air like a leaf on a breeze. He snatched the Emerald, then dug his spiked knuckles into the wall, sticking to it.

Suddenly, large chunks of the roof began to fall all around them. Applejack barely dodges a boulder the size of a wagon.

“JUMP!” Knuckles shouted to Applejack.

“Have y’all lost yer’ wits?” Applejack cried, straining to be heard over the deafening rumbling.

“Trust me!” Knuckles shouted back.

Applejack took a deep breath. She knew honesty when she saw it, and Knuckles genuinely believed he could save her. All she had to do was believe it, too.

She closed her eyes, held on to her hat, and jumped.

As she did, Knuckles leapt to grab her in his arms. From above, a boulder the size of a house came crashing down at them.
Knuckles held the Chaos Emerald in the air, straining to shout against the wind of their freefall.


There was a bright light, and they were gone.


“Wh… what in the hay?” Applejack exclaimed, looking about. They were on a grassy cliff, with a jungle surrounding them. Applejack leapt to her hooves and looked off of the cliff, trying to figure out where they were.
She got the shock of her life. Below was nothing but thin air. Far below, she could see stretched of forest, mountains, and rivers.

“Where is Celestia’s name are we?” she cried out.

“Sorry.” Knuckles stated, getting to his feet. “First place I thought of.” He spread his gloved hands. “Welcome to Angel Island.”

Applejack stared over the edge in amazement. “Now that is a sight.” she breathed. “Y’all weren’t kiddin’ about a flying island.”

She turned about. “Hold on. How in the hay did we get here?”

Knuckles held up the Chaos Emerald. “Chaos Control.” he stated. “The Chaos Emeralds have many magical traits, but their main power is over time and space. I just had to will it, and we were here. Although usually, a spoken phrase, such as ‘Chaos Control’, is necessary to make it work.”

“Well, lucky it did!” Applejack said, breathing a sigh of relief. “I thought we were goners.”

“All in a day’s work.” Knuckles chuckled. “Now, let’s get back to base.” He held the Emerald aloft, and shouted, “Chaos Control!”
There was a flash, and Knuckles and Applejack suddenly stood in the Solianna town square.
“One down.” Knuckles stated, looking proudly at the Chaos Emerald. “If we’re lucky, we might be able to manage a portal with four. Normally three or even two would do, but you’re world isn’t connected to this one nearly as strongly as the other zones.”

“Well,” Applejack stated. “I just hope the others are havin’ an easer time of it than we did.”


How Zecora managed to follow his invisible form, Espio didn’t know. The zebra shaman seemed to have sight beyond the natural realm.

“You keep up well.” Espio said as they dashed through the treetops.

“You expected me to bungle? I am used to the jungle.” Zecora replied.

“Not to sound rude,” Espio said, shimmying along the underside of a branch like a spider, “but may I ask why you speak in rhyme?”

“My people tend to speak this way so that they might think about the things they say.” Zecora answered, grabbing a vine and swinging to a nearby branch. “I do not always speak in rhyme, but I prefer to most of the time. Only when the situation is grave do I change the way I behave. For if you learn to control your tongue, the rest of the body will follow along.”

Espio gave a little smirk. “I like that ideology. ‘Control the tongue, and the body will follow along.’ Very wise.” He turned to Zecora. “You sound like a ninja.”

Zecora laughed. “I may know martial arts and stealth, but I am no ninja myself.”

Espio let his face become visible for a moment so that Zecora could see it as he gave her a respectful nod. “You taught me your ways, it’s only fair I teach you. You share meditation skills, I share ninjitsu.”

“Ha!” Zecora laughed. “Not a bad rhyme! You’ll be talking like a zebra in no time! If you want to teach, I‘d be honored to learn. First I was the teacher, now it‘s you‘re….”

Suddenly she froze and pointed. “Dead ahead.” she whispered.

Espio saw them. Eggman’s forces were spread across the jungle, surrounding a large clearing. A clearing that, to his worry, was growing larger every minute, as large machines mowed through the jungle foliage, ruthlessly cutting it down.

“The Doctor has been busy.” Espio noted dropping to the ground and hiding in the foliage

Zecora silently landed beside him, her stripes disguising her in the dappled light. “How could Eggman desecrate this place?!” she seethed, whispering hoarsely. “I’m going to buck him in his mustached face!”

“This complicates things.” Espio muttered. “Without the trees for cover, it won’t be as easy to get into the base. I can pass by invisibly, but you might be seen.”

“Have no fear, I have a potion here.” Zecora stated, pulling a jar of sparkly, pale blue gel out of her saddlebag and pouring a bit into her hoof. “When I coat myself with this brew, I will be as almost as hard to see as you.”
A few seconds later, Zecora had shimmered out of view, and could only be vaguely seen if she moved too fast.

“Not bad.” Espio commented. “Now, let’s go.”

Slowly, they stepped out onto the compound. The surrounding robots paid them no attention as they invisibly snuck past them, carefully approaching the base. Zecora especially had to avoid any sudden movements, for her shimmering outline would flicker into view whenever she did.
Finally they reached the gates, and vaulted over them. A few robots turned as they saw a flicker of Zecora, but as she stood still as a statue, they eventually turned away.
Silently Espio and Zecora approached the door to the base. Zecora waited impatiently as Espio hacked the code key. As soon as the doors slid open, they swiftly dashed inside.

“We have to get to a computer terminal.” Espio said quietly. “We’ll be able to find our exactly where the Emerald is being kept from there.”

“What is a computer terminal?” Zecora whispered, not daring to add a rhyme lest they be heard.

“Something with big, glowing screens with lots of symbols and words on them.” Espio explained. “Keep your eyes peeled.”

Slowly they stalked down the hall. Zecora couldn’t help but look around in wonder at the mechanical devices inside the base.
After a while of searching, Espio finally found a computer terminal. “Over here.” he whispered.
As he and Zecora approached the large computer, it was all Zecora could do to hold back her questions. But she knew now wasn’t the time, so she stood against Espio’s back, guarding him as he hacked the system.
As she waited, Zecora suddenly saw something that made her stop cold. Her hoof was shimmering into view.

“My invisibility is wearing thin!” she whispered urgently to Espio. “And I don’t have enough potion to use again!”

“Just stay quiet and out of sight.” Espio assured her with his usual calm. “Once we get the Chaos Emerald, we won’t have to worry about getting out.”

Zecora was worried, but she had known Espio for long enough to trust that he knew what he was doing, and so hid in a corner beneath a grate, where her stripes blended in with the streams of light as she faded back into view.
Espio’s fingers tapped away at the keyboard. Finally, a picture of the Chaos Emerald appeared on the screen.

“There it is.” Espio stated satisfactorily. “It’s deep. In a generator in the lowest basement. I have a map right now.” Then he frowned. “Looks like the Emerald is surrounded by a force field.”

“Perhaps my magic could be useful to you, and I could cast a spell to get us through.” Zecora suggested.

“I don’t want to risk it.” Espio replied. “I’ll try deactivating it from here.”

But as soon as he began typing commands, an alarm went off, and the room was lit up by swirling red lights.

“Blast!” Espio cursed.

The room suddenly filled with robots. Within seconds, Espio was surrounded.


“You have intruded upon Dr. Eggman’s territory. You will be taken for incarceration.” one of the robots said in a flat, metallic voice. “Any attempts at escape will be met with force.”

But the robots had been so focused on Espio, they hadn’t noticed the striped figure standing in the corner, hidden by the striped light shining through the grate in the roof.
There was a blast of green dust, and the room was suddenly filled with sparkling green monsters. The robots turned their attention away from Espio, shooting at the beasts, but as they shot them, the creatures dissolved into clouds of green dust once again.
In the distraction, Espio leapt into the air, sticking to the roof and turning invisible. He swiftly scuttled towards the doorway.
Below, there was a puff of smoke, and the room filled with billowing clouds. Zecora sprung out from the haze into the hallway, and Espio dropped down next to her, flickering into view again.

“This way!” he cried, running down the hall. “Looks like we’re going to try your spells after all!”

Espio dashed over to the elevator door, trying to hack the command pad, but Zecora put a hoof out to stop him.

“Time is something we haven’t got!” she cried. “I’ll deal with the door; you cover my plot!”

Espio stood behind Zecora as she pulled out a potion and poured it on the door. The acrid smell of acid filled the air.
From behind them, Eggman’s robots began to storm down the hall. Espio whipped a stream of shuriken at them, cutting through their guns and severing their power wires.
As more robots charged down the hall, Espio pulled out a ninja bomb, tossing it. There was a loud explosion, and pieces of metal flew every which way.

“The door is gone! Now let‘s move on!” Zecora shouted as the acid finally ate through, leaving a gaping hole in the door.
Espio unthinkingly leapt down the elevator shaft, and Zecora dove after him, as a stream of laser fire scorched the ground where they had just been standing.
Espio began to run down the wall, sticking to it with his chameleon abilities as he tried to slow his descent. Zecora whipped past him is a free fall.

“Zecora!” Espio shouted. “Don’t worry! I’ve got….”

Zecora suddenly closed her eyes and held her front hooves together, while her right back leg was crooked against her left. Moments before she struck the bottom, she swiftly came to a halt, suspended about a foot above the ground.

“…you.” Espio finished, raising his eyebrows in surprise.

He leapt down to Zecora’s side as she opened her eyes and dropped to her hooves on the floor.

“Impressive meditative skills.” he said with admiration. “That is the most impressive use of meditation I have ever seen.”

“It’s simply mind over matter. The former controls the latter.” Zecora replied.

Espio shook his head. “I’ve known that all of my life, and yet I have never seen something like that performed.”

Zecora grinned as she once again smeared acid upon the door. “It is not much to stop a fall. I am a shaman, after all. Magic spells are what I do. Do you wish me to teach you a few?”

“Magic isn’t my forte.” Espio replied. “Too unpredictable.”

Zecora chuckled. “I must admit, what you say is true. I’ve had many problems from an unsuccessful brew.”

The door finally corroded away, and Espio and Zecora leapt through. Unfortunately, they were not alone. Dozens of Egg robots filled the generator room.

“I can see we have company.” Zecora stated as the robots all turned towards them.

“You see if your magic can’t take out the force field!” Espio shouted, hurling a cloud of shuriken. “I’ll draw their fire!”

Zecora nodded, and began galloping towards the generator where the Chaos Emerald was being held, avoiding the robot’s shots with grace and agility.
Espio was off like a shot. While as a ninja, he knew how to keep out of view, he had also learned the opposite; sometimes a good ninja needed theatricality and flair to distract the enemy.
He threw a series of smoke pellets, clouding the enemy’s view, then hurled a couple miniature bombs. The loud noises and bright flashes helped draw attention to him. But he needed something more.
Pulling out a series of flares, Espio began to fire them off, sending bright bolts streaming through the air. When the enemy would target him, he would disappear, toss another smoke bomb, and drop some flares behind the smoke, sending balls of brightly colored flame into the robots’ midst, leaving Espio to move away while the robots fired at an empty smoke cloud.
Another blast of smoke filled the air, surrounding the robots. A figure moved among them, and they all began to fire. They continued to fire long after Espio was gone, targeting one another by mistake.

From high on a balcony, Espio gave a satisfied smirk. Robots were only too easy to deceive.


Zecora had reached the generator. But as she stared at the force field, she felt some trepidation. This wasn’t a magical force field; it was a science beyond her understanding. Would her spells have any effect?
She brushed the thought aside. She had a task to do, and she would do it. Raising her hooves into the air, she began an ancient rhyming chant.
Hey eyes glowed yellow, and dark clouds began to circle. Lightning struck all about her as a storm of wind was whipped up about her, blowing her mane.
The bolts of lightning began to focus upon the force field. Again and again they struck, as the shield glowed brighter and brighter.
The generator began to spark. A rumble filled the base as the entire room shook.

“Zecora! It’s overloading!” Espio shouted.
He leapt from the balcony he was perched upon, tackling Zecora out of the way as a loud explosion and a flash of light filled the room.
Zecora shook her head, dazed. “You saved me from that giant blast.” she said gratefully. “Thank you. Now let’s leave here fast!”

“Couldn’t agree more.” Espio replied as a new swarm of robots poured into the room.

He dashed up the side of the generator, whipping out his long tongue and snagging the Chaos Emerald. He dropped it into his waiting hands and leapt to Zecora’s side, who was already hurling potions at the incoming robots.

“CHAOS CONTROL!!!” he shouted.

Light surrounded them. Zecora squeezed her eyes shut. Then all went silent.


Zecora’s keen senses suddenly picked up the scent of delicious food, the sounds of the sea, and the warm light of the sun.

She opened her eyes.

“Wah….” she murmured. She looked about. They were back in Solianna.

She turned towards Espio, who was looking at the Emerald in his hand with satisfaction.
“The Chaos Emeralds are powerful indeed.” she said, looking about at their peaceful surroundings. “I can see why they are something we need.”

Espio smirked. “Nice work back there.” he congratulated.

“You too.” Zecora said in return, giving him a wide grin. “We make a good team, you and me. The ninja and the shaman from Everfree!”

“I agree.” Espio replied with his own small smile. “Now, speaking of teams, let’s see how the others are doing. Perhaps some of them have already returned.”


Shadow had been though many difficult trials in his life, but at the moment, he was certain that this was the worst he had had for the last decade. Pinkie Pie had not stopped talking from the moment they had left, and her topics were bouncing around as much as she was.

“… and then I said, ‘oatmeal, are you crazy?’ And then I….”

“We’re here.” Shadow growled as they approached the doors to the Casino Night Zone.

Pinkie Pie’s eyes grew huge as she looked up at the gigantic establishment. Everywhere she looked were flashing lights of all kinds and colors.

“This… is…AMAZING!!!” she shouted. “It’s like one big, never-ending PARTY!”

“Hmph.” Shadow snorted.

Pinkie Pie bounced up next to him. “Aw, come on, Mr. Grumpy-grumps! I’m sure you’ll have lots of fun here! Why, I bet you’ll be having the bestest time of your life in no time!”

“We’re not here for fun. We’re here on a mission.” Shadow said, striding past the guards as they entered the zone.

“Who says we can do both?” Pinkie squealed. “Now put a smile on that face! Everything is better with a smile! It’ll make you feel all warm inside, and then I’ll feel all warm inside. You know why?” Pinkie suddenly burst into song. “Because IIIIIII waaannnt to make you smile, smile, smile! Yes I do! It fiiiiills me up with sunshiiiine all the….”

Shadow stopped cold and whipped about, shoving his face into Pinkie’s.

“Alright, first, SHUT UP WITH YOUR STUPID SONGS!!! Second, I don’t smile, and thirdly, I could not care less about making a pathetic pink pony like you filled with sunshine or any kind of junk like that! IS THAT CLEAR?!”

The nearby guards gave wary glances at the enraged hedgehog, and took a couple steps away from him, but, to Shadow’s dismay, Pinkie merely folded her hooves and gave him a sly grin.

“Oooooh, so that’s how it is!” she stated. “You don’t fool me! You’re not as mean and cranky as you act like you are! And I’ll prove it!”

“Not likely.” Shadow snarled.

“Oh, I will.” Pinkie said sassily. “You just challenged the Pinkie Pie! And you are soooo on! I am going to make you smile, and prove that you’re not the grumpy ol’ meanie you pretend to be!”

“You of all people could never get me to smile, you annoying pink twerp!”

“Wanna bet?” Pinkie Pie challenged. “If I can’t make you smile within three days, I’ll never, ever sing another song near you again! But if I can make you smile, you have to come to one of my parties!”

“Deal!” Shadow growled, pushing the door to the Casino Night Zone open.

Pinkie’s eyes grew huge as she saw all the glamour and the lights.

“Oh, yeah!” she squealed leaping into the air. “Let’s party!”


Pinkie Pie sat at the card table, while Shadow stood nearby, looking menacing. Pinkie Pie stared intensely at her cards. Her body gave a few odd twitches as the bets were placed, and the chips rose higher and higher.

“I bet thirty thousand rings.” one of the players said, tossing in his chips.

“I’m all in!” Pinkie Pie squealed, tossing all of her chips onto the pile.

Everyone else froze.

“I fold.” one said.

“Me, too.” another agreed.

“I’m not going to take a risk like that.” a third stated.

The remaining player glared at Pinkie Pie. “I’m calling your bluff.” he said. He put down his cards.

“Straight flush.” he said with a grin.

Pinkie slammed down her cards. “Royal straight flush!” she screamed.

Her opponent’s face fell. “Wha… how….”

“That’s the seventeenth game in a row she‘s won!” one of the other players groaned.

“This is murder.” another moaned.

Pinkie stretched her arms around all the chips dragging them over to her side.

“So… anypony care to play again?”


“Place your bets on which pocket the ball will fall into!” the dealer shouted.

“33 black!” Pinkie squealed, throwing all of her chips onto the marker for 33 black.

As the ball landed in 33 black, the dealer cast her a dirty look.

“It must be your lucky night, ma’am.” he said with a fake grin. “It’s your thirty-eighth correct guess in a row!”

Pinkie gathered up all her chips. “Thanks!” she cried. “Now, let’s go again! This is fun!”

The dealer groaned and rolled his eyes.


As Pinkie was tossing the dice for her three-hundredth-and-eighty-first win, Shadow suddenly put a hand on her shoulder.
“Looks like your winning streak has attracted attention.” he whispered, motioning toward the approaching giant figure of a woolly mammoth dressed in an impeccable suit that even Rarity would be impressed by.

“You’re quite the lucky lady.” the mammoth said politely, but his eyes held a touch of menace.

“Thanks! Everyone keeps telling me that!” Pinkie cried. “So, you must be Mammoth Mogul!”

“I am.” the mammoth replied dryly.

“Well, I was wondering. I would really, really, really like to have that Chaos Emerald you have. Could I maybe trade in my chips for it?”

Mammoth Mogul glared at her, but retained his polite demeanor. “I don’t think so.” he replied.

“Okay, I’ll just play some more.” Pinkie said, picking up the dice again.

Mammoth Mogul glared suspiciously at her. “You haven’t lost a single game here, madam. Not to be rude, but that does sound suspicious. Might I ask what’s your secret?”

“Oh, just my Pinkie sense.” Pinkie Pie said brightly, while Shadow slapped his forehead in the background.

Mammoth Mogul narrowed his eyes. “Using extrasensory powers? That’s against the rules.” he said coldly.

“Well, how else do you expect anyone to win when your dealers keep switching the dice with these funny weighted ones?” Pinkie asked.

“Outrageous!” Mammoth Mogul said.

“And at the card tables, a lot of those guys had extra cards in their sleeves!” Pinkie went on. “And all the slot machines are rigged to go off only when a dealer presses a hidden button! And I had to quit the roulette when the dealer there started using a pedal to control the wheel!”

“What’s that? A pedal?” one of the patrons shouted.

“Weighted dice?” another cried.

Mammoth Mogul began to look a little concerned. “People, I assure you this casino has the highest standards….”

But someone had already flipped the roulette wheel over, and was pointing at the hidden device beneath the table.

“Mogul’s a cheat!” people were now shouting. “This place is a scam! I want my money back!”

Complete pandemonium broke out. In the chaos, Pinkie and shadow dashed out the door, not looking back at the bedlam that had erupted behind them.


“You ruined the entire mission!” Shadow screamed. “Now they’ll not even let us near that place! Why did you tell him about your powers?”

“Um… Applejack always tells me to be honest.” Pinkie Pie said, looking guilty. “I mean, the only reason I used my Pinkie sense was because they were cheating in the first place.”

“Well, now you’ve gone and made our job that much harder!” Shadow shouted. “I should have done this by myself!”

“I’m sorry.” Pinkie said contritely. She held out a wrapped gift box. “But I got you a present to make up!” She gave him an awkward smile.

“I don’t want a present!” Shadow cried.

“Just open it.” Pinkie prompted.

“I said….”

“Pleeeeeeease?” Pinkie Pie asked.

Shadow sighed. “Fine! If it will shut you up!”

He tore open the present. And suddenly, he stared, In the box was the Chaos Emerald.

“How….” he began.

“I got it when everyone was going all loco in the coco.” Pinkie explained. “I just walked into his office, and there it was!”

Shadow suddenly felt very awkward. “Well… um… good work.” he said, not looking Pinkie in the face.


Shadow sighed. “And… I suppose I should apologize. You aren’t a pathetic pony.”

“See? I knew you were nice deep down!” Pinkie exclaimed.

Shadow gave a sigh, and held the Chaos Emerald aloft.

“Chaos Control.” he uttered.

With a flash, they appeared back in Solianna.
“Wow! No wonder that thing was so expensive!” Pinkie Pie squealed. “I wish I had one!”

“That… would scare me.” Shadow muttered to himself. Then he turned towards Pinkie Pie. “We should probably meet up with the others.”

“Okey dokey lokey!” Pinkie Pie said cheerfully. “But don’t think I forgot your challenge! I am gonna make you smile yet!”

“We’ll see.” Shadow said, although his tone wasn’t as harsh as before.

“We sure will! You know what? I have a special song, just for you!” Pinkie exclaimed. “Don’t worry, you’ll like this one!”

Pinkie began to sing loudly as the two of them walked through the city.
“Suffer long and it will set you freeeeee! Only through trial do we find the strength we neeeeeed! It’s never over, just another daaaaaaay! Of hope and tragedy, and everything that comes our waaaay! Determination of the strooooooong! Found the meaning that you searched for soooo loooooooong!”

As she continued to sing, Shadow shook his head. At least this song was less obnoxious.

In fact… he kind of liked it.


“Is it near?” Rouge asked.

“Yes.” Rarity stated, concentrating with her magic. She gave a shiver. “Ugh! Why did it have to be in such a cold place! All this snow and ice makes it impossible for me to see, and this wind is stinging my cheeks!”

“Makes them look ruddy.” Rouge said flatly. “Now could you direct us towards the Emerald?”

“I am directing us as fast as I can.” Rarity sated firmly. “I have to make certain that we don’t go galloping off in the wrong direction. These mountains make it so difficult, what with all the winding paths. I have to keep concentrating to maintain a lock on….”

Rouge suddenly slapped a glove over Rarity’s mouth.
“Get down and keep quiet.” she whispered, pulling Rarity into a ditch.

“How dare you…” Rarity cried in a hoarse whisper, but suddenly shut her mouth as she saw something come around the corner.
A huge, shadowy figure stalked along. It was many times higher than Rouge and Rarity, and seemed to be made out of rock and a strange, shadowy substance. Evil eyes glowed within its head.
More creatures made from the same substance were close behind. Some looked like twisted wolves, others like strange, evil birds.

Rouge stared concernedly. “Those aren’t the Doctor’s.” she whispered.

“Sweet Celestia.” Rarity breathed.

Rouge pulled our a mini-camera and began to quietly snap pictures. As the creatures finally passed, she pressed a few buttons on the camera, then activated her communicator.

“General, this is Agent Rouge.” she called. “I’ve just sent you some photos of some unidentified lifeforms, if they really are lifeforms. I need intel, now. These things look like they could be dangerous.”

“Sorry, Agent Rouge.” General Abraham replied. “I’m afraid I don’t have any good news. These creatures are totally unidentified. No records of them exist. Which way are they headed?”

“Northwest of my position.” Rouge replied.

“Eggman has a huge base a few miles in that direction. It‘s called the Iron Egg.” the general stated. “That concerns me. Is Eggman behind these things? It wouldn’t be the first time he’s released some sort of monsters upon Mobius for his own crazy purposes.”

“I’ll keep an eye out.” Rouge said. “In the meantime, we’re getting those Chaos Emeralds. Rouge out.”

“Did he say that Eggman has a base a few miles northwest of here?” Rarity asked, her face nervous.

“Yep. We’ll just have to steer clear of it.” Rouge answered.

Rarity gave a shiver. “I… I don’t know about that.” she said quietly.

Rouge turned about. “Don’t tell me.”

Rarity looked out towards the horizon. “That’s where I sense the Emeralds.”


Rouge and Rarity hiked through the snow. The wind had died down, but now the silence and the clear air made them feel very visible.

“Do you think we should contact the others and see if they’ve gotten their Emeralds?” Rarity asked. “Perhaps we could avoid this whole dangerous venture altogether.”

“I’m with you on that one.” Rouge agree. “I’m in no hurry to tackle the Doctor on his own turf.”

As if on cue, her transmitter began to bleep.
“Rouge here.” Rouge stated, activating it.

“Rouge? We may be counting on you and Rarity.” Sonic’s voice came through. “Eggman got to Hang Castle first, and took the Chaos Emerald. Me and Amy got out fine, but we’ve got nothing to show for it. How’s your jewel hunt going?”

Rouge gave an angry sigh. “Sonic, I’m sending you my location. We need your help.”

“Problem?” Sonic asked.

“Rarity detects the Emeralds in a nearby Eggman base called the Iron Egg. I’ve heard stories about that place. No confirmations, though. None of the agents who went in ever came back.”

“Sounds like my kind of job.” Sonic said jauntily. “Me and Amy will be there to help you out.”

“Another complication.” Rouge said. “There’s been some strange, unidentified lifeforms up here, heading towards the Iron Egg. I’m sending you some photos now.”

They heard Sonic musing over the pictures on the other end for a while. “Doesn’t look like the Black Arms.” he mused. “Maybe it’s….”

“This is Tails!” Tails’ voice suddenly called, crackling to life over the transmitters. “Sonic! Anybody! Do you read me?”

“I read you loud and clear, big guy!” Sonic replied. “Rouge, you hear him?”

“Roger that.” Rouge replied.

“What is it? Is something wrong?” Rarity asked worriedly.

“Everyone, Twilight and I found out what the threat is! It’s Mephiles!”

“Who?” Sonic asked. “Tails, calm down. I know it’s serious, but we’ve fought stuff like this before. You know I can handle him.”

“No you can’t!“ Tails shouted. It sounded like he was crying. “He killed you! The only thing that saved you was a time rift and the seven Chaos Emeralds!”

“Wait… why don’t I remember any of this?” Sonic asked.

“Because it never happened!” Tails shouted. “You went back in time and stopped Solaris before it became too powerful, and time reset! But Twilight restored my memories! And Blaze still remembers, too! And Sonic, I got those pictures Rouge took of those creatures! They’re Mephiles’s creatures!”

Everyone was silent for a long while.

“Tails, tell Blaze we might need her help.” Sonic said, his jovial tone a little more serious now. “And get Twilight Sparkle to meet me out near the Iron Egg. This situation just got a little more complicated.”


“You mean those… those things are the servants of the same thing that made Nightmare Moon?!” Rarity cried.

“Looks that way.” Rouge said. “I know he’s just a kid, but Tails is pretty respected in the scientific community. He doesn’t give wild opinions often. There’s a strong chance that he’s right.”

Rarity put her hoof to her head. “And the Elements of Harmony are stolen! What are we going to dooohoohoo!” she sobbed as she flopped down upon the ground.

“Keep it together!” Rouge said roughly. “This situation just got a lot tougher. But if we can get back the Chaos Emeralds, we can get to Equestria, and hopefully get some answers. And if we can get all seven Chaos Emeralds in our hands, even this Mephiles will be given a run for his money.”

Rouge began to run down the mountainside. “Come on!” she called to Rarity.

Rarity leapt to her hooves. “ But there’s monsters down there, and those dreadful robots! Shouldn’t we wait for Sonic?”

“I don’t think Sonic will have any trouble catching up with us!” Rouge replied. “Now get going! We have to….”

Rouge was suddenly interrupted by a low boom. Up ahead, there was a sudden flash of light, and a gigantic circle or light appeared in the distance.

“What in the blazes?” Rouge cried. She pulled out a pair of binoculars, zooming in.

“What is it?” Rarity asked fearfully.

“A portal of some kind.” Rouge stated. “But it’s enormous. It looks like Eggman is flying an entire air fleet through. He’s got an entire army going in!”

“Let me see!” Rarity cried.

Rouge switched on her communicator, tossing Rarity the binoculars.

“General, this is a code red alert! The Doctor is moving in full invasion force through some sort of portal!”

“Location?! What zone is it?!” General Abraham shouted urgently.

“I’m not sure.” Rouge said. “It has some structures, but I can’t identify it.”

“I can.” Rarity said. Her voice was cold and numb, and her eyes filled with frightened tears.
She let the binoculars down, staring at the portal.

“It’s Ponyville.”