“This is it!” yelled Apple Bloom, hopping up and down on her hooves. “We’re all gonna get our cutie marks today!”
“Yay!” echoed Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle.
“And just think, Twilight said it wouldn't be a good idea to try it.” Scootaloo giggled. “But we’ll show her!”
“Ah know! Plus, we built it exactly accordin’ ta the book she gave us!” Apple Bloom smiled. “What could go wrong?”
‘It’ was a small catapult, constructed out of rope and wooden logs. The Cutie Mark Crusaders had been working on it for about a week, ever since Apple Bloom had found ‘Historical Siege Machines and How to Build Them’ in the library and had checked it out.
“I bet we could launch a rock clear across Ponyville!” said Scootaloo.
“Wait, rocks? I thought we weren’t doing rocks yet.” Sweetie Belle frowned.
“Right. For now, it’s just pillows an' stuff,” said Apple Bloom. “But if it works real well maybe we can help deliver mail an' packages!”
“Yeah! We could throw Rainbow Dash’s packages right up to her house!” added Scootaloo.
“And Rarity’s mail right to Carousel Boutique!” continued Sweetie Belle.
They grinned, and then in unison, they cheered, “Cutie Mark Crusader mailmares!”
“Let’s test it now!” Apple Bloom took a small pillow out of her saddlebag and bucked it onto the catapult. “Ready, Cutie Mark Crusaders?”
“Ready!” Sweetie Belle ran to the trigger on the catapult.
“Ready!” Scootaloo climbed on top of the catapult and grabbed her binoculars. “This is gonna be so cool!”
Sweetie Belle grinned and depressed the trigger.
“Huh?” Apple Bloom trotted over to the machine. “Why didn’t it work?”
“Maybe the pillow’s too heavy?” wondered Sweetie Belle.
“This things supposed to be able to throw rocks. How could a pillow be too heavy?” asked Scootaloo. “Lemme see.” The pegasus foal hopped off the top of the catapult to stand on the pillow. She peered back into the body of the device. “Oh, I think I see it. The rope’s caught on one of the nails.” She reached in. “If I tug it like this—“
“Uh, maybe you should get off the catapult first,” offered Sweetie Belle.
Apple Bloom quickly slipped the safety pin, a lock that would prevent the catapult from accidentally firing, into the device. “Relax, Sweetie. It can’t fire with the pin, remember?”
Scootaloo ignored all this and tugged. “I’m not strong enough,” she complained. “Sweetie, AB, little help?”
Apple Bloom hurried over to lend a hoof, with Sweetie Belle following, a bit more reluctantly. “Where?” Apple Bloom asked.
“Right here. Just pull this to the side, and it should be good to go.”
Apple Bloom gripped the rope in her teeth and began to tug. “Almost… Sweetie, come on. We’re almost there!”
Sweetie Belle paused, but, moved by visions of having an awesome new cutie mark, grabbed on the rope and pulled.
It shifted to the side with a sudden ‘twang’.
“Yay!” they cheered.
And then the catapult fired.
There was silence for a few seconds. And then, in the distance:
“Good thing this pond was here," managed Apple Bloom.
Sweetie Belle climbed onto the bank, trying to shake the water out of her coat. “At least the catapult works.”
“Yeah, all of it except for the safety pin.” Scootaloo was still swimming back to shore. “What happened?”
Apple Bloom blushed. “Uh, well, remember when we were runnin’ out of wood at the end, an’ we decided ta use some of that deadwood Scootaloo found? Maybe we shouldn’t have made the safety part out of that.”
The three made it back to shore, where they took a few moments to dry off.
“Well, that was a bust,” grumbled Apple Bloom. She was staring morosely at her flank. “No cutie marks!”
“And we got thrown halfway across Ponyville!” added Sweetie Belle.
Scootaloo paused, then grinned. “That was so awesome!”
“… really?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“Are you kidding? It’s like we were flying!” Scootaloo was starting to hop around. “I bet we set a new Ponyville speed record! We’re probably the fastest foals in the city! Except for Rainbow Dash, we’re probably the fastest flyers, foal or adult!”
“Really?” asked Sweetie, again, but this time with more enthusiasm.
“Let’s do it again tomorrow!” Scootaloo hopped off the bank, onto what looked like a carrot patch. “Maybe we can throw ourselves to Rainbow Dash’s house!”
“But… we can’t walk on clouds,” said Apple Bloom.
The three turned to see Carrot Top looking at them.
“What are you three doing in my irrigation pond?”
“… Crusadin’?” offered Apple Bloom, with an embarrassed smile.
It took them a while to get back across Ponyville, and longer still to move the catapult and all of their gear into one of Sweet Apple Acres’s barns. By the time they were done, the afternoon was edging towards evening.
“That was amazing!” Scootaloo had been hyped up about their catapulting adventure for the entire time. Now she was going in quick circles on her scooter. “Same time tomorrow?”
“Yeah, now that we know it works, we could try it with the mail!” said Apple Bloom. “Ah’ll talk ta Ditzy an’ see if she’ll let us help out.”
“Or we can send ponies across the city if they don’t have time to walk!” said Scootaloo. “We could call it the Cutie Mark Crusader, uh, Super Carriage!”
“Cutie Mark Crusader Carriage Drivers?” Sweetie Belle frowned. “I don’t know if I want that as my cutie mark.”
“There’s all kinds of things we could do!” Apple Bloom paused. “But, uh, ah should probably fix the safety pin first.”
Scootaloo stretched. “Well, I gotta get home. See you girls tomorrow!”
“Bye!” the other two called.
Scootaloo scooted off, but the other two Crusaders looked over the catapult for a few more minutes. “Were there any other big things like this in that book?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“A few. Ah wanna try makin’ a ballista next. It’s like a catapult, but bigger an’ cooler!” Apple Bloom grinned. “Why, we could send ponies from here to Trottingham with one of those!”
“I wonder if the Canterlot Museum has any?” mused Sweetie Belle.
“Ah dunno, but maybe they do! Hey, think our sisters would take us ta see them?”
“To the museum? Sure. Rarity’s always telling me I should like ‘cultural’ things like museums and concerts and stuff.” Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes.
“AJ’s not much fer that stuff, but if ah asked real nice an’ did all my chores, ah—“ Apple Bloom blinked. “Hey, ain’t that Scootaloo’s bag?”
Sweetie Belle trotted over. The saddlebag had a picture of Rainbow Dash on it, and it was clasped with a little lightning bolt pin. “I think so.”
“She must have left it behind. Let’s get it back ta her.” Apple Bloom quickly slung the bag over her shoulder. “Do ya know where she lives?”
“Well, let’s try ta catch her before we lose her!” Apple Bloom raced out of the barn. “Hey, Scootaloo! Scoot-Scootaloo!” But the pegasus foal was not in sight and did not answer.
Applejack, who was working on fixing one of her plows, looked over. “What’s goin’ on?”
“Scootaloo left her bag behind. Did ya see where she went, big sis?”
“Yeah, she just left a few minutes ago. Went that way.” Applejack pointed.
“Thanks, big sis!” Apple Bloom ran off, with Sweetie Belle close behind her.
“I can’t wait to tell Rainbow Dash what I did!” Scootaloo jumped a small rock as she scooted down the path. “She’ll love it! She’ll probably want to use the catapult to help her with some new tricks!”
In fact, what if Rainbow Dash did use the catapult, and those tricks were the ones that got her noticed by the Wonderbolts? What if she became really famous with catapult tricks? Maybe she’d be able to do it full time, and then maybe she’d need or want an apprentice and…
Scootaloo realized that she was grinning in a very silly manner, but she couldn’t do much about it besides laughing. She knew she was getting ahead of herself, but still. She’d been flying (kind of) for the first time! It was so awesome!
Scootaloo felt an impish desire stealing over her. She looked around a few times to make sure she was alone, then quickly ducked off the path and behind a few trees. Most ponies in town avoided the Everfree for some reason, which meant that she didn’t need to worry too much about being seen. Still, while incautious in most aspects of her life, this was something that she wanted to make sure nopony saw.
But nopony was around.
Scootaloo grinned, and a green glow began to spread over her body. Her orange coat faded, then flashed into nothingness, replaced by a black and shiny shell. Her wings elongated – slightly – and turned ocean-blue. Several holes formed, spreading throughout her legs like somepony was blowing bubbles right through them.
A horn poked up above her mane, now a few tufts of faded blue hair. Her tail had turned the same color, and had also gained a hole or two, like her legs. Her eyes were the last to change, with the ‘whites’ of them becoming a pale-ish blue.
Scootaloo checked her appearance in a muddy puddle with just enough water to produce a reflection. She didn’t take this form much, anymore, but it was what she’d been born with, and she was still fond of it for that reason. “Alright,” she said, upon verifying that she’d shifted correctly. “Halfway there!”
Someday I’ve gotta learn how to go right from one form to another.
Scootaloo focused again, and once more her body shifted. A new coat appeared, a bright cyan blue, and a rainbow-colored mane and tail grew into existence on top of her head. Her wings once again grew feathers, like a proper pegasus, and her body became taller, sleeker, and more powerful. Scootaloo laughed, and smiled again when she heard Rainbow Dash’s voice.
In seconds, the shift was complete. Where Scootaloo had stood, an almost-perfect copy of Rainbow Dash was. She had no cutie mark – Scootaloo couldn’t seem to manage to shift those – but everything else was perfect.
Scootaloo grinned. She had about half an hour before she had to be home, and she was in the body of the coolest pony in the whole world. She could have some fun.
“Are ya sure, Caramel?”
Caramel nodded. “Yep. Saw Scootaloo heading right into the Everfree.”
“Really?” Apple Bloom frowned. “Why’s she goin’ there?”
Sweetie Belle paused. “Maybe we should get Fluttershy. She’s good with animals.”
“Nah, we’ll just head right in an’ find Scootaloo. She probably… ah dunno, got lost or somethin’.” Apple Bloom paused. “Least, ah’m pretty sure she don’t live there.”
“Maybe she does. Maybe her family is forest rangers!” said Sweetie Belle.
“…ah guess. C’mon.” Apple Bloom smiled. “Maybe we can go for cutie marks in forestry!”
“Thank you, thank you!”
Scootaloo, as Rainbow Dash, had climbed up to a tree branch which she was pretending was a cloud.
“Thank you for awarding me the title of ‘Most Awesome Pony in Equestria!’” She bowed a few times. “And I’d like to thank one pony in particular, my biggest and coolest fan, Scootaloo!”
She walked out further on the branch, beating her wings for balance. “Scootaloo’s brilliant catapult helped ‘catapult’ me into even more awesome stunts and moves than I’d ever done before! And that’s why I’d like to make Scootaloo my official apprentice and student, so I can teach her to be as awesome as me!”
She jumped to another branch, pretending that she was leaping from cloud to cloud, miles above Equestria.
“And as her first task, I’d like Scootaloo to accompany me on a trip around the whole nation as I show how awesome I am! And I—“
“Aagh!” She beat her wings, but futilely. The best she could do was aim for a large mud puddle to cushion her fall.
Scootaloo coughed as she crawled out of it. “Yuck.” She began to shake herself. Sometimes, she acknowledged, it would be nice if she could copy Rainbow Dash’s flight as well as her body.
I mean, I know that wouldn’t really be fair, for Rainbow Dash to train really hard to master all those cool moves and then for me to just copy them all. I wouldn’t like it if I worked really hard at something and somepony could copy it. But come on, flight alone should be okay…
But she smiled as she looked at her reflection in the muddy, brackish puddle. She could never be in a bad mood in this body. She was Rainbow Dash. If that wouldn’t make her happy, nothing would.
So Scootaloo began climbing up the tree again. “Saved from falling to her doom by her loyal sidekick Scootaloo, Rainbow Dash gets right back up there!”
“Scootaloo!” Apple Bloom called. “We’ve got yar bag!”
Sweetie Belle looked around. “Are you sure this is safe?”
“Sure ah’m sure? Ah know this part of the Everfree; it’s on the way ta Zecora’s place!” The path Caramel had pointed them to had twisted and turned a bit, but Apple Bloom was pretty sure that she knew where they were. “Maybe Scootaloo lives out by her house!”
“I wonder why she doesn’t live in town?”
“Maybe she’s sleepin’ over somewhere?”
“But who else in town lives in the Everfree besides Zecora?”
“Er… well, we don’t know where Silver Spoon lives, right? Ah could see her bein’ a beast from the Everfree.” Sweetie giggled at that.
Apple Bloom raised her voice again. “Scootaloo! C’mon, Scootaloo, where are ya?”
Sweetie said, “Maybe she’s hiding. Ooh, maybe we can get our cutie marks in hide ‘n seek!”
“…hey, yeah! We could!” Apple Bloom grinned. “Alright, let’s go!”
They sped up a little, still calling for Scootaloo.
“And for my next trick, I, the amazing…”
Scootaloo blinked. Were those voices that she heard?
Scootaloo froze. Sweetie Belle? What's she doing all the way out here?
“Scoot-scootaloo! We’re gonna find ya!”
Apple Bloom too?
Scootaloo turned to race down the tree, but she wasn’t as used to moving in Rainbow Dash’s body – sure, it was usually the form that she took when she wasn’t being Scootaloo, but she was Scootaloo ninety-five percent of the time – so she slipped and went tumbling back into the mud puddle.
“Ah think ah heard somethin’ over here!”
Scootaloo froze, paralyzed with indecision. She could try to hurridly shift back to the Scootaloo form – but could she do it in time? Or she could remain as Rainbow Dash, but what if they realized that Rainbow Dash wasn’t likely to be splashing around in mud puddles in the Everfree? Besides, what if Rainbow Dash was somewhere else in public, and they realized it later and wondered how there could be two of her? No, she’d have to shift, and as quickly as she could.
“Scootaloo! We’ve got your bag!”
Sweetie’s voice sounded very near. Scootaloo gulped as her coat, mane, wings, everything vanished and was replaced with her birth-form. And then – starting to pant; she usually didn’t shift so quickly – she began to change bodies again.
And she was just able to finish by the time the other two Crusaders entered the little clearing.
“Found ya!” Apple Bloom hopped for joy. “Did we get our cutie marks in findin’ ya?”
“Uh…” Scootaloo checked their flanks. “Nope. Sorry. Why’d you follow me?”
Sweetie Belle dumped the saddlebag on the ground. “You left your bag in the barn.”
Scootaloo blushed. “Oh. Sorry.”
“What’re ya doin’ all the way out here?” asked Apple Bloom. “This ain’t where ya live, is it?”
“Oh, uh, just out for a little walk…”
Scootaloo could tell they weren’t buying it, so she quickly grabbed her saddlebag. “Well, I gotta split. See you tomorrow!”
She turned to go, and both Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle gasped.
“What?” she asked.
“Uh, Scootaloo?” began Sweetie Belle.
“What happened to your wings?”
“Huh?” Scootaloo peered into the puddle – and saw two thin, chitinous wings instead of her feathered pegasus ones.
She hadn’t shifted back all the way.