Bucket looked at the hard-packed dirt road as he pulled his cart. It was a large and heavy cart, and what it was filled with could loosely be called soil. 'Night Soil', Bucket vaguely recalled. Yeah, that was it. Night soil. His load was a loaded load of load. And it was full of it.
So was that fancy purple stallion with the whipdy-dipdy golden mane. He was full of it, and so were all the rest of those overly wealthified ponies at the meeting. Especially that Showers colt. 'Oh no no no... nothing so crass as bits!' Tain't nothin' wrong with bits. Especially if a stallion didn't have that many in the first place.
But the society was the only place Bucket knew to go. He felt cheated, and he wanted some amends made, preferably in neat, golden stacks. All the time he was on Earth, slaving away at his janitorial job in the nanotech factory, he'd heard and seen all the propaganda about Equestria. Brand new world. Green and lush. Plenty of sunshine and flowers. Everypony is your friend, and the food is the best and Celestia only knows what all else.
That ain't exactly how things turned out.
Oh, Equestria was green and lush and all, that part was right enough. And he was sure that the food was great, provided a pony could afford to buy some. At his wages, he was lucky to get a doughnut every day and a pie on the weekend. The rest of the time he did what all poor ponies did, he went out and grazed. Grass grew everywhere, along with flowers, herbs, and fruit, so it wasn't like he was going to ever go hungry - fact was, he was packin' on a few pounds. He had a thing for pie, he knew it. But swirls, what else was a pony of his... occupation... supposed to do? It wasn't like the mares were beating down his door. And it also wasn't like there was anything on the holovision to watch - because there weren't no darn holovision in the first place!
The bare fact of it was, ain't nopony done showed him how to BE a pony, exactly. What did ponies do for fun, anyhow? How was he supposed to spend his time when he wasn't sleepin', eatin' or doin' his job? It wasn't like he didn't have a nice place to live, or food to eat. It was just... he pulled a dung cart, and while that needed doin', it weren't exactly glamorous.
Bucket figured that, if he only had a big pile of bits like the others at the meetin' had, life as a pony would probably be pretty good. He felt strong, he felt healthy as a... no, he weren't doin' that joke again. Nopony laughed at that joke no more. But he felt healthy, that was sure enough. He never had muscles like he had now. He was built like a Britt Shickhouse, and that weren't no joke - once, just to see, he had bucked a tree right over, roots and all. It was like bein' Superman, only a pony. Superpony. Now that was a thought. If he were a pegasus, he could even fly. But he weren't. Bucket was an earthpony.
Sometimes that was mighty helpful, though. The berries'd grow back almost as fast as he could eat them. Probably another reason he was gettin' a little heavy, even if it didn't show none. Well, maybe as muscles. Maybe it weren't fat, maybe pullin' that heavy cart was the answer, and he was just gettin' muscles on his muscles. In any case, he was weighin' more on that scale they had in the store.
Canterlot was a convoluted old city. Twisty roads and tunnels through the mountain, all kinds of secret paths and whatnot. It had really strained his noggin the first weeks just trying to memorize his daily route. Smarter. Yep. He felt smarter too.
But he still felt cheated. Equestria had been sold as some kinda paradise, and he had ended up pullin' a dung cart and eatin' pie on the weekends, and there had to be more to life than that in paradise. So he'd up and joined those rich ponies little society. Somehow, he hoped, some of those bits might just rub off on him. He weren't really all that upset he was a pony, but they sure were, and it weren't nothin' to kinda... join in.
Bucket tried not to think of the other night, when he'd bothered to go to the local salt bar and see if he could meet somepony. He'd found what he thought were a right nice mare, but the moment he started talkin' about his job, that was plumb it. Good bye and don't let the barn door hit ya where your tail comes out.
All he'd done was try to explain the different kinds of soil. There was the big round lumps and the small, kinda sticky lumps, and the green ones that smelled like wet hay, and the sorta yellow-y brown lumps that were hard as rocks and he couldn't figure out what the cinnamon some ponies done been eatin' to make somethin' like that. It was basic, factual stuff, educational, even, and he'd been hard pressed to figure out why the cute filly had needed to take a permanent powder.
It was not that much different than his job at the nanotech factory back when he'd been a human. Night soil went in, and food and clothing came out. Also building materials. Wasn't quite as direct, here in Equestria. The night soil had to get made into compost, then put in a field, and then plants had to grow, and then you had to harvest stuff and... it was pretty inefficient, all things considered. Humans had done it better. Poop goes in, meal bar comes out. It's all just molecules!
But the pony way weren't so bad, really. Plants was pretty, and they tasted good - better than meal bars, to tell the honest truth. Loads better. To be truly honest, Bucket didn't think he could choke down a meal bar now, if any had existed anymore. Bucket reckoned that maybe the inefficiency had a point to it, really.
Bucket waited while the compost forecolt unhitched him from the cart. It was in place now, and could be tipped into the heap. While Bucket waited, he tried to figure out if he could afford another Oatburger meal to take to the meetin' tonight. Tonight was supposed to be important, a plannin' meetin', so they could decide whatever it was they were fixin' to ultimately do.
All-grain patties. Now that was eatin'!
Royal was at the podium, his immaculate hooves hammering at the tough wood to get the ponies to hush up. It took longer, this time, because there were more now.
Golden had brought his third butler, a native pony named Bitsworth who was very busy butling about, attending his employer. Royal had felt some concern about a native Equestrian being allowed in, but Golden Showers would hear none of it - his third butler was loyal and dependable and also his favorite, and in any case could be trusted absolutely. Royal had tried to point out that the focus of the society was 'Down With Celestia', something a native might reasonably be expected to take some serious umbrage at, but again Golden had reiterated the overwhelming discretion and trustworthiness of Bitsworth, and in any case there was no point in rebellion unless one could do it in comfort.
While Bitsworth trotted off to get the well-padded Golden another basket of aged cider and a plate of fine cheeses, Royal studied the other new ponies that had arrived. Chair had brought his wife and foals, because he couldn't bear to be apart from them, and apparently they were curious about 'his new playmates'. His wife, Honeybutter, was also a native Equestrian, but Chair had claimed that he had her full support in everything. Also, he wouldn't come if she wasn't welcome. Royal had just shaken his head - after Chair's impassioned complaint that his free human life had been replaced with domestic bliss against his will, it was beyond logic how any of this could possibly work out well... but what the hay. Chair's foals, Daisy Dew and Wildweed were seriously cute, but they needed to quiet down. They liked singing overly happy songs a little too loudly for Royal's taste - worse, Hot Topic and Argent had joined in, and it was entirely getting out of control. Especially since they had started clapping their hooves together in time to the beat.
"HEY! HEY! ALRIGHT! EVERYPONY... gah - EVERYBODY - SETTLE DOWN NOW!" Royal hammered his sparkling hooves down like hammers. The sound was lost in the clapping and singing. "NEIGGGGGHHHHH!!!!" It was an instinctive, animal sound, but it was also as loud as Royal could possibly be. It worked.
Argent, Topic and the foals looked up, frozen in place, surprise on their muzzles. Bitsworth remained unaffected, as he continued to pour cider for a startled Golden. Chair and Honeybutter looked at each other, then up at the podium. Bucket swallowed his bite of oatburger without remembering to chew first, and ended up in a coughing fit for several minutes. After a long guzzle of melonade, he was finally stabilized.
"Ahem!" Royal liked all the eyes trained on him, waiting expectantly. This felt like the old days, on Earth, with the board of directors waiting for orders from their chief. Oh, yeah, this was the stuff. Royal gave his golden, shining mane a toss. Yeah. Definitely the stuff alright. "Welcome, everypony to the..."
"EVERYBODY!" Even Bitsworth, Honeybutter and the foals joined in. It was like they had rehearsed.
"Um... yes. EVERYBODY..." Royal reached a hoof up to straighten a nonexistent collar, an old habit from his human days. Sheepishly, he put his hoof down. "Welcome to the second meeting of the..."
"THE REASONABLY ADAMANT DOWN WITH CELESTIA NEWFOAL SOCIETY!" the assembled group intoned, as loudly and clearly as they could. Then they started giggling, because, well, it had been remarkably fun doing that, actually. Especially with the look on Royal's muzzle after the intonation was done. Honeybutter needed some time to get the foals settled down again - they wanted to shout it a second time.
"Ah... yes." Once again Royal found his hoof at the side of his neck, sure enough, there was no collar and no tie. Maybe he needed to start wearing a tie, just to have something to fiddle with. "I suppose we all know why we are here, then?"
Golden Showers gave his butler a wave with his hoof, from his position reclining on a pile of silken pillows. Bitsworth cleared his throat and began to recite.
To unite all Newfoals within the Equestrian nation,
To denounce the evils of ponification,
To demand respect and full restitution,
We are The Reasonably Adamant Down with Celestia Newfoal Society!
We bring the news of the Newfoal's plight,
Celestia respect! or prepare to fight.
The RADWiCkiNS gallop toward what's right!"
The haughty butler cleared his throat, then turned back to seeing if his employer required more exquisite cheeses and imported carrots.
"RADWICKINS!" Royal somehow squeaked when he repeated the acronym. "Are you serious?"
"Just something Bitsworth here tossed off when I explained our little group to him. Rather good job, don't you think?" Golden smiled at his trusted butler, who returned the compliment with a proud nod.
Royal stared open-mouthed at the plump, bright yellow earthpony ensconced in his fortress of silky pillows. Golden stretched his neck to sip at some cider. Royal's eyes rolled to Bitsworth, waiting patiently by his employer's side. Bitsworth gave a little, dismissive flick of his tail and a short flick of his ears - a pony shrug.
Royal slowly closed his mouth. Maybe there was more anti-Celestia sentiment in Equestria than he imagined. It was not something he would have considered possible in all of the four years he had lived here, since the end of the Earth. Nopony ever expressed anything except praise and absolute love for the princesses. Was Bitsworth secretly a Newfoal? That seemed unlikely too. Royal shook his mane. Back to business.
"Well, that was... fantastic... Bitsworth. Showers." Royal wished he had thought to bring a cup of water to the podium. He would have to remember for next time. "Still... Radwickins?"
"Is it not proper to add vowel sounds to complex acronyms in order to make them pronounceable, sir?" Bitsworth was ever so proper in his manner.
"Yes... I suppose it is." Royal hadn't a clue about such things, but it certainly seemed as if Golden's butler was on the ball. "Radwickins it... is, then. I suppose." Somehow the name did not seem as impressive as Royal had hoped. He made another mental note to consider acronyms in the future. Water cup, acronyms, he repeated in his mind.
"OOH! OOH! I have an idea for what we could do!" It was Chair's wife, Honeybutter.
Royal decided to roll with things - if a native butler could write the society motto, then he might as well hear out Chair's native-born wife. "The chair recognizes Honeybutter. Continue."
"Huh?" Honeybutter looked perplexed. "Do I look strange?"
Royal felt very confused. "Do you look strange?"
"I don't know! Do I?" Honeybutter glanced at her husband, worried.
"I don't think you look strange! Why would you say my wife looks strange?" Chair glared at Royal.
"I... never!" Royal moved straight from confused to befuddled. "I never said your wife looked strange!"
"Not in so many words..." Honeybutter considered the situation. She turned again to her husband "Do you know who I am?"
Chair blinked, not comprehending any of this. "Huh?"
"Do you know who I am?" Honeybutter seemed very concerned now.
"You're my wife. Of course I know who you are!" Chair was feeling frustrated by this, a sentiment shared by many at the meeting. "Why wouldn't I know who you are?"
"Well," Honeybutter pointed an accusing hoof at the podium. "HE doesn't seem to think so!"
Royal decided that befuddled was insufficient and nearly stripped his gears moving up into confounded. "I have NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!"
Argent looked over at Topic, who shrugged with his ears. Thunder Road started to say something, but then fell silent. Bitsworth wisely kept out of it all, and concentrated on searching through his basket for more cheese for Golden. Golden for his part nervously studied his cider. This was beyond him. Bucket thought he had the answer, but reckoned they'd all just glare at him, so he decided to stick his muzzle into the fry bag to see if there were any more hay fries in there.
"Listen, Royal." Chair was staring intently at the deep purple earthpony "If my wife says you don't think I can recognize her, then that's what happened." Royal swallowed, his throat dry. He couldn't afford anypony getting upset and leaving - the society had just begun.
Suddenly, he had an inkling, and his confoundment went down two levels to mere confusion again. "Honeybutter!" Royal put on his best smile for her "Tell me exactly what you think I said, please."
Honeybutter thought for a moment, and then spoke. "You asked me if my husband knew who I was!"
Suddenly it all made sense. Confusion was repealed in favor of understanding. "No, no!" Royal laughed. "I said 'The chair recognizes you...'"
"Well of course I do! She's my wife!" Chair was even more upset.
"No, no, NO!" Royal's head was getting that pounding feeling in the left temple. "The CHAIR! THE CHAIR RECOGNIZES YOU!"
"AND WHY WOULDN'T I?" Chair had stood up now, and his jaw was locked in place, teeth showing, ears flat against his skull.
"AUGHHHH!" Royal turned away from the podium and walked towards the wall behind it. He waited a moment in the nervous silence, then returned. "Wait, calm down, everypony, please."
"EVERYBODY!" the yell was almost deafening, and it set the room giggling and laughing. Royal found himself unable to speak for several minutes, every time he tried he began laughing again.
"He means the chairpony of the meetin'." Bucket finally decided to say something. Nopony would glare at him if they were laughing like that. "It's Robert's Rules Of Order, from back on ol' Earth. Th' Chairpony runs the meetin' and recognizin' is the way that other ponies get to talk!" There, that ought to finally get some respect.
Ten pairs of eyes glared down at Bucket. It was hardest seeing the glare from the foals. Yep, thought Bucket, that was definitely the worst.
Bucket felt stupid for speaking up. He should have known better.
Argent and Topic tried not to look at each other, they felt stupid because it was so muffin obvious now, and they should have spoken up.
Daisy Dew and Wildweed felt stupid because they had no clue what was going on, but mostly they didn't like the way Bucket smelled.
Chair felt stupid because he felt like his name had been made fun of, somehow. He wasn't sure how.
Honeybutter felt stupid because she had caused a big fuss in front of her husband's friends.
Showers felt stupid because something had happened, and he realized he really hadn't been paying much attention.
Thunder Road felt stupid because she hadn't figured it out, and she thought she should have.
Royal felt very stupid for letting the whole thing get out of hoof. He was supposed to be the chairpony - PERSON - here, and he was not living up to his own expectation.
Bitsworth didn't feel the least bit stupid. He had shut the swirl up, and came out smelling like a rose. Little smartie!
Bucket looked down. Bucket always looked down.
Royal stomped his hoof on the podium, giving three short raps. "Well, now, shall we return to the matter at hoof? Er... hand? Hoof. No use denying reality. Definitely hoof." He was losing them. "Honeybutter! You said you had an idea as to what we could do?"
"Um...." Honeybutter looked around nervously. "I do. If my husband recognizes me, of course."
Giggles rippled around the room.
Chair stood up. "Chair recognizes his wife." More giggles. "And she's real pretty, too."
That filled the room with choruses of 'D'awwww..." and Honeybutter leaned over for a quick smooch. "Thank you, tight flanks." Chair managed a rather fetching shade of red at that.
Royal's neck was getting bruised from his hoof digging into it. A tie. There had to be a shop that sold ties somewhere in Canterlot. "SO...." Royal shifted his rear hooves. It was very uncomfortable to stand up on hind legs for so long. "What was your idea, Honeybutter?"
Honeybutter stepped near the front of the podium and looked around the room. "I was thinking that... well..."
Every pony in the room leaned forward, expectantly. Finally, a plan. Some action. A way to achieve their goals.
"It just sort of came to me, really..." Honeybutter looked like she had a clear vision, a well considered concept. "After, you know, noticing how warm the evenings have become..." It was absolutely true. The evenings had become warmer, ever since winter had been wrapped up several weeks ago. It had been a major task, because the pegasai had been behind again, and the winter had needed to be a hard one to catch up. But the pegasai had overdone things, and so this summer was expected to be especially warm as a result. Those darn pegasai.
"Yessss????" The room collectively held it's breath, everypony ready for the revelation to come.
Honeybutter smiled, a big, warm Equestrian smile. "I figured... we could all go get ice cream together!"
The room exploded in happy, excited clopping and clapping of hooves. Smiles met smiles and grins faced down smiles forcing the smiles to upscale into full grins just to keep pace. It was at that precise moment that the hoots and hollers returned to claim their rightful place in the scheme of things.
"ICE CREAM! ICE CREAM! ICE CREAM!" it was, after all, the perfect summer treat.
Royal hung his head. There was nothing for it, the will of the ponies had spoken. The first official act of the RADWICKINS had been determined.
They all headed out into the warm sweet-smelling night, diamond stars glittering above in the perfect sky, intent on bringing the tyranny of Celestia down through the time-tested subversion of ice cream.
Later, with sticky hooves, little Daisy Dew put it into perspective "Bestest revo... revu... rebel-vol-ution EVER!" Then she buried her muzzle in strawberry and sprinkles.