Twilight gritted her proverbial teeth as she felt the crane's metal claws dig into her non-proverbial leg. She immediately entwined her front legs with Sunset's, not wanting to get separated. Clinging together, they were both drawn up into the air.
Pinkie Pie's face loomed huge on the other side of the barrier. “Sweet! It's a two-fer!” Her face screwed up in concentration, tongue protruding slightly from the corner of her mouth, in an expression that would've been adorable had it been properly sized. Pinkie Pie's hands worked a set of control levers with an engineer's precision, and the crane's motor whined, whisking the two plush ponies through the air. Twilight stared down at Sunset, wishing she could say something to calm the alarmed look in her friend's inexplicably plastic eyes.
The crane whirred to a stop above a cavernous square hole. With a snap of metal, Twilight and Sunset fell into blackness. They didn't fall far, landing on a hard, flat surface a second later. Twilight barely had time to wonder if her new body actually had any bones to break before a panel opened up above them, and two gargantuan pink hands reached down to grab them.
“Woohoo! I got both the ponies! Told you I'm the best at these things!”
“Yeah, yeah.” An equally enormous Rainbow Dash crossed her arms across her chest. “I can still beat you in skeeball, though.”
Twilight took stock of her surroundings as best she could. More towering figures passed by behind Pinkie and Rainbow, wandering through a surreal realm of flashing lights and beeping machinery. The smell of greasy, deep-fried foods hung heavy in the air, and the ground was covered in a dark maroon carpeting. Twilight tried not to think about where the stains came from.
“But you gotta get like a bajillion skeeball tickets before you can cash in for the good prizes. And look what I got for just a quarter!” She bounced Twilight and Sunset through the air in the vaguest approximation of an equine gallop. “Whee! Horsies!” She paused, and glanced up at her friend. “Aw, don't pout, Rainbow! Here, you can have one if you want. Take your pick!” She thrust both plushified ponies forward.
“Nah, I'm good. I don't really do stuffed animals. Only things I got on my shelves are trophies, y'know?”
“Aw, c'mon Dashie! Your trophies are nice and shiny and all, but what happens when you get older and start doing other stuff and realize that nobody really cares that you were the MVP of your third grade soccer team and that hanging onto little tokens of meaningless accomplishments just comes off as kind of freaky and sad?”
“Wait, what?” Rainbow Dash stared at her friend.
Twilight, meanwhile, found herself following Pinkie Pie's line of thought—which would've been alarming even if she hadn't been inexplicably transmogrified into a stuffed animal.
“I've been reading Kierkegaard for philosophy class!” Pinkie Pie beamed. “Absurdism is fun! Once you get past the inherent meaninglessness of existence and all.”
“Oh. Kay?” Rainbow Dash scratched the back of her head. A brief, heavy silence hung in between the two, until Rainbow finally added on. “Wanna get some pizza?”
“Do I!” Pinkie Pie beamed. “Just lemme put these two ponies away and we can go!”
And again, before Twilight could react, she found herself crammed down into the darkness of Pinkie Pie's sugary-smelling backpack, with Sunset's stuffed form crammed down on top of her. For the first time, Twilight found herself thankful she couldn't speak in this new form, as that made the situation slightly less awkward.
“We're hoooo-ome!” Pinkie Pie's sing-song voice declared, after a short eternity of jumbling and jostling. The zipper to her backpack zipped, and Pinkie pulled the pair of plush ponies out, putting them in place upon a shelf with perfect precision.
Pinkie Pie patted Sunset and Twilight both on the head, and giggled. “Oh-kay! I bet you two like it a lot better here than inside that smelly carny game, don'tcha!” She giggled—and then blinked when a buzzing sound began to fill the room. She pulled a vibrating rectangular device from a pocket and peered at it.
“Oh!” Pinkie said. “Almost forgot! It's time to feed Gummy!” And with that, she disappeared in a blur.
Once Pinkie left, Twilight felt her paralysis lift from her strange new body. She turned her head from one side to the other, surveying the strange new world she was in. She'd been shelved in a bedroom-- the sort of pink chaos she'd expect from her friend, no matter what the dimension. The poster of a long-haired man with a bloody nose above the words “I GET WET” was a little out of place, however.
Sunset nudged Twilight's shoulder, drawing her attention. Twilight followed Sunset's pointing hoof—or, well, the soft cloth nub that should've been a hoof—to further down the shelf. Most of them were more plush, cloth creatures—though there were a few exceptions, such as a tall—for a toy, at least—blonde woman of rather artificial proportions, and a small soldier made entirely of green plastic.
“New recruits!” the green man barked out.
“Sarge, be nice,” the woman said, “You know how traumatizing unboxing is..”
“Yes sir!” Sarge snapped off a quick salute, only to sputter a moment later. “I mean, er… Yes Ma'am!”
“And how many times do I have to tell you? Just call me Barb.”
“Yes sir Barb ma'am sir!”
Barb rolled her eyes and strutted—as there was no other way to move in the sort of heels she wore—over to Twilight and Sunset. The other toys crowded in behind her, soon surrounding the pair.
“Sorry if they're a little… enthusiastic,” Barb said. “We don't get new toys very often around here. What're your names?”
Twilight Sparkle tried to introduce herself, by reflex—only to find the stitches along her lips to be entirely unyielding. Rarity would've been proud. She held a hoof up to her mouth, and looked over at Sunset, who was similarly speechless.
“Oh!” Barb gasped. “I'm sorry, I didn't know you were, uh… stitched.”
“Permission to check labels, Sir ma'am Barb sir!” The little man darted between Twilight's legs, making a beeline for a little tag on her rear right ankle.
“You should be asking them, Sarge,” Barb said coolly. Her expression and tone warmed as she looked back at Twilight and Sunset. “I'd like to apologize for him, by the way. Nobody's sure how he wound up here—getting separated from his playset has made him a little… kooky.”
The little green man didn't miss a beat. “Permission to check labels, weird horse thing sir ma'am sir!”
Twilight cringed away a little, finding the examination of her tag oddly personal—but she finally nodded, allowing the soldier to read away.
“Says here they're My Little Ponies, Barb! Machine washable!”
A murmur spread through the various dolls and stuffed animals.
“My Little Ponies?” Barb blinked, and tilted her head to the side. “They must make you… differently, now. Hm.” She rubbed her chin. “We haven't seen any My Little Ponies around here since Applejack.”
Twilight and Sunset shared a silent look with each other at the mention of their friend's name. Sunset nodded, and then Twilight turned a pleading look onto Barb.
“You know Applejack?” Barb said.
“Sounds like they're M.I.A.!” Sarge barked out, and jogged back over to Barb's ankle. “We'd better get them back to the rest of their unit!”
Twilight nodded again, more frantic, this time. She could deal with dimensional-hopping, as could Sunset Shimmer, but how would the stubborn, tradition-loving cowpony deal with such a drastic change?
“Are you sure?” said Barb. “Nobody's talked to Applejack in years. She mostly keeps to herself.”
An anxious twist gripped Twilight's heart. Was time displacement somehow involved? Things must have been worse than she thought. She nodded yet again, as resolutely as she could manage with her new fluff-packed body.
“Alright.” Barb smoothed out her fluffy petticoats. “Sarge and I can take you to Applejack. It won't be easy, though. She's down in…” Barb's words choked off, until she took a long, steadying breath to calm herself before making a grave declaration.
“Applejack's in the basement.”