• Published 3rd Apr 2013
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Five Score, Divided by Four - TwistedSpectrum

As a fan of the show, I always loved Rainbow Dash and her cutie mark, but I never wanted it to appear on my leg! Now that it has, all sorts of things are getting weird around here. I'm a guy, not a mare! Cartoon ponies aren't real... right?

  • ...

32. Leaving it all behind.

Five Score, Divided by Four
Chapter 30: Leaving it all behind.

“Where are you going?”

I look down at the filly that has been more or less following me ever since she got here a week or so ago. “Oh, hey, Scootaloo. We’re not going anywhere...” That is, of course, a blatant lie. This morning, Twilight had informed our little group of eight that she thinks she found the Equestria Girls portal, and it’s opening tomorrow morning. We quickly decided that, out of our eight, the mane six will leave tonight and go check on the portal. Shining and Big Mac will stay back here on the farm to keep the hundreds of other ponies organized. Once us mane six determine the portal is real and ready for use, we will give the call, and the entire mass of ponies at the farm will move in a mad dash to get to the portal and leave Earth before the authorities can react to reports of a thousand sapient ponies running across Iowa.

Unfortunately, in order to keep order, the plan has to remain secret until it was time to move all these ponies. That sounds great on paper, but when you have cute little fillies like Scootaloo asking you questions, well, it’s harder than it looks. She looks up at me now and gives me her puppy dog eyes. “I won’t tell anyone, I swear!”

I smile down at Scootaloo and laugh nervously. “Scootaloo, why on Earth would you think we were leaving? Which... we most certainly are not!” I laugh nervously again.

The filly rolls her eyes. “I may look like I’m only 10 years old, but I was a human just as old as you before this transformation happened. Come on, Dash, don’t lie to me. Besides, I heard Big Mac and Shining talking about how to handle things after you six leave tonight.” Scoots scrunches her face. “They just never said where you were going. Or why...”

I look down at the filly and try to resist her begging eyes. God damn she is adorable. I rub her mane. “Look, kid, we’re trying to keep this on the down low right now...”

“But...?” She leans forward.

“But, the mane six and I are sneaking out of here tonight. Once it gets dark us six are sneaking out of here away from everyone. We’re going north to—”

“You’re ditching us!?” the filly shrieks.

“What? No, it’s not like that!” I try to calm her down. “We’re just going to act like a scouting party. We think we know where there is a portal back to Equestria! But the problem is, it’s in the middle of a human city. We want to send just the six of us there to check it out and see if it works. Once we clear the way, and it’s safe for you, we’ll send word. Then all you, you know, extra ponies can come up behind us. ”

Extra ponies!?” The cute little filly no longer looks cute, and in fact, looks quite furious. “What, is that all we are to you guys? Just extra baggage you have to look out for?”

I take a step back. “Aww, come on, Scoots, you know that’s not what I meant. We just can’t enter a human town with a thousand ponies in tow, you gotta understand it--”

“Oh, I understand perfectly.” Scootaloo wipes a tear off her face. “Leave everything to the ‘awesome Rainbow Dash and her awesome friends’. The rest of us are just here to get in the way, aren’t we? It’s best if we all just stand here, do nothing, and just be ‘oh so grateful’ that you did all the hard work for us. Heaven forbid someone else here takes the spotlight away from you.”

“Scootaloo, I—”

“You know what? I don’t know why I even looked up you.” She scowls and turns to leave. “You’re not even the real Rainbow Dash. You’re just some stuck up, arrogant human wearing her skin. The real Dash would understand what friends were all about.”

I try to call after her, but no words come out. All I could do is watch her leave and reflect on how deep her words really cut me. Maybe she’s right...

After a moment, slow, heavy hoofsteps appear behind me. “Well, she took that well.”

I wipe my eyes with a fetlock. “Ha, yeah, kid’s these days, am I right?” I turn around and give Shining Armor a fake smile. “Sorry for breaking the operation security by the way, won’t happen again.”

“Forget about that.” Shining steps forward and rests a hoof on my shoulder. “Are you okay, Dash? Really?”

I drop my emotional facade and stare at my hooves. “I never asked for this role, you know. And it’s not like I want to abandon everything. Do people really think I’m looking forward to leaving tonight and heading for the portal?” My eyes start to get watery again. “This is hard enough without my friends thinking I’m abandoning them on purpose.”

“Hey now...” Shining nuzzles my neck and gives me an equine hug, “This isn’t easy for any of us, but this friend knows you’re doing the right thing.”

I hug him back. “Thanks, Shining. Are you sure Scootaloo isn’t right though? Maybe we should all stick together as a group. That would certainly be the ‘pony way’ of doing things.”

Shining breaks the hug and smiles. “The ‘pony way’ isn’t perfect, look what happened to Equestria with everyone following it. Sometimes a little human common sense and strategy is a better way of doing things, especially when you’re up against a dangerous foe.”

I sigh and look at my hooves. “But we’re ponies. Shouldn’t we do things their way?”

He gives my shoulder a playful shove. “Ah, but we’re also humans, and don’t you forget it. A little bit pony, a little bit human. I think balancing the two will be key in beating Discord once we get to Equestria.”

I force a laugh “Well, you know, that’s only if he’s waiting there for us and if we actually have to fight him. Maybe he’s long gone and there’s nothing but friends and green pastures through that portal.”

Shining’s smile vanishes. “Dash, we both know there’s only one way this journey ends.”

I nod solemnly. “Yeah, I was thinking you were going to say that.”

“So, let’s make that happen, go secure the portal area for us and send word once it’s clear.”

“Are you sure you can’t come with us?” I rub my hoof at the ground. I have grown, well, fond of Shining. I’m really not looking forward to leaving him behind on the farm.

He nods. “We’ve gone over this, Dash. Big Mac and I have to stay here and keep the farm safe. Once you six send word, we will help move everyone to the portal before it closes. And besides...” He pauses to ruffle my mane, “I know a certain rainbow maned pegasus is going to be on your team. She’s a total badass, there’s nothing she can’t handle.”

I blush. “Thanks, Shining. Take good care of all the ponies here, we’ll let you know as soon as we can when the path is open.”

“How long till you guys head out anyway?”

I glance at the smartphone strapped to my foreleg. “Four hours from now. It will be dark then, and that will be six hours before the portal is expected to open.”

“And the portal is open for three days after that.” Shining mutters to himself. “Alright, I better go say goodbye to Rarity and make sure she’s packed.”

“Sounds good, I’m going to go take a nap before we head out.” I step forward and give him one more quick nuzzle. “Oh, and Shining... thanks.”

Our private moment is interrupted by the pitter-patter of approaching pony hooves. I look over and see a young pegasus trotting near us, the pony’s eyes lit up with excitement as it approaches us. “Oh my god, Rainbow Dash! Can we talk?”

I sigh and turn to face the pegasus, but before I can open my mouth to speak, Shining raises a hoof and cuts me off. “Hey there, unfortunately Dash was just leaving for some much needed rest. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you have though.”

I lean my head against Shining’s and quietly thank him, “That really wasn’t necessary...”

He smiles and shoos me away. “Nonsense, you have a long night ahead of you. Get your sleep now, I’ll take over from here.


Rainbow Dash nuzzles my cheek once more before turning and flying off to take a break before her big night. I look back towards the filly. “My name is Shining Armor, how can I be of assistance?”

The pony at my side, Solar Bolt, starts telling me a story about his friend, and I start to trot back to the farmhouse with him in tow. While I am fine with talking to this pony and hearing his story, I was sort of on a time limit here. I really need to find Rarity among the hundreds of ponies on this farm. We only have a few hours until she leaves, and I want to give her a proper goodbye before she leaves.

“Shining Armor, woo hoo, over here!”

“Rarity?” I turn towards the call and spot my girl, leaning against the front door of the farmhouse and smiling seductively at me. I raise an eyebrow, as I see her give me her bedroom eyes. Damn, she's being a bit forward, isn't she?

“Oh...” Solar Bolt glances at Rarity and back at me. “Is this a bad time? I can come back later.”

I smile at the pegasus. “How very considerate of you! We’ll catch up later. Right now me and my mare need to say our daily farewell.”

The pegasus giggles and heads back to the field as I trot towards my mare and give her muzzle a playful kiss. She grins in a strange way, “Come to bed with me?”

I nod eagerly and follow her into the house. It’s a bit unusual for her to be this open about her arousal, but hey, I won't complain. We quickly make our way upstairs, and I magically open the door to our bedroom. A moment later I grab my mare with my forehooves and toss her onto the bed. I want want to cuddle with her for a little bit. Rarity giggles and invites me over for a little kiss.

*BLAM* My fur stands up in shock as the bedroom door is thrown open.

“What in Celestia’s mane?” I glance back at the door and see Chrysalis standing in the door with a look of horror on her face. And at her side stands an equally horrified Rarity.

Wait... what?

“NO, BAD CHANGELING!” Chrysalis shrieks and trots into the room, grabbing the mare on the bed with her magic. I look down at who I was about to kiss, and I see it smile sheepishly at me as it glows green. A moment later it shifts into the form of random black changeling.

Chrysalis pulls it off the bed and glares at it, as I stand there in a mixture of horror and shock. I vaguely register the changeling sulk towards her Queen as it mumbles “Aww, it was just a prank. I wasn’t going to let him actually do anything. I just wanted to tease him and give him a bit of blue balls, that's all”

Chrysalis bares her teeth at it. “Digit! You’re not exactly helping our cause here!” She turns to Rarity and sighs, “I’m really sorry about this, she’s a bit of a joker and probably wanted to prank Shining for his attitude towards us. It was hardly appropriate though, and I really apologize for him! You must understand I would never condone such actions of my kin.”

I feel my eyebrow and mouth twitch, as my seething rage and utter confusion jockey each other for positions in my brain. The real Rarity looks me up and down and slowly turns to Chrysalis. “Uh, Chris, you should probably just leave before he snaps…”

I see Rarity usher her out the door, apologizing to Chrysalis and thanking her for recognizing something was up and running here before anything bad happened. After the door shut and the changeling queen was outside, Rarity turns towards me and shakes her head. “So, close call, darling?”

“I... was on on bed with insect pony... was going to kiss... I...” My hooves shake.

“Oh dear, I think you broke your brain.” She smiles in her cute way and snuggles up to me on the bed, kissing my muzzle. “It was just a prank, honey. Here, let me get your mind off of it...”

“But.. but...changeling was...” I sit there, still shaking with rage and shock as Rarity’s kisses me cheek. I sigh and give her a hug, that's one way to remove stress...


I glance at the clock as Rarity and I go down the stairs. “Three hours!? How did three hours pass? We were just cuddling!”

Rarity blushes. “Well, technically, we cuddled for two hours. Then we both went to shared a shower...”

“Well yeah, it's hard to clean my tail by myself. But still, that couldn't have taken more than 45 minutes. I swear the clocks in this house run fast."

Rarity nuzzles me. “Darling, time just flies when we're having fun.”

I kiss the outside of her muzzle as we make our way into the kitchen. “I suppose so, honey. ”

She playfully pushes me away as she giggles. “Shh, come on, people will see us. Keep the kissing for the bedroom!”

“Excuse me, Shining Armor? There’s someone here to see you.”

Rarity and I look over at some nameless earth pony. I wave a hoof at him. “Right, right, I’ll be there in a minute.” I turn back to Rarity and kiss her lips. “Sorry, what were you saying about kissing?” I give her another peck on her lips.

A second, more familiar voice speaks out. “Um, Shining? You really might wanna come outside like this guy is suggesting.”

I turn. “Dash? I thought you were napping.”

She nods. “Yeah, I was, until about fifteen minutes ago. Then we got a new visitor, and she’s someone you really need to talk to.” Dash shifts her weight uncomfortably on her hooves.

I raise my eyebrow, what sort of pony would be so important? I give Rarity one more quick kiss and then head over towards Dash. “Who is it? It’s not Celestia again, is it? Or is it Luna, maybe?” Dash leads me way down the hallway as we leave Rarity in the living room. I sort of want Rarity to come with me, but oh well, hopefully this meeting with whoever this is won’t take long.

Rainbow speaks up again, “Well, the visitor is royalty, but it’s not Luna or Celestia. She’s a bit more, well, personal that that.

I pause mid step, did Dash just say she’s royalty? I find out a second later as Dash opens a side door, and from that room comes a voice as soft as silk. “Shining? Shining Armor!” My heart skips a beat, and I look up at the owner of the voice. I know who it is before my eyes even register her pink fur.

“Princess... Cadance.”

Dash, and a few other ponies that are around us, all freeze as they watch us and wait for the tension to break. It’s no secret around here on the farm that Rarity and I are romantically intertwined. The only question on everyone’s minds, including my own, is what Cadance’s presence means to all that.

She looks me up and down and blushes slightly. “You’re, wow, quite a catch. I can’t believe the old me managed to get with you.”

“H-ha, y-yeah...” I stutter as I feel myself flush red. I don’t know who Cadance thinks she is kidding. She is fucking gorgeous. Rarity and a few other ponies around here look stylish, but this alicorn is in her own league. Her thin waist and curvy flanks don’t even seem to obey the laws of physics, she’s practically the living embodiment of feminine, equine beauty.

She rubs a dainty hoof in the carpet. “So, this is kind of crazy, huh?”

I step into the room and rub my neck. “Yeah... you could say that.”

Dash steps forward and asks the obvious. “So are you guys still husband and wife then, or what?”

I hold a poker face and glance over at Cadance, who is holding the exact same expression. She bites her lip nervously. “Yeah, that’s, well, that’s sorta what I came to ask Shining about. It’s been so long, you know?”

“Yeah, about that..” I wince and turn to my friend. “Dash, would you mind giving us a little privacy? I think we need some time to talk things over.”

“Sure thing.” She nods and trots out of the room, then turns to close the door behind her.

I hold out a hoof. “Oh, and Dash?”


I gesture at the clock. “It’s just about zero-hour for you guys. Goodluck out there.”

Dash nods curtly at me. “I’ll take it from here, boss.”


I finish my nod at Shining and head out into the hallway. The second I step into the hallway I spot Rarity, patiently waiting in the hall for her stallion to finish talking to the visitor. The look on her face makes it clear that she found out exactly who he is in there with. Gah, I am not at all envious of her position. Urgh, especially considered how she is has to leave the farm with us tonight. She is leaving the farm, knowing that she's leaving Shining alone with Cadance...

I bite my lip. “Uh Rarity?”

She glances at the clock. “I know, we have to leave now...”

I shake my head. “No, we can wait a few minutes until Shining and Cadance settle their differences. You’ll need to kiss him goodnight before we leave.”

She smiles softly. “Thanks, Dash, I’ll meet you guys at the cottage as soon as this is done.”

“Take your time.” I give her a comforting hug. “And don’t worry, I know he loves you more than that alicorn in there. She’s just a memory from a dream to him, you’re the one he has loved for the past five years. You’ve even changed species and gender, and he still loves you. Cadance, nay, no one could ever even dream of a love as resilient as that.”

She blushes but says nothing, and I make my way down the hallway and out into the dark outdoors. It’s pretty close to midnight, thankfully most of the ponies here are either sleeping or indoors at this point. We should be able to sneak out of here without being seen.

The nice thing is we are all pretty much packed for the trip. All our gear is waiting for us at Fluttershy’s cottage at the edge of the farm. We just need to meet up, suit up, and head out. I trot towards the cottage as I glance at the time, swearing when I realize I’m already late. All that excitement over Cadance made me lose track of time. Oh well, at least I won’t be the very last one, Rarity is going to need a few minutes. Hopefully the other four mares won’t be too upset at our tardiness.

I swing open the door to the cottage, fully expecting to see four impatient mares. Instead, I see an empty room with all of our gear still waiting on the table. Confused, I check the time again. We were supposed to leave 10 minutes ago, where the hell is everyone? I head back outside and look around to see if they are nearby. Still not seeing anyone, I hop into the air and start an aerial search.


“Applejack! There you are!” I land outside the stables and see Applejack tenderly patting one of the farm’s many feral horses. The farm’s feral horses are really little more than relics at this point. Leftover animals from back before all these pony transformations hit us. But, relics of a bygone era or not, AJ has still been feeding and caring for them daily.

I trot closer, and I hear AJ talking to the horse as she pats it’s mane tenderly. “...can you be strong for me, Prancer? I might not come back for a long, long while, but I know you and the other mares will be alright.” AJ stops and wipes her eyes with a fetlock. “You really helped us out when my brother and I were human, you know? And now that we’re ponies, we understand how it must have felt being used for labor like that. Both of us feel really sorry for working you as hard as we did. But I’m leaving now, and he’s leaving tomorrow... and I don’t know when, or if, we’re ever coming back.”

I trot up behind Applejack and sit back on my haunches. She brings up a really good point that I haven’t yet fully accepted myself. We’re not just leaving the farm for a little while, we’re leaving the entire planet and headed for Equestria. Assuming we make it there, there are only two ways this all ends. Discord will either beat us and we’ll never be heard of again. Or... we beat Discord and the portal closes behind us. We’d be left in the land of ponies, the land where these bodies of ours truly belong. But regardless of how this journey ends, it doesn’t look like we’re coming back to this farm any time soon.

Jack rubs her muzzle up against the wild horse’s. “I’ll never forget how much you helped us out, Prancer, and I’m sorry I won’t be here for you as you grow old.” AJ pauses, and the feral horse nuzzles her neck affectionately.

I clear my throat softly. “Jack, I hate to say this, but we need to get going...”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” She wipes her eyes with a fetlock again, then pats the horse’s mane one last time. “We’re leaving a note with the Johnson farm. They are a nice, older couple just a few miles from here. Once we’re all gone, the Johnsons will come over and take you to their farm. They have a nice pasture, the greenest fields you can imagine...” The horse neighs softly and shifts its weight. Jack sniffles and pats her horse one last time. “Goodbye, darling...”

I give her another moment before putting my hoof gently on her shoulder. “Leaving isn’t easy on any of us, AJ.”

She wipes her eyes dry again and gives me a nod. “I know, I know. It’s just the little things that make you emotional, right?” She gives one last look at her favorite horse before turning to leave with me. “It's just, well, I was there when that horse was born. I was only ten or so years old at the the time. I would feed her sugarcubes and comb her mane every afternoon when she was a filly.”

I give my friend a coy smile. “You can feed me sugar cubes and comb my mane every afternoon, if you want.”

She playfully hits my shoulder. “Oh shut up, you know what I mean. That horse was my childhood.”

“I know, I’m just playing. Was that the last of your goodbyes, by the way? Shall we head for the cottage, hopefully the others are there by now.”

She nods. “Yeah, I’m ready to leave. Well, as ready as I’ll ever be to leave everything behind.”

I sigh, “Jack, maybe we aren’t doing the right thing here. This doesn’t feel right, to leave everything we ever loved.”

She purses her lips. “Dash, I’m the last one who would ever want to leave home, trust me. But we all know that’s the only choice we have at this point. We’d be utterly screwed if we stayed here. The food wouldn’t last, and we’d be discovered by the humans sooner rather than later. We both know leaving for that portal is the only option we have.”

We trot closes to the cottage and I nod. “Yeah, it’s just, I don’t know. I’m just starting to get second doubts about us leaving the last bits of our human life behind. I mean, you know how much I fucking love being Rainbow Dash, but physically leaving all of Earth behind, forever? Damn... ”

Jack grits her teeth. “Darling, the second we had our cutie marks back and regrew our manes and tails, this has been inevitable. Ponies just don’t fit on this world. All we can hope for right now is for Equestria to still be there for us.”

Fluttershy trots up from behind us. “Oh, come on girls, don’t be like that. This isn’t the final end you know.”

I raise my eyebrows. “Flutters? How long have you been following us?”

She shrugs. “Oh, not long, I just came back from saying a little farewell to some of the ponies I met these last few days.”

I facehoof. “Fluttershy, this was supposed to be a secret mission.”

“Don’t worry, everyone I openly talked to about it, I told them it’s a secret mission, just like you said.” She smiles innocently.

AJ shakes her head. “Right. Anyway, what did you mean by ‘this isn’t the end’? We are, quite literally, aiming to leave the world behind.”

She trots alongside us. “Ah, but we’re not leaving forever. If we do make it all the way to Equestria and settle the Discord affair, well, it’s not like the portal will seal up behind us. We can still use it to visit Earth every other year. Right?”

AJ and I share a glance and I speak up, “Well, hopefully. But let’s focus on one thing at a time here. A dozen things need to go right before we can even think about a return trip in two years.”

“True enough.” AJ spits off to the side as we arrive at the cottage. “Are we ready to go now then?”

I open the door to the cottage and see Twilight sitting alone at the table, looking up at us. “Oh, there you girls are, I almost thought you left without me since I came late.”

Fluttershy shakes her head. “Oh no, no, no, we would never leave without you, Twilight.”

“We would never leave without you,” I joke. “You’re the only one who knows where the portal is.”

AJ rolls her eyes at me. “Very funny. But where are Rarity and Pinkie? We’re sort of on an interdimensional time limit here...”

“Uh, I’m right here AJ.” Pinkie’s bubbly voice announces from in front of us.

I look up and see Pinkie, inexplicably, sitting right next to Twilight. I bite my tongue, and likewise, the other mares don’t even bother asking her where she just came from. “Right... so we’re just waiting on Rarity. She shouldn’t be much longer.”

AJ gestures at Twilight. “What made you slow in getting here? Not that I mind, we have to wait for Rarity anyway, but I’m just curious. You know, you’re not exactly the type of pony who shows up tardy to things.”

Twilight scrunches her face. “I ran into someone new on the farm. It was... awkward.”

I raise my eyebrows, did she meet Cadance? “How did it go?”

Twilight rubs her neck. “Well, I was eating a quick snack just before I wanted to leave, and I turned the corner and ran into... Spike.”

“WHAT!?” The four of us ask in confusion, with Pinkie adding a spit take for added effect.

She chuckles. “Yeah, I was just as shocked as you guys are. I just sort of stared at him and tried to process the fact that there was a bipedal dragon chilling in the kitchen.”

Fluttershy leans forward. “Did you guys talk at all?”

“Well, yeah.” Twilight nods. “He was bigger than he was on the show, he stood about as tall as a human stands. So I was just like ‘Hey Spike... you’re pretty tall’.”

I facehoof. “That’s one way to reunite with a friend after 25 years.”

She continues, “He was just as awkward as me. He said where he’s been and how he got here. He seems to be doing pretty well, all things considering.”

AJ pats her on the back. “Great to hear you two met again. When this is all over you can give him his job back.”

“Haha, yeah, about that.” Twilight coughs into her hoof. “Since I didn’t know what to talk to him about, I thought maybe he wanted me to give him some secretarial tasks. Like old times, you know? So I asked him ‘Hey, do you wanna, um, file my notes or something?’.”

I blink. “Did you really just ask a long lost friend if he could do labor for you?”

Twilight rubs her neck again. “Yeah, and it went about as well as you expect. He kinda flipped out and went off on a rant about ‘I thought I was more to you than just an assistant!’ and so on.”

Pinkie giggles. “Oh Spike, always the kidder.”

AJ sighs. “Did you two at least leave on good terms?”

Twilight nods. “Oh for sure, but that’s why I was delayed. I had to apologize and then talk with him about some stuff. He’s a nice guy, I’m looking forward to sitting down with him again when this is all over.”

“When what’s all over?” Rarity trots into the doorway, a little out of breath.

“Ah, fantastic, we’re all here!” I pat her on the back, then lean in and whisper, “Everything okay with Shining?

She gives me a curt nod. “Yes... yes, we’re all here. Shall we get going?”

“Yes, let’s.” AJ nods and starts to pass around the saddlebags for us all to put on. Admittedly, it’s a little disturbing that we are wearing actual saddle bags from her barn, but whatever, they get the job done.

“Alright girls, there’s just one question left.” Twilight rolls out a map of Iowa onto the table. “It’s one hundred miles from here to the portal town of Dubuque. So do we travel by hoof, car, or plane?”

Pinkie shrugs. “A hundred miles? Let's go by car, the other options are just silly.”

"We don't have a car, Pinkie, and we can't drive with hooves."

She smiles. "Let’s just hitchhike there!"

Fluttershy shakes her head. “I don’t know, Pinkie, hitchhiking as ponies doesn't exactly sound, well, safe. And even if the driver was kind, we’d be spotted by lots of people. Driving through cities and down highways in a car full of ponies. I don’t think that’s viable.”

Twilight rubs her chin with a hoof. “Fluttershy might be right, I guess walking would be the best way to get there stealthily.”

Rarity scoffs, “I do believe time is of the essence, is it not?” She jabs her hoof at the airport icon in our town. A plane or chopper would be ideal. We could charter something and fly the 100 miles in no time at all.”

Applejack shakes her head. “I don’t think so Rarity, it would actually be pretty hard getting a pilot for a charter at this hour . And where would we get that kind of money? There’s got to be a better way to get there.”

I study the map and tilt my head. “Jack...”

She looks back at me. “What is it, hun?”

“Remember the summer of 2010?”

Jack stares at me for a second, then looks at the map and smiles. “That... might just work.”

Twilight bumps up between us. “Summer of 2010? What might just work?”

I laugh at the simplicity and draw a line with my hoof on the map. “Twilight, it’s a one hundred mile drive from here to Dubuque, our target town. Well, that town lies happens to lie right on the Mississippi River...”

“The Mississippi runs alongside our town as well, it’s not more a dozen miles from our farm.” Jack finishes for me. “Back in the summer of 2010, Dash and I used to rent river boats from a place not to far from here. We would go water skiing up and down the river. The boats go pretty fast, and the Mississippi happens to run right through Dubuque...”

Twilight smirks. “Sail up the Mississippi under cover of darkness, and dock our boat just a few blocks away from the portal at the abandoned high school. That’s brilliant! It’s fast and stealthy!”

Pinkie claps her hooves. “I’ve always wanted to go boating!”

Fluttershy and Rarity exchange glances. The former speaks. “Are you sure you can drive a boat with hooves? And in the middle of the night, on a dark river, no less?”

AJ nods. “I think I can manage, I used to rent those boats all the time. I know those controls like the back of my hand! Err, I mean like the back of my hoof...”

Rarity facehoofs. “Fantastic, let’s all just ignore that digression. How do we plan to rent a boat at midnight anyway? Aren’t the shops all closed?”

“It’s not just midnight, but we’re ponies.” Fluttershy adds. “Are we just going to walk into the rental store?”

I wave a hoof. “It’s not a problem. The place Jack and I used to frequent has an automated teller. You just swipe a credit card, and it dispenses a set of keys and starts billing by the hour.”

Twilight scoffs. “That’s terribly irresponsible of them. What if a minor or something rented a boat without a license?”

Jack slings her saddlebags on with a grin. “Why do you think Dash and I know about this place? That’s exactly what we did when we were kids.”

“Ah, those were the days, Jack”

“You two are intolerable.” Rarity shakes her head at us.

I start to strap on my gear. “So, what do you say, Jack. Illegally renting a speed boat and running the river, one last time? For old time’s sake?”

“For auld lang syne, Dashie.”