The night of the slumber party had passed without much incident, and in the morning the girls had all gone their separate ways, apart from a brief and rather strange moment where Sweetie Belle had somehow managed to reduce two slices of bread to a mysterious black liquid. Her inability to cook or even use a toaster was a family joke it seemed, with Rarity telling the girls of the time that her little sister had somehow caused an explosion when trying to use the microwave, much to Sweetie Belle’s clear and visible annoyance at the fact.
After breakfast, which was salmon and egg with a pinch of salt, they had headed off to school, and all had been fairly quiet for a few days. It seemed that everybody had forgotten the piggly-wiggly post from yesterday, and there was no oinking to be heard from anyone anywhere. However, Applejack did want to clean up a loose thread, and headed off to the cafeteria.
The cafeteria, as usual, was bustling on a morning, especially so in winter. Some students had especially busy parents on a morning, and as a result would get breakfast in school, which was usually cooked by Applejack’s own grandmother. That old lady certainly had a way with food, and the counter was arrayed with apple fritters, donuts, and the old favourites, the cooked items. These ranged from the traditional, such as sausage and bacon, alongside egg and beans, to the slightly less conventional, such as porridge, concluding with the downright bizarre, such as the much-discussed ‘Apple Family bacon and cheese breakfast burrito’. Apparently, these had become strangely popular, alongside tacos, a few weeks ago, but now were back to their usual status of a fascinating curio. Applejack, however, knew that sour cream and guacamole did not work well for her on a morning, and as a result the one time she had tried her grandmother’s breakfast burrito was also her last.
But none of this mattered now, and Applejack went over to the counter, to see Granny Smith putting some more fritters down on a tray, ready to be served. “Well, hello youngin’!” she called, with her trademark smile. “Ya here fer some food? We got plenty ta serve!”
“Thanks fer the offer Granny, but Ah’m not hungry right now,” Applejack replied.
“Well, Ah have heard that Cookie Crumbles’ breakfasts are really somethin’,” Granny Smith replied. “Ah really must try one someday.” She then looked into her granddaughter's eyes, and sensed something was wrong. “Now, what’s the matter Applejack? You look sicker than a mule!”
Despite the fact that this was deeply offensive to mules, Applejack chose not to question it, and instead answered the question. “Granny, have ya seen Apple Bloom anywhere?”
The old lady laughed. “Of course, Ah have! She was here a few minutes ago, grabbin’ breakfast with her friends! The poor thin’, her parents rushin’ off ta work so early. It’s a good thin’ Ah’m the cook here, or heaven knows what a state the caterin’ would be in!”
Applejack nodded. “Thanks, Granny.” She then turned away and headed toward the table where she could see her sister, as well as her friends Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, eating their breakfasts and chatting about something or other.
“No!” Apple Bloom said. “Ah don’t think we have the resources ta peform Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!”
“Oh, come on, Apple Bloom!” Scootaloo replied, a look of annoyance in her eyes. “All we need is three guitars, a drumkit, a piano, and a sampler.”
“Yeah, real simple,” the farm girl replied, putting another forkful of beans into her mouth.
“We do have the resources,” Sweetie Belle pointed out. “Rumble plays guitar, Button Mash plays drums, I play piano, Scootaloo also pays guitar, Pip plays bass, and of course Cozy Glow can operate the sampler!” She indicated to a girl in a green dress sitting with them.
“You’d want me to help you?” Cozy Glow asked them, her face aglow.
“Of course we would!” Scootaloo replied. “You’re our friend! Without you, we’d never have recovered Spirit of Everfree!”
“Excuse me!” Applejack asked, causing the four girls to look up at her in confusion.
“Whatch the problem, Applethack?” Apple Bloom asked, with her mouth still full.
“Sorry ta interrupt yer discussion, but can Ah talk with Apple Bloom fer a bit?” Appplejack asked. “When she’s finished her mouthful, of course.”
Apple Bloom quickly swallowed, and then got up, looking a little perplexed. The two siblings then exited the cafeteria.
“What do you think this is all about?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“I don’t know!” Scootaloo replied. “Don’t look at me!”
Apple Bloom and Applejack walked down one of the corridors, though where they were going was unclear.
“This classroom looks clear,” Applejack said, opening the door.
“Now look at this net, that I just found
When I say go, be ready to throw
A net suddenly flew through the air and into another classroom.
“Throw it on him, not me!”
“Let’s try somewhere else,” the older apple girl suggested, heading off toward another classroom door and opening it.
“Yar har, fiddle de dee
Being a pirate is alright to be
Do what you want 'cause a pirate is free
You are a pirate!”
Apple Bloom looked in through the door. “Hi, Pip!” she called.
Pipsqueak, currently dressed as a pirate, looked back. “Good morning, Apple Bloom!” he called. “Care to join us?”
“Sis wanna speak ta me, so Ah’m afraid Ah can’t.”
Pip looked sad. “Oh well. Weigh anchor!”
“Yar har, fiddle de dee
Being a pirate is alright with me!”
Applejack shut the door. “Enough of that,” she said, before walking on and trying another door.
“I am the Globglogabgalab,
“No!” Applejack cried, slamming the door shut again. “Looks like the corridor will have ta do fer now.”
“Have ta do fer what?” Apple Bloom asked, now even more confused. Applejack stepped closer to her, her expression looking angry.
“Ah want ya ta answer me honestly, sugarcube, and look me in the eye when Ah ask ya this next question.” Applejack hadn’t even noticed her hands had closed into fists.
Apple Bloom was looking pale. “Sis, y-yer scarin’ me!” she stammered, trying to back up further, only for her to crash into a locker.
There was a silence that seemed to last for all eternity, before Applejack asked her question. “Are ya Anon-a-Miss, yes or no?”
There was a deafening silence. Then Apple Bloom looked directly into her sisters’ eyes, and answered. “No.”
Applejack seemed less than convinced, if her facial expression was anything to go by. “If that’s the case, care to explain how Anon-a-Miss knows mah nickname?”
“It could be one of yer friends,” Apple Bloom pointed out. “But Ah can prove Ah didn’t upload that post.”
“And how is that?” Applejack asked.
“Ah was asleep at the time the account was created,” Apple Bloom replied. “We first spotted the secret on MyStable, as well as the account, at about 8:45 yesterday.” As she said this, she took out her phone, and showed the post. “We can also see that the post was created three hours before that, which is 5:45AM. Ah was asleep at that time, and mah phone wasn’t even turned on. So how could Ah have created the account and posted the message when Ah was asleep?”
Applejack backed off. “Good,” she said. “That cleans that one up. Sorry about that, sugarcube.”
Apple Bloom simply nodded. “Can Ah go back to mah breakfast? Ah’d like ta finish it before classes begin.”
Applejack nodded in return. “OK. See ya later!” And the two siblings headed in opposite directions, unaware of what was coming in the next few days.
Two more days had passed without much incident, and it seemed that Anon-a-Miss, on the whole, had been forgotten completely. But then they had posted again. And boy did it set their blood boiling.
The Rainbooms gathered at Sunset’s locker, waiting for her to arrive.
“Ah’m gonna kill her,” Applejack said, prompting looks of shock from the others.
“No, you’re not,” Rainbow Dash replied, looking her in the eye. Rainbow Dash was one of the few students capable of doing that, knowing that she would probably emerge on top in the unlikely event of a scuffle.
“Why shouldn’t Ah?” Applejack replied. “She’s posted our pictures!”
“There’s no proof it was her, darling,” Rarity chimed in, worried about the tone the conversation was taking.
“Oh yeah?” the farm girl replied, her eyes focused and her face red. “Who else could have got the pictures? It’s obviously her! No other explanation!”
Rainbow Dash sighed, shaking her head in exasperation. “AJ, remember the bake sale? You know, the one where I,” and here she adopted a mock country accent, “bailed intentionally to make you look a fool?”
That lowered the tension in the corridor noticeably. “Let’s just stay calm, and we can get out of this logically and rationally,” the athlete told her friends. “OK?”
“Here she is!” Pinkie Pie called. And right on cue, was Sunset Shimmer, walking to her locker.
“Hey girls!” she called. The smile on her face fell as she saw most of her friends had blank, even angry expressions. “What’s going...on?”
“Sunset?” Applejack asked, her face the angriest of the group. “Did you...have ya lost yer phone recently?”
Sunset looked confused at this question. “Erm...no. It’s right here. Why?”
“Then you need to explain this!” Applejack snapped, passing her phone over to Sunset.
The bacon haired girl gasped in shock when she saw the images that were on the screen. Each and every one of the images was one she had taken on her phone a few nights ago, along with all of the videos that had been recorded. And below the lot of them, was a caption which read ‘OMG...what a bunch of dorks! Hahaha!” It then became apparent to Sunset who had uploaded the pictures. Above them all was the name and profile picture of the mysterious account that had caused the hoo-hah only a few days ago.
“What?” Sunset exclaimed, her mouth falling open in horror as she struggled to comprehend what was going on. “How did she get our pictures?”
“They’re not our pictures, Sunset,” Applejack continued. “They’re yours. Each and every one of those pictures and videos were taken by you, as you were the only one recordin’ anythin’ that night.”
“Wait, what?” Sunset stammered, her heart pounding in her chest. “I’ve had my phone on me this whole time! How did she-?”
“Yeah, how did she?” Applejack asked, her voice dripping with a mixture of venom and sarcasm so thick that you could have cut it with a knife and spread it on toast (provided Sweetie Belle hadn’t melted it first). “How did she know about my nickname?” Her voice rose to a thunderous crescendo, the doors on the lockers rattling at the soundwaves being produced as the farmer leaned directly into Sunset’s face. “HOW DID SHE GET THE PICTURES FROM YER PHONE?”
Just then, Applejack slammed Sunset into a locker, her face contorted with rage. “It was you all along. YER ANON-A-MISS!”
Rainbow Dash flew into action, pulling Applejack off of Sunset. “That’s enough!” she shouted.
“AJ, you’re so full of what’s right you can’t see what’s good. Now shut your trap before I shut it for you.”
Applejack stepped back, her jaw hanging open.
“Now then,” Rainbow Dash started, looking at her friends. “Ask yourselves; what does Sunset Shimmer, the girl who is our friend, the girl who helped us save the goddamn school from the Dazzlings, have to gain from any of this?”
The other girls had no answer, so Rainbow Dash gave them one. “Nothing. Nothing at all. She’d simply be alone again, friendless, and she wouldn’t want that.”
There was another silence. Then Applejack spoke up. “Sorry, Sunset,” she replied. “Ah guess Ah let mah feelin’s get the better o’ me.”
Sunset, who was still shaking a little from the adrenaline coursing through her system, took a moment to respond. “O-ok,” she replied.
“But if not Sunset or any of us,” Pinkie Pie started.
“Then who?” Fluttershy finished.
“I think I know who,” Rainbow Dash answered. “I think we can rule out Trixie. There’s no way she could do anything this elaborate, so that leaves somebody outside the school. Somebody who would know of your nickname through their actions, AJ.”
“Who?” Rarity asked.
Canterlot was, by itself, a bustling city full of people and was reasonably prosperous. However, there was another side to the city that was, shall we say, not quite so nice. If you were to get off at the last streetcar stop, bisecting De Lancie Street and Oliver Avenue, the city would seem to end right there. But if you were to walk for just a few miles, or alternatively catch the bus, you would find yourself walking not through countryside, but through a mountain of slag heaps. These slag heaps were hints at the past of Canterlot.
During the early 1900s, and onwards until about 1960, Canterlot had been a steel town. Large quantities of steel had been produced in the suburb of Steelville, built separate from the main city to ensure that the production of steel didn’t generate a stench in Canterlot itself, and some would say more importantly, to ensure that the wealthy folk never had to mingle with the workers that lived and died in the steel mills and at the blast furnaces.
Alas, in 1960, the steel industry had fallen on hard times, and the mills in Canterlot district had all closed completely, most of the structures falling into disrepair or simply rotting away. By all means, the town was still there, but it was a shadow of its former glory, the mountains of waste product from metal smelting still piled all around as reminders of what had once been in this part of the world, and an echo of America’s former glory, now taken by rival nations that could produce steel so much more cheaply.
And the deeper you went into Steelville, the crummier it got. The place was full of crumbling buildings and pawn shops, all selling cheap tat and other odds and ends. Life here was on its last legs, the people poor, their haggard faces looking out upon life with a certain degree of cynicism and sadness. Truly were they the forgotten ones, the one that the other city didn’t seem to care about. And their very world was now falling apart all around them, and the snow did little to help.
As the Rainbooms proceeded into town on the bus, another roof collapsed under the weight of snow, the white stuff pouring onto the ground below and making a mess of the sidewalk. The bus continued to roll through the street, slowing down to avoid potholes and other such nuisances that would make it hard to navigate here.
Pinkie Pie looked around, amazed that such poverty existed a few miles from Canterlot’s relative wealth. “Now I know why people take the train south,” she said. “Because this road is really bumpy.”
Suddenly, the road surface became incredibly bumpy, and the passengers all bounced up and down in their seats.
“HeEeEy!” Pinkie said, laughing at the changes in the pitch of her voice. “ThIs MaKeS mY vOiCe SoUnD sIlIy!”
Sunset shook her head. “Honestly, Pinkie!” she said. “We’ve got bigger things to worry about! Like, you know, figuring out who Anon-a-Miss is!”
Rarity glanced at the others as the bus came to a stop. “So, how are we going to play this one? I don’t think they’ll exactly appreciate us being around them at any time, not least now.”
“We go in calm, and avoid resorting to threats,” Rainbow Dash answered, casting a glare at Applejack. The farm girl looked down at the ground, the brim of her hat covering her eyes. “I’m certain that they’ll be cordial enough if we are cordial to them.”
“Why are we drinking cordial?” Fluttershy asked.
“She didn’t mean cordial in that sense of the word,” Rarity answered. “She means in terms of being friendly, albeit formal and polite at the same time. Though I must say, a cordial would be most nice right now, as it is rather hot on this bus right now.”
“This looks to be an old model,” Sunset commented. “I imagine the bus budget mostly goes on the streetcars further north.”
“How is this relevant?” Rainbow Dash asked, as the bus ground to a halt.
“Allcroft road!” called the bus driver. The girls walked off the bus, and then thanked the driver. He closed the doors, and the old bus rattled away with a rumble and a roar, spewing smoke as it raced away from them.
“Yup,” Applejack coughed. “Manual gearbox. We got a similar one on one of our locos at the farm.”
Rainbow Dash looked around. “Alright then. Where did Micro Chips say he’d seen them living?”
“They were somewhere on Mitton Road, which is bisected by Miller Street and Brenner Avenue,” Pinkie Pie told them.
“How do you know that?” asked Rarity.
“I know everything!” Pinkie replied, a creepy smile on her face.
“OK then, when did I last wear a blue skirt?” Fluttershy asked.
“4th April, 2013,” Pinkie replied. Fluttershy’s jaw dropped open in response.
Applejack shook her head. “Can we at least get goin’? Ah’d rather not stay here any longer than Ah have to.”
The others nodded their heads, and headed off into the distance.
To say it was an easy journey would be a complete lie. Rainbow Dash looked at her map. “OK, right here!” she called, and away they went into the streets. But it didn’t look right at all, as they stopped at another intersection.
“This don’t look right,” Applejack noted. “These buildin’s don’t look like homes.”
“Agreed,” Rarity sighed, holding her nose. “They look more like factories, or industrial structures.”
“Take a right!” called Pinkie, and away they went once more.
They went around and around for half an hour, until they arrived back where they were.
“OK then, we are completely lost,” Fluttershy whimpered, looking around her as if somebody might jump out of the darkness and attack her. Which, in a town like this, was entirely plausible, as this was a town down on its luck. Or, as comedian Rich Hall put it, ‘a one-horse town where they put the horse down’.
Rainbow Dash sighed. “Look, I took a wrong turn, alright?” She checked her map and the street names. “To the left!” she called, and away they went into the distance.
At long last they arrived at their destination, on Mitton Road, a boulevard consisting of old clapboard homes built long before the housing boom of the 1950s. Many of them wouldn’t look out of place in the Amityville films, such was their state of decay. At long last, they reached a mouldy, tumbledown mess of a building that barely even qualified as a house in even the loosest sense of the word. Split over two stories, the window was open, and the snow sat upon the roof and porch, making it least look somewhat festive despite the decay going on all around.
“Well,” Rarity sighed, “we are really in the hornet’s nest now.”
“Are you sure we want to do this?” Fluttershy asked, quivering as she did so, and holding onto Rainbow Dash as she did so to minimize her quivering.
Sunset sighed. “It’s the only chance we have to narrow down the culprit behind this mess,” she said, and stepped up to the door handle. Gripping the knocker, she pulled it back, and gave it a firm, hard knock, only for the knocker to come flying off in her hand and fall to the floor with a loud bang.
“What the?” she asked, as the door opened. Standing before her was a young woman, about their age, with yellow skin and orange and yellow hair that gathered around her shoulders. She had purple eyes and wore a purple hoodie, blue jeans, and white and purple sneakers.
This girl was Adagio Dazzle, the de facto leader of the Dazzlings, or the Sirens as they were otherwise known. They, as a group, had instigated the Battle of the Bands that had torn apart Canterlot High School with the intended goal of feeding off of Equestrian magic emanating off of the Rainbooms. Luckily, they had been stopped before their plan could come to fruition, but it would be no surprise that there was more than a little hostility between the two groups.
Hostility that was indicated by the manner in which Adagio was looking at the Rainbooms right now. “What do you want?” she asked. “We just settle down here and scrape a living, and now you come in and have the audacity to knock on my door!”
“We don’t mean any hostility,” Sunset said. “We just wanted to ask some questions, that’s all.”
There was a brief moment as the two girls stared at each other. Then a shout came from inside. “Aria! That was mine!”
“You can’t hog all the tacos Sonata!”
Adagio facepalmed. “Can you two idiots please be quiet and let me speak to our guests?”
Just then, another girl appeared, but she had light blue skin and hair, with some dark blue streaks running through the latter. Dressed in identical shoes and jeans to Adagio, the only different item of clothing was a violet hoodie. “Our guests?” her face then fell. “Oh, those guests.”
A third girl appeared, who had pink skin and purple and turquoise hair. Like the other two, she wore sneakers and jeans, but complemented them with a blue hoodie. She sighed. “Go back to sleep Sonata,” she groaned. “Honestly Dagi, why did you invite these lunatics here?”
“If I wanted your opinion, Aria,” Adagio snapped, “I would have asked for it. Now go back indoors!”
The two other girls vanished. “Excuse them,” Adagio continued, “they’re idiots. Now then, you wanted to discuss something?”
“Yes,” Rainbow Dash answered. “About the Anon-a-Miss case?”
Adagio’s face went blank. Then she smiled. “Come on in,” she said.
A few minutes later, they were all sat around a table with freshly prepared nachos and refried beans in the centre on a plate, as well as a random assortment of drinks and other items.
“So,” Adagio said, with a frown, “there’s a mysterious user of the MyStable app called ‘Anon-a-Miss' releasing secrets that relate to you, am I correct?”
There were nods and a chorus of agreement.
“And, furthermore, you have no idea who that is, as you have ruled out your siblings as well as your friends?”
“Yes,” Applejack answered. “However, there’s one other thin’ we were thinkin’.”
Aria suddenly came to life, looking at them with disdain. “If you’re thinking of accusing us of being Anon-a-Miss you can get out!” she snapped.
“Cool it Aria!” Sonata said loudly.
“I thought I told you to go to sleep,” Area retorted, equally loudly.
“It’s hard to sleep with so little nourishment,” Sonata groaned, before falling silent.
“Ah swear she demolished several tacos a few minutes ago,” Applejack said, confused.
Adagio facepalmed. “Honestly, you lot, you have to remind us of that. We’re not meant to consume human food. Our primary source of nourishment is Equestrian magic. But of course, when you blew up our pendants, we had no way of feeding on that. So, we survive on junk food.”
“Can’t you girls just find a job?” Rarity asked.
Aria laughed. “Seriously? Find a job here? Nobody will see our faces in Canterlot, and there’s no work to be found here in Shitville, USA. You’ve doomed us to effective misery here.”
Sunset looked shocked. “Hey,” she said. “If you help us find Anon-a-Miss, I’ll ask Princess Twilight to get you some replacement pendants, and I’ll help you find work.”
“What?” Pinkie Pie asked. “You’d help them?”
“How would you feel if you were in conditions like this?” Sunset asked. “I know, as I lived in a factory for years.”
Adagio smiled. “Consider it a deal. So, what do you want to know?”
“If I’ve understood correctly how your magic works, you had access to people’s thoughts and memories whilst controlling them,” Sunset observed.
“That’s correct,” Aria answered. “Why?”
“I was wondering if you could consult your memory and see if anybody knew of Applejack’s nickname.”
Adagio sighed. “We’re not much help there. We may have had access to everyone’s thoughts, but that wouldn’t help, as even if one of your family members used whatever Applejack’s nickname is, they wouldn’t remember hearing it after the spell stopped working.”
So, the lead had gone nowhere. Sunset sighed. “Thanks for the help, Adagio,” she said.
“No problem, even if we couldn’t be much help,” Adagio replied. “Best of luck with the investigation.”
That evening, Sunset couldn’t help but feel bad for the Sirens. It seemed as if they had ended up in a real mess because of them. And what sort of person did it makes the Rainbooms? What sort of person did it make her? This had to be corrected.
She took out her journal and began to write.