• Published 29th Aug 2013
  • 8,103 Views, 378 Comments

A Skitch in Time (Revised) - GreyGuardPony



When a transgender Brony in denial is turned into a mare and dragged to Equestria she is forced to deal with issues long buried. To make matters worse, whatever force caused her change has darker plans for the world. Can Equestria be saved in time?

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Amongst the Clouds

Skitch-Sketch was about ready to pass out from nerves. Her knees were knocking, ears and tail twitching and her mouth felt like she had swallowed a bag of cotton balls. The door to the testing chamber of Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns loomed over her like a wall.

She didn't feel the hoof on her withers at first. Not until her mother's soft voice reached her ears.

“Skitch-Sketch? Are you okay?” Apple Polish asked.

She looked up at her mother. Aside from both being unicorns, there wasn't much family resemblance between the two, her beige coat and straight dark brown mane were a complete contrast to Skitch's own. Their eyes were the same though, and those eyes were full of warmth.

“I'm just nervous mom. What if I blow the test? What if I don't make it into the school?”

“Then you'll go to a different school, and still excel.” She assured, giving a motherly nuzzle to her daughter's cheek, “You're my brilliant little artist.”

“Moooooom!” Skitch squirmed, embarrassed, “Just cause I got my cutie-mark doesn't make me brilliant.”

“Hush.” She smiled, fussing with Skitch's mane. “You're my little girl. It's my right as a mother to fuss.”

“Leave her alone dear.” Black Marble chided, though he smiled all the same, “The other foals are watching.”

Skitch shuffled her hooves, tucking her tail between her legs as she glanced back at the row of other test applicants. The purple coated filly that was next in line stifled her giggle, quickly looking elsewhere in the hallway.

“Mom,” Skitch questioned, turning her head back to her parents, “Why can't you oversee this test again? Aren't you part of the group that does that?”

“And just let you in? Does that sound fair to you?”

“No.” Skitch hung her head.

“They'll judge you fairly Skitch. Just go in there and be yourself.”

The door creaked open, another pony with a clipboard motioning for her to enter. “It's your turn.”

Taking a deep breath, she stepped through the door.

- - - -

The morning pulled Skitch-Sketch out of her deep sleep, the remains of her dream still bouncing around her skull. Her horn glowed, the covers tossed aside as she rolled out of bed. The sound of her hooves clacking against the wooden boards, muffled by the thin carpet though they were, no longer made her flinch. The presence of her tail no longer an oddity as she marked another tally mark in her notebook.

Two weeks. Twilight and her friends hadn’t been able to provide a single answer in two weeks.

She supposed it really wasn’t their fault. Twilight had been trying, casting spell after spell on her, with no clear results so far. And the others…well.

Not being able to match Twilight’s raw magical knowledge, they did their best to provide moral support. But they had their own lives that demanded attention. Applejack and Rarity had to run their own businesses, a demanding prospect. Rainbow Dash had been training for some kind of upcoming event, rushing off at the first opportunity each day.

Fluttershy’s distractions had been the most surprising to Skitch-Sketch. She was apparently more than just a lover of animals, but was Ponyville’s full blown vet, having taken over from the previous one a few years ago when she moved to Manehatten.

And Pinkie Pie…well, she had kept her laughing at any rate.

Grunting, she made for the bathroom for her new morning routine. Hot shower first. Climbing into the tub, she flicked the water on with her magic. It was easy, really. She squeezed her eyes closed as the hot water washed over her, flowing and channeling through her fur, mane and tail; she savored the still somewhat familiar sensations, letting them carry her back to the memories of when she was still a biped.

Wallowing in the feelings for a little while, Skitch eventually turned her efforts towards washing off; a challenging proposition when your whole body was covered with hair. She applied what felt like a whole gallon of shampoo to her body, before using a mixture of hooves and magic to thoroughly scrub off.

After rinsing, she quickly spun the handles off and gave her whole body a massive shake to get rid of the excess water.

Like an animal. She bitterly thought, grabbing a towel in her magic aura. No. Can’t think like that. I can talk and think still.

Moving to brushing her teeth she tried, and failed, to ignore the reflection in the mirror. Every morning it stayed the same. The amber eyed, green coated, blue maned unicorn with the one green striped lock hanging to the right of her horn. Spitting and rinsing, she glared right into the mirror.

“You aren't me.” She growled, pointing at the reflection, “You will never be me and you will never replace me! I. Will. Beat. You.”

The reflection was not intimidated, a few locks of mane flopping into her field of view.

Sighing, she flipped her mane back and pulled away from the sink, heading for the front door. Dash had dropped off a message the night before. Twilight had another possible spell that she wanted to try out that would supposedly fix all of this.

It was another warm and sunny spring day in Ponyville, the the only cloud in the sky an oddly shaped blob near the horizon. It seemed that the weather team had once again done their job and cleared the sky. Skitch grit her teeth, finding herself oddly aggravated at something that, according the to the confusing mix of memories in her head, was at once both normal and abnormal.

That was the reason she was so on edge. She was being chipped away at, bit by bit, the personality she was sure was the real one slowly being eaten by one that matched the body she now had. She wasn't even sure when she had lost her old name or when it had become easier to use female pronouns for herself. She just noticed the differences one morning.

Twilight will fix this. She thought to herself again. She's the best pony. She'll fix- A shadow stretched across Ponyville. Literally. Skitch watched it race over buildings before looking up to see what was above.- this?

Her jaw dropped at the sight of twenty pegasai soaring overhead, pulling a long, flat section of cloud along with them like a barge. Banking past town hall, the group of made for the Ponyville market.

Her own problems temporarily blitzed from her mind by the display, Skitch tore across town to see what was going on.

Upon arrival, she could see that the pegasai had parked their cloud barge right in the middle of the market. They swarmed the stalls, the rapid patter of haggling and counter-haggling echoing over each other in a confused jumble. As deals were struck, whole crates of produce were dragged to the cloud barge with frenzied speed.

Spotting Big Mac at the Sweet Apple Acres stall, Skitch began to weave through the crowd, fully intending to find out what the hell was happening. This proved to be not exactly easy. The visiting ponies were completely focused on their task and several times she had to back peddle to avoid getting bowled over.

She passed a stern looking beige pegasus perched on the edge of the cloud slab. A clipboard was in hoof, and he was taking meticulous notes as each crate and bushel was slid into place.

Ungainly ducking around a final pair of crate carrying ponies, she kicked up a cloud of dust as she skidded to a stop in front of the great red earth pony.

“So...Big Mac,” She sighed, motioning to the chaos around them with a hoof, “What the hay is going on.”

“Cloudsdale.” Big Mac said simply, “It's drifin' back our way. Here for supplies. Equestrian Fliers Competition tomorrow.” He glanced down at Skitch, raising an eyebrow, “Where's Applejack?”

“At the library, I think. She's been helping Twilight with a...thing.” She finished lamely.

“Headin' that way?”

Skitch nodded.

“Send sis my way once yer all done. They'll be back for another load this afternoon, and ah'll need her help bringin' up the preserved food from the farm.”

“Right.”

- - - -

“This is the spell you want to use?” Rarity asked, an eyebrow raised as she looked over Twilight's shoulder.

“Yes!” Twilight nodded, turning to grin at Rarity, “This will solve the problem.”

The assembled group of element bearers were once again meeting in the lower floor of the Golden Oak's library. Such had become the ritual. Every day that Twilight was going to try another spell to fix Skitch, they would all be there for support. And in the case of Applejack and Rainbow Dash, security.

Rarity frowned, tilting her head slightly. “Twilight, darling, I may not be a magic prodigy like you are, but isn't that a memory spell?”

“Yes.” She nodded, happily clapping her hooves together, “This spell will banish the delusional psyche and get us our friend back! I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner!”

“NO!” Fluttershy interrupted, with enough force that Twilight jumped in shock, twisting to gape at her usually soft spoken friend. Fluttershy grinned nervously, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment, “I’m sorry Twilight. But, I can’t agree with this.”

“What?” Twilight blinked, “Why?”

“Because...we don’t know which mind is the real one.” Fluttershy pointed out, nervously fluttering her wings, “If what she says is true, we’ll just kill her...err...him I guess and replace him with who we want.”

Rarity nodded curtly. “I agree! You’re just going to bury her with this spell.”

“That's not what it is!” Twilight shot back, glaring deeply at her friends, “I mean...you heard what she said! That she's some kind of bipedal hairless creature from another reality where she watched us on small in home theater sets? How can that be anything but a delusion?”

“I don't know, Twilight. But the fact remains that doctor ponies, through both mundane and magical means, found nothing that would suggest that she's gone mad!”

“I don't see what the problem is.” Rainbow interjected, lazily hovering above the central reading desk, “This would fix everything.”

“And if some pony decided that your athletic personality was wrong,” Rarity snapped, her tail twitching angrily, “And that you would be oh so much better as a fashionista would that give them the right to do that to you?”

“No, but if some pony made me one against my will, I'd want my friends to use the right spells to fix me!”

“And she insists that her pony memories are false!”

Growling, Rainbow hovered, looking to Applejack for support. The farmer shrugged from her seat.

“Ah think that she believes the pony memories are false, at least. She hasn't been lyin'.”

“But I've tried every magical detection spell I have and then some!” Twilight shouted, throwing her hooves in the air in exasperation, “Everything from a simple Detect Magic to Starswirl's Fundamental Arcane Breakdown and I've found nothing! So it has to be some kind of mental defect.”

“Or it could be something unexplained.” Rarity said, firmly stomping a hoof, “Twilight. You know that this is wrong. It's not proper to just force her into the pony we want her to be! And while we could be fixing her, I am not willing to take that chance without being damn sure!” She ignored the shocked gasp from her friends, glaring right into Twilight’s eyes, “Princess Celestia taught you better. Your parents taught you better.”

At that an uncomfortable silence fell over the room. Twilight hung her head, clutching the spell book to her chest like it was a life raft. “Y...you're right Rarity. I'm just...afraid.”

“Afraid of what?” Applejack asked, blinking in confusion, “Her?”

“More what she could represent.” Twilight shuddered, squeezing her eyes closed, “If she's right...if she's right and she has been changed...and she is having her mind altered, then everything in our lives is suspect.”

She began to rock back and forth on her haunches. “Our memories, our friendships, our own lives? They could all be fake. Rainbow Dash could really be a fashionista and Rarity could be the athlete and we wouldn't know!”

She opened her eyes, which were now wet with tears, “I mean, think about it. Celestia sent me here two years ago to get out into the world. And for a whole year I was just the shut in librarian.”

“You were kind of a grumpy flank at my welcome party.” Pinkie nodded in agreement.

“But then one journey together and we were all best friends? I just...”

Whatever she was about to say was cut off as Spike threw his arms around Twilight in a hug. A moment later he was joined by Fluttershy and Rarity, the yellow pegasus gently stroking her mane. Applejack joined in next, and Rainbow Dash last. They held the group hug for a few moments, letting Twilight take a few deep breaths to help herself calm down.

“Shhh. It's okay.” Fluttershy soothed as the hug broke up, “We'll figure this out. And I...well...I believe that we are all actually friends.”

“Fluttershy's right sugarcube. Have a little faith in yerself and the rest of us.”

Twilight nodded, taking a few calming breaths before wiping away her tears with the back of a hoof. “You're right Applejack. We can handle this. I just need to come up with some kind of spell to work out what set of memories Skitch has is the correct one.”

“Why not use what we have?” Spike asked, tapping his chin with a claw.

“But we just talked about how that'd be bad and might hurt Skitchy!” Pinkie pointed out.

“Well, I'm not talking about casting the memory spell. I'm talking about using them as a starting point instead of working from scratch. That would take forever.”

Twilight perked up, a grin crossing her muzzle, the gears in her head turning at Spike's suggestion. “Spike!” She beamed, jumping to her rear hooves, “That's perfect! If I combine the one of the detection spells with the memory spell, I can use it to detect what's changed in Skitch's memory!”

Almost in a form of response, the door to the library swung open, and Skitch came trotting in.

- - - -

Skitch paused as she let the door snap closed behind her. Everyone was clustered around Twilight and staring right at her. They had obviously just finished talking about her. Skitch’s heart jumped in her chest.

“Did you find something? Am I going to be back to normal?” She asked, practically bouncing in place.

Her excitement was dashed as quickly as it rose when everyone was unwilling to look her in the eye.

“Oh.” She frowned, slumping, “So I got my hopes up...again.”

“It's not a total loss.” Twilight quickly pointed out, “I have a pathway to follow now. I'll have a solution soon. One, two days, tops.”

Skitch sighed, her shoulders slumping in defeat. “Guess I wasted a trip across town.” Glancing over at Applejack, she snorted slightly, “By the way Applejack, your brother requests your assistance down at the market. The Cloudsdale supply brigade is in town and buying everything.”

“Landsakes!” Applejack exclaimed, “With everything going on ah forgot that was today!”

“So,” Skitch asked, “What's the deal with that anyway?”

“Don't you know?” Dash asked, raising an eyebrow as she crossed her forelegs, “You're the one saying you watched us on those little boxes.”

Skitch raised an eyebrow, as she glanced at Dash. The rainbow maned pegasus' appearance hadn't caused the cognitive whiplash for her that Applejack's had, but the mare still had an unexpected scar that cut diagonally across her right cannon.

“The migratory patterns of Cloudsdale were never the subject matter of an episode.” Skitch snarked, “Nightmare Moon, Gilda the griffin, the dragon in the mountain, Trixie...”

“Who?” Pinkie blinked, “That sounds like a pony. Ooo! Are we getting another pony in town? When's she showing up? Does she like balloons?”

“No,” Skitch blinked, “she should have been here already. Would have rolled into town with her own cart.” She continued when all they responded with was blank expressions, “...Claimed that she banished an ursa major?”

“Skitch?” Rarity softly intoned, tilting her head slightly, “No pony like that has ever come into town.”

The green unicorn frowned deeper.

“Don't look at me like that.”

“Like what, darling?”

“Like I'm crazy! I'm not crazy!” She snarled, pointing an accusatory hoof Rarity's way, “I'm not.”

“No one's saying you are.” Fluttershy comforted, trotting over and putting a hoof on her withers.

“But you're thinking it. I know you are. You’re all expecting me to be somepony that I don’t know anything about!”

“Well, that’s because you haven’t asked anything about her.” Twilight shrugged.

Skitch opened her mouth to retort, but then paused. Twilight was right. Closing her mouth, she sighed and sat down. “Fine, tell me about this pony I’m supposed to be.”

“Well, she’s stubborn,” Applejack chuckled. “Ya basically chased after us when we went off to fight Nightmare Moon. Wouldn’t take no for an answer and wouldn’t run off even when ya didn’t get an Element of Harmony.”

“Ponies have been calling you our bard.” Rarity added with a nod, “Since you follow us on our adventures and paint our exploits afterwards.”

“How...fan-ficy.” Skitch sighed, her muzzle scrunched up in annoyance.

“Hey,” Dash interjected, cutting off Rarity’s retort, “How about we not worry about this right now? Tomorrow's the Equestrian Flying Championships and I'm due to compete in the amateur league! I say you all come tomorrow and watch me totally dominate! Twilight's been working hard and could probably use a break. I think that she found a cloud walking spell when she was researching?”

“Yes!” Twilight perked up, “That sounds like a great idea!”

Skitch's frown abated slightly, a realization clicking over in her head.

“Princess Celestia will be there, won't she?”

“Well...yeah.” Rainbow nodded, “She presents the awards and medals.”

An actual smile crossed Skitch's muzzle. “Yes. This sounds like a good idea. A really good idea. Twilight could use a break.”

Everyone exchanged glances at her sudden change of tone. Applejack frowned, taking a slight step forward.

“Skitch, ya ain’t thinkin’ about botherin’ the princess are ya? I know yer worried but ya just can’t go running up to her. Sides’ you really think Twi’ hasn’t told her what’s going on already?”

“Then where is she?” Skitch frowned.

“She has a whole country to worry about, darling,” Rarity pointed out. “She trusts Twilight, and so do I.”

Sighing again, Skitch squirmed in her seat. “I guess you’re right. And I guess Twilight could probably use a day off before she throws herself back into magical research. Besides, when am I going to get a chance to see Cloudsdale up close again?” She finished with a slight grin.

“Great!” Dash grinned, “We'll meet back here tomorrow and head on over. I can't wait to show you girls the city!”

- - - -

The next morning, everyone returned to Golden Oaks Library, Applejack the last to roll in, shuffling through the door with a yawn. She shot a glance at Rainbow Dash, a smirk playing across her muzzle as she shook her head slightly.

“Yer kin bought out almost every bit of preserved apples I have. They feed ya ponies up there?”

“Well, no farms AJ. Whatta you expect?”

“Ah know sugarcube.” Applejack grinned, “Just pullin' your leg.”

“Everypony who's getting a cloud walker spell, gather round!” Twilight cheerfully intoned from her seat before a thick leather tome. A warm looking purple scarf was tied around her neck; an accessory that the other non pegasai in the group were wearing as well.

“Wait,” Skitch cut across her, “Is that the only spell you found? What about the spell that gives a pony wings?”

“Oh! Well, I did find that one too.” Twilight blinked in confusion, “But why use that? This is an easier spell to use on multiple ponies and the wings are susceptible to heat damage.”

Skitch smiled, an idea forming in the back of her mind. If she pulled this off, not only would she help Dash pull off the sonic rainboom again, but it would prove- to her own mind at least- that her experiences back home were real.

“I just think that Rarity should have the wing spell. They’ll match her hair and coat, and help make her look really smashing!”

Twilight opened her mouth to object, but stopped when Rarity put a hoof on her side. The fashionista shook her head slightly, her eyes flicking to Skitch for a moment before looking back to Twilight. The librarian sighed, but didn’t object any further her horn lighting up as she began to weave the threads of the spell together.

Tendrils of soft blue light snaked around Rarity’s form, slithering across her barrel and slowly coiling together into a little knot on her back. The knot of light then lashed outwards, splitting apart into a lattice that began to rapidly weave the form of the butterfly shaped wings. As the form was completed, the wings fully snapped into being.

Skitch couldn’t entirely suppress the gasp that escaped her lips as Rarity stretched her new appendages. They caught the morning sunlight, casting a technicolor spread of light across the whole room. Thankfully, Skitch wasn’t the only one impressed with the light display.

“Oooo!” Pinkie beamed, hopping around her friend and taking in every inch of her new wings, “Super duper sparkly!”

“Oh yes.” Fluttershy nodded, “They're very pretty.”

“Well, thank you girls.” Rarity nodded, “But we should be under way if we’re going to get good seats.”

As a group, they headed out of the library and towards the north end of Ponyville, following the road that would eventually take one to Canterlot if they followed it far enough. But for now, the destination was a small hill to the northwest of Ponyville.

Skitch glanced skyward again. The cloud that had been a distant blob on the horizon yesterday was now much larger and clearer. To her, Cloudsdale resembled a giant flying wedding cake; elegant spires and stacks of buildings arranged vertically atop a circular slab of cloud.

Swinging her gaze back towards the hill, she blinked at what was waiting. She had been expecting the balloon that Twilight and her friends had used in the Sonic Rainboom episode, but that was not the case.

What was actually there was another one of those flat cloud barges that she had seen the day before. It was situated behind a banner raised on two poles that read “Cloudsdale Departures” in clear, blocky letters. Two pegasus mares and a unicorn stallion stood in front of the poles, addressing each pony in the long line before them as they approached.

“Jeese.” Skitch blinked, looking over all the ponies before them, “It looks like most of Ponyville is here.”

“Well, we got a pretty strong team this year.” Rainbow Dash grinned, “There’s me, naturally. I’ll be handling the speed and acrobatics event solo. But then we have Cloud Kicker and Cloudchaser on the synchronized flying event, Raindrops and Snowflake on the endurance and strength events, and Dewdrop and Thunderlane on cloud sculpting.”

“That event should be nice.” Fluttershy softly intoned, “Thunderlane’s been putting in extra practice this week.”

“Just...how involved is this?” Skitch asked as they drew close to the end of the line.

“This is one of the big sporting events of Equestria!” Twilight said cheerfully as she slid into teacher mode, “It’s gotten big enough at this point that we always get a decent slice of visitors from our neighbors. This year its going to be a really big! First one that Princess Luna has been to since she was banished.”

“It actually takes a few days to work through the whole thing.” Dash added, puffing her chest out in pride, “But we’ll just stick around for today, which is my event and the cloud sculpting.”

The line moved fairly quickly, and in a few minutes they were before the three pony gatekeepers. The pegasus holding a clipboard quickly looked the group over .

“Three unicorns in your party.” She said, quickly marking that down and nodding towards Rarity’s wings, “Guessing you have your own cloud walking handled?”

“Yup!” Rainbow grinned, “Everything taken care of here.”

Satisfied with that, she motioned them ahead turning her attention to the next ponies in line; the unicorn stallion stepped back, frowning that his tip jar wouldn’t see any bits from their group. With Rainbow leading the way, Skitch and the others squeezed into the last remaining spaces on the barge. With it full, the pegasai hooked to the front took the air, shooting straight for Cloudsdale.

The world rushed along below them, the floating city growing closer with each passing moment. Even from this distance, she could see other cloud barges flying to and from the city, bearing out Twilight’s claims that things would be packed. The temperature dropped as they flew higher, making Skitch suddenly glad for the scarves Fluttershy had insisted they wear.

After travelling along for a few minutes more, the ponies towing the barge adjusted their course slightly, aiming for splab of cloud that jutted from the edge of base. Pulling the barge alongside what Skitch could only call a sky pier they allowed their pony cargo to disembark.

Skitch was the last to leave the barge, taking a slow, shaky step. The cloud felt mostly solid under her hoof. Mostly. It was still a little yielding, almost like walking on sand. Taking a few more shaky steps, she began to follow the mane six down the pier.

“So, Dash.” She asked, “Do clouds always feel this…squishy to pegasai too?”

“Oh yeah!” Dash grinned, “That’s why they’re so comfy to take naps on! No better bed than a patch of fluffy cloud.”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Fluttershy commented, ruffling her wings, “They’re okay if you’re not afraid of heights.”

The mention of heights was a good reminder to Skitch of just where they were, and that the only thing that was between her and a very short trip to the ground was Twilight’s spell work...which had so far failed to help her. Taking a deep breath, she pushed on, this time with a trembling knock in her knees.

This sudden change in mood did not go unnoticed by Applejack, who noticed how she was lagging behind. “You all right Skitch? Yer as nervous lookin’ as a long tailed cat in a room of rocking chairs.”

“Just my logical brain fighting with my emotional brain, that’s all.”

“Brains don’t fight silly!” Pinkie beamed as she bounced along, completely unconcerned in the difference between cloud and stable ground.

“Look, it’s just that part of me is saying that the spell is working and that everything is going to be fine. And another part of me is saying that clouds are just water vapor and there’s no possible way I can be standing here, and I’m going to drop through and oh godohgodI’mgoingtodie!” She spat out, tripping over her own words as a panic attack began to set in.

Fluttershy trotted back over to her, putting a hoof on her back. “It’s alright. I’ll be right here with you. You won’t fall.”

Squeezing her eyes shut, Skitch took a few deep and calming breaths, blocking out everything but the sensation of Fluttershy’s hoof on her. After a few moments she nodded, allowing herself to be lead along as the group moved through the streets of Cloudsdale.

“You know Rarity.” Skitch piped up a little closer to the stadium, “With those wings of yours, you could really help out the Ponyville team.”

“Oh no.” She shook her head dismissively, “I’m no flyer darling.”

“Yeah, but remember that light show back in the library? You can’t tell me that with that and your design sensibilities that you wouldn’t be able to help Thunderlane and Dewdrop!”

Humming to herself, Rarity tapped her chin with a hoof.

“Perhaps you’re right.”

The human turned unicorn smiled.

- - - -

The stadium was massive. Really, she should have expected it. Cloudsdale was much larger than in the show, after all. But there was a difference from abstractly knowing that, and seeing it in person.

Rows of bleachers sculpted from cloud rose up all around them in three mighty tiers and almost every available space was full. The element bearers and her were squeezed side by side on one of the lower tiers, providing a commanding view of the field.

Pegasai filled most of the seats, but as she scanned the bleachers Skitch made out all kinds of creatures. There were earth ponies and unicorns, of course, but she could also make out ponies with bat wings, and griffin; she even picked out a few cow, elk and goats among the sea of equines. The packed bleachers and low roar of the crowd reminded her of Wrigley Field back home. The synchronicity was actually somewhat comforting.

I hope that Ponyville has a better showing than The Cubs. She smirked to herself.

Two skyboxes were built into opposite ends of the stadium. One, constructed with an open roof, was obviously the royal box, based on the three ornate color coded thrones had been set up within it. The other one had an obvious radio tower that was somehow built into the cloud that made up the structure. She suspected that magic was involved.

The teams sat in sculpted dugouts that lined the open sky “field”. Rarity had joined the Ponyville team, and was chatting animatedly with Thunderlane and Dewdrop. Sweeping her gaze over the other teams, Skitch did a double take as she spotted a team of black shelled, insect winged creatures.

“Are those...changelings?” She gaped.

“Yupperoony!” Pinkie grinned, “They’re from a free hive. Allies of Equestria.”

Skitch groaned, kneading her forehead with a hoof. “If this universe keeps throwing me curve-balls and I’m gonna get whiplash.”

“So, the princesses should be showing up soon.” Twilight smiled, changing the subject, looking over a program she had bought on the way in, “Then it’s the rest of the opening ceremonies with the Wonderbolts, then we roll right into cloud sculpting!”

“Ah bet Dash is beside herself.” Applejack chuckled, “She’d be right up there with those Wonderbolts if she could.”

Skitch was about to comment on that when a booming voice echoed from the box with the radio tower.

“Ladymares and gentlestallions, visiting fans of aerial acrobatics and feats of daring do, welcome to the annual Equestria Flight Championships!”

A deafening cheer erupted from the crowd, joined by thousands of hooves clapping in a disjointed rhythm.

“All please rise for the arrival of the princesses!”

Skitch stood with the others, turning her head towards the royal box.

“Presenting her royal highness, Defender of Equestria’s Heart, Chainbreaker, Forger of Freedom, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza!”

At first, it seemed that nothing had happened. But then a small mote of rose colored light gently drifted down from higher in the sky, floating for the royal box. Landing softly in the box, it rested quietly for a moment, the crowd catching it’s breath as they waited.

Then it exploded.

It was less of a detonation and more of a sudden surge of movement, two lattices of the same rose light growing up and outward, twisting into the shape of a heart as both ends touched together. Cadance appeared in the middle of the construct, bowing deeply to a raucous round of cheering and applause. Skitch joined in. It was only polite, after all.

As Cadance took her seat and the heart faded away, Skitch leaned over to Twilight.

“Are their entrances always this bombastic?”

“Not usually, no.” Twilight admitted with a shrug, “Celestia usually breaks out the big displays like this when she wants to make a point.”

Before she could elaborate further, the announcer’s voice rang out again.

“Presenting her royal highness, Steward of the Night’s Depths, Slayer of Beryllinthranox, Princess Luna!”

On the mention of her name, the moon rapidly shot across the sky, until it settled into place in front of the sun casting Cloudsdale in a total solar eclipse. Silver light leaked from around the moon, spinning and twisting towards the royal box as it formed into a set of spiral stairs.

Luna suddenly appeared, dashing down the moonlight staircase as fast as she could run. Still smaller and lacking her ethereal wavy mane and tail, she seemed intent on making up for that with an ostentatious display.

Taking the steps two at a time, Luna was trailing a whole river of tiny stars behind her. Jumping over the last few steps, she landed neatly in the royal box and threw the mini stars into the sky, a few of them exploding like fireworks. The cheering was a little more subdued as she bowed to the crowd, but the mane six, Skitch and the bat ponies in the crowd did their best to make up the difference.

“And now!” The announcer returned, “Presenting, Her Shining Radiance, the Halberd of Harmony, Equesria’s Gleaming Shield, Princess Celestia!”

The moon now rushed for the horizon, the sun once again casting it’s radiance across the sky. A moment later, a solar flare shot from the sun’s surface like a giant river of flame. A yelp of shock and fear caught in Skitch’s throat, her eyes going wide at the onrushing fire and the thoughts of what it might do to her.

But the flame did not burn the Cloudsdale arena. Instead, it swirled around, forming into a burning ring of crackling flame above their heads that drew in tighter and tighter until it was a blazing sphere hovering in the dead center of the pitch.

Then the sphere fell apart, revealing Princess Celestia in all her glory. Flashing a warm smile to her subjects, she swooped over the crowd before landing in the royal box and throwing her forelegs around her sister and the princess of love in an obvious display of unity.

“Kind of surreal seeing Cadance here.” Skitch commented as they settled back into their seats.

“What’s so weird about it?” Applejack asked, eyebrow raised, “She’s a princess after all and this is an official shindig.”

“And from my point of view she just appeared one broadcast without ever being mentioned before.” She snarked back, eyes still fixed on Cadance. Distracted by the pink princess, she missed the sideways glances the others gave each other.

Princess Celestia stepped forward to the very edge of the cloud platform, spreading her wings wide. Her voice rang out as she used the Royal Canterlot Voice to project to the whole of the stadium.

“Greetings every creature! We welcome you to this contest of athletic skill, and fantastic flying! I invite every creature to enjoy this competition and all of the bounty that Equestria offers!”

“Bounty, huh?” Skitch smirked, getting to her hooves. The Wonderbolts were beginning to take the field and the crowds attention was focused upon the stunt ponies, “I’m going to go get some popcorn...or whatever kind of snacks this place has.”

“I’ll join you!” Twilight said simply, hopping to her own hooves.

“It’s just a snack run.” Skitch retorted, raising an eyebrow as Twilight squeezed past Applejack, “I think I can handle it myself.”

“But I want a snack too.” She quickly explained, with a grin that was a little too wide, “And you don’t know what I like.”

Skitch raised an eyebrow, fixing the unicorn with a “What the hell?” look. For her part, Twilight’s grin grew a little wider, her eyes nervously glancing at everything save for Skitch herself.

“You’re just trying to make sure I don’t bother Celestia, aren’t you?”

“No! Of course not!”

Sighing, she turned away from Twilight.

“Fine. Whatever.”

- - - -

Skitch stared at the doughnut stand as the pony working the counter quickly pulled a tray of fresh treats from the oven and slid them onto a rack to cool. She shook her head as he turned to address another potential customer.

“What’s wrong?” Twilight asked.

“Well...it’s nothing wrong, per se. More trying to work out how he has a working oven in a city made of cloud. Where would he even plug it in?”

“Straight into the cloud itself.” Twilight explained, using the kind of slow, deliberate tone that one might use when explaining something to a child, “Cloudsdale uses a giant contained thunderstorm for all of it’s electricity needs.”

Skitch considered asking Twilight for the explanation as to how the kitchen equipment could actually stay aloft in the cloud city without constant applications of a cloud walking spell, but pushed that thought aside. The explanation would probably be some variation on the theme of “magic”.

“I’m going to go to the bathroom.” She huffed, stalking away from the snack stand.

“Oh, okay.” Twilight nodded, continuing to follow her as she set off through the cloud stadium.

“This is asinine.” Skitch thought as she walked. “If I could get to Princess Celestia, I’m sure that she could fix this in five minutes. But so long as Twilight’s on my tail, that isn’t gonna happen.”

Pausing at the bathroom door, she glanced at Twilight, raising an eyebrow.

“Going to follow me inside too?”

Twilight grinned sheepishly, but thankfully, waited outside.

The room was about what she had expected. A long row of sinks and a long row of stalls for privacy. Most of the latter were currently occupied, so she trotted over to one of the sinks. She really didn’t need to use the bathroom anyway.

I’m guessing that all of this runs on magic too. Magic. Magic. Everything is magic. She paused, a slow grin crossing her muzzle a realization kicking in, Everything is magic. I’m magic! I got a cutie-mark now!

Twisting her head around to look at her flank, the crossed pencil and paintbrush stood out clearly from her green coat. Magic based on one’s cutie-mark and I got an art based one. Let’s see what I can pull off here. Scrunching her brow, Skitch flexed that magical muscle, focusing on her right forehoof as she willed it to vanish.

It was surreal to her, how natural it felt to weave the threads of magic around her hoof, the appendage fading away as the spell settled into place. Her grin grew even wider.

“Oh. It is on!”

- - - -

Twilight nervously tapped one of her hooves off the floor.

“Maybe I should go in there, just make sure that she’s okay.” She thought, taking a few steps towards the door. “Then again...I should trust her.” She’s my friend. She argued with herself, taking a few steps away again. “But she’s in trouble right now! Possibly losing her mind.”

Before she could argue with herself again and make another run at the door, it swung open and the form of Skitch came trotting out. Smiling, Twilight fell into place next to her as both began to head back towards their seats.

“Thanks for trusting me, by the way.” She said, flashing a warm smile at Skitch, “I’ll find a solution. I promise.”

The smile vanished when Skitch did not respond.

“Please don’t give me the silent treatment. I really am trying to help you.” Twilight sighed, reaching out to put an forearm around her friend.

Her hoof passed right through the green unicorn’s form.

“Ponyfeathers.”

- - - -

Skitch grinned as she carefully crept past the golden armored guards, the natural fluffiness of the clouds dampening her hoof falls. She guessed that was the case at least, as neither of the guards looked her direction as she trotted up the stairs towards the royal box.

Okay...just lay things out as directly as you can. Celestia is kind and loving...at least she should be. But we have friendly changelings...sooooo…yeah.

She could hear voices as she reached the top of the stairs, emerging behind the three thrones. The backs mostly obscured them from view, but she could see their forelegs and heads every so often as they engaged each other in conversation, Cadance chatting with Luna and Celestia almost like she was part of the family.

“The thestrals seemed quite happy to see you again.” Cadance commented. The pink princess was peering over at Luna, a friendly smile on her muzzle, “It’ll be good to see you running the night court again. I’m not sure I ever handled it all that well.”

“We hope that the ponies of the night court are less…” Luna paused for a moment, searching for the right word, “Bothersome, than those we have dealt with so far.”

“I can only imagine how difficult re-acclimating must be.” Cadance nodded.

“Truly, we are unsure which is worse.” Luna continued, a mixture of exasperation and sadness in her voice, “The ponies that walk on eggshells around us, afraid that we are still Nightmare Moon, or the ponies that treat us as a curiosity.” She snorted derisively, “That pony...Blueblood, we believe his name is, asked us what it was like to be trapped on the moon. As if we could summarize what it was like to be diffused into a celestial body, with a word.”

“So,” Cadance smirked, giving a Luna a friendly poke with a hoof, “What word did you pick to make him go away?”

“Odd.”

“Lulu,” Celestia softly intoned, stretching a wing out to embrace her younger sister, “I will hear none of this talk.”

“Because thou believe in me?” Luna asked, her voice rising hopefully.

“Of course! But also because there’s an invisible pony in the box with us.”

Before Skitch could react, Celestia’s magic aura sprung up around her, dragging her forward. Her hooves tried to find purchase on the cloud floor as she was pulled along, but between Celestia’s strength and their inherently fluffy nature she might as well have been trying to fight against a hurricane.

Pulled in front the thrones, she was spun around to face the princesses and found herself not only looking at them, but at a pair of silvery short swords held aloft by Luna’s magic. She gulped; the blades looked razor sharp.

She felt the invisibility spell unravel around her, Celestia banishing it with a casual flick of her wing. The rulers of Equestria peered at her, their expressions mixed. Celestia’s expression was slightly bemused, the barest hint of a smile creeping across her muzzle as she let her telekinetic grip fall. Luna was coming out of defense mode, settling back into her seat with an eyebrow raised. Cadance had her head cocked slightly to the side, more curious than anything else.

The combined gaze of the alicorns was making Skitch feel very self conscious. She hadn’t been a unicorn for long, but even she could feel the power radiating from them. A warm summer breeze from Celestia, the snap of cool night air from Luna, and a sensation from Cadance that she could only define as a warm hug personified.

“Skitch-Sketch?” The solar monarch questioned, while maintaining her characteristic warmth, “Why are you trying to sneak into the royal box? Shouldn't you be sitting with your friends?”

“Well, uhh…” Skitch stammered, hastily bowing to avoid any breaches of etiquette, “Normally yes, but I have something kind of important to tell you.”

The princesses exchanged sideways glances.

“If you’re referring to the current issues you’re experiencing…”

“Please! Just let me prove this to you! The cloud sculpting event is about to start, right? Rarity will fall, and Rainbow Dash will pull off a Sonic Rainboom to save her!”

“Thou are not a seer.” Luna said simply, motioning to Skitch’s cutie-mark as she banished her weapons back to where ever she kept them, “Thou are an artist and certainly not a creature from another world.”

Skitch felt something snap inside her. “Yes I am!” She snarled, taking a challenging step closer to the beings that could probably crush her without a second thought. Their eyes widened at her brashness, even as she jabbed a hoof at the field, “Just watch the damn event and I’ll prove it!”

“Very well.” Celestia sighed, motioning to a spot of cloud to the left of her throne, “Take a seat, and we shall watch.”

Grinning, Skitch settled into the seat as pegasai began to pull large fluffy piles of cloud onto the field. As the teams began to take the field, however, the sound of commotion at the base of the steps reached their ears.

“Ahh.” Skitch winced, as the princesses all shot quizzical looks her direction, “That’s probably Twilight. I kind of ditched her.”

The purple unicorn appeared with a poof and accompanying flash of pinkish light. Her mane was slightly dishevelled, her expression panicked as she looked about for her friend. “Princess Celestia!” She yelped as the guards she bypassed rushed into the increasingly cramped skybox, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to stop her! She’s just notherselfandIswearthat…”

Celestia raised a wing, cutting Twilight’s panicked ramblings off. “Everything is fine, my faithful student.” She looked to the guards, “Return to your posts. We can handle things from here.”

Saluting, the guards turned and left. Celestia pointed to the other side of her throne. “Take a seat Twilight. We are about to test a claim of your friend. According to her, Rainbow Dash will be gracing us with a sonic rainboom today.”

“Princess…” Twilight asked, glancing from Skitch to her mentor and back again, “How is Dash supposed to do this?”

“Rarity will fall.” Skitch answered, “She’ll fly too close to the sun, and her wings will evaporate. Rainbow Dash will dive to rescue her and pull off the sonic rainboom.”

“What?” Twilight gaped, “Princess! You can’t let this happen! You can’t let her delusions put Rarity’s life in danger!”

“I’m not crazy!”

“Even if you’re not, this plan is!” Twilight snapped back, nervously stroking her tail, “Nothing about you being correct about this, proves your underlying assertions!”

“Except being able to correctly predict events that I saw in a TV show about your adventures in *my* reality!”

“That’s circumstantial and you know it!” Twilight pointed out, “It’s still not proof! Skitch, please…I know you’re scared. I know you don’t know where your head is right now, but think about this! You said yourself not ten minutes ago that this world kept throwing you curve-balls. You’re playing with Rarity’s life!”

“No, Twilight. I’m putting my trust in Rainbow Dash.”

“You can-”

“Twilight.” Celestia’s soft voice interrupted, pulling her student’s attention away from Skitch, “I promise you that nothing will happen to Rarity.”

Pouting, Twilight threw herself down on Celestia’s other side, chewing her lip.

The teams were swarming about the piles of cloud now, hooves (and talons in the case of the griffin team) pushing and shaping the fluffy collections of condensation like it was modelling clay. Skitch cocked her head slightly, observing the changeling team with interest.

Despite not being true ponies, they seemed to be able to sculpt the cloud as easily as the pegasai, weaving an intricate flower and vine based pattern; which struck her as odd. Then again, the griffin didn’t seem to be handicapped either, while they built their imposing looking blocky sculpture, so maybe all flying creatures on this planet could stand on clouds.

Thunderlane and Dewdrop were doing most of the work for the Ponyville team, sculpting the clouds into twisting contrails that flowed after Rarity as she flew higher and higher. Weaving the trails together, Thunderlane and Dewdrop began to put a twist into their construction, creating a tall and elegant corkscrew tower.

Twilight fidgeted as Rarity flew even higher, angling her body and her new wings to face the sun. As the sun rays passed through the wings, a prism of light sprang forward. Color sprang to life throughout the tower, the warm and cool colors mixing together in a rainbow gradient.

Rarity flew higher, casting the colors across the whole of the field as she drew closer to the sun. “Here it comes.” Skitch nodded, leaning forward slightly.

For a moment Rarity hung in the air, the rainbow prism of light twinkling against the blue sky above Cloudsdale. And in the next moment, it was gone, and the white blob that was Rarity plummeted towards the ground to a round of shocked screams.

Screaming and flailing her legs, she plunged right through the Ponyville cloud sculpture before Thunderlane and Dewdrop could register what had happened. She emerged from the bottom a moment later, continuing to tumble towards the ground.

Rainbow Dash threw herself from the team box, wings beating like a humming bird as she rushed to save her friend. Skitch ran to the edge of the royal box and was joined a moment later by Twilight and the princesses, all watching the rescue intently.

Skitch smiled when the pressure waves appeared before Rainbow’s outstretched hoof. The shockwave grew tighter; the last step before the actual rainboom. Everything was going to be al-

Rainbow Dash lost control, and was sent cartwheeling off to another round of panicked shouts.

“RARITY!” Twilight screamed, her face twisted in anguish.

Skitch felt her stomach twist into a knot. Her own screams joined Twilight’s, dread and panic settling in. Rarity was about to die.

No! No! No! It wasn’t supposed to happen this way!

A flash of light sprung up in the corner of her eye and reappeared in the middle of the air, Princess Celestia suddenly at Rarity’s side, the golden glow of her magic carefully wrapping around the unicorn. With another flash of light, Celestia was back at their side, with a noisy package in tow.

“AIIIIEEEEEEEEE!” Rarity screamed, thrashing her legs, her eyes still squeezed closed.

Chuckling slightly, Celestia lightly poked her in the side. “Rarity? Everything is okay. I have you now.”

She opened one eye, slowly examining her surroundings, an embarrassed smile crossing her muzzle. “Oh. Well…could I have a cloud walking spell please?”

Celestia’s horn glowed for a moment, and she set Rarity down, turning her gaze to Skitch.

“I believe you owe her an apology.”

Author's Note:

This chapter was a big one.

I made the decision a little while back to turn the whole Best Young Flyers Competition into more of a full on athletic event. Kind of a mini-Equestrian games that Cloudsdale has been doing every four years for a long time. Here we also see Skitch trying to desperately prove to both them and herself that she is who she says she is.

Thankfully, Rarity was never really in danger. Three alicorns with the ability to fly and teleport? One of them would have caught her. But shame on Skitch for trying to make the reality of the situation fit the show.

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