• Published 6th May 2012
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Space Captain Pinkie Pie - terrycloth



Rainbow Dash reveals the little-known fact that pegasi can survive in outer space.

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9: Ascent

“Isn’t this going to be fun, Twilight?” Pinkie Pie asked as they rose past the last of the winter clouds and saw nothing but the moon and stars above them. “It’s like Equestria’s longest sleepover!”

“Going to be?” Twilight asked, as she carefully mixed several chemicals in a test tube. She smiled as the mixture turned blue, and set it aside for the moment. “I thought we’d already started?”

Pinkie Pie stood up and leaned around the cluster of nailed together furniture (and an oven) that made a sort of pillar in the middle of the jar. “Well, yeah, technically, but we just barely started. We’ve got so much fun ahead of us! What do you want to do first?”

Twilight’s horn glowed as she unrolled her checklist, and turned it so Pinkie could read it.

Pinkie Pie backed away from it like it, making a pained face. “None of that looks fun at all!”

“I know it seems like we have a lot of time to play around and have fun, but there are dozens of experiments and observations I want to run, and if I’m going to get through them all I need to start right away,” Twilight said. “And some of them will be fun! Look – I have a solid half hour scheduled for testing the effect of extreme altitude on muffins.”

“Did someone say muffins?” came a lazy voice from overhead.

“Go back to sleep! You need to be rested for your shift on lifting duty!” Twilight replied. “We’ll have muffins when you wake up.”

“Okay…” Ditzy replied, and the hammock over Twilight’s head shifted and hit her on the horn as the pony inside shifted around to get comfortable. The vial she was mixing wobbled and dropped a few inches, but Twilight caught it, put a stopper on it, and added it to the rack.

“Are you making punch?” Pinkie Pie asked, peering around the other side of the central pillar to avoid the terrifying checklist.

“It’s to monitor air quality,” Twilight replied, as she started mixing a third batch. “If it turns red, it means the poison joke isn’t working.”

“And then what do we do?” Pinkie Pie asked.

“Then we figure out what we’re doing wrong before we all suffocate?” Twilight said. “I guess we’d kick the pegasi out first, since they can survive outside.”

“Well, I know what we’re doing wrong,” Pinkie replied. “We’re not having fun.”

Twilight glanced at the vial she’d left open. It was still blue. Was it getting paler? No, that was probably her imagination. “I don’t think party games are going to matter to the poison joke,” Twilight replied. “It’s only interested in pranks.” Pinkie’s eyes lit up dangerously, and Twilight quickly added, “Pinkie, if you perform a prank on my precious procedures I’ll –“ she paused before saying ‘pummel’, “-- pout.”

“Even if my prank perfectly preserves any practical purpose your procedures profess?” Pinkie asked.

Twilight looked skeptical. “Pinkie, your perception of perfection may be painfully posthumous. Please, play politely.”

Pinkie Pie giggled. “Perhaps!”

She did play (or possibly prepare pranks) more quietly for a while, so Twilight mixed a dozen of the air-quality potions, then started opening drawers and cupboards, looking for her astronomical equipment. The workspace was kind of cramped, especially with the unused beakers and jars of reagents lying around everywhere, but she’d forgotten to add ‘clean up after chemistry’ to the checklist again, so tidying up would have to wait until somepony had a free moment.

Speaking of which, “Pinkie, do you have a moment?” Twilight asked.

“For you? Always, Twilight!” Pinkie Pie said, setting something down on her side of the countertop with a clack.

“Do you think you could clean up this mess?” Twilight asked, as she levitated the rack of finished potions to get at a set of drawers behind them. “I normally have Spike do it, but he said he was allergic to certain death and stayed home.”

“Cleaning’s more fun when you do it together,” Pinkie Pie said, poking her head around the pillar again. “We can do a sing-along while we work! I know lots of cleaning songs.”

“I’d love to help you clean, but I really need to take some baseline measurements for calibration purposes,” Twilight said, finally finding her sextant. “It’s essential to plotting our path. You do want to actually get to the moon, right? And not just watch it sail past from hundreds of miles off-course?”

“So I need a song about cleaning up a chemistry set *and* doing astronomy? That’s a tough one,” Pinkie Pie said, resting her chin on a hoof.

Twilight had to giggle in spite of herself. “Twinkle twinkle little star, illuminate my pressure jar?”

Pinkie grinned at her. “Go on…”

“Um…” Twilight said, “Pack away my tubes and flasks as I move on to other tasks?”

“Are you still talking to the star?” Pinkie Pie asked. “Because if you can *wish* for your chemistry set to get put away I should really be a pegasus by now.”

Twilight threw down her sextant in frustration. “Argh! I give up.”

“Oh don’t give up, Twilight!” Pinkie Pie said, “Writing new songs always takes time!”

“No, I mean I can’t get accurate readings because the jar keeps swaying!” Twilight said, covering her eyes with her hooves. “We’re completely off balance and every time we move around or do anything it just makes it worse! I was hoping that being outside the atmosphere would make for a uniquely unobstructed viewing platform but without some sort of stabilization armature I’m not going to be able to take any astronomical readings at all!”

“Really?” Pinkie Pie asked, eyes wide.

Twilight raised a hoof to peek at her. “Pinkie Pie? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Because that means it’s time to party!” Pinkie Pie said happily, showering Twilight with confetti. After a second the unicorn realized it was the remains of her checklist.

===

Twilight awoke to the warm light of the morning sun. She mumbled something to Spike, and tossed around on her bed as she tried to get back under the covers – it was chilly. She couldn’t find them, though, and eventually opened her eyes to realize she was still in the Jelly Jar, curled up on her cushions, and the sun was being filtered through a thick layer of frost.

Also, with growing horror, she realized that a bushy growth of poison joke was draped across her hindquarters. “Pinkie!” she said in alarm.

The blue bush lifted its head, revealing a drowsy pink pony face beneath. “Wha?” Pinkie Pie asked, yawning and shaking her… bush. Pinkie paused at the odd noise her new mane made, and pulled a bit of it in front of her to look at it. Then blinked, and smiled. “Oops?”

“What –“ Twilight started to ask, but the answer was obvious. “When?” she asked instead.

“The poison joke needed water, and the sprinkler system was frozen,” Pinkie said. “I thought I was careful, but I must have touched it by mistake. You were already asleep.”

“Is it real?” Twilight asked, pulling herself away from Pinkie Pie as far as she could without pressing too hard against the icy walls. “Did you just poison me by using me as a pillow? Why were you using me as a pillow?”

“Well, I was mostly asleep, so this is just a guess, but… my hooves were cold?” Pinkie Pie suggested. “I’d better turn on the oven.”

“Right,” Twilight said. “We need to warm up the air in here before we freeze to death, and melt this ice so we can see where we are.”

Pinkie Pie pulled back to her side of the jar, and turned on the oven to preheat while she got out her baking supplies. “And bake some muffins for Ditzy. You promised her muffins, Twilight. You don’t want to know what happens if you break a muffin promise.”

Twilight, meanwhile, popped the cap off an air-quality potion, watching it anxiously to see what color it turned. “What happens if you break a muffin promise?” she asked, curious now. “Something happens?”

“You don’t want to know,” Pinkie Pie said.

“I’ve been keeping a record of all the things that happen because of broken Pinkie Pie promises,” Twilight said. “Some of them are scary, but –“

“You don’t want to know!” Pinkie Pie insisted.

Twilight popped around to give Pinkie Pie a look. “I don’t want to know?” she asked, skeptically. “Have you even met me?”

Pinkie Pie smiled sadly, and shook her… bush as she stirred her mixing bowl. “Okay, Twilight. I’ll tell you what happens. I wouldn’t want you to get so curious that you went and broke the promise on purpose just to see.”

“I’d never do that!” Twilight protested, but her ears flattened as she remembered a few times when she’d done things that were almost as bad.

Pinkie Pie looked down into her bowl, and said, “First, her eyes go really wide, like watery puppy eyes, and she asks in a sweet little voice, ‘no muffin?’”

“Yes?” Twilight asked, fetching a quill and parchment, already covered with figures and scribbles, but with a bit of spare space in one corner where she could take muffin promise notes.

“Second, she pouts,” Pinkie Pie said. “And her ears droop, and her tail droops, and then…”

“And then?” Twilight asked, breathlessly.

“And then her eyes start to wander in different directions, she smiles, says ‘okay’, and forgets about the whole thing,” Pinkie Pie finished, in a much cheerier tone. “It was just horrible Twilight.”

Twilight stared at Pinkie Pie. “Uh huh.”

“You don’t understand, Twilight. She had no muffin! She just walked away, and there was nuffin I could do!” Pinkie Pie waved her forehooves for emphasis, knocking over the mixing bowl and the bag of sugar.

Twilight caught the errant baking supplies with her magic, and set them back on the counter before anything could spill. “It does sound sad, but why wouldn’t I want to know?”

“Because now you know you can get away with breaking the promise and she’ll forgive you,” Pinkie Pie said. “And then you’ll get in the habit of not taking promises seriously, and you’ll break promises to everypony and make promises you don’t have any intention of keeping and eventually you’ll make a fake promise to the princess and get banished from Equestria and thrown into a dungeon in the place you were banished to! And it’ll be all my fault, for telling you.”

“Pinkie – I’m not going to turn into a promise-breaking liar just because I think I can get away with it,” Twilight said, laughing. “I promise!”

“Pinkie promise?” Pinkie Pie asked.

“Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my – ow!” Twilight rubbed her eye after hitting it with her hoof again. “I’m never going to get the hang of that.

===

Soon, Derpy and Ditzy were happily munching away on morning muffins. Derpy had managed to mostly untangle herself from the hammock, and dangled by one hind-hoof, her front half resting on some of Twilight’s cushions. This forced Twilight to press up against Pinkie Pie and her poison mane, which had been a lot more comfortable before the oven overheated the air.

It hadn’t done much to melt the ice, though. Twilight stared back at Derpy, and then up at Ditzy, and couldn’t quite make herself actually say anything, especially when she was never quite sure if either of them were paying attention to her or not, with their lazy eyes. For their part, they seemed perfectly content to stay quiet and eat, and Pinkie…

“…if I do get to choose how to prank you, I’m probably going to turn you into a wishing star, Twilight. Because if my mane works to joke ponies when it’s just a joke itself then your wishing powers might work to wish ponies into pegasi and then…”

Pinkie was babbling away, and seemed to have Ditzy and Derpy’s attention, although who could tell?
“What do you think, Twilight?” Pinkie asked.

“I think I need to know our current altitude,” Twilight Sparkle answered. “Is this ice ever going to melt?”

“I can clear it!” Derpy said eagerly, flapping her wings to swing herself back and forth by her tangled hoof. Her flapping wings came right at Twilight, who caught a face full of stringy blonde mane as she ducked. It only lasted a second before Derpy was swinging back down, diving at the side of the jar with hooves outstretched.

“No!” Twilight said, grabbing on with her magic and holding the crazy pegasus back. She idly noted that Pinkie Pie’s hooves were over her shoulders, pulling her into a tight embrace – this wasn’t the first time Pinkie had tried that, although Twilight wasn’t sure where she’d gotten the idea that that could possibly help.

At any rate, disaster was averted. “Careful, Derpy,” Ditzy Doo said. “If you break the jar, Filthy’s going to make Applejack buy it.”

“And Pinkie and I will probably freeze to death,” Twilight added, rolling her eyes.

“Aww, don’t be such a downer, Twilight,” Pinkie said. “We’d suffocate way before we froze.”

Twilight had to laugh. “Still, I need to be able to see through this ice so that I can find some way to calculate our altitude. I need to know our altitude so that I can tell Derpy and Ditzy what to do, since it might not be ‘fly straight up all day’. And I need to tell Derpy and Ditzy what to do before I send them out because we don’t have any way of talking to the pegasi outside.”

“Yes we do!” Ditzy Do said. “We worked it out when we had to go down and get you.”

“Really?” Twilight said. “Show me!”

Ditzy rolled onto her back on her hammock, and bucked the metal lid of the jar as hard as she could.

Twilight’s mouth dropped. Ditzy, oblivious, kicked the lid again, and again, with a deafening crash each time.

“Stop!” Twilight said. “For the love of Celestia, stop!”

“It’s okay, Twilight,” Pinkie Pie said, patting her on the head. Twilight tossed her mane and pushed Pinkie away.

“It’s not quite as crazy as smashing the glass, but it’s still plenty crazy!” Twilight said, clambering up the central pillar to examine the damage. “They can’t even hear you!”

“They can see the dents!” Ditzy said.

Twilight looked at the dents in question – densely packed over Ditzy’s derriere. There were big dents, and small dents, and she recognized the patterns. “Horse code,” she said. “’Stop stop stop go down get TS’?” She glanced over at the newer dents, but Ditzy hadn’t finished the first word so it was basically nonsense. “That’s brilliant!”

“The whole weather squad studies horse code so we can send cloud-signals,” Ditzy said. “It was Pinkie’s idea to use the lid.”

“Well, I am a genius,” Pinkie Pie said as she grinned up at her friends. “And now I’ll use my super-genius powers to help Twilight calculate our altitude, by baking an imaginary cake.”

Ditzy and Derpy stared at her blankly, but Twilight sat down to watch the pink pony pretend to mix cake batter without ingredients, then pour the empty bowl out into a cake pan, with utter faith that Pinkie Pie could accomplish exactly what she claimed. And as the pink pony pressed the empty, heated cake pan against the ice to melt a port-hole, there was only one thing she could say.

“Pinkie, you are a genius!”

Pinkie Pie smiled. “What kind of a party pony would I be if I didn’t know how to break the ice?”

===

“So… what did you just do?” Ditzy asked, after Twilight finished staring out the melted window with her sextant to take measurements, looking up tables of numbers in one of her books, and clacking beads on her abacus back and forth too fast for anypony else to follow. She’d ended by writing a single three digit number on a piece of parchment, and was staring at it thoughtfully.

“Using the assumption, based on our flight plan, that our Cartesian coordinates place us directly over Canterlot, I measured the angle of inclination from the horizontal to a known landmark – in this case, the Manehattan meteorological lacuna. The rest was simple trigonometry – well, simple if you know how to read a tangent table,” Twilight explained. “And based on the results, I think I have a flight plan for you two to follow today.”

“You’d better write it down,” Ditzy said. “I’m not so good with memorizing numbers.”

“Okay,” Twilight said happily, and levitated her quill to write out on a parchment, ‘Fly straight up until noon’.

Ditzy stared at her with at least one eye, while the other wandered from the parchment to the port-hole.

“It’s actually a little more complicated than that,” Twilight said, “but Rainbow Dash and Thunder Lane made excellent time, better than I expected from my initial estimate. Even if you only manage half their speed, you should be able to lift us a comfortable distance above the sun by noon. If you can position us directly over the sun at its zenith, we’ll be in the perfect position to catch tonight’s moon! Also, that’ll let you use the Jelly Jar for shade and keep from burning to death.”

Ditzy Do’s eyes stopped circling and focused on Twilight, with obvious effort. “You’re giving us double sunscreen.”

“Don’t worry,” Twilight said, “I brought plenty for everypony.”

===

“So, let’s go over the checklist one more time,” Twilight Sparkle said, as Pinkie Pie slathered sunscreen on a giggling, wriggling Derpy. Derpy never had managed to extricate her hoof from the tangled mess of a hammock, and after the frenzied thrashing of her last attempt smashed half of Twilight’s empty flasks, everypony had agreed to just leave her hanging until it was time to teleport the pegasi outside.

Ditzy just sighed as the unicorn brought out the checklist. Again.

“Provisions,” Twilight started, opening Ditzy’s saddlebags and looking inside. There were muffins for snacks, and a thermos full of warm water – standard Pegasus cold-weather fare.

“Yes,” Ditzy said.

“You’re supposed to say ‘check’,” Twilight said. “Or else I can say it.” Ditzy just stared at her. “Check!” Twilight said, making another check next to the already checked check-box next to ‘provisions’.

“You didn’t check Derpy’s,” Ditzy noted.

“Well, she seems…” Twilight glanced over to where Pinkie Pie was basically sitting on Derpy’s head and rubbing her hooves over the inside of the pegasus’ thighs. She looked away, blushing. “I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

“If you’re not going to do it right, then we might as well just skip to the part where I actually do something,” Ditzy said.

“Well, what fun is that?” Twilight asked. “Besides, Derpy and Pinkie are still…” She didn’t look. The noises were bad enough. “Busy.”

“Nope! We’re done,” Pinkie Pie said. “Your turn next, Twilight!”

“Okay!” Ditzy said, spreading her wings. “Let’s go, Derpy!”

“Have fun you two!” Derpy said.

Twilight rolled her eyes and teleported the two pegasi outside in a bright purple flash. In less than a second, she found herself glomped by a fuzzy mass of pink and blue.

“And now it’s just the two of us, Twilight. Alone at last,” Pinkie whispered in her ear.

“For about thirty seconds, until Rainbow’s ready to come in,” Twilight said, not bothering to resist.

Pinkie laughed, and said, “Ah, but that’s plenty of time for us to get… you know.”

“Covered in sunscreen?” Twilight suggested.

Pinkie Pie giggled. “No no, it’s not nearly enough time for that.”

Then the jar lurched, and tilted, and the two of them screamed as they went sliding across the floor to land in a pile of loose cushions. Twilight’s horn glowed, holding back the cascade of glassware, knives, and heated baking pans that otherwise would have buried them. “What’s going on out there!”

There was a loud smack from the bottom of the jar, and it righted itself, then with another lurch started tipping in the other direction. The pegasi managed to recover more quickly this time, and the two ponies inside let out their breath, although they didn’t stop hugging each until Rainbow Dash’s face appeared in the port-hole, mouthing ‘let me in’.

In a flash, she was inside. “We’ve got a problem.”

“Why are you still in your harness?” Twilight asked, staring at Rainbow Dash with a confused look on her face.

“That’s the problem,” Rainbow replied, flicking her tail to toss the frayed end of a rope over to Twilight and Pinkie.

Pinkie Pie poked at it. “It’s freeze-dried! Neat!”

“It was working fine until I tried to take off the harness,” Rainbow Dash said. “It wasn’t coming off, and I guess I must have tried to bend the rope too much or something because it was really stiff. Then it just snapped! If I wasn’t the fastest pegasus in Ponyville, the two of you would be on a one-way trip to crashing the Princess’ garden party, because Thunder Lane’s rope didn’t hold out much longer.”

“We’ve got plenty of rope,” Twilight said uncertainly, pulling a replacement down from the upper storage space. “We need to freeze-proof it though. Pinkie, can you get Rainbow out of her harness while I look up a spell?”

“Nope,” Pinkie Pie said, tugging on one buckle with her teeth. “Ith thtuck on tight. An now my tongue ith thtuck!”

“Yeah, the buckles are frozen or something,” Rainbow Dash said, looking around nervously, then letting out a yelp as she finally noticed Pinkie Pie’s new mane. “Ahh! Get it off me!” She tried to pull back, but Pinkie was firmly attached.

“Don’t worry, we’re pretty sure it doesn’t actually work,” Twilight said as she scanned through the spellbook. “Right. This should do the trick,” she said, reading over the spell, and focusing on the rope.

“Ith not fwozen,” Pinkie said, “ith aww wome peef!”

There was a clatter as a ripple of purple light flashed over the new rope from one end to the other, transforming it into a chain of glittering glass links. “It was originally invented for decoration, but glass seems to be immune to the lack of air,” Twilight Sparkle said. “I hope,” she added, under her breath, thinking of the walls of the jar getting slowly more brittle as all their water was sucked out. Except that glass didn’t have water in it, she was almost certain.

“Hewp!” Pinkie Pie cried, tugging on her tongue, until Twilight teleported her back half an inch to dislodge her.

Rainbow Dash chuckled. “That’s really your favorite spell, isn’t it.”

“Now, about the buckles,” Twilight Sparkle said, illuminating one with her magic as she tried to undo it. “Huh. It really is all one piece.” She leaned close to get a look. “Almost like it was welded shut by the sunlight.”

“The sun wasn’t that hot,” Rainbow said. “I bet it was some evil spirit. It zapped the ropes and the buckles to try to make us fall.”

“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Twilight said. “It was probably just some previously undiscovered property of the sunlight or atmosphere at this height. There’s no such thing as spirits.”

“Except for Discord,” Pinkie Pie said. “Wasn’t he the spirit of chaos and disharmony?”

“Yeah! I bet it was Discord!” Dash said, hovering up and doing a quick circle of the jar. “Come out, you stupid snake!”

“That’s completely different!” Twilight said, tugging Rainbow Dash down so that she could look at the buckles again. “Discord wasn’t a real spirit. He had a physical body. You could see him. He didn’t go around invisibly putting random evil curses on people!”

“Um…” Rainbow said.

“He kind of did, Twilight,” Pinkie noted, then gasped. “And now he’s making us fight! That proves it!”

“If Discord is free again, why is Equestria not in chaos?” Twilight asked.

“Maybe it is,” Rainbow Dash said. “Maybe we just can’t see it through all the clouds.”

“Clouds, yes,” Twilight said triumphantly. “Clouds which are not made out of cotton candy.”

“Unless it’s vanilla flavored,” Pinkie pie suggested.

“And the sun! Look!” Twilight pointed at the blurry glow of the sun through the slowly melting crust of ice. “The sun isn’t whirling around like a dog chasing its tail! It’s plodding slowly towards us exactly as if it wasn’t a giant flaming toy controlled by a mad god.”

Pinkie Pie tsked at that. “You really shouldn’t talk about Celestia that way, Twilight.”

“We’re in the middle of empty space,” Twilight growled. “No pony can hear us.”

Some pony took that opportunity to knock loudly on the bottom of the jar. It wasn’t horse code, but the three of them got the message.

“Sorry Thunder Lane!” Rainbow Dash shouted back, uselessly. “Look, we’ll deal with Discord later. Can you fix these buckles or not?”

Twilight cast a quick spell, and the buckles abruptly undid themselves. “Come to Life spell, works every time.” Rainbow Dash quickly shed the harness, and she and Pinkie Pie backed away from it as far they could go, as if it was about to rise up and attack them. “Relax, I only did the buckles,” Twilight said.

“Twilight…” Pinkie Pie said, pointing nervously. “These are heavy duty super-strong buckles. They have teeth.”

One of the buckles lunged at the pink pony with a snapping sound, and one by one the rest of them started to clatter and bounce around, tethered by the harness.

“Eh heh, it’ll wear off soon,” Twilight said, cringing. “I think?”

===

It took an hour of sweet-talking the now animated buckles, teleporting pegasi in and out of the jar, listening to the deafening rattling clatter as the glass chains slapped against the outer wall of the jar, and above all a double dose of nerve-wracking waiting for something else to go wrong, but in the end they got Derpy and Ditzy hooked up and hauling, and a groaning Rainbow Dash and Thunder Lane were able to rest at last.

“Okay, this isn’t going to work,” Rainbow Dash said, thrashing around in her hammock. “Twilight, Pinkie, we’ve got to switch places. My wings are killing me and I need to stretch out.”

“There’s just as much room up there as there is down here,” Twilight said.

“No, I mean I have to do some stretches. Cool down properly before I get stiff from all that flying,” Rainbow said.

“I could give you a massage,” Thunder Lane suggested. “Work out all the kinks.”

“What, you’re volunteering?” Rainbow Dash asked. “Come on, Twilight. Thunder Lane is volunteering for something. We’ve got to encourage him or he might go back to his old lazy self, and then where would we be?”

“Fine,” Twilight Sparkle said, flattening her ears. “Come on, Pinkie. Let’s get in the hammocks.”

“Yay! We can be hammock buddies!” Pinkie Pie said, bouncing into Derpy’s effortlessly, and somehow untangling it in the process. Twilight, for her part, held Ditzy’s perfectly still and rigid with her magic while she carefully climbed into it, one hoof at a time.

“Thanks, Sparkle,” Rainbow said, hopping down, Thunder Lane following right on her tail. “Come on, big guy. Show me what you got!”

A few minutes later, Twilight levitated up a pair of pillows to squeeze over her ears so that she wouldn’t have to listen to the moaning, and cries of ‘harder, faster! No, no, slower…’ that ensued. Pinkie Pie giggled as the unicorn curled up with her eyes shut tight. “It’s just a massage, Twilight.”

“Oooooooh… that’s the spot,” Rainbow moaned. “Right there!”

“I know,” Twilight squeaked.

“Then why are you acting like it’s some horrible scary thing that you don’t dare listen to or watch?” Pinkie asked. She leaned down over the edge of her hammock. “You don’t mind if we watch, do you?”

Rainbow Dash and Thunder Lane laughed. “Nah, we don’t mind,” Rainbow Dash said. “Maybe that egghead could take some notes!”

“Stop it!” Twilight said, rolling onto her side and curling up tighter.

“Hey, maybe she could come down and join in,” Thunder Lane said. “I wouldn’t mind having someone do me while I did you, Rainbow.”

“Aww, but I was looking forward to being on top,” Rainbow Dash said, making Pinkie Pie giggle, and Twilight squeak.

Pinkie Pie reached over, and pulled Twilight into her hammock, glomming onto her and pulling her into a tight embrace. “Look, Twilight, it’s not going to work to just close your eyes and imagine what’s happening. You need to take matters into your own hooves!”

Twilight stayed perfectly still, petrified in Pinkie’s grasp.

“And I’m just the pony to help you do that!” Pinkie Pie said, rubbing her hoof to tousle Twilight’s mane.

“What? Pinkie!” Twilight protested, wiggling a little to try to get out of the pink pony’s grasp, to no effect. “You can’t mean –“

“Yep!” Pinkie said. “It’s the only solution.”

“Here? Now?” Twilight asked, incredulous. “With Rainbow and Thunder Lane down there?”

“Well, yeah!” Pinkie Pie said. “What kind of a Plum-tuckered Pegasus Pony Massage Party would it be without a pair of pegasuses?”

“Right,” Twilight said, relaxing a little. “Massage.”

“It’s was always just a massage,” Pinkie said, kissing her horn.

===

It was awfully crowded with all four of them squeezed onto the middle level, but it did go faster, and it was certainly a lot more fun to participate in a bit of innocent horseplay instead of imagining the worst. It did get a bit steamy – even with the oven off, the heat from the sun was finally melting the ice, and filling the jar with a misty fog. Even that turned out to be a double blessing, not only clearing the glass – or at least, putting it in a state where it could be cleared with a swipe of a towel – but giving Rainbow Dash plenty of vapor to spin into a cloud-cushion to make the hammocks suitable for Pegasus habitation.

But the sun just kept getting closer. It was the dim winter sun, but that still made it a huge, roiling ball of flame, that seemed to be heading right for them – probably because it was. Derpy and Ditzy were doing their best, but if they were above the sun’s track it wasn’t by much, and the light came at them almost horizontally. Pinkie and Twilight protected themselves with a massive pillow fort, but the sun’s light still filtered through the cracks in their wall, and the sun’s heat didn’t seem to be dampened at all.

“This is bad, Pinkie,” Twilight said, spread out on the bare wooden slats, sweating.

“Just like the sauna…” Pinkie Pie said deliriously, staring at the stove. “Twilight? How do you put the oven in reverse?”

“This whole jar is an oven,” Twilight moaned. “At least sleeping beauty up there doesn’t seem to notice,” she said, looking up at the pegasi, who were sleeping soundly, the heat meaning as little to them as the cold had. “I guess that’s a good thing. No sense for all of us to get roasted alive.”

“You better cast an ice spell,” Pinkie Pie said. “Or a snow spell. I could really go for a snow cone.”

“Don’t know one,” Twilight croaked. “Or I’d have used it by now.”

“How about water? Make it rain?” Pinkie suggested, looking up at the cloud-hammocks, which were quickly evaporating.

“No small rodents of any sort!” Twilight snapped.

Pinkie Pie blinked. “What?”

Twilight stared at the wall of pillows she was holding in place as a barrier against the sunlight. A useless barrier. She tried to remember what Pinkie Pie was asking about, but her brain wasn’t working. “I don’t know,” she said. “Too hot. Can’t think.”

“Pink,” Pinkie Pie said.

“You’re Pinkie,” Twilight replied. “I think… ie.”

“No, look,” Pinkie Pie said, pointing to Twilight’s air-quality potions. After several hours of monitoring them, and not seeing any signs of trouble, she’d kind of forgotten about them. The last one left open was almost faded, but it was clearly more lavender than blue.

“Must be too hot for the poison joke too,” Twilight said, standing up with an ultimate effort and trying to clear her head. “Or too bright. But it’s still a little blue… I think we’ll burn to death way before we have to worry about suffocating.”

“For the record, I’d rather go with suffocation,” said Rainbow Dash from the clouds above. “What’s the deal, Twilight? Turn down the heat already.”

“Ditzy and Derpy are flying us into the sun,” Pinkie Pie said, examining her mane which was looking a bit wilted.

“Ugh, that featherbrain!” Rainbow Dash groaned. “I knew something like this would happen.”

“I don’t think she’s doing it on purpose,” Twilight said. “The two of them just aren’t fast enough. It’s all my fault – I should have left more of a margin for error.”

“It’s okay, Twilight,” Pinkie Pie said, closing her eyes. “Partying on the sun is good too.”

“Would it help if I got out and pushed?” Rainbow Dash asked.

Twilight stared at her. “Yes. Yes it would.”

Rainbow kicked the cloud-hammock next to her, waking up Thunder Lane. “Come on, lazybones, you’ve slept long enough,” she said as the other Pegasus stared at her groggily. “Time for us to pull Twilight’s tail out of the fire.”

Rainbow and Thunder Lane did a lot of pushing, and not all of it was straight up. They fled before the sun for a while, giving Derpy and Ditzy more time to gain altitude, then changed directions to swoop over the sun and minimize the time spent nearby. It was still a close thing, even with all four pegasi giving it their all. For a few minutes, they were floating over a lake of fire – but a few fewer minutes than they would have been if they’d followed Twilight’s original plan.

But then they were past, and the worst of the danger was over. Seeing how utterly exhausted Rainbow Dash and Thunder Lane looked, Twilight wasted no time teleporting them back inside the jar, where they immediately burst into flame.

“Put them out, put them out!” Pinkie Pie shrieked, and Twilight did her best, pummeling them with pillows to try to beat out the flames as the burning pegasi flailed around in a panic. “Put them out of the jar!” Pinkie Pie clarified, and with a purple flash they were back outside and not on fire.

Their fur was missing patches, and their wings didn’t look so good, but both of them were flying, although they were struggling to keep up. The jar lurched and tilted as Derpy and Ditzy saw what was going on and slowed down, slightly out of sync, to catch Rainbow Dash and Thunder Lane. There was a pair of loud thumps as the two singed pegasi found a resting place atop the lid.

“Rainbow…” Pinkie Pie said, looking up at the roof.

Twilight stared at a burning pillow, and screamed as she reared up and stomped it with her hooves, over and over, until the fire was smothered, but she didn’t stop until she was out of energy, and collapsed onto the tattered remains. She lost her grip on the rest of the pillow fort, what was left of it, and sat there senselessly as the plush cushions rained down around her.

“It’ll be okay, Twilight,” Pinkie Pie said, still looking up through the dented metal lid. “Right?”

===

Somehow, they were still alive when the sun set. Figuring things had had enough time to cool down, Twilight teleported Rainbow Dash and Thunder Lane back inside to take a look at their burns. Both pegasi were unconscious, and from the looks on their faces that was probably a mercy. Twilight had packed a first aid kit, and a book on the treatment of various wounds, and she and Pinkie Pie did their best to salve and bandage them appropriately, since they were nowhere near Ponyville hospital.

By the time they were done with that, the moon had already risen.

“There it is,” Twilight Sparkle said, as she and Pinkie Pie sat flank to flank, watching it approach. “See any moon ponies?”

“I’m not really in the mood to party,” Pinkie Pie said, but managed to laugh. “Maybe tomorrow, after we check these two in at Moon Pony Medical.”

“It’s a rock,” Twilight said, her head drooping until her horn clacked against the glass. “It’s just a stupid rock. I mean, look at it!” The top half of the moon looked a lot like the bottom half, gray and cratered, three quarters of it aglow, the rest dark.

“Magical glowing rock,” Pinkie Pie pointed out. “Maybe they live underground?”

Twilight closed her eyes. “If there were ever any moon ponies, Nightmare Moon probably wiped them out during her thousand year temper tantrum.”

“I think I see a building,” Pinkie Pie said. “Right in the middle. It’s weird, though.”

“So is it a building, or a vaguely building-shaped mountain range?” Twilight asked.

Pinkie Pie was quiet for a while, then left Twilight’s side to go get one of the telescopes, and was quiet for a longer while as she tried to figure out how to focus. “Definitely a building,” she said at last. “But a really weird one.”

Twilight opened her eyes, and borrowed the telescope. “I think it’s two buildings,” she said. “There’s that hexagonal part that looks like a pre-classical temple, and then that… other part.”

“Have you ever seen anything like it?” Pinkie Pie asked.

“Only in science fiction,” Twilight replied. “It’s the wrong shape for a rocket ship though. And there aren’t any fins.” She looked around the jar for something appropriate, and settled on Rainbow’s thermos, lifting it up to the jar’s lid to use as a makeshift hoof. “I’ll tell Ditzy and Derpy to aim for it,” she said as she started to bang out a message.

Half an hour later, the jar waggled back and forth in what was either an attempt to make the passengers airsick, or an acknowledgement. By that point, the target could be seen with the naked eye.

“It won’t be long now,” Twilight said, resting her hooves on the glass as she watched the moon approach. “It’s coming up fast.”

“Really fast!” Pinkie Pie said, her mouth widening into a grin. “Oh, I can’t wait!”

A few minutes later, both of them looked at each other, and said in unison, “Too fast!” Twilight lifted the thermos a few feet, then dropped it since it was obvious that she wasn’t going to be able to bang out ‘slow down’ before it was too late to matter.

She grabbed onto Pinkie and yelped as the jar swung towards the moon, the bottom briefly pointed right at the oncoming rock as Ditzy and Derpy realized the danger. But it was too little, too late.

“Twitchy tail, Twilight,” Pinkie Pie said, panicked. “Twitchy tail!”

Then the moon slammed into the Jelly Jar, with the force of a single moon. There aren’t many things that need more than one moon to break them.