APPROXIMATELY FORTY-SEVEN MINUTES LATER…
For the eightieth or so time, Scootaloo extracted her muzzle from the ground spitting out copious amounts of dirt, leaves, and more dirt in a staccato burst not unlike that of a machine gun.
“That was one cheap-shot Applebloom!” She shouted towards the yellow Alicorn floating above her, fore-hooves wrapped around the splintered stump of an oak.
“Hey! At least I seem to have the flying thingy down now!” She replied, cheekily.
Taking this as a personal challenge, Scootaloo asked, “Oh really?” with a quirked expression.
“Yessiry bob Scoots!” Replied Applebloom with the utmost certainty, closing her eyes in triumph. “Why, I reckon I could—“
Before she could finish that sentence, Scootaloo shot up into the air at dazzling speeds, bit down on Applebloom’s cape, wrapped it around her face, and spun her around like a top. Dusting off her hooves with no small hint of satisfaction as Applebloom began tumbling through the air as though she had failed to get enough shut-eye, she landed happily on the ground.
After Applebloom crashed into her third tree from the action and finally ceased her movements, the orange Alicorn said, “Alright everypony: as much fun as rough-housin’ it with you two has been, I think it’s time we got back to—“
Sweetie Belle chose that moment to leap out of some nearby bushes like a bat out of Tartarus and hold Scootaloo in a half nelson that managed to plant her muzzle right back into the same spit in the ground it was in moment’s earlier.
“This will teach you to cut me off by throwing scat at me you haughty hooligan!” She yelled out, responding to her friend’s struggling by slamming her face repeatedly against the ground. “In fact…this will teach you to throw scat at ANYPONY! EVER! AGAIN!”
Using her mouth to grab Scootaloo by the rough of her neck and toss her, horn first, into a nearby tree, Sweetie Belle vented audibly for a few second. Coughing into a hoof, she asked, “Now…you we’re saying, Scootaloo?”
Not even bothering to try and un-imbed her horn from the trunk, Scootaloo spat out more dirt.
“Like I was saying—I think it’s time we got back to the manner—“
“Matter.” Interrupted Sweetie Bell.
“—matter—“ Continued Scootaloo, with a sigh. “—at hoof.”
Trying to steady her spinning head (and eyes), Applebloom, sprawled out on the ground on her back asked, “What was that again? Mah head don’t feel so good.”
“I believe she was referring to the original test of physical strength from which our Brobdingnagian bout of play fighting can be circled back to.” Said Sweetie.
“Yeah. What the diction—er—mare of sophistication over there said. I think.”
Placing a fetlock to her chin in order to better contemplate whether he friend’s words really did ring true, caused Scootaloo’s horn to pop from the trunk. Extricating her muzzle from the ground for the eighty-first or so time, she placed a fetlock to her chin again.
“Now, what do we do that, exactly?”
For about a minute or so, her friends joined her in pondering, before the proverbial light bulb went off over the white Alicorn’s head.
“Eureka!” Sweetie Belle proclaimed.
The other two shot her perplexed looks.
“We ah course Scoots reeks. She did have to throw that dung at ya with her hooves ya know.”
Face hoofing hard enough to cause birds in the nearby trees to flee in abject terror, Sweetie Belle said, “No no no girls! Eureka! It means I’ve got it, as in, I’ve solved our dilemma!”
“Sure Smelly Belle. Whatever you say…”
Scootaloo said with a roll of her eyes, eliciting a giggle from Applebloom and he briefest hint of a smile from Sweetie.
“Yes…well…moving aside the fact that I will need to take three showers to get the smell out, would the two of you care to know what my solution is, precisely?”
Applebloom and Scootaloo exchanged looks and, at the same time said, “Sure.” with the latter adding in, “What’d you have in mind?”
SOMEWHERE ELSE ENTIRELY…
Soarin was as patriotic an Equestrian as they came. Like every member of the Wonderbolts, he loved his country to the death and would rather be sent to the deepest level of Tartarus than see it fall to any hoof, hand, claw, or paw that was foreign and/or malicious in intent.
Despite this though, he felt his unassailable sense of dutiful fervor fading to the point where he just had to ask himself, “Just what the heck is Auntie Samantha doing with everypony’s bits?”
To him, that was a perfectly legitimate question. For, here he was along with another Wonderbolt, Fire Streak. Both were world class pilots with thousands of flight hours logged under their belts who were not only trained in how to operate every conceivable aircraft under Celestia’s sun, top secret or otherwise, but also in how to conduct special forced operations without any million bit equipment and just using their wings, which, they could use to fly almost as fast as their jets. Not to mention, both had extensive experience in dealing with the public, which given the dual nature of their jobs, was a useful skill indeed.
Yet, here they were, flaks firmly planted on vinyl covered computer chairs that had long since grown past the threshold of uncomfortable for the thirty whole minutes they were forced to sit there. Before them were half a dozen displays each that showed everything from a map of the Canterlot area, the position of various aircraft inside that area, data tags that included aircraft identification, speed, altitude, and, of course, today’s hoofball game.
Soarin’ wasn’t sure which was worse: that he and Fire Streak were stuck down here in the dark like underground air traffic controllers, that they were still being paid an unseemly amount for such a gig, or that the Trougham Knights were down two to eleven against the visiting team.
“And Byrne scores another touchdown for the Metros!” The sports announcer said.
Fire Streak looked towards Soarin’, and extended out his hoof, “Alright buddy, you know what that means.”
Grumbling, Soarin pulled out ten bits from his pocket and, begrudingly, parted with them by giving them to his grubby bud. Scratch that. For suffering such an indignity, he was grateful that he still had bits to spare. Plus, at least it wasn’t as boring as regular air-traffic controlling since they both had televisions down here. In high definition no less!
So long as he and Fire Streak had that, they might survive this temporary stint and get back to being actual Wonderbolts worthy of the title.
“So, is this a recording, or is it live?” Asked a voice in between them.
Soarin and Fire Streak turned their heads to the side to find the owner to be none other than a butter yellow Pegasus with a pink mane in formal attire, aviator sunglasses, and a red barrette on her head. She was bigger, larger, and more muscular than either of them.
“Live, fortunately for me—“ Said Fire Streak with a gleaming smile.
“And unfortunately for me Executive Barricade.” Said Soarin, glumly.
The two turned back towards the game. It took the wheels and gears in their heads a few seconds (five to be exact), but, eventually twin light bulbs went off and as one, their eyes widened to saucers. Swiveling their computer chairs around towards her, Soarin blurted out, “Madame Executuve!”
“Sir! Er…Stallion! Er...Mam! Yeah! That’s it!” Stumbled out Fire Streak.
The both of them got out of their chair with enough force that the seats were sent racing across the marbled floor a ways before falling over. They quickly came to attention and saluted, as was military custom in the new presence of an officer. With their right hind hoof, they kicked their television monitors off and put on the largest, most forced grins they could muster.
“So, was seeing who was gonna make it to the Megabowl part of your duties down here, gentlecolts?” She asked.
“Uhhh…sir no sir!” Fire Streak blurted out. Barricade swerved towards him and was up in his grill so fast that he thought she could have secretly been The Flash for a moment. She was close enough that their noses were almost touching and he was certain that she could see the beads of sweat pour down his forehead like miniaturized cataracts. “Errr…I mean…mam no…mam?”
Seemingly satisfied with this response, Barricade backed up and said, “I thought as much. So, tell me then, why is it that you’ve decided to breach military protocol by looking at the game when, instead, you’re supposed to be giving these monitors a good monitoring?”
“Because this job would be unbearably boring without something to keep us busy, mam!” Soarin blurted out, much to his immediate regret.
“Boring!? Keep you busy!?” She questioned within the Soarin’s personal space this time. “Boy! Is the aerial safety of our great nation’s capital not exciting or busy enough for you!? For BOTH of you!?”
Her head backed away from Soarin’s and she began circling the two like a lion would a pair of helpless zebras. “I should have you two clean your barracks for the next three years! I should have you two go through basic training again three times with an even tougher drill instructor for this willful act of insubordination! I should have you two court marshaled for this!”
The two gulped audibly at this tirade, silently praying to Celestia that they had decided to just play Dodge Hold ‘Em instead as sweat was now soaking every part of their uniforms…trickles of some other, much more yellow bodily fluid threatening to do so as well.
“I—want you both to tell me who’s in the lead.” She said, every word after I, being spoken in her indoor voice. The two of them looked unsure as to whether or not they should be relieved or even more terrified at this. They wore something that alternated between both emotions as well as alternated between looking at each other and the leader of ponies in between them. “Well? I’m waiting!”
“The Manetropolis Metros, Mam!” They both shouted out at the first sign that she was raising her voice again.
She smiled and turned around towards the hallway that lead into the room. “See! I told you they’d be in the lead!”
From one of the corners at the end of the hallways, right before the elevator and the two staircase that flanked it on both sides, emerged non other than the leader of the Wonderbolts herself and their commanding officer (at least, when Barricade or another big time politician like her wasn’t around).
“Captain Spit Fire!” The both of them saluted.
“You two forgot to tack on the word mam at the end of that salute, gentlecolts.” She said, as she walked down the hallway all professional like. “But that’s alright. From what I’ve seen here just now, that’s the least of the mistakes you’ve made.”
“Ah, give them a break Spittle. You know darn well that if you suddenly got assigned here, you’d be doing something similar to help pass the time.” Said Barricade.
Fire Streak leaned over towards Soarin’ and whispered, “Spittle?” to which the blue Pegasi just shrugged.
“Yeah. When I was still a hotshot young rookie just starting off who thought she was the best but didn’t have the sort of discipline to back that claim up.” She replied, sternly.
“Speaking of claims you couldn’t back up, I do believe you owe me thirty odd bits.” Barricade said, cheekily, her hoof extended towards Spit Fire.
Sighing, the Captain reached into her pocket and pulled out the exact amount of money the Executive had said, placing it begrudgingly onto her grubby hoof. “This still doesn’t change the fact that they shouldn’t get off easy for what they did...Executive Barricade.” She said, the word Executive coming out like it gagged her to say it.
“Oh I agree completely. If I were you though, I wouldn’t treat them too harshly for it.”
The eyes of both of the stallions in the room widened in realization. “Wait…so that means…we’re not going to be court martialed?” Asked Soarin.
“Nope.” Said Executive Barricade.
“Dude, did you hear that!?” Soarin turned to Fire Streak excitedly.
“Yeah! We’re not going to jail!” His bud replied, happy as can be.
“Bro hoof!” Said Soarin before both of their hooves bumped against each other.
“Up high!” Said Fire Streak before both their hooves bumped against each other, this time high enough that use of their wings was required.
As the two landed, they noticed the looks both the Captain and the Executive were shooting their way and put on their widest and most forced grins again. “You’re still in a world of trouble for this though.” Said Spit Fire, not amused.
“Before you sentence them you may want to scramble the jets, Captain.” She said, mocking the way that Spit Fire had referred to her title earlier.
“Huh?” The captain and her two subordinates asked, looking her way with the same expression.
“While I was by those monitors, I noticed three unidentified blips entering the Canterlot area at super-sonic speeds. You may want to get on that, as in, now.” Barricade said as she walked over by the monitor where she saw what she did.
“What!? Three unidentified Bogeys!? Where!?” Spit Fire said as she rushed over towards the monitor, nearly trampling over one of the three leaders of their country if she hadn’t fluttered out of the way before-hoof. Just as barricade had said, three unidentifiable objects were skirting along the edges of the Canterlot city area, and fast. The sound barrier already having been broken by them kind of fast.
“Like I said, if I were you, I’d get eyes in the sky there, pronto.” Barricade said as she made towards the stairs.
“Sweet! That means we can finally get out of this place and see some real action!” Soarin said, brohoofing with Fire Streak triumphantly once more.
“Nooo…that means that the two of you are going to stay here on monitor duty while I and anypony else I say gets to see some real action.” She rectified, shooting them back down along with their hopes of escape from their dismal fate. “You two are lucky that Executive Barricade over there decided to drop by the base for a surprise inspection, or we might have missed this little event and the regular air-force might have gotten to it first!”
She huffed and pressed the button for the elevator. While she waited, to turned her head around and said, “When I get back here, we’re going to continue this little talk and I’ll have figured out just what I’m going to do with you two!”
The door opened and she promptly entered it and took off elsewhere above. The two stallions let out several breaths they had been holding, brought their chairs back in front of their respective set of monitors, and slouched back into their respective chairs. For a while, they sat there, relaxing, before they swiveled back around towards their respective televisions and back to the game.
“And Shuster passes it to Siegel and he takes it all towards to the end of the field for a touch down!”
Soarin sighed and reached into his pocket to appease Fire Streak, who was doing a little jig in his seat.
ABOVE THE LIMITS OF THE CITY OF CANTERLOT…
“There it is girls!” Sweetie Belle proclaimed, pointing a hoof down below.
Applebloom and Scootaloo followed her gaze. They saw hills and gnolls of ancient cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, RV’s, School Buses, City buses, a few tanks that looked like they belonged in a museum about the Griffon wars, and, their personal favorite, miscellaneous scrap metal tinged with the fine velvet of rust. They could make out a large sign that read Unicorn Range Scrapyard.
“Ummm…Sweetie Belle…not to be rude or nuthin’, but—“ Began Applebloom.
“—Just how in the hay are we supposed to test out what we can do over there?” Interrupted Scootaloo.
Sweetie Belle ignored their skepticism and instead of answering their question, dove towards the center of the yard at break neck speeds and somehow managed to reach the ground gracefully, as though she weighed a feather. She was soon followed by Scootaloo landing with a slight thud, but otherwise, only displacing some loose dirt to her left and by Applebloom landing hard enough to form a crater that nearly knocked her and the orange Alicorn down. She certainly did crumble about five mountains of surrounding junk though.
“Now, to assuage both your fears, I do believe a demonstration is in order.” Sweet Belle said as she trotted over to the nearest jalopied car. She pulled up the hood and looked at some faded lettering on it before picking up the entire car over her head with a single hoof. With a wide smile, turned around to her friends. After Scootaloo managed to pull Applebloom out, the both of them regarded their friend by looking like they did whenever Ms. Cheerilee tried explaining her fancy mathematics to the class and scratched their heads.
“Uhhh…three times the square root of five?” They both asked.
Sweetie Belle tilted her head backwards and sighed at her friends showing a complete lack of comprehension…again.
“You guys! We’re in a junk yard!” She said, as though the answer was right in front of them, slapping them in the face hard enough to do the impossible and shatter steel. “As in, a place with lots of heavy objects made by sapient being who measured everything about them before tossing them over here, including how much they weigh? Objects that we are quite familiar with and will help us to paint a better picture of how much we can lift?”
The two stared at her. They blinked, once, twice, and three times owlishly. After the fourth time, instead of blinking, their eyes widened in realization and they said, “Ohhh…we get it!”
Sighing once more, Sweetie Bell said, “Well, better late than never I suppose. Now, would the two of you please be dears and fetch me more heavy objects, preferably ones that have their weight labeled on them like this two ton vehicle here, if you’d please.”
Complying, Scootaloo and Applebloom zipped off to find the biggest, heaviest, junked vehicles they could find following Sweetie Belle’s specifications. Within the next two minutes, they dumped wreck after wreck, scrap heap after scrap heap, and ton after ton atop their white-coated compatriot. Their mouths slowly began to drop the more and more weight they added and, at the rate they were going, it took little effort for their childish minds to imagine that, pretty soon, the entire Scrapyard would rest precariously on their best friend’s fore-hooves.
However, this was not to be. For, after the last train car and last bi-plane Scootaloo and Applebloom put onto the pile Sweetie Belle was carrying, the sweat that had been building up on her face as the weight increased began pouring downwards like geysers in reverse and with the addition of two more medicine balls, her muscles could no more handle the strain. She collapsed, the pile above her pushing her into the earth below, the childish minds of her friends no longer filled with their previous fantasy, a newer, darker, and more probable one taking its stead.
“Sweetie Belle!” The two of them shouted.
The zoomed back towards the ground and, after planting herself uncomfortably into the dirt once more, Applebloom joined her friend in tossing away the junk in a furious frenzy of hoof and teeth, praying to Celestia that it would not serve as Sweetie Belle’s headstone. The deceased former sovereign of Equestria seemed to smile upon them that day for it was soon after that their friend burst forth from a spot right in between them and hovered in the air above. She was panting, covered in dirt, and sweating like a Caribou in Saddle Arabia, but hey! She was already like that back in the Everfree and so were they! The only difference was that there was a bit more rust caught in her mane (as well as less scat). A difference that, while wiping their foreheads and sighing, they showed gratitude for.
“Boy howdy! You sure had us worried there fer a second Sweetie Belle!” Applebloom beamed.
“Really? Huh? I was worried there for far longer than that.” She said, stretching out her legs and wings. “Well, if there’s any sort of lesson we can acquire from this little accident in order to make it happy, it’s that, even as Alicorns, we three still have some sort of boundaries and limitations.”
“The more you know. Brought to you by the Sweetie Belle institute for eggheads.” Scootaloo whispered into Applebloom’s ear, who fought back a smirk.
Ignoring whatever so-called clever rebuttal Sweetie Belle suspected her orange coated friend of saying, she said, “Now, speaking of which: exactly how much tonnage did you happen to procure before I…had my little tumble?”
At this, the two let out dumbfounded stares and Uhhhs before nervously scratching their heads and avoiding eye contact with their friend. “You didn’t even bother to count, did you?” Sweetie Belle asked, dryly.
Scootaloo said, “Did too!” right as Applebloom said, “Nope!” Looking at each other, Scootaloo said, “I mean nope” right as Applebloom said, “Did too!” Afterwards, the two managed to get down something right in unison. “Errr…”
Sweetie Belle sighed and let her fore-legs droop down towards the ground. “Uhhh…why do I even—“
For the better part of the following five minutes, Sweetie Belle meticulously went over every heap that was placed upon her as impromptu exercise weights, scanning them up and down for any sort of marking that denoted their exact mass. After adding it all up, she flew down towards her friends (who she noticed were discussing the finer points of how to use their new found gift to get back at a certain pair of bullies from their school, much to her juxtaposed dismay and approval) and beamed, “All right girls! After tallying it all up and subtracting that bi-plane Scootaloo said was the last thing she placed, I do believe that the maximum allotted weight I can carry is around two kilotons of the short persuasion our great nation is so fond of using and teaching.”
“Pfffttt…Only two? Lightweight.” Scootaloo said, rolling here eyes.
“…You are aware of what the prefix kilo means, correct?”
“Uhhh…light…weight?” Scootaloo said, grinning a little too widely.
“No. It means a thousand. As in: a thousand tons. As in: I just lifted TWO thousand tons over my head.” She said at half speed so that the halfwit before her could get it, hopefully. Maybe. Probably not.
“Like I said there Sweetie: Pfffttt…” Replied Scootaloo without missing a beat. “I bet I could lift a bajillion times more weight than that before I become buried under a pile of junk!”
Taking this as a challenge, Sweetie Belle’s eyes narrowed upon her friend. “Really now?”
“Does Ponyville have a law against cars?”
For a while, Sweetie Belle maintained her look while Applebloom’s grew steadily more confused. “Wait…it does? I just thought nopony could afford one!”
“Alright Scootaloo…Since you seem sooo assured of yourself…Applebloom! Follow me would you? I saw something interesting as we were making our way here that I think our friend here shall find most…interesting.”
With that, the two took off elsewhere in the yard. It was not long before they returned with a rather large and scuttled looking vessel. It was an old destroyer that at one time might have been a proud seaworthy asset to the Equestrian Navy, but now, like everything else here, was just so much deadweight looking for the right buyer to be apart of something living again. “Hehe. Dead.” Scootaloo nervously chuckled inside her head at the sight of it.
“Alright Sweetie Belle: nice and easy, right?” Asked Applebloom with a sly look, holding up the bow with her fore-legs at her stomach as though she were a mover lifting a couch.
“Correct.” Said Sweetie, with an even slyer look, holding up the stern with her body in the same position. “Nice…and…”
With promptness, the two let go and the destroyer fell rather noisily on top of their friend below, who yelled even more noisily with a face that spook of impending and hilarious doom. As the dust began to settle, her friends laughed heartily at this, snapping their knees as they hovered back down (or, in Applebloom’s case, crashing back down) and rolled on the ground, laughing.
After about a minute or two, Applebloom wiped away the tears from her face and said, “Oh boy! That look she had on was darn near priceless!”
“I concur Applebloom!” Agreed Sweetie Belle, also wiping tears away from her face. “And that yell? If the ancient Minotaurians saw that, they’d have no choice but to make it the very definition of what comedy is!”
The two held back their laugher for a second, looked at each other, and in stereo, imitated the, “AAAHHH!” Scootaloo had shouted. They subsequently broke down, giggling fits once more.
After another minute or two, Applebloom stopped to a slow snicker and said, “Ya know…she’s been down there an awfully long time. Are you sure she isn’t, ya know, hurt?”
“Oh, pee-shaw Applebloom.” Sweetie Belle said, casually waving a dismissive hoof. “All of that weight isn’t entirely focused on her and, even if it was, the only lasting effect would be like driving one rock into wet sand with another rock. Just like what happened to me not too long ago.”
“Are ya sure?”
“Believe me Applebloom, she’s fine. Though she might have overestimated her strength in comparison to yours truly, she did in fact manage to hold her own against you and myself back in the Everfree, remember?”
“Hrrrmmm…well…I guess there is that.” Applebloom said, hoof to her chin.
“I bet right now, she’s just a little busy contemplating on what she said earlier.”
“Yeah. I bet, right now, she’s eatin’ those words, for real.”
“You mean, literally?”
“That too. Oh! I also reckon that she’s a little busy trying to dig herself to Chineigh!”
“Ha! While that is a good one, I do believe that I can best you yet! For, I think that—“
Their musings as to Scootaloo’s current predicament were silenced when what sounded like the creaking of steel behind them perked their ears up. Turning to face it, they saw the destroyer slowly begin to rise out of the earth it had plowed into, as though by some vast and unseen force. Looking at the bottom of its hull, they saw that the source behind its being lifted, while certainly not unseen, was still the former indeed. For there stood Scootaloo, on her hind-legs, holding up the vessel with her fore ones, her face every bit of a mess as Sweetie’s was earlier, and then some.
“How…much…?” She asked with teeth gritted so hard that if the force was set free and allowed to roam wild, it could flatten a house.
Being the first to get her jaw back from the ground, Sweetie Belle stammered out, “Uhhh…three…thousand…tons…?”
“Good. Now…do you mind…getting out of the way…? I think…it’s…Applebloom’s…turn…” Scootaloo said, a smile that was like the aforementioned red maned Alicorn’s and Sweetie Belle’s one from when they dropped the ship on top of her earlier.
Not needing to be told twice, Sweetie Bell took several steps outside of the shadow looming over her and Applebloom and said, “Of course! She’s all yours!”
Not long after, said shadow descended quickly on Applebloom, who had time enough to mutter out an odd curse she had picked up from her family over the years. “Aw, horse apples.”