Across an unforgiving expanse of scrublands and rocky slopes, rising with the oppressive heat into a pale and endless sky, a strange noise could be heard. Like the very rhythm of the earth, the heartbeat of all Equestria, it echoed ceaselessly…
"Chimi-cherry?" Squeak. "Or Cherry-changa?" Squeak. "Chimi-cherry?" Squeak. "Cherry-changa?"
Two ponies: one white, one pink. One seethed with controlled anger, the other was cheerfully oblivious. All they had in common was the old wooden rail cart they drove slowly, laboriously through the desert. The tracks stretched on into a mercifully setting sun, which might rise again before their journey was through.
As the cart creaked around one of the painted hills, the sound became clearer. Small animals peered out from the precious shade of rocks and dry shrubs to watch them pass. A hot wind slowly picked up behind the mysterious travelers, as though the land itself was eager to be rid of them.
Squeak. "Chimi-cherry?" the pink pony with the poofy mane asked once more.
Her graceful companion was lost in a vengeful diatribe about one of her friends as she took her turn cranking the lever. "I swear to Celestia, Rainbow Dash…"
"Or cherry-changa?" Another squeak as her friend pushed back.
"…When I get back to Ponyville and find you, I will…"
"…I will design you the ugliest outfit I've EVER MADE!" Squeak.
"And I'm going to use my magic to hold you still and MAKE you wear it." Squeak.
Squeak. "In front of the Wonderbolts!"
"PLEASE, Pinkie Pie!" Rarity dropped the lever and the cart clattered to a stop. Her normally sleek and spotless coat was full of dust and twigs from the tumble she had taken through the savannah. Her perfectly coiffed mane was ruined. But even in exhaustion and fury, she had an air of unmistakable elegance. Much was expected of a rising fashion star like herself, and even in these trying times she must not let her composure slip too much.
Composure was not in Pinkie Pie's vocabulary. Parties, sweets and randomness were, and she eagerly embarked on more of the latest. "Please what, Rarity? You want a cherry-changa?! Me too! But first we have to make it back to Cherry Hill Ranch. And then we have to help Cherry Jubilee harvest some cherries we can cook with. Then we have to find an all-night tortilla store, then wait till the sun comes up and it gets REAL hot so we can fry our chimi-cherries on a rock! Then we can eat them all till we get tummyaches—well until YOU get a tummyache—and decide if I should call them chimi-cherries or cherry-changas and then…"
Rarity fell on her hind legs and whined in agony. "WHY Celestia?! Why must I be stranded in a wasteland with the most scatterbrained pony in Equestria?" The waning sun offered no answer. "Of all things that could possibly happen, this is the worst…possible…MMMMFFH!"
Rarity's lament was interrupted by a mouthful of sand. She coughed and spat, shooting an accusing glare at her companion. But Pinkie's confused expression, along with the strange appearance of the horizon behind her, gave her pause.
"Gee, what did you do that for? Does the dirt here taste yummy or something?" Pinkie scooped up a hoofful before Rarity could stop her, and quickly ejected it. "Yuckers!"
"Oh, honestly! I didn't mean to…" the fashionista trailed off as she watched the other pony's face.
Pinkie's eyes opened wide and her ears began to twitch rapidly. She groaned and bent double, holding her stomach, only to start giggling and stamping her rear hooves.
"Pinkie? What on earth is the matter with you?"
"Hee hee hee…it's…it's my Pinkie Sense! Ha ha…I think this is a brand new one! See, I got twitchy ears…a stomachache…and ticklish hooves!" she helpfully re-enacted each part.
"But what does it mean, darling?"
"I dunno. I've never had THAT Pinkie Sense before. Ooo, let's play a guessing game until it happens! I bet it means…you're gonna get kidnapped by the Diamond Dogs again!"
Rarity shot her a glare at that unpleasant memory.
Pinkie looked sheepish. "Nope, you're right. They wouldn't be silly enough to try THAT again. Um…maybe it means our friends are coming back for us!"
Rarity gazed around hopefully, but saw no signs of the others. She hoped they had caught up with Applejack and gotten an explanation-because now they owed her one, especially Rainbow Dash!
The dressmaker turned back to the east, and froze.
"Maybe it means ice cream is gonna fall from the sky and we can eat it! Mmmm, that would be so good right now!"
Pinkie tilted her head back and opened her mouth, hoping to catch a falling popsicle or two. A moment later she coughed. "Ew! There's sand in the air. This whole desert has way too much sand."
"Pinkie..." Rarity gesticulated wildly with her hooves.
"If this place was a person, you know what I'd call him? Sandy McSand!"
"Pinkie Pie, LOOK!" Rarity turned her around and pointed.
Something was rising ominously in the distance. It looked like a great brown wall suddenly built across half of the plains, except it was moving—and getting larger every minute.
"Wow! So that Pinkie Sense was a big giant super-scary sandstorm! Oh well. That was gonna be my next guess."
Rarity was silent, staring blankly at the advancing force. A dull roar began to build in their ears, and now the sunset was not the only thing darkening the sky.
The fashionable pony finally snapped out of it. Twilight had mentioned how dangerous the dust storms out here could be. Now they were right in the path of one, and she was doing nothing. She jumped up and reached for the lever. "Pinkie, hurry! We've got to keep ahead of it!"
"Okey-dokey-lokey!" Pinkie followed suit, and the cart squealed in protest as they pumped like mad. Rarity's side was facing the storm, and though she tried not to look at it, she couldn't help seeing how futile their effort was. The cloud grew larger, the winds louder, and soon both ponies were half blinded from sand.
"Um, Rarity…" For the first time Pinkie sounded worried. "I think we might be going a teensy bit too slow."
"Whatever gave you that idea?!" Rarity snapped, forgetting that sarcasm was lost on her.
"Well, 'cause the noise is getting louder and my mane is getting dirty and—"
"Never mind, just get down! I…" Rarity gulped, summoning all her remaining energy into her horn. "I'm going to see if my magic can help us move any faster."
"Wow! That sounds hard. Can I be your cheerleader?" Pinkie clapped her hooves in delight.
"Be anything you want, just don't fall off the cart!"
Rarity knew her powers weren't nearly as great as Twilight Sparkle's, and the most strenuous thing she did with them was moving fabrics and sewing supplies around the Carousel Boutique. But she had to try.
Instead of trying to move the entire cart, she limited her aura to the lever. It was more difficult than she anticipated. Her mind had to be focused, and with the terrifying wall of dust looming over them, it seemed impossible.
"Yoo-hoo!" Pinkie jumped up and down in front of her.
Rarity broke off her ruminations on certain doom to gawk at her outlandish appearance. The pink menace had donned a white and purple cheerleader costume, apparently from nowhere, complete with pom-poms attached to her front hooves. The wind whipped her hair around like a cotton candy machine. "Don't look at the storm. Look at me! Now go go GO!"
Rarity nodded and gritted her teeth. Power coursed from her horn in a steady stream, moving the lever much faster than they could have done physically. The cart was picking up speed now. Soon it clattered along the tracks like nopony's business.
"Rarity, Rarity! She's our mare! A big storm's after us? We don't care!" Pinkie jumped up and down frantically. Somehow she stayed on the cart despite the speed, wind resistance and blinding dust, defying the laws of physics at will.
To her surprise, Rarity found that their pace was still increasing. Could it be that Pinkie really was helping her? No, of course not. A pony as refined as herself would never be moved by such juvenile antics.
"Pinkie Pie, I swear…" Rarity shouted, but it was getting harder to see her now as the storm surrounded them. At least it gave them additional wind at their backs. "You have…no sensibilities whatsoever!"
"Like, duh! I'm non-sensible. Now GO RARITY! Give it all you've got! WOOOO!"
She smiled despite herself. If nothing else, she thought, she must survive to make that pony a better cheerleading outfit. Her head began to ache and her vision blurred, and she barely remembered where she was—how did Twilight do this all the time? But she crouched on the cart, hooves digging into the wooden surface, and focused on the loud pink blur. As long as it kept moving, she must not stop.
"Rarity! I see something!" she could barely make out the words. "It's…it's Cherry Hill Ranch!"
"I can't," Rarity protested, but it came out as a breath. Even if Pinkie could hear it didn't matter. She had to. They were part of the storm now, one with a force of nature that may never release them. But all she could see was pink.
The sound of snapping wood jolted her back to attention, and she watched in horror as the lever spun off into oblivion. She could no longer breathe.
But the pink moved again, this time forward, enveloping her in warmth and sweat. In one desperate move, Pinkie Pie tackled her off the cart and leapt at the most beautiful thing either pony had ever seen: a second-story window.
A sound of glass breaking, a fall that seemed like it would never end…
...and a surprisingly squishy landing.
Rarity slowly opened her eyes. She couldn't move. Every muscle in her body ached. Her normally white coat was stained all over with red, and for a moment she stared in horror—until Pinkie clarified matters.
"YAY! Cherries! Cherries saved us! That's like so awesome-riffic!" She whooped, jumping up and bouncing around with joy. "I know what THESE would be good with!" She dipped one of her pom-poms into the crushed fruit—apparently they were edible—and took a bite. "Mmmm."
Of course. They had just landed in Cherry Jubilee's workroom. The storm roared past them outside, but they were safe from it now. Rarity sighed and closed her eyes again, content to lie there approximately forever. If Miss Jubilee had a problem with it, they would work off the damages…
"Thank you, Pinkie Pie," she whispered as an exhausted sleep stole over her. "I suppose being stuck with you is not…the worst possible thing."
Silence. Then, a kiss on her cheek.
"You're welcome, Rary-dary," came an unusually quiet reply. Then another outpouring of excited words, but no longer annoying. Soothing, somehow. "I know! When you wake up we'll put the fruit on some tortillas! And then we'll eat them all! What do you think we should call them?! Chimi-cherry? Cherry-changa! Chimi-cherry? Cherry-changa! Chimi-cherry…?"