• Published 22nd Feb 2020
  • 155 Views, 3 Comments

Girls' Heist Out - Typoglyphic



With Scootaloo's wedding only days away, the other two Cutie Mark Crusaders kick off the celebrations with a train heist.

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From Ponyville to Canterlot

Long ago, Ponyville was a quiet place. Its citizens lived and worked as you'd expect from a sleepy, pastoral town. The occasional feud would break out, or a new face from the city would come to town, and the rumours would buzz from mouth to mouth for weeks or months before dying back down into the usually-pleasant haze of country living.

Some trace the change to Twilight Sparkle coming to town. And yes, all that business certainly turned Ponyville on its head. But even if she'd never graced the world beyond Canterlot with her presence, there were a certain few Ponyvillian natives who had a knack for trouble themselves.

And now, years after Princess Twilight had ascended to her throne back in Canterlot, and dire friendship problems and super villains alike were mostly a thing of the past, the Cutie Mark Crusaders hadn't changed much at all.

At least not two of them.

“Stop rustlin',” Apple Bloom hissed. “You're gonna give us away!”

Sweetie Belle huffed. “Well, why'd you pick a bush that's obviously too small?” She squirmed at the twigs that poked and scraped at her coat. “It's not my fault that I'm the only one of us with legs.”

Apple Bloom groaned. “Would you shut up about your legs already? I get it, you're tall. Now be quiet and sit still! Unless you'd rather we wait at the platform?”

“No, I told you, we've got to do this right.”

“In what world is sneaking onto a train without paying 'right'?”

“It's what Scootaloo deserves.”

Apple Bloom snorted. “That doesn't make a lick of sense, but fine.”

They were crouched in a thicket, across the train tracks from Ponyville station. Behind them was nothing but rolling hills and patchy forest, nopony for miles and miles.

The ground beneath their hooves began to tremble, the branches around them began to rustle. The distant chug of a steam engine stirred the silent air. The Friendship Express lurched over the hill from Las Pegasus and rolled toward the station. It stopped with a hiss, and ponies began to trickle out of the doors. There were never many disembarking at Ponyville, and the train was almost always full.

As the train slid into place between the station platform and the thicket they were hiding, Apple Bloom rose to her hooves and poked her head out. The broad side of the train was mere yards away, with not a soul in sight.

“C'mon, now's our chance!” Sweetie Belle said, already starting forward.

Apple Bloom followed a split second later, matching Sweetie Belle's longer gait with ease.

They cantered up beside the train and galloped down its length toward the last of the cars, where the VIP compartments were kept. Thanks to some very subtle questions posed to some friends in high places, the two young mares knew those cars to be empty.

Apple Bloom stopped at the coupling between the last two cars and planted her forehooves on the railing. “You're sure we'll be able to get inside?”

Sweetie Belle scoffed and began to climb. “You worry way too much. We'll get inside. Even if the doors are actually locked, there's always magic.” She swung her hind legs over the railing and crouched on the gangway between the cars. There weren't any ponies on the platform beside them, but if anypony were to trot by…

Apple Bloom clambered up beside Sweetie Belle and pressed herself against the car's locked door. They counted breaths.

“You know, we could always just wait for the next train and buy tickets. We've got plenty of bits,” Apple Bloom whispered in Sweetie's ear.

“We both agreed to this, remember? It's not about bits, it's about Scootaloo. She'd do this for either of us! We owe it to her to do the same.”

“I don't think Scoots'd want her friends to get themselves arrested the week before her wedding.”

Sweetie rolled her eyes. “When'd you turn into your sister?”

“Now then, I…” Apple Bloom hesitated. Would that be a bad thing? She felt like a few years ago, she wouldn't have hesitated at all with her response.

She was saved by the train's whistle. The wood beneath their hooves rumbled. “Hold on,” Apple Bloom said.

“Holding,” Sweetie Belle acknowledged.

The train lurched backward, and Sweetie Belle let out a short, muffled yelp. Then the train began to inch forward, the engine humming and the wheels pounding. As Ponyville station receded into the distance and the train picked up speed, they let out a shared breath. No going back now.

Even sheltered between train cars, the noise was tremendous, and the air buffeted them at a constant, numbing tempo.

“Think we can head inside now?” Sweetie Belle shouted into Apple Bloom's ear.

Apple Bloom peeked her head over the railing and out from between the cars. The rushing wind blasted her ears and nearly pulled the bow out of her mane. Ponyville was already a dot on the horizon. They would be approaching Canterlot mountain soon, and the train tunnels that spiraled up its interior.

She stepped back into the relative comfort of the gangway and nodded to Sweetie. “I reckon its now or never. I don't want to be tanglin' with a locked door in the dark.”

Sweetie Belle tossed her mane. “I happen to be pretty good at light spells.”

“Sure you are. Come on, let's get this thing open.”

The unicorn rolled her eyes, then turned and fixed them on the door into the second to last train car. It was supposed to be reserved for run of the mill VIPs—celebrities, royal guests or friends, and members of the old royal line like Blueblood.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders had occupied it themselves on a few occasions, although never alone. Without their sisters present, they blended right into the background, which suited them all well enough.

The door's outline glowed a faint green, and the weather stripping seemed to bulge and stretch. Metal clinked and jangled, the door jolted once or twice. Sweetie Belle grimaced. “This was a lot easier to do last time.”

“Let me guess,” Apple Bloom said, too quietly to be heard over the wind, “the door to the VIP car is different from the others?”

“What?” Sweetie Belle called out without turning her attention from her task.

Apple Bloom stayed quiet. She peeked out from the gangway again, this time looking toward Canterlot. The mountain loomed large, and they were already on a small incline. Five, maybe ten minutes to go before they reached the first tunnel.

Sweetie clicked her tongue, and with another loud rattle the door swung open. She stepped back and gestured inside.

Apple Bloom shook her head. “Ladies first.”

“Aw, don't be so hard on yourself,” Sweetie said, following it with a short raspberry. She stepped through the door. Apple Bloom followed.

The car was dark for a moment, then magical braziers sprung to life, casting cool green light over the luxurious interior. A sitting area dominated most of the space, with a luggage rack and a small bookcase pressed up against the far wall. Nothing at all compared to the princess car, but definitely nicer than two stowaways deserved.

Apple Bloom kicked the door closed behind her, then settled onto a plush hoofstool and rolled her shoulders. “That's the easy part out of the way.”

“Mhm. Time for the boring part.” Sweetie Belle walked across the room and laid down on a velvet loveseat. She yawned. Her eyes lingered for a moment on the bookshelf, scanning the spines. She yawned again. “I don't suppose you brought some cards?”

Apple Bloom snorted and said, “You see any saddlebags on me? Come on, Sweetie, we've gotta stay focused. They definitely check these cars a few times on long trips.”

“I already added some extra security to the other door. Lock spells are actually really easy to learn once you get started.” She kicked her rear hooves up onto the loveseat and stared up at the ceiling. “We'll have plenty of warning.”

“Oh. Good call.”

And Apple Bloom's gaze also drifted to the ceiling.

The boring part of the plan also happened to be by far the longest part of the plan, and it was broken into two stretches. The first stretch, from Ponyville to just after Canterlot, and the second, from Canterlot to Manehattan. The first would definitely be worse, since it was just the two of them.

They were both still staring at the ceiling. Not talking, not thinking about anything particular. Things were always a little off when only two of them were together. They were all best friends forever, and Apple Bloom would do anything to help Sweetie or Scootaloo, but for some reason she just couldn't talk to one of them without the other there as well.

And now Scootaloo was getting married.

“Do you think she'll move?” Apple Bloom asked suddenly.

“Hmm?”

“Scootaloo. Since she's married, I guess she… they'll probably want to move.”

Sweetie Belle scoffed. “The last time somepony tried to make Scootaloo move away, she was willing to disown her own parents so she could stay. And Flash Fire basically lives at her apartment already.” Sweetie's voice wavered a few times, but she almost sounded convincing.

Apple Bloom cleared her throat and reverted her gaze to the ceiling. “I know all that. I just meant that they might want someplace a little bigger than an apartment now. It was never a roomy place for a filly as frantic as Scoots, and Flash ain't much more subdued.”

“Oh. Maybe. I think Flash Fire mentioned something about house prices around my parents' place, so maybe she has her eye on something there.”

Apple Bloom bit her lip. “First to move out, first to get married, first to buy a house. Scoots is really hogging all the firsts.”

“Hasn't she always been like that?” Sweetie Belle asked, rhetorically. The question hung in the air, unrhetorically.

Scootaloo and Flash Fire's wedding was scheduled the following Monday, less than one week away, in the Crystal Empire. Flash Fire had pulled some strings with her modeling contacts to get a free venue and discounted hotel suites for their modest list of attendees. Surprising no one, Scootaloo was happy to go along with her fiancé's wishes. A little too happy for the rest of the Crusaders' tastes.

Hence the plan.

Scootaloo had spent the previous weekend visiting her parents in Shire Lanka, and was currently headed north on a direct train to the Crystal Empire, where she'd undoubtedly spend her every waking—and non-waking—moment with Flash until the wedding. That train, coincidentally, ran alongside the Friendship Express for a brief stretch just outside Canterlot before they parted ways, one toward the Crystal Empire and the other back toward Manehattan.

Apple Bloom's eyes wandered to Sweetie's horn. She had no reason to doubt her friend's magical prowess, but their plan hinged on some very fast and accurate magic. Even a little mistake could have lethal consequences.

But damn it, they deserved a hen night with their friend before her wedding, no matter how many death-defying stunts it took to arrange.

The train rattled, jostling both ponies and every loose object in the car. Sweetie Belle blinked and sat up straight. “I think somepony—”

The door handle on the far side of the car jiggled. There was a soft knock.

The two stowaways rushed toward the back of the car and huddled against the far wall. Sweetie's horn glowed, and the door they'd entered through glowed once again. The latch clicked, and they tumbled back out onto the gangway. The immense roar of the engine greeted them again, only now amplified and rebounding off the craggy tunnel walls.

Apple Bloom fetched up against the railing, braced herself, and gave the door a swift kick. It slammed closed with a resounding crack that shook the whole train car. She blinked a few times as her eyes adjusted to the dark.

“We can't stay here,” Sweetie shouted beside her. “Ponies probably heard that buck from five cars away.”

Apple Bloom glanced at the car behind them—the princess car. Sweetie followed her gaze and gulped. “I don't think I can—”

Heavy hoofsteps came from behind the door. She and Sweetie hadn't moved anything, had they? Maybe whoever was inside would leave when they saw the car was empty.

They didn't leave. The door rattled as somepony inside tried the handle.

“Now or never, Sweets,” Apple Bloom urged as she backed away from the door. She could feel the tunnel walls rushing past them on both sides, and how little space there was between the walls and the train. She wasn't prone to claustrophobia, but she was starting to feel an exception coming on.

Sweetie Belle let out a sound, something between a chuckle and whimper. “That's gonna be 'never' then. There's some serious magic on the princess car's door.”

The doorknob jiggled again. The sound of a key being inserted into a lock cylinder.

The two young mares looked at each other, gulped, and then scrambled to the railings on either side of the gangway. They hadn't planned this in any way, but it seemed they both had the same idea.

Apple Bloom climbed the railing and swung her hindlegs over the side, keeping her front hooves firmly hooked over the top. Her hind hooves scrabbled for a purchase. They landed on the thin lip of metal that separated the frame of the car from the pounding piston and driving wheels below. The vibrations rattled through her hooves and into her bones.

She shimmied carefully, one hoof at a time, around the side of the car. Her nose pressed against the smooth, blank wall, and she felt her own breath against her face.

Over the tremendous roar of the locomotive, she heard the door fly open. She clung tighter to the narrow railing, then glanced up. While there wasn't much clearance to the sides of the train, the tunnel's ceiling was quite a ways up.

Around the corner of the car, a soft yellow light illuminated the empty gangway. It swung back and forth across the railings, at the princess car, then it grew brighter and wider as whoever was casting it stepped out onto the landing.

Apple Bloom drew her hindlegs together and lowered her weight. This was one of the dumbest things she'd done in years, but at this point it was either give up and be caught, let go and be crushed under the friendliest train in the world, or, well…

She breathed in deep and leapt upward, pushing off the metal lip with her hindlegs. She reached out with her forelegs and prayed.

One hoof caught the top edge of the car. The other bounced up uselessly against the wall with enough force to dislodge the other's grip. Apple Bloom pitched backward, and she opened her mouth to scream.

A sudden, indistinct force slammed into her from behind and pushed her against the train, then up. Her limbs had turned to jelly, but she managed to catch the top of the car and jerkily clamber to the top.

Sweetie Belle stared back at her with wide eyes, light dissipating around her horn. “L-longer legs,” she said weakly.

Apple Bloom pressed herself against the roof and waited for her heart to catch up. Several seconds later, she raised her face and rolled her eyes. “Thanks.”

“Any time.”

The faint magical light of the pony investigating below faded, and the door closed.

Sweetie crawled closer and laid a hoof on Apple Bloom's shoulder. “You okay?”

“Fine,” she croaked. “But let's try to stay inside the train from now on.”

Sweetie nodded, then glanced down the tunnel, to the small halo of white light in the distance that was ever so slowly getting closer. “About that… we probably don't want to be out here once we leave the tunnel.”

“Absolutely not. I reckon the air resistance would knock us off the mountain in a blink. But we can probably count on them checking the VIP rooms a few times between here and Cloudsdale.”

“So no more kicking back in a luxury suite. Figures.”

“And they're probably checking tickets now.”

Sweetie frowned. “I guess we can't steal some from another passenger.”

“What? Of course not. We could get them in serious trouble!”

“I know, I know. That's what I was saying.” Sweetie slumped against the sloped train roof. “I'm sorry. You were right. We should have just done this like normal ponies.”

A shiver ran through them both.

Apple Bloom centered her weight and slid her hooves underneath her, then stood, her stance wide and strong. She wavered slightly as the wind tore at her, driving her backward. She refused to budge. She staggered toward her friend and offered her a hoof. “If they're checking tickets, we'll just need to avoid the railway ponies.”

Sweetie looked up with wide, wind-blasted eyes. She reached up, grabbed Apple Bloom's hoof, and rose. “The train's packed full,” she said, confidence restored. “And we only need to stay onboard until the next train crossing.”

Apple Bloom grinned, and Sweetie grinned back.

They lumbered to the far side of the car. Apple Bloom went first, leaping from one car to the other, then dropping down onto the gangway. She turned and stood at alert as Sweetie Belle followed her example.

The unicorn may not have been quite as athletic, but her irritating height advantage trivialized the jump, and her dangling hind legs nearly touched the plank of the gangway when she lowered herself down.

Sweetie twisted the doorknob with her magic and paused. The doorframe glowed green, and the door clicked open.

“Let's hope nopony saw that,” she said, then ducked inside.

Other than the two VIP cars and the engine, all of the Friendship Express' rolling stock was identical: wide passages down the center, padded benches along both sides, and simple storage compartments mounted high on the walls. The dividers between seats also slid up and down, so they could be transformed from simple two-pony seats to surprisingly acceptable beds for overnight trips.

For those who couldn't afford airship travel, it was the cheapest, quickest, and most comfortable way to get from town to town.

And so it wasn't surprising that when Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle stepped inside the passenger section, several dozen ponies were waiting inside to greet them. Those in the nearest few rows turned their way and stared. Apple Bloom froze.

Sweetie took the lead. She nodded politely to an old mare seated next to the door, smiled to a colt on her left, and strolled down the aisle.

Apple Bloom followed awkwardly after her. Everypony was still staring. Was she walking normally? How did ponies usually walk? She stopped and stared down at her hooves to make sure they were behaving.

A wisp of magic tugged at her shoulder, and she looked up.

Sweetie raised an eyebrow, one hoof gesturing to an empty bench. Oh.

They slid in together, Sweetie Belle on the aisle seat. Apple Bloom retreated into the corner.

“Do you think they noticed us?” Apple Bloom whispered.

“Probably, but they'll forget. Most of them were reading or playing with something when we came in, and I don't think we made enough of an impression to compete with that.”

“Good, good. And this seat? What if it belongs to somepony?”

Sweetie sighed, exasperated. “It's not assigned seating.” She squinted. “Are you okay? You don't usually get this wound up over a little rule bending.”

“You know, crowds. Ponies staring. It's a lot to take in all at once, s'all.” She took a breath. “I'm fine now.”

Sweetie looked skeptical, but she said nothing.

Light suddenly poured in through the windows as they left the tunnels. Apple Bloom caught a few narrow glimpses of central Equestria's splendor. Canterlot was only a few minutes away.

“Does this train stop for a while in the city?” Sweetie asked.

“Not really. A few minutes for everypony to disembark and all, but they keep a pretty tight schedule. And that's our chance to get back into position.”

They were in the third to last car. The Friendship Express, during non-peak seasons, operated with seven passenger cars, two VIP cars, and a staff-only car behind the locomotive. Most of the passengers would disembark at Canterlot, and few would board to replace them, which meant the odds of them being questioned by an railway employee would be a lot higher. It was in their best interest to hide away in the VIP car before the train started moving again.

Now arriving in Canterlot. Please wait for directions from a staff member before disembarking. Thank you.

The train slowed down. Ponies started to gather their things and shuffle in their seats. A uniformed mare sat by the door. She seemed bored.

“When the train stops, stand up and move toward the doors,” Apple Bloom said.

Sweetie nodded. “Eyes down, move with the crowd.”

They lurched when the wheels finally ground to a halt. The train operator twisted a key and swung the door open.

Sweetie Belle got to her hooves and slid into the crowd. Apple Bloom was right behind her. They ambled their way down the car, slipping between the streams of bodies whenever an opening appeared, until they reached the gangway door leading to the VIP car.

Apple Bloom opened the door and peeked outside, only to find herself mere inches away from a well-groomed white flank adorned with a compass rose. She jolted back into the passenger car and closed the door.

“What's the matter?” Sweetie asked, her voice wavering. “We don't have much—”

“Blueblood's on the train. The VIP car,” Apple Bloom said in short, clipped sentences. “New plan, come on.” She pushed Sweetie back into the crowd and toward the opposite gangway. “We need to get up to the front.”

“The front? There's no way we can get through the entire train without getting stopped.”

Apple Bloom paused, considered, then pivoted toward the doors to the station platform. “Good point. We'll go around.”

Sweetie was hot on her heels. “B-but what if the train leaves without us? This is our only chance to catch Scootaloo's train!”

“It won't leave without us. Everypony needs to disembark, and then the new passengers need to board. We've got a solid few minutes at least.” Apple Bloom nodded to the uniformed mare, then stepped off the train.

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