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Contraptionology!

by Skywriter

Chapter 1: 01 - Nightmare(s)

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* * *
Contraptionology!

by Jeffrey C. Wells

www.scrivnarium.net

(with gratitude to the pre-reading powers of Akela Stronghoof and S.R. Foxley)
* * *

Part One: Nightmare(s)

All right. We're gonna start this out all nice and dramatic-like.

Picture an apple. A big Braeburn, nice solid fella. (The apple, I mean. Not my cousin from Appleoosa, although the boy is quite a looker, if he don't mind me saying so.) Pride of anypony's orchard. Blush-red with just enough sour green to keep it interesting. Crisp as the day is long. Perfect for taking a big old bite out of, and when you do, tastes like Celestia's own sun come down give you a big smack on the lips.

Hungry? Well, don't get hungry. Because this here is something we call science, and you can't eat it. Just step back a pace or two and you can see that this apple's got things sticking out of it. That's how you recognize when something is science, I've found – it's got things sticking out of it. In this here case, we're talking about an old galvanized nail left over from our last barn-raising, and a little copper penny. And each one of those gadgets has a little wire clipped onto it, and those wires are leading to a tiny little electric bell sitting on the school-desk next to it.

The bell is ringing. Over and over and over again. And that's where we start this here story.

"It's called an apple battery!" squeaked my little sis at the front of the classroom, looking nervous but proud of her science fair project. And why shouldn't she be? Never mind it involved some Grower-forsaken wire-y witchcraft pulled out of one of Twilight's books. Twi had shepherded Apple Bloom through every inch of this science fair project, using words like "ion bridge" and "electrowinning" the whole time. I didn't understand a lick of it, but Twilight is a certified genius and a heck of a lot better choice for science fair mentor than somepony like me.

Twilight wasn't here. Ain't a lot of ponies here, frankly. We're all recovering from the fire.

Oh, right. The fire. Part of this storytelling business is explaining things through "exposition", which as best as I can figure means the same thing as "yammering", so let me give it a shot. Last night was a real buck in the head, to be honest. A downright puzzling magical forest fire ripped through a piece of old Everfree last night, not so close to Ponyville that we had to call a general evacuation, but it was a near thing. The lot of us were working our tails clean off trying to contain that beast, and it looked like we were finally gonna lose, when all of a sudden Pinkie Pie and Twilight – the two ponies I understand least in this whole town, for different reasons – show up with some sort of magical payload on a little pony-wagon. Twilight pulls up a shell of ice magic and the two of them, plus cute little Spike, just cannonball their fool selves straight into the thick of the blaze. Little over an hour later, they come back out, and suddenly the fire ain't so truculent anymore. Hoof-bumps and hip-hip-hoorays for Twi and Pinkie all around, and then the two of them head on back to Ponyville for a well-deserved rest, leaving me and my earth pony kin to keep up with the fire-fighting.

I'll tell you one thing, though: even a normal non-truculent non-magical fire takes a lot of doing to put out. And by the time I staggered my way back to the home barn, the sky was already hinting like it was gonna start turning pink some time real soon. It would be a spell of luck, I thought, if I could tear through some of the less pleasant morning chores (I'm looking at you, hog-slopping) real fast, and get myself a couple hours of shut-eye.

Well, it wasn't to be. Come dawn, Apple Bloom was pounding on my bedroom door to beat the band, going on and on about how she wasn't gonna have a mentor for her school presentation that morning, that Twi had come up to her and apologized like mad but said that something real powerful important had come up overnight and she and Pinkie had to hoof it all the way to Maresachusetts on an emergency road trip. I can't quite figure that pony out, sometimes, but I guess weird all-of-a-sudden errands is part and parcel of being favored of the Princesses and all.

"Apple Bloom," I said, "I don't know squat from diddly when it comes to pulling electricity out of an apple. Only thing I know how to pull out of an apple is cider, hear?"

"Please? Please, favoritest big sister in the whole wide world?"

"That may be true," I said, "but unless Big Mac has been keeping a terrible secret from everypony, I also happen to be your only big sister in the whole wide world, so that don't mean much."

Then little sis stuck out her lower lip at me and got all big-eyed, and so I sighed and sat her down on the edge of my bed and asked her what I had to do, and she said I was just supposed to stand at the back of the room with a stack of notecards and give her a little prompt if something was to go wrong. And give her moral support, because all the other little ponies were gonna have their science fair mentors there, and she wasn't about to be the only one gone mentorless.

Well, that turned out to be not quite true from the start. There were a couple of us older ponyfolk gathered near the back of the schoolhouse, watching as each little filly and colt took their turns in front of the class, but certainly not enough of us to make one apiece. Rarity, already a fussbudget, had gone into fussbudget overdrive what with all the smoke that had soaked into her bee-utiful coat during her night of fire-fighting, and had basically commandeered the services of the spa for the whole dang-blasted day, leaving poor Sweetie Belle to do her whole "Science of Color" thing all by her lonesome. Rainbow Dash weren't doing much better – she was present and accounted for, but had laid her rainbow head down on one of the school desks at the rear of the room and was snoring softly, a little puddle of spit collecting under the corner of her mouth. And Scootaloo, her charge, wasn't looking so hot neither. The little orange peggy-filly was draped from head to hoof in a black overcape, and she looked plumb wretched.

But Apple Bloom? Apple Bloom was doing fine. That's what you get when you've got the loyalest and most dependable pony in Ponyville as your big sis. And it didn't matter that I was going on a night's sleep that coulda been measured in minutes, and it didn't matter that my teeth and neck were on fire from passing buckets in a bucket brigade all evening, and it didn't matter that from here I had to pretty much go straight on to preparing a little talk of my own, a sort of agricultural petition-thing I was making to the weatherponies of Cloudsdale (Consarnit, Twilight's leaving town all of a sudden, hafta get that cloud-walking enchantment on my hooves before she leaves, details, details.) Anyway, ain't none of that mattered. Because I'm Applejack, the one-time prize pony of Ponyville, and I'm always around to lend a hoof and help everypony I meet be the best that they can be. It's just what I do.

As my sis continued demonstrating on the chalkboard what exactly makes an apple battery work, something about, I dunno, acid or something, Miss Cheerilee sidled up next to me and gave me a smile.

"I'm so glad you could fill in for Twilight Sparkle," said Miss Cheerilee. "I know how nervous you sister has been about this presentation, and I think it does her a world of good to have you here for this."

"Aw, shucks, Miss Cheerilee," I said. "Ain't no trouble."

"It's just so good to know that we've always got somepony like you around to help salve over any little emergencies that come up."

I felt a pang, and I didn't quite know what it was.

"Big emergencies too, am I right?" I said, with an easy grin that suddenly somehow didn't quite match the shape of my heart. I didn't understand why I was saying that at the time. Felt almost like I was fishing around for something.

"Oh, yes, of course," said Cheerilee.

"Like that stampede I turned aside once," I said, continuing to befuddle myself with my own tongue.

"Oh, right! That one last year, right?"

"Right," I said, blinking. "That one last year."

"Of course, the apple battery isn't terribly strong," said Apple Bloom, up at the front of the class, looking with pride at the little contraption that Twilight had helped her make while I fixed milk and cookies for them. "An apple is just not sour, or 'acidic' enough to make a real powerful reaction with the nail. So really, all it can do is ring this little bell over and over again. But Twilight promised me we'd find some of those wild lemons that grow in the Everfree Forest and try this again in the next couple of weeks. Then we'll really see something!"

"Oooh!" said the collected mass of rugrats.

"It's so neat you scored Twilight Sparkle as your science mentor!" said Apple Bloom's friend Twist, hissing and spitting every time she hit a letter "s".

"Yeah!" said Snips, a runty little unicorn colt. "She's really smart!"

"Super-smart," agreed his friend Snails, dreamily.

"Yep!" said A.B., beaming. "And it all comes from my big sis being such good friends with her!"

All eyes turned in my general direction.

"That's… right," I said. Then I smiled and continued, more confident. "Yep! Sure as shootin'. We're great friends, Twilight and me."

"I think we should all be very grateful to have such a wonderful unicorn as Twilight right here in Ponyville to help us out with our science learning!"

"Hear, hear," I said, grinning a touch more weakly.

"Well," said Apple Bloom, pulling the wires out of her apple contraption with her teeth. "I'm just gonna disconnect this, because this little bell here is starting to get annoying. Thank you all for listening to my presentation!"

"And thanks to Twilight Sparkle for helping you with such a fascinating science fair project! Even though she's not here to receive our gratitude." To that, everypony in class agreed.

And then… there was a silence.

It only lasted about a second before Cheerilee broke it. "And thanks to Applejack for filling in today!" Cheerilee said, quickly. Didn't matter, damage was done. I smiled and nodded to everypony, but suddenly, my heart just wasn't in it. The thing I hadn't realized, now as plain as the nose on your face, was that I had become an afterthought.

Ponyville was… different now. Time was, a pony could win a couple blue ribbons, toss some hay around, do a little barrel-racing, and basically be a friend to everypony she met, and that was enough. Celebrity used to be such a simple thing around here.

Not simple, I corrected. Just easier for me to do. Ever since Twilight came to town, rodeos and watermelon-seed-spitting and belching contests, all of which I was pretty darn good at, had sorta started falling by the wayside. Science wasn't just something Miss Cheerilee and her kind hammered into your skull despite your best efforts to the contrary. Science had become "cool". Reading had become "cool". And I mean, I do read and all. I don't want you to think that. But Rainbow Dash didn't used to. That filly used to have a book allergy so strong you could actually scare her with them, and not just by chucking them at her. Now she was spending as much time at the library with Twilight talking that crazy "Daring Do" nonsense as she was playing horseshoes with me. More, actually.

An awful lot more.

I looked over at Dash, still snoring peacefully on the desk, and I realized, to my terrible surprise, how much I'd missed her, lately…

"Hey, thanks, sis," said Apple Bloom, suddenly at my side, along with her little apple device. I had gotten so tangled in my own thoughts I hadn't even notice her come up. "I really appreciate you coming down here to the schoolhouse and helping me out! I'm just sorry the apple battery wasn't more impressive."

"Yeah," I said. "I suppose you would have preferred a lemon, right?"

"Well, yeah!" said Apple Bloom. "You hook up a lemon battery, it can do all kinds of cool stuff!"

"Uh huh," I said. "I bet it can. I just bet it can. I bet if you put a lemon battery up there, all the little colts and fillies would just fall over their own hooves trying to get a look at it, am I right?"

"Well, maybe," said Apple Bloom, a speck of confusion entering her voice.

"'Course I'm right!" I said. "But poor you, you were stuck with an apple today. A big old chunky apple just sittin' there like a bullfrog. Can't hardly get enough electric power out of that thing to ring that little bell, am I right?"

"I thought… it rang pretty good," said Apple Bloom, looking helplessly back and forth between me and the bell.

"Oh, yeah, sure," I said. "Sure, it rings that little bell. But it just rings that same note over and over again! I think it's clear by now that everypony's sick, just sick to death of that pitiful little bell. They want their lemons, right?"

"Uh," said Apple Bloom, backing away a little.

"I bet if you hooked a lemon up to that bell, it could ring out Good King Preakness!" I said, stomping one hoof. "And it'd ring it out so beautiful there wouldn't be a dry eye in this whole classroom, am I right? Apple Bloom, am I right?"

Apple Bloom just blinked at me, and she wasn't alone. Save for the instance of Rainbow Dash, still snoring, I had drawn the eye of everypony in the entire room again.

"Lemons," I said, trailing off. "Y'all just want lemons. Chubby little… purple-colored… lemons…"

"Ooohkay!" said Cheerilee, trying to pull her science fair out of the wreck of me crashing and burning. "Apple Bloom, that was very nice. Next on the agenda we have Scootaloo, who will be talking to us about volcanoes! Scootaloo?"

The heavy-coated shape of Scootaloo, still looking hunched and tired, began dragging herself to the front of the room, pulling behind her a clumsy-looking plaster cone with a hole in the top. Dash didn't even wake up. While this was happening, Apple Bloom took me aside and gave me a weird look. "Sis, you okay there?" she whispered.

"Fine, A.B.," I said, as Scootaloo reached the head of the class. "Just a little tired, is all. Let's just watch your friend's volcano thing."

Moving slowly and carefully, Scootaloo arranged a box of baking soda and a clay jug of vinegar on the little platform her little cone was built on. Finally satisfied, the little pegasus filly turned to address the class.

"Hello, students of Ponyville Elementary," purred Scootaloo, but not quite in Scootaloo's voice.

"Oh, horsefeathers," I said, leadenly.

Scootaloo threw off her cape to reveal a suit of glimmering blue-black barding that steamed and smoked like something real cold. Her kinda magenta-colored mane had been replaced with a swirling pinkish cloud that sparkled and glittered in the sunlight.

"IT IS I!" shouted Scootaloo, leaping on top of Miss Cheerilee's empty desk.

"Yeah, we know it's you," I said. Of all the times, why on the busiest possible day…

"YOU THINK YOU KNOW IT'S YOU!" cried Scootaloo. "Or… ME, rather! But I am no longer your beloved classmate Scootaloo! I have transformed myself into a wicked filly of darkness…"

She paused for dramatic effect. I stifled a yawn.

"NIGHTMARE SCOOT!"

Everypony got quiet for a while, and then, the chuckles started. Nightmare Scoot looked a little taken aback. "What?" she said. "What's wrong? AREN'T YOU AFRAID OF ME?"

"Not with a name like that," said Diamond Tiara.

"I once had a nightmare scoot," remarked Snails, thoughtfully. "Okay, so one time there was a whole bunch of really green apples that fell down early, and—"

"Wasn't pretty," said Snips.

"Not at all," agreed Snails.

"Stop it!" Nightmare Scoot yelled. "I have this speech to deliver!" She cleared her throat. "I hope you ponies enjoy learning about volcanoes," Nightmare Scoot intoned, "BECAUSE STARTING RIGHT THIS VERY INSTANT, MY VOLCANO PRESENTATION… WILL LAST… FOREVER!"

Cheerilee frowned. "Nightmare Scoot," she said, "I'm sure your volcano presentation is fascinating, but you're eventually going to have to let other ponies take their turn."

"Never!" cried the Nightmare living in Scootaloo's head. "I refuse to lower my volcano presentation to make way for Piña Colada's 'How Plants Grow' thing!"

"You're gonna need a mite more baking soda and vinegar than that," I said, "if you're fixin' to make it last forever."

"I've got a bunch more at home!" snapped Nightmare Scoot. "I have to say, I don't really care for all the disrespectation going on!"

"It's just 'disrespect', Scootaloo," said Sweetie Belle, boredly. "Not 'disrespectation'."

"And with all due 'respectation'," I said, "this all was a little more scary the first time. And the second. And times three through seventy-eight, come think."

"I don't know what you're talking about," sniffed Nightmare Scoot.

* * *

Flicker. This same room, a little less than a year back.

"Starting this instant," said the armor-clad form of Miss Cheerilee, otherwise known as Nightmare Teach, "this school year… will last… FOREVER!"

A bunch of groaning and bellyaching spread through the collected student body.

"But it's only like three minutes until summer break!" protested Apple Bloom.

"Not anymore!" snapped Nightmare Teach.

"I was going to go on vacation with my family," said Sweetie Belle, limply.

"Never fear, students of Ponyville Elementary!" said Twilight Sparkle, bursting through the door of the schoolhouse, all of the rest of us yahoos in tow. "I know who you are, Nightmare Teach, and I will not let you delay summer even for a minute!"

"Hooray!" shouted everypony.

"Spike!" said Twilight, her head high. "Send a message to Princess Luna! Tell her we need her to retrieve the Elements of Harmony from their vault in Canterlot Tower and get them to us, right away! We've got another Nightmare!"

"On it!" Spike replied, grinning.

"The rest of you girls, get into formation behind me. When the Elements of Harmony arrive, we'll be ready to crush you like a metaphysical bug, Nightmare Teach. And summer vacation will arrive exactly on schedule!"

"Yaaay!" shouted everypony.

* * *

Flicker.

"Okay, girls, let's get into formation again," said Twilight Sparkle, sighing. "Otherwise I guess, what, apple-bucking season is going to last forever, right?"

"Let's kinda do the rainbow blasting gentle-like this time, how about?" I said. "I mean, that is my brother in there, right?"

Twilight assessed with a critical eye the armor-clad form of Big Mac, framed all around with the glowing autumn leaves of Sweet Apple Acres's south field. "Don't worry, A.J.," she said. "Even though he calls himself 'Nightmare Malice' now, I know he's still your brother."

"Um, excuse me," said Fluttershy. "I don't mean to be a bother, you know, while we're in the middle of a climactic boss battle and all, but, I thought Big Mac was calling himself 'Nightmare Malus', not 'Nightmare Malice'." Fluttershy twirled a piece of mane around one hoof. "I'm probably wrong, but I, um, just thought I'd say that."

"What's the difference?" said Pinkie. "I don't hear a difference!"

"'M-A-L-U-S'," said Fluttershy. "Not 'M-A-L-I-C-E'. Um, I think."

"Fluttershy makes a good point," said Twilight, stroking her chin with one hoof. "'Malus' being the genus that apple plants fall into, of course. It's just barely possible it's a double meaning."

"If so, I take back what I just said about blastin' him gentle," I said. "If Big Mac is actually usin' wordplay on us, then he's further gone than I care to admit."

"Here, let's ask." Twilight called out to the Nightmare. "Nightmare!" she shouted. "We were wondering if you could shed some light on the question of whether your name is clever wordplay or not!"

The Nightmare took a moment to ponder. "Nnnope," he eventually said.

"'Nope' it's not?" Twilight shouted back. "Or 'nope' you can't shed any light on the question?"

"Who cares!" shouted R.D. "Let's just blast him!"

Twilight sighed again. "Yeah, okay. Spike, send another message to Princess Luna and have her fetch the Elements of Harmony."

"She never got a chance to take them back this time!" Spike said. "They're still in that locked chest in your workroom!"

"Right, right," said Twilight. "Okay, just go bring them here." She fixed my brother with a stern, if a little tired, stare. "What do you think about that, Nightmare Malice, or Malus, or whatever? Are you ready for a little rumble in the orchard?"

The Nightmare pawed the ground with one hoof. "Eeeyup," he said.

* * *

Flicker.

Twilight hung her head.

"Okay, what," she said. "What. What's going to last forever this time?"

The pale-gray hovering pegasus filly with the weird-looking eyes fixed one of them on Twilight, the other kinda looking off in another direction entirely.

"Muffins!" shouted Nightmare Derp, throwing her hooves wide, her black armor spraying condensation all over the rest of us in the doing so. Rarity scornfully brushed the water off her coat, looking right petulant about it.

"Muffins aren't a thing with temporal duration!" yelled Twilight, finally losing it. "'Muffins' can't last forever!"

Nightmare Derp blinked a couple times at Twilight, the drips from her armor starting to create a mud puddle at her hooves.

"Yes they can!" she replied, after a time.

"UGGGH," said Twilight, rolling her eyes and then throwing a hoof over them. "Okay, whatever. Just… what the heck ever. Spike, go fetch the Elements of Harmony from the card table by the door where we tossed them a couple minutes ago."

"Maybe you should just keep them with you," said Spike. "It's tiring running back and forth like this all the time! I've got short legs!"

"I'll consider it, under the circumstances."

"I kind of want muffins to last forever," protested Pinkie.

"It's the principle of the thing, okay?" growled Twilight back at her. "Look, let's just unleash the Magic of Friendship on this abomination and then you can bake so many muffins it will feel like muffins are lasting forever. How's that?"

"Sounds peachy to me!" said Pinkie, grinning wide.

"Fine," said Twilight. "What about you, Nightmare Derp? You like the sound of that?"

Nightmare Derp thought about this for a while.

"Muffins!" she decided.

* * *

Flicker, back to the good old here and now.

"None of those were me, exactly," said Nightmare Scoot, perched on the edge of Miss Cheerilee's desk, hanging her head. "It's not like we're the same evil person time after time wearing a different body. But it does kinda feel like I've got the voice of somepony else in my head, talking to my really really jealous part. And telling me it's a good idea to wear armor and sneer and stuff."

"I understand completely," I said. "So what got you envious?"

Nightmare Scoot gestured around in a sort of wild, aimless way. "Why can't I figure out this flying thing?" she said. "Sport Pepper over there can fly, and she's younger than I am!"

I glanced back at Scoot's classmate, a little yellow-green thing from the Pepper family, sitting in the corner all hunkered down and looking unsettled for being pointed at. Pepper family is Ridge folks, and foreigners, and strict old-school Demiurgists to boot. They keep pretty much to themselves, relying mostly on home schooling to teach their young, but every so often their solid earth pony blood throws a wild pegasus foal, and those usually get sent here to the public school, mostly to keep them out of the rest of the clan's manes, because Grower almighty, Pepper-clan pegasi are real hellions. Good people, though. And one of the kin up on the Ridge is a real fine earth stallion named Bell, just about my age, shy enough to be adorable and strong enough about the neck and chest to make the hair on a girl's withers prickle. I tell you something, last public hoedown, we were graced with the presence of Mister Bell Pepper, and lawks, but he was a sight, all gussied up like that. Makes a pony want to invite him up to your own orchard and see if you can't tempt him into bucking a few trees for you while you watch, but I can't start thinking things like that or I have to go out and dunk my head in the watering trough, and, wait, where was I?

Oh, right. Saving a science fair from the wicked depredations of Nightmare Scoot. Forgot myself there, for a second. Ahem.

"And what about Pound Cake?" continued Nightmare Scoot, sniffling, thankfully deaf to my inner blabbering. "Pound Cake could fly when he was like a month old!"

"Be that as it may," I said, "I'm not quite grasping how keeping a volcano demonstration going forever really helps your situation, or even has anything to do with it at all."

"I had to make something last forever!" wailed Scootaloo.

"Of course," I said.

Cheerilee caught my eye. "Applejack, may I have a word?"

"Sure," I said to her. "Alright, Nightmare Scoot, you just sit tight and don't go making anything last forever while I'm gone. You hear?"

"Yeah," said Nightmare Scoot, sullenly. I followed Cheerilee out the door of the schoolhouse into the bright daylight outside.

"I didn't want to interrupt you in there," said Cheerilee, "but maybe we should get Twilight Sparkle and the Elements of Harmony here."

"I don't know, Miss Cheerilee," I said. "I mean, every time somepony gets taken by the Nightmare, we just haul out the Elements and smack 'em around with them for a while. And sure, when we had to give Luna what for, I could see that. She is a princess, and an alicorn, and all. But is it really such a good idea to be burning charge on the most powerful hoodoo charms in all Equestria just to deal with, say, Nightmare Breezy?"

"Those lightning-fans were pretty terrifying, you must admit."

"Yeah, but he was just gonna make wind last forever, and I don't even know what that's all about. Wind already does last forever, looked at from a certain angle." I shrugged. "I just wonder if there isn't a better way to do this than magic."

"Well, if there is, we haven't found it," said Cheerilee, looking apologetic. "And since Twilight Sparkle is going on a trip, I think maybe we should get her here before she leaves, otherwise none of you ponies are going to be able to use the Elements until she gets back. I've got some very exciting lesson plans for the next few days, and I'd rather not put them off just because Nightmare Scoot insists on making her science fair project last forever."

"Sure," I said. "Yeah, you'll probably want Twilight here to deal with this, then." And the real kicker was that I didn't disagree, as such. It made perfect sense what Cheerilee was saying. I mean, sometimes you need a lemon instead of an apple, right?

It's just that after enough of this goes on, it makes a pony start to wonder what an apple's even good for anymore, do you follow?

Ah, horsefeathers, I cussed. Stinkin' thinkin' again. My mind made up, I walked back into the classroom, crossed right in front of an increasingly miserable-looking Nightmare Scoot, and wandered back in the direction of Rainbow Dash, who hadn't so much as budged throughout this whole thing.

I kicked her. She startled awake.

"Huh?" she snorted. "What the hay? Applejack!"

"Havin' a nice nap?" I said, tapping my hoof and giving her my best green-eyed glare.

R.D. looked shifty-eyed. "It wasn't bad," she said. "I give it a seven out of ten."

"Fine, just fine," I said. "You might be interested to know that your science buddy got taken by the Nightmare a while back."

Dash blinked, sat up in her desk, and tried to focus on the front of the room. "Wait, what?" she said. "Scootaloo?"

"Hey, Dash," said Nightmare Scoot, waving tepidly.

"Oh, brother," said Dash. "What's she gonna make last forever, this dumb science fair?"

"Pretty much," I said. "One might think this wouldn't come as a real powerful surprise to you, though, on account of you having been in the best position to see the armor and such earlier this morning."

"You know, I did notice the armor," said Dash, frowning. "I thought it was a kid thing. You know, kids, right?"

"Uh huh. Well, Miss Cheerilee wants us to E-of-H her fast and easy, and I guess there ain't nothing' wrong with that idea, so I reckon we should go get the others."

"Right," said Dash, hopping into the air and flapping her way over toward Nightmare Scoot. "I'll get Rarity and Fluttershy. You snag Pinkie and Twilight. And once we're done here," she said, addressing the Nightmare directly, "we're gonna have a little talk about being jealous of other ponies, aren't we?"

"Okay, Dash!" said Scootaloo. Even the depths of Nightmare couldn't squash that little filly's hero-worship.

Dash tousled the weird sparkling energy that had replaced Scootaloo's mane, then turned back to me. "Okay! Back here in like ten!" she shouted.

"Ten it is," I said, right on Rainbow's hocks. With the sort of bored desperation that comes from knowing that you, only you, are responsible for one hundred percent of the mundane day-to-day evil-quenching in this here town, I sashayed out the door again and back out onto the green school lawns.

I was gonna rustle me up a couple of lemons.

Next Chapter: 02 - Wheels and Fire Estimated time remaining: 8 Hours, 36 Minutes
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