• Published 24th Feb 2012
  • 2,889 Views, 67 Comments

The Great Switcheroo - JimmyZD



A bizarre incident involving an exploding pig at the Carousel Boutique leaves Rarity in shock and unable to work. Shenanigans ensue.

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6
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 2,889

Alchemy

"CUTIE MARK CRUSADER ALCHEMISTS, YEAH!"

The three fillies had been hard at work in their clubhouse.

On the table stood a large and elaborate chemistry set. At the end of this labyrinthine setup of tubes, cylinders and filters was a beaker half-filled with a strange, luminescent-yellow substance. Using a copy of "Magical Mysteries and Practical Potions" they'd borrowed from Twilight's library as a guide, they had spent all morning gathering the ingredients necessary to create it, and after a gruelling all-day search for the many nigh-unobtainable items on their list - which included a dragon's sneeze, a hydra toenail and "the sheen from a pegasus pony's purple mane" - they had finally finished.

It had all been an exercise in repeated near-injury and risk. Their manes were indicative of the lengths that they'd gone to: Apple Bloom's was badly singed (she'd vowed never to go near Spike with a pepper shaker again); Sweetie Belle's was shredded awkwardly (those hydra can be very bad-tempered); and Scootaloo's was... entirely grey. Having the color sucked out of her mane with a magic vacuum cleaner had initially put a bit of a downer on her mood, but she had since taken solace in the fact that she now looked like the spitting image of Daring Do, whom she knew to be one of Rainbow Dash's heroes. Still, she pondered how exactly was she going to explain the whole "grey-mane" thing to her parents—

"Scoot!" squeaked a voice beside her emphatically.

With a shake of her head, Scootaloo snapped back into reality, to see Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle beaming expectantly at her, their right front legs stretched high into the air.

"Don't leave us hangin', Scoot!"

Scootaloo stared at them both for a moment, then smiled, and repeated the gesture herself.

The trio high-hoofed. They marched back over to the table.

"Oooooh!"

They collectively marvelled at their creation. The shimmering yellow liquid was a sight to behold - it had the awe-inspiring, hypnotic majesty of a flickering bed of flames, and the... well, wetness, of water.

"This is gonna be perfect," Scootaloo said out loud after about half a minute passed, during which the three Crusaders simply continued to stare into the beaker of fluid.

"Ah sure hope so," replied Apple Bloom, a slight air of doubt in her voice.

The pegasus filly snorted. "Come on! We've learned from our past mistakes. The whole 'Cheerilee and Big Mac' thing has blown over now - and hey, we succeeded in making the love poison, didn't we?"

"It wasn't exactly what we wanted," Apple Bloom stated dryly.

"That's not the point! What I'm saying is that we got it right, right down to the whole 'lost in each other's eyes' thing. Potion-brewing is so obviously our special talent."

"I agree with Scootaloo," Sweetie Belle interjected, who was still resting on the table, her eyes fixated on the yellow liquid in the beaker, wearing a vacant look that suggested she actually mightn't have been listening to the whole discussion.

"Ah s'pose you've got a point, Scoot," Apple Bloom conceded. Then the thoughts of all three of them finally getting their alchemy cutie marks flooded her mind with a sense of urgency. "Come on, gals! What're we standin' around for? Let's test this thing out!"

Scootaloo nodded in agreement, and then looked down at Sweetie, who was still staring at the beaker. She nudged at the unicorn filly and snapped her out of her trance. "Sweetie! Go get the vials!"

Sweetie obeyed and trotted over to the door, beside which a small bag was laying. She grabbed the bottom of the bag in her mouth and emptied its contents carefully over the floor of the clubhouse. Ten small, thin containers rolled out.

"It sure was mighty kind of Twilight to lend us that book," said Apple Bloom as Sweetie Belle picked the vials up in her mouth and deposited them on the table. "And this chemistry set that she used in her youth. Course, Ah'm sure she now uses something much more sophistamacated than this."

"I wonder if she ever used this thing to make stinkbombs," Scootaloo pondered out loud.

"Nah, you know what she's like," Sweetie Belle squeaked. "She was probably way too busy buried in her books to care about stuff like pranks."

"Yeah, you're right," said Scootaloo. "What a neeeeerd!"

The orange, grey-haired pegasus sniggered at her own remark, but Sweetie Belle simply managed a tiny smirk of acknowledgement at this jibe. As a unicorn herself, she did have some degree of admiration for Twilight Sparkle's magical prowess and studious attitude. She wondered if she considered herself to be a "nerd", and ultimately decided that if she and the other Cutie Mark Crusaders weren't so busy, erm, crusading... that she'd probably be busy perusing volume after volume of beginners' spellbooks to while all the spare time away.

While Sweetie slipped into idle daydream once more, Apple Bloom was entirely preoccupied with getting the yellow fluid into each vial. Her sleight of hoof came in very handy at this point. She managed to pour out a perfectly equal amount of the liquid each time, then used her mouth to plug the tops of each with a cork.

She caught a whiff of the mixture as she sealed the last vial. It smelled curiously of primroses.

"All right!" she finally said, juggling a single container in one of her hooves. "Let's go give this stuff a test run!"


Inside the Sweet Apple Acres barn, the fillies were ready to put their new brew through its paces.

"Ohh, man... this is gonna shock Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon soooo bad," Scootaloo said eagerly, bouncing up and down in place.

"So..." Apple Bloom recapped, "The plan is: to find them, get them to a place where nopony else is, throw this at them, turn them to stone..."

"Whoa, wait a minute... hold up."

Scootaloo and Apple Bloom were now looking at Sweetie Belle, who was in turn looking at them, but her face wore a look of utter bewilderment, rather than one of "oh, what now?".

"Are you saying that this is actually going to turn Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon... INTO STONE?!?" the little unicorn squeaked.

"Uh, yeah," Apple Bloom said matter-of-factly. "Only for a minute or two, though."

"Yeah, Sweetie, we're not monsters," Scootaloo reassured her. She added under her breath, "not like a cockatrice..."

"Yeah, that's the whole point of this prank," continued Apple Bloom, "We just have to throw this stuff on them, turn them into little pony statues, then, like... move 'em someplace else!"

"Why would we do that?" asked Sweetie Belle, puzzled.

"'Cos it's funny!" Scootaloo laughed.

"Yeah, an' it'll confuse the hay out of them," added Apple Bloom.

"Where do we move them to, then?"

"Ah dunno. On a roof, up a tree, in a river..."

"Uhh... I'm pretty sure that last one would be drowning them, Apple Bloom."

"Oh yeah, sorry. Hadn't thought of that," Apple Bloom said sheepishly. "But we've gotta get them back somehow, f'r makin' us do their homework last week... in exchange for not telling Miss Cheerilee who accidentally kicked her apple out of the window."

"That was no accident!" smirked Scootaloo. "You just wanted to practise your apple-bucking skills!"

"Did not! Mah apple-bucking is top-notch. Ah don't need practice."

"That's not what you said at the time."

Sweetie Belle still had a look of disapproval on her face. "D-don't worry, Sweetie!" said Apple Bloom, turning to the unicorn filly. "It's just a harmless little prank. What could possibly go wrong?"

"Well, are we sure we got it right, this time?" inquired Sweetie.

Scootaloo thought momentarily. "...Pretty sure," she answered.

"How sure is pretty sure, exactly?" Sweetie Belle dug deeper for a straight answer.

"Never mind! Let's just pick a pig, and let's do this!" Scootaloo retorted, eager to get started after all this time.

"Wait. So we're gonna be testing this on pigs, first?"

"Yes!!" chorused Scootaloo and Apple Bloom. It seemed that Sweetie Belle's lagging behind the plans that they'd clearly laid out beforehand was starting to grate on them somewhat.

"Don't worry, Sweetie!" repeated Apple Bloom. "We're fairly certain that this won't do anything stupid or awful," Apple Bloom said.

"Or awfully stupid," piped up Sweetie Belle, helpfully.

"Okay, relax, you guys!" shouted Scootaloo. "I'm just gonna do it, okay? ...But get behind that hay just to be safe."

The three fillies did this. Scootaloo uncorked the vial she was holding and stood up on her knees behind the bale of hay in question, and, positioning her left hoof high above her head, directed her aim towards an isolated pig drinking from a water trough in the corner of the barn nearest the door.

"Here goes nothing..." Scootaloo said, and squinted at the pig for extra concentration. Prior to this, Apple Bloom had instructed her exactly how she should do this - she had to swing the vial in order to get as much of the magic potion on the pig as possible, with absolutely minimal spillage. They had only a vague idea of what might happen if Applejack found out from the mystical glowing puddles inside her barn that they were conducting bizarre chemistry experiments in the barn - on live animals, no less.

Aiming carefully, she thrusted her left front leg in a calculated arc, but had to shut her eyes tight as she did so.

"Did you get it?" whispered Apple Bloom, as though this was some kind of covert operation, when in fact their only possible witnesses were a group of oblivious porcine.

"I'unno," Scootaloo answered in an equally hushed tone.

They cautiously peered over towards the pig, which appeared perfectly unaware of what had just happened. It was continuing to drink water from the trough. Across its back was a neat streak of luminous yellow liquid.

"Yes!" Scootaloo hissed, punching the air in celebration.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders crouched over the bale of hay at the animal in the corner, wide-eyed, waiting for something to happen.

About ten seconds (which seemed closer to a full hour) passed, and then something did happen.

The yellow liquid across the pig's back slowly evaporated into a series of star-shaped particles, which multiplied at an exponential rate and enveloped the pig's entire body, bathing the barn in a brilliant yellow light.

"I think it's working!" Scootaloo cried excitedly.

The pig was now vaguely aware that everything was not normal. It began to backpedal anxiously from the trough as though the sparkles surrounding it were a swarm of angry bees, and it was now squealing in panic.

"Come oooonnn..." Apple Bloom said through gritted teeth. Each of the three fillies craned their necks forward in the suspense. What they were seeing and hearing was somewhat disturbing and only getting worse - the pig now sounded as though it was in genuine pain. It was starting to attract the attention of the other pigs in the barn who were growing restless and agitated at the unwitting test subject's distressed squeals.

The three Crusaders all collectively bit their bottom lips.

"This... doesn't look right," Sweetie Belle groaned.

"TURN TO STONE, ALREADY!" screamed an exasperated Scootaloo.

Apple Bloom interrupted: "Guys, I'm starting to have second thoughts about thi—"

CRASHHHHH!!!!
"AAAAAaaaaahhhhh!!!!!!" They all screamed in unison.

In an instant, an almighty explosion of wind filled the entire inside of the barn, and a large hole was suddenly blown through the barn door, sending splintered chunks of wood flying in every direction. The three frightened fillies ducked down behind the bale of hay again and shielded their heads from the cacophony.

Then it was over - just as suddenly as it had started. All was silent, save for the wailing of the now thoroughly terrified pigs, who were galloping around the barn in a blind panic.

The three young ponies all opened one eye, and looked at each other with equally panicked expressions. About another ten seconds passed, with not one of them able to summon the courage to look towards the door at the aftermath of the scene of chaos that had just unfolded.

...

Eventually, Scootaloo hoisted herself up onto her hind legs - ever so slowly - and stared over the bale of hay at the enormous aperture in the barn door immediately in front of them. She swallowed.

Sweetie Belle was next, still not daring to open both of her eyes at once, and still gnashing her teeth together in an anxious and worried grimace. She wiped some dust from her face and coughed a bit, then peered, with one eye still closed, at the hole in the door.

Apple Bloom was the last to stand up. She observed the large hole in the barn door with a purely horrified expression across her face. Maintaining a firm glance on the hole, she brushed a loose chunk of wood from her singed mane. It fell with a hollow clatter to the floor, then she drooped her front leg by her side again, still mesmerized by the huge, gaping hole in the wall.

A few more chunks of wood fell from the hole. The dust cloud started to clear. There was a faint whistling of the wind outside.

There was not a petrified pig to be seen.

Well, that is to say, all the other pigs in the barn were petrified... but not in the "turned to stone" sense. They all backed into the furthest back corner of the barn and cowered there, oinking fearfully.

Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom slowly but surely emerged from behind the bale of hay that had been their cover from the blast, and trotted slowly and with some degree of shame outside. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle leapt through the hole, and Apple Bloom followed a short distance behind them, opting instead use the traditional method of lifting the latch to open the destroyed door of the barn, in order to walk outside.

It was a hazy, serene late-afternoon. The dimming sun was setting just over the brow of the lowest hill in the distance, bathing the world around it in a velvety, red dusk. The other stars were just starting to shine through the thinly-clouded sky. Above their heads, a lone hawk cried out as it soared over Sweet Apple Acres.

The three fillies frantically searched the immediate area for a pig that might still be around... or, well, alive... or dagnabbit, even existent. Scootaloo and Apple Bloom's searches drawing a blank, they returned to where Sweetie Belle was, still stationed directly in front of the barn, staring up at the orangey sky, and sweating profusely.

She pointed a shaking hoof upward, and Scootaloo and Apple Bloom's gazes met with a distinctly porcine-shaped object sailing in the air about a hundred or so feet up. A contrail of smoke and stars accompanied its flight, which slowly descended in an arc - that looked destined for the very center of Ponyville.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders' throats dried up and they gulped collectively.

"...Uh oh."


"There! Finished for now!"

There was a sense of fulfillment and relief in Rarity's voice, and she sighed, content with her work. She stepped back a few paces to observe the piece from a distance.

It was a splendid-looking gala dress, draped over a mannequin. It was lovingly encrusted with fine amethysts and had an enchanting, silvery sheen to the fabric. Stitched with almost mathematical precision into the dress was a large, stylized representation of Twilight Sparkle's cutie mark - a set of multiple six-pointed white stars encircling a much larger purple star - this also was adorned with purple gemstones. The silks had been chosen specially to create a mystical, nocturnal color scheme of dark purples, dark blues and even dark silvers, and gave a positively otherworldly appearance to the ensemble. Rarity considered it to be a spectacle that not only improved on, but transcended the elegance of Twilight's gala dress from the previous year. It was undoubtedly one of her best works yet.

The unicorn had borrowed a fresh copy of "The Astronomical Astronomer's Almanac to All Things Astronomy" from Twilight's library, and had used it as a reference guide for creating accurate representations of the various constellations of the night sky.

The final crystal had just been set in place, after close to five hours of Rarity's careful scrutiny of the distances between the individual stars in the constellations, according to the Almanac. She had also hoof-picked the most ideal amethysts for the job, taking into account overall size and brightness to ensure the patterns bore as close a resemblance to the celestial patterns they represented. It was tiring and painstaking work. Or rather, it had been, and she was finally done with process. And, needless to say, for the day.

The white unicorn levitated a hoofkerchief over from across the room and delicately mopped her brow with it.

"Oh, Rarity," she announced to herself, "you've really outdone yourself with this one. Twilight is simply going to love it. And I'm sure Luna will appreciate my hard work on recreating her... intriguing constellations, too." She fumbled on the adjective there, because stargazing and astronomy had never been something she had ever thought of pursuing as an interest, but taking the care to read through the Almanac had opened her eyes to just how infinitely intricate the whole system was. It was certainly mind-boggling, but she couldn't see how she could spend as much time studying and writing about it as Twilight did. It was certainly... intriguing, though.

All those amethysts were quite a dazzling sight to behold, Rarity herself had to admit. She made a mental note to ensure that Spike was kept a considerable distance away from this particular dress, way up until the night of the Gala.

She was infinitely glad that Sweetie Belle had apparently been out of the house all day. There was no other earthly explanation for: why the house had been so quiet; nothing in the boutique had been toppled or broken or unravelled in all the time she'd been in her studio; and... come to think of it, Rarity hadn't seen her sister since lunchtime. While she was a bit concerned that she might have to go searching for her sister if she didn't turn up soon, she was grateful that the little troublemaker had kept herself busy while Rarity had spent nearly the whole day on such an important project. She contemplated preparing tea early, and surprising Sweetie Belle with her favorite meal as an act of graciousness. Now, what did Sweetie say was her favorite again...?

A cool, gentle breeze had been blowing through the open window of the Carousel Boutique studio. But now the sun had disappeared almost completely, and dusk had by now fully descended upon Ponyville. Rarity suddenly became aware of how chilly it had become and felt her coat start to prickle up. "Oh, dear, that simply won't do," she muttered, marching over to the window to close it.

The stars were now fully visible in the twilit sky. Rarity stared up at the gleaming bodies high above, and suddenly found herself recognizing clusters of them. She immediately grabbed the Almanac from across the room and found the page reference for the constellation "Taurus". In the book, the stars were arranged precisely as she beheld in the dimming sky before her - a clearly 'V'-shaped group of five stars, with four arms extending outwards in exactly the directions she saw.

A thrill passed through her body and she sighed happily. Ha ha, so this is where Twilight gets all her motivation on this stuff from, she thought to herself. Maybe, once the dress was finished, she could ask Twilight if she could borrow her telescope for a night or two—

Rarity suddenly caught sight of something in the sky above. Unable to recognize it as any kind of star-like body, she lifted the book in front of her once again, and flicked through the pages rapidly with her horn's magic.

Her eyes darting back and forth through the book's pages, she looked at each diagram of the various astronomical bodies that the Almanac listed, drawing a blank with each one. There was nothing shaped like that in this book—

Then she became aware of a faint sound passing through the night air... drawing closer.

It sounded like... a pig squealing.

Her eyes widened as she took a second glance up towards the ominous shape in the sky above her...

Accelerating straight towards her.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAA--"

Her scream was interrupted by the airborne intruder plunging straight through the open window and catapulting her backwards into her studio. She tumbled chaotically into the opposite wall, knocking several spools of fabric off the high shelf above her and onto her head.

Her head spinning from the impact of the falling objects, her legs flailing in the shock at having been knocked over, and her lungs almost completely drained of air from the intruder's collision with her, it took her some time and effort to pick herself up. Coughing and breathing hard, Rarity looked back up - but then wished she hadn't.

The Almanac had gone flying off in another direction, colliding with the cabinet, where a set of neatly-folded fabrics lay. The cabinet went toppling over, and the rolls of fabric flew off their shelves and made a fine old mess of the otherwise unlittered studio. The flying book then eventually snagged on the wire suspending the lamp from the ceiling, slithered down it, and eventually brought it crashing down. The lightbulb shattered into pieces on impact, and the heat and sparks from the resulting miniature explosion ignited the book and the fabrics laying strewn across the floor, which trailed all the way over to her bed. Spreading fast, the fire soon engulfed most of her studio.

Rarity stared, aghast, unable to speak or even breathe purely from the shock. She sniffed, and swore she could smell the fabulousness burning away in amongst the rising clouds of smoke. All that escaped her was a simple whimper.

She was still winded, and barely had any breath left in her. Then she saw the thing in the middle of the room, and, letting all of her distress loose in one go, shrieked mightily.

"YEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKK!!!!!!"

There was a pig.

It was upside down, swinging its four stubby legs back and forth and still squealing in a mixture of confusion and pain.

Rarity emitted yet another high-pitched sound.

"OH MY SWEET CELESTIA! GET OUT OF MY BOUTIQUE YOU FILTHY FARM ANIMA—"

KA-BOOOM!!!

A yellow, starry glow illuminated the animal, and it exploded in an enormous and glorious magical fireball, sending embers and sparks outward in every direction and showering Rarity's studio with a hail of bacon strips.

It was at that point that Rarity fainted.


Twilight let herself in. It was normal for her unicorn friend to be so engrossed in her dressmaking that she'd miss the doorbell, or indeed the most persistent spree of door-knocking. Outside the boutique, the sun had now vanished, and the chilly evening air bit down on the unicorn's fur coat, but her head felt toasty and warm thanks to the specially-fashioned earmuffs that Rarity had made for her personally. She'd also been humming a happy little tune to herself that Pinkie Pie had been singing all day about smiling, and she was overall in a good mood, which had certainly not been interrupted by any sort of inexplicably flying farmyard animal soaring noisily overhead and crashing into the room directly above her head.

Twilight ascended the stairs to Rarity's studio, still humming innocently away.

"Hi, Rarity!" she greeted as she stepped up to the door. "Are you in there? I know you didn't want me to come in while you were working on my super-special dress for the Gala, but I just wondered how you were getting on with that book I lent you?"

No reply. The purple unicorn sniffed.

"...s...smoke? SMOKE?!"

Filled with a sudden surge of dread, she stepped directly in front of the door, and darn-near broke it down with a swift kick of both of her hind legs.

Her jaw nearly dropped clean to the floor at the spectacle that greeted her - Rarity, lying rigid on her back with all four hooves perfectly frozen in mid-air, covered from head to hoof in smoky bacon; her studio almost entirely aflame.

"Rarity!" Twilight spluttered through the noxious pumes of smoke as they escaped into the corridor.

"Rarity!" she called out again, then looked again at the scene in front of her, still trying to process it.

"Did Discord drop by here, by any chance?"


Author's Note:

Hoo-ey did this thing explode. Hope you guys don't mind shortish chapters, because that's likely the length the following ones will be - definitely not quite this long. I love a good bit of build-up to an actual plot as much as the next guy, but I really think I'll go easy on the word count for the next few chapters at least. :P

This is my first MLP fic, but definitely not my first bit of creative writing. I can already see that I might well struggle to use gender-specific pronouns what with there being a virtually all-female cast and whatnot. heh.

Anyways, I hope you folks enjoyed the read! (Or at the very least got a little laugh out of it.) I'm open to all sorts of constructive critique and criticism. Any questions, comments, etc.? I'll try and answer them where appropriate. :)

On an unrelated note, the CMCs are rather fun to write for. :P

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