The Warp Ring deposited Sonic and the others along the left side of the Friendship Express close enough to the engine that they could all see that the barrier that had forced them to stop earlier was dissipating, soon vanishing completely and revealing the train tracks that lay beyond it. Some distance ahead, they could see the mountain range that Canterlot was connected to, the tunnel that the train would have to pass through to reach the side of the mountain range not too far ahead of where they had stopped.
“Is that where we have to go to get to Canterlot?” Sonic asked while looking at the mountain range.
“That’s right, Sonic. Once we reach the side of that mountain range, there’s just one more tunnel to pass through and then we should be able to go straight to Canterlot,” Twilight said.
Tails looked over at her and smirked, “Unless we encounter any more portals along the way, right?”
Twilight sighed, “Exactly.”
Applejack spoke up, “Well, let’s get goin’, then! Time’s a-wastin’!” Rainbow Dash agreed with that sentiment and zipped back onto the train, the others moving over to the train and climbing in after her. Tails and Pinkie took the engine and soon got the Friendship Express going again, the portal the group had gone through earlier pulsing weakly as the train moved past it.
Pinkie and Tails weren’t the only ones up front; instead of going back to their normal seats, the rest of the group all moved up towards the front of the train again, Fluttershy, Shining Armor, Cadance, and Twilight standing in the engine while Sonic, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity, and Spike stayed in the adjacent car.
Sonic stood with his back against the wall to the right (from the back of the car) of the door, his arms crossed over his chest while Rainbow Dash plopped down with her forelegs behind her head to the left of the door, Applejack laid down against the car’s right wall, and Rarity and Spike stood between her and the front of the car, Spike turning his head to look in Applejack’s direction while Rarity looked at Sonic and Rainbow.
Except for the sounds of the train chugging along, silence ruled the air around the group for several moments before Applejack reached up and took her hat off with her right hoof while sighing, “Hoo-wee! That whole mess in Central City sure was somethin’, huh?”
Rarity spoke, “Oh, absolutely! I cannot believe those horrible black aliens caused so much damage to one place and left so many people in danger. How did they ever get away with it?”
Sonic spoke up, “During the reconstruction, Knuckles said the Black Arms planted bombs all around the city and even brought some kind of big bombs to level the city even faster. At least he and Shadow managed to stop them, or Central City probably would’ve ended up at least as bad as Westopolis did at the start of the Black Arms’ invasion.”
Twilight, along with Fluttershy, Shining, and Cadance, moved a little closer to the door as she asked, “Westopolis?”
Sonic turned his head towards the door and said, “That’s where I ran into Shadow first, shortly after those aliens started their invasion. I can’t remember the specific details, but I do remember it was one of the more heavily hit areas.”
Tails turned away from the engine, leaving Pinkie to the controls, and stepped closer to the ponies around the door before saying, “Actually, it was the area that was hit the hardest. I caught it over the G.U.N. radio during the invasion; out of the six cities around the world that were invaded at the start, they said Westopolis took the most damage, with downtown Westopolis being almost completely destroyed.”
Shining Armor shook his head, “That’s unbelievable. I mean, I can believe it after seeing Central City, but still…”
From where she was laying down, Rainbow Dash threw her hooves up as she groaned, “Ugh! Whoever was in charge back then shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions about what that Gerald guy was doing! If they’d given him a chance and listened, maybe some of that destruction could’ve been avoided!” Twilight glanced down at the floor at that, an unwelcome sensation coming to the back of her mind and trying to spread from there.
Sonic spoke, “I don’t know if it would’ve helped, Dash. Fifty years is a long time; who knows what those black aliens could’ve encountered out in space during that time. When the Black Comet passed by again, it probably wasn’t fifty years on the dot.”
Cadance said, “You may have a point, Sonic. If they had gotten everything ready for the Black Arms’ return and too much time went by without anything happening, they could have let their guard down. At least, from what I saw, it seemed like they were handling the crisis well, all things considered.” Twilight’s thoughts began to calm a little at Sonic and Cadance’s words, though she closed her eyes and shook her head to try to completely calm them.
Rainbow sighed, “Still, the guy was researching immortality because he was trying to save his granddaughter’s life. Even if he hadn’t mentioned who he was doing it for, what made them think he was going to use it to conquer the world or anything like that?”
Spike shrugged, “Well, that message we heard earlier made it sound like they knew he had made contact with that comet and they figured he was going all mad scientist on the world.” Applejack smacked him across the back of his head with a hoof, Spike groaning as he rubbed the spot with a claw and asked, “What?!”
Tails spoke up, “It wasn’t just Shadow, Spike. It seems like most of the projects Gerald was working on were misinterpreted by the higher ups.”
Twilight, thankful for the chance to learn so she could focus, looked at him and asked, “Really? I know you said that the Chaos Drives he designed are still used today, and of course everything that led up to Shadow’s creation, but what else did he work on, Tails?”
Tails replied, “Well, I’m pretty sure he worked on the Artificial Chaos creatures that were left on board the ARK when it was shut down, and Eggman found one of his discoveries sometime after the Black Arms’ invasion, when reconstruction was nearing completion.”
Sonic thought for a moment about that, “When reconstruction was… Oh, you’re talking about Emerl, right Tails?”
Tails nodded, “Yeah.”
Fluttershy asked, “Who is… Emerl?”
Before Sonic or Tails could answer her, Pinkie exclaimed, “We’ve reached the tunnel! Deet deet!”
Everyone looked at her, Sonic and Rainbow Dash standing up straight to look through the doorway and Tails asking, “What was that, Pinkie?”
The party pony turned away from the controls and grinned, “A train whistle, silly!”
Sonic commented, “Sounded more like a football whistle to me.”
Pinkie stared for a moment before smacking the side of her head with her left hoof, “Ooh, yeah! That’s right! Hee hee hee! I got my whistles mixed up!” The train reached the tunnel seconds later, everyone deciding to leave what Pinkie said to her being her usual silly self as they were plunged into pitch blackness.
Shortly after the train entered the tunnel, Tails ears perked as he heard a faint beeping sound coming from his twin appendages. “Huh?” he uttered as he turned his head to look down at his tails before letting out a yelp and shielding his eyes, as did everyone else, as light unexpectedly appeared around the train, giving nobody’s eyes a chance to readjust.
While rubbing her eyes with a hoof, Rainbow groaned, “What the hay just happened?”
Tails rubbed his right hand against his eyes while he reached his left hand into his namesakes and retrieved his radar, the beeping now sounding louder. Holding it up and lowering his right hand to hold it in both hands, he checked the dual screens for several seconds before saying, “We just went through another portal! It must’ve been right there in the tunnel!”
Shining groaned, “What?!”
Twilight sighed, “So where are we now?”
Applejack and Sonic walked over to the two windows to Rainbow Dash’s right and looked out. Down below, they could see a large castle with a couple of towers and walkways that had swinging pirate ships, roller coaster tracks, shrubbery, flags, and several pools of water on or around it. “Looks like some kinda amusement park, Twi’,” Applejack said after a few moments.
Pinkie Pie gasped, “An amusement park?! Like Sweet Mountain?!” She dashed to the window in the engine and poked her head out. “Hey! That’s not Sweet Mountain out there!” she exclaimed.
Sonic chuckled and looked over at the pink pony saying, “No, it’s not, Pinkie. It’s Twinkle Park. Totally different amusement park. It’s on the ground.”
Pinkie looked disappointed at that, but she soon perked up, “It’s an amusement park! We should go on some rides while we’re here!”
Rainbow stuck her head through the doorway and protested, “Pinkie, we have to get to Canterlot, remember? We’re not stopping here!”
Tails looked out the window on the other side of the car and added, “There’s nowhere to get off, anyway. We’re way up off the ground!”
Princess Cadance walked over and peered over his head, taking a look for herself. “Well, at least we can get a good look at this park while we pass through. Provided the tracks keep going, that is.”
Both she and Tails looked towards the front of the engine, the latter saying “It looks that way, Princess Cadance. Just like before, it looks like the tracks will take us from one portal to the other.” Taking a closer look, he added, “Oh, heads up! It looks like we’re going down!” Sure enough, seconds later, the engine tilted downwards followed by the rest of the cars.
While everyone else braced themselves to keep from sliding all over, Pinkie continued to sit at the window, smiling as she looked out at the park. “This kind of reminds me of the rides at the Summer Wrap-Up Fair! Nothing like the log ride, but still fun!” She then noticed something and, after thinking about it for a second, wondered, “Hey, why are we slowing down?”
Sonic heard her from the adjacent car, having been wedged into the corner with Applejack and Rainbow Dash, and asked, “How can we be slowing down? We’re on an incline!”
Twilight, who was being held onto by her brother while Cadance helped Tails and Fluttershy to remain standing near the window, said, “I think she’s right, Sonic. Something seems a little off…!” Indeed, while it was hardly noticeable at first, everyone else on the train began to notice that they were indeed starting to slow down, even more so as it seemed like the train’s path began to straighten out. Seconds after the engine and the adjacent car straightened out, the forward momentum came to an end, the train coming to a complete stop.
“Why did we stop?” Spike asked a moment after everyone relaxed.
“I don’t know, Spike. Let me check something,” Tails said as he walked over to the opening to the engine’s boiler, peering inside when he was standing in front of it. “Plenty of coal in there… That’s not why we stopped…” he murmured. He stood up straight and looked up at the steam gauge with his left hand on his chin, “Why aren’t we getting any steam?”
Pinkie pointed at another gauge on the engine and said, “That glassy thing looks empty!”
Twilight looked at the gauge and, after a moment, said, “Pinkie, that’s the water gauge!”
Tails blinked, “Water? Uh-oh!” His namesakes began to spin around, the fox lifting off the ground and flying out through the engine’s window towards the front of the engine. The others decided to take this chance to step out for a moment, everyone getting out on the left side of the train. Looking around, they found that the train had stopped on the tracks just in front of a part of the castle, right in front of a set of stairs leading up to an archway in the castle wall. The engine and the adjacent car sat in front of the stairs while the rest of the cars were still up in the air, pointing slightly downwards.
Looking towards the front of the train, the group saw Tails hovering over the engine, peering down into one of the stacks on top of it. After a minute, he looked up and said, “We are out of water! That’s why we stopped!”
Rarity gasped, “What?! But how?!”
Tails shrugged, “All I can guess is that we used up a lot of it when the train went out of control earlier, plus all the stopping and starting we’ve had to do.”
Shining Armor spoke, “We’ll have to find more water to refill the engine before we can resume our journey.”
Applejack said, “Well, that won’t be a problem. Ah saw a bunch of water around this here castle while we were up there. We just grab some o’ that and put it in the train!”
Tails landed near the orange earth pony and crossed his arms, saying, “I don’t know, Applejack. I’m willing to bet the water here is treated with chlorine.”
Rainbow, who was hovering above the fox, raised an eyebrow, “Chlorine?”
Tails looked up at her and explained, “It’s what they put in swimming pools to keep them clean. I know there’s very little chance that plants could start growing in the train’s water tank, but I’m not sure putting chlorine in there is a good idea.”
Sonic thought for a moment before asking aloud, “Fish don’t like chlorine, do they?”
Tails looked at him and said, “Uh, I’m pretty sure they don’t. Why?”
Sonic turned and pointed towards the castle while saying, “I seem to remember there being a little pool on the other side of this castle, kind of like a pond. I didn’t stop and take a good look last time I was here, but I’m pretty sure there was something swimming around in there. If they keep fish in there, they probably don’t dump chlorine in that pool.”
Twilight looked at him and said, "That's... rather astute of you, Sonic."
The blue hedgehog grinned wryly at her, "Yeah, I'm totally... that word you just said." He looked at Tails and asked, "So what do you think, Tails?"
Tails replied, "If that’s the case, it should work." He turned and started walking towards the engine while saying, "I'll take a bucket with me and go check it."
He was about to reach the side of the engine when Rainbow Dash landed directly in front of him, her wings still spread out to her sides. "Whoa, whoa, whoa! If you're going, I'm going with you!"
Tails looked at her, "Rainbow Dash?"
The pegasus smirked, "You're not exactly the fastest flyer, Tails. No offense, but it might take a while to get the water we need if you have to fly back and forth. You tell me if it’s okay and I'll fly it back here for you. It'll get done much faster that way."
Tails smiled, "All right, if you insist." He spun his tails around and flew up over her into the engine, grabbing the coal bucket that was sitting on the floor against the wall. As he flew out through the window, Rainbow flew up beside him and they headed in the direction that Sonic had pointed to, searching for the pool.
After the two had disappeared from sight, Shining Armor looked at Sonic and asked, “Sonic, you were saying something about someone called ‘Emerl’ before all this happened, right? Who is that?”
As the hedgehog was about to respond, Cadance spoke up, “Why don’t we wait until Rainbow Dash and Tails get back and we get moving again? We’ll have plenty of time to talk on the train.”
Sonic shrugged, “Fine with me.” He looked at Shining Armor, “What about you?” Shining kind of shrugged in agreement as well, so Sonic took a seat on one of the steps nearby, Spike and a few of the ponies doing the same. While they were waiting, a mysterious shadowed figure spied on them from the other side of the train from between the cars with yellow eyes for a few moments before disappearing…
It wasn’t long before everyone’s head turned up at the sound of whooshing air. Rainbow Dash flew above them and came to a stop above the train engine with a shaking bucket held between her teeth. She dumped the contents of the bucket into the open stack on top of the engine before zipping off again. A moment after she took off, Tails flew down towards them, Sonic, Spike, Applejack, and Fluttershy standing up as he landed near the stairs.
As Rainbow Dash flew overhead with the bucket again, Applejack asked, “What is that pony doin’?”
Tails replied, “She’s filling the tank with water, just like she said she would.”
Sonic asked, “So does that mean we have a winner?”
Tails nodded, “Yep. You were right, Sonic. There are fish living in that pool, so it’s relatively free of treatment.”
While they were talking, Rainbow Dash dumped the second bucket of water into the engine’s tank and flew off to get another one. Everyone turned to look up at her when she returned the third time. After pouring the water down into the stack, she held the bucket in her right hoof, looked down at Tails, and asked, “Is that enough?”
Tails spun his namesakes around and flew into the engine’s cabin to check the water gauge before flying out to look down into the tank himself. After a couple of seconds of peering down, he looked up at Rainbow Dash and asked, “Can you get one more bucket? That should fill it up all the way.” Rainbow sighed, but saluted and shot towards the pool to fulfill the fox’s request. She returned seconds later and poured the water into the engine, tossing the bucket through the engine’s window when she was done.
Tails, who had landed by the others in the time the pegasus had been gone, said, “That ought to do it.”
Sonic nodded, “Let’s get going, then!” The others nodded and they all started moving towards the train, Rainbow Dash beginning to fly in through the engine’s window.
“Stop right there!” a male, slightly electronic voice yelled, causing the members of the group to stop or hesitate. Looking towards the stairs leading up to the castle, they saw what looked like one of the floating information monitors from around Station Square at the top of the stairs. As they looked up at it, a featureless face appeared on its screen and a pair of arms with white-gloved hands at their ends extended from the bottom of the monitor. It then floated down towards them, a glare on its face as it demanded, “What are you all doing here?”
Rainbow flew at the thing once it got to the bottom of the stairs, getting up in its… face as she asked, “What’s it matter to you, pal?! And who are you supposed to be anyway?!”
The monitor tapped her on the nose with its right hand, pushing her back on the last tap, and said, “I am the new host of Twinkle Park, and all of you are trespassing.”
Sonic asked, “Trespassing? This is an amusement park!”
The monitor moved to the side to look at the hedgehog and replied, “And you have to pay to get into an amusement park, do you not? None of you came in through the main entrance, so none of you paid the admission fee! Therefore, you are all trespassers!” It wagged its right finger at Sonic as it finished speaking.
Twilight spoke, “N-No, wait! We were just… We came here on this train! We just needed to get some water, so…”
The monitor cut her off, “I do not want to hear your excuses! I caught you, so now you all have to pay the price!” After a moment, it added, “Unless of course you all qualify for the special offer.”
Sonic raised an eyebrow, “Special offer?”
The monitor replied, “Cute couples get in for free.”
Sonic deadpanned, “Oh, right. THAT offer.”
Shining Armor and Princess Cadance stood together at that, Shining wrapping his hoof around Cadance and saying, “Well, if that’s the offer you have, then… we’re married!”
Cadance nodded, “Right! We’re a couple! We’ve been a couple for years and had our first anniversary recently!”
The monitor looked at them, seemingly intently, for several long moments before saying, “Very well then.” Relief flooded through the group at that, only to get crushed when the monitor asked, “And the rest of them?”
Shining asked, “Uh, what?”
The monitor explained, “A cute couple only pays for itself. If the rest of your guests are not cute couples as well, then they’ll have to pay the admission fee!”
Cadance’s eyes darted around as she stammered, “Uh… Well, I…” Her eyes fell on Sonic and noticed Twilight was standing to his left. She channeled her magic into her horn and wrapped the hedgehog in her light blue aura before forcibly sliding him next to Twilight, both of them grunting when they bumped together. The lavender unicorn glanced at Sonic while he looked over at Cadance as the pink alicorn said, “They’re together! They’re a couple too!”
Sonic turned to look at Twilight, both of them raising their eyebrows as they asked, “What?!”
Ignoring them and Spike’s snickering, Cadance used her magic to move Tails over to Fluttershy, Tails letting out a grunt while Fluttershy let out a yelp when they bumped. Cadance then looked at the monitor and said, “And they’re together too! Aren’t they such a cute couple?”
Tails and Fluttershy looked at each other in confusion, “Huh?”
By now, Spike seemed to realize what Cadance was doing and quickly ran to Rarity’s side. Even if they were just doing this to get through this sticky situation, the baby dragon had to suppress a big grin as he said, “And so are we! Isn’t that right, Rarity?”
Rarity also seemed to know what Cadance was up to, for she turned to Spike and wrapped a hoof around his shoulders as she replied, “Absolutely, my dear Spikey-Wikey!”
Cadance smiled, glad that they knew to play along, but Shining leaned over to remind her of something. “Cadance, this is a great idea, love, but there are three left and they’re all mares!” he whispered. The love alicorn’s eyes widened at that.
She turned her head to look at Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie. “And, uh, they’re, uh…” she stammered, trying to figure out what to say to save face.
“Whoa, hold it! When did all y’all become that friendly towards each other?” Applejack asked, referring to the two couples Cadance had picked out, not entirely sure what was going on.
Rainbow seemed to have more of an idea of what Cadance was doing, as she exclaimed, “Hey, why’d you put Sonic with Twilight?! They’re totally the opposite of each other! And what are we supposed to do?!”
Pinkie popped up behind the two ponies and said, “Silly Dashie, that’s easy! You and Applejack will go together to make a LOVELY couple!” She wrapped her forelegs around the two ponies, pulling them close to her and happily saying, “And Pinkie goes well with everypony, so why don’t we make it a threesome!”
Applejack and Rainbow looked at her like she was crazier than usual, shrieking, “WHAT?!?” Everyone else at least stole a glance at them, specifically at Pinkie, though Cadance soon turned back to the monitor and put on a wide, nervous grin, hoping it would buy it.
The love alicorn could swear, for a second, she heard what sounded like muffled snickering coming from the monitor. It then went quiet for a second before its face relaxed and it said, “Very well. You all appear to be cute couples, so none of you will have to pay admission after all.” Everyone let out a sigh of relief at that except for Rainbow and Applejack, both of whom were struggling to get out of Pinkie Pie’s ‘hug’. The monitor then spoke, “So as your host, allow me to do the honor of getting all of you couples started on your visit to Twinkle Park!”
Everyone looked back at it at that, Shining saying, “What? No, no, that won’t be necessary. Don’t trouble yourself…”
The monitor spread out its arms and managed to corral them all together before it said, “It’s no trouble at all. Once all you lovey-dovey couples get a taste of Twinkle Park, you won’t want to leave!” As it finished speaking, it somehow managed to push them all around the train and into the park. Even Spike couldn’t get away, pressed up against Rarity as he was (he could’ve squeezed out, but it WAS Rarity…). A few of them, including Sonic, Tails, Twilight, Shining Armor, Cadance, and Rainbow Dash managed to twist around and reach their hands/hooves out towards the train, but they were unable to do anything to get away.
Cream and Mrs. Cake walked through the swinging doors into the back of Sugarcube Corner, Cream carrying Pumpkin Cake in her arms while Mrs. Cake kept an eye on Pound Cake while Cheese tried to keep him from flying off. They made their way over to the twins’ high chairs; when they reached them, Cheese led Pound Cake low enough for Mrs. Cake to get a hold of him and put him in his high chair while Cream put Pumpkin Cake in her chair. Once she was sure the twins were securely in their seats, Cup Cake turned to Cream and smiled, “Thank you so much for helping me with the twins, Cream dearie. It can be a bit hard keeping them under control when Pinkie Pie isn’t available.”
Cream and Cheese smiled back, the former saying, “It was no trouble at all, Mrs. Cake. I like helping others. Do you need help feeding them?”
As she turned to get the baby bottles, Cup Cake replied, “That’s okay, sweetie. I can take care of things from here. Why don’t you go and see how Amy is doing?” Cream nodded and, after giving Pound and Pumpkin Cake a smile, walked towards the delicious smell coming from the kitchen with Cheese at her side.
Inside, they found plenty of fresh confections lining the kitchen’s counters. Mr. Cake was busy arranging the treats that were finished while Amy was bending down to pull a tray of cupcakes out of the oven. Carrot Cake looked up from what he was doing and noticed Cream and Cheese. “Hi there, Cream, Cheese! Done with the twins?” he asked.
“Yes, Mr. Cake, sir. Is there anything I can help with?” the rabbit wondered.
“I think we’ve done enough baking for now. Can you girls help me carry everything out to the front?” Carrot Cake asked as Amy set the tray of cupcakes down on the counter.
“Oh, absolutely!” Cream answered with Cheese giving a happy squeak.
“Sure!” Amy nodded, brushing a hand down the front of the pink apron Mrs. Cake had given her.
While setting a few sweets on his back and balancing them, Mr. Cake said, “You girls have been such a big help. I have to admit I’m impressed by your baking skills.”
Cream picked up a tray of baguettes and said, “When my Mama is baking, she lets me help her in the kitchen.” Cheese nodded, flapping his wings furiously as he tried to pick up a muffin.
Amy spoke, “And I’ve done a lot of baking on my own. I have some neighbors who share recipes with me every so often.”
Mr. Cake nodded, “I see. That’s wonderful to hear!” He then began making his way to the front of the shop, Cream and Cheese following after him while Amy selected a cake to take.
After they had dropped their confections off, Amy, Cream, and Cheese went to go get the remaining treats while Carrot Cake walked over to Cup Cake and asked, “How are the twins doing?”
The cerulean mare replied, “I think it’s almost time for another nap. They’re starting to get sleepy.”
Carrot Cake smiled, but then frowned as he wondered, “Do you think they’re all okay?”
Cup Cake asked, “You mean Pinkie and all of her friends?”
Carrot Cake nodded, “Yeah. It’s been a while since they left for Canterlot. I hope nothing’s gone wrong.”
Cream, Cheese, and Amy had come out of the kitchen by this time and were listening in on the couple’s quiet conversation. Once they were done speaking, Cream spoke up, “Don’t worry about them. They’re going to be okay.”
Mr. and Mrs. Cake turned to look at them as Amy nodded, “Cream’s right. Those girls are going to be just fine.” She and Cream resumed walking as she continued, “It sounds like they’ve taken care of a lot of things together; I’m sure they know to stay together by now, and besides, they’re with…” She suddenly stopped short and stiffened up, Cream nearly crashing into her as she tensely said, “Sonic?!”
The Cakes, Cream, and Cheese looked at her in concern, Cream asking, “Amy? What’s wrong?”
The pink hedgehog relaxed after a few moments and said, “Nothing, Cream. It felt like someone was trying to fix my Sonic up with someone else just now.”
Cream and Cheese glanced at each other a bit nervously at that before Cream looked back at Amy and asked, “A-Are you sure, Amy? I mean, I don’t think you’re wrong, but why would someone do that?”
Amy replied, “I don’t know, Cream.” She glared straight ahead and her voice held a noticeable edge to it as she said, “But if I find out someone did and I find them, they’re going to be VERY sorry.” She resumed walking, albeit a bit rigidly as she carried her tray of cupcakes to the front of the store. Cream and Cheese looked at each other worriedly while Cup Cake and Carrot Cake looked at each other with concern, confused about what they just witnessed.
“Applejack, will you move over?! I’m getting squished over here!” Rainbow complained, trying to move in her cramped roller coaster seat.
“Where am Ah supposed ta go, Rainbow?! This thing ain’t big enough fer the three of us!” Applejack groaned as she also tried to shift about. In between the two ponies sat Pinkie Pie, the pink pony smiling happily and seeming to not mind the fact that she had two arguing mares at her sides.
The entire group was currently riding on Twinkle Park’s roller coaster, their ‘park guide’ having forced them into its cars after leading them to the station, away from their train. Shining Armor and Princess Cadance were sitting in the front car, the rest of the ‘couples’ sitting behind them in the order Cadance had ‘introduced’ them in. The coaster had just left the station, leaving everyone strapped in for the ride.
Left with no other choice at the moment, the group tried to sit back and enjoy the ride as best as they were able to, and for the most part it seemed to work as the track went up and down and through loop de loops. Aside from Applejack and Rainbow Dash, Sonic seemed to be the only who wasn’t entirely enjoying the ride. Although he had no problem with roller coasters, he usually didn’t find them as exciting as some people did. Despite this, he sat back in the car and rested his right arm on the side of it, glancing around the park as the coaster continued on its course and trying to distract himself from the two ponies arguing in the back.
After several minutes of going up, down, and around, the roller coaster returned to the station and the lap bars restraining the group lifted up after it had slowed to a stop. Now that the exhilaration was over, everyone looked towards the back of the coaster as Rainbow Dash and Applejack resumed squirming, trying to get out of the car. After several seconds of this, Twilight was about to use her magic to help them, only for the two ponies to make one more strong effort to get out that resulted in Pinkie Pie being ejected from the car with a loud *POP*, the party pony shooting up into the air like a cork.
Not expecting such a thing to happen, the others could only watch as she went straight up while crying, “Whoo-hoo!” After only a few seconds, she came back down, landing front first on the platform. She didn’t a move for a moment, but then her head shot up as she exclaimed, “Whee~! That was FUN!”
Sonic couldn’t help but smirk, “Crazy girl.” He then stood up and stepped out onto the platform, Twilight moving her body slightly to do the same. The others followed suit, Shining Armor and Spike getting out first and holding out a hoof/claw to Princess Cadance and Rarity respectively to help them off while Applejack and Rainbow Dash, in an effort to put a little distance between them, ended up stumbling over each other as they got out.
“Ugh, finally! If we stayed like that any longer, I probably would’ve been smashed!” Rainbow groaned as she flew up and stretched her hooves and wings.
Applejack sighed as she rubbed her neck with a hoof, “Ah can’t believe Ah didn’t pay more attention durin’ that whole ride.” She looked at the others and trotted over to them before asking, “How was it?”
Cadance and Shining Armor walked over, the former saying, “It was quite a ride, Applejack! I’m sorry you had to be so distracted that you couldn’t enjoy it.”
Fluttershy, who was hugging Tails’ legs as she lay on the ground, muttered, “I wish I could’ve been that distracted…”
Twilight mentioned, “It sure was a rush.” Rarity nodded in agreement.
Sonic yawned as he stretched, “Eh, I guess it was all right. Rode it once before; seemed about the same this time around.”
Shining asked, “You’ve been here before too?”
Sonic looked up at him and replied, “Yeah, I came here once with Amy.”
Cadance looked at him in surprise, “What?!”
Before Sonic could respond, Tails, while looking around, spoke, “Hey, guys? It… doesn’t look like our ‘tour guide’ wanted to wait for us to get done.” Everyone looked around the platform at that and saw that he was right. There was no sight of the monitor that had forced them onto the roller coaster in the first place.
“Ah’d say that’s mighty rude o’, er, him, but that crazy gizmo’s already been rude enough,” Applejack commented.
Spike suggested, “Why don’t we leave before he decides to show up again?”
Sonic nodded at him, “I second that idea.”
Rarity rubbed Spike’s head with a hoof as she agreed, “An excellent suggestion, Spike.” Spike’s tongue stuck out of his mouth slightly on one side, the baby dragon panting a bit at the fashionista’s touch.
The others agreed with this idea as well, though Fluttershy asked, “Why don’t we just wait here for a few minutes? I’m sure that, um… I’m sure he’ll come back.”
Rainbow shrugged, “Hey, if that thing wanted to play tour guide, it should’ve been waiting here for us, not the other way around.”
Sonic added, “Plus I’m still kind of familiar with Twinkle Park’s layout. We can get back to the train and leave before that monitor forces us to do anything else.”
Fluttershy replied, “Oh… Okay, then.” She let go of Tails’ legs and slowly stood up.
Pinkie, on the other hoof, quickly shot to her hooves and zipped in front of Sonic, asking, “Can we go on some of the other rides before we go?! Like the pirate ships and the bumper cars?!”
Sonic looked at her for a moment, wondering if they had bumper cars in Equestria since, earlier, Spike and some of the girls hadn’t recognized regular cars when they saw them. He eventually said, “We’ll… see what we can squeeze in, Pinkie.” The pink pony seemed satisfied with that answer, seeing as she bounced alongside the rest of the group as they left the roller coaster station.
As the group walked down a stone path away from the roller coaster, Shining looked at Sonic and asked, “So you said you came to this park with Amy once, Sonic? She’s that pink hedgehog girl, right?”
Sonic nodded, “Yeah, that’s her.”
Rarity gushed, “Ooh, how wonderful! And with that special offer… It must’ve been a wonderful date!”
Sonic refrained from glaring at the fashionista, though he still had some exasperation in his voice as he said, “It wasn’t a date, Rarity. I barely had a say in the matter.”
Cadance asked, “What do you mean?”
Sonic started, “When I ran into her in front of Casinopolis, she’d found a Flicky that escaped from Eggman and they were both being chased by one of his robots. I guess the bird was hurt while it was trying to escape, so she asked me be to be its bodyguard.”
Fluttershy looked sad at that, “That poor Flicky. Why would Dr. Eggman want to hurt or chase a defenseless little bird?”
Tails spoke, “We found out later when Eggman later managed to catch Amy by surprise and grab the Flicky. It turns out it was carrying one of the Chaos Emeralds inside the large locket it was wearing and he wanted it so he could give it to Chaos.”
Rainbow commented, “Must’ve been a pretty big locket if it could hold an entire emerald inside.”
Sonic nodded, “Yeah. Anyway, we ended up near the entrance to Twinkle Park, where I finally got a look at the robot that was chasing Amy and the Flicky. I would’ve had no problem taking it out right then and there, but…”
Twilight suddenly interrupted him by holding a foreleg in front of him and saying, “Look out!” Sonic came to a stop and looked in front of him to see a small pool of water with a couple of circular platforms floating on its surface. If he’d kept going, he certainly would’ve walked over the edge and into it.
“Whoa! Forgot that was there. Thanks, Twilight,” he said before making use of the platforms a second later to reach the other side of the pool. He waited there for the others, Tails and Rainbow Dash flying over while the others did the same thing he did. After Rarity had finally been coerced into jumping onto the platforms to get to the other side and joined the others, Sonic continued where he left, “Anyway, Amy saw the offer and took off into the park. And… well, I followed her in. That’s it.”
Rarity looked at him coyly and asked, “Are you sure that’s all it was, Sonic?”
Sonic put his hands on his hips and glared at her, “Yes, it was. She ran in here first, I followed her, and I lost sight of her. That’s all that happened.”
Rarity rolled her eyes, “I can’t help but wonder about that, Sonic. I think there’s something you’re not telling us about you and Amy, and I believe I have an idea what it is.”
Sonic retorted, “Hey, here’s an idea: pull your head out of whatever cheesy romance novel you were reading and try listening for a change. Love isn’t always black and white like that, ‘Rara’.”
As he turned and started walking away, Rarity glared at his back indignantly, “R-Rara?!”
Applejack chuckled before saying, “He does have a point, ya know. Just because it sounds like they’d make a lovely couple doesn’t mean it’ll turn out that way. You should leave the whole matchmaking thing ta somepony like Princess Cadance, ‘Rara’.” She snickered again as she trotted off to catch up with Sonic.
Rarity glared at the apple pony before turning her head to the side with a huff, “Hmph! I happen to be a very good judge of these things!” The others decided not to argue with her and instead moved to join Sonic and Applejack, Rarity following after them a moment later.
When they reached the two, they found them standing in front of a short corridor that had an interesting design to it, as it had a wooden floor with a bunch of markings on it. “What’s this?” Rainbow asked.
Tails looked towards the other end of the corridor, where a bunch of big bowling pins sat against a wall, and said, “It looks like a bowling lane. I guess we have to play to move on?” Sonic nodded in confirmation.
Pinkie looked around before saying, “I don’t see any bowling balls. What are we supposed to play with?”
While stepping up to the foul line, Sonic shrugged, “Um…?” He then curled up into a ball, spinning for a second to ready himself before shooting down the lane, striking the head pin dead-on and sending the other pins flying. The blue hedgehog quickly uncurled while the pins were up in the air and slid on his rear the rest of the way to the wall, raising his left foot to brace against the wall while he planted his right foot against the ground to slow himself.
“OH~!” Pinkie exclaimed, giggling and feeling a bit silly for not thinking of that herself. The wall at the other end rose up out of the way a second later and, after Sonic confirmed that the lane wasn’t slippery, the group continued on their way.
After a few seconds of walking, the group came upon a short set of stairs; when they reached the top, they found something interesting. “Oh my goodness! What’s happened to these poor animals?!” Fluttershy gasped at what she was seeing.
“And those ponies too! What is this?!” Rainbow demanded.
Tails spoke up, “Hey, F-Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, calm down! It’s just a ride; they’re not real!”
Cadance looked down at him and said, “I thought those animals and ponies looked a bit… odd. But if they’re not real, then… what is that?”
Tails looked back at the rotating circular platform and replied, “It’s a merry-go-round, or a carousel if you want to be fancy.”
Sonic pointed a thumb in Rarity’s direction, “Yeah, you know, like her boutique.” Rarity cast an odd glance at him at that, but didn’t comment.
Tails continued, “They make the horses and animals that serve as the seats out of wood to make it seem like you’re riding a real one.”
Twilight looked back at the carousel and murmured, “Oh.” After a moment, she asked, “Do you think we can go for a ride?”
Sonic thought for a moment before replying, “Well, we can basically go on any ride since we essentially paid the admission fee, so… why not? We’ll have to make it quick, though.”
Shining nodded, “Right. We’ve still got work to do.”
Sonic shrugged, “Actually, I’d rather not run into our ‘tour guide’ again.”
Tails muttered, “Given the way that robot showed up in the first place, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not even an option.” Nevertheless, everybody caught a horse or animal on the carousel and, for the next several minutes, they got an actual chance to relax, letting the gentle bobbing calm them as they went around in circles.
After they got off, the group went down another set of stairs, coming to an area that Tails and Rainbow Dash recognized. “Hey, there’s the pool where we got the water for the train!” Rainbow said while pointing at a small pool of water to the right of the stairs.
“So we’re close to where we started?” Twilight asked hopefully.
Sonic nodded, “Yep. We just have to get around to the other side of this castle.” He pointed a thumb up at the large castle they’d been going around the entire time next to them.
Tails said, “We might as well just fly the rest of the way. We stopped pretty high up from here, after all.” Everyone agreed with that, so Tails, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Princess Cadance prepared to take off to do the job while the others gathered at the bottom of the stairs.
Before any of them could get off the ground, however, a familiar voice spoke up from behind the others, “Hello again, visitors! It’s so good to see you all again!” They all looked to see the robot they had met hovering a short distance away, a smiley face on its screen now.
“Aw, horse apples…” Applejack groaned.
The robot didn’t hear her, or pretended not to, for it asked, “And how are we enjoying our time in Twinkle Park?”
Sonic muttered, “We were enjoying it just fine until you came back.”
The robot spoke, “Wonderful! Glad to hear it! So shall we move onto the next attraction?”
Rainbow rolled her eyes, “Let’s not and say we didn’t.”
Unfortunately, Pinkie spoke up, “Yes, absolutely!”
The robot said, “That’s what I like to hear!” Very quickly, it got behind the group and brought out its arms again, once again herding everybody together and pushing them. As it pushed them towards a pair of nearby castle doors, it said, “This attraction will no doubt be the greatest of them all. Once you go in, you’ll never want to leave.” The way it said that unnerved some of the members of the group, prompting them to redouble their efforts to get away. Ultimately, it managed to hang onto them and roughly pushed them into the castle, the doors slamming shut behind them.
Inside, Sonic, Shining Armor, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack managed to get up after the doors closed and ran to them, trying to push them open while the others got up. After a few seconds of pushing, Shining grunted, “We’re locked in!”
Applejack stopped pushing and turned so her back was facing the doors, the orange earth pony bringing her hind legs up and throwing them against the doors in a series of bucks. Despite the force she put into each one, Bucky McGillicuddy and Kicks McGee couldn’t even dent the wooden doors. “Dang it, they ain’t budgin’!” she growled after several seconds.
Rainbow Dash flew up away from the doors, but before she could do anything, a creaking noise from behind her caught everyone’s attention. They turned to see another set of wooden doors opening up, revealing a hallway behind them. It appeared to be brightly lit and the red rug the group was standing on continued inside. It looked like it was safe…
Cadance looked at Sonic and asked, “Where does this go?”
The blue hedgehog replied, “No idea. I couldn’t get in here the last time I was here. I’m guessing it’s like a funhouse or something.”
Tails held a hand to his chin, “It looks like it could be…”
Rainbow nodded, “Yeah, it totally looks like a cheesy funhouse. Nothing weird is gonna happen if we go in there.”
Applejack smacked the back of the cyan pegasus’ head with a hoof and said, “Don’t say that!”
Before Rainbow Dash could say anything, Sonic spoke, “Let’s just go before our ‘tour guide’ decides to give us some company. As long as this comes out close to the other side, we should have no problem getting out of Twinkle Park.” With that, the group walked through the wooden doors, following the passage beyond.
A minute barely passed before the atmosphere of the castle changed. As they went around a curve at the other end of the hall, the group noticed the lighting became darker, yellow lights and candles lining the walls now. “Well… that changed quickly,” Twilight noted as she glanced around.
“Uh-huh,” Sonic muttered, remaining focused on what was in front of him.
“I guess it’s more like a haunted house on the inside. Wouldn’t have guessed from the outside,” Tails commented.
“Nope,” Sonic murmured.
Fluttershy looked around nervously. “It’s kind of scary in here…” she whispered.
Applejack turned to the shy pegasus and said, “It’s all right, Fluttershy. It’s just an amusement park. There ain’t anythin’ in here that’s real.”
Fluttershy breathed a sigh of relief, “R-Really? Oh, that’s very good to- EEK!” While they were talking, the group reached the end of the hall they were in and stepped into another room, a light turning on once they stepped through the doorway, causing Fluttershy to panic while the rest of them shielded their eyes.
When they all could see again, Spike looked around and said, “Whoa, look at all these mirrors!” Indeed, the room they were in was filled with mirrors of varying sizes and shapes.
“Huh. So it’s a funhouse that’s really a haunted house that turns into a house of mirrors. Classy,” Sonic commented.
From off to the side, Pinkie giggled, “Hey, look at me, look at me!” The others looked at her to see that she was bouncing up and down in front of one of the mirrors. The reflection the mirror was showing made it seem like she was very fat, yet seeing the reflection bouncing up and down didn’t look the least bit strange to them. Realizing they probably wouldn’t be able to move on until Pinkie had satisfied her curiosity, the group disseminated to look at the various mirrors in the room.
Applejack walked past several that gave reflections that didn’t really catch her attention (pointy head, shorter than normal, all wiggly) before stopping in front of one that showed a reflection that made her look more muscular, more like her brother Big Macintosh. She smiled and tipped her hat to her reflection, “Well, howdy there, good-lookin’.”
Fluttershy, meanwhile, was standing in front of a mirror that made her look skinnier than usual. “It’s like I’m a filly again…” she whispered to herself as she looked at her reflection.
Rarity trotted over and, upon seeing Fluttershy’s reflection, quickly sidled up against her friend, “Ooh! This looks like the mirror I’ve been looking for, Fluttershy! Let’s see how we look together, okay?”
Sonic looked over at the two for a few moments before looking around at what some of the others were doing. Spike was flexing in front of the mirror Applejack had been looking at and Rainbow Dash was flying from mirror to mirror and making funny faces at each. Shining Armor and Twilight were looking at some of the mirrors together, as were Tails and Applejack. Seeing that the room seemed to be okay, he was about to go back to looking at some of the mirrors himself when he spotted the hallway leading to the next section of the castle. Deciding to take a quick peek ahead, he walked towards it, passing one last mirror and not noticing that the reflection showed him being taller and having blue arms.
Cadance noticed Sonic leaving the room and called out to him, “Sonic?” Unfortunately, the blue hedgehog had already left the room and turned a corner, so he didn’t hear her. She began walking after him, but came to a stop in front of the last mirror upon seeing its reflection. It looked like her normal reflection, save for one detail: it had no wings. She looked like an ordinary unicorn. “Well, that’s… different,” she commented. Looking at her reflection a little longer, she wondered, “How different would things have been like that…?”
Sonic, meanwhile, was already in the next hallway over, which was a long, straight hallway with mirrors on both sides. He walked a little ways down it before stopping and deciding to head back when his ears twitched. “Hm?” he murmured, thinking he had heard the sound of fingers snapping to his right. Turning his head to look, he noticed his reflection seemed different now. It showed him as being shorter, less spiky, and having a slightly rounder midsection; it looked a lot like how he looked a couple of years ago.
He turned fully to look at the mirror, holding his right hand up to his chin as he examined his reflection. He fluffed his quills a bit and then held his right hand up to his mouth as he parted his lips to reveal his teeth. Closing his lips, he held his right hand to his stomach to rub and pat it, his reflection imitating his movements exactly. He crossed his arms, however, and looked at the mirror oddly. “Hm,” he murmured, feeling as though something was different about the reflective surface. He tapped it with his right fist, but it sounded like regular glass.
As he stepped back to look at it again, he heard Twilight call from his right, “There you are, Sonic.” He turned his head to see the lavender unicorn with Spike on her back, Princess Cadance, and Tails coming towards him. As they got closer, out of the corner of his eye, Sonic noticed their younger forms reflected in the mirror. Once they had gotten closer to Sonic, they noticed as well and stopped to look as well. “Oh… that’s another… I didn’t know trick mirrors could make reflections like this,” Twilight commented, remembering seeing her reflection in the last mirror with a Moon and stars cutie mark and dark blue hair with a light blue stripe.
“Yeah, I know. I was surprised too,” Sonic nodded. The rest of the group soon joined them and they all examined their reflections as well.
“It almost feels like magic is being used to make these reflections,” Shining said after a minute.
Rarity admired her reflection for several seconds longer before saying, “Well, magic or not, I must say I rather like these mirrors. I’m glad we came in here.”
Sonic looked over at her and said, “We didn’t really have a choice in the matter, Rarity.”
Before anyone else could say anything, a familiar voice came from the other end of the hall, “Reflect on your decisions all you want, Sonic!”
Everyone turned to look at where the voice came from, Tails saying, “Eggman?!”
Rainbow growled, “That Egghead’s here now?!”
Eggman’s voice continued, “None of you will be getting out of here easily!” They all looked ready to react for a few seconds when there was, faintly, the sound of fingers snapping again to the right.
All of a sudden, Sonic’s reflection took off running towards the other end of the hallway, everyone noticing and staring in surprise! What was even more surprising was when Tails, Spike, and the ponies’ reflections took off after Sonic’s! Sonic’s reflection leapt through the doorway at the end of the hall, Tails and Rainbow Dash’s reflections flying after him while the others (save for Spike) ran after him. “What the -?! Wait a second!” Sonic exclaimed, running for the other end of the hallway, the others quickly following him.
The doorway at the end emptied out into another hallway, which had the rug from the entrance leading to a set of wooden doors, undoubtedly the exit. The doors swung open as they got close, but the group’s eyes widened as they saw a pulsing hole on the other side. They all tried to stop upon seeing it, but somehow, even the ones that were the furthest behind couldn’t stop in time and they all disappeared into it. Once they were all through, the portal closed.
After the portal closed, the robot that had been hounding the group appeared from the side of where it had been, holding its hands up in front of it and pressing its fingers together while chuckling sinisterly…