Written by: Aoshi Stark
Edited by: Scorch_Mechanic
The sun shone brightly that fine spring day on Sweet Apple Acres. Barely a cloud could be seen in the sky as a faint breeze rolled over the fields. A small blue-jay had landed on a branch, preparing to sing. Before it could begin, a loud THONK sent it tearing into the sky as many apples rumbled down the branches into a large basket below.
Applejack leaned down to inspect the fruit that had fallen, checking for any rotten apples before heaving the basket onto her back. As she made her way back to her apple-cart, she gave pause as the rustling of the leaves in the cool breeze came her way. Removing her hat, she wiped the sweat from her brow, letting the wind billow through her mane.
“Thank ya’ kindly for that…” She said to the open air. “This job today ain’t gonna be easy, nice to get a cool breeze in my mane to keep the heat off.”
Applejack had once again managed to find herself overwhelmed by her harvesting duties. An entire ten acres needed to be cleared before the apples spoiled and she was the only hand on the farm that day. Big Macintosh had to make deliveries to both Ponyville and Fillydelphia, and wouldn’t be home till sunset. Applejack had tried asking some of her friends for help, but ultimately they were all busy. Twilight had left that morning with Spike for a week-long trip to Canterlot. Rainbow Dash had to organize a thunderstorm over Ponyville in the afternoon and needed time to gather clouds. Pinkie Pie was swamped with cake orders for a large sale at Sugar-Cube Corner that day. Even Fluttershy, of all ponies, had some sort of assignment she had to attend at Ponyville’s local pegasus day-camp. Applejack heaved the basket of red apples into her cart, sighing heavily as she looked back down the orchard at all the trees still needing to be bucked.
At high-noon, the sun’s heat finally began to take its toll as Applejack dumped another large bushel of apples into her fifth cart for the day. Turning to look at her progress, she gave a satisfied grunt. “Hmph, four acres cleared in one morning. Not too shabby AJ ol’ gal.” She said as she looked at all the empty trees. “But ya still got plenty more ahead of ya.” Looking to the sky, she continued her conversation with herself. “Hm, lookin’ to be about lunch time. I reckon I earned a little break.” Applejack nodded to herself as she wandered away from her cart into one of the un-bucked sections of the orchard. She soon spotted one large, red apple perched near the top of one of the bigger trees. “It’s very high up on the branches, possibly too high...” Applejack thought to herself. She raised her back-legs, attempting to knock it loose anyway. KA-THONK. The large apple wiggled a bit, but did not fall. Another hit, another wiggle, but still no snapped stem. KA-THONK, THONK, THONK. Nothing.
Applejack whinnied in anger as she glared up at her prize. “Dang stubborn thing, just FALL!” She yelled as she conked the tree half-heartedly with a fore-hoof. She looked to the ground as her stomach growled with hunger. A smaller, less appealing apple lay nestled in the grass nearby. “I guess I’m just gonna have to settle for this-un…”
Applejack sat quietly under the tree that defeated her, nibbling on her small apple and looking up at the sky. After half an hour, she had finished her lunch. Despite the large amount of work still ahead of her, she couldn’t help but enjoy watching the small clouds roll by in the sky. Above her she heard the rustling of leaves, but dismissed them as a bird or squirrel. As she looked back to the clouds however, she suddenly snapped to attention.
“Wait a minute… It’s past noon. Shouldn’t there be a lot more clouds nearby than this?” She thought to herself, looking in the direction of the sky over Ponyville. “Ooh Dash… If’n you lied to me again…” Applejack’s eyes narrowed as she stood and turned towards her applecart. Looking behind herself one more time to the top of the tree, Applejack noticed with a start that the large apple that evaded her was gone! Raising an eyebrow at the sight, she quickly scanned the tree-tops. “Perhaps that squirrel made off with the prize.” she thought to herself. Then she spotted her culprit, or rather, its tail-end.
Just off to the right of where the large apple once nestled, Applejack could just spot a thick strand of rainbow colored hair poking out from a cluster of leaves. Her face contorted in frustration; there was no doubt about who that tail belonged to. Just as she thought this, a large apple-core flew out from the leaves. Applejack snapped, her anger and frustration getting the better of her. “THAT’S IT!” she yelled loudly as she leaned down and ran to the base of the tree at full speed. Upon reaching the trunk, Applejack expertly turned on her fore-hooves and raised her back legs so high she nearly lost her balance. She threw her hooves furiously at the tree’s base.
The strike from Applejack was so strong it sent echoes through the whole orchard. The tree itself shook so violently one might think it was in the midst of a typhoon. A shrill cry erupted from the top of the tree as Rainbow Dash was ejected roughly from its branches. Caught off-guard by the strike, she plummeted to the ground and landed with a loud thud on her back. Blinking repeatedly to clear her vision, Dash looked up from the ground to see Applejack staring down at her, a sour look on her face. Rainbow only barely managed a small smirk, blushing a bit at the effort.
“Hayyy there Appleja—“
“Don’t you ‘Hay there Applejack’ me Rainbow!” Applejack said, cutting her off. “Ah can’t believe this! You told me you’d be busy all day with some thunder-storm you were brewin’ up in Ponyville! Why are you here, in ma’h orchard, eat’n MA’H apples and lazin’ about?”
Rainbow rolled over to right herself, but didn't stand. Feeling a little guilty, she looked up to Applejack. “Ok, well, you see…I was getting ready to make that storm in Ponyville, but at the last minute Pinkie Pie begged me to call it off so Sugar-Cube Corner could keep their bake-sale open the rest of the day. They were making a lot of money and didn’t want to pack it all up so I got the mayor to agree to reschedule—“
“—An’ so you just figured you’d mosey on over to my valley and take a nip of my crop and a nap? Not even thinkin’ about how hard I’m bustin’ ma’h rump to harvest all these apples!?” Applejack interrupted once more, still fuming.
Rainbow shot to her feet upon being interrupted again, flaring her wings and standing firm. “I wasn’t planning to sleep all day,” she said with a roll of her eyes, “Just maybe for an hour or two. Then I was going to come help you. I swear it! Why do you think I came here for my rest instead of anywhere else?”
Applejack simply stared at Rainbow Dash with a blank frown, clearly not believing her. Rainbow continued, “I know you think I’m always off goofing around all day, but really I take care of a lot of things in this town everypony takes for granted. Being this town’s weather mare isn’t as glamorous as I make it seem; and you’re not the only hard working pony in this town.”
“Now hold on there,” Applejack said with a huff, “I’ve seen some of this work you do, an’ most of it just looks like movin’ around clouds and kicking them apart. You think that’s hard work? HA! You wouldn’t know hard work if’n it came up an’ bit ya.”
“There’s a lot more to what I do than messing around with clouds. At least my jobs take somepony with know-how, anypony can kick apples out of trees and pull them around in a cart. There’s nothing complicated about that! I’d bet you I could do your job easily.”
Biting back a retort, Applejack took a deep breath to let her anger settle so she could think. “So you think ma’h job is a lot easier than yours huh? OK then Rainbow, I’m callin’ your bluff!” Applejack said with a smirk.
Rainbow Dash seemed taken aback, not expecting this kind of response. “You’re doing what now?”
“I’m calling you out on your wager! You can take care of my farm for one whole day, doing all the chores and duties I would otherwise have to take care of. Then you’ll see this job’s a lot harder than you think it is.”
Dash thought about this for a second, smiling to herself. “Hehehe, Ok. But why don’t we make this even more interesting? If I’m taking over your job, then why don’t you try mine as well for the same day?”
Applejack shook her head, chuckling to herself. “As much as I’d like to agree to that, it’s a bet I can never rightly win Rainbow. In case ya’ll forgot… I ain’t got no wings…” Applejack prodded Rainbow’s side as she said this as a reminder. Rainbow flushed in embarrassment at her faux pas. Stopping for another moment to think, Rainbow stomped a hoof on the ground triumphantly as a new thought came to mind. “Twilight! She can give you wings like she did for Rarity, can’t she?”
“That’d be true, but Twilight’s gone to Canterlot for the week on royal business. And I ain’t about to travel all that way just for a silly bet,” Applejack sighed. “An’ I don’t reckon there’s any other unicorn in the whole town who could do something like that for us.”
Rainbow frowned and looked down, upset that they couldn’t follow through with their competition. She watched a few shadows dance across the green ground as the sun shone through the leaves, then gave a start. “What about Zecora?” She said looking back up to Applejack, “She might not be a unicorn, but maybe she knows another way to grant flight?”
Applejack didn’t look too happy at the mention of Zecora's name. “I suppose…we could ask her at least. Ain’t gonna hurt to try, right..?” She said with a bit of hesitation.
“Yea, that’s the ticket! I’d bet she has some crazy soup or silly herb that gives you insect wings or something. Ok, so they won’t be as practical as true-blue Pegasus wings, but they’ll let us get this bet off the ground!” Rainbow said with excitement. “Now, what about if I win?”
Applejack hadn’t thought about this. “Um… What did you have in mind?”
“Well… if I win… I think I’d want my own apple tree. Yeah! That sounds good. If I can do all your chores and make it through the whole day then you have to let me pick ANY tree in the orchard. The one I pick gets to be mine and I’ll be allowed to eat all the fruit I want from it and sleep in it any time of the day. How’s that sound?”
Applejack didn’t like the sound of having to give up one of her trees if she lost. Being the more grounded of the two ponies, she tried a compromise. “I ain’t handin’ over an entire tree to you Rainbow. How’s about we just say you can have unlimited access to my fields for the rest of the season? if’n I win the bet though, I’m going to want you to be my personal Weather-Mare for the whole season instead! You’ll have to provide me with personal, on-call weather service any time I need it. That ain’t gonna be a problem, will it?” Applejack smirked slyly at Rainbow as she placed her wager.
Dash’s eyes narrowed with confidence. “DEAL!” Both Applejack and Rainbow Dash spit on the bottom of their hooves and clopped them together, sealing their bet.
“Now we just gotta go get Zecora’s help.” Dash said as she flared her wings for take-off. “Meet ya at the entrance to Ever-Free AJ!” Rainbow took off into the sky as Applejack nodded. She quickly pulled her cart back to the barnyard and set off on the path to the Ever-Free Forest.
Rainbow Dash leaned lazily against a tree near the entrance to the Ever-Free forest, scanning the horizon for her friend. Eventually she spotted an orange shape galloping toward her and smiled. As Applejack approached, Rainbow called out to her, “You know it’s not too late. You can just call this bet off!”
Applejack stopped as she neared the edge of the forest where Rainbow was standing. The shadows from the tree line looked like a gaping maw awaiting the two. She shook her head and stood tall, shooting a confident look to Rainbow Dash. “I ain’t backin’ down now. Let’s go!” Applejack said as she charged into Ever-Free. Dash chuckled at Applejack’s bull-headedness as she followed suit. Thankfully, Zecora didn’t live too deep inside Ever-Free. The pair followed the path to the right, taking extra care to avoid the poison-joak that littered the pathway. Soon Zecora’s hut loomed in the distance. Small billows of smoke drifted out from the chimney built out of one of the old tree’s thicker branches.
Rainbow Dash approached Zecora’s hut first. She stopped to look back to Applejack, who looked a little bit un-nerved upon seeing Zecora’s home. She rolled her eyes and raised a hoof, knocking three times on the door. Dash could hear the clopping of hooves and the jangling of metal as the door swung open. There in the threshold stood the zebra-enchantress Zecora, her golden jewelry glinting in a beam of light that speared through the canopy above. Her deep, blue eyes shot between the two, as if looking into their very souls. A smile slowly spread across her face. “Rainbow-Dash, Applejack; How nice of you to visit my shack.”
Rainbow smiled as Zecora greeted them. Applejack nodded, “Yea, nice to see you again there Zecora.” She seemed a little less tense but didn’t really smile.
Zecora seemed to pick up on this. “Your friend seems just a bit up-tight. Perhaps some tea would put her right?” She said while glancing to Rainbow.
Dash waved a hoof in dismissal, “Nah, no tea for us. You know how Applejack gets around Ever-Free. If you wouldn’t mind, we were just about to ask to come in, weren’t we Applejack?” Rainbow glanced behind her and gave her a reassuring look.
Applejack noticed the look and tried to subdue her tension. “Aaayup. Would you mind if’n we came in for a spell Zecora? We have a problem you may be able to help us with.”
“Of course you two may enter my home. Come inside, and leave the loam!” Zecora said as she slipped back in through the doorway, ushering the pair inside. Rainbow and Applejack entered, making sure to wipe their hooves as requested. Inside the hut, Zecora’s fire-pit glowed warm and hot. Her cauldron was filled and bubbling, an odd, green glow emanating from the mysterious liquids inside. As Zecora rummaged through some random objects near the back wall, Rainbow Dash eyed all the knick-knacks and bottles littering the walls. Applejack approached Zecora’s cauldron slowly, trying to smell what exactly was cooking inside it. As she leaned in ever-so-closely, she was taken by surprise as a large ladle was plunged into the goop. A small splash of the glop landed on Applejack’s nose; she stared at it with a worried look as Zecora poured her ladle into a small, clay bowl. “Brewed from broth of Tiger-Lily, it is nothing more than chili.” Zecora said with a smile as she poured Applejack a bowl. Applejack eyed the bowl and then the chili on her nose. She licked it off, a small grin appearing on her face as the flavor overcame her.
“Why, I ain’t never tasted anything so deliciously sweet and salty at the same time. Thanks Zecora!” Applejack didn’t hesitate to dive into the bowl of chili placed before her. Rainbow Dash turned away from the shelves at this point and spoke up.
“Hay! We aren’t here to eat weird-colored stews. We came here to get Zecora’s help with our bet, remember?”
Zecora looked up from her own bowl with a quizzical look. “A challenge between the two of you? I’ll surely help, what can I do?”
Rainbow didn’t waste any time getting right to the point. “Applejack and I have a bet that neither of us could do the other’s jobs and duties around Ponyville for one whole day. The problem is, Applejack needs a pair of wings…we were hoping maybe you know of a way to give her a pair she can use for our contest.”
Zecora listened carefully, her brow furrowing at the end of Rainbow’s explanation. “There is no potion that can grant one flight. This power belongs to your friend, Twilight.”
“Yea, we know, but Twilight ain’t around to help us. That’s why we came to you; y’er our only other option for help.” Applejack said as she looked up from her nearly empty bowl.
Zecora looked at the ground, thinking to herself for a moment.
“I will need to check my books. Give me a moment while I take a look.” Zecora said as she made her way through a small arch-way in the back of her hut. For about ten minutes, all that could be heard was the rustling of pages and the sound of large objects being tossed aside. Eventually, Zecora re-emerged from her nook with a large, red tome in tow. She placed it on a small table near her pot and flipped to a specific page, motioning Applejack and Rainbow over to her. “It seems I may have found a way, to grant you flight just for one day. An ancient potion unlike any other, will trade your bodies with one another.”
Rainbow took a step back, flaring her wings. “Trade our what?! How would that even work?” Applejack looked really confused as she leaned in next to Zecora to get a better look at the book. “Are you serious, this ‘ere potion would swap our bodies for a day?” She said as she read the page with the mixing instructions.
Zecora skimmed the pages as Applejack leaned next to her. “If what this old book says is true, Rainbow’s wings shall go to you.” She said as she prodded Applejack’s side. A small smile slowly spread over Applejack’s face at this prospect, but Rainbow Dash looked even more ruffled upon hearing this.
“No uh! No WAY! I’m not going to give up my wings. They’re who I am, without them…” Rainbow trailed off.
“Aw now c’mon Rainbow. Zecora said it only lasts for one day, right?” Applejack reassured her, Zecora nodded. “And just think how much more rewardin’ it’ll be if’n ya win. You’ll be able to boast about it to everypony. You beat me fair and square and without your wings, just to up the ante.”
Rainbow thought this prospect over for a moment, a somewhat happier expression creeping over her. She soon shook her head in a nod. “Alright, let’s do this! As much as it weirds me out to think of it, just one day without my wings can’t be that bad…and I do loves me a little extra challenge!” She said with a determined smile. Applejack grinned in delight; she knew that last part about the boasting would hook her friend. “What do we have to do to get this ball rolling Zecora?”
Zecora motioned for Applejack to move out of the way, leaning in close to read the instructions to the pair. “Hmm…Gathering these herbs will be no easy feat. It may take some time to complete. They must be brewed under full moon-light, and drank by both at the stroke of midnight.”
“Midnight?! We have to wait that long?” Rainbow said in a deflated tone, lowering her wings in disappointment.
“Well hay now, that might not be as bad as it seems. It will at least give us time to get ready an’ all.” Applejack said positively.
“Yeeaaaaaaaa…I guess that’s true…” Rainbow said half-heartedly.
“It’ll be fine Rainbow. This will give me time to get you set up on the farm and give you time to prepare whatever challenges you want me to complete. That sound good, sugar-cube?”
Rainbow didn’t try to argue, “Yea yea, I guess I can get someone to write me up a list of stuff you need to do in my stead. Might also want to warn everypony that you might botch things up and stuff too.” Rainbow said with a chuckle.
Applejack shrugged off the slight and turned to Zecora, “I dunno how we can thank you enough for all yer doing for us Zecora…”
Zecora held up a hoof and smiled, “To help my friends is a delight. Just meet me outside Ever-Free tonight.”
Applejack nodded and turned to Rainbow, “Alright then, let’s give ‘er room to work. Zecora, see you outside the Ever-Free forest tonight before midnight.” Applejack said as she headed toward Zecora’s door-way. Rainbow followed suit and they both exited. Zecora waved them goodbye as she nabbed a tiny bottle of odd, purple goo from her shelf and poured it into a small cauldron.
The full moon shown vividly over Ponyville that night; the light was so bright it almost made the lanterns unnecessary. The large clock tower’s hands pointed quarter to midnight and the town lay still, save for one small, orange form moving quickly through the market place. Applejack darted quickly between the closed carts that littered her path, trying her best to reach the pathway to Ever-Free. Glancing hastily to the clock tower, she scoffed in disappointment and picked up her pace. Upon leaving the town’s outskirts, she could just begin to see the tree line of the Ever-Free Forest creeping over the horizon. Moonlight glittered from the treetops, glistening off the gathering dew. Applejack looked back as she felt a rush of cool-air blow over her. Rainbow Dash was gliding steadily above her, smiling down. “I see you’re running a bit late there.” Rainbow Dash said with a smirk.
“Had to get a little something made up for Zecora, just my way of thankin’ ‘er is all.” Applejack said, nodding her head toward her saddle-bag. “Had to run all the way here from Sweet Apple Acres, we can’t all fly anywhere we please.”
“Yea, to bad too, only took me a few minutes to catch up to you. I’m rarely late for anything.” Rainbow boasted.
“To bad tomorrow ya’ll ain’t gonna have that luxury…” Applejack reminded Dash with a grin. Rainbow said nothing, glancing to the side as she flew with a faint and worried look. As the pair neared the entrance to the Ever-Free Forest, they could see a cowled figure waiting for them amidst the moon-shadows of the trees. Applejack stopped near the edge of the woods, Rainbow landing beside her. Zecora stepped slowly out into the moon-light and removed her hood.
“You two arrived here just in time, the bell’s about to sound its chime.” Zecora said, her golden jewelry glinting vividly in the moon-drenched night. Applejack took note of this and quickly pulled a small, wrapped parcel from her bags.
“This ‘ere’s a freshly made apple pie and some apple cider Zecora, made today to show my thanks for all ya’ll are doin’ for me an’ Rainbow here.” Applejack said as she placed the gift near Zecora’s feet. Zecora nodded and pulled the package behind her, giving thanks as she dug her nose into her own small bag. She pulled out a pair of small, oval bottles. Each one’s contents glowed faintly white. She placed the bottles on the ground and uncorked them, trying to pay close attention to the time.
With only five minutes to midnight, Dash and Applejack listened carefully as Zecora spoke. “The hour is drawing very near, but these potions are not complete I fear. The book’s instructions were quite discrete, on what would make these potions complete. To unlock the potion’s magic splendor, a part of yourselves you must surrender. A key to the sky, a connection to earth; this will trigger the mystic rebirth.” With these final words, Zecora pointed a hoof toward the open bottles, waiting expectantly. Applejack and Rainbow both looked to the bottles and then to each other.
“Well…Alrigh’ then, if’n that’s what the potion needs…” Applejack said with reluctance. She reached into her saddle-bags, pulling out a small shearing knife. Slowly, she lifted her left fore-hoof to the cold steel, wincing slightly as the blade cut into her hoof. Only a few drops of blood beaded on the wound as the sliver Applejack cut fell to the ground. “Eh, that didn’t hurt too much.” Applejack said while patting her chipped hoof on the ground. “Ok Rainbow, your turn!”
Rainbow was shaken by Applejack’s actions. “Whoa now...I don’t want anything scraped off my feet, or whatever it is you just did.” She said taking a few steps back, “I think this might be getting a bit too weird for me.” Applejack quickly stepped over to her friend.
“Now don’t go all scaredy-cat on me now Rainbow. We don’t got time for that. Look, ya’ll ain’t gotta cut yourself like I just had to. I’m an Earth Pony, my connection is my sturdy hooves. You’re a Pegasus, and what’s a Pegasus’ ‘key to the sky’?” Applejack said, trying to nudge Dash in the right direction.
Rainbow thought for a moment then looked behind her. “I guess that’d be my wings...Soo…what do I have to do? I don’t have to cut them up do I?” Rainbow asked as she looked to Zecora for answers.
“There is no need for cutting and doom. All you need is a single plume.” Zecora said while leaning down to gather Applejack’s fragment.
“A piece of what?” Rainbow said, looking more confused than ever.
“She means a feather sugar-cube.” Applejack said with a sigh. “Ya just gotta give us one of your feathers, and we can get this all over with.”
“Ohh, well jeez, why didn’t you just say so?” Rainbow said with a laugh as she plunged her nose into one of her wings. After a moment of exploration, she yanked from her wing one large, sky-blue feather, placing it gently near the bottles and waiting for Zecora. “Easy!” She exclaimed with a nod.
Just at that moment, the bell tower sprung to life. BONG, the first stroke of midnight sounded. Zecora’s eyes widened at the noise. She swiftly snatched up the feather and dropped it into the bottle nearest Applejack. The feather dissolved into the solution as she dropped the hoof-fragment into the potion for Dash. BONG, the second stroke sounded louder than the first. Zecora chanted one last incantation as both the potions swirled and suddenly changed their colors. Applejack’s had become an intense and vibrant rainbow of colors, while Dash’s potion had turned a swirling blend of orange and yellow. Zecora motioned swiftly for the two to pick up the potions as the strokes of the bell continued to shatter the silence of night.
Zecora pointed her hoof sternly at the two as they waited for more instruction. “When the bell comes to a stop, consume it all, don’t leave a DROP!” Zecora said with a firm tone as the ninth toll rang out. Both Applejack and Rainbow Dash nodded, waiting patiently for the last bell toll.
Both of them began to drink, their faces contorting in distaste as the liquid poured over their tongues. Zecora watched as the bottles drained, a very faint glow beginning to appear below both Rainbow and Applejack’s hooves. With only a few gulps left, the magical glow began to radiate upwards from their hooves, moving slowly up to their ankles. Rainbow finished her potion first, licking her lips a bit as she dropped the now empty bottle onto the grass below. “Huh, tasted kind of like…apples mixed with mud.” Rainbow said, wiping her tongue with her hoof.
Applejack dropped her bottle with a gag at the last gulp. “Well mine tasted like stagnant rain-water from an old barrel.” Applejack said with a sputter. As she looked down, she quickly noticed her mid-section becoming engulfed in magical energies. The forces began to swirl about her, causing a slight tingling sensation along both her sides. Applejack cried out to Rainbow, “Whoa nelly! This stuff’s doin’ somethin’! Rainbow, you seein’ this?”
“Oh I’m seeing a lot more than that!” Rainbow said in a panic. Her aura hadn’t stopped at her mid-section like Applejack’s and was slowly beginning to cover her entirely. “Zecora, is it supposed to be doing this?!” Rainbow pleaded while rearing up on her hind legs. Zecora said nothing. She only sat and watched, stone-faced as the two friends stood engulfed by the spell.
Rainbow could no longer be seen by Applejack, the magical energies encasing her completely. Applejack could only wait and listen as the energies continued to swirl around her midsection. She could have sworn she heard a yelp from within the shimmering nebula around Rainbow, but she was forced to dismiss it by the sudden and intense stabbing pain that began pulsating in her sides. She cried out a wail, as what could only be described as small nubs began pushing their way out from within her. The pain was such that she collapsed after only a few more blasts. Applejack’s head began to reel from the sensory overload as she felt the stubs grow with each passing beat of her heart. Her vision blurred and slowly she slipped into darkness.
Applejack stirred slightly, shifting her hooves back and forth as she slowly regained her consciousness. One of her eyes slowly slid open; her vision was still a bit blurred from what had happened. She opened the other eye and blinked a few times to clear her vision. She could feel she was laying flat on the cool ground. The night was quiet once more, broken only by the sound of a few hoof-steps nearby. Rolling upright to take in her surroundings, she immediately discovered Zecora standing over her looking down. She didn’t appear worried, which was probably a good sign.
“It seems my potions did their thing—“
“Oh they sure did do somethin’ alright! Left me with a splitting head-ache is what they did…” Applejack interrupted Zecora as a wave of vertigo swept through her. She raised a hoof to rub her head, but was surprised to feel something else moving along with her. Realizing what it could only mean, Applejack slowly turned her head to look to her side. There, mimicking the movement of her right foreleg was a beautiful, large wing. Applejack was dumbfounded for a moment as she stretched out her foreleg, watching as her new wing also stretched to its maximum distance in a gorgeous display of orange colored feathers. Applejack tucked her foreleg back in, the wing doing the same. She quickly looked to her other side to view its twin. A great, beaming smile swelled across her face. She stood quickly to admire her new plumage, trying to make her wings flare out like Rainbow Dash would often do. This proved to be more of a challenge for her however, as she wasn’t used to having a third pair of appendages to control. After a bit of trial and error, she could just barely get them to unfurl together before they began to sway out of sync. Applejack was so excited about her new found ability she didn’t realize just how dizzy the vertigo was making her before she nearly fell over. Zecora managed to catch her just in time and prop her up.
“--They truly are quite fetching wings.” Zecora said, finishing her rhyme from earlier. Applejack beamed at the compliment.
Her smile quickly faded though, as thoughts of Rainbow’s experience crept into her mind. “What happened to Dash? Is she alright too?”
“Rainbow is fine, as you’ll soon see. She’s resting underneath that tree.” Zecora motioned toward a lone oak near the edge of the pathway. Applejack moved as fast as she could without falling over to Rainbow’s sleeping form. A quick glance was all it took to confirm that Rainbow’s wings had completely vanished, leaving nothing but the form of a simple Earth Pony.
“Wake up Rainbow Dash...” Applejack said gently, nudging Rainbow’s side with her nose. Rainbow stirred, mumbling something incoherent. Slowly her eyes slid open to see Applejack standing over her. Rainbow rose to her feet, rubbing her head with her hoof.
“Ow my head… Hope I don’t ever have to go through something like that again. That pain…” Rainbow said as she looked over Applejack. She gasped as she took in Applejack’s new wings, and quickly examined herself. Struggling to fight back a wave of sadness at seeing her now bare sides, Rainbow took a deep breath and forced a half-hearted smile. Turning to Applejack, she tried desperately to maintain her composure as she complimented her. “Well, looks like the magic worked. You’ve got a nice pair of wings now…” Rainbow managed without acrimony. “…my wings...” she muttered sadly, before trailing off. Despite her efforts to mask it, Applejack quickly picked up on the despair in her voice.
“Now sugar-cube, don’t go gettin’ all upset over a few spoil’t apples. It’s only gonna be for one day. You can make it can’t ‘cha?” Applejack said, placing a foreleg around Rainbow’s side for a quick hug. This seemed to lift Rainbow’s spirits; her depression melting away at the encouragement of her friend.
“Yea…YEA! I can go one measly day without my wings. I’ll show you just how tough I can be as an Earth Pony! Just you wait.” Rainbow said confidently.
“There ya go!” Applejack reassured her, glad to see her friend in better spirits. Just then the pair heard Zecora call out to them as she stood in the entrance back to Ever-Free, wearing her cloak once more.
“Remember ponies: twenty-four bells, twenty-four hours. The potions then will lose their power!” the zebra warned as she turned to head home, an odd mist slowly creeping around her as she walked.
“Right right, we won’t forget! Thank you Zecora!” Rainbow Dash yelled back before the zebra vanished from view.
“I know she ain’t evil or nothin’, but sometimes that pony just gives me the willies…” Applejack said as she picked up her saddlebags. Turning to Rainbow Dash, she continued, “Allllllright then, time to get ya’ll filled in on your duties as ma’ replacement Rainbow! Firs’ things first, ya’ll ‘re gonna be staying at the farm tonight. Ah’ already made all the arrangements with Big Macintosh an’ he knows yer comin’. He’ll also have yer list of chores and duties, so ya’ll better get a good night’s sleep. Also, got a lil gift for ya as well.” Applejack removed her hat and slapped it squarely onto Rainbow’s head. “Think of it as a good luck charm, yer gonna need it.”
Rainbow was surprised to receive Applejack’s hat, but smiled as she straightened it. “Thanks Applejack, I’ll keep it safe.” She said while reaching into her bag for a piece of parchment. “I asked one of the mayor’s assistants to give me an official list of my duties for tomorrow. Try not to make too much of a mess. Oh, aaanndd I guess you can stay at my place, since I…can’t really get up there anymore…” Rainbow Dash thought for a moment. “Don’t go messing with my stuff though.” She warned.
“I ain’t gonna mess with your things Rainbow. I wasn’t planning to stay at your place tonight either, but I guess it couldn’t hurt considering I could use some practice with these things anyway.” Applejack said as she flicked her wings open and shut. Neither wing opened quite in sync. Rainbow giggled a little at this.
“Oh, Looks like you’ll need more than practice.” Rainbow said jokingly, “Can you even get off the ground? You look worse off than a newbie at summer flight camp.”
Applejack blushed a bit, folding her wings back. She rallied quickly though, and tried to make her wings open fully. Rainbow sat and watched, snickering to herself; Applejack’s wings could barely stay level with each other. Eventually Applejack managed to straighten them out and make them move in unison. She began by flapping them slowly, and then sped up a bit. After a good thirty seconds she finally managed to lift herself about two feet from the ground.
“Not too bad, but my home’s almost forty feet from the ground. You’ll have to go higher than that to just reach the front door.” Rainbow laughed to herself as she stood up. A worried look spread over Applejack’s face.
“F-f-forty?! Dag nabbit Rainbow, ya’ gotta at least show me how to get these things to fly straight before you go.” Applejack pleaded as she began to wobble slightly, attempting to fly a little higher.
“Ha ha, NOPE! No free flying lessons from me. I’m just a little Earth Pony remember? What do I know? If you want to be me, first thing you’ll have to learn is how to fly.” Rainbow said as she began to slowly trot in the direction of Sweet Apple Acres, tipping her hat forward in a mocking manner. Applejack tilted her wings, trying to fly behind her. She slowly moved forward but began to lose control after only a few feet. Her body went spinning in a circle as her wings slipped out of sync with each other. She struck the ground hard next to Rainbow, who just giggled to herself more as she continued walking. “This bet is as good as won.” She thought to herself.
“FINE!” Applejack yelled to her as she got to her feet, “I’ll show you! By tomorrow I’ll be just as good a flyer! You’ll see!” Rainbow said nothing, continuing to bob down the pathway mockingly. Applejack took a deep breath to calm herself and turned, heading in the direction of Rainbow Dash’s home.
“Oh ma’h stars…” Applejack mused as she glanced up at the cloud-home high above her. “Forty feet migh’ as well be a-hundred for somepony who can’ even get five feet off the ground.” Applejack slowly opened her wings and began to flap them, trying hard to rise as high as she could. She only managed seven feet before beginning to lose control and falling to the ground. Her second attempt yielded nearly the same result, only this time she did make it slightly higher. One fall after another, each time making some progress. Applejack would not give up though. Eventually she improved enough to hover in mid-air at twenty feet. She looked up to check her progress and sighed heavily, wobbling as her focus wavered. “By time I get up there it’ll be daylight.” She said sadly to herself. By her reckoning it was already almost two in the morning.
Slowly, her determination returned. “No, I ain’t lettin’ Rainbow win this so easily. I won’t give up!” She said to herself as she thrust herself upward, flapping her wings hard. Applejack gained a good fifteen feet, almost within reach of the house. With only a few more feet to go however, her stability started to slip. Applejack gave one last desperate push, her front hooves sliding just over the cusp of the clouds before her wings started to act up again. Her hooves dug into the clouds as she wiggled her hindquarters to keep from dropping. With a little effort she just barely managed to pull herself up onto the solid clouds. She breathed heavily and looked over the edge carefully. “So high up.” She thought to herself as she could see almost the entire town from her perch. She turned back around to look at Rainbow’s home. For somepony like Rainbow Dash a home made from clouds and rainbows was probably no big deal; but to Applejack it looked downright over-done.
Applejack walked up to what she assumed was a front-door and slid it open. To her surprise, the inside of Dash’s home was actually more solid, and somewhat reminiscent of old Greek architecture. The living room was small and circular, a tiny circle of pillows lay near a little cooking pit. Inside the pit was what appeared to be small, red crystals. A small pile of magazines lay near the pillows. One was a [Ponies] magazine which had been left open to an article about the Wonderbolt’s most recent performance in Hoofington. In the back of the room was a spiraling stairwell and to the left a small shelf for storage. Applejack quickly noticed the majority of the shelf was taken by the massive trophy Rainbow received in the Cloudsdale Best Young Flyer’s competition. She approached it and chuckled to herself. “Even when she ain’t around, she’s a show-off.” Applejack joked. Next to the trophy Applejack spotted two photographs. One was within a silver frame, depicting Rainbow standing by two team-members of the Wonder Bolts. The picture had been marked with a pair of signatures, clearly autographs. The second frame was golden and was a picture of Rainbow surrounded by all five of her friends after winning the competition. Upon the frame was a small engraving, “My #1 Fans and #1 Friends.” Applejack sniffed a bit, touched by the genuinely loyal nature of the words. She turned to go up the stairs.
Rainbow’s bedroom was the same size as her living room, only this time the solid walls were replaced by clouds once more. Her bed sat directly in the center, also just one massive cloud on a small pedestal. Applejack could see why Rainbow enjoyed this kind of décor. In many of the cloud-walls were open spaces through which she could see the beautiful night sky. The full moon shown gorgeously across one of the rainbow arches outside, showering its glimmering, multi-colored light over half the room. Applejack walked over to the bed and hopped into it, yanking on a large tuft of cloud and pulling it over herself for a blanket. Slowly, she let her eyes close, thinking ahead to the challenges that awaited her tomorrow.
Thrumbbblleee duhduh dumble. The red delicious’ rumbled noisily as Rainbow Dash tilted the collection basket into her cart. She could feel beads of sweat trickle down her brow as she turned back to face the orchard, frowning as she noticed the many apples dropped on her way to the cart. Rainbow sighed as she moved to collect them, her thoughts drifting to her conversation with Big Macintosh earlier that morning.
“Ok Rainbow Dash, since yer gonna be standin’ in for AJ today you’re gonna start by finishin’ her work from yesterday.” Big Macintosh said while motioning to the remaining four un-bucked acres.
“I have to clear all those trees?!” Rainbow asked, astounded by the sheer number of apples.
“Eeyup. Whats more is this ain’t your only job today, so try not ta’ take too long would ya?” Big Macintosh said with a low chuckle, “Oh, an’ don’t worry, you have help.” As Macintosh walked off Rainbow turned, stopping abruptly as her eyes met Applebloom’s smiling face.
“Rainbow Dash! Hay Rainbow Dash!” Applebloom called out as she bounded out from behind a tree, a small basket on her back. “Yer droppin’ more apples again.”
Rainbow struggled not to look annoyed as she collected more spilt crop, “Thank you Applebloom, I’ve got ‘em.” She sighed in relief as she plucked the final apple from the ground. “Ok, onto the next tree…” She said to herself. Applebloom trotted merrily behind her. Rainbow placed her basket under the tree and turned round, preparing to buck the trunk. KA-THUNK! A good heap of apples went tumbling into her basket. Rainbow inspected the container. “Ha! That’s better. This isn’t so hard now that I’m getting the hang of it.” She complimented herself.
“Uhh…Rainbow?” Applebloom spoke up.
“What is it Applebloom?” Rainbow said with an aggrieved tone. Applebloom pointed a hoof upward to the tree. Following the direction, Rainbow noticed the upper half of her tree was still loaded with fruit.
“AUGH!” Rainbow screamed furiously. She’d been having trouble all morning clearing the trees, and this one was shaping up to be just as difficult. Rainbow turned round once more, kicking the tree so rapidly her hat flew off. KA-THRUNK-A, THRUNK-A, THRUNK-A, THUNK THUNK. The noise from her speedy bucks sounded like a wood-pecker. “Give it up you stupid tree!” Rainbow yelled at her woody foe. Before she knew it, an apple struck her in the head, then another. She looked up as numerous apples came tumbling down, nearly burying her.
“Rainbow Dash! Are you alrigh’?” Applebloom scurried over to the pile, trying to nudge apples off of Dash.
“Auuuughhhhh!” Rainbow groaned from within her fruit-based tomb. She forced her head out of the pile of apples as Applebloom stepped back. Her face was cross as she attempted to escape the mound. “How does…Mmph…Your sister...Umph…Deal with this so easily?! There’s gotta be at least a million apples in all these trees. And yet somehow, she always gets this work done?” Rainbow questioned.
“Yup! She busts her rump every day ta’ get the job done.” Applebloom tried to explain, pausing a moment. “Well, most of the time anyway...Sometimes she tends ta’ bite off a bit more than she can chew.” Before Rainbow could free herself, both her and Applebloom’s ears perked as a voice began to grow on the horizon.
“Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaainnnnboooowwwwwwwwwwwww Daaaaaaaaaashhhhhhhhh!” the voice cried. The sound of buzzing wings soon accompanied the yell as an orange shape could be seen zipping between the trees of the orchard. Applebloom’s eyes lit up with excited surprise, she knew who it had to be.
“Yay! Scootaloo’s here! Scootaloo, we’re over here.” Applebloom called out to her friend. The orange pegasus stopped and turned to the pair, jumping happily and galloping over. Rainbow’s expression grew apprehensive as she watched the little filly getting closer.
“Oh horse-flies…Now I have to handle two kids? Just great…” She thought to herself. Applebloom trotted up to meet her friend half-way, but was stunned to have her speed past her toward Rainbow Dash’s apple pile.
“What the? Scootaloo! Don’t ah at least get a ‘hello’?” Applebloom inquired.
“Oh no, Rainbow Dash, you’re buried under all these apples. Don’t worry though, your number-one assistant Scootaloo is here to help get you out!” Scootaloo declared triumphantly. “Oh, and hi Applebloom.” Without warning Scootaloo began kicking apples off the pile. It only took the filly a few seconds to clear the pile enough to free her hero. Rainbow stood up, adjusting her hat as Scootaloo regarded her. “Whoa…so it is true. You don’t have your wings anymore.” Rainbow Dash gave a withered look upon mention of this, but shook it off.
“Look kid, what are you doing here anyway? Can’t you see I already got one pip-squeak to deal with?” Rainbow said, motioning half-heartedly to Applebloom.
“Yea but that’s why I’m here! You don’t have your wings, which means you can’t fly any more, and if you can’t fly anymore then you may need some extra help. I don’t know much about farming…” Scootaloo began to ramble as she looked to all the trees, “…but I can definitely help you with anything easy and then you’ll see just how great having me as a friend can be!” Scootaloo finished with a pose of confidence. Rainbow simply rolled her eyes. Just then, an idea popped into her head.
“Hmm, Ok kid, I’ll take the offer.” Rainbow agreed with a mock-smile. Scootaloo’s eyes grew wide as a smile shone across her face.
“You really want my help?” She squealed in excitement.
“As Big Macintosh would say, ‘Eeyup’.” Rainbow mimicked with a giggle.
“But Rainbow,” Applebloom chimed in, “What can she do? It’s not like she knows how ta farm apples.”
“Yea well, I don’t see you clearing any trees on your own either Applebloom.” Scootaloo retorted with a huff.
“Hay, ah’ve helped my big sister tons of times!”
“Yea, but how many times has that help actually helped?”
Applebloom looked down at the ground, “Um…well, sometimes…”
“Ok you two, break it up.” Rainbow commanded, stepping between the two bickering children. “Scoot, know how you can help me the most? Why don’t you be on basket duty.” Rainbow grabbed the half-full basket of apples, plopping it onto Scootaloo’s back. The weight caused her to wobble a bit before re-catching her balance, her eager visage returning.
“ALRIGHT, I’m on the job Rainbow Dash! Don’t you worry, I’m gonna basket this orchard so good it won’t know what hit it!” Scootaloo boasted proudly as she started her task of collecting the fallen fruit with gusto.
“What can I do? What can I do?!” Applebloom asked eagerly, hopping up and down.
“While your friend is busy cleaning up, why don’t you explain to me in detail how Applejack bucks these trees? I mean, I could probably figure this out myself but a few pointers couldn’t hurt.” Rainbow explained as she and Applebloom wandered to the next full tree. Scootaloo was so engrossed in her collection tasks she didn’t notice them walk off.
“Ok well, Um…” Applebloom rubbed her chin with her hoof, thinking. “OH! Fer starters, Applejack usually tries to get a runnin’ head-start when she’s buckin’ apples.” Rainbow, following the advice, walked about ten feet away from the tree. “And…um…” Applebloom looked at the tree’s trunk, “She always makes sure ta aim at the direct center of the trunk. Applejack always is sayin’ that’s the best spot since it sends the most shakes up the branches!” Applebloom smiled as she finished, happy she was able to remember all that.
“Ok! Running head start, aim for the center…got it! Here we go.” Rainbow psyched herself up, reciting her hints to herself. She reared back and broke into full gallop, aiming for the tree.
“WAIT!” Scootaloo screamed, jumping in front of the tree with fore-legs thrown wide. Rainbow skidded to a halt before nearly crashing right into the little filly.
“I wouldn’t be your number-one assistant if I had let you buck this tree without your basket.” Scootaloo interrupted, placing the large, empty basket at the base of the tree. Rainbow blushed, embarrassed she’d completely forgotten.
“Ah, yea…Thanks kid, nice catch.” Rainbow complimented, Scootaloo beamed. Rainbow backed up once more as Scootaloo joined Applebloom on the side-line. Rainbow once again broke into her run, the tree closing fast. At what seemed like just the right moment Rainbow stomped down her front hooves, letting her momentum spin her round. She swung her back-legs high and kicked. Ka-THOW! The tree shook violently as fruit tumbled down in waves to her collection basket. Scootaloo and Applebloom were cheering off to the side. Rainbow immediately checked the top of the tree. There was significantly less fruit left than usual, but a few stragglers remained. “HA! I’ll take that as a victory.” Rainbow said triumphantly, tilting her cowboy hat to the front in a cocky manner.
“You wrecked that tree Rainbow Dash, those apples never knew what hit ‘em!” Scootaloo praised as she collected the fruit basket. The weight of the apples bore down on the little filly, but she was none the less determined to get them to their cart.
“Ayup, I’m totally getting the hang of this Earth Pony stuff, no problems at all.” Dash continued, stroking her ego. Rainbow was suddenly brought back to earth by the pain of an apple clonking her right on the head. “OW! OK, who threw that?!” Rainbow said angrily, looking for the culprit. A familiar voice called out to her,
“Up here Sugar-cube.”
Applebloom squeaked with excitement as she spied Applejack perched in the recently bucked tree. “Howdy Applejack!” she greeted eagerly.
“Hay there lil’ sis. Ya’ll been gettin’ along with Rainbow Dash ok?” Applejack questioned.
“Eyup, I’ve been keepin’ an eye on her, just like ya told me to.” Applebloom said with a smile.
“That’s good. Looks like you’ve been havin’ a bit a trouble clearin’ out the trees, eh’ Rainbow?” Applejack said with a grin, plucking one of the straggling apples from its branch and taking a bite.
“Hay, If I wasn’t allowed to eat ‘em yesterday, why are you allowed to today? These apples are mine for now, no poaching!” Rainbow yelled up at Applejack, turning around and trying to buck her out of the tree. Her kick shook the branches somewhat, but Applejack remained happily perched at the top, chuckling.
“Mighty respectable bucks Rainbow, ya’ll are stronger than ah’d given ya credit; but ya ain’t got the gumption to clear these top fruits none. That kind of strength ya gotta earn through years of hard work.” Applejack said as she finished her apple. Her wings unfolded as she glided down to the ground. Applebloom’s face lit up seeing her sister move so gracefully. Applejack approached the tree, motioning for Rainbow to stand aside. She swung her back legs high, Ka-THOW! What little fruit remained tumbled to the ground below. Applejack crossed her front legs, a smug smile on her face.
“Hay, it’s not like I have the time to ‘earn it through years of hard work’ you know. This is only for a day. I’d say, given the circumstances, I’m doing a heck of a job.” Rainbow argued with Applejack, giving her a cross look.
“Ok, Ok. Ah’ didn’t mean no disrespect Rainbow. Considering what ya’ll have done I’ll admit it’s at least decent.” Applejack stated, trying to avoid getting into a spat. She attempted to change the topic, “You know, these wings took some gettin’ used to. Ah’ never knew how complicated it was ‘ta fly.”
“Well DUH!” Rainbow said, embracing the change to a topic she was much happier with. “I mean, I know I make it seem easy and all, but it’s a lot to think about when your cruising at high speeds and have to adjust for wind resistance and turbulence…”
“Aayup, wind resistance and all that stuff…” Applejack said, listening to Rainbow ramble.
“And don’t even get me started on all the weather changes I have to take care of around the town—”
“—Oh no, Sorry Rainbow, but ‘ah have ta’ cut ya’ off. Ah’ was so caught up in learning to fly this morning ah’ completely forgot about your job list.” Applejack interrupted, a look of panic growing on her face. Rainbow blinked as the information sank in, her confused look turning to an impish grin.
“Oooh, you haven’t even tried any of my jobs yet huh? Well well well…sounds like I’m ahead on our little bet then.” Rainbow said with a cheeky tone.
“Don’t start that again Rainbow. Ah’ don’t need it right now.” Applejack scorned, looking to her side frantically. “Oh crab-apples! Ah’ left ma’ bags at the lake. Now ah’ gotta fly back and get ‘em.” Applejack spread her wings open, preparing to take off when a tiny voice cried out.
“Wait! Don’t fly away I have your bags!” A small, white pegasus appeared, flying between the apple trees. On her side she carried a pair of large saddle-bags. The bags threw off her flight pattern as she landed, skidding across the ground to a halt in front of the group. Flurry looked up at Applejack, her snow-white cheeks blushing lightly at her crude landing.
“Are you alrigh’ sugar-cube?” Applejack asked, helping the little filly to her hooves. Flurry nodded, unbuckling the bags and letting them fall in front of her. “You didn’t have to do all that for me ya’ know youngin’.” Flurry turned her head to the side with a smile, her dark-blue bangs covering her eyes as they stayed locked on Applejack.
“You helped me, I just wanted to repay the favor…” Flurry said shyly, looking back down to the ground.
“Aw, well thank ya kindly. Now, git along back to Fluttershy, ah’m sure she’s waiting for ya.” Applejack prompted, nabbing her bags. Flurry took the order, flapping her little wings and flying away.
“Looks like I’m not the only one with fan-fillies around here…” Rainbow Dash said, nudging Applejack in her side. Scootaloo re-appeared just then, as if sensing the queue.
“All apples collected and accounted for Rainbow Dash!” Scootaloo announced, saluting her with a hoof.
“Oh yeah pee-wee? You missed a few…” Dash said motioning to the freshly bucked apples Applejack had scattered.
“What the…how did all this get here?!” Scootaloo whined with a defeated tone. She finally noticed Applejack’s presence, putting two and two together. “Ohh I see, making it harder for me huh? Trying to make me look lazy? I won’t give up that easy!” Scootaloo began buzzing about the two mares, collecting the scattered fruit. Meanwhile, Applejack had removed Rainbow’s list from her bags and began reading it over.
“Let’s see ‘ere…First on the list is helping Carrot-Top irrigate her fields. After that, check in at City Hall for…what’s a ‘irregular weather report’?” Applejack said, raising a brow at Rainbow Dash.
“Oh, that’s just a formality. Every afternoon the mayor briefs us weather-ponies on any irregularities that might drift in from the neighboring countryside. There’s rarely ever a problem, don’t worry.” Dash said as she proceeded to the next fruit tree, Scootaloo and Applebloom tailing behind her. Applejack grew concerned as she checked the appointment time next to Carrot-Top’s task.
“Ah’ was due at Carrot-Top’s almost an hour ago. I’m late! Sorry to split like this gals but I need to get across the farm to the carrot fields.” With a blur of orange color Applejack launched into the sky, tearing off in the direction of her first assignment. Rainbow couldn’t help but chuckle at Applejack as she waited for Scootaloo to place the basket by the new tree.
“What a silly pony…”
Carrot-Top sat on the side of her wilting carrot fields, tapping her hoof impatiently. She kept looking up toward the sky, like she was expecting something. Just then, an orange streak graced the sky, circling the fields twice before coming in for a landing. Carrot-Top’s face changed from annoyance to confusion as Applejack landed, swiftly apologizing for being tardy. “Applejack…I was expecting Rainbow Dash. How did you get those wings?” Carrot-Top questioned.
“Uh, it’s a long story. Bottom line: I’m your pegasus for the day.” Applejack said, smiling with a prancing stance. “Weather-Mare Applejack reportin’ for duty!”
“Well, at least now I know why my rain is late…” Carrot-Top muttered, unsure what to think of the new Applejack. She looked to her wilting fields with worry. “Fine, I guess you’ll have to do. As you can see, the carrots need water badly or they’ll shrivel up in this heat.” Carrot-Top motioned to the fields with a hoof. Applejack nodded, following her direction.
“Alright then, let’s get waterin’!” Applejack said, flapping her wings and taking off once more. She suddenly stopped herself mid-flight, pivoting around to look back at Carrot-Top embarrassed. “Um…I don’t s’pose you know how Rainbow Dash does this do you?” Applejack said with an awkward smile. Carrot-Top’s jaw dropped.
“How would I know how to make clouds? I’m not a pegasus.” Carrot-Top scolded. “Are you telling me you don’t even know how to make rain? Jeez, you must be really new at this.”
“Wait right there…” Applejack said, zipping off toward the apple orchards once more. Carrot-Top plopped herself down in the dirt, her irate look returning.
“Alright, not too shabby pip-squeaks. Looks like I’ve got about another two acres to clear before we’re finished…” Rainbow Dash mused to Applebloom and Scootaloo as she pulled her apple cart into the next section of un-bucked trees. Granted, the trees she had already cleared still had lingering fruit peppered across their branches, but she had gotten most of the fruit down and that’s what really counts right?
“Ah’ can’t wait till we’re done the trees. Then we get to go to the market!” Applebloom squeaked in excitement, popping her head out from within the cart.
“Oh, is that the next job? Selling apples? HA! Compared to weather service, this job is cake.” Rainbow stated with hubris. Rainbow unbuckled the harness attached to her back and let the cart fall to its sitting position. Applebloom and Scootaloo tumbled out of the back, not prepared for the bump. They quickly righted themselves, following Rainbow Dash to her next tree. Rainbow reared back, preparing to buck the tree when an orange streak sped past her, skidding to a halt nearby.
“Rainbow! Ah’ need to know how to make clouds!” Applejack pleaded, breathing heavily from the swift-return. Rainbow’s surprise quickly turned to a wily grin as she caught up with what was happening.
“Ooooh, don’t know how to make any clouds huh?” Rainbow stated with sarcasm. Applejack stomped her hoof, charging right up into Rainbow’s face.
“Ah’m done playin’ these games with you Rainbow. Ya’ll wouldn’t help me learn ta’ fly right, and now yer bein’ tight-lipped about the clouds too? T’ain’t fair and down-right unsportsmanlike!” Applejack screamed, her gaze bearing down on Rainbow.
“HAY, it’s not my fault you don’t know how to fly or make weather. You knew you’d have to do that stuff going into this bet. Did you really think it would be that easy?” Rainbow snapped back. Applebloom and Scootaloo watched the mares argue, their gazes shifting back and forth from each speaker.
“No, but I expected at least a little help! This stuff is down-right confusin’ and you know it!”
“A HA! So then you admit my job is harder than yours?”
“Wah—no! I didn’t say that.” Applejack sputtered, thrown off. “It wasn’t that hard to learn how ta’ fly, it was just a little more…technical is all.” Rainbow rolled her eyes, looking at the apples in the trees.
“OK, how about this: You tell me what’s wrong with my bucking and I’ll tell you how to make clouds?” Rainbow bargained. “I mean, I think I’m doing a good job anyway, but I really want to show you just how wrong you are about this job being hard.” Applejack regarded the deal, ignoring Rainbow’s boasting. Accepting the pact, she motioned toward the tree.
“Let me see what ya got.”
Rainbow turned to face away from the tree, raising her back-legs high. The strike was solid and nearly all the fruit fell again. Applejack looked over Rainbow carefully, rubbing her chin with a hoof. “Yer puttin’ too much force in yer hooves, ya need to push more with your legs. Connection’s jus’ fine” Applejack said with a wink. “Now how do ah’ make clouds?”
Rainbow approached Applejack’s side, prodding her wings. “All it takes is these beauties right here.” Applejack listened intently as Dash continued, “First, you’ll need a big enough water source; I usually use the Ponyville Lake or the stream that runs near the Town Hall. Once you have your water, you fly over-the top of the surface and build up a nice air-current.” Rainbow threw out a front and back leg, trying to pretend like she was flying herself. “Your current will lift water-vapor from the surface and drag it behind you. Once you have that you just fly straight up and drag that water with you. And that’s how you make a cloud!” Applejack nodded as Rainbow finished.
“Alrigh’ Rainbow, Thank’ya kindly for sharin’ all that. Dash, Youngin’s.” Applejack said her goodbyes as she flew off in the direction of Ponyville in a hurry.
“Wow Rainbow, ah’ ain’t never seen my big sister share tips like that with anypony…” Applebloom gawked as she collected a few apples from the ground. “She always tells me proper apple buckin’ techniques are a guarded family secret and such.” Rainbow chuckled cheekily to herself, giving Applebloom a smirk.
“Take it from me kid, always have an ace up your sleeve.” Rainbow said gleefully as she trotted to her next tree.
Applejack regarded the small stream as it babbled under the bridge near the Town Hall. Recalling Rainbow’s instruction, she took a deep breath and flew toward the water’s surface. She leveled out so close to the water her front hooves began to skim its surface. Immediately she began to notice the air getting colder, moisture beginning to swirl around her as she glided. It felt the same way the orchard did on those misty mornings, when the dew was still fresh before the morning sun. She started to gather speed, her wings beating harder and faster. With a backward glance she could actually see the misty air growing steadily behind her. With a sudden jerk, she pulled straight up into the sky, the moist air following her current. Applejack flew high, higher than the Town Hall, high enough to see all the surrounding landscape. When she thought she had gone high enough, Applejack looked down nervously to see if Rainbow’s guidance had paid off, and paid off it had. All the vapor that Applejack had dragged from the stream had begun to swirl and condense as it rose past the height of the buildings. Within moments, a white cloud puffed into existence below her.
Applejack floated down to meet her new creation, realizing as she approached that her newborn cloud was actually quite tiny. “Aww…well ain’t that just the cutest lil’ thing.” Applejack said to herself as she reached out her front hooves for it. It was no bigger than a pillow and felt just as soft. Applejack couldn’t help but give the cloud a small hug. As she embraced the cloud she heard the trickling of water. Looking around she realized it was coming from beneath the cloud, its mass getting even smaller as what little water it contained emptied. “Oh, heheh. Sorry lil’ feller. We don’t wanna sprinkle anypony by accident now do we?” Applejack said as she let go, soaring back down to the stream to collect more vapor.
Carrot-Top grumbled to herself in frustration, tilting the watering can held in her teeth to sprinkle her crop. As the remaining drops of water left the can, she sighed heavily as she trotted back to the rain barrel for a refill. She couldn’t help but sigh again as she dunked the can in.
Carrot-Top’s ears perked as the familiar southern cry reached her. She turned round, spitting out the watering can just as Applejack had arrived, pushing a very sizable cloud along with her. Carrot-Top’s visage still belied some annoyance, but at least her rain had finally arrived. Applejack wasted no time, as soon as her cloud was in position over the fields she punched its sides vigorously with her fore-hooves. A torrent of rain spewed from the cumulus, soaking the thirsty carrots with gusto. She quickly pushed the cloud to the next section and repeated her task.
Applejack’s watering of the fields was very thorough, not a single carrot was left untouched by the rain and the fields were left sopping wet. Applejack hugged what little remained of her rain cloud. With a fond farewell she spun round in mid-air and kicked it apart with one back-hoof. She gently glided down to meet a much more contented Carrot-Top. “Now how’d ya like ‘dem apples?” Applejack said with a triumphant grin, crossing her front hooves and admiring her handiwork. Carrot-Top nodded vigorously, acknowledging Applejack’s success, albeit a tad late. Applejack nodded, looking to the sky and saying her farewell as she took flight once more. “Now off to the Mayor’s office.”
Rainbow Dash steadied herself, glaring down her path at the apple tree she was about to buck. She shifted slightly, leaning down on her front hooves as she aimed her vision. Scootaloo and Applebloom sat to the side-line, looking from Rainbow Dash to the tree trunk with excitement. Without warning Rainbow Dash burst toward the tree at full gallop, Applejack’s advice burning in her mind as she neared the trunk. Spinning around last second, she thrust out her back legs, her hooves colliding with the tree. Ka-THOW! Apples rumbled down from the tree-tops, filling the three baskets below to the break-point. Scootaloo instantly began to cheer for her idol as Rainbow inspected the tree’s branches. Not a single apple was left aloft. “Ohhhh YEA! Another perfectly bucked apple tree!” Rainbow screamed triumphantly, tossing her cowboy hat in the air and catching it with a fore-hoof. She flipped it back on her head as she bent down to collect one of the apple baskets. Applebloom and Scootaloo collected their share as well, Scootaloo giving her usual praises as she worked.
“Oh my gosh Rainbow Dash that was so killer! The way you smacked that tree it was like, BOOM! And all these apples didn’t know what hit ‘em it was great!”
“Aayup, yup. Don’t I know it kid-o. I’m getting better and better each time, just comes natural when you’re as awesome and I am.” Rainbow stroked her ego. From behind the pair Applebloom spoke up.
“Now don’t ya’ll forget now, it was thanks to mah sister’s advice we’ve finally picked up the pace.” Applebloom said, trying to deflate the trip a little.
“Yeah yeah yeah, I’ll admit, Applejack’s advice is helping a lot.” Rainbow stated, coming back down to Earth. Applebloom had a very good point. Thanks to Applejack, Rainbow had nearly finished harvesting the remaining trees, every single one since the advice was also completely bare of straggling fruit. The three poured their baskets into the apple cart, pleased that it was nearly full as well. Rainbow looked around for another tree. “Ok, which one’s next?” Applebloom and Scootaloo had already begun their search for another tree.
“Huh…I can’t find any more…” Scootaloo said as she kept searching.
“Ah’ think we’re done!” Applebloom yelled excitedly as she hopped back to the apple cart. Rainbow couldn’t believe it herself; she looked around at the tree tops double checking that it was true.
“Wow, I guess Applejack’s advice really did help…” Rainbow said with astonishment. She recomposed herself, remembering she had more chores after this one. “OK Pip-squeaks! Line up!” Applebloom and Scootaloo slid into line in front of Rainbow Dash, giggling to each other. “Applebloom, You said the market was the next stop right?”
“Aayup, that’s righ’! Once we’re done collectin’ the apples we bring ‘em to town to sell!” Applebloom spoke up. “Oh…an’ I almost forgot. Macintosh told me you gotta bring a bushel to Sugar-Cube Corner as a delivery as well.”
“Alright. Sell apples at the Market and a delivery to Sugar-Cube. That sounds like a cake walk.” Rainbow said, psyching herself up for the new task. She slid herself under the apple cart’s harness and began tightening the reins, looking to Applebloom and Scootaloo. “Well, what are you two waiting for? Let’s get moving!”
Applebloom and Scootaloo snapped to attention, clumsily clambering into the back of the apple cart. Once they were safely inside Rainbow Dash reared high, whinnying with confidence as she tore off with her cart to Ponyville.
Knock knock knock…
The door to the Mayor’s office creaked open slowly, Applejack standing in its threshold. The Mayor’s office was simply decorated. A few portraits lined the walls, paintings of past mayors of Ponyville. The Mayor’s desk held an inbox for files with an ink-well next to it. There was a picture frame on the desk too, but Applejack couldn’t see what it contained.
“Ah! Applejack,” The earth-pony Mayor said without looking up from her paperwork, “Perfect timing. I was beginning to think you weren’t going to show at all.” The Mayor finished signing the papers with her quill, spitting it out of her mouth and back into its ink-bottle. She looked up. “My my, those wings look quite fetching on you.” Applejack blushed a bit at the compliment.
“Thank ya kindly ma’m.” She said while rubbing her head in embarrassment.
“Alright then…let’s get this report over with.” The Mayor pulled a file open under her desk and pulled out a manilla folder. She flipped it open, skimming through the papers inside till she found the right one. “Ok then…You’re filling in for Rainbow Dash, and she has a scheduled thunderstorm for this afternoon. Oh! It seems it got bumped up a notch on the intensity scale as well. I guess that’s because we skipped it yesterday.” The Mayor began to brief Applejack, giving her all the details of the storms placement and consistency. Applejack nodded, listening to the instructions.
“Ya’ can rest easy Mayor, Weather-Mare Applejack’s got ya’ covered!” Applejack said with confidence as the Mayor seemed to be wrapping up her report.
“Oh, wait. There’s one more thing here.” The Mayor stopped her before she could leave. “It seems you have an extra assignment today. Some particularly nasty storm clouds have been seeping out of the Ever Free Forest and making a mess of the nearby grasslands. We need you to go disperse them immediately.” Applejack grew excited at the prospect of having to deal with rogue weather, anything to be able to show-up Rainbow Dash.
“Yee-Haw! Then I guess it’s time ta’ go wrangle us up some storm clouds!” Applejack yelled gleefully, rearing high as she thanked the Mayor and bolted out the door. The Mayor smiled at Applejack’s enthusiasm.
“Oh to be that young again…”
Applejack stood on the stairs of Town Hall, opening her wings wide. She leapt into the air, rising high over Ponyville. She could see the edge of Ever Free on the horizon as she sped over the town, looking down at the market place as she passed by. “Ah’ wonder how Rainbow’s doin’ righ’ about now…”
“I’m telling you, they look better in the back.”
“No no no, the red ones are best up front Scootaloo!”
Applebloom yanked a sizable basket of red-delicious apples to the fore-front of the market stand. Scootaloo huffed in frustration, shoving Applebloom aside and pushing them back to the mid-center of the stall.
“They look better like this because it makes a triangle.” Scootaloo argued.
“But if you put ‘em there the customers’ll have ta’ reach over the other ones to get ta’ the reds, an’ they sell the most! They need ta’ be in the center!” Applebloom protested, getting to her hooves quickly and knocking Scootaloo away.
Scootaloo recovered from the shove, stamping her front hooves in frustration. “I say they go in the back!”
“And ah’ say they go center!”
The two foals butted heads, pushing on each other in anger. Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes at the quarreling kids; this argument had been going on for nearly ten minutes. She felt a hoof tap on her shoulder. Turning, Rainbow noticed a strawberry colored earth pony smiling at her. Her mane was bright yellow with some grey streaks. She looked old, but not as old as Granny Smith. “Excuse me, are you open yet?”
“Uhh…” Rainbow muttered, looking to Scootaloo and Applebloom. Their head-butting had turned to Hoof-wrestling on a sizable rock near the stand. “Yeah, I guess we are. Welcome to Sweet Apple Acre’s Apple Stall. What can I get you today?”
“Oh I would love to get a dozen of those red apples.” The strawberry pony requested.
“Coming right up!” Rainbow said with a smile as she plucked twelve apples out of the basket by the stems with her teeth. She placed them all in a paper bag and passed it over to the strawberry pony. “That’ll be…Um…” Rainbow turned back to the fighting fillies, “Hey Applebloom, what does Applejack charge for the reds?” She yelled.
“Two bits an apple!” Applebloom managed to bark back, struggling as Scootaloo gained leverage in their wrestling-match.
“Twenty-four bits then.” Rainbow said, embarrassed at the spectacle Applebloom and Scootaloo were causing. The strawberry pony gave Rainbow Dash her money and trotted away with her apples. Rainbow sighed in relief, placing the gold coins in the money box behind the cart. Her expression turned sour as she turned to the fighting children, leaping over to them and pushing them apart. “OK! You two pip-squeaks knock it off!” she boomed loudly, Applebloom and Scootaloo both being brought to attention. “You’re so lucky you didn’t scare off that old lady. I gotta sell all these apples today or I won’t be able to win my bet with Applejack, and you two just sitting here fighting isn’t helping me one little bit. Got it?” Scootaloo just sat there with a glum, guilty look. Applebloom was first to speak, looking up at Rainbow with huge, sorrowful amber eyes.
“We’re sorry Rainbow Dash. We just wanted ta’ help…” Rainbow could see a sliver of a tear forming in Applebloom’s right eye.
“Yea…we’re sorry…” Scootaloo added, kicking some dirt with a fore-hoof while looking to the ground. Rainbow couldn’t help but feel swayed.
“Alright you little munchkins, apology accepted.” Rainbow said kindly, rubbing her head against Applebloom’s cheek in an attempt to cheer her up. “Now, you two ready to sell some apples!?” Rainbow jumped in place, trying to psyche up the mood once more. Both foals instantly leapt joyfully, waiting for Rainbow to give them their tasks.
It was a simple enough plan: Rainbow would take customer orders, Scootaloo would bag up the orders, passing them back to Rainbow and Applebloom would handle sales pitching. Rainbow thought this was a good setup, seeing as Applebloom already knew how Applejack usually ran her store. What she didn’t count on was Applebloom’s over-zealous attempts to get customers to buy apples. At first it seemed like a good thing, Applebloom was able to pressure a few undecided ponies into buying at least a dozen apples over the past hour. Admittedly Rainbow began to worry once she started sneaking apples into ponies’ saddlebags and demanding payment, but sales didn’t really drop. It was only until the incident with the vacuum cleaner that Rainbow forced Applebloom to switch places with Scootaloo. Thankfully Applebloom hadn’t scared every single pony away, but she had caused several groups to flee in terror.
“Ah’ said ah’ was sorry…” Applebloom sighed, sitting on an empty box with a glum look.
“I know kiddo, but no dice…You’re staying right here where I can keep an eye on you.” Rainbow told Applebloom as she passed a bag of green apples to another customer. She tipped her hat, mimicking Applejack’s inflection, “Ya’ll come back now, Ya’hear?” She giggled to herself, this was actually really fun.
Business had begun to slow down for the afternoon and Applebloom wanted desperately to redeem herself. She watched as Scootaloo tried to draw in business with some apple juggling while singing about how tasty apples are. The juggling was stellar, but her song was less so. Still, she did manage to get one pony’s attention. As Rainbow finished off her new sale the clock-tower tolled the arrival of one o’clock. Rainbow looked over the apple stall; they had nearly emptied every basket. “Hehyeahaa! We are doing good! Let’s get more apples from the cart.” Rainbow called to Applebloom, letting Scootaloo watch the stand. Applebloom followed in tow, saying nothing. After filling back up the stand for the next round of sales, Rainbow Dash called lunch. Both Rainbow and Scootaloo picked a golden delicious for their meal, while Applebloom picked a gala.
“How much money have we made?” Scootaloo inquired, chomping at her juicy treat.
“Mm, we’ve filled up almost the entire money chest. At this rate we might need a new container for all this loot.” Rainbow Dash boasted on their success. Applebloom felt a little better, before the accident she had helped fill almost a fourth of the box alone. Suddenly, a thought shot through her mind.
“Hay Rainbow Dash, weren’t ya supposed ta’ be bringin’ that delivery to Sugar-Cube Corner?”Applebloom said, pointing a hoof at the last basket of apples in the apple cart. Rainbow quickly drew her attention away from her apple, upset that she had forgotten Sugar-Cube Corner’s order. The small tag attached to the basket indicated the delivery was due fifteen minutes ago.
“Pony-feathers! The delivery’s late! Um…” Rainbow looked at the two fillies, trying to think of a plan. Her mind swiftly cooked one up, though it worried her to go this route. “I’m gonna have to run this over to Sugar-Cube. Do you two munchkins think you can handle the cart while I’m gone? I shouldn’t be too long.” Applebloom’s face lit up at this idea, Scootaloo was already on her hooves with a salute.
“You can count on us Rainbow Dash! Don’t be surprised if all the apples are sold before you get back!” Scootaloo assured Rainbow.
“…Ok then. You two keep out of trouble. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Rainbow said as she dashed off in the direction of Sugar-Cube Corner, the two foals waving their hooves goodbye.
The Ever-Free Forest was already unnatural and something that was generally feared by most ponies, but now it just looked down-right terrifying. Applejack hovered a quarter-mile from the forest’s edge, mouth agape. Nearly the entire sky-line over Ever-Free was covered in raging, pitch black storm clouds. The wind they were producing caused the trees to bow and sway. Lightning cracked forth from the clouds numerous times as Applejack observed them. The mayor’s words echoed in her mind, “Some particularly nasty storm clouds…”
“…Ah’ think ‘nasty’ was a bit of an understatement.” Applejack said to herself. This storm was violent, and to make matters worse chunks of it were beginning to break off into the Ponyville region. It happened after every other lightning strike: a sizable chunk of the main storm broke apart and began to drift away from Ever-Free. Applejack watched as one of the pieces shot lightning down onto the sun-bathed grass, singeing the plants and darkening the earth.
“Ain’t gonna do much good sittin’ here gawkin’ at it.” Applejack told herself as she grabbed the harness of her saddle-bags in her teeth, pulling it tight. The last thing she’d need is for them to fall loose in the weather. She glided closer to Ever-Free, thinking of the best way to dispatch the menacing storm. “Ah’ guess I can try just buckin’ ‘em apart like any other cloud.” she thought to herself. She had seen Rainbow Dash perform the same kind of action in the past.
Applejack chose to practice on one of the smaller patches that had broken from the main storm. The small cloud was pouring rain and wasn’t throwing lightning at the moment. Applejack flapped her wings hard, gaining speed for the assault. The grey cloud seemed to respond to this and started to quiver and groan with thunder, almost as if it knew something was threatening it. Applejack didn’t back down though, swooping down and then straight up to the cloud’s under-belly. With a quick spin and a kick, she threw her back hooves into the cloud. Unexpectedly, the cloud didn’t break apart. Instead, all Applejack could feel was pain, the intense tingling of electricity surging through her back-legs and up to her spine. She could feel her hair stand on-end as the cloud’s electrical barrage sent her plummeting to the ground. Thankfully Applejack managed to regain composure moments before collision, throwing open her wings and gliding back up to the nasty little cloud’s level.
“Con-sarnit! Thought fer sure that was gonna work…” Applejack cursed her luck, realizing this might be a bit harder than intended. She took a moment to think, “Well, maybe from the side instead?” she mused.
Circling around once, Applejack made herself level with the cloud, lining up her assault. With an orange-blur she shot herself at it, fore-hooves pointed out for impact. The gloomy cumulus groaned in protest once more, Applejack bracing herself.
Applejack collided with the cloud, but didn’t break through it. Instead, it felt like she had just crashed into a pile of bean-bags. The lightning and thunder that shot forth from the cloud was ear-deafeningly loud, Applejack’s attack being the catalyst for the storm-patch’s explosive display. It only took Applejack a moment to realize this as she looked to the ground, observing a new patch of singed earth below her. A few residual flames flickered on the tips of the now blackened grass. She blushed with an embarrassed giggle, “Oopsie…Good thing no pony was ‘round ta’ see that.”
Now Applejack was getting frustrated. She couldn’t break the cloud from below because she’d get shocked, but she couldn’t break it up from the side either unless she wanted to set the whole meadow on fire. She punched a fore-hoof into the cloud, not realizing her action as a smaller bolt of lightning launched out again. “Oh hush up you!” She scolded the cloud. Then, Applejack had one final inspired thought. “Well, if ah’ can’t beat it from below or the side, might as well try the top.”
Applejack’s wings beat heavily as she rose, watching her target shrink smaller and smaller. When she felt she was high enough, she folded her wings in tight and dive-bombed the storm cloud. This time the cloud didn’t cause any commotion as Applejack made her assault. Before impact, Applejack flipped herself around and stretched one back-leg out in a karate-kick pose. A spike of air-current formed around her out-stretched limb as she collided with the cloud. In an instant the storm cloud was busted to vapor as Applejack slammed through it, small arcs of electricity branching out in a dying breath. Applejack threw open her wings once more and glided to a stop, checking behind her.
“Aayup. Top attacks it is then!” Applejack told herself as another cluster of rogue-weather caught her attention. It only took Applejack a half an hour to corral and disperse the remaining broken and drifting parts of the storm. All that remained afterwards was the still growing mass over Ever-Free Forest. The storm’s winds grew strong the closer Applejack approached, almost like a show of dominance. This only made Applejack more determined as she pushed her way up over the cloud cover.
As Applejack flew high over Ever-Free, she began to truly see just what she was up against. The storm was not only growing more dangerous, but it was down-right huge, covering almost the entire fore-front of the forest. Applejack took a moment to wipe some sweat from her brow, trying to decide how to handle this threat. “Ah’ guess ah’ll just tackle it like the others.” She said to herself while lining up her first shot. Applejack dived at the storm cloud, this time keeping her fore-hooves to the front. She punched right through the top of the cumulus, ejecting out the bottom and leaving a large hole in the storm. Instantly she was buffeted with wind and rain, her mane getting soaked. A lightning strike shot through the air, just barely missing her. Applejack pulled up, aiming for her newly-made hole in the clouds and slipping through. She leveled out just in time to see her hole seal shut as more dark clouds filled the gap.
Applejack whinnied in anger, this was going to take a while. With much effort, Applejack continued to punch holes in the cloud-cover; each hole filled in with more clouds as the storm’s size shrunk with each pass. Another half hour passed, and though Applejack had made some progress it wasn’t much. Applejack was also growing concerned for her own well-being; every pass through the clouds was met with lightning and wind. She shuddered to think what might happen if she actually got struck by a lightning bolt. She had to think up a new way to deal with this bigger storm. Applejack tried to relax, her thoughts drifting. For some reason, her thoughts flew her back to the apple orchard again. All the apple trees filled with red fruit just waiting to be plucked. Then, her mind shifted to the fields, an image of Big Macintosh pulling his trusty plow through the soil. The metal tool cutting large swaths through the loam like a knife through cake. Applejack snapped back to reality, yelling aloud, “That’s it!”
With no time to waste, Applejack flew up and positioned herself over the dead-center of the raging storm. “YEE-HAW!” She cried as she dive-bombed the storm once more. Only this time the orange pegasus didn’t punch through it. Applejack had pulled herself parallel with the storm’s surface right before impact, bracing her outstretched wing and jabbing it into the cumulus like a blade. The wing cut right through the stormy weather, leaving a large gash from where Applejack flew. With great speed, Applejack looped once in mid-air and struck the cloud again, running this new slice parallel to the one she had just made. She repeated this process several times, eventually shifting her attack so that her newest slices ran perpendicular to the old ones. Soon, the large storm had been cut into dozens of small squares, all separate from each other and easy prey for Applejack’s kicks. With every burst block of nimbus, Applejack’s task grew easier and easier till there was only one left. The grey puff groaned and thundered in protest, but was no more menacing than an over-inflated marshmallow at this point.
Applejack didn’t destroy it though. Instead, a thought crossed her mind regarding the thunder storm she was going to have to make for Ponyville. She looked up at the sun, judging by its position that it was nearly four o’clock. Her own thunderstorm was due in Ponyville soon.
“Hmm…Ah’ wonder…” Applejack began to hatch a plan in her mind, thinking up a better use for this little rogue storm-cloud. She reached her mouth into her saddle bag and pulled out a length of rope. Quickly fashioning it into a lasso she spun it in the air and threw it over the grouchy nimbus.
“Ya’ll are comin’ with me lil feller. Ah got a plan for you.” Applejack said to the protesting cloud as she dragged it away from Ever-Free. She flew in the direction of the Ponyville Lake, chuckling to herself at this brilliant plan.
The brass bell above the entrance to Sugar-Cube Corner sang its song as the door opened underneath it. Dingle-lingle-ling. “Hellooo…Delivery here from Sweet Apple Acres.” Rainbow Dash glanced around the store, spotting Mrs. Cake over by the register.
“Oh ho! Rainbow Dash. Sorry dearie, didn’t quite recognize you with that cow-boy hat on.” Mrs. Cake said with delight. “Is that our delivery of apples for the pies?” She didn’t seem fazed by the fact Rainbow was making the delivery instead of Applejack.
“Um, Yea. Sorry I got here a bit late. I’ve been taking care of all Applejack’s business today.” Rainbow said with a smile.
“Oh of course of course, no need for apology. Truth be told, we’ve been running a little behind schedule today as it is. So really, you running late isn’t a problem. Pinkie-Pie is in the kitchen, why don’t you go drop the apples off with her and I’ll get your money.” Mrs. Cake motioned for Rainbow to head into the kitchen as she slipped into a back-room. Rainbow Dash took the offer and wandered behind the counters, heading for the archway between the store-front and kitchen. She stopped at the threshold, thinking a moment as a grin snuck over her face. Rainbow quietly stuck her head into the kitchen. Immediately she noticed her pink pony friend, her back turned toward the doorway as she rolled out pie dough. Rainbow snuck into the kitchen, being very careful not to make a peep. Pinkie Pie was humming to herself, her balloon-covered flank and cotton candy-like tail bouncing back and forth to the tune in her head. Rainbow was now right behind Pinkie, waiting for her to turn around. Pinkie was completely oblivious though and just continued her work. Rainbow Dash took a deep breath, blowing a puff of air in Pinkie’s direction. Pinkie felt the breeze and stopped her humming, she turned her head around.
“BOO!” Rainbow said, her face just inches away from Pinkie’s.
“WAhAaAaa!” Pinkie leapt in surprise, not expecting the sight of her prismatic friend. The rolling-pin in her hooves went flying across the kitchen and clattered to the floor. Pinkie was breathing heavily, a hoof pressed against her chest. Rainbow was laughing intensely, nearly dropping her basket of apples she held on her back. Pinkie soon caught up with Dash, laughing along with her friend at her prank.
“Ahh-hahahahah! Good job sneaking up on me Dashie! Heheheh, you totally got me.” Pinkie giggled, giving Rainbow a friendly hug to keep her from falling over in laughter.
“Yea! Finally got a little pay-back for you scaring me in Appleloosa.” Rainbow chuckled to herself, giving Pinkie a hug back and letting go. “Oh man…the look on your face!” Pinkie smiled, her expression changing as she noticed Rainbow’s parcel.
“Ooo! Are those my apples?” Pinkie said excitedly as she hopped over to Rainbow’s side to grab the basket. “Mmm, they look delicious. Gonna to make the best pies ever!” Pinkie stopped, staring at Rainbow’s side and then to her face with confusion. It was then she also noticed Applejack’s hat. Dash knew what was coming next. “Rainbow Dash, where’s your wings?” Pinkie asked, bending down to get a closer look at Rainbow’s sides. She prodded her with a hoof out of curiosity.
“Pinkie, cut it out.” Rainbow said taking a step away from her.
“But there’s nothing there anymore! Did you lose them in a bet? One time my Pa lost his favorite bow-tie in bet. He was so sad.”
“No Pinkie, I didn’t lose a bet.” Rainbow stopped her ramble, “Quite the contrary, I’m hoping to win one. Applejack and I traded places for the day.”
“So…no more flying around?”
“Nope. At least, not for today.”
Pinkie regarded Rainbow, she looked like she was heavily contemplating something. Quickly her expression changed to a smile. “Aww that’s ok Dashie! There’s nothing wrong with being a little Earth Pony. Ooo! I know what will cheer you up, making Apple Pies!” Pinkie chuckled happily as she collected up the basket of apples and placed it on the counter-top. Dash smiled at her friend’s enthusiasm, but wasn’t sure about the whole ‘baking’ part.
“Uhh, but Pinkie, I’ve never baked anything before. Are you sure I won’t be more trouble than help?” Rainbow asked, Pinkie giggled again.
“No way José, you’ll be great help! Here take this.” Pinkie Pie passed Rainbow Dash the rolling pin. “You can roll out the dough for the pie shells. It’s super easy. I’ll cut up the apples and we’ll have Apple-dapple Pie in no time!” Rainbow couldn’t help but be swayed by the pink pony’s contagious enthusiasm and took the pin.
Pinkie certainly wasn’t lying that using the rolling pin was easy enough, but it didn’t help that Dash didn’t know a thing about baked goods. Her first lesson came when she completely ruined the first pie-shell because of it sticking to the pin and tearing. “Rule number one,” Pinkie told her as she glazed her sliced apples with cinnamon, “always flour your roller before use! … I guess I should have told you that earlier…” Rainbow sighed, preparing another lump of dough for the roller. This time it didn’t stick, but the shape was too oblong and didn’t fit correctly over the circular pie-pan. It took her three more tries to get the dough to be a nice circle. Pinkie hopped over to examine the shell. “That’s it Dashie! Now you’re getting the hang of it!”
Rainbow Dash kept at it, driven by Pinkie’s words of praise. Eventually she had rolled out enough pie shells for ten pies. She watched as Pinkie-Pie poured the slurry of apples, sugar and cinnamon into each shell. Pinkie asked Dash if she would roll out one more layer of dough, to which she happily agreed. Rainbow became shocked however when Pinkie took a knife and began cutting up her dough upon completion.
“Hey! Pinkie, what are you doing? That was my best one yet…” Rainbow said with sadness in her voice.
“Oh, sorry, let me explain.” Pinkie stopped her cutting, placing the knife in her mouth on the counter. “These pies are getting a special kind of cover. It’s called a ‘lattice’ top.” Pinkie carefully pulled a strip of dough off the counter with her hooves and laid it over top one of the filled pies. She performed this task over and over until a crisscross pattern covered the shell entirely. It made the pie look even more delectable. “See, this way ponies can see the filling inside even after its done baking. These pies always sell the best.” Rainbow helped Pinkie with covering the remaining pies and prepping them for the oven. As the pies baked, the pair cleaned the kitchen and sampled some of the left-over filling. Soon the bakery was filled with the aroma of cinnamon and apples as the pies finished cooking.
“Mm, those smell heavenly Pinkie Pie.” Dash complimented as Pinkie carefully pulled the pies from the oven, resting them on the counter to cool.
“Couldn’t have made ‘em this good without you Dash!” Pinkie returned a smile. Rainbow looked over her work, the pie’s crust was baked just right and looked flaky and crisp. Just then, the ginger-bread house coo-coo clock within the bakery began to chime.
COO-COO! COO-COO! COO-COO! COO-COO!
“Wow, is it four already?” Rainbow declared aloud.
“Time likes to just fly away when you’re spending it with friends. It just flies right on by…Whooosh!” Pinkie Pie agreed with Dash, making a motion with her hoof to imitate a flying object. Suddenly, two needling thoughts crossed Rainbow’s mind. Four o’clock was when Applejack’s thunderstorm was scheduled for Ponyville. This meant she had to get the apple stall broken down and under cover, but even more pressing than that…
“I left Applebloom and Scootaloo ALONE at the stand for a whole three hours!” Rainbow yelled out-loud in panic. Pinkie Pie hopped, startled at the sudden outburst.
“What’s the big deal? It’s not like the market isn’t packed with other ponies. I’m sure they’re safe.” Pinkie said, shrugging.
“It’s not them I’m worried about…” Rainbow stated, gathering up the empty apple basket and making for the exit. Pinkie Pie popped up in front of her, fore hoof outstretched to catch her. Rainbow wondered how Pinkie managed to move so quick without her noticing.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Pinkie said with a gruff expression. Rainbow was about to protest but Pinkie’s face quickly turned to a smile as she held up one of the pies she and Pinkie had made. It was wrapped up in plastic with a rainbow-striped ribbon. “You can’t leave without taking your present silly. This is for being such a good helper today.” Pinkie slipped the pie into Rainbow’s basket and stepped aside, much to Rainbow’s relief.
“Thank you Pinkie Pie. I wish I could stay longer but I have to go, I don’t have a lot of time.”
“Okie dokie Loki, bye Rainbow Dash!” Pinkie waved as Rainbow ran out the door of Sugar-Cube Corner, running as fast as she could back to the town market.
The storm clouds over Ponyville Lake grew larger and larger with every pass by Applejack from the water’s surface. She’d been collecting water vapor for a while now, unsure just how big she’d need this storm to be. According to the Mayor it had to be a doozy of a downpour, so she figured it should at least cover most of the town. Applejack was careful not to let the cloud get too large though; it may have been lighter than air but it would still have been a heck of a chore to move something so big all on her own.
Applejack began to shove the first part of her storm toward the town, looking back for her rogue-captive. The small, rumbling storm-cloud from Ever-Free was tied up to a tree branch near the lake. She nodded, sure that her knot-work would hold the varmint-cumulus in place till she returned.
“What in Celestia’s name happened here?!”
Rainbow Dash panted heavily, trying desperately to catch her breath. Though it didn’t surprise her, she still couldn’t believe what had befallen her apple stand. Small clusters of apples littered the market place as Scootaloo and Applebloom were butting heads again, an argument passing back and forth between them. The stand sat completely empty with part of its siding gone. Small tools laid strewn about the ground next to the stand. Nearby laid the remains of Applejack’s apple cart turned over with two of its wheels missing. Rainbow closed her eyes, trying hard to stay calm and collected through her mounting rage. Applebloom noticed Rainbow first, quickly darting over to her. Her sudden movement caused Scootaloo to fall face-first into the dirt.
“It wasn’t ma’h fault this time. Ah swear!” Applebloom beseeched, afraid of the sour expression on Rainbow’s face.
“HAY!” Scootaloo squeaked in protest, “It wasn’t just my fault! You were the one suggesting we try to fix the wagon with parts from the stand.” Rainbow attempted to say something but was swiftly silenced by Applebloom’s interruption.
“Ah thought this time it wouldn’t be as hard as tryin’ ta fix a table. All we needed was a few planks.”
“Yeah, except the wagon wheels need thicker wood and not the thin stuff the stall is made from.”
“Well maybe if ya hadn’t done that stunt in the first place the wheels wouldn’ta broke!”
“Well maybe if you didn’t start up again with your sneaky apple-adding nonsense we wouldn’t have needed to try and bring back customer attention.”
“QUIET!” Rainbow boomed loudly over the two fillies, each of them fell silent from the scream. Rainbow looked thoroughly annoyed, locks of her mane falling out of place as she took in deep breaths. “Ok…Before I completely lose it…You two are going to help me…we’re going to just collect all this mess up…and pretend this never happened…ok?” Rainbow spoke very matter-of-factly, staring down the two children. Both Applebloom and Scootaloo nodded without a word. “Good. Hopefully, we can get this all done before…”
Just then, shadows began to envelope the market place as a large cover of clouds blocked up the sun. Rainbow turned around, her agitation fading as she spotted an orange figure pushing the clouds from behind. The few ponies that had remained in the market began to gallop inside their homes, closing their windows and baring their doors. Rainbow spun round again to the foals, anger replaced with anxiety. “Ok, forget what I just said. New Plan: You two get all this junk off the ground and into the cart. We push all of it under cover and high-tail it before the storm!” Scootaloo and Applebloom both nodded, relieved they seemed to be off the hook.
Rainbow wasted no time, with every passing minute she could see Applejack pushing more clouds into her storm and flying back to the lake to collect more. The clouds were beginning to shift from white to grey. Thankfully, Rainbow had managed to push the store stand away from the market and under an awning of one of the nearby homes. While Applebloom and Scootaloo collected the discarded fruits and tools, Rainbow was inspecting the cart. With two wheels completely missing from it, she had no idea how she would move it.
“Maybe if all three of us push it?” Scootaloo suggested as she placed her collected items on the ground. All three ponies braced their shoulders to the cart and began to push.
Applejack was hovering over Ponyville, lasso in mouth as she pulled along the rogue cloud from Ever Free. She had paused to admire her work, she had collected so many clouds she almost had the entire town blanketed. She looked at her captive; it seemed to have given up any hope of escape at this point, content to just sit there silently.
“Alrigh’, ah’m gonna start now…Don’t you go nowhere, ok?” Applejack commanded the little cloud as she let go of her lasso. The cloud didn’t move, so she began to descend. Applejack landed softly on top of her storm, making sure not to push too hard lest she break through it. The cumulus groaned; it was just as ready to go as she was. Applejack took a moment to look through a small hole nearby she had left, a kind of make-shift window so she could monitor what was happening below. She looked over the town, her eye eventually stopping on the market. It was nearly impossible to miss Rainbow Dash’s multi-colored mane no matter how far away she was. It looked like she was struggling to move something heavy down below.
“Oh ho, havin’ a lil trouble Rainbow?” Applejack nickered as she spoke to herself, “Weather Mare Applejack predicts a one hundred percent chance a rain with a slight mix of ‘Ah’ Told Ya So’s’ and humble pie.” With that, Applejack reared her back legs and slammed them into a patch of clouds, sending a bolt of lightning through the sky with ear deafening thunder close behind. Applejack wore a sly grin as the lump of color below jumped from the shock. She did not notice the orange and yellow figures she had also scared nearby. Applejack raised herself up on her back legs, spreading her wings open with glee as she prepared to run. “YEEE-HAW!”
The rain poured in sheets, wind and thunder bellowed through the town as Applejack galloped across her clouds. A flash of lightning pierced the air, “KRACKA-BOOM!”
Rainbow Dash didn’t jump this time, after the first strike she expected to hear many more. The same could not be said of Applebloom and Scootaloo. With every strike the little fillies grew more and more terrified, Rainbow felt awful they had to endure this. The trio had managed to push the cart near an outcropped roof but just couldn’t seem to get it to budge the final feet to safety. It was simply too heavy and the storm was getting worse. All three of them were now completely drenched by the rain, Scootaloo started to shiver from the chill. Rainbow felt more guilt wretch her stomach at the sight, she couldn’t expect them to continue like this.
“This storm is going to get bad, you pip-squeaks shouldn’t be out in it. Run to Sugar Cube Corner and hunker down with Pinkie Pie.” Rainbow ordered the two as she began formulating a plan to move the cart on her own.
“We can’t just leave ya’ here.” Applebloom protested.
“Y-y-yea. We won’t l-l-l-leave you.” Scootaloo stuttered through the chill.
“You two will only be putting yourselves in danger staying here. I can handle this on my own, it’s ok, really. Now go!” Rainbow shouted against the new gust of wind as rain sprayed her face. Her mane and coat were drenched to the bone and the wind amplified the cold from the water. Though the foals looked like they would protest again, another crack of lightning convinced them to run.
Relieved, Rainbow turned back to her last problem, the apple cart. The wind was at her back now, a sudden gust had nearly blew her hat clean off. Then, Rainbow got an idea. It was a long-shot, but that never stopped Rainbow Dash before. She began to back up, eyeing the cart in preparation. Rain continued to pour as more thunder exploded over head. She looked behind her back, waiting.
Rainbow’s ears perked as a shrill whistle began to rise. She turned to face the cart and exploded toward it at full gallop. As she closed the distance, Rainbow Dash leapt into the air just as the next gust of wind hit her. Propelled forward by the wind, Rainbow braced her shoulder as she tackled the side of the cart. She winced in pain as the cart lurched forward just enough to make it under cover. Now that the cart was safe, it was time for Rainbow to find some cover for herself. Just as she turned to break for Sugar Cube Corner, the rain began to lighten and the wind died down. Rainbow raised a brow curiously; the storm wasn’t due to stop yet. She looked up at the sky in search of Applejack.
Applejack had risen above her storm and was busy admiring her work. The thrill of galloping across the clouds was still fresh in her mind and driving her forward. Flying high over the town, Applejack made her way back to her captured cloud from Ever Free Forest. The rogue puff hadn’t moved from where she had left it, but it thundered passively as Applejack approached. The cloud knew its time had finally arrived. Applejack grabbed the end of the lasso holding the murky nimbus, leading it toward her storm.
“What is that she’s pulling?” Rainbow asked herself, narrowing her eyes as she spotted her orange friend pass by a hole in the cover. Dash couldn’t see clear enough, she needed to get higher. She glanced around, spotting some crates stacked near a cottage. Rainbow galloped over and clambered up the crates, jumping onto the low-lying roof of the house. She stopped as she reached the peak of the roof, trying hard to see what Applejack was pulling alongside her. It looked like a small cloud, only it was much darker than any cloud made by pegasus hooves.
A foreboding thought struck Dash. If Applejack was doing what she thought she was about to do, this could end badly.
Applejack nickered to herself; this plan was great. She had fulfilled all her obligations and now planned to go even further. She stopped just above the billowing storm, her captive cloud towed behind her. The rogue cloud was beginning to rumble again, as if to say it was ready.
“Ok lil feller, this is it. Don’t ya’ disappoint me now.” Applejack said as she took a firm grip on her lasso. She began to spin the rope in her mouth, the end holding the cloud began to swirl in the air. Faster and faster the cloud spun till it was just a blur of grey spinning over Applejack’s head.
“APPLEJACK! STOP!” a tiny voice yelled desperately over the noise of the storm, but Applejack couldn’t hear it. She let go of the rope, sending the Ever Free storm cloud barreling into her own creation. The storm cloud groused and thundered as the Ever Free storm mixed with it, dissolving into the storm like an ice cube in water. The entire mass began to turn a dark black, lightning started crackling between its folds.
“YEE HAW! Now that’s how ya’ make a storm!” Applejack praised herself, gliding down to stand on her upgraded weather. No sooner had she touched the clouds did Applejack find herself aloft again as horrible electric shocks coursed through her hooves.
“Ahyyeow! Mercy that smarts…What in sam hill is goin’ on here?” Applejack yelped out in surprise. Applejack’s storm was beginning to grow, its billows pulsing more and more as wind and lightning shot forth. Below, the rain had started again all on its own. Buckets of water came down in sheets, causing large puddles to start forming. At this rate, the town could have very well started to flood.
Rainbow Dash leapt from her roof top, landing expertly on the ground with little trouble. She grabbed a small rock from the ground in her teeth, and sized up her shot. She had to hit the mark just right. Tossing the rock in the air, she turned around and bucked, sending her projectile rocketing right at its target.
Applejack shook her head, looking down at the ground in search of the source of the ringing in her right-ear. Something hard had struck her, and she spotted the culprit with ease. Rainbow Dash was down below, yelling something incoherent. Applejack rolled her eyes and glided down to her through a patch in the clouds. The hole sealed itself behind her without her noticing. Through the down pour Applejack found it difficult to maintain her flight pattern. Her wings, coat and mane were quickly drenched as she sloshed into the muddy street. No sooner had she landed did Rainbow Dash gallop up to her, striking her hard with her shoulder.
“OW! What the—“
“Do you have any idea what you just did?!” Rainbow scolded over the thunder.
“Hay! Don’t you go hittin’ me. Ah’ just made a storm ten times more effective than you’ve ever made.” Applejack glared back at her chromatic-colored friend.
“What you did is create a monster! You never never never mix Pony clouds with wild weather. The effects are disastrous!” Rainbow’s voice shifted from anger to that of anxiousness.
“Ah’ll admit, this seems a bit more than ah’ intended it, but ah’ can handle it!” Applejack said as she lifted a hoof out of the mud with a raised brow. A small stream was starting to trickle through town.
“No, you won’t be able to handle it. This is too big now, and you’re not skilled enough. We need to take serious cover till this blows over.” Rainbow said with growing panic. Just then, a thunder clap struck so loud it nearly shook the ground. Rain came in torrents on the two ponies, the sheets of water almost making it hard to see. Both Rainbow Dash and Applejack had ducked under their hooves from the thunder; it had caught them completely by surprise.
Applejack tried to counter argue as she and Rainbow ducked under cover with the broken apple cart, “Ok, this ain’t that big a deal. Ah’ll just break it apart like ah’ did before.”
“That’s not going to work. This storm is far too large for one pony now. We’d need at least a dozen pegasai to take this bad boy out. You’ve really messed up Applejack.” Rainbow scolded as another boom of thunder rocked their hiding place.
“Well it’s not like ah’ve been getting any help Rainbow! You left me to figure all this weather stuff out almost entirely on ma’h own. Ya’ wouldn’t even give me basic instructions on how ta’ fly. Ah’ had to go get help from Fluttershy, an’ ah’ was lucky ah’ even managed to get off the ground at all.” Applejack recounted her whole day, pouring over every detail. Rainbow was surprised at how sorrowful the entire account sounded. “Everythin’ ah’ did today was just one long ordeal after the next. But you know what? Ah’ loved ever moment of it. You pegasai just don’t know how wonderful a gift ya’ll have, being able to just go wherever ya’ please. For somepony like me, who’s always been stuck on the ground, it’s the happiest ah’ve ever felt before…” Applejack trailed off, her head sagging low. A tear dripped from her eye and mixed with the rain on her face. Despite the chill of the wind, Rainbow felt warm empathy for her once-earth-pony friend.
“Hey Applejack, I think I understand.” Rainbow said, lifting up Applejack’s head with a hoof and a smile. Applejack looked deep into Rainbow Dash’s rosy eyes as she spoke to her. “Ever since we changed places I’ve been feeling like something was missing, more so than just my wings. Like some kind of emptiness inside. It feels like being trapped, confined. I really don’t like it. I honestly feel like I’ve done harder work today than I’ve ever done before. You Earth ponies really have a rough time of it, everything seems so much harder when you can’t fly...but it also feels more rewarding as well. Anyway, I just…I’m sorry…” Now it was Rainbow’s turn to trail off, Applejack’s sadness faded with the apology.
As the reconciled ponies huddled under cover, a new sound began to pierce the patter of the rain and thunder. At first it sounded like just more wind, but it soon grew louder and more menacing. Rainbow picked up on the noise first, jumping to her hooves with a start.
“Oh no oh no oh no…Please don’t be that…” Rainbow started scanning the skies in panic. The storm that had grown so large was now starting to condense, all rain had nearly ceased and the moaning wind grew louder and louder.
“What’s goin’ on Rainbow? Is the storm stoppin’?” Applejack asked, also rising to her hooves. Her mane and tail were being thrown about wildly in the wind. Rainbow had to hold onto her hat or it would have blown clear off her head.
“No…Not at all. It’s about to get much worse. We need to get out of here!”
Before Rainbow and Applejack could even move, a large funnel began to descend from the storm. Clouds swirled from the ever rising wind as the cone shape touched the ground. Both ponies screamed, but neither could even hear themselves over the intense rumbling of the tornado now plowing a path through Ponyville market. The funnel was massive, easily taking up the space of an entire building. It picked up abandoned carts with ease, hurling them off into the distance. The twister set itself upon a smaller home near the square, ripping wood and straw from its roof. It was sheer luck the pair of ponies that had been hiding in the home had quickly exited after seeing this new threat. Wooden planks went flying as the storm chewed its way through the walls.
“APPLEJACK!” Rainbow yelled, breaking Applejack out of her befuddled daze. “WE NEED TO RUN! THIS IS TOO MUCH!”
Applejack shook her head; she couldn’t believe this was happening. To make matters worse, it was all because of her. The weight of that thought bore down on her heart as she watched the final remains of the home torn asunder by her monstrosity. Rainbow kept yelling something, but Applejack couldn’t hear her, or rather, she just wasn’t listening anymore. A fire lit inside her as she narrowed her eyes at the rampaging storm. This was her mess, and she had to be the one to clean it up.
“Rainbow, how do ah’ undo this?” Applejack asked bluntly. Rainbow halted her rambling, shocked at the question.
“You can’t. It’s just not possible at this poi--”
“RAINBOW” Applejack cut her off, rage filled her eyes as her wings flared open, “How…Do ah’…Stop it?”
Rainbow had never seen Applejack like this. She shrunk back, looking at the storm for a moment then back to her friend. “First, you’ll have to lead it out of town…and I really don’t know how you plan to do that…But, after that you need to enter the funnel and fly against the way it spins. If you can undo the current inside the whole thing will dissipate. But I’m telling you, you can’t do it alone! It’s suicide!”
“This is ma’h creation…it’s only right ah’ be the one ta’ take it out. Go on and git outta here Rainbow, ah’ don’t want you to get hurt.” Applejack said as she started to flap her wings. Rainbow watched as her friend flew off, trying to think of something she could do to help. She decided if nothing else she’d try as best she could to warn the other ponies in their houses to evacuate as best they could.
The tornado had finished off the small home and was now content to drift through the market place, flinging random objects at buildings. Applejack had to beat her wings hard to propel herself through the wind the twister was making, but she wouldn’t let up. She didn’t know exactly what she was going to do, but she knew she had to do something soon. The tornado began to set itself upon another home, only this one still had ponies inside it. Applejack’s stomach twisted at this realization, but now she had a plan. Granted, it was a long shot, and probably wouldn’t work, but it was all she had. Just as the tornado was beginning to chew out the home’s roof, Applejack let forth a loud whistle.
“Why don’t ya’ pick on somepony with a little more grit!?” Applejack mocked the cyclone. To her great surprise, the taunt seemed to slow the storm down, almost like it had actually heard her. Still, it continued to devour its new target. Applejack whinnied in anger, thrusting out her fore-hooves and diving head-first for the tornado’s interior. The twister suddenly lurched sideways, like it knew the attack was coming. Applejack missed her entry, pulling herself up and around to face the storm once more. The cyclone had pulled itself away from the home and was heading right for Applejack!
The orange pegasus gasped for breath, it had taken all her strength to keep herself from being pulled in by the tornado pursuing her. She tried her best to fly over the streets, using them like a channel to guide the storm away from houses. The cyclone was still dealing some damage to the homes closest to it, but it wasn’t so much that the home couldn’t be repaired. Finally she exited the town, hovering just on its outskirts. The twister rumbled near the edge of town, as if deciding whether or not to continue.
“Hay! Is that all ya’ got? Ah’ve had fans that blow more wind than you!” Applejack taunted, sticking her tongue out. The twister heaved forward, lightning crackling from its clouds as it took chase once more. “Whoa nelly, that did it…”
Both Applejack and the storm had completely left the town. They ended up in the plains that spanned between Ponyville and Sweet Apple Acres. Rainbow Dash had now abandoned her evacuation duties and was galloping toward the storm. She stopped at the edge of town, watching Applejack stare down her creation.
Applejack took the first move, throwing out her fore-hooves and dive bombing the cyclone. It responded with lightning, trying to strike Applejack mid-dive. The bolt nearly hit, forcing Applejack to bank left and away, she used the momentum to curve around and punch herself directly into the storm’s center. Inside, the wind was surprisingly weaker. Grey clouds swirled the cone, the entire thing leading up to a massive hole in the cloud cover. Applejack could even see sunlight through the top. Without hesitation she started flying against the current of the storm. With every circling pass, small cuts started to appear in its sides.
The cyclone began to sway and bow, the lacerations caused by Applejack’s furious offense making it unstable. Rainbow watched as the storm seemed to be coming unraveled.
“Wow, I can’t believe it…she’s actually doing it!” Rainbow spoke aloud, getting closer to the action. The twister began to drift again, moving in the direction of Sweet Apple Acres. Rainbow gasped as the storm tore a picket-fence apart on its path; large chunks of the fencing began swirling in the twister. Inside, Applejack was forced to slow her circling in order to avoid the broken fence pieces. One large plank struck her on the shoulder, making her stagger. She lost control, the wind inside beginning to blow her back in the direction of the spin. Another pair of planks came around for a second shot. One missed, but the other struck Applejack right in the face. The pain from the strike caused her head to spin. A gust of wind fling her from the cyclone, the hard ground rising fast to meet her. THUD!
Rainbow Dash galloped over to the clobbered orange mass on the ground. Applejack had landed face-first in the dirt and appeared completely unconscious. Rainbow quickly grabbed Applejack’s head with both fore-hooves, shaking her and trying to wake her up.
“C’mon Applejack! You can do this, I know you can! Please, you have to wake up!” Rainbow begged as she watched the Tornado setting itself upon the orchard. One of the many apple trees had been ripped out of the ground and into the storm’s maw. Rainbow tried to rouse her friend one last time, “I know you can do this Applejack…” Nothing, she was out cold. Rainbow shook her head, lowering Applejack softly back into the dirt. All she could do now was try to warn the rest of her family.
Thankfully, the storm seemed to only care about destroying the orchard and wasn’t seeking out the farm yet. Rainbow Dash ran as fast as she could to the Apple Family barn. She spotted Big Macintosh standing in its threshold, mouth agape.
“Mac!” Rainbow yelled out to the red earth pony, “You have to get everypony underground now! This is going to get worse and no pony can stop it!” Macintosh said nothing, he merely nodded at Rainbow Dash, ducking into the barn and emerging again with Granny Smith in tow.
“Eeek! It’s a Twista’! A Twista’!” Granny screamed, nearly tumbling off Macintosh’s back as he struggled to pull the door to the apple cellar open. Both he and Granny safely climbed inside. Macintosh popped his head back out once Granny was safely situated.
“Aren’t ya’ takin’ cover too?” he called out to Rainbow. She shook her head.
“No, I dunno what I’m gonna do, but I have to see this through to the end.” Rainbow yelled back. Macintosh nodded, grabbing the handle to the cellar in his teeth and slamming the door shut. Rainbow winced as she turned, maybe she should have taken that offer after all. Multiple apple trees had been pulled from the ground like weeds in a garden by the tornado’s force. As the cyclone collected them, Rainbow marveled. The trees all dangled around the outer clouds like a macabre necklace, slowly swirling and crumbling in the cyclone’s grasp. The storm had begun to turn again, this time moving in the direction of the farm yard.
In the darkness of Applejack’s mind, all she could hear were screams: Screams of the ponies whose homes had been destroyed by her abomination, screams of families and loved ones in danger of being swallowed by her mistake. In her dream, she saw only dark grey claws. The wicked things reached down toward Ponyville, smashing and raking the world clean and leaving nothing but splintered wood in their wake. Then everything faded to black once more. As she drifted on the edge of this memory, thin tendrils of void and shadow beckoned her; offering her a way out, a way to forget her shame, to forget all…
The voice was small, almost unnoticeable. For just a moment Applejack turned away from her sorrow and looked for its source. A shadowed claw settled on her shoulder, encouraging her to forget ever hearing it…
“Please Applejack, wake up!”
There it was again, only, it seemed to be getting stronger. The voice seemed familiar somehow, had she known this pony before? She couldn’t remember. She took a step forward, tugging the shadowed claw off her as she strained to listen.
“C’mon Applejack, No pony else can do this but you! I know it!”
Now she was certain she knew that voice. It sounded so familiar, so friendly. She wanted to gallop off to meet this pony. From out of the shadows three more claws grasped at her legs and neck, trying to pull her away while whispering sweet-nothings about how everything would be better if she just gave up.
But Applejack didn’t listen. She planted her hooves firmly, yelling out to the darkness: “No! Ah’ ain’t budgin’! Somepony out there still believes in me, and I owe it ta’ them ta’ be there!” With this the void-shrouded creature screeched and pulled on the orange pony as hard as it could. Applejack didn’t move an inch. She raised her back legs, righteous light beginning to engulf her hooves as she thrust her legs out for a buck. The force of her kick blasted away the shadows, engulfing her world in warm light.
Applejack stirred violently, gasping for air as her senses flooded back to her. She quickly realized she was lying flat on the ground. Was that all a dream…or something worse? She chose not to dwell on it, rising to her hooves and brushing off some dirt with a flick of her tail. It took her a moment, but realization shocked her back to attention. Here she was, sitting in the dirt while that monster of a storm was still out there. Applejack winced as she heard the sickening crack of wood being splintered behind her. She turned, reopening her eyes to the horror Sweet Apple Acres had become.
The twister had cut a devastating swath through the orchard, uprooting every tree it could on its way to the barn. As new trees entered, old ones were split and snapped like twigs, their remains being thrown out to fall behind the cyclone. Applejack felt her heart sink so low it might as well have been in her hooves. Now she was responsible for the homes and for destroying part of her family’s livelihood. She closed her eyes as they filled with tears; her body was shaking from shame and anguish. Everything had gone so wrong, if only she hadn’t been so brash.
“Brash…Dash...” Applejack spoke softly to herself as her thoughts shifted to Rainbow Dash. If Dash was in her place, what would she being doing? Would she be sitting here sobbing in the dirt while this storm ravaged the country side?
“Heck no!” Applejack shouted, “She’d do whatever it takes ta’ stop that storm!”
With that last thought, Applejack burst from the ground and rocketed into the sky. She climbed higher and higher, the grim scene of the tornado grew smaller below. She intended to dive-bomb it, it was the only plan she could think of. The twister had grown significantly since she had last tried to undo it, so she needed a lot of speed this time. Higher, higher and higher, the scene below looked almost like a gruesome diorama now. Applejack stopped for just a moment, lining up her shot. She thought of Rainbow Dash, her family, and all the other ponies she had uprooted today just like that cyclone was uprooting her trees. It was time to make things right again. Applejack let her wings fold closed, tilting herself face-first for her strike.
The orange pegasus descended, picking up speed fast. Applejack’s eyes began to water as the wind rushed over her yellow mane. She had to go faster. She threw open her wings once more and started beating them. Faster, she had to get even more speed. She thought of how Rainbow Dash does her dive-bombs and thrust out both fore-hooves. Applejack’s wings were beginning to ache but she pressed them even harder, she had to go faster or she’d never gain enough momentum to undo the tornado.
Below, the twister had just finished the remaining trees between it and the barn yard. Rainbow Dash shuddered as the grim, black cyclone loomed over the farm. Trees, leaves, apples, and wood all swirled and cracked within the horrible face of the storm. The sound was intense, like a train wreck was happening right in front of her. The twister plowed forward, uplifting and smashing the chicken coops to pieces. Rainbow knew it was coming right for her, and she had no idea what she could do, but she stayed planted right where she was and tilted her hat forward. If this thing wanted the barn, it’d have to go through her first. It was then Rainbow noticed, just off in the distance, a streak of orange and yellow light heading right for the storm. Her heart leapt at the sight, Applejack was back!
Applejack’s face was being blown back by the sheer speed she had picked up. The storm was coming into view, and yet she still didn’t feel like it was enough. She pressed herself harder than ever, so much so that small contrails of vapor began to skid off the tips of her hooves. She only had one shot at this, it had to count. Vertigo started to seep in as the friction pressed against her trying to slow her down. Her eyes blurred, like grey fingers trying to pull her vision away. She thought for sure she was going to pass out, every fiber of her being was full of aches and pains she didn’t even know existed. But she had to succeed, everypony was depending on her.
“C’mon Applejack…” A voice inside her mind pierced the veil, “You can do it AJ, I know you can.”
She recognized that voice; it was Rainbow Dash, giving her praise like she never had before! It was all Applejack needed. With a surge of power the likes of which she had never felt before, Applejack strained…and pushed…her body stretched itself so far it felt like she was being pulled like taffy. She could feel a curtain of air and friction bend and bow, it tried desperately to contain her but to no avail…
Everything around Rainbow Dash was bathed in light as a giant shock-wave of color exploded behind the storm. She had performed a Sonic Rainboom herself on two occasions, but she had never been on the receiving end of one. The dazzling display caused her jaw to drop as she plopped herself on the ground in awe. She was quickly reminded why it’s called a, “RainBOOM,” when the after-shock struck. Everything within the farmyard clattered and shook against the wave of force as it blasted though. Rainbow’s mane and tail were blown back, making her look like she had just emerged from a wind tunnel. All the while a blazing rainbow had emerged from the explosion and rocketed directly at the cyclone.
Applejack couldn’t believe what had happened, she hadn’t even intended it, yet it just did. Her ears were ringing from the explosion she had caused. Her face felt like it would peel clear off if she went any faster than she was now. Questions and thoughts started buzzing in her mind, but they’d have to wait, she still had a job to do. With all her strength she shot herself at the twister that had so viciously ravaged her home. The storm tried to move, but it was just too slow. Applejack blasted clear through, leaving two massive holes and a trail of rainbow color in her wake. The storm crumpled, unable to recover from the sheer power of the onslaught. Applejack turned around for another pass, finally catching a glimpse of the rainbow she was painting across the sky. She dived low, pulling up just before impact with the ground and spinning as she entered the base of the cyclone. The force of her wings, combined with the power of the Rainboom, spun a current so powerful it wiped the clouds clear off the face of Equestria.
Applejack shot directly up into the sky, rainbow still following in suit. She had done it; against all odds she had defeated the storm single-hoofedly. She relished in her victory, unaware of just how high she was climbing. Her revelry was soon broken by a sudden, unexpected burning in the pit of her stomach. The pain grew, spreading to her back and then up to her wings. Through the discomfort she turned, her joy quickly replaced with shock. Applejack’s wings were glowing pale blue and shedding feathers at an alarming rate. The dull pain soon turned to stabbing as the last of her feathers fell away. Applejack’s head reeled as the nubs on her back receded inward, leaving nothing but a simple Earth Pony once more. Before she could even collect herself, one last jab of pain shot right through her chest as a lightning bolt struck from her body down to earth. The barrage of pain was so intense she passed out. The residual momentum of her climb had ceased, and her rainbow had finally reached its end. She plummeted toward the ground.
Rainbow Dash had been busy cheering and watching the show. She clopped her hooves together as she bathed in the beauty of the rainbow Applejack had made. The sun was shining now and every single cloud had been wiped clean by the Rainboom. Rainbow stopped her cheer as Applejack arched upward, content to wait for her eventual landing. The rainbow trailed off, “Boy…Applejack sure got some distance…” Rainbow thought to herself. “Is she coming down?” Rainbow started to feel worried; Applejack knew how to stop properly right? She got to her hooves, scanning the skies for her friend. She spotted something orange drifting down, but it was far too small to be Applejack. Rainbow trotted over to the object.
“An orange feather…?” Rainbow said aloud as the feather touched the ground. She prodded it with a hoof, realizing as she did so that many more were falling behind it. “Oh my gosh! Applejack!?” Rainbow yelled skyward, trying hard to spot her companion. She spotted a larger shape falling quickly to earth, that had to be her. Rainbow also noticed something else, something new. It was bright, moving really fast…and heading right for her!
Ker-ZAPitty crack crackle
Rainbow reared back as the blinding light struck her dead in the chest. The sudden pain that followed was indescribable, yet it only lasted a moment. Rainbow staggered at first, her vision filled with residual sparkles of the magic that surrounded her. It only took a moment for her to remember her friend falling to her doom; Applejack-pancakes most likely the result if she failed to act. Instinctively Rainbow Dash leapt from the ground; and to her great surprise, she kept going! As the ground dropped away from her, Rainbow looked at her back, a pair of sky-blue wings flapped rhythmically on her sides as a contrail of color trailed behind her. Her heart soared, she was back!
With effortless ease Rainbow soared into the sky, the shape of her friend coming closer and closer. Applejack was still unconscious and crumpled in a fetal position. Rainbow dove under Applejack, catching her with both fore-legs. The initial change in weight caused Rainbow’s altitude to sag, but she recovered. She turned and started gliding slowly back to the barn yard. Below she could see the carnage wrought by Applejack’s storm. Trees, fences, fruit and small buildings had all been spread like confetti across Sweet Apple Acres. The whole mess looked like a scar cut across the land. Rainbow looked at her friend; she was going to be so upset when she woke up.
Applejack stirred; the rustling of leaves and the sound of song birds filled her ears. At first she only laid there, taking in deep breaths and blinking. Then, she shot up, memory coming back to her. To her surprise she was lying comfortably in bed, the covers tucked around her snugly with a wash cloth and basin on the bed stand. She felt her head ache, it was wrapped in bandages. One of her fore-hooves was dressed as well and a larger dressing was across her chest. She rose up; all her muscles screamed in misery, but she wanted to move. Trotting slowly down stairs she looked around her home, nopony was around. Outside she heard the wind pick up again then quietly die down. She limped over to the exit.
Outside, nearly every one of Applejack’s friends and relatives were hard at work repairing the damage done to the Apple Family farm. Big Macintosh and Caramel were re-sodding the soil upturned by the storm, Fluttershy was busy corralling the chickens that flew the coup before impact. Pinkie Pie was helping mend a fence while Rarity monitored her work. Even Granny Smith was out and about, helping Applebloom, Scootaloo and Sweetie-Belle collect up the apples and hay that had been thrown throughout the yard. Everypony was there, except…
“Hey Applejack! You’re awake!” Rainbow Dash called, hopping off the roof of the barn and gliding down to her friend. Applejack was nearly speechless.
“Rainbow…did you do all this?”
“Well, yea…it really wasn’t that big a deal. Everypony was more than willing to help after what happened.” Rainbow said nonchalantly. Applejack shook her head once, still dumbstruck.
“How long was I out ‘fer?”
“Oh man…you’ve been out cold for a couple days. I’m not surprised either, you pulled some serious moves out there!” Rainbow complimented, rearing up on her hind legs and punching the air with her fore-hooves excitedly. Applejack looked over to her orchard, feeling melancholy despite Dash’s praise. Hundreds of apple trees lay on their sides, most of them split in half. Just then, one of the trees became engulfed in a pale purple light as it magically levitated itself up and planted itself back firmly in the ground. Applejack didn’t have to think twice to know who that must have been. Sure enough, Twilight Sparkle came trotting merrily out of the orchard. She was busy levitating another tree before noticing Applejack staring at her. She waved excitedly, losing her concentration and dropping the tree with a thunk. Applejack laughed as she jumped in surprise.
“Ya even went and fetched Twilight?” Applejack asked.
“Aayup,” Rainbow replied, “I flew all the way to Canterlot to tell her, she insisted we leave immediately the second she found out.”
Applejack couldn’t stop smiling; she never would have guessed all these ponies would be so willing to help her after the disaster she caused. Some of the others had stopped their chores, gathering to wish Applejack swift recovery and their thanks for stopping the storm. In her excitement Applejack didn’t notice Rainbow suddenly slip something onto her head. She lifted a hoof to feel it; it was Rainbow’s crown she had won from the Cloudsdale Best Young Flyer’s competition. Rainbow had taken up Applejack’s hat again, tilting it forward with a smile.
“Three Cheers for Applejack everypony!” Rainbow called out to the group. The cheers and whoops that came after were loud and wonderful. Applejack bowed down graciously, feeling proud and blessed to have so many wonderful friends.