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*** From now on Mikala Briggs will be called Jelly Jam. And Noa Laotaner will be called Victory Jam, just to avoid any confusion. Thanks for reading and be sure to review or critique in the comments. Also with any dialogue ending and beginning with a * will indicate that the character is speaking another language. ****
Noa Laotaner, now Victory Jam, found Applejack to be a bit tiring. The pony prattled on and on about the town, Ponyville. She chatted about her friends, the citizens, and above all this Winter Welcome celebration.
“We’re goin’ to set up our stand so Rarity can decorate the market.” Applejack beamed at her silent rider who was wedged in the cart next to her. “She’s very particular about how things look, so it’s better ta humor her less it becomes another fight. Nearly broke up our friendship one time.”
Whereas Victory wanted nothing more than for Applejack to shut up, Mikala Briggs, now Jelly Jam, would give anything for Apple Bloom to speak to her.
“So, what’s your favorite subject at school?” Jelly asked the yellow filly she had shared her food, clothes, and bed with.
“Art, I guess,” Apple Bloom muttered keeping her eyes on the road ahead.
“I like art too. I do some sketching. . .” She stopped talking when a hoof nailed her leg that nearly cause her to yelp. Jelly turned to see the cold eyes of Victory staring into her very soul. She shrank away and stayed silent until Noa took her freezing glare off her. Oh, she would have flashed Noa, while she was looking away of course, a rude sign then if she had fingers.
As the cart reached the summit, they caught their first view of their destination. It reminded Jelly of the towns she read in story books when she was a littl girl. The houses look like cottages and she could faintly see the citizens walking to and from along the streets. There was no hover-cars dashing in colorful lights and the sky above it wasn’t tinted with pollution. It was bright and held no secrets in dark allies or hidden dangers in avoided streets. Jelly felt warmth when she beheld the town, and felt a sense of peace. Victory on the other hand was mentally mapping out strategic hit locations for missiles.
“Thar she is.” Applejack waved a hoof toward the distant town. “About the best town in Equestria.”
“It certainly looks splendid.” Jelly leaned forward to get a better look. Victory said nothing and tried to predict how wide spread the damage may be from a ballistic missile bombardment.
Big Macintosh continued along, his large hooves leaving tufts of upturned dirt behind him. It was a short ride before the cart rolled into the town. Applejack waved at nearly only pony on the streets wishing everyone a good day and asking how their preparations for Winter Welcome were coming. Jelly itched to inquire about what Winter Welcome was about, but knew better. Likely it was widely known by all the ponies and since she and her commander were playing the part of ponies, they had to nod their heads as if they understood what it was.
“How did yer Winter Welcome go?” Applejack asked Victory as she urged Big Macintosh to slow down. They had arrived at a lineup of stalls that ponies were busy setting up or decorating. “Ah heard ya had yours earlier.”
“It went well...” Victory replied uneasily.
“How did the first snow go? Ah head tha pegasi in Caneighda are pretty good when it comes ta snow.”
“It was very lovely.” Victory quickly changed the subject before she said something that raised suspicion. “My... daughter.. “ her voice took a harsh tone when she said the word, “ . . .and I are hungry. Where might we find food?”
“Sugarcube Corner is just down the street and my friend, Pinkie Pie, works there. She likes meetin’ new ponies and she’ll treat ya well.”
“Thank you.” Victory climbed out of the cart, using the large wheel as hoof holds to keep from falling clumsily on the ground.
Jelly leaned forward, putting a tentative hoof on Apple Bloom’s shoulder, “I look forward to see you again, Apple Bloom.”
“Yeah,” the young filly replied, not looking at her at all.
Jelly felt a sense of loss as she climbed out of the cart. She remembered holding Apple Bloom in her arms while they slept together, feeding her, and watching her draw. She treasured the drawing the filly drew for her and now her dear pony wanted nothing to do with her. Jelly blinked her eyes several times to keep the tears at bay.
As they two visitors left, Applejack regarded the unicorn pair curiously. “Mrs. Jam seems to be a mare of few words.”
“Yup.” Big Macintosh shrugged out of the reins and hitch.
Applejack drew the reins over the edge of the cart. She noticed that her sister was still in her pouting position: arms crossed, head bowed with angry orange eyes. “Apple Bloom, what is it?”
“You said that all adult ponies had cutie marks.” Apple Bloom looked at her sister with tearful eyes.
“Ah know, darlin’, Ah can’t explain that. But it seems that Miss Jam took a likin’ to ya. It’s just ashamed that ya were rude to her after she was tryin’ so hard to be friendly.”
Apple Bloom didn’t know why she said what she said next. It could be chalked up to irritation of being constantly supervised, the loss of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and the fresh new fear of never getting her cutie mark as apparent by Jelly, a new target of her dislike. “I didn’t wanna talk to that blank flank.”
Apple Bloom recognized that tone. That tone told her that Applejack’s patience had ended and a certain filly was in serious trouble. She slowly turned to face her sister; her ears lying back as she instantly regretted her error. Applejack’s green eyes were narrowed as she fixed Applebloom with a harsh glare. She put a hoof under the filly’s chin and tilted it up till they were eye to eye. The yellow foal swallowed and her heart pounded frantically, she may not come out of this unscathed.
“That mare was tryin’ to be kind and ya were not only rude to her, but ya call her a blank flank too? You remember how much it hurt ya when the foals at school call you that?”
Tears brimmed in Apple Bloom’s eyes as shame ate at her. Hot tears rolled down her face and she would have bowed her head if Applejack wasn’t holding it up with a single hoof.
“Ah never took a switch to ya, but Ah will if Ah hear ya showin’ disrespect like this again. You stay in this cart and don’t leave it until we’re done here.” With that said, Applejack released Apple Blooms chin and hopped down from the cart.
The yellow filly wiped at her eyes while Applejack and Big Macintosh unloaded the cart. The last thing she needed was for someone from school to see her crying. Helpless anger and shame made her feel sick and she wanted to go home and stay in her room for the rest of her life.
“*Boo hoo hoo.*”
Jelly snapped her head up when Victory quipped in their own language. Her eyes shot daggers at the elder unicorn who returned her glare with one of her own. “*She doesn’t remember. The chemical cocktail burned away any memorie of you and also, you don’t look as you did before. So quit moping about not having an emotional happy reunion before someone notices.*”
So many things went unsaid because Jelly was too frightened of the consequences. She picked her head up and tried to show a more positive demeanor. Victory led the way and she was more than willing to let her. She hoped that Victory was leading her to get something to eat because now that she noticed it that she was hungry. She didn’t get a chance to eat this morning due to the quick change back to her human self. Her stomach was too sick for food and her morning appetite was gone.
As they past shops and passing ponies, Jelly failed to notice the quick glances in her direction or how eyes followed her flank. Ponies halted and whispered to their companion and pointed with a hoof toward the mare with no cutie mark. If she had noticed, it would have ruined her appetite.
What came into view as they reached the end of street could only be Sugarcube Corner. They both stared at the building that proclaimed itself a sweets bakery with the gingerbread roof lined with swirls of icing, the cupcake shaped chimney with three candles atop of it with pink frosting. And if there was even a shadow of a doubt of its purpose, there was a small sign with a pink frosted cupcake hanging from post. It looked like something straight out of a children’s picture book and the smells that drifted from it brought forth memories of excitement at receiving a freshly baked sweetie when Jelly was a child.
And the smell only served to make her hungrier. She drew forward, to urge Victory forward lest she changed her mind and want to shop for food at the smaller stalls. They had gold coins provided by the drones’ scavenging. Not much, but enough to purchase one meal.
“*I swear to god, if they got cutesy elves manning the register, I’m burning the place down,*” Victory muttered as she allowed Jelly to lead them forward.
With a curious glance at the plate of cookies and milk on the bottom step, they entered the bakery. The delicious smells wafted around them, making Jelly’s mouth water so much she had to swallow to keep from drooling. The counter display had rows of baked treats. Muffins, cupcakes, tarts, pastries, and even small cakes were artfully decorated with glazes, frosting, icing, and sprinkles. Some cupcakes even had a glazed apple slice set into the frosting.
Behind the counter was no one. As they drew toward the counter, Jelly craned her head to see if the owner was in the back. Victory stepped up to the counter and rang the bell. She switched to native,“Hello? Anyone here?”
There was no response and Jelly felt a sense of wrongness as if they shouldn’t be here. *”Maybe they’re closed.”* She tried not to look too disappointed, but the food smelled so good.
“*Let’s go. We’re wasting time.*” Victory stomped from the counter, ready to lead them out.
“SURPRISE!!!” A pink pony with voluminous curls burst from behind a large potted plant. A noise maker unfurled from her mouth like a wipe and the tip entered Victory’s ear. Confetti and streams shot from the planet and then fell slowly toward the floor around them.
Victory, aka Noa Laotaner, thirty years of military service under her belt, who had spent more time behind enemy lines than on the other side of the line, captain and commander of her own ship, the dutiful Heller, the woman whom the Havensguard military dared not cross shrieked in a high pitch siren. Her legs flounder as she attempted to skip sideways, tripping over her legs and falling into a roll across the floor. She shot to her feet, standing on her legs straight and looked as if she would flee or lunge for a fight. If Jelly wasn’t so horrified, she would have been seized with a laughing fit. The pink pony gave them both a huge grin that spread over her whole face.
“Hi, I’m Pinkie Pie! You guys are new! I haven’t seen you here before!” She looked truly delighted to meet them.
Victory’s sides were heaving for air and Jelly found that yet again, it was up to her to be the speaker of them. “Hello, Applejack told us we could get something to eat here.”
“Help yourself! It’s free since you’re friends with Applejack.” The pink pony, Pinkie Pie climbed out from behind the potted plant and bounced, literally bounced, toward the counter. On her flank were three balloons. “We have Chocolate Chip muffins, Cotton Candy cupcakes, Lemon tarts, Strawberry Mango cheesecake, Glazed Apple Pastries, Snicker Doodle cookies! Why do you think they’re called Snicker Doodle? Snick snick snicky snick, snicker doodle. I just don’t get it!”
Jelly had never seen anyone speak with such energy and animation before. Her hair bounced and swayed with the bobs of her head and her blue eyes were bright and friendly. Victory had recovered, but her face was venomous. Jelly made a point of positioning herself between her and the counter. “I’d like to get one of the apple cupcakes with the apple slice and I’d like to try the muffin. Vic-Mom, what would you like?”
“Cheesecake,” Victoria replied dryly.
“Okie dokie!” Pinkie nearly glowed as she packed their orders in two separate paper bags and all the while, she sang a little ditty.
I met two unicorn mares today, today!
We’re going to be the bestest friends, hurrah, hurrah!
I’m singing this song to celebrate, tadaa, tadaa!
Jelly and Victory blinked as they watched her sing. The singing pony put the bags on the counter and beamed at them both. The aqua pony couldn’t decide whether she was supposed to join in singing or was she supposed to thank her for the song. She offered her a nervous grin and would have said thank you when she heard Victory make a shocked noise behind her and a tugging at her tail. She turned and looked down at her tail.
The end of her tail was grasped between the long jaws of an alligator who stared up at her with blank purple eyes. The scream that tore from Jelly’s throat was long and ragged. Her hooves stomped the floor as she charged off in a panicked gallop. She heard Victory holler and cursed at her to stop running. Pinkie Pie’s voice tittered something, but Jelly was too busy colliding with the far wall to hear.
When she came to, she was on her back with her legs in the air with both Victory and Pinkie Pie staring down at her. A giggle glowed in Pinkie’s eyes while dark amusement floated in Victory’s. Perched on Pinkie’s back was the alligator who still had the same blank stare in his eyes.
“This is Gummy! He’s my pet alligator, but don’t worry, he doesn’t have any teeth, see?” She held up a hoof and the alligator instantly latched onto it with toothless jaws. “Sorry that he scared ya.”
“How much longer are you going to dirty up the floor?” Victory grinned broadly, but it did little to cheer Jelly’s heart.
The aqua unicorn slowly got to her hooves and checked herself over. Since she was craning her head to see fi the alligator had let go, the side of her face took the blow. It hurt, and likely would bruise beneath her coat. But all in all, she was in one piece. But she was with Victory in hurrying out of there.
After much waving and smiles, the pink pony waved them out looking as if she would burst into song again. With their snacks packed into their bags, they continued along the street, their mishaps banishing their appetites for now.
*“She was a quite a character,”* Jelly stated, *“I think she was nice . . . even if her alligator tried to bite me.”*
Victory grunted something incoherent under her breath and plodded forward. They came to the towns care where there was even more activity abound. Ponies carried boxes and various items to and fro. Many were putting up streamers and decorations while others were cleaning the area collecting litter such as rocks, sticks, and occasionally paper or cups. They gave a wide berth to the working ponies and walked around, along the buildings.
*”What do you think Winter Welcome is about?”* Jelly asked her “mother”.
*”No clue. Might be their Christmas. You know how the Javians have Snow Fall or the Colosars have their Fire Bringing ceremonies in the deep of winter.”*
*”But their winter hasn’t started. It’s still warm,”* Jelly trotted forward, bringing herself alongside the elder mare.
*”They’re aliens. What they do doesn’t have to make sense,”* Victory muttered as she glanced at the milling ponies, then she stopped her wears slanting. *”One of them is coming this way.”*
Jelly looked where Victory was glaring and saw a lavender unicorn trotting toward them. The unicorn pony had a deep blue mane with purple streaks through it. On her flank was pink star surrounded by smaller stars. ”Hello! I’m Twilight Sparkle, and you must be Victory Jam and Jelly Jam. AppleJack told me that you arrived earlier and I just wanted to welcome you. I waited for you at the train station, but you didn’t arrive this morning.”
There was a period of silence. “We flew.”
“Oh! Of course! The Princess must have arranged for pegasi carriage.”
Uh oh, Noa, back up. Jelly desperately wanted to intervene before Victory dug them in deeper. This was a simple case of mistaken identity and it was better to set the record straight before they end up in a position that they can’t get out of.
“Uh, yes.” Victory had a thick grin on her face, but her eyes were screaming. Jelly front hooves tapped the cobbled street in a sign of panic, but she dared not intervene lest she suffer Victory’s wrath later.
“The Mayor was relieved when she heard that you arrived! School can start back before the foals miss any more days. I received a letter from Cheerilee, the school mare you are filling for, and she thinks she’ll be away for a few weeks. But don’t worry, we have a room set up for you at the inn.”
The ground fell out from beneath Jelly. They thought that Victory was the substitute teacher. This mission was going to hell. There was no way, no way Victory, aka Noa Laotaner, could handle a school full of children or baby ponies anything less than a soldier without killing one of them. Images of little ponies standing in a row while Victory marched up and down along tossing insults at them and promising the worst time of their lives rolled through Jelly’s head. Then it ended with Victory stopping and berating a little pony into tears.
“I see. . . that’s very kind.” The words crawled slowly from Victory’s mouth as if the word kind was an unknown foreign verb.
“Let me show you where you’ll be staying, I can see that you were looking around at Ponyville. The ponies here can be a bit overwhelming, but they are very welcoming to new ponies.” Twilight Sparkle motioned for them to follow her. They followed with Victory have a plastered grin while Jelly looked as if she may cry from terror. Twilight continued to speak to them without noticing their distress.“You’ll be neighbors with my friend Rainbow Dash. She’s a pegasi who hurt her wing, so she’s grounded until it heals. Since she can’t return to her home easily and help out with the festivals, she’s renting out a room at the inn. If you have any questions about Ponyville, you can talk to her.”
Jelly edged closer till she was next to Victory and hissed under her breath in their language, *”What the hell are you doing?”*
*”If I denied what they think, they’ll ask more questions. This way information is more readily provided to us,”* Victory whispered back so harshly it was a snarl. *”Shut up and stand back.”*
Fortunately, it didn’t take long to arrive at the inn. Twilight led them inside where an aging pony stood behind the counter with a large book. The pony squinted at them from behind a pair of thick glasses which he adjusted with a withered hoof, “Miss Sparkle, is this the substitute teacher?”
“Yes, Mr. Inns Keep. This is Victory Jam and her daughter, Jelly Jam. They’re here for room 205.” Twilight Sparkle held a hoof at them, taking pride in introducing them.
The elder pushed the book forward along with a inkpot and quill. “Just sign your name and describe your cutie mark.”
Cutie mark? Jelly’s eyes unconsciously looked at Victory’s teardrop mark and at Twilight star mark. And even on the innkeeper’s flank was the mark of a book and quill. And on her flank, was . . . nothing.
The innkeeper twitched his glasses as he noticed the same thing that Jelly noticed. “If you don’t have a cutie mark, then you’ll have to mark down as a foal.”
“Oh!” Twilight’s eyes alighted on Jelly’s empty flank. It was a small sound of surprise, but it was enough to tell Jelly that for her not to have a cutie mark was something . . . wrong. “It’s . . . ah . . . okay . . .” She switched tactics by changing subject, “Maybe after you get settled, you can help out with Winter Welcome. I know that Fluttershy needs as many helping hooves as she can to color the chicks. And you can meet some of the students before tomorrow.”
For a talkative pony such as Twilight Sparkle to stutter like that, then something was very wrong. Jelly felt her cheeks turn hot as she remembered that her pony didn’t have a mark, but that was likely because she was a child. She glared at Victory’s back as she stepped up to sign the book, Not very important, my ass!
Using her telekinesis Victory signed her name in loopy cursive along with the word teardrop beside it. When it was her turn, Jelly stepped up and concentrated on the quill. The feather twitched as it rose slightly with a dim blue glow, and then dropped. The aqua unicorn felt beads of sweat appear on her brow as all three ponies watched her. She tried again, and again. The quill twitched and then rolled off the book and counter and landed at her hooves.
“Sorry, about that. I’ll get it.”
Before she could bend down to pick up with her teeth, a silver glow captured it and lifted. Victory nudged her aside, “We don’t have all day, so I’ll write your name for you . . . honey.”
Jelly moved back, her head heavy, but she caught Twilight’s pitying glance. She looked away and kept her silence while Victory wrote her name in the book and went upstairs to their room.