This is the sixth story in The Journey of Graves. Special thanks go to MrBackpack, my spectacular editor, who did so much to help me craft this story.
The series begins with the first story: When the Man Comes Around.
IMPORTANT: If you haven't read the series, please head back to the beginning and check it out. While each story stands on its own, the character and relationship developments will build on each other as the series progresses.
And so, the saga continues...
Lazy Summer Days
The Most Dangerous Game
Flying, flying, flying…
Wait. Watch. Keep watching. Keep watching…
It’s moving! Go after it!
Peek out. Carefully. Did it see you? No? Good. You’re safe.
Get out. Slowly. Don’t be seen.
Must get back and report.
Flying, flying, flying…
When Pinkie heard the tapping at the door, she busted her butt to get it. After all, the sign on Sugar Cube Corners said closed, and everybody knows that nobody knocks on the door of a closed bakery. Nobody, except those who are in the know, of course.
“Hurry up and get inside!” she hissed, a split second before Rainbow Dash came tumbling through. Locking the door quickly, Pinkie Pie turned to her fallen flyer friend and looked at her expectantly.
“Well? How’d it go? He didn’t see you, did he?”
“Psh, no way,” the tomboy replied from where she lay on the ground. “You should’ve seen me, Pinks. I was all like, ‘dun dun, dun dun dun,' and he was all like, ‘nope, don’t see Rainbow Dash anywhere,’ and I was all…”
“Yeah yeah yeah,” the bubbly baker prodded on. “But you did get it, right? You know, the… information?” The last word was finished with a conspiratorial hush as Pinkie Pie’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. Rainbow Dash just grinned smugly and held up a single piece of paper.
“Got it all right here.”
“Great!” Pinkie Pie beamed as she grabbed the sheet and eagerly read it. “Ooh, this is good. And I mean really, really, good!”
“So, are we ready?” Rainbow Dash asked, now fluttering in the air excitedly. “I mean, are we really gonna do it? Today?”
“It’s too good an opportunity to pass up,” Pinkie Pie said with an evil grin. “Come on, Dashie, to the war room!”
“You got it, boss!” the flyer laughed with a crisp salute and immediately followed after.
The room was dark, save for a bright square of light on the wall, courtesy of a portable projector. Suddenly, Pinkie Pie came swaggering in, fully decked out in a general’s uniform and her pink, cotton candy perm firmly capped by a steel helmet.
“Alright, troops, listen up!” she barked, whipping out a riding crop for a pointer and firmly slapping it against her open palm. “You who’ve gathered here today are the finest pranksters, jokers, and comedians ever to set foot in Equestria. Well, I’m here to tell you that that all those laughs don’t mount up to a hill of beans! That’s right, no delicious beans for you, because today, we’re about to go after the biggest, most serious… Yes! Private!”
“Uh, Pinkie Pie?” Rainbow Dash asked, looking around at the empty room, “Why are you talking like that? It’s just us.”
“Because,” the bubbly girl giggled. “It’s more fun that way, silly!”
“Anyways, troops,” Pinkie Pie resumed, her war face returning in a flash. “I’m sure you’re all familiar with today’s target. He’s the roughest, toughest, most unprankable person of all! That’s right, I’m talking about… Marshal Graves!”
Smacking the projector with her riding crop, a large image of the raven-haired soldier appeared on the wall. Considering the way he stared right at them as he waved hello, it was probably safe to assume it wasn’t a candid shot.
“As you all know, The Big G here is a marshal. That means he’s gonna be quick like a cat, with reflexes like a puma, senses like a jaguar, the instincts of a cheetah–”
“Okay, we get it,” Rainbow Dash sighed. “Hurry it up, will ya?”
“Right!” Pinkie Pie heartily agreed. “So let’s get down to business. Thanks to Private Dashie’s careful surveillance,” she nodded to the multicolored flyer who grinned smugly, “we now have a comprehensive list of all the likely places Graves will be today. From intercepted conversations between the marshal and our secret agent, Spike, it looks like he’s going to visit Rarity’s boutique, then Sweet Apple Acres, stop by the Sweetwater Café, and then go home.”
“That means we’ve got exactly three chances to nail him before he’s safely tucked away in his house,” Rainbow Dash said, a fierce grin on her face and a fiery flash of excitement in her eyes.
“That’s the spirit, Private,” Pinkie Pie cheered. “Now, what do we have in our arsenal?”
“Let’s see, we’ve got… a rubber chicken, a pack of sneezing powder, two bottles of hot sauce, one full set of food coloring, and a variety of novelty plastic animals.”
“Excellent,” Pinkie Pie smiled wickedly. “Pack it all up, Private, and let’s move out.”
“Er… even the rubber chicken?” Rainbow Dash asked hesitantly.
“Especially the rubber chicken. Keep in mind, Private Dashie, this isn’t just a simple prank run. This. Is. War.”
Summer was in full swing, and true to her word, Rarity had put together a new ensemble for the marshal. Instead of his usual leather long coat – which would have been unbearably hot, not to mention slightly tacky in the pretty seamstress’s opinion – the young soldier was instead decked out in a charcoal grey, pinstripe vest with matching slacks over a light blue shirt. The hat was the same (he’d been insistent on that point), but was now black to match his new attire, courtesy of a fancy chameleon spell the violet-haired girl had whipped up.
It was now on the road to said young lady’s house that he was being watched. Twin pairs of binoculars spotted him as he strolled along before simultaneously withdrawing into the brush cover where Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash waited in fatigues.
“So, what’s the plan, boss?” Rainbow Dash whispered.
“See that patch of wildflowers over there?” Pinkie replied, pointing at a nearby plot of daisies. “Well, I’ve already laced them with sneezing powder. When Graves sees them and comes over for a sniff… bam! Achoo city!”
“…Uh, Pinkie?” Rainbow Dash began hesitantly, “are you sure that this is–”
“Ooh! Ooh! Shh! Here he comes!”
Practically stuffing her hand into the cyan flier’s mouth, the pink-haired baker stifled a giggle as the marshal approached.
Drawing closer and closer, the two girls watched him as he approached. Fifteen feet. Ten feet. Five feet. Here he came…
… and there he went, Graves not slowing a hair as he kept right on going.
“Wait, what?” Pinkie gaped in shock. “But he just… but he should’ve… Why didn’t he…”
“He’s a dude, Pinkster,” Rainbow sighed as she rolled her eyes. “Dudes in general, especially dudes like him, don’t get into all that namby pamby sissy stuff. Duh.”
“Ooh, I getcha,” Pinkie Pie nodded in realization. “Wow, that’s kind of surprising. I thought flowers were like cupcakes, in that everyone loves cupcakes. Seriously, who doesn’t love cupcakes?”
“I… think we’re getting a little off topic here,” Rainbow Dash chuckled. “Well anyways, don’t worry about it. I figured out the perfect prank that’s sure to get the Big G.”
Having made their way to Sweet Apple Acres, the same camouflaged duo peeked out from under a large bale of hay. Out in the field, Graves was helping Big Macintosh clear the ground of stones in order to get it ready for summer planting.
“So what’re you planning, Rainbow Dash?” Pinkie Pie whispered eagerly as she kept a keen eye on the working pair. The multicolored tomboy giggled as she began to explain.
“Okay, okay. Here’s how it works. Big G’ll be working and after a while, he gets thirsty, right? So he goes over to the hose by the barn for a drink. Only, I plugged up the hose, so when he turns it on and nothing comes out, he takes a look at it, and BAM! Hose to the face!”
“Oh my gosh!” Pinkie Pie gasped! “That’s brilliant!”
“I know, isn’t it?” Rainbow Dash squealed. “And best part is, I filled the water tank with food coloring! After that hits him, his face’ll turn a nice shade of robin's egg blue!”
“You. Are. A. Genius!” Pinkie Pie squealed, almost bursting from laughter. Her friend just grinned.
“Yeah, tell me something I don’t know.”
The two girls could hardly contain their glee as they watched and waited. The day wore on and the sun got hotter, till finally Graves and Big Mac put down their tools and started walking over.
“Oh look, look!” Rainbow Dash pointed. “There they come!”
But as they approached, Pinkie’s nose started to itch. It wasn’t the kind of itch that meant a sneeze coming on or anything. No, this was a Pinkie sense itch telling her she’d forgotten something.
“Hey, Rainbow Dash?” she asked quietly, scratching her nose.
“So the whole hose thing: you set it up to work once right?”
“Duh,” the cyan flyer scoffed. “Why would I need it to work more than once?”
“Well…” Pinkie Pie hesitated for a moment. “What if Graves doesn’t get there first?”
Rainbow Dash moved to reply, but froze as the horrible realization dawned on her. Turning her attention back to the field, Pinkie’s premonitions practically became prophesy as after a brief moment’s discourse, Graves headed towards the Apple family house while Big Mac went for the hose.
“… Well that wasn’t supposed to happen,” the cyan flier frowned at the marshal’s retreating back. “I mean seriously, what are the odds?”
“Actually, about fifty-fifty,” Pinkie Pie replied. “Or more like two in three if you count Applejack. But then there’s Applebloom, so that’s more like three in four, and Granny Smith makes it four out of five… And if there’s an Apple family reunion, that’d make it twenty–”
“Okay ,okay, I get it,” Rainbow Dash sighed, stuffing a hand in her chatty friend’s face. “Come on. Let’s get out of here and figure out what to do next.”
“Okie dokie lokie!”
So as a lone pile of hay began making its way across Sweet Apple Acres, Big Macintosh was left to his own devices as he refreshed himself with a cool drink of water. Or tried to, at least. The hose was on, but no water came out.
“What in tarnation...?” he drawled, peering into the hose…
“Okay, I think we’ve been going about this the wrong way,” Rainbow Dash whispered to her co-conspirator.
“Right,” the perky baker said. “My plan wasn’t planned out enough, and your plan was too planned. So what we need is a plan with just enough planniness without getting overly planny.”
“Um… right,” the confused flyer agreed. Pinkie Pie’s explanations never were quite easy to understand.
The two were now stationed outside the Sweetwater Café, peering out of a bush some twenty feet distant from the restaurant’s outdoor seating. Graves, their target, was relaxing at one of the side tables, a copy of the Equestria Daily unfolded before him as he awaited his order.
“Anyways,” the tomboy continued, “this one should be perfect. Nice, simple, and by the books.”
“A true classic,” Pinkie nodded sagely. “The old, 'hot sauce in the drink' trick. Can’t get much better than that.”
“Exactly. Rarity tells me he always orders coffee, so I–”
“She seems to hang out with Graves an awful lot lately,” Pinkie mused thoughtfully. Rainbow Dash blinked.
“Wait, seriously?” she asked askance. “Big G and the girliest girl in Ponyville?”
“Uh, yeah,” Pinkie Pie giggled. “He’s over at her shop all the time for her designs. Not to mention they always seem to bump into each other at the library, and I don’t even know how many times they’ve met for lunch, tea, or sometimes both. Seriously, they’re together a bunch, and I mean a bunch.”
“Wow,” Rainbow Dash gaped in surprise. “Hadn’t noticed.”
“You never do, Dashie,” Pinkie Pie sighed in a decidedly superior tone. “You never do.”
“… Right.” The cyan flier just rolled her eyes. “Anyways, we know he always gets coffee, so I went ahead and dropped in the sauce. Now all we’ve got to do is sit here and wait.”
“How much hot sauce did you put in?” Pinkie Pie asked, which prompted an evil little cackle from her multi-colored friend.
“All of it.”
Pinkie Pie’s eyes went wide. That many scovilles was enough to burn a hole through the floor. And probably all the way to Marelaysia.
It was brilliant.
A minute or two passed, and the fancy waiter with the fancy mustache finally came out, bearing a ceramic cup and tall metal pot. The two girls watched eagerly, breath bated as he poured the marshal a steaming cup of java. Their eyes practically glowed as Graves picked up the cup, lifted it to his lips, took a sip…
… and set it back down as he resumed reading the paper.
“Wait, what?!” Pinkie Pie gasped, loud enough that Lyra and Bonbon, seated on a nearby bench, glanced around in confusion. After she got Rainbow Dash’s hand out of her mouth, she resumed in a much more covert tone.
“Rainbow Dash, I thought you said you put all the hot sauce into the coffee!”
“I did!” her friend hissed back. “Both bottles! All of it!”
“Well, unless he’s got a tongue like sandpaper,” Pinkie retorted, “something went wrong!”
Whatever Pinkie Pie had for breakfast, it was working, because once again her words were proven true. Coming out of the restaurant proper was another fancy waiter, who headed to a nearby table with an identical metal pot.
“Rainbow Dash?” Pinkie Pie began, her eyes slowly widening. “Exactly which thing of coffee did you put the hot sauce in?”
“Um… the right one?” the multicolored blanched.
The two girls watched in mute horror as the waiter dropped the coffee and a platter of muffins for a couple nearby. As the cross-eyed girl with straw colored locks tore into the muffins, her companion, a tall, thin man in a pinstripe suit and fabulous hair, took a huge gulp of coffee.
“Gaaaahhhh!” he cried, spewing the contents of his cup all over the muffins as he jumped up and began fanning the flames shooting from his mouth. The startled waiters rushed over, the cross-eyed girl began crying over the waste of baked goods, and Graves glanced up in surprise as chaos consumed the café.
“Um… maybe we should get out of here,” Rainbow Dash whispered.
“Yeah,” Pinkie Pie nodded slowly. “That might be a good idea.”
Graves paused as he reached to open his front door. His door was open. Looking up, he could clearly see why.
“Bucket of water?” he called out loudly. “Really?”
A nearby bush rustled violently and promptly spat out a branch-and-leaf-covered pair of girls. A pair of girls who, upon seeing the marshal, blushed and grinned in abject embarrassment.
“Heh… was it that obvious?” Rainbow Dash asked, red now the predominant color on her person as her cheeks heated up.
“Kind of,” the marshal chuckled. “Not like the hose. Had to admit, that was pretty good.”
“Wait, you knew?” Pinkie Pie gaped in amazement. “Since when?”
“Since I saw Rainbow Dash following me?” Graves suggested. “That was pretty obvious too.”
“Aw, come on!” the blue-clad flyer cried out, tossing her hands in the air. “This is so not fair! It’s like, you’re totally unprankable or something!”
“Don’t feel bad,” he said, his encouraging words slightly spoiled by the cocky grin that started to peek out. “I’m just good like that.”
“Boy, I’ll say!” Pinkie Pie agreed enthusiastically. “In fact, you’re so good, that I just wanna shake your hand!” Bouncing to her feet, the bubbly baker thrust out a hand with a wide grin. Graves just gave her a pointedly flat look.
“Palm?” he asked, eyebrow arched. Turning over her hand, Pinkie Pie revealed a small buzzer held between her fingers.
“Golly,” she gasped in overly innocent astonishment. “How did that get there, I wonder?”
“I wonder indeed,” Graves repeated dryly as he pulled the bucket of water down. “Points for effort, but you’ll have to do better than that.”
“Grr, just you wait, G!” Rainbow Dash shouted, shaking her fist at him. “One of these days, we’ll get you good! Count on it!”
“You’re welcome to try,” the marshal said lightly. “You’re welcome to try.”
As the door closed behind him, the two girls held still for a moment. Then, a big, wicked grin spread across each of their faces as they turned to one another.
“Three, two, one…” they counted down…
Tears streaming down their faces, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash both fell to the ground, clutching their stomachs as they laughed with gut-busting fervor at the cry that came from indoors. A cry that, despite the manly baritone, sounded an awful lot like a girly scream.
“I… can’t… believe… it worked!” Rainbow Dash wheezed, hardly able to breathe from laughing so hard.
“I told you,” Pinkie Pie snorted through watery eyes, “the old, 'screw-up-a-bunch-of-pranks-to-get-a-really-good-one’ always does it!”
“But really, who’d have thought that Big G would get so freaked out by a bunch of rubber bugs?”
“Well, when they enchanted to jump out of the dresser and go for the face…”
By the time Graves made it outside, his face flushed a bright red from a dash of anger and a whole lot of embarrassment, the dynamic duo had long since disappeared. Their gut-busting laughter, however, could still be clearly heard.