Seven Girls, Nine Hundred Forty Three Miles, and One Minivan.

by Tumbleweed

Chapter 7

The morning sun was just streaming through the east wall of the Imperial Suite when Discord woke up.

“Ladies!” Discord swept out of his bedroom, clad once again in his mis-matched suit. “May I have your attention, please!”

Wary, the seven girls trailed out of their own bedrooms, looking up at Discord as he leaned against the balcony railing.

“I'd like to thank you all for making this such a memorable vacation! Honestly, I was afraid this entire dimension was going to be dull, until I had the good fortune to come across you lovely ladies. But this has been one of the most entertaining vacations I've ever had!”

Applejack crossed her arms over her chest. “You're welcome?”

Pinkie Pie scratched the side of her head, puzzled. “Buuuuuuut, all you did was sit in your room and watch TV.”

“So I did! And it was spectacular.” Discord clasped his hands together, eyes going dreamy. “Television! Glorious television!” Discord said, rapturous. “Such a wonderful invention! Six thousand, three hundred and twenty eight channels in ultra-high definition across a hundred and fifty inch screen! And it's all so wonderfully random and nonsensical! ” He clutched at his sides, unable to contain his laughter. “You should have seen it! There was this one show where a man got hit with a football. In the groin!”

“Man.” Rainbow Dash said. “Guess TV really does rot your brain.”

“You know,” Twilight said, “if all you wanted to do was watch TV, you probably didn't need all of this … “

“Ah, but where's the fun in that?” Discord said. “Besides, that wouldn't leave much for you to do! Not to mention the sight of such a snappily dressed man such as myself, in the company of a bevvy of young ladies, such as yourselves, might bring to mind certain unwelcome implications, especially in the cheaper, seedier establishments.”

“Mmmh. I suppose he has a point.”

“Of course, it wasn't just the television that was entertaining.” Discord leaned his butt against the bannister and slid effortlessly down from the balcony level. “Seeing the lot of you scurry around and plan was entirely too fun. How's the work coming on that magic compact of yours, Twilight?”

Twilight blinked. “I, er, don't know what you're talking about.” She lied, badly.

“Don't worry! It wouldn't have worked anyway. I've learned to be a little more careful with my ambient magical energy ever since a icky incident with a certain centaur. You at least made more progress than Number Seven over here.” Discord hopped off the stairwell, and smiled at Sunset Shimmer. “Best she could do was punch me.”

“Way to go Sunset!” Rainbow Dash bounced on the balls of her feet. “Can I punch him next?”

Sunset Shimmer grit her teeth. “Are you done, Discord?”

“Mmmh. As fun as it is watching you squirm, yes.” Discord said. “But … I have to gloat just a little bit. Because I've realized that sometimes the greatest trick … is no trick at all! I've not used a lick of magic since we got in that van to come here to begin with, just as promised. And again, just as promised, I shall be making my departure, to leave you in peace.” Discord sniggered.

Sunset Shimmer frowned. Harder. “What's so funny?”

“Oh! Well. I suppose it's only polite to fill you in before I leave. You see, since I was forbidden the use of my magic, I was unable to fabricate a credit card or a bank account or even a big sack of money with a dollar sign on it. Which wasn't a problem when I was checking in, but I imagine the proprietors of this fine establishment will expect some form of compensation right about … “

The elevator bell let out a soft 'ding,' announcing an impending arrival.

“Now.” Discord cackled, as was his nature.

Discord snapped his fingers, and in a flash, returned to his mismatched animal form. “It's been a pleasure, my dears! But for now, I must bid you a sweet adieu.” He bowed deeply.

Another snap of his fingers, and the mad trickster was gone.

“That snake!” Applejack swore.

“Um. Technically, he's only part snake. And part goat. And part horse. And part lion. And part bird. And … um, I kind of lost count after that.” Fluttershy said.

Sunset Shimmer balled her hands into trembling fists. “This is my fault. I should have seen something like this coming. I--”

“Shhh.” Twilight draped an arm around Sunset's shoulders. “He tricked all of us. Now we just have to--”

The elevator doors slid open, and a skinny man with an air of a weasel (and not one of the cute ones Fluttershy took care of from time to time) stepped out. Two far larger (and less weasely) men stepped out, their shoulders so broad they had to exit the elevator one at a time. All three wore impeccably tailored suits and the kind of leather flats that typically cost more than a used convertible.


“Good morning.” The weasely little man said, smiling. “I'm here to see Mr. Ischord?”

The girls shared a panicked look amongst themselves. Twilight was the first one to speak.

“He's … unavailable right now. But I'm his, er, Executive Assistant. Yes. That's who I am.” She gave a nervous laugh.

“Ah yes, Miss Twilight Sparkle, I believe? Mr. Ischord mentioned you.” The thin man nodded. “Would you happen to know when he would be available?”

“I'm not … sure. It might be awhile. Mister Ischord is ... Sick. Yes. Very sick.”

“Totally!” Pinkie Pie chimed in. “He ate some bad sushi, and now he's stuck in the bathroom going bleeeeeeeeagh and barfing all over the place and it's really really gross! You don't wanna go in there. Nope.”

The thin man considered Pinkie's words, and nodded. “I understand. Please, inform your employer that we here at the Megaluxe wish him a speedy recovery. And, as per his instructions, we have tabulated his bill.” He reached into his jacket and pulled out a crisp white envelope, which he handed to Twilight Sparkle. “We'll expect the payment tonight, as per Mr. Ischord's instructions.”

Twilight Sparkle stared at the envelope.

“You're all welcome to stay longer, of course. But, I just thought I would stop by to remind Mr. Ischord … and his entourage, that we here at the Megaluxe are absolutely devoted to your comfort and entertainment. Of course, I am also obligated by company policy to remind you--- and, by extension, Mr. Ischord, that the Megaluxe will use any and all means at its disposal in order to collect what is owed when the time comes.”

Throughout the whole exchange, the two big men behind the weasely one hadn't said a word. They didn't need to.

“Have a nice day, ladies.” The man said. He snapped his fingers, and his goons began the process of stepping back into the elevator, one after another. The weasel-faced man followed. The elevator doors slid shut.

“Okay.” Twilight said, voice shaking. “It's not so bad. We've just rented out the top two floors of the most expensive hotel casino in Las Pegasus.” She laughed a little, and opened up the envelope. “Okay, wow. That's a lot of zeroes.”

“I hate to say it, but what iffin' we just run?” Applejack said as she peered over Twilight's shoulder. “I mean, we ain't the ones who rented the place. Was Discord. Let 'em go after him!”

“We couldn't!” Rarity said. “Didn't you see their shoes?”

“Rarity, this ain't the time to play fashion police.”

“Just listen to me for once!” Rarity huffed. “They were wearing imported Italian loafers.”

This just got her blank stares.

Italian” Rarity said. “You know … like the mafia? Those men were professional criminals, I assure you!”

Twilight furrowed her brow. “That's just a stereotype. Las Pegasus isn't really ruled by organized crime. Not anymore.”

“Stereotype or no, the man brought goons with him.” Rarity said. “Goons! Or did you not notice the two remarkably gorilla-like men he brought with him, just to deliver a letter?”

“Hey! That's being mean to gorillas.” Fluttershy said. “Actual gorillas are very shy and gentle.”

“I could totally beat them up.” Rainbow Dash said.

“Rainbow!” Fluttershy spun around on the blue girl. “If I ever hear you beat up a gorilla, I'd never forgive you!”

“I meant the goons. Not actual gorillas.”

“Oh, I guess that'd be okay.”

“Regardless,” Rarity said, “I don't think the man will be very amenable to whatever excuses we might concoct. That's a man who wants his money.”

“So we just get money, duh!” Pinkie Pie said, smling, “we could have, like, a bake sale!”

Twilight showed the bill to Pinkie Pie, and the pink girl deflated with an audible balloon sound. “A really, really big bake sale?”

“Oh, I know!” Rainbow Dash said, “what if we enter into a battle of the bands? Or a skateboarding competition? Or a dance contest? Or a MMA tournament? There's got to be some way a bunch of super awesome girls like us can make a ton of money real fast, right?”

“That's not a half bad idea.” Twilight stroked at her chin. “We'd just need to find something that we could enter at the last minute. Something we'd all be good at. Any ideas, Sunset?” Twilight looked around for a moment. “Where'd she go?”

“Oh! Hiding!” Pinkie Pie said. “That's an idea! We could just go 'poof' and ninja vanish and then we wouldn't have to pay because they couldn't find us!”

“That ain't a plan.” Applejack grumbled.

“Hey, hear her out. Ninjas are cool,” said Rainbow Dash.

As the others began to argue over the feasibility (or lack therof) of ninja based plans, Twilight slipped away to find Sunset. She didn't have to look for very long, which perhaps put a nail in the coffin of Rainbow Dash's ninja-based plans. Sunset Shimmer laid on one of the suite's many couches, staring up at the ceiling in a shell-shocked daze.

“Uh.” Twilight bit at her lower lip. “Sunset? I … we could really use your help right now.”

“There's nothing I can do.”

“That's not true! There's got to be something! I … oh! Do you have that book? Could you write a letter to the other Twilight Sparkle for help?”

“Assuming she writes back in time. Besides, Princess Twilight knows all about friendship and magic … but I really doubt she has any experience getting out of hotel bills. I mean, do you?”

“Well, no.” Twilight admitted, only to snap her fingers as an epiphany hit her. “But Princess Twilight is … a Princess! Surely she'd be able to, um … let us borrow some gold or gems or something so we could take care of all this? Didn't you say gemstones are far more common in Equestria than on our own planet? Which, now that I think of it, makes me wonder about the geological makeup of your dimension--” Twilight shook her head before she lapsed further into academic discourse. “It should be easy!”

“Except.” Sunset said, “Twilight's portal will place her in Canterlot High, nearly a thousand miles away. How's she going to get here in time with no car?”

“Oh.” Twilight's expression fell. “That's a good point.”

“Here's what's going to happen.” Sunset said, eyes still locked on the ceiling. “There's no way we can pay that bill we've racked up. And since the valet service has the keys to Fluttershy's van, we can't just make a break for it. And even if we did, it's not like we'd get very far in that old thing before the cops or the mobsters or whoever catch up with us.”

“I came to the same conclusion.” Twilight said.

“Now, depending on how charitable they're feeling, they either prosecute us … which probably won't stick, since we're minors. Or, they think we're victims of “David Ischord” and turn us over to child protection services. Either way, they're going to call everyone's parents, and the lot of you guys are going to be grounded forever.”

“Which is what we're trying to avoid.”

“Here's the thing, Twilight. I don't have any parents. Not here, anyway. Not in this dimension. I forged enough of a paper trail to justify my existence, but the moment there's a criminal investigation … I doubt it'll hold up. So without any family, I'm either going to jail, or a foster home.”

“They couldn't!” Twilight said, horrified.

“You're right.” Sunset Shimmer mused, voice distant. “I'll break out of whatever jail they throw me in, or run away from the orphanage, and then … well, I'll just be gone.”

“Gone? No!” Twilight said, panicky. “You can't just leave! You could stay with me-- I mean, uh, you could stay with us. We've all got couch space for you to crash on, or we could put you in the loft of Applejack's barn, or maybe we could ask Principal Celestia to let you sleep at the school, and then--"

“No.” Sunset Shimmer closed her eyes.

“No?” Twilight blinked. “What do you mean, no?”

“You'll be better off without me. Everything that's happened on this trip is my fault.”

“No it--”

Sunset Shimmer sat up. “I'm the one who got us organized to go on this trip in the first place, and I'm the one who agreed to make a deal with Discord, even though I was the only one who knew what he's capable of.” Sunset Shimmer flopped back against the couch and stared listlessly up at the ceiling. “Whatever I do, I'll just make it worse.”

“Don't be so hard on yourself, Sunset. We all agreed to go on this trip, and we all agreed to deal with Discord. So we all made mistakes. What's important is figuring out a way to make things right.”

“You're smart, Twilight. You'll think of something?”

“Me?” Twilight blurted.

“Yes, you. This is where you belong. Well, uh, not Las Pegasus, but with your friends. I'm just a third wheel. Seventh wheel. Whatever.”

“But they were your friends before they were my friends.”

“I was just filling in 'til you showed up.” Sunset said.

“That doesn't make any sense!”

“That's magic for you.”

Twilight Sparkle grit her teeth. “I refuse to take that as an answer. Your Twilight-- Princess Twilight might be a magical unicorn, but I'm not. I'm a scientist. And I refuse to fall victim to any kind of wishy-washy superstition about 'destiny,' about who's supposed to be friends with who, just because of some vaguely worded prophecy from another dimension!” Twilight Sparkle stamped her foot and then grabbed hold of Sunset's arms, hauling her off the couch and onto her feet with a strength that surprised the both of them. “Now you're going to come over here and talk to your friends until we figure out a way to get out of this!”

She marched Sunset back to where their other friends had sat around a coffee table, bickering over what course of action to take. They all shut up as they saw Sunset and Twilight approach, and looked on the pair with hopeful, eager eyes. Except for Pinkie Pie, who had grabbed a crystal tumbler and a stack of complimentary poker chips to assemble the world's most expensive game of tiddlywinks.

“Okay!” Rainbow Dash said, and rubbed her hands together eagerly. “What's the play?”

“We're … uh, working on that.” Twilight said, and nudged Sunset Shimmer.

“I have one idea.” Sunset Shimmer said.

“You do?” Twilight blurted.

“Sure.” Sunset shrugged. “You guys can sneak out, get to a gas station, and catch the next bus out of town. Then tell everyone that Fluttershy's van got stolen when you get home.”

“There's a lotta you in that plan, n' not enough we.” Applejack said.

“That's because I'm staying here.”

“What?” The six others said in unison.

“It's simple. I stay here and take the fall. I'll confess to everything, and then you guys can get back to your normal lives back home.”

“Gasp!” Rarity said the full word. “That is an awful plan!”

“Yeah! Nobody gets left behind!” Rainbow Dash said. “If you go to jail, we'll all go to jail! Somebody's gonna have to watch your back to make sure you don't get shanked!”

“Shanked?” Fluttershy said, as terrified as one could expect.

“Yeah, shanked.” Rainbow Dash nodded. “It's when somebody sharpens the end of their toothbrush into a stabby thing, and they stick it right in your--”

Applejack elbowed Rainbow Dash in the side. “Not. Helping.”

“Any plan that ends with someone shanked is a pretty bad plan.” Pinkie Pie said, and clipped one of the poker chips into a little arc, where it landed in the whiskey glass with a faint ping.

“Pinkie.” Rarity said, “do you have to do that?”

“Sure!” Pinkie said, not taking her eyes from table-level as she lined up her next shot. “I've never been in a hotel that gives you a tiddlywinks kit before!”

“Those are for gambling dear.” Rarity said.

“Gambling?” Pinkie Pie looked up. “Really?”

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “Haven't you been paying attention to anything since we got here?”

“Sure I have! There were flashy showgirls and yummy food from the room service and a whole lot of shiny things! When you've got all that, who needs to gamble?”

“Wait a tic.” Applejack said, and picked a chip out of Pinkie's cup. “How many of these we got? I've played a hand or two of poker before.”

Sunset Shimmer shook her head. “You'd burn through those chips before you even knew it, Applejack. The whole point is just to get someone started, so then they'll start spending their own money afterward. The odds are stacked against you. The house always wins.”

“Wait.” Twilight Sparkle said. “Say that again.”

“The house always wins?” Sunset scratched at her head.

“That's it!” Twilight Sparkle said with the gleam of inspiration in her eyes. “The house always wins!”

“What are you talking about?” Sunset said.

“Paper! I need paper!” Twilight Sparkle said, and ransacked an end table until she found the ubiquitous hotel stationery. She pulled a pen out of her pocket and began to scribble out rough equations and diagrams, cramming as many as possible onto the page. “I think … yes … I can do this.” She nodded, and looked up at her bewildered friends.

“You're not going to try counting cards, are you?” Sunset Shimmer said. “I'm sure you're smart enough for it, but the casinos know what to look out for … “

“No, I'm thinking something bigger. Something better!” Twilight tore off the page of formulae, and then scrawled out a hasty list of items on the next. “Alright. Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, I need you two to go down to the hotel gift shop, and get these items. Only these items. We've got enough candy and fluffy animals in the suite already.”

Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie nodded, their enthusiasm for a plan overriding whatever disappointment they might have shown otherwise.

“Applejack, Rainbow Dash, you two are on recon duty. Scope out the gambling floor, see if you can make a map. Keep a low profile.”

“Got it!” Rainbow Dash snapped off a sloppy salute. “Super commando mission it is!”

“Commando?” Pinkie Pie blurted, “Does that mean you're not wearing--”

“Not now, Pinkie.” Rainbow Dash said.

Twilight ignored the outburst, and focused on Rarity, next. “How long would it take you to put together seven cocktail dresses?”

Rarity's eyes lit up. “With just what I can find around the suite?” Rarity's scissors appeared in her fingers with the sort of speed that would give a gunslinger pause. “You should try thinking of something harder next time.”

“Perfect.” Twilight said, and stood up. “Now, let's get to work! Time is of the essence!”

The girls all nodded, and set out on their assigned tasks, trusting Twilight's judgment.

“Uh.” Sunset said, “what about me?”

“You're going to help me, of course!” Twilight said, smiling. “That is, if you don't think this is all going to be nothing but a futile gesture doomed to failure. I'm not a fan of pessimsim.”

“You're really sure this can work?”

“No. But we've got to try, don't we?”

As she looked into Twilight's eyes, Sunset Shimmer felt herself smile for the first time in hours. “I guess you're right.”