It was some hours later that the train pulled into the Ponyville train station. Even before it came to a complete stop, Strong Heart had leapt off and began stretching.
“Aaahhhh!” Strong Heart sighed in relief as he stretched out his front hooves and arched his back like a cat,” I’m so glad we’re finally off that crazy contraption. I thought it would never end!” Mad stepped off the train car behind him.
“I take it that train is not your favorite mode of transportation?” he asked.
“Uh-uh. I prefer to fly from place to place. Keeps my wings from getting too cramped,” Strong Heart declared. At mentioning his wings, he stretched them out to their fullest, drawing several protested cricks and cracks from them. “That’s better,” he said as he stood back up and folded his wings back to his sides. “So where should we begin our search for Twilight?” Mad set off into the town.
“If I know her,” he called back, “She’ll be where ever there are books.” Strong Heart galloped and caught up with Mad.
“And if I know you, which I do, you won’t think to stop and ask someone where we could find her,” Strong Heart observed. Mad glared at him.
“I take it you want to ask somepony where we can find her?” he asked, the tone of his voice showing his displeasure at the idea.
“That would be nice,”
Mad looked around for a pony that he could ask. Then he spotted a pink mare that was looking at some flowers in a stall owned by another mare. Mad approached her from behind, then lifted his hoof and tapped her on the shoulder.
“Excuse me. Would you know where I can fi…,” he started to say. But as he was talking, the pink mare had turned around. Upon seeing Mad and Strong Heart, she gave a large gasp and immediately ran off. She left Mad, his hoof still in the air and his mouth open, the half formed word on his lips still. “…nd Twilight Sparkle.”
“What on Equestria was that about?” wondered Strong Heart. Mad shook his head.
“I have not the foggiest,” he replied, shaking his head from in bewilderment.
Having over heard what Mad was asking the pink mare, the one in charge of the stall got his attention. She was a pale yellow, with hair that was a deep red. On her flank was a rose.
“I’m Rose,” she said, “and I couldn’t help but over hear you. You said you were looking for Twi?” Mad nodded.
“Well, she’s right over there.”
Rose pointed to the other side of the street behind Mad and Strong Heart. Looking at where she was pointing, Mad saw the familiar purple unicorn.
“Twilight!” he exclaimed in excitement. Hearing her name, she looked around for the source. Then, as she spotted Mad, her eyes widened in surprise.
“Eugene! And Strong Heart! When did you two get here?” she called across the street. Mad and Strong Heart each looked both ways and then they dashed across.
“We just got here,” Mad explains, “In fact, we came here in search of you.”
“We’ll tell you, but it’ll have to be somewhere else,” Strong Heart said, interrupting Mad before he could tell her. Twilight just shrugged.
“Alright. Then let’s go to my place. I was actually headed there anyways.”
She set off towards the opposite side of the town. Mad and Strong Heart cantered on each side of her.
“I guess that while you’re here, you can let me know how Canterlot is doing. I know that the repairs are still underway. No, wait. Actually, how’s my brother doing?” Twilight inquired.
“Actually, what we’re here for kind of has to do with your brother,” Strong Heart told her. Immediately, Twilight’s pace picked up until she was almost running. Mad and Strong Heart struggled to keep up.
They soon reached Twilight’s home, the Ponyville library. (“Told you she’d be where there are books,” Mad whispered to Strong Heart.) She led them into the main room and had them sit there and wait as she got refreshments. She left the room and returned soon with her baby dragon, Spike, who carried the tray with glasses of lemonade on it for her. She magically passed out the four drinks to all who were present, then sat down and looked at Strong Heart and Mad.
“Okay you two tell me what’s going on,” she demanded. So they launched into their explanation, taking turns by picking up where the other left off when they paused for breath. They told her about the issue with her brother’s shield and the original plans to deal with the problem. They then told her about how there was a possible way around it all that would be a better solution if it worked. When they were finished, everyone sat there in a long moment of silence.
“So I take it that you’re here to talk to me about how the artifact you want to make should be made?” Twilight asked, breaking the silence. Mad nodded.
“Yes. I honestly didn’t trust all of my calculations, so I thought that I’d see about having somepony else look over them to help me double check,”
Twilight gestured at a desk on one wall.
“Then let’s see these calculations of yours,” she said, getting up.
Mad stood up as well and floated out everything from his pack. He moved it all in a large clump and then dropped it all in a hectic mess on the desk. Sighing, Twilight rearranged it all, making it much neater.
“Eugene! I would have thought that by now you’d be in control of this whole sloppiness issue of yours,” she scolded. Mad just rolled his eyes. Strong Heart gave a slight choke as he tried to keep from bursting out in laughter. Mad glared at him.
“And look at this!” she exclaimed, holding up one of Mad’s notes.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I can hardly read this!”
She picked up a quill, dipped it in some ink, and then started to copy his work onto another piece of paper.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Mad demanded.
“I,” she dipped the quill again, “am trying to make sure that you and I can read this and understand what we’re looking at. It would really stink if the artifact didn’t work because we thought that a four was nine, or a six was a five.”
“It’s not like that’s ever happened,” Mad muttered under his breath. Twilight threw down the quill and turned on him.
“Yes, it did! Remember our Third Grade Magic Fair?”
Mad groaned audibly.
“Don’t groan! Because of your sloppiness, our project almost ended up creating a desert out of Canterlot! So instead of standing there mocking me,” Mad immediately closed his mouth and put his hoof on the floor, “you can get yourself over here and help me make sense of this.”
Mad moved next to her and sat down. He looked at the note that she was trying to copy and tried to figure out what it was that he had written. He continued to look at it, his brow becoming furrowed with the frustration. Then, he set it down and looked at Twilight.
“I believe that this might be an old shopping list of mine,” he said coolly.
“WHAT?” exclaimed Twilight.
“Well, I can’t be too sure. And besides, Isa packed it.”
“Probably because she couldn’t read Eugene the Mess Machine’s hoofwriting.”
“Come now! I told you to stop calling me that a long time ago! I prefer to be called Mad now.”
Mad and Twilight were soon arguing yet again. Strong Heart just sat where he was, watching the exchange between the two school rivals. Suddenly, he felt a tug on one of his legs. Looking down, he saw that it was Spike, holding a deck of cards.
“Wanna play Go Fish?” he asked.
It was exactly 24 games of Go Fish, 13 games of war, and an attempt at making up a game with the cards when Twilight and Mad finally finished arguing. By then, it was quite dark and Spike had gone to bed. Strong Heart found it hard to keep from nodding off himself.
What got his attention was the sudden silence. Plus his head hitting the floor. He immediately stood up and looked around. Twilight and mad stood at the desk, looking at him confused.
“Sorry,” he apologized, “Getting a bit tired. So, what have you two come up with?”
Twilight and Mad then looked at each other and came to the same conclusion.
“I think that we should wait until the morning to explain anything,” Twilight declared. But Strong Heart shook his head.
“I can stay up a little longer,” he protested, hiding a yawn behind his hoof as he spoke.
“No,” said Mad, “I’m tired too. And when I’m tired, I botch up my presentations.” He turned to Twilight. “Now, where are your guest rooms?”
The next morning, Mad and Strong Heart got up and entered Twilight’s kitchen where she and Spike had worked together to make their guests breakfast. As they all sat down and started to get their plates together, Spike asked the two unicorns, “So, what did you accomplish last night?”
“Yeah, I want to know as well,” demanded Strong Heart who’s mouth was full of pancakes. Swallowing his food, Mad started his explanation.
“Last night, my colleague, Twilight, and I looked over my notes. We did several calculations in the required amount of magic components to assemble the artifact and decided that we would need six of them. Then, we calculated what those parts would need to be. To do that, we sifted through…”
“I don’t think that you need to go into that much detail,” Twilight said, interrupting Mad.
“Are you sure? Because I really don’t mind getting technical and I find the process quite fascinating.”
“I’m sure. Trust me, I find it fascinating as well, but I’d be the only one to understand you.”
Mad sighed. “Well then, I guess the point is that we believe that we know all of the necessary parts we need to make the PSF.”
“PSF? What in Equestria does that stand for?” asked Strong Heart.
“Protective Shield Fabricator,” Twilight answered, “It was the best we could come up with on such short notice.”
“Hmmm. PSF. I like it,” Spike declared.
“Yes, sounds catchy. So what do we need to make the PSF?” asked Strong Heart.
“Well, we determined that we need at least two of the six Elements of Harmony that represent security,” Twilight explained, “And the two that we came up with were the Element of Honesty and the Element of Laughter.”
“Okay, so how do we get these?”
This time Mad answered. “We need to collect something that embodies these Elements from each of the representatives of the two. Luckily, Twilight knows the two representatives herself. Now, which of these did you recommend that we get first?”
“I had suggested the Element of Laughter first. I don’t know how we’ll collect a part of it, but Pinkie Pie lives not too far from here,” Twilight said.
“Then let’s go!” exclaimed Strong Heart. He had to wait, however, as Twilight and Mad got together all of the items that they thought that they would need to collect a piece of the Element of Laughter. But when they were finished, he dashed outside and waited for them.
“You slowpokes coming?” he called to them.
“He doesn’t even know where we’re going,” observed Twilight. Smiling, Mad nodded his head.
“Yes, but he’ll soon figure that out,” he replied. He was right, for a couple of seconds later Strong Heart ran back and asked, “Where are we going again?”
Twilight led them through the town to their destination. As they went along, she told them all that had happened since she had moved there. By the time she finished, they had arrived. She stopped in front of a building that was bright and colorful. It had a sort of gingerbread house appearance, that is, if they were pink. Delicious smells of baked goods wafted out into the streets and tickled their noses, making their mouths water. A sign above the door read “Sugar Cube Corner”.
“Let’s go!” said Twilight. So Mad and Strong Heart followed Twilight inside, where they were assaulted by even more scents that caused them to wish that they hadn’t eaten breakfast already. Around the room were all sorts of pastries, cakes, and other delectable baked goods. There were a few ponies looking at these, but not too many.
Behind the counter, a blue mare with pink hair that looked like icing on a cupcake was waiting to tend customer’s needs. When she saw the group, she waved them over.
“Why, hello there Twilight! How are you doing?” she asked, “And who are your friends?”
“Hi Mrs. Cake,” Twilight said to the mare, “I’m doing fine. Have you seen Pinkie Pie around?”
“Yes, I have. I believe she’s in the back room. Here, go on in.” Mrs. Cake gestured to a swinging door behind her. Twilight, Mad, and Strong Heart pushed their way in to the back room. It was a large kitchen with flour everywhere. It was spread all over the ceiling, counters, and almost every nook and cranny. And in the middle of it all sat a pink pony.
“Pinkie Pie! What happened in here?” exclaimed Twilight.
“Huh? Oh, hi Twilight! I’m looking for Gummy,” the pink pony started sifting through a pile of flour in front of her, “You guys can help you know.”
“What is a Gummy?” asked Strong Heart.
“Not what, who. It’s her pet gator. We should probably help her search for him,” said Twilight. So they all began to look through the piles of flour. They searched for quite a bit, until Strong Heart noticed something resembling a white worm sticking out from under the table. When he pulled it out, he realized that it was the tail of a baby alligator.
“Is this Gummy?” he asked, holding it up.
Pinkie Pie ran forward and grabbed the flour coated gator. She started hugging it and cried out. “Gummy! Don’t ever do that to mommy again!” Then she looked at Strong Heart. “Hey, wait a second! I remember you!”
“Yes yes yes! And you too,” she said, pointing at Mad, “I remember both of you from yesterday!”
“Ahhh! I thought you looked familiar,” stated Mad, “This is that pony that we tried to ask for directions from, remember Strong Heart?”
Strong Heart looked at Mad, then Pinkie Pie.
“Yes, now that you mention it, I do,” he said.
“You were going to ask me for directions? Well why didn’t you?” asked Pinkie Pie.
“Well, you ran off before we could.”
“Oh yeah. Silly me!” she turned to one of the counters, “ The reason I had ran off was because I didn’t recognize you two, so I knew that you were new to Ponyville and normally I would throw a party but I didn’t think that I had time so I ran all the way here to make you these!” She held up two cupcakes coated in flour.
“That’s very nice of you,” said Mad hesitantly, “But I really don’t want one right now. You see, we’re here to…” He didn’t get another word in before Pinkie Pie shoved the cupcake into his mouth. Upon seeing his friend’s surprised face, Strong Heart started to laugh, but he too was interrupted as the other cupcake was shoved into his mouth. While they chewed and tried to choke down the treats, Twilight explained to Pinkie Pie why they were there.
“Oooh. So you know these two?” Pinkie Pie asked. Twilight nodded.
“Yes. I sort of knew them in Canterlot and now they need our help. So do you think that you can do that?”
Pinkie Pie’s head bobbed up and down, almost too fast to see. “Okey dokey lokey!”
When Mad and Strong Heart finished their cupcakes, everypony worked together to get the kitchen clean again. When they finished, they all sat down around the table that Gummy was found under.
“So, what do I need to do?” asked Pinkie Pie. Mad and Twilight looked at each other.
“Well, we’re kind of winging it right now. All we know is that we need some form of the Element of Laughter, but we have no idea on how to get it,” said Twilight. Strong Heart raised his hoof.
“Maybe you can get something that causes laughter and do something to it?” he suggested.
“Hmmm. That might work,” Mad said, “How about it Pinkie Pie, what do you think causes the most laughter?”
The pink mare immediately jumped up and ran off. Mad and Strong Heart looked at Twilight, confusion written all over their faces. She just shrugged, having no idea what her friend was up to.
Pinkie Pie soon returned, laden down with all sorts of gag items. There were whoopee cushions, rubber chickens, clown noses, and everything you could imagine. She set the pile of stuff on the table.
“I’m pretty sure that one of these will cause the most laughter!” she exclaimed. She picked up one of the rubber chickens, “I mean, who can’t help but laugh at this?”
Mad sighed. Then he stood up and began to pace around the room. While he did so, the other three ponies were sorting through the pile of jokes. But they couldn’t agree on which was the funniest. Mad finished pacing.
“I guess I should help look through as well,” he said. But as he sat down, there was a loud PHHBBTT! He had sat on one of the whoopee cushions that had fallen onto the floor. Every pony stared at him. Then, they began to laugh.
“Come now, it isn’t that funny!” he exclaimed, turning red. But he too was soon laughing. As they were all shaking with their uncontrollable laughter, Mad looked at Pinkie Pie. Then, he noticed that a tear was falling down her cheek.
“That’s it!” he shouted. Using his magic, he brought out a small test tube. He next held it underneath Pinkie Pie’s cheek, where the tear he had noticed fell into the small piece of glass. Capping it, he replaced it in his pack and waited for everyone to stop laughing. Twilight was the first to speak.
“Oh my. You should have seen the look on your face, Eugene!” she said, rubbing at her eyes.
“Eugene? Who’s Eugene?” asked Pinkie Pie. Twilight pointed at Mad.
“Oh! Well what an interesting name!”
Mad waved his hoof.
“Please, stick to calling me Mad,” he said. Pinkie Pie just shrugged.
“Okey dokey lokey,” she looked at Twilight, “So you don’t need any of these?” Pinkie Pie gestured to the pile on the table.
“No, Pinkie. I think we got what we came here for.” Mad nodded his head in agreement.
“We’d best be off. It was nice having a good laugh, but we don’t have very much time. Pinkie Pie, thank you for your help,” Mad held out his hoof. Pinkie Pie grabbed it and shook it very hard.
“No problem, Mad! I had fun.”
They all said their goodbyes, then Twilight, Mad, and Strong Heart left Sugar Cube Corner.
“Where to next?” Strong Heart asked.
Without turning around, Mad called out to his friend, “Now we head back to Twilight’s place to drop off the piece of the Element of Laughter, then we go on to collect the piece of the Element of Honesty!”
On their way back to Twilight’s library, a yellow colt with black hair followed them. He jumped from one hiding place to the next, never once losing sight of his quarries. When they entered the library, he hid himself next to an open window and eves dropped on their conversation.
“So, we have the first part?” asked the alicorn.
“Yes,” the male unicorn replied, “Now we need to get something to collect the Element of Honesty. And I don’t think we can get it by making the representative laugh. Twilight, do you have any ideas?”
“Actually, I do,” it was the female one now, “But we’ll need to make a quick trip to the Everfree Forest first.”
“At this rate, we’re going to have this thing finished in no time!” exclaimed the alicorn.
“Yes, and then the changelings will never be able to attack Canterlot again,”
By now, the colt judged that he had heard enough. He concentrated, then with a small green flash he transformed. He regrew his wings and horn. His hair disappeared, and his mouth grew a set of fangs. Then, he leapt into the air and started to fly in a westerly direction. He had much to report to his queen.