• Published 29th Jan 2014
  • 6,902 Views, 428 Comments

The Weight of Responsibility - Calm Wind

Responsibility can be heavy, and accepting it can be tough. But even those used to it are not free of fault.

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Chapter 1

Author's Note:

IT SHOULD BE NOTED. THIS STORY, UNLIKE THE OTHERS, DOES NOT STAND ALONE SO WELL. There are lots of things in this story that need context from my previous ones.

I realized this as i was writing and rereading, I should have been more clear about that.


Yep, i got tired of doing one long chapter stories. I decided to do this one in chapters, plus there was a lot more i wanted to do with it like with Head in the Clouds.

Anyway, thanks for reading! Hopefully i'll have the next chapter up soon. :)

And again because i want to make sure readers enjoy it fully,

IT SHOULD BE NOTED. THIS STORY, UNLIKE THE OTHERS, DOES NOT STAND ALONE SO WELL. There are lots of things in this story that need context from my previous ones.

(Timeline Position: 3 Months after the events of Flying Sky High)

(For timeline info, please visit my homepage)

Big Mac wiped the sweat from his brow and stepped back, holding a hammer in mouth. He observed his work closely, eyeing the details and comparing them to a blueprint he had laid out on a table beside him.

The new building was a large wooden barn shape, but unlike a barn it had some extra machinery attached to the sides that clearly went inside as well. To be specific it had a large tank on one end, and a few cube shaped generators along the sides. There were vents above the generators, and one or two pipes jutting out and around. The front however was clear with a large barn door that could easily fit a cart or two for easy access.

“Hooo Wee! Look’s mighty fine Mac!” Applejack approached from behind. Mac didn’t answer and kept glancing between the plans and the building.

“Is it actually done this time?” Braeburn approached as well with a smirk, making Applejack roll her eyes. This was the fourth time she believed their new farm addition was done. She didn’t know much about the new storage unit. It looked finished to her three other times, but each time her assumption was met with a casual nnnnope. It had become a running joke between Braeburn and Applebloom much to Applejack’s dismay. Big Mac finally dropped the hammer on the table and puffed out his chest with pride.

“Eeyup! All finished.” He stated. Applejack had a laughing Braeburn by the vest and was about to give him a face-full of hoof, but stopped upon hearing Mac.

“Well I’ll be!” she yanked Braeburn down instead and sat on top of him, “just in time for our final harvest before winter too!”

“It’d be easier t’get started on that if I wasn’t stuck beneath your apple bucking plot.” Braeburn joked while being pinned.

“Quiet you. So Mac, how does this thing work?”

Big Mac grabbed the blueprints and moved towards them as Applebloom and Granny Smith made their way over to their new bit saving farm equipment as well.

Elsewhere, Thunderlane yawned and stretched while reclining in a cloud he had snatched from the day’s scheduled cloud cover and turned into personal cushion. He had just finished his “excruciating” assignment of putting a whole bunch of clouds in the sky. He figured he did the work, so he could grab a bit for himself and take a “well-earned” nap.

“Hey sleepy head.” A seductive toned voice caught his ear. He opened one eye to see Cloud Chaser with her front legs crossed and resting on the cloud. She smiled as he yawned and stretched again.

“What’s up babe?” He replied casually while shifting towards her.

“All done already? Jeez, they really run you ragged don’t they?” she joked about his workload.

“Still a waste of my time.” He sighed while crossing his hooves.

“Why waste time sleeping then, c’mon lets have some fun!” She moved above and stood over him on the cloud. Thunderlane smirked and raised an eyebrow. “Kinda early for that?”

“Psh, you wish, I just wanted to get your attention.”

“Okay, you win, let me get my brother.” He made ready to move, but Cloudchaser stopped him.

“I got ya covered.” She winked. Thunderlane thought she was making another reference to the suggestive stance she had above him, but then he heard a familiar yelling.

“Lemme go!”

“Why? You are way too cute!”

“I’m not cute! I’m manly!”

“See? Cute!”

Flitter came flying in while holding on to Thunderlane’s little brother Rumble. She was hugging him tightly and teasing him, which was a regular occurrence. He was clearly not amused. Thunderlane couldn’t help but laugh.

“Little dude better hope his luck continues when he grows up.”

“I’d say he has a good role model.” Cloud Chaser cooed while ruffling his mane. “Now c’mon, nap time’s over.

“I enjoy this view just fine.” He smirked. Cloudchaser pushed him into the cloud and flew towards Flitter and the ever flustered Rumble while laughing.

“Oh no you don’t!” Thunderlane fell through the bottom of the cloud and gave chase.

“So you're sayin’ all this mumbo jumbo put t’gether will let us store apples to sell durin’ the winter?” Applejack asked while eyeing the blueprints and scratching beneath her hat.

“Eeyup.” Mac nodded.

“Well that’s perfect! We can make some extra bits without waitin’ for spring now!” Granny Smith chimed in. “I’m proud of ya Macintosh, handlin’ the deal with Filthy, buildin’ this thing all by yourself, yer the spttin’ image of yer grandpappy Celestia rest his soul.” She slightly rambled on.

“I don’t get half of it, but if this does what you say, we can kiss all our expense troubles away!” Applejack cheered and jumped for joy.

Applebloom glanced up into the sky as a few pegasi that caught her eye overhead, but quickly looked back down to join in the fun.

“I bet I could!” Thunderlane fought back as Flitter and Cloud Chaser giggled. “How hard could it be?”

“Relax, Thunderlane we’re messing with you. So what if you can’t make a sonic boom, Rainbow Dash is unnaturally fast, and it’s not like you’re a Wonderbolt.” Said Flitter. But the damage had been done, Thunderlane’s manhood felt challenged. He had never really gotten over Rainbow Dash completely showing him up during the water lift to Cloudsdale. It wasn’t any better when they attended the Wonderbolt camp either.

“Hey! My brother could do it! He’s way cooler than Rainbow Dash!” Rumble fumed at the mares to defend his older brother. Cloud Chaser ruffled the little colt’s mane.

“Sure he his kid, but let’s face it, he doesn’t have half the speed Dash does—”

“That’s it!” Thunderlane turned down and dove, shooting through the clouds.

“Cloud! Great now he’s gonna do something reckless!” Flitter scolded her sister and lowered herself below the clouds to watch with Rumble in tow. Cloud Chaser shrugged again and followed behind.

Thunderlane picked up speed as he dove towards the earth. He was over Sweet Apple Acres, so he had plenty of room and nothing to get in his way. He’d show them, he’d prove doing a sonic boom was no big deal. He squinted as he began to feel the air pressure tighten around him. This was nothing! He’d pull this off no sweat! Then the pressure became heavier, and heavier. He didn’t care. He had to prove them wrong. It was hard to see because his eyes were nearly forced all the way shut. He didn’t realize how close to the ground he was getting.

Then suddenly, he found he couldn’t control his trajectory and the air pressure forced his body out of a straight line. It felt like a ton of bricks had just been dumped on his back as the force of all his momentum failed to break through the pressure, he began to tumble while falling, the speed he had built not dissipating. This was not going to end well.

“Well let's not just stand outside now, I wanna see all the fancy things this doodad is made of!” Braeburn beckoned the rest of the family as Mac rolled up the blueprints. Applejack watched him, then looked at the rest of her family and the new unit. She was glad, they were all happy. This investment put them back, but the rewards would be worth the bits and more. Money had always been an issue, running a farm was not easy nor was it cheap. They never had much to spend, so past the essentials, they never could buy much or spend any money on pleasure. This would be nice for Granny Smith above all else, after how long she’s lived and worked, she deserved a little more reward.

With nothing but nice thoughts, Applejack glanced up in the sky to take in the moment, but something careening through the air caught her attention. She blinked and looked down to see where it was heading. It was falling right towards the storage unit. Her eyes widened.

“LOOK OUT Y’ALL!!!” Applejack yelled just in time to warn her family. Mac’s eyes shot up and he instantly grabbed Granny Smith, Applebloom and Braeburn, pulling them back from the door.

Thunderlane tensed his body right before impact. He ran back first into a large wooden building, the shock resonating from head to hoof. The wood splintered and split around him and he broke right through to the inside. He was too disoriented to see what was around him, but he spun and his gut struck something hard. Something REALLY hard. Something metal. His momentum caused his legs neck and head to whiplashed past it, he grunted painfully and exhaled, falling back and smashing into a wooden support beam. He collapsed in a heap on the ground, groaning as he turned himself over. His ears were ringing, but the monotone slowly died down and was replaced with what sounded like wood creaking and crackling. After contemplating it for a moment his eyes shot open in time to see the beam he hit split and the entire structure collapsing over him. He curled into a ball and covered his head as heavy debris fell on top of him.

Wow that was bad. That was incredibly bad. Thunderlane felt like an idiot. Not only did he attempt something he KNEW he couldn’t pull off, he caused some damage and was lucky he didn’t kill himself. He was surprised he was still conscious, but it seemed the building collapsed in a favorable manner, if such a thing was possible. A few heavy pieces lay atop him, but nothing that was crushing him. He was more focused on his back and stomach that both throbbed continuously from the two rough impacts. He was also more than certain one of his wings took a hit, that or something was on top of one of them.

He had two options he could make out. He could either ignore the pain and try to dig himself out, or he could hope someone saw him and came to help him out. The first seemed like too much work to him, and the second added the benefit of someone sympathizing with him and taking care of him. At least that’s how he saw the situation.

The debris began to move suddenly. Thunderlane felt confident that his second scenario was about to play out and felt relieved. The feeling lasted until the last large portion of fallen wood was thrown off of him rather roughly. He looked up, expecting to see a helping hoof extended, but instead he flinched and gritted his teeth. He didn’t look into the eyes of a savior. He looked directly into the enraged glare of a very, VERY large pony. Big Macintosh to be exact.

“Uh—” Thunderlane’s mind raced. He didn’t really take into account the possibility that he broke something important. As he tried to find words Applejack, Braeburn, and Granny Smith all joined Mac, glaring down at Thunderlane. “Um… oops? YIPE!” The next thing he knew he was being hoisted off the ground while struggling to get free.

Overhead, Rumble tried to fly down, but Cloud Chaser grabbed him.

“Lemme go! My brother’s in trouble!” He squirmed and fidgeted, but Cloud held on tight.

“Sorry kid, it looks like your brother’s gotten himself into trouble.” She started flying off. Flitter wasn’t so ready to abandon him.

“But, Cloud, shouldn’t we—” She glanced between her sister and the scene below.

“Flit, you know how crazy those apple ponies are, Thunderlane got himself in that mess, and you know you don’t want to get involved, c’mon.” She motioned for her sister to follow and flew on with the ever struggling Rumble. Flitter sighed and followed, leaving Thunderlane behind.

The Weight of Responsibility
By: Calm Wind

“All of the arguments are solid, I’m sorry Thunderlane, but I have to agree with them.” Decided the Mayor of Ponyville behind her desk. Her office was packed full with a few police ponies, Cloud Kicker, the Apple Family, and Thunderlane still being held by Big Macintosh.

“WHAT!? But you haven’t even heard MY side of the story!” Thunderlane desperately tried to defend himself.

“At this point it doesn’t really matter. You’ve caused property damage and put a snag in business plans for multiple Ponyville establishments that rely on Sweet Apple Acres apples for their own trade. I’m placing you in their custody to do labor. You will work for them and help them recover what they can for this season.”


“No buts buster!” Applejack got in his face. “Yer makin’ up for all the trouble you’ve caused and don’t think I’m gonna make it easy for ya!” Thunderlane retracted slightly with every word she spoke. The Mayor turned to Cloud Kicker.

“This won’t be a problem at all?” She asked the head of the weather team. Cloud Kicker shook her head.

“We have plenty of pegasi who can fill in his small time slot. Besides, he’s sloppy and a slacker, this will be good for him.” Cloud Kicker didn’t hold back at all. Thunderlane couldn’t believe this. It was an accident, it’s not like he meant to knock down one stupid barn, and now they were gonna make him work? No way. At first chance all he would do is just fly away and—

“Let’s just take care of this now.” Braeburn suddenly slung a rope around Thunderlane’s body and pinned his wings to it. Thunderlane looked back at his wings with his mouth agape. He was stuck. This was gonna be hell for him and he knew it. The meeting began to dissipate, but he just stood still. That is until he was given a rough push by Big Mac.

“Okay, okay! Geez I’m going.”

Thunderlane was dragged all the way back to Sweet Apple Acres, complaining the whole way to no pony who was interested to hear him whine. It was now late and the sun had gone down. They pushed him into the house, into a shoddily prepared guest room, and all of them left except for Applejack, who was prepared to give him a rundown of what he would be going through.

“Now pay attention deadbeat, tomorrow morning bright an’ early you are gonna help Big Mac with his morning work, you’ll be passed off between each of us all day, haulin’, collectin’, and rebuildin’. Don’t expect much rest.” She put it plainly and harshly. She was ready to leave, but Thunderlane suddenly felt empowered to defend himself.

“Oh come on. Please tell me at least one of you thinks this is too much!” He barked, and was silenced in an instant when Applejack slammed her hoof to the floor and spun back to him.

“You are in no position to complain about a DAMN thing you piece of shit!” She shoved a hoof against him and pushed him back up against the wall. “You clearly ain’t got a damn clue what kind of position you’ve put me an’ my family in do you?!” He tried to struggle briefly, but she was way stronger than him. Another mental blow to add to all of it. “You are gonna work, and you better bet it’s gonna be a lot! Not like a lazy ass light shift weather team pegasi like yerself has ever done any!” She pushed him down and he fell roughly to the floor. He had no words to fire back, she scared him. And he thought Big Mac was scary, at least he didn’t speak much.

Applebloom appeared in the doorway briefly carrying a food tray that had some bread, an apple, some alfalfa, and a mug of water. She set it down, scowled in at Thunderlane, and left. Applejack turned her back to him.

“You’ve got a lot of debt to pay off. The more you whine, complain, and lollygag, the longer it’ll take ya.” She stomped towards the door, grabbing the apple off the tray of food before kick sliding it the rest of the way in the door, causing the mug to tip over and half the water to spill out onto the bread. Thunderlane winced as the door slammed. He sat completely still. He was shocked that he was getting treated so poorly. This was just not right. At least to him it wasn’t. It was an accident. You’d think he’d committed murder with this kind of hospitality.

He got to his hooves, and grumbled to himself. He tried to stretch out his wings, but the rope around him was tied so tight they couldn’t even budge. The knot was just out of his reach too. He looked around and eyed the door. He walked over and tried to open it, but it was locked. How did they lock a door from the outside? On closer inspection, the lock handle had been removed from the inside, meaning they locked it with a key from the hallway. He shook his head and eyed the windows next. He could tell even before he reached them, the locks had been removed and they even appeared to be nailed shut. It was like he was in jail. There was one more door in the room that wasn’t clearly a closet. Upon looking in, it was a very small bathroom, alleviating a very reasonable fear that struck him when he realized he was locked in.

Finally accepting his fate, he turned to the food. Bread, veggies, and water. Well, soaked bread, veggies, and half a mug of water. This sucked.

He thought over Applejack’s words. She was harsh and spoke of unbearable farm work. The more he thought about it, the more he felt it wouldn’t be TOO bad. All he had to do was work until they were satisfied and he’d be let go. A couple days wouldn’t be so bad right? Sure he was a Pegasus, but a day or two of ground work would be easy. Right?

Applejack trudged down the hallway towards the stairs. She was fuming mad. She may not have been too informed about the storage unit, but they spent a lot of money on it and Mac spent months putting it together. Not to mention everyone had to work extra to give him time to do so. Then BAM. Some stupid pegasus dives out of the sky, flying recklessly and dangerously close, and smashes it to pieces.

What this meant for her family going forward was HUGE. This threw a massive wrench into all of their plans. They would be lucky if they had enough harvest to sell through the winter. Also, they got lucky. Had Thunderlane hit a second later, she and the rest would have been inside during the collapse. She, Big Mac, and Braeburn would have been fine, but little Applebloom and Granny Smith could have been seriously hurt. As far as she was concerned, Thunderlane was getting off easy. She would have beaten him senseless had harm come to any of her family members. In fact he was lucky Mac got to him first, because she felt like clocking him across the face as soon as they uncovered him. She prepared to take a bite out of the apple she swiped off the food tray.

“Applejack.” A creaky voice froze her in place. The apple fell off her hoof and rolled towards a side door, stopping at the front hooves of two creaky old legs. It was Granny Smith of course. Applejack’s lack of response was actually not because of her mood. Even under normal circumstances she would have stopped stiff. Whenever Granny Smith spoke to her, she would always turn and smile, happy to do her grandmother a favor or listen to a story.

The one thing to note here was the lack of “dear”. “Applebloom, dear”, “Macintosh, dear”, “Braeburn, dear”, Applejack, dear.” It was how she addressed all of them. If that was ever absent, there was a problem. Granny Smith may have been long into her declining years, but she was the largest part of building Sweet Apple Acres into the biggest and most successful establishment of the entire Apple family. Applejack respected her greatly for this, as did her brother, sister, cousin, and every other younger Apple.

“Yes Granny?” Applejack slowly turned towards Granny Smith. She caught a very brief glimpse of disapproval in Granny Smith’s eyes before averting her own and slightly shading her face with her hat.

“You should be ashamed of yerself honey, treatin’ him like that.” She began harshly.

“But Granny, he—,” Applejack tried to interject.

“I know what he did. But I also know I didn’t raise you to be so cold hearted.” Her words stabbed Applejack. “I’m not happy about the damage he caused either, but it stops right there. He is bein’ punished, not tortured. You give him the same workload as everypony else ‘round here. No more. And don’t think I won’t notice it if ya do.”

“Yes Granny.” Applejack reluctantly complied.

“Good, now come along, we have a lot of plannin’ to do with the rest.” Granny Smith finished and began slowly making her way down the stairs. Applejack followed close behind her, ready to help if need be. An old force of habit.

Apparently being overly harsh had become a habit of hers lately as well. This wasn’t the first time she had been scolded for it in the recent past. Hell, it was actually the fifth or sixth in the past few months. Her responsibility to the farm seemed to be increasing by the day, and it seemed her intolerance for any kind of mishap was increasing as well. She was overly harsh to Braeburn when he messed up and came to Ponyville, she kept over reacting to Mac having his little relationship with Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash seemed to get under her skin without even trying lately.

This wasn’t going to change her opinion or stance on Thunderlane. He was going to work, and work hard or else he would get a mouthful from her. But as Granny Smith said, she would have to control herself. Thunderlane will do nothing beyond what’s required of him.

But she still hated him. She hated his guts.

Thunderlane turned over in bed as he slept. Having a lot on his mind caused him to toss and turn for a while the night before, and the rope tied around his wings made it a little uncomfortable, but he eventually fell asleep. The bed was comfier than he expected after all the harsh treatment he had gotten. More importantly he was hoping he’d wake up back in his own bed, preferably with Flitter and/or Cloud Chaser in bed with him, and this was all just some really bad dream.

The door to his room swung open and a hoof stomped on the floor so hard the whole house shook. Thunderlane woke instantly with a yelp and tumbled out of bed.

“Get up, time’s a wastin’” Big Mac’s voice came from the doorway. Thunderlane groggily pulled himself up onto the bed and looked for the clock, only he couldn’t see it because it was still pitch black save for the light from the hallway.

“What time is it?” He sleepily asked while yawning.

“Time to get to work,” Mac stated plainly. Thunderlane shuffled around and found the clock on his night stand. He turned it towards the hallway light and it read 4:00 AM.

“What?! It’s four in the morning, lemme sleep.” He plopped his head back down on the pillow. There was no reply from Mac, so Thunderlane foolishly assumed Mac just let him be. That was, until he felt the whole bed move. His eyes creaked open again as the bed was lifted into the air and turned sideways. Through reflex he tried to open his wings, but they were painfully prevented by the rope. He fell flat on the wood floor with a loud thud, the mattress, pillow and sheets landing beside him. Mac put the bed frame down and hoisted him off the floor.

“That means now!” He gruffly belted at Thunderlane before pushing him towards the door.

“Okay! I’m going!” He stumbled towards the doorway, extremely tired, and not sure if he even got more than a couple hours of sleep.

Thunderlane moved quickly down the stairs as if there was some kind of monster chasing him. Big Mac was hardly that, but Thunderlane was already more than intimidated by him. An intense smell caught his attention. He peeked around the corner into the kitchen and saw Granny Smith working the stove. There were two plates of scrambled eggs and three pancakes set on the kitchen table complete with a mug of homemade apple juice. Big Mac walked right past him and immediately took a huge bite out of one of the pancake stacks. He washed it down with some juice before turning to Thunderlane and making a head motion towards the other plate. Thunderlane blinked in confusion. Clearly Mac didn’t mean…

“Well, don’t let yer breakfast get cold now. It’s all yer gonna get till noon.” Granny Smith turned and pointed towards the plate. Thunderlane was surprised. After the horrible food he received last night he wasn’t expecting to get a home cooked meal.

“T-thanks.” He sheepishly said and made his way into the kitchen. Mac had already finished his pancakes and was destroying his eggs.

“Better hurry sonny, soon as Macintosh’s done yer getting’ to work.” Granny Smith added. Thunderlane knew there was a catch. Farm work and comfort didn’t go hand in hand. You didn’t have to be a farmer to understand that. He was hungry after his unsatisfying meal last night. He attacked the pancakes quickly. He had to admit, they were absolutely delicious, but he didn’t have time to savor it. Knowing how things were going, he’d be dragged away before finishing if Big Mac was ready to go. The eggs were just as good. Granny Smith was definitely an experienced cook. It was to be expected if she was running a farm her whole life. He barely got through half his eggs before Mac was up and ready to get going.

“C’mon.” He motioned towards the front door. Thunderlane was about to protest, but then he was worried Mac would flip the table. All it took was one encounter. Thunderlane had quickly developed a fear of putting off Mac, worried that it would lead to something being flipped over. He stuffed as many eggs as he could into his mouth and chugged what he could of the apple juice.

It was a horrible idea. Something didn’t go down clean. Thunderlane started coughing like crazy, pounding a hoof to his chest, trying to dislodge whatever got stuck. Mac rolled his eyes, walked over, and gave Thunderlane a good, strong pat on the back, maybe a little too strong. Thunderlane fell flat on the floor, but his coughing stopped. Mac winced, forgetting to ease up a little more than how hard he would have done it for Braeburn or Applejack. Thunderlane was definitely not as sturdy as an earth pony, and clearly not as strong legged as Rainbow Dash. He could see this was going to be a long day with this new “helper” and he wasn’t going to be very helpful.

“Sorry.” Big Mac apologized as Thunderlane shakily rose to his hooves, feeling like an anvil was dropped on his back. “Let’s go, we’re already behind.” Mac gave him little time to recuperate and headed for the door. Thunderlane regained his senses and sighed as he followed.

He was not going to enjoy this one bit, and it certainly wasn’t going to be easy.

Despite being tired as hell and having a now somewhat aching back, Thunderlane kept up with Big Mac out to the farm as the sun began to peek over the horizon. Mac seemed to be trotting along at a quickened pace. Thunderlane had to nearly run to keep up, Mac was almost twice his size, and each of his strides was equal to about two for Thunderlane. This didn’t help his stomach. Thunderlane was cramping up by the time they reached the barn.

“Mornin’ Big Mac!” A voice came from atop the barn. Thunderlane looked up while clutching his stomach to see Rainbow Dash glide down to join them. At least he thought it was Rainbow Dash. The last time he saw her she didn’t look so buff. She almost looked like an earth pony with wings.

“Mornin’ Dash.” Mac answered while unlocking the barn and pulling the large door aside. Dash stole a glance at Thunderlane who was still eying her quizzically.

“So we get the slacker today?” She rolled her eyes as she asked Mac.


“I guarantee you he’s gonna whine the whole time.”

“Eeyup.” He answered simply again before the two went into the barn and began pulling out multiple farm carts.

As they talked about him right in front of him, Thunderlane put it all together. When his initial wondering about Rainbow Dash subsided he was curious as to why she was up so early and at the farm. Then they came together. She was here to do farm work. She was helping Big Macintosh, therefore, after seeing the large carts, he deduced that she had been doing some heavy lifting just like him. That explained the muscles at least.

Then his thoughts shifted to why. Why in the Equestria was Rainbow Dash strength training? Why did it have to be here? All she ever did was chastise him for being lazy.

“Hey lazy ass, are you gonna sit there all day or grab a cart?” It sure didn’t take her long to do so. Thunderlane sighed and approached the carts. Mac emerged from the barn with a long train of seven carts. Thunderlane paused briefly to stare wide eyed as Mac went by before looking at the spare cart they brought out for him. The harness was metal and didn’t look the slightest bit comfortable. He slowly stuck his body beneath it, eventually figuring out how to latch it on. It wasn’t going to be that heavy, if Mac could pull seven no problem how heavy could they be?

“Whoa!” He took one step and if not for the harness catching him, he would have fallen face first. The cart was extremely heavy. As he replanted his hooves, Rainbow Dash pulled up beside Mac with three carts. Thunderlane gawked at the ease of which she pulled them. Mac glanced back at her train.

“You sure you c’n handle three?” He asked. She nodded confidently.

“Gotta step it up eventually, two was starting to get way too easy.” She explained proudly.

“If ya say so.” Mac looked over his other shoulder. “C’mon over there, we ain’t got all mornin’!”

Thunderlane felt like screaming. As if it wasn’t already a sore spot that Dash was faster than him, now she was stronger than him too? The humiliation just wouldn’t end. He gritted his teeth and forced the cart to star moving. Each step was rough, but he refused to be showed up any more than he already was. After a few steps, he got the cart to move at what seemed like a steady pace. He realized there was some momentum involved. The hard part was just getting it moving. Proud of himself, he looked up to see that Mac and Dash were pulling away from him quickly. His pride snuffed once again, he dug his hooves harder into the dirt and forced it to move faster.

Forget hell, this was WORSE. He was being forced to do work not meant for pegasi. At least not normal pegasi. If he tried to leave he’d be found and forced back. To rub it in he was working alongside a mare that kept making him look bad, and he was working for a crazy family of work junkie farmers. There was nothing to like about this situation, he understood this was meant to be a punishment, but he just knocked down one building by accident, this kept looking like more and more like a cruel and unusual way to give him a slow and painful death sentence, what was the big deal?

Thunderlane felt like his heart was going to jump out of his chest, and he wasn’t sure if he had legs anymore. He slowed to a stop and dropped down to take a breather. It felt like he had run a mile and it had only been a few seconds. He didn’t use his legs often, besides landing on things and occasionally walking. He was a flyer, and if he could fly this would probably be easier. He hoped he didn’t have much farther to pull the stupid cart, but then he looked up. Mac and Dash were almost out of sight. The path stretched for what looked like miles to him on foot. Defeated, but with nowhere else to go or turn, Thunderlane forced himself back up and continued to strain himself.

“Phew!" Applejack wiped sweat from her brow as a tree she just kicked dropped all its apples towards the baskets below. It wasn’t very hot due to scheduled winter approaching, but she always worked hard enough to break a sweat. In her opinion, she wasn’t working hard enough if she didn’t. She walked around the tree, picking up any apples that fell to the ground and placed them in the baskets as Braeburn gave a whistle from nearby. It was the signal that Mac and Rainbow Dash were drawing near. She quickly propped two baskets on her back and brought them over to the main path, repeating the process a few times to bring all her baskets over. Braeburn did the same thing from the other side of the path.

Applejack waved at Mac as he came up the path with Rainbow Dash right beside him. She rolled her eyes and shook her head when Thunderlane was nowhere to be seen.

“Mornin’” Applejack greeted as she began dumping the apples into Mac’s carts. She didn’t even bother asking about Thunderlane. Braeburn saved her the trouble of wondering.

“Where’s the expert flier?” He joked as he loaded apples into Dash’s carts. Dash snickered as she removed her harness, got down, and started doing wing ups as she waited.

“He’s comin’” Mac put plainly, passing the string of wheat back and forth in his mouth. Applejack shook her head.

“He’s gonna mess up our rhythm.” She complained while walking up between the trains to get more apples.

“You’re the one that put him with us this morning, please tell me you saw this coming.” Said Dash as she shifted her weight to one wing and started doing single wing ups. Applejack glanced at her motions.

“Careful there sugarcube, you’re already takin’ on three carts, don’t tire yerself out.” She spoke out of concern, and admittedly with a little smirk on her face to get at Dash. Dash only scoffed.

“Oh please, entirely different body function. Can’t neglect strengthening the wings. Don’t want to lose the speed with all these new muscles.” She casually explained while pushing off her wing and landing on the other and doing more wing ups.

“You tried that fancy move of Soarin’s lately?” Braeburn asked as he hopped down from the cart behind her. Dash beamed with pride.

“It’s not as perfect or as fast as his, but I got it to work the other day. I’ll show you guys later.”

They all turned as the sound of a single cart accompanied by the sound of heavy wheezing slowly drew closer.

“Better late than never,” Applejack muttered to herself as Thunderlane came into view. He had a good pace going, but he looked like he had just run a marathon. He pulled up along the other side of Mac and tried to stop, but as he did the cart didn’t agree with him. It kept going and knocked him forward, pushing his face down into and through the dirt, making them all wince. He didn’t say anything, just sat there panting and wheezing. They all looked between one another. Braeburn finally spoke up.

“Golly, all he did was pull one empty cart from the barn to here?”

“Well,” Dash began regardless of Thunderlane being within direct earshot of her, “He’s a Pegasus, he’s not built for this, I can tell you, and it wasn’t easy for me at first either. But here’s the catch, he’s a LAZY Pegasus. I at least tried to stay in shape before starting this.” Her explanation earned chuckles from Braeburn.

“Damn Dash, not holding back huh?”

“What?” She shrugged, “It’s true. I already told Mac not to expect too much help.” Applejack stood over the heap of Thunderlane and shook her head.

“Well he’s still gotta pay off what he owes us whether he likes it or not. I’m NOT gonna have him mess up our process out here, so he’s stuck with you for now.”

“Water…” Thunderlane suddenly rasped from the ground.

“Well he aint gonna help at all if we kill him,” Braeburn went over to a saddle bag he had dropped on the edge of the path and pulled out a water skin, bringing it over and helping Thunderlane drink. Mac glanced at Thunderlane, then back along the path, sighing.

“Just let ‘im rest. He’ll never make the loop back to the barn with a heavier load. We’ll be fine for now,” he said, “just hook his cart up to the end of my train, he c’n take it back when he’s ready.”

“You sure Mac?” Applejack asked, eyeing his already long train of carts.

“Eeyup.” There was no arguing with him. Applejack and Braeburn unhooked Thunderlane and carried him over to the side of the path before hooking his cart up to Mac’s train and filling it with apples.

“All set?” Dash asked. Mac only nodded in response. “Okay!” She tried to get a head start. “Oh yeah,” She grinned to mask the slight struggle. “This is definitely gonna be heavier. Bring it on!” She encouraged herself as Mac easily heaved the extra weight of his train along as if it weren’t even there.

Braeburn went right back to work, but Applejack paused for a moment over Thunderlane. This was going to be hopeless, but there was nothing she could do about it. Granny Smith told her to give him an honest workload, but it was too much for him from the word go. She could have him help Applebloom with the unloading before she went to school, but that was such an easy job. Applebloom didn’t even have to do it. She just wanted to be helpful.

He was pathetic from head to tail. She would never doubt Rainbow Dash again if this was a typical Pegasus. Or was he just the worst his kind had to offer? He had clearly never done a stich of real work in his life, but she didn’t care. He would pay them back, and if it took him years to do so, then he’d work for them for years, plain and simple.

Thunderlane was so light headed he didn’t know if he was even conscious or not. All he knew was that he was laying on the ground somewhere and that the pain had stopped. At some point somepony gave him water. Beyond that his head was spinning so hard he couldn’t perceive anything around him. He pleaded and pleaded his brain to just stop and for him to wake up from a horrible experience that he still hoped was just the worst nightmare ever.

Eventually one part of his jumbled thoughts came true. The dizziness finally faded, and his wheezing ceased. He opened his eyes slowly, wincing due to the sunlight blaring right into them. He let out a groan, realizing that he was still on the farm.

“You finally up?” Applejack’s sharp tone shot through his ears painfully like a spear. His head was still slightly throbbing. He groggily turned his head to see her drop two large apple baskets down on the side on the path before glaring at him. Just the opposite of what he wanted to see.

Applejack approached him, blocking the sun from his eyes, but in doing so made her seem like a tower over him. He didn’t stand up, just sat there in her shadow, tired and fed up with absolutely everything.

“Why are you doing this to me?” He whined. “All I did was knock down one lousy building by accident!” His headache clawed at him as he forced the words out. “What’s the big deal?!” He immediately regretted opening his trap. Applejack’s expression turned furious in an instant. She reached down and roughly jabbed her hoof against his chest.

“Let’s get somethin’ straight right here, right now. That ‘lousy’ buildin’ you knocked down was a special new addition to our farm,” she pressed harder, “it cost us a lot of money and took a long time to put together,” again she pressed her hoof harder, “we earned most of that money through our daily grind of hard work and sweat,” she was pressing her hoof so hard against him he was actually forced down slightly, “so you will make up for breakin’ it by workin’,” Thunderlane began to skid back slightly from the force, “and you’re gonna work for it the same way we did, so you’ll understand just how much damage you’ve really caused!”

Thunderlane just sat and took her verbal onslaught, eyes wide, body stiff. He didn’t know which member of the Apple family he was more afraid of. The silent beast that could crush his skull with a cough or the roaring blaze of passion that kept belting at him. Applejack bent down and shoved her face into his, tipping her hat slightly against his forehead.

“Do. I. Make. Mah. Self. Clear?” She said each word roughly with a small pause in between. Thunderlane nodded without a single retort. “Good. Now get up. You’re takin a cart from Mac on his next pass.”

Big Mac and Rainbow Dash soon made their way back around for their fourth pass by Applejack and Braeburn. Mac eyed Thunderlane as he approached, observing that he was both up and waiting. He grunted in disapproval. He understood that they needed extra work done, but Thunderlane wasn’t being very helpful, in fact he had done nothing but slow them down since dawn. He almost didn’t want to give up the eighth cart and just keep going himself. He knew Applejack would give him an earful about it though, so he pulled up and gave a whistle to Braeburn and a head motion towards his carts. Understanding instantly, Braeburn trotted down and unhook the last cart for Thunderlane.

Despite his excruciating experience with his first attempt, Thunderlane obediently hooked himself to the cart and waited for it to be filled. He didn’t want to incur any more wraths for the time being. He wasn’t through protesting, but he knew who NOT to protest to. He glanced back at his cart, now filled to the brim with apples. It was going to be even heavier now, and he had no idea how long the loop back to the barn was, but he was clearly getting no sympathy so he had no choice but to work.

Big Mac and Dash started down the loop as soon as they had full trains. Thunderlane took a deep breath and heaved his body forward, pushing his hooves hard into the dirt. The cart didn’t even budge. He heaved and grunted, but not a single effort produced movement, his hooves sliding against the ground as he tried to take steps.

Braeburn sighed and dropped his water skin, taking a few steps towards Thunderlane.

“Braeburn, leave him.” Applejack said sternly. He glanced over his shoulder and saw her looking directly at him while shaking her head. Braeburn sighed and turned back to her.

“Look A.J. I know you’re angry about what he did. Hell, I’m angry too, but now he’s working for us to pay us back.” He pointed towards Thunderlane. “He’s obviously not cut out for this work. So until he can do it himself, we should lend him a hoof. Lettin’ his spirit break with endless strugglin’ won’t do anything for anypony.” He turned and continued towards the cart. He came up behind and lowered his head, placing it against the cart. With a few strong steps, the cart began to move, Braeburn kept up behind until the cart had a steady pace and he let up. Thunderlane had no idea how the cart got moving, but he went along with it, following the others down the path to the loop the best he could.

Applejack watched Braeburn assist Thunderlane and thought over her cousin’s words. She was getting so wrapped up in how much she despised Thunderlane that she hadn’t even considered his morale. There was none to consider as is, but some would be needed if he were to do any work at all. Maybe Granny Smith was right. She was being too harsh. But at the same time she felt that if she was any less, she’d be letting him off easy. She had to find the right balance. Braeburn made a very good point. Thunderlane needed positive encouragement to do any sort of good work, but she didn’t want to be nice to him at all. He didn’t deserve a bit of kindness from her. That was Fluttershy’s thing. Applejack was honest, and honestly? She wanted to wring Thunderlane’s neck.

And there she went again. She had to focus, she had to stay on task, and she had to figure out how to make him miserable and useful at the same time. Okay, maybe just useful. But he wasn’t off the hook. He was in the dog house as long as he worked here and she was NOT going to change her mind on that.

--To be continued--