• Published 10th Dec 2013
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My Family and Other Equestrians - Blade Star

A HiE fic with a twist. Our protagonist is not alone. How does one approach being in Equestria, when their family is along for the ride?

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Chapter 26 - Close of Season

Today was the final day of Cider Season. Tomorrow was the day of the race, and I was sure to get some good training in today. With Big Mac walking wounded after barrelling into the Flim Flam Brothers, I was the only one available to man the treadmill. On the plus side, the increase in pony power to pull the apple bushels around meant that Applejack and everypony else, would be able to ease off. As for me, well, AJ summed it up pretty well.

“Right Blade Star. We’re ready to go. Now start runnin’ like you’ve never run before!” And so began the longest marathon I have yet endured.

The first difficulty presented was getting everything moving. Once the treadmill, and consequently the massive press, was rolling, it was easy to keep up momentum. Starting however was another matter. My hooves struggled to get grip even on the treadmill and I regretted not having Big Mac’s herculean strength to help me at least move off. It was like trying to push a car uphill, with the handbrake still on.

Finally though, I gained traction, and began to move off. I was rewarded with the slightly off putting sound of slowly pulverized apples. Evidently, I had played too much Dead Space back on Earth. Now that I was moving, I began to increase my pace. It was still tricky though. I had to keep things steady. If I slipped up the whole thing would stop and I’d be back where I started.

About twenty minutes later, I had progressed to a proper gallop and had stopped accelerating. From now until lunch, all I had to do was keep going with my current steady pace. It was fast enough to keep up with demand, but not so fast as to cause the press to run dry, which, according to Granny Smith, happened once before and caused severe damage to the very expensive press.

“All the stone got chipped, an’ wouldn’t press no more. Belt went and snapped off an’ all of those confangled pulley things done gone ‘n’ snapped,” she told me. Needless to say, I didn’t want that to happen. Even with my current funds, there was no way I could pay for a new one, and for the Apples, it would cripple them financially.

The Apples were by no means poor farmers. I always found such ideas to be a contradiction in modern times. Nevertheless, they were not swimming in bits either. I suppose they rested just on the borders of middle class in terms of their savings and wealth.

I looked across to the stall where Applejack was. Apple Bloom and Big Mac were still hauling bushels into the press. She seemed to be getting into a pretty heated argument with one of the customers. Probably another muppet who though he could haggle. There was always somepony who reckoned that they deserved a lower price than everypony else. Applejack usually convinced them otherwise. This guy however, didn’t appear to be getting the hint.

“Look partner,” AJ said. “It’s two bits a mug, and that’s that. If ya want more then ya pay the same rate. An’ ten mugs are still twenty bits.” The stallion though, was still not dissuaded.

“For goodness sake!” he complained in a Manehatten accent. “Nopony’s gonna spend that much for bulk. Every other place in Equestria does some sort of bulk discount. And don’t give me no horseapples about this being a family business neither.” That ticked me off, but I remained confident AJ could handle him.

“Look, there’s no discount on Apple Family Cider, mister. Unless you wanna pay the proper price, move along.” Then, he went and did something very, very stupid.

“Oh come on, sweetheart. I’m sure I can find some way of making it up to you.” He made eyes at AJ. Needless to say, that didn’t quite sit right with her.

“Ah’ll say this once, partner. Git.” Her eyes took on a hard look. Having seen how fast she could clear a tree, any fool could tell annoying Applejack was a bad move. Except this guy of course. He then said something which, for the sake of Applejack’s honour, I am not going to repeat. What I will say, is that the remark earned him a hoof across the face. Now, he too was ticked off and looked ready to sock her back. Luckily though, help was at hand.

As the pair stared each other down, the stallion found himself in a shadow. A big one. It belonged to Big Mac, and he’d heard everything. By this point, everypony else had stopped to watch the grand spectacle unfold.

Big Mac’s expression remained impassive. His eyes gave nothing away. To an opponent, that is more frightening. And it sure as hay made him a hell of a Poker player. In the briefest of moments, all traces of cockiness in the stallion vanished, quickly replaced by fear. Even walking wounded, Big Mac’s sheer size made him a force to be reckoned with. He snorted crossly.

Finally, having realised that he was faced with, an angry Applejack, Big Macintosh and a crowd of onlookers, the stallion evidently concluded he was in the wrong, and he set off at a very fast gallop.

I’d kept up my pace on the press, but had been ready to jump off in the event Mac needed help. But it takes a special kind of stupid for a pony to take on Big Mac one on one. He spoke briefly to his little sister.

“Ya okay, sis?” he asked gently.

“Ah’m fine, big brother. Ah could’ve taken him anyways,” she replied smiling. With that, the brick red stallion returned to his work and AJ went back to serving the customers. Half an hour later we broke for lunch.

After a decent lunch we still had a half hour or so before we needed to get back to work. Sweet Apple Acres was a beautiful place, either under Luna’s moon or Celestia’s sun, so I took the opportunity to contemplate things for a bit.

The big race was tomorrow, and all the training I’d put in, either in Whitetail Woods, or on the cider press would hopefully pay off. After that, at some point Rarity was taking me to Canterlot. It would be a nice chance to get in some early Hearth’s Warming shopping done. I always believed in being prepared. Such a visit would also give me the opportunity to see Princess Luna again. I wanted to thank her for her advice and timely act of rescuing me from that nightmare. And just as a chance to talk, I liked to think we had a fair bit in common. Personality wise, not the whole thousand year exile by her own sister bit.

I moved to think about my long term plans. Given what I had found out so far, barring any sudden new development in magical science (now there’s a contradiction!) we would probably be here for the rest of our days. It wasn’t that I had severed all ties with Earth and humanity. It was just that I had forged new ones here. I regretted that I would never see the Grand Canyon or be able to get a pilot’s licence or go and visit Paris one more time. Nevertheless, things could be worse, so I wasn’t going to complain. I had friends and family, a job, lived in a beautiful place. What more could I ask for?

“Bit fer yer thought, Sugarcube?” said a voice behind me. I jumped up, startled. It was Applejack.

“Nothin’ much, AJ. Just contemplatin’ the great mysteries of life,” I replied, smiling. The orange mare looked intrigued.

“Oh, any groundbreakin’ theories? Or are ya just messin’ around with ideas?” she asked as she came and sat down next to me.

“Just thinkin’ about my life. What’ll happen. What’s happenin’ back on Earth. I didn’t count on turnin’ into a pony and wakin’ up in the Everfree.”

“So what did ya bank on happenin’?” she asked. I looked away.

“Ah don’t know. I figured Ah’d get a steady job in some office after a while. Maybe do that fer a few years. Meet a nice girl, settle down.” I paused to think.

“Two out of three?” I looked up. “Ya ain’t got no fancy office job, but you got those other two things.” I supposed she was right. I was too lost in my own thought to spot the hint.

“Ah just wonder what everyone else back on Earth thinks. Do they think we all just vanished? Do they think we’re dead? An’ what about my dad's business, who’s runnin’ that now? Ah’ve left a lot behind, AJ.” I stopped, I was becoming too depressive about something beyond my control.

“How about you? Ya always plan on runnin’ this here farm?” This made the mare smile.

“You know it. Ah had a bit of a funny time when ah was a filly. But I know that this is where I belong.”

“Must be comfortin’, being so at one with yer destiny,” I replied. I supposed that all Equestrians were pretty sure what to do with their lives. While I had a cutie mark, I wasn’t certain what it really meant.

“Ah wasn’t always, Sugarcube,” she said. I turned my head to look at her. “There’s been a few times where Ah thought of givin’ up. Shoot, there were days when Ah wanted to leave this farm and never come back.” She paused and looked down at her hooves. “When our folks passed, Ah wanted to leave. Ah couldn’t fill their horseshoes. Sure Ah could buck apple trees, but Ah didn’t know nothin’ ‘bout runnin’ a farm. The whole world seemed like this void. No roads, no directions. But trust me, Blade Star. When ya find yer callin’, ya won’t miss it.”

And with that, she got up and headed back towards the cider press. I could see it and the huge stack of barrels in the distance. She turned round and called back to me.

“Ya ain’t gonna find yer callin’ sitting on yer flank. Come on Bones!” she hollered. Great, now she’s calling me that too. I smiled and trotted back toward the press.

When I got back, I was again faced with the task of getting the press moving again. The effort required quickly banishing any of the previous introspective thoughts from my mind. Once again, after about twenty minutes, I was up to speed again. This was the last of the cider for this season. Instead of being sold, it would stay in the barrels in the barn steadily fermenting. Hard cider had an unusual taste. Something along the lines of whiskey if nothing else. It had a similar golden colour as well.

Big Mac brought another bushel of apples for the press. There was only a few more left. The end was in sight. Unlike the end of Applebuck Season, we would, hopefully, not have to face a stampede of frightened rabbits.

“Here ya are, Bones,” he said chuckling. Guess I’ll just have to get used to that. It was better than the nicknames I had on Earth in any case. And when I thought of that character, I supposed I could take some positives from it, McCoy was a decent guy. Apple Bloom did the exact same thing when they hauled the last bushel in. Applejack called out.

“Alright now ease ‘er down to a stop, Blade Star.” With that, I slackened my pace and let the machine’s own weight bring it to a halt. We all looked to each other smiling. I jumped down off the press.

“And that gentlecolts, is how we do that,” I said.

Me and Big Mac hauled the press back into the barn, where he’d disassemble it until next year. For all intents and purposes, Sweet Apple Acres was now done until Winter Wrap Up. The orchards were bare; all the crops had been harvested. From now on, sales would come from the stores. No more applebucking. We all headed back inside to get some grub.

It was around nine o’clock when I found myself again out in the apple orchards. It was still bright, the moon again casting its glow across the land. I wasn’t always sure why I did this. I just enjoyed it. If I ever had a rough day back home I would do one of two things, depending on the weather. Either play ‘The Smile Song’ on YouTube or go out and look up at the night sky. Given that there was no internet in Equestria, and that I had access to the real Pinkie Pie, the former was rendered void, the latter however, had been improved hundredfold. For the second time that day, I was joined by a familiar figure.

“Ah thought Ah’d find ya out here, Bones,” Applejack said. I smiled.

“Hi ‘Jack,” I answered. She trotted up next to me and looked at me perplexedly.

“’Jack’?” she asked, perplexed.

“Well, if y'all are gonna call me ‘Bones’, I reckon it’s only fair Ah get to give you a nickname too. Just shorter than sayin’ ‘Applejack’ all the time.” She thought for a moment.

“Yeah, ah like it. Feels like it fits me.”

“Now then, what do ya wanna talk ‘bout?” I asked.

“Ah was just thinkin’, ya know a fair bit about mah life. But Ah don’t know much about you. About yer past Ah mean.” That made sense.

“Well, there’s not much to tell ’Jack. Ah’m twenty two years old, did good in school, went ta college, got me a degree. Had a few friends in high school. I weren’t no loner but I wasn’t Pinkie Pie neither, got bullied some when I was younger too. Used to spend most of my days buildin’ model airplanes or readin’. Then Ah came across all this.” AJ promptly cut me off with a question.

“What did ya get yer degree in?” she asked.

“Politics. Which accordin’ ta most makes me a cheat an’ a liar,” I said with a ghost of a smile.

“Ya ain’t no liar, Bones. An’ that’s comin’ from the Element of Honesty herself,” AJ replied. “So what about yer family?”

“Just us really now, and a few cousins scattered around the old Empire. No close family left though. Not like you, yer family has to be one of the biggest Ah’ve ever come across. How long till the next reunion anyway?”

“A few months yet, can’t expect everypony to travel long distance in the winter.” A fair enough reason, given Equestria seemed to get actual winters, as opposed to the British winter, which was identical to the British autumn, spring and summer. I wondered how long it would be before the first snow came. We were entering October now and getting close to Nightmare Night. I guessed everypony would hunker down when the snow did come.

Me and Applejack kept talking well into the night. Mainly just really getting to know each other’s stories and telling each other tales of our lives. I could hardly leave her in the dark if I was going to be living under the same roof as her for the foreseeable future. We talked about my folks, I was careful not to ask too much about her own, out of respect, my time in school and our experiences of life in general.

By the time we turned in, it was getting pretty late. The race started at half past ten tomorrow and we had to be there at the top of the hour. I’d done all the training I could, as had Applejack. Tomorrow it would all come together.

Author's Note:

At last I update. My internet is fixed so normal service will be resumed.

I'm sure you've all spotted the shipping set-up. It is not what you think.

As always, rate, comment and favourite.

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