Sweetie Belle knew the Everfree Forest well. She had been on many adventures there with her friends. She had traveled with Apple Bloom to see Zecora a few times. She figured Silver Spoon didn't know the place much, if at all.
Sweetie Belle made a sharp turn left and ran for a few seconds before diving into a bush to her right. It was a secret trail she knew all too well. Looking back at the main path, she saw Silver Spoon skid to a stop.
"Where'd that blank flank go?" Silver Spoon groaned in frustration. "That little shet's gonna get her comeuppance when I find h- urk!"
Silver Spoon was tackled by a blue blur and knocked flat on the ground. As she turned over she came face to face with Wipeout.
"Stop this farce, Silver Spoon!" The pegasus cried, "What did she ever do to you, anyway?"
"What did she do to me?" the bully spat at her opponent, "Well, for one, she had my only friend taken away from me! You saw that empty desk next to mine!"
"So? Why not make new friends? You can keep the old ones. At least that's what I've been told."
"She's the only pony I can trust!"
"Well, if you had friends, maybe you could trust them as well. And get rid of that stupid bandage! It looks ridiculous!"
With that, Wipeout gripped Silver Spoon's bandage in her teeth and tore it clean off. Silver gave a pained yelp as the tape pulled her fur.
All three fillies were shocked to the core.
Silver Spoon's underbelly was normal... Save for one noticeable difference. In place of what should have been the pit of her navel was a small lump of flesh just slightly sticking out of a small crevice. It looked like some sort of pink, fleshy button.
"You saw it!" Silver Spoon screamed, "You monster!"
Silver made a leap at Wipeout, however the pegasus had started running away and the bully ended up with a face full of dirt. Seeing as her nemesis was distracted, Sweetie Belle made a break for it, following her secret trail.
Unknown to her, a now tearful Silver Spoon had overheard her movements.
Cheerilee silently observed the chaos in the classroom. Silver Spoon had 'somehow nicked off detention and scared Sweetie Belle away', according to Pipsqueak.
In return for this information, Cheerilee secretly promised Pipsqueak a spot in the next class president election.
Having left Derpy and Big Macintosh in charge of the class for the time being while Fountain Pen, Truffle Shuffle, Button Mash and that new super-strong filly whose name she couldn't remember stayed behind to clean up, Cheerilee took Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, Cardio, Plot Coupon, Wipeout and Tabula Rasa with her and left the schoolgrounds.
"They ran into the Everfree Forest!" Wipeout cried, "I tried to stop them, but all I did was make Silver upset!"
Cheerilee nearly fainted. As she regained her stability, "The Everfree Forest? She'll get lost in there! Or worse!"
Apple Bloom turned to Cheerilee, "Don't worry, Ah believe Ah know where she went."
"You do?" Cheerilee sounded relieved, "Where would she have gone?"
"There's a hidden path off one side a the main road. It ain't a secret, really, but it's well-hidden and few ponies know about it. We go down there sometimes for kicks."
"Girls, that's very dangerous, you know."
"Yeah, we know."
"I just hope you're right, Apple Bloom..."
Just then, a faint, high pitched scream came from the forest.
Before long, the group had arrived at the hidden path. The trip was largely uneventful, until...
"Oki, twät door berdo käzģ."
"Did you say something, Apple Bloom?" Scootaloo turned to the yellow filly.
"No, Scoots, Ah didn't! Ah'm too busy tryin' ta distract mahself from these cramps!"
The group continued walking, but only a few seconds later...
"Ei! Okei, 「Mcüezŕôx」!"
"Seriously, Apple Bloom, quit it! We already tried getting our cutie marks in ventriloquism, remember?"
"Ah didn't say anythin'! Ah'm in too much pain!!"
"Yeah, sure you--" Scootaloo suddenly tripped and fell, "Whoa! What did I just trip--"
The group stopped and looked down. A railway line crossed the path at a diagonal angle.
"That's weird..." Plot Coupon commented, "Why is there a railway line all the way out here?"
Apple Bloom wrinkled her nose, "That wasn't there before, Ah swear!"
Suddenly, bushes to the left rustled. Fearing the worst, Cheerilee jumped in front of her students and stood her ground.
A familiar figure eased its way out of the bushes screaming its head off, "What is your problem, horn?! I followed you all the way out here for-- Ms. Cheerilee?"
"Oh, Rarity, thank Faust!" Cheerilee cried, about to burst into tears, "It's horrible! Silver Spoon chased Sweetie Belle deep into the forest! They could be anywhere!"
Rarity cringed, "Wait, Sweetie Belle..." The mare looked like she was going to faint, "Quick! Somepony get me a couch!"
"This is serious, Rarity!" Scootaloo screamed, "Sweetie Belle is out there, lost and probably crying! Leave the goofing off to Pinkie and help us look!"
"Yeah!" Apple Bloom added, "There's a clearing a way away. Once we get there we can split up and meet back there. Easy!"
"Rarity," Cheerilee continued, "Please help us. She's your sister, after all." Something struck Cheerilee's mind. "Wait, why are you out here anyway?"
"Well," Rarity began, "It all started at three in the morning. My cutie mark--"
A familiar scream echoed from further down the path.
"Twät śinka lu, 「Nitori」, lu rkaċśä!"
"That sounded like Silver Spoon!"
Sweetie Belle was lost. Alternating between swearing she took a wrong turn somewhere and insisting she was going in the right direction, she ignored the strange sounds of construction, drills and mysterious voices and pushed forward.
This is the right trail... Right? Several thoughts ran through her head. It has to be...
Maybe I took a wrong turn somewhere...
I mean, I swear I saw a railway running through the forest just now, that certainly wasn't there before...
I must be lost...
Better not think about that for now...
What was up with Silver Spoon's belly button? Is she a robot? Maybe that's her plug... Why else would she be so secretive about it? It has to be some sort of plug. She's a robot. Definitely.
But then how does she feel emotion? She was clearly angry and surprised. I think I even heard her crying as I left.
But if robots can feel emotion... Does that mean I could still be a robot? A... Sweetie Bot? A robot... Going on a rampage, destroy a secret underground lab or two...
How would I know?
It's just not fair! Why isn't Rarity telling me about this?
In her haste she tripped over a raised tree root and fell to the ground. Picking herself up, she saw a strange, somewhat cubic hut in the middle of a clearing. It wasn't one of Zecora's, that much was certain. This one appeared to be some kind of derelict spacecraft. Approaching the left wing, the side featured some strange text under the wing:
Above the wing lay a trio of strange shields:
Sweetie Belle shuddered. Something seemed out of place with those shields. Just looking at them made her feel a strange mix of emotions. These strange symbols were unknown to her, but she felt a strange sense of deja vu. At the same time, she felt a sense of accomplishment, like she'd achieved a task she didn't even know she was trying to achieve. She also felt a strange sense of... Friendship? Looking at each symbol, the one on the left, featuring a music note inside a star, elicited extremely powerful emotions compared to the other two. It felt like a part of her that could never be taken away. A strange chill went down her spine. Had she seen this particular symbol before? In a dream, perhaps? Sweetie turned to her blank flank. But why? Was this symbol influencing her somehow? What was happening?
Sweetie Belle shuddered again. What kind of symbols were these?
She looked around the structure, heading clockwise. The next side was shaped like a cone, and appeared quite aerodynamic. A vehicle, alright. There was what appeared to be a window of some kind. The cockpit, perhaps? She couldn't see inside, there was just black space. On the sides of the nose were two tubes with strange rings around them. Some kind of weapon, maybe?
The third side was similar to the first, but the shields were in the reverse order and appeared to be closer together. below them were even more strange runes.
Six large shields, three on each side? Was this the herald of Ilisapesi?
The shields were the strangest part of the whole thing. Especially the one with the music note. It called out to her, like it wanted to absorb her.
Looking closely at the shield again, a voice called out to her. "Mlp... Fim... Mlp... Fim..." The voice sounded strange, to say the least, unlike anything she'd ever heard before. Almost demonic, even.
"Me... You... Me... You..."
Her heart started beating faster. She felt scared, but at the same time the symbol seemed to calm and sedate her.
"Xîpmyá, fim ìįïí mlp? Xîpmyá, fim ìįïí mlp?"
Mysterious noises spread throughout the air.
"I am your cutie mark, remember?"
Sweetie Belle jumped and turned away from the ship. She was breathing heavily. Her heart was racing at an alarming pace. What was this weird emblem? Why was it talking to her? What was this "I am your cutie mark" business? Was this a horrible portent? Did it have something to do with that nightmare last night? In particular the strange bipedal creature, clad in a high tech jumpsuit, that she only just noticed had had the shield there all along?
It made her head hurt.
After a quick breather, Sweetie Belle moved to the fourth and final side. On the rear was what looked like a door, though there appeared to be no visible way to open it. Twelve symbols adorned the door, four on either side and four in the middle. On the left were a checkered flag, a currency sign, a 1T weight, and an eye. In the middle were the three shields again, along with...
No, that couldn't be right.
A pair of barbers scissors. The handles were apple themed.
Babs Seed's cutie mark? What the Sleipnir of Frigg is this doing here?
On the right were a familiar tiara, a familiar spoon, and two familiar candies, along with what appeared to be a strange yellow fish surrounded by croissants.
More cutie marks? Could the others be cutie marks as well?
She saw a strange device to the door's left, high up, but not too high for her to reach. She looked at a pipe on the device, focusing one eye on it. Suddenly, a bright light entered her eye, briefly blinding her. The device beeped twice, then spoke in a strange language, resembling the Braelic accent from last night.
"Nercäċuqa tseşiṕra. Ḃuśkr mvaqi mväśtra: 「Mcüezŕôx Þwlhĩím」."
The last two words induced a strange reaction in Sweetie's mind. The first tasted strangely like marshmallows, and the second like honey, even though this was the first time she'd heard them. None of the other words noticeably tasted. Even most of the sounds were foreign to her. Yet, despite that, both words' taste and meaning were strangely familiar...
Looking to her right, she saw the door had opened, revealing a dark room.
Brushing off the strange deja vu, she stepped inside. Nothing but a blank screen and another door. What is this place? Why was I let in? Why did those last two words taste familiar?
Suddenly, the door closed. She was trapped.
Sweetie Belle screamed.