• Published 13th Jan 2014
  • 4,125 Views, 333 Comments

Vee for Vendetta - Melon Hunter

The unstoppable force of Canterlot bureaucracy meets the immovable object of small-town stubbornness. Hapless civil servant Veggie Vee is about to find that ideas never die... and neither does Ponyville's sweet tooth.

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Veggie's Venture Validated

Vee for Vendetta

By Melon Hunter

Chapter 1: Veggie’s Venture Validated

Tick... tock... tick... tock... To the various denizens of Equestria, the sound and motion of the clock’s second hand can mean many things. It can be a soothing rhythm to some, a chilling echo of the Reaper’s hoofsteps to others, and a source of comfort that the end of a long day is coming closer to yet others.

To Veggie Vee, it meant another infinitesimal slice of life sliding neatly into its pre-ordained space. Sitting at her pristinely organised desk, the pale green unicorn observed her domain with bright blue eyes. She had finished arranging her spreadsheet on the salt intake rates for the Appleloosa region a whole thirty-seven seconds early, and she felt that was worth a reward.

She took a kerchief and gently rubbed the little brass stand bearing her name and position: Veggie Vee, Head of the Healthy Eating and Reduction of Obesity Board of Equestria. She allowed a little smirk and a chuckle as she looked at it, the nameplate held in the golden glow of her magic. As a little filly, she had dreamed of reaching the upper echelons of the Equestrian Civil Service, but the mind quite boggled at the dizzying heights she’d achieved. Her very own think tank!

Veggie finished her polishing a few seconds early, sitting completely motionless to allow the schedule to catch up. She watched the second hand clack to the top of the clock face, perfectly aligning with its companions. Twelve o’ clock exactly. Time for lunch.

She pulled herself up and walked down to the communal refrigerator, then took out her lunchbox from the carefully divided shelf. She looked down at the container. On the lid, her cutie mark was embossed and painted: an ear of maize tilted to the right, its leaf bent outward to the left to form a ‘V’ shape.

Humming gently, she walked slowly down the corridor and outside to a park next to her office building. She sat down upon a bench, taking a deep breath of the clean air. A wide smile spread across Veggie’s face as she opened the container. A crustless lettuce sandwich, and a single, shiny red apple from an orchard down near the Everfree Forest.

Veggie took a genteel bite from the sandwich and chewed quietly before feeling the presence of another pony. She swallowed and turned to look behind her, hastily brushing the dark green stands of her mane out of her eyes.

A dark grey pegasus with a clipboard cutie mark hovered by the bench. His mouth twisted and his wings flapped arrhythmically. A sheaf of paper was held in the crook of his forehoof, the other hoof fiddling with a large pair of horn-rimmed glasses.

“Hello, Quango,” Veggie said slowly. “This is... unscheduled.”

“Well, yes, Miss Vee, but I—” Veggie cut him off with a point of the hoof, making his golden eyes suddenly widen.

“As in, this meeting is not on my schedule,” she said, pointing at a nearby clock tower. “It is six minutes past twelve, and my lunch hour is from twelve o’ clock till one o’ clock every day. You know that, it’s inked in on all my timetables.”

“I know, and I apologise—” He grimaced and tugged at his brown mane as Vee silenced him with a wave of her forehoof.

Veggie huffed and pointed at a statue of the six Element bearers in the centre of the park. “Do you see that? What does that mean to you?”


“It means freedom, Quango. Freedom to have lunch, when we want, undisturbed!” Veggie’s eyelid began to twitch. “Don’t you remember Nightmare Moon’s return? Ponies fought and were… were mildly inconvenienced to prevent endless night disturbing our schedules!”

Quango raised an eyebrow. “Yes, of course that’s what everypony was worrying about. Not, I’m sure, the lack of sunlight or us all freezing to death or anything…” he muttered.

Veggie scowled. “And now you would do the same! For shame, Quango!”

He clutched the dossier to his chest, eyes wide, wings fluttering rapidly. “Trust me, Miss Vee, there is nothing I’d hate to do more than disturb your lunch hour with vital statistics,” he said. “Especially not vital statistics that will probably affect the department budget”—he glanced up at the clock—“which will need to be signed off by you at one o’ clock.”

Thank you.” Veggie bobbed her head towards Quango. “Now, may we both have an enjoyable and—I daresay—uninterrupted lunch hour.” She smiled at him. “See you at one.”

“On your head be it, then...” Quango muttered. He fluttered away, sitting down heavily in the shade of a tree.

Veggie sat back and sighed happily. “And so the lunchtime invasion fails,” she said to herself, returning to her food. Once finished, she hopped off the bench and began to stride through the park, making sure to look back at Quango every now and then and wave.

At twelve fifty-five, Veggie picked up her lunchbox and went back inside, Quango trailing her. She sat back down at her desk, where the department’s budget sat waiting for her final approval. She flicked through it, ensuring all the contents were in order. She signed it with a quill, rolled it up, and pushed it into the pneumatic tube by her desk with a satisfied sigh.

Quango opened his mouth to speak, but she cut him off wordlessly with a meaningful glance at the clock. He huffed and slumped back. He glowered at his superior as she re-arranged the papers on her desk.

As the minute hand finally reached the top of the clock, Veggie looked up at him and smiled broadly. “Quango! This is a pleasant surprise! What are you here to see me for?”

He stared at her for a moment with bloodshot eyes, before holding up the sheaf of papers in his hoof. “I was going over the latest figures from Ponyville, and well... they don’t bode well.”

Vee raised her eyebrows. “Ponyville? That little town near the Everfree? What do you mean? It’s perfectly healthy; it has some of Equestria’s largest orchards and carrot farms outside it!”

Quango rubbed his chin, frowning. “That’s what I thought as well, Miss Vee, but the statistics—”

“—do not lie, I know. Let me see.” He gave her the sheaf. She pulled a pince-nez out of a drawer and put it on, regarding the dossier. Little tuts and ‘hmmm’s came from Veggie as she looked over the data. As she got to the final page, she paled and prodded a table of numbers with her hoof. “Quango... what is this?” she gasped.

“I-I know, Miss Vee, I barely believed it myself.” Quango gulped. “But like you said, the statistics don’t lie...”

“But… but this makes Ponyville the worst town for sugar consumption in the whole of Equestria!” Veggie exclaimed, edging her chair back as though a plague rat had been dumped on her desk. “Even behind Manehattan, and they eat nothing but grease and syrup there!”

Quango stepped back, his wings drooping and ears downturned. “I’m from Manehattan...” he said quietly.

“You are?” He nodded hesitantly. “Um…” Veggie rubbed the back of her head. “Congratulations on rising above those temptations, then!” she offered.

“Um, yes. That’s exactly what I thought...” he said.

“Anyway, there’s no denying these figures,” Veggie said, her mouth twisting. “Ponyville has slipped from third-best to worst in six months. There’s only one thing for it. I’m going to have to—”

“Well, whatever it is, I hope it doesn’t require any money being spent,” Quango interjected. As Vee cocked her head at him, he waved his hoof at the pneumatic tube. “You do realise that document you just sent through was the department’s budget for next year, right?” She nodded and he bit his lip. “And that’s final… and comes into effect tomorrow? No changing it now?” He pursed his lips as a reedy whine began to emerge from Veggie’s mouth. “I’ll take that as a no…”

Veggie gripped the edges of the desk as her head spun. She trembled and stared at the ground as the stark reality hit her, the sheer horror of what she now had to do nearly making her faint. Her horn flared and she pulled open the top drawer of her desk. “I’m… so sorry to have to do this, Quango,” she sobbed, pulling out a small device from within.

“Wait, what is that?” Quango exclaimed, wings flaring.

Veggie grimly placed the golden orb from her desk into the pneumatic tube, sending it off with a puff of compressed air. “For emergencies only.” She spun around and stared at him with bloodshot eyes. “We have to go to”—her voice fell to a dread-filled whisper—“the Treasury.”

“Are you sure about this, Miss Vee?” Quango asked, as the elevator whisked them to the top floor of the office building.

Veggie barely paid attention to him, legs wobbling as she tried to resist the growing urge to escape through the emergency hatch. Instead, she tried focussing on the dossier. The parchment rustled as her magic clenched it together, as if by squeezing it Veggie could rid herself of the dreaded numbers. But they did not lie. They never lied. “A-absolutely, Quango. This is a failure of my think-tank of the highest magnitude, and it is our duty to prostrate ourselves before our superior and fall upon our swords, if need be.”

He gave a start, his wings shooting outward. “Our swords?”

“Absolutely! I have failed by allowing Ponyville to slip so far so fast, and you gave me the statistics that showed so. Cut-and-dry, really,” Veggie replied. Quango opened his mouth, but was cut off by the ring of a bell as the doors opened.

The two bureaucrats stared out into the corridor. Veggie hesitated on the threshold of the elevator, before gently placing a hoof on the blood-red carpet. She gulped as she heard the incessant clattering of the typewriters, wringing out ponies’ souls one stroke at a time. She shuddered at the stench of gold weaving its way through the offices, and—

“We do have a meeting,” Quango prompted her. He was already halfway down the corridor, tapping a hoof. “Might as well get it over with, whatever ‘it’ is.”

Veggie shook herself and gazed at Quango with pity. With youth came ignorance; perhaps he really didn’t know the fear the Treasury struck into the hearts of any true civil servant. She’d rather face down a charging manticore than the steely gaze of one of Celestia’s hoof-picked auditors. At least manticores didn’t try to kill you with book-keeping.

At the end of the corridor, a massive mahogany door waited for them. Monetary Director, Ministry of Health, a small brass plaque confirmed. Vee gulped and shuddered, before walking up and knocking upon the door.

“Enter,” said a deep voice said from within. Veggie pushed open the door. Facing them from behind an ornately carved desk of obsidian was a large blue earth pony stallion, wearing a bow tie and half-moon glasses. He looked up from the papers he was stamping with his hoof, and his brown eyes lit up. “Veggie! I received your emergency summons. To what do I owe this pleasure?” The motion of papers and hoof never stopped as he asked the question.

“Well, sir...” Veggie began. Stamp! The hoof came down again.

“‘Sir’? No, no, no,” he chuckled. Stamp! “As I’ve said countless times, please, call me Red Tape.” Stamp!

“R-Red Tape,” Veggie corrected. Stamp! “I, um, have some disturbing information. Ponyville has quite suddenly slipped to having the highest sugar consumption”— Stamp! —“per capita in all of Equestria.”

Red Tape’s eyebrows rose. Stamp! “Ponyville, eh? Well, what do you think should be done?” Stamp!

Veggie took a step back. “B-but si—um, Red Tape, this is a failure of an unimaginable magnitude on my part!” she said, wide-eyed.

“If you say so,” Tape said. “And what do you think, Quango?” Red Tape waved a hoof to the other stallion, stopping his stamping temporarily. He rubbed his chin, gazing directly into Quango’s eyes.

“M-me, sir?” His wings flared briefly. He glanced at Veggie and piped up, “Well, I agree with Miss Vee. It is an unimaginable failure upon”—he cut off as Veggie’s head shot around to give him a withering glare—“our part. Certainly, I should shoulder some, if not most of the blame for this.”

Red Tape reached out. “Let me have a look.” Veggie transferred the incriminating tables and graphs to him. The elder bureaucrat looked down at the dossier, his mouth twisting and brow furrowing as he read. At the final page, he let out a brief chuckle. “Oh, I see! I see!”

“Th-that’s it? ‘I see’? Isn’t this one of the most catastrophic things to happen to this department?” Veggie asked, tapping her forehooves together.

Red Tape stared at her, head resting upon steepled forehooves. “Well... hmmm... I suppose. I mean, the statistics don’t lie, do they?” The tiniest of smiles adorned his lips.

“No, sir! Red Tape, sir!” the two ponies before him said in unison.

Tape nodded. “Well, would you like a chance to put things right?” he asked.

Veggie’s eyes went wide, and she nodded vigorously. “Of course!”

“Capital!” Red Tape pushed the Ponyville dossier back across the desk. “So, Veggie Vee. Read it again, and tell me. What are you going to do?”

She snatched up the papers and regarded them closely, her eyes scanning over the pages. She looked for something, anything, that she may have missed, but the morbid conclusion was still the same. Still, there was plenty to salvage the situation... the fruit and vegetable farms. Veggie’s hoof tapped vengefully on her worst enemy; an insidious institution known as Sugarcube Corner. “I can assign subsidies for healthy foods and exercises, while imposing certain... financial penalties on purveyors of fat and sugar.” Her hoof came down hard enough on the picture of the gingerbread-themed bakery to crease the paper. “Perhaps more extreme measures if need be.”

Red Tape raised his eyebrows. “Are you absolutely sure, Veggie?”

Veggie once more looked down at the map of the small town, imagining herself walking upon it. She imagined her great foresight and wisdom leading these poor, clueless ponies away from the path of ill health they had tumbled down. She imagined striking down the evil Sugarcube Corner, raising a glorious temple to fruit in its place. She imagined being held high upon the denizens’ shoulders, her name cheered, a statue, a proclamation of Veggie Vee, Saviour of Ponyville.

She looked up with a determined smile and let out a snort. “I have never been so sure in all my life, sir.”

Red Tape shrugged. “I see. There’s no stopping you. Good! I like conviction in a civil servant. Just one thing…” He picked up another dossier, and the blood drained from Veggie’s face as she saw her signature on the front page. The budget. The budget. “All this talk of subsidies and such. They’re awfully expensive, and yet—forgive me if I’m wrong—I don’t see anything about this venture in the spending plan!” He shook his head and chuckled. “Don’t tell me Veggie Vee has made a mistake, of all the ponies in this department!” Vee shook her head mechanically. “No…?” Droplets of sweat began to run down her brow. “Not even if these statistics came in a whole hour before you signed off?” She whimpered, biting her bottom lip so hard as to almost draw blood. “Absolutely, positively sure that—”

“Alright alright alright! I made a mistake; it’s all my fault!” Veggie suddenly yelled. She threw herself before the director, forehooves clinging to the desk’s edge. “I just signed it there and then; I didn’t think this would show up right before the budget! Not in my lunch break!” she wailed.

“And you do so love your lunch breaks, don’t you Veggie?” Red Tape asked, smiling faintly and looking down at her.

“Yes! I do! So much!” Veggie felt as though she were being raked over hot coals, her soul torn open to spill every last secret for judgement. She clenched her eyes shut. “A whole hour! I even took a walk!”

“Goodness me. A walk, even?”

She snivelled and grovelled, staring at the carpet. “Please, please don’t defund my think tank!” she begged. “I’ll do anything! I’ll auction off my name plaque! I’ll sell Quango to a travelling circus!”

“Excuse me?!” Quango exclaimed.

“Just please, have mer-er-er-cy!” Vee’s voice cracked as she finished her tirade, and cringed as she heard the stamping noise start up once more. She cracked open an eyelid, only to see Tape clapping his hooves against the desk in applause.

“Quite the performance,” he said. “Now, I’m afraid your get-rich-quick schemes are a little far-fetched; I’m fairly certain that selling your subordinates is against some bylaw or another. Unless…” He looked thoughtfully at the pegasus for a moment, who quivered and took a step back. “Still, that does leave you in rather a bind, doesn’t it?” Veggie nodded. “In which case, you should count yourself lucky that you have an investor willing to… experiment, if you will.”

Veggie looked up at him. “What do you mean?” she murmured.

Tape waved a forehoof. “Let’s say we pay it forward. You seem to have a lot of conviction that this plan will work, and neither of us want to let this problem fester for a whole year. The only issue is money… or lack thereof.” He pulled out a magnificent phoenix feather quill from a pot on his desk and began writing on a piece of parchment. “So, with a few caveats, I’m going to give you your budget for next year in advance for the Ponyville operation. I—”

His words melted into honey as realisation washed over Veggie. She was safe; she was free! She had all the funding she needed for Ponyville! She could pull it back from the brink and be famous after all! Her blunder in sending off the budget early was all glossed over, and all it had taken was completely debasing herself in front of her closest subordinate and the pony keeping her job funded! Everything was just fine again.

“You may stop leaping around my office now, Veggie.” She snapped back to reality in mid-air, a girlish giggle still escaping her mouth. Her muscles contracted to brace for the imminent and unavoidable collision with Quango and she landed on top of him, throwing them both down into a heap. Vee poked her head out of the aftermath, blushing.

“S-sorry,” she said. “Just a little overexcited.” Quango added something from beneath her, voice muffled by the carpet his head was being shoved into.

“I can tell!” Red Tape said. “You were so excited, you began celebrating before I could even tell you about the conditions this offer is under!” he added jovially.

Veggie felt a shard of ice pierce her heart. “‘Conditions’?” she whimpered.

“Why yes! I mean, this is a rather expensive experiment; I need some form of guarantee that there’ll be a return on it,” he said.

Vee’s ears drooped. “I see…”

“Firstly, I wish to see some sort of result in a week’s time, just to see if I should pull the plug before I get mired in too deep,” he explained. Veggie nodded. “And secondly, I want you to personally oversee this operation. Hooves on the ground, as it were.”

“What?!” Veggie’s mouth hung open. “You’re going to force me to go to this backwater?”

Tape shrugged. “Well, if you don’t want the money…”

Veggie let out a shuddering sigh, imagining the cushy Canterlot apartment she now wasn’t going to see until Celestia knew when, and the various underlings of her think tank trying and failing to run the office in her absence. She gazed balefully at Red Tape, and the parchment beneath his hooves. Just another link in the chain the Treasury held around her neck. “So, fast results and a trip to the countryside? That’s all?” Her voice nearly broke again as Tape nodded. “I’m so… lucky?” Her teeth ground together as a meagre tendril of magic reached out to sign away her freedom for the second time in as many hours. Really a rather unfortunate habit to start forming, a part of her mused.

Red Tape looked down at the impromptu contract and smiled. “Now then, Ponyville... I really do pity you,” he said, shaking his head gently.

Veggie barely contained a moan of terror. “Why?

“The town where Nightmare Moon made her return to the Earth? Discord’s planned capital of chaos? The hometown of the six Bearers of the Elements of Harmony?” Red Tape chuckled and wove a pattern in the air with his hooves. “Ponyville is a town where fate knots through it in such strange ways, Veggie. I give you a week, and either the townsfolk will cheer your name and carry you through the streets, or you’ll come crawling through that door begging for mercy.”

She buried her head in her hooves. “Well, thank you, sir,” she said through gritted teeth.

“Excellent!” Tape opened a desk drawer and pulled out a jar containing an eldritch green flame. “Ah, dragonfire. What would I do without it? Now then, it’s Thursday afternoon, so Mayor Mare down in Ponyville should be doing...” He consulted a diary on his desk. “Ah yes, absolutely ruddy nothing. The joys of a small-town bureaucrat, eh?” he said with a wink, scribbling out a note and dropping it into the jar. The parchment was incinerated in an instant, the ashes flying out of the window. He looked at the slumped form of Veggie. “Oh, don’t be so down in the dumps! I think the small-town air might do both of you some good!”

“You’re sending me down there as well?” Quango asked.

“Certainly! You’ve been Veggie Vee’s faithful shadow for quite some time now, Quango. And after all, you are the one who brought this to our attention in the first place,” Red Tape assured him. “I’m sure you’ll be happy to take a willing assistant, won’t you, Veggie?”

Veggie looked at Quango with a faltering smile. In her mind, she once again imagined her five-storey golden statue, but with a tiny plaque now bolted to the base, proclaiming: ‘and Quango, faithful assistant’. And then, the much more agreeable title: ‘Fall guy’. It was an acceptable compromise, she supposed. “Of course!” she said with a frozen grin.

“Wonderful!” A stream of ashes flew through the window, materialising into a scroll in front of Red Tape. “Ah, and my suspicions were correct. You have an appointment with Mayor Mare at four-thirty today in the Ponyville Town Hall. I imagine if you leave now, you can catch the train down in plenty of time. Remember to keep your receipts for expenses!”

Veggie grabbed the dossier with her magic. “Yes, sir! I won’t let you down, sir!” she barked, sounding less a pencil-pusher and more a new recruit to the Royal Guard.

Red Tape raised his eyebrows, before looking at her over steepled forehooves once more, a small smile chasing across his features. “I don’t doubt you will, Veggie, one way or another. Good luck, you two. I hope to read all about it in the papers.”

“Naturally, I shall be sending you the daily re—” Tape stopped her with a raised hoof.

“I meant the newspapers, Veggie. After all, you might as well make the biggest waves you can, no?” Tape leaned back in his chair.

“O-of course, sir!” Veggie stated. “With Celestia as my witness, I shall endeavour to succeed in my ventures, show courtesy to all, and fill all forms in triplicate, no exceptions!” Quango half-heartedly joined in the recital of the Royal Civil Servant’s Oath. “Come along, Quango, we have policies to enact, and paperwork to fill in. And for once, I’m all out of paperwork,” she said, an ecstatic grin on her face.

She turned about and trotted down the hallway, Quango trailing along behind her. The door closed behind them, and the two ponies boarded the elevator once more. He frowned at Veggie as she took a great intake of breath and let it out in a loud huff. “What’s gotten into you?” he asked.

“Whatever do you mean?” Veggie said, not meeting his gaze.

He rubbed the back of his neck. “No offence, Miss Vee, but you’re usually a rather… dignified pony. It really didn’t take much on Red Tape’s part to break you.”

“I warned you! This is the Treasury!” she hissed. “The ponies here have sacks of bits in place of souls! They’ll enslave you with gold!”

“If you knew that, why did you decide on such an expensive solution to Ponyville?” Veggie froze. “We could have just sent them a letter and let the mayor sort it out.” She screwed her eyes shut and raised a hoof slowly to her forehead. “Would have only cost the price of a stamp.”

She trembled for a moment before a manic grin crossed her face. “Because we don’t do things by half-measures!” Veggie exclaimed. “I will do anything to ensure the safety of Ponyville! Even if it means having to go there.”

“And now you’re acting all enthusiastic about this assignment?” He sighed. “Maybe we should reject Red Tape’s offer and take the cheaper option? Much as I like my job, no amount of money is worth sacrificing your sanity.”

“Nonsense! Can’t you feel it, Quango? Not only did we escape punishment, but we have been granted a golden opportunity for us to show off my potential!” she said, standing tall with a closed-eyed grin.

“‘Potential’.” He rolled his eyes and gave a snort. “You really are the most unique pony I’ve ever ever met, Miss Vee...”

“Thank you, Quango!”

“It wasn’t a compliment.”

Quango stared out of the window as the train to Ponyville rumbled down the track on the home stretch to its destination. The first-class compartment was animated to the sound of a battle plan being laid down, but he simply rested his head on his hoof as he let the words wash over him.

“It’s quite simple, really. We convince the ponies here that they’re killing themselves with their new eating habits, turn them to the joys of the fruit and vegetables they can find right outside their town, and they listen to my greater wisdom! Job done!” Veggie explained. She wore a pair of saddlebags stuffed with pamphlets, her other paraphernalia stored in cases in the luggage compartment.

Quango shuffled in his seat. “But... what if they don’t listen to us?”

“Well, we’ll just have to try harder until we succeed,” she conceded.

“And if that doesn’t work?” Veggie’s face began to contort into a scowl. “Contingency planning! That’s all!” he exclaimed.

Veggie tapped her chin in thought. “Quango, if I announced my intentions to jump out of the window of this carriage while the train is running at full speed, what would you do?”

Quango’s eyebrows shot up. “Uh... I’d tell you not to do it?”

“And if I ignored you?” Veggie grinned slightly.

He shrugged, paused for a moment, then offered, “I’d shout louder?”

“Still not listening!” Veggie sang, walking over to the window and pushing it open. A strong breeze blew in, scattering a couple of loose pamphlets and causing both ponies’ manes to fly wild. “What now?!”

“What are you doing?!” Quango exclaimed.

She shucked off her saddlebags, and half-climbed through the window, dangling her forelegs and most of her torso out. “Oh, I think this is such a good idea!” she bellowed over the sound of the wind.

“Miss Vee! STOP!” He leapt forward, grabbing the dark green tail in his mouth and yanking it back with all his strength. She flew back into the cabin, and the pair of ponies landed in a heap, Veggie laughing like she’d lost her mind. Oh dear Celestia, she’s snapped already… he thought.

“And that is how you put a pony back on the right path!” She laughed. “If they keep upping the ante, you just carry on following them until you overpower them. My little hero.” Veggie ruffled Quango’s mane with her hoof and climbed back to standing.

“Please don’t do anything like that to me again, Miss Vee,” he said breathily, still sprawled out on the carriage floor. “I have a nervous complex.”

“Call me Veggie, please! After all, you are my second-in-command now,” Vee said, still grinning.

“Oh... really?” A flush appeared on Quango’s face and he struggled upright, swiftly preening his ruffled feathers back into place. “Thank you, Miss... ahem, Veggie.”

“Oh yes! I’m feeling good! I’m feeling optimistic! The future’s bright, and we’re the ones shaping it, Quango!” Veggie struck a pose just as the train drew to a halt, the conductor calling out that they were now in Ponyville.

Quango stared at her. Yep, she’s definitely gone off the deep end. Amend shopping list: toothpaste, comb, straightjacket.

“Let’s go, then,” Veggie continued. “Our baggage will be held at the station until the mayor gives us our quarters.”

The two ponies put on their saddlebags and exited the train. Quango looked around, wide-eyed. “Heh, thatched houses and unfenced gardens. Imagine trying to build something like that in Canterlot,” he mused.

“We’re not here to sightsee, I’m afraid,” Veggie said with a poke to his shoulder. “Except the locals, I guess. What about that one?” She pointed with her hoof at a white unicorn, her indigo mane and tail beautifully coiffured into curls. A cutie mark of three diamonds was on her flank. “She looks a bit tubby.”

“How should I know?! I don’t have a tape measure!” Quango hissed. “We’re here to help them, not insult them!”

“A measurement of torso circumference is a very useful factor in estimating body fat percentage,” Veggie said huffily. “Although I suppose singling out a citizen would do our cause no favours.”

“Thank you. Now—”

“Of course, we need to make this standardised and measure everypony. Write that down, Quango.” She gestured vaguely to his saddlebags.

Quango glowered at her for a second, and then pulled out a notepad and pencil, holding the former in the crook of his hoof and writing down the reminder with his mouth. He put away the pad and landed, just as a pink blur intercepted the pair of bureaucrats. In front of them stood a pink earth pony with a veritable cloud of dark pink mane, her blue eyes sparkling in glee.

“Uh, hello...” Veggie began.

Hi!” the pink pony exclaimed. “I’m Pinkie Pie! I know everypony there is to know in Ponyville, and I just know I've never seen you two around before! That must mean you’re new and”—she let out a huge gasp—“that means we need a super-duper, double sized, off-the-chart welcome party for the pair of you! It'll be so much fun!”

“Thank you, but—”

“And there'll be cake and games and music and the whole of Sugarcube Corner decked out! I’ll even have to compose a new song, just for you!”

"Wait!" Veggie shouted. Pinkie shut her mouth and fluttered her eyelids. “Did you say ‘Sugarcube Corner’?”

“Yepperoony! I’ve lived and worked there since I was a little filly! We do cakes and buns and cookies and cupcakes and muffins and eclairs and teacakes and macaroons and—”

“I think this is a very fortunate meeting, then!” Vee exclaimed hastily. “I’m Veggie Vee, and this is my assistant, Quango.” Pinkie met the introduction with a snort of laughter, and began bouncing around the pair, giggling.

“Veggie Vee and Pinkie Pie! Veggie Pie and Pinkie Vee! Hahahaha! Get it? It’s so similar! We could be sisters, except we’re complete opposites!” Veggie gave a sideways glance to Quango, who shrugged in return. As suddenly as she had started, Pinkie stopped, wobbling on the spot. “Anyway! Your party! It’ll find you! Be there, or be square!” She darted off into the distance.

“Thank Celestia that’s over,” Veggie sighed. She groaned as Pinkie sprinted back, skidding to a halt in front of them.

“And as you’re ponies, you can’t possibly be square, so you’re gonna be there! Remember that!” The pink blur exited the scene once more.

After a few moments of shell-shocked silence, Vee piped up, “Well, if you ever needed evidence of sugar overdoses killing brain cells, there you go.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I quite liked her. She seemed friendly enough,” Quango offered.

Veggie gave a chuckle. “I’ll need to keep an eye on you! I don’t want you going native,” she said.

“So, I take it the party’s off?” Quango said, standing to attention.

“Heavens, no!” Veggie slapped her forehead. “It’s not exactly a day trip to Tartarus. We have an opportunity to see how Ponyvillians have slipped so much! Perhaps their parties are now nothing more than orgies of cake-guzzling, and this Pinkie Pie is responsible!” The image of Pinkie at such a party made Quango’s ears burn. “Anyhow, that shall be later this evening. We have an appointment to make,” she continued, veering toward the grand old building of Ponyville Town Hall.

The two bureaucrats sat in the antechamber to Mayor Mare’s office, Quango twiddling his forehooves and Veggie sitting perfectly still. He nibbled on his forehoof as he looked at his superior. She was unblinkingly watching the clock, which stated it was twenty-two minutes past four. A young, cream earth pony mare was sitting at a small desk outside the office, apparently attempting to drill twin holes in the opposite wall with her dull glare.

“Y’know, she is literally doing nothing,” the secretary drawled, her head held up by a hoof. Her jaw masticated upon a piece of chewing gum, giving her the unflattering visage of a bored cow in a field. “Her last visitor left, like, an hour ago.”

“Our appointment is at half past four,” Veggie insisted.

“Well, yeah, but—”

“Half past four,” she reiterated.

“It’s just—”

“Half. Past. Four.”

The secretary sighed. “Are all you Canterlot types like this?” she muttered.

“Do you mean kempt, punctual and perpetually polite?” Veggie asked sweetly, fluttering her eyelashes like a schoolfilly.

“Uh...” The younger mare rubbed the side of her head and blinked. “Look, I don’t want any trouble. I’m only doing this internship ’cause the Mayor’s my auntie. You think I really care about all these griffon droppings?” She waved a hoof at the papers on her desk.

Veggie’s pleasant gaze flashed just for a moment, and she cleared her throat. “Actually, young lady, I think you’ll find that bureaucracy is the grease that keeps the cogs of Equestria spinning. You should consider yourself supremely lucky to be a part of it.”

“Rrright... well...” The secretary shrank back under the weight of Veggie’s gaze. “C-could you not, uh, do that? It’s… scary.”

“What do you mean? I am being perfectly friendly! Are you saying I’m intimidating you?” Veggie said, never blinking and still smiling.

“Um. N-no?” After a minute or so, the secretary capitulated and discreetly spat out her gum into the bin. A couple of minutes after that, she even extracted a pen from her drawer and fiddled with it, looking intently at the papers beneath her hooves.

Quango shuddered. He looked at Veggie, only to find her expression had returned to normal. She noticed his stare and shrugged. “What? Nothing to do with me! She just ‘discovered the joys of bureaucracy’,” Veggie muttered. She smiled and rubbed her forehooves together.

When the time had finally, agonisingly made it to half past four, Veggie jumped up and marched up to the door, rapping upon it with her hoof. The secretary raised an eyebrow at Quango, who shrugged. “Just humour her,” he mouthed.

The door was opened by an older beige mare, her mane and tail turned silver by age. She smiled in welcome at the pair of ponies. “Well, hello! You must be Veggie Vee and Quango!” Mayor Mare said, extending a hoof. Veggie took the proffered limb and shook it. “Welcome to Ponyville! I must say, this is an unusual occasion; we don’t normally have official visitors down from Canterlot.”

“An unusual occasion indeed,” Veggie confirmed. “We’re here from the Healthy Eating and Reduction of Obesity Board of Equestria, or just H.E.R.O. for short.” She enunciated every letter in the acronym separately.

“Well, I suppose you must be heroes of some description, eh?” the mayor said with a chuckle.

Veggie simply cocked her head to one side and blinked a couple of times, a blank smile on her face. “Beg pardon?” she asked.

Mayor Mare’s smile froze, and she opened her mouth a moment before speaking, “Uh... I mean, you know, it spells out ‘hero’... your organisation’s name...”

“Quite.” Veggie nodded vigorously. “I suppose I could be described as a hero, yes. Considering our mission here.”

The older mare’s mouth flapped open, before she shut it again and shook her head. Her brow furrowed. “Yes, your superior did neglect to tell me what exactly was so urgent about our meeting. I assume it must be important...”

“It is!” Veggie pulled out the dossier from earlier. “Look here.”

Mayor Mare peered over her half-moon glasses at the figures. “I don’t really see what the issue is here...” she began.

“The issue, Mayor, is that the town you’re in charge of has become the worst settlement for sugar consumption in the whole of Equestria!” Veggie exclaimed.

The mayor’s face fell. “Is that so? I thought it would be rather more... important than that.”

Veggie blanched. “Important? Important?!” she screeched. “Do you not realise the gravity of this situation?! Right now, right outside of that window, there are ponies killing themselves with their dietary choices!”

“We’ve never had this problem before...” Mayor Mare said uncertainly.

“Exactly! Six months ago, only Cloudsdale and Hoofington were better than Ponyville. It’s such a swift fall in ranking. Something must have conspired to cause this shift in eating patterns,” Veggie said, now pacing back and forth like a scheming general.

“Be as that may, Miss Vee, I’m not entirely sure what two ponies could do about this.” The mayor stopped as Veggie looked at her with a predatory smile.

“Subsidies, my dear mayor. I have a sizeable portion of the Royal Treasury at my disposal. I can offer rewards to fund healthy eating and exercise, and ensure sugary foods become less... alluring,” she said, framed by the low afternoon sun shining through the window.


“Indeed! If we can drag Ponyville out of the bottom of the league table, I can guarantee the money will come flowing in. Say, one hundred thousand bits for the initial poster campaigns and tax breaks?”

Mayor Mare froze. She reached into a drawer in her desk, and pulled out a calculator and pad of paper. After a moment’s calculating and frantic scribbling, her face lit up. “Miss Vee... perhaps I've been a little too hasty,” she crooned. “I completely understand your concerns for our town. And I think you’re probably right: Ponyville really has let itself go recently. So, of course, if you were going to sign off on such a subsidy, you would have my full support in all of your efforts!”

Veggie grinned and pulled herself up to her full height. “Well, perfect! I think an announcement to the town would be in order, would it not?”

The mayor’s face fell. “Well, why not? I’ll make sure everypony is notified,” she conceded. “Although, I’ll imagine you can tell most ponies about it tonight at your welcoming party.” As Quango did a double-take, she chuckled and explained, “I’ve lived in this town long enough to know that anypony new in town will get a Pinkie party whether they like it or not.”

“That’s settled, then! I promise you, Mayor Mare, that this town will be ship shape in no time!” Veggie exclaimed.

“And rolling in wonga...” Mayor Mare muttered to herself.

“...‘wonga’, yes,” Veggie said uncertainly. “What a… quaint word to use.” She turned to the pegasus beside her. “Well, Quango, I suppose we’d better secure somewhere to stay.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that! I’ve already made the arrangements for your stay. I had another pony down from Canterlot stay there, and she liked it so much she never left!” the mayor said with a grin, placing a foreleg around Vee’s shoulders. “Believe me, Veggie, I will be supporting you in everything, no matter what that consists of.”

Away in Sugarcube Corner, Pinkie was busy with Mrs. Cake, preparing the confectionery for the party. The hyperactive pony’s left forehoof suddenly shook, and Pinkie paused to look at it. “Hmmm... left forehoof shake... tail puff... oooh! Nose twinge...” she said, rattling off each action as her Pinkie Sense caused it. “...aaaaand WHOA!

A lightning bolt went down Pinkie’s spine, causing her back to arch and her to do an involuntary back flip. She landed on all four hooves, Mrs. Cake looking at her.

“Are you alright, dear?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m fine, Mrs. Cake! Just my Pinkie Sense!” Pinkie replied.

“Oh?” Her eyebrows raised in curiosity. “And what did that mean?”

“I don’t know... but it’s a doozy, one heck of a doozy... and it’s coming right this way.”

Author's Note:

Thank you to JohnPerry for pre-reading, and to Pascoite for his WRITE review.

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