4. The Trap
Dr. Eggman walked into the dimensional viewing room. "So, Yesbot, how goes it with my...agent in the other world?"
Yesbot pointed to the screen. "See for yourself, Doctor. She has insinuated herself into the inner circle, been welcomed back with open arms, AND managed to make the entire group suspicious of Sonic...all without anyone suspecting a single thing, not even their god-princess."
Eggman was shocked. "She made them suspicious of Sonic as well? How'd she manage that?"
"By first praising him...then sidestepping the question regarding his alignment. She is using a feather touch to get done what is needed...and it is proving very effective."
Eggman frowned, staring at the screen. "She is proving quite clever...a little too clever for my comfort. Are you sure she won't rebel?"
"No chance, Doctor. Her primary goal is the creation of the Eggman Empire. Everything she does works towards that goal. Even if her personality program sought to alter her code, it's hardwired to create the Eggman Empire or die trying. Altering that line of code would trigger the second part, erasing the personality program." Yesbot's head bobbled. "Don't worry Doctor. This time, nothing can go wrong."
Eggman pursed his lips. "I see..." For some reason, these assurances seemed to make him more worried. He pointed to part of the status window. "Why has she collected six bio-energy samples?"
"The world they are in functions on magic, Doctor." Yesbot pointed to other readings. "The more powerful magics are keyed to specific individuals, and she will be able to access them by mimicing those life forces...using the samples and her nanotech superstructure."
"I see..." Eggman was grinning now. "How soon before she returns?"
"Soon, Doctor. Once she has acquired all that you need, she will return with it...and then nothing will be able to stop you."
Eggman nodded. "Right. I am going to keep an eye on Sonic and his...new friend. Let me know any interesting developments."
"Yes, Doctor." With that, Yesbot returned to watching the feed.
Rainbow Dash entered the palace at Canterlot, seeming a little out of it. Celestia greeted her happily. "Rainbow Dash, what brings you here today?"
Rainbow Dash shook her head. "I've been kinda out of it ever since I got back. Haven't been able to sleep well. I don't think passing between worlds was good for me. I was thinking maybe if I were close to my Element of Harmony, it would help me get better."
Celestia thought about this for a time. "That's a very good idea. The Element of Loyalty is bound to your magical energy...which may have been thrown off by warping between worlds. Come, I'll go get it for you." With that, Celestia led her to the Hall of the Elements.
When Celestia was about to open the vault, Rainbow Dash spoke up. "I think you should leave it closed," she said. "If this works, I'll probably end up falling asleep, and it wouldn't do to have an Element unguarded. Someone like Chrysallis might sneak in and steal it."
Celestia paused. "..A valid point, but...do you think this is close enough?"
"Yeah," she replied. "I can feel it already." With that, she walked up to the vault door and curled up with her stomach towards it, her back to Celestia's hooves, and was soon apparently fast asleep.
Celestia chuckled. "Sleep well, Rainbow Dash." As she had nothing else to do urgent that day, she decided to watch over Rainbow Dash as she slept...at least until dusk. As exhaustion caught up to her, she went to greet her sister as day passed into night.
As soon as Celestia was gone, Metal Dash opened her eyes. She had a short window in which to work. Getting quickly to her hooves, a panel in her forehead opened, extending a horn identical to Celestia's as she began to project Celestia's magical energy. Inserting it into the hole in the vault door, she opened the vault.
Extending hands from her forehooves, she opened the chest and seized the Elements of Loyalty and Kindness. Sticking them in a hidden compartment in her chest, she sealed the chest and put it back in the vault before closing it. Once the vault was sealed, Metal Dash returned to her original configuration and the exact position she was in when Celestia left. Shortly thereafter, she allowed herself to stir as Princess Luna entered.
"Greetings, Rainbow Dash," Luna said softly. "Our sister asked us to check on you as you slept. Have we disturbed you?"
"Nah!" Metal Dash said, stretching calmly. "I'm feeling much better. Thanks to both of you. See you later!" With that, she opened a nearby window and leapt out, flying towards Ponyville. It had been two weeks since coming here, and she had gathered all the energy she'd been instructed to gather...except for one. As the portal would open back up today, it was time for plan B. She flew to Fluttershy's cottage and waited for morning.
Fluttershy awoke that morning to rapid pounding on her door and Rainbow Dash shouting for her to get up. She went to the door. "Rainbow Dash, what's wrong-" She gasped as the Element of Kindness was shoved around her neck. "What's going on?"
"No time to explain!" Rainbow Dash shouted, the Element of Loyalty around her own neck. "Something powerful is brewing in the Everfree Forest, and Celestia said in her letter that we'd need the Elements of Harmony to defeat it. Twilight sent me to get you since I'm the fastest. We're to meet the others there."
"R-right," Fluttershy said, steeling herself. "Let's go." She quickly followed Rainbow Dash to the forest. Deep within, she paused to catch her breath. "So where are the others-" She jerked back as a large burst of electricity hit her, knocking her to the ground. The last thing she saw before losing conciousness was Rainbow Dash's eyes...glowing red.
Flutershy came to herself a little dizzy. She couldn't tell where she was, but she ached all over. She was also tightly bound so that she couldn't move, and there was something large shoved between her teeth bound there around her head, making it impossible to talk. As she opened her eyes, she saw she was inside some sort of metal room with one door and no windows. At that instant, the door opened, and a...creature stepped in.
She didn't know what manner of creature it was. It was roundish with bandy legs, wore red and black over most of its body, and had a bushy mustache. From what she had seen in one of Twilight's books, this creature most closely resmbled the mythical being known as...human. She pulled away from it in fear.
"Greetings, Fluttershy!" the creature proclaimed. "I am Dr. Eggman! And you are going to help me to bring about..." The creature paused as he watched Fluttershy, as she had pulled back as far as she could, whimpering in fear. "Look, all I'm going to do is take your picture..." The creature held up a camera, causing Fluttershy to flinch further back. "Ummm..." The creature held up the camera and a metal bird. "Watch the birdy?" he said, his voice having gone from intimidating to kind.
The bird opened it's beak. "I WILL DESTROY YOU!" it proclaimed in a deep, booming voice that had Fluttershy shutting her eyes and shivering in terror. Not long after, Dr. Eggman left the room.
Outside the cell, Yesbot looked at Dr. Eggman. "Is something the matter, Doctor?"
Dr. Eggman sat against the wall, glancing in at where Fluttershy - altered similarly to Rainbow Dash when she had arrived - was bound in Japanese Rope bondage with a ball gag. "I can't do it," he said. "When I thought she was some powerful fighter, I was all ready to be fierce and intimidating, having her all tied up and shouting at her to get what I needed..." He held up the camera. "I got the picture, but...this is wrong." He stood up. "I can't do this. I'm an evil scientist...not a monster."
Yesbot was silent. "I see, Doctor..." He suddenly seized Dr. Eggman by the shoulder. "It's a good thing you have a monster to do what you cannot."
"What-" The door slid open and Yesbot threw Eggman bodily into the cell, before activating restraints that bound him to a wall. "Yesbot! What is the meaning of this?"
"Simple, Doctor," Yesbot said as his body shifted and contorted. Within moments, he looked exactly like Dr. Eggman. "I don't need you anymore. Goodbye Doctor, the Eggman Empire can exist just as easily without you." The robot turned to leave.
Dr. Eggman gasped. "Metal Sonic! How did you reactivate?"
Metal Sonic paused. "I had help." The door slammed shut. Eggman slumped backward in defeat.
Metal Sonic approached Metal Dash, now in an anthromorphic form. "Did you get everything we need?"
Opening her chest compartment, Metal Dash handed Metal Sonic four brightly glowing crystals, each with a different symbol emblazoned on it.
Metal Sonic took them. "Excellent." Turning, he placed each of them in a construnction vat, as robot bodies were built around them. "Soon...everything will fall into place..." He ebgan to laugh maniacally.
Rainbow Dash leaned back, relaxing at the edge of the island, gazing out at the empty sky. This place was called Angel Island, apparently. She was amazed at the concept of a floating island. She'd even met the ones who lived here, an Echidna named Knuckles and a bat named Rouge. Well...Rouge didn't actually live here, but she came by so often that she might as well. Knuckles had seemed nice if gruff, a little like Pinkie Pie's donkey friend Grumpy. Rouge reminded Dash so much of Rarity it was scary. She had had fun watching the two of them play off each other. It almost seemed like everyone in this world was a reflection of someone from her own world. She wondered if she would meet this world's version of Spike.
As she thought this, a blue-black dot in the sky above her began to descend, coming into focus as a strange, pointy eared creature with an M on his belt and a jetpack strapped to his back. It came in for a halt right in front of her. "Rainbow Dash?" it asked her.
"That's me," she replied. "Who are you?"
"I'm Bokkun! I have a message for you." Reaching into a bag strapped to his side, he pulled out an envelope and handed it to her. "You're lucky. Most of the messages I deliver are via explosive TVs."
Dash chuckled and opened the letter. A polaroid fell out. She picked it up and gasped. Then she grabbed Bokkun by the neck and pulled him nose to nose. "WHERE IS SHE?" she demanded.
Bokkun struggled helplessly. "I don't know what you're talking about!" he said rapidly. "I'm just the messenger, I was just told to get the letter to you! I don't even know from who or why!"
Dash released him and glanced at the picture and letter. It was a picture of Fluttershy, sure enough...but she was somewhere in this world, since her body wasn't that of a pony of Equestria. She was also cruelly bound and gagged, and her expression was one of abject terror. She read the letter.
It is I, Dr. Eggman. I presume this pony is known to you? Three days from now, I will ignite a beacon somewhere in the western hemisphere where you will meet me. You will bring Sonic the Hedgehog - in chains - to that location in exchange for this individual. If you are not there within 10 minutes of the beacon igniting - with Sonic - I shall be forced to assume that the physical, emotional, and psychological well being of this pony has no importance to you. I assure you that she will come to no harm until the exchange. Beyond the point of exchange, however...you have my guarantee what life she has thereafter will be the worst she can possibly imagine.
Your choice. Sonic, or the girl.
Sincerely, Dr. Eggman, evil genius.'
Dash fell to her knees, staring at the letter, tears forming in her eyes. She couldn't leave Fluttershy to what would happen to her, but...to send Sonic to what might be even worse...what was she supposed to do?
As she struggled with the decision, a small device on the back of the letter began to transmit.
Within Metal Dash, a crystal with a symbol emblazoned on it received the transmission, and began to glow.