• Published 7th Apr 2014
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In Another Pony’s Hooves - Keeper of time RD

The cutie mark crusaders find a magic artifact that makes them live a day in each of their other friends bodies.

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Chapter 1: Secrets

It was early morning in the Hoofington Resort lobby. The smell of pancakes and various fruits came from the hotel’s restaurant as it prepared breakfast for any guest who might stop by. The lobby itself was decorated with ornate polished wood and brass ornaments. It was no Canterlot hotel but the Hoofington Resort was the finest inn the town of Hoofington had to offer.

Only a few ponies were about. Mostly staff or a guest or two checking out early to get a jump on the day’s plans. And not one of them thought anything of the filly in the bellhop outfit entering the door marked ‘employees only.’

Inside the staff room her purple eyes scanned the room until she found what she was looking for. The filly went over to the key box and put down the suitcase in her mouth just long enough to take a set of master keys.

Across the room the morning shift manager watched the orange pegasus filly with a violet mane as she made her way over to the service elevator. The stallion was about to speak up when the filly noticed the room service carts on her own. She examined them for a moment before tossing her briefcase on the bottom rack of one of the carts, and then took the cart into the service elevator, even giving him a smile as the elevator doors closed.

The stallion gave an annoyed sigh. He didn’t mind that he had a new filly on his shift to manage, but he made a mental promise to chew out his boss for hiring a new pony to his shift and then not bothering to tell him about it. He watched the elevator’s indicator until it showed the filly had gone to the fifth floor, the floor he knew the meal cart she had taken was supposed to go. Content that whomever the new kid was she knew what she was doing the shift manager made a mental note to try and catch her name before day’s end. But as long as there was work for the bellhops to do he wasn’t about to get in their way for something so trivial, so he returned his attention to his own work.

The elevator doors opened and the pegasus filly stood ready to push her service cart out into the hallway, but she hesitated. Her pause lasted only a moment before a mare’s voice whispered in her ear, “Floor’s all set. Clear to proceed.”

With that the young pegasus pushed the cart out into the hall and started looking at the numbers on the doors. First she found the door that’s numbers matched the card on the cart, the destination for the meal under the pan on the top of the cart. She pounded the door and called out, “Room service! Just leave the cart in the hall when you’re done and somepony will pick it up later.” With that she took her briefcase from the bottom rack and hurried down the hall to her true destination.

“Thank you…? Huh didn’t even wait for a tip,” the stallion who answered the door said to an empty hall when he opened the door expecting to find a bellhop but finding only the service cart with his order waiting.

The young pegasus bellhop sat outside another door, suitcase in mouth, waiting. She didn’t have to wait long before she heard what she was waiting for, the sound of running water. Placing the fifth floor master key in the door’s lock and tightening the muscles in her throat in an odd way, trying to make herself sound more like a colt than a filly when she spoke, she said, “Maintenance! I’m coming in to change the batteries in the smoke detector!”

“Stay out! I just got in the shower!” a male voice too gruff to even belong to a pony responded.

“Great! Then I won’t even be in your way!” the orange filly responded, opening the door anyway.

“I said stay out! I’ll complain to your manager!” the voice in the shower insisted.

“Go ahead and complain to my manager. But he’s always backed me up on changing the smoke detector batteries on schedule before, I bet he’ll do the same today.” The pegasus filly responded, doing her best to maintain her colt voice impression with a suitcase hanging from her jaw.

“Gah, fine just don’t touch my stuff,” the voice in the shower relented.

“Would never dream of it sir,” the filly responded with a slight grin that said otherwise.

This time a male voice came through the radio piece hidden in the filly’s ear, and it said, “Should be under the bed.”

Nodding pointlessly to the empty hotel room, the young pegasus looked under the bed, where she found a suitcase just like the one she was carrying in her mouth. Ignoring the suitcase under the bed for the time being, she set her own down next to the bed, then climbed up onto the bed and set her sights on the smoke detector on the ceiling above.

With a wing-boosted bounce, she reached it and clamped on to its sides with her hooves. It was a hard object to grasp, but with the downward thrust from her wings canceling out most of her weight, holding on to it was a manageable task. She used her mouth to open the battery compartment and yanked the battery out, then stuck her muzzle into one of the pockets of her bellhop outfit and pulled out another battery. Carefully, the filly pushed the battery into the slot in the smoke detector, then looked over her hoofwork. With the exception of some small slits in its side, the new battery looked just like the one she’d dropped to the bed below.

“Testing the new battery, it’s going to get loud for a second.” She said with her colt impression voice, loud enough that even anyone in the neighboring rooms could hear. Then she closed the battery compartment, folded her ears flat to help protect them and pressed the small red button on the side of the smoke detector labeled ‘test.’ For the fraction of a second she held the button down the smoke detector sounded its earsplitting siren.

“Yeah it works,” the mare’s voice groaned through the radio in the filly’s ear.

With the first task complete the filly let go of the smoke detector and let herself fall to the bed below. Taking a moment to tighten the sheets on the bed, even making it neater than she’d found it, and to snatch the original battery from the smoke detector into one of her pockets. Admiring her hoofwork the filly thought to herself. If this whole secret agent thing doesn’t work out maybe I really should try being a bellhop.

Finally she lowered her briefcase to the floor, and slid it under the bed, replacing the guest’s briefcase with her own. Taking the swapped briefcase’s handle in her mouth, she started for the door. She was reaching up to open the handle when her heart skipped a beat as she heard the water from the bathroom turn off.

The filly quickly opened the door and darted out into the hall as quick as she could, moving as swiftly as she could without letting her hoofsteps hit the carpeted floor too hard or too loud.

“Left, last door on the right,” the female voice from her radio whispered in her ear, as the filly neared a juncture in the hallways.

As soon as the young pegasus turned the corner she broke into a full gallop, deciding that she was far enough now that the carpet alone was enough to muffle her hoofsteps. The last door on the right was clearly marked as a stairwell.

Despite her apparent haste, the filly pressed the handle bar to the stairwell door down gently before darting inside. She also set the briefcase down just long enough to grab the door’s handle from the other side. Twisting the handle down and shutting the door carefully so it made no noise as it closed and latched. Taking up the briefcase again, she ran up the stairs as quickly as she could.

The filly paused again as she neared a door marked ‘roof access.’ Though her interest was in the small green box beside the door. She dropped the hotel’s master keys and the battery from the smoke detector in the box before taking the briefcase back up and opening the door to the roof.

The young pegasus burst onto the roof and waiting for her was a pegasus stallion with a white coat and blue mane, clad in radiant golden armor that marked him as a royal guard. The stallion was also hitched to a pegasus chariot, built in the golden style of Canterlot, the capital of Equestria.

The orange filly jumped into the chariot and grabbed hold of the rim. The stallion wasted no time braking into a gallop and flapping his wings, hauling the chariot and its passenger into the sky. The filly waited only long enough for the jarring sensation of acceleration to fade before turning to the bench on the right side of the chariot. Pressing her hooves against two seemingly ornate decorations in the base of the bench the top popped up, revealing a hidden compartment below the seat. She put the briefcase in the compartment and closed it.

With the briefcase taken care of the filly turned her attention to the other bench and unlatched a similar compartment. She then took her bellhop uniform off and stuffed it in the compartment while pulling out the dress she found waiting inside.

It had been maybe fifteen seconds since they had left the hotel roof when the two pegasi heard an enraged yell from below. The mare’s voice giggled a little as it spoke through the radio, “If you didn’t hear that, I think he noticed the swap.”

The filly hurried to finish putting on the dress and slammed the compartment shut, and then laid down on the right bench while trying to look appropriately tired for the early hour despite the adrenaline flowing through her system.

A minute latter a male griffin came flying up to them and addressed the pegasus pulling the chariot, “You there! I’ve been robed!”

“I’m sorry to hear that sir, but I’m on contract duty foalsitting this brat for some self important Canterlot VIP today,” the stallion said sounding board out of his mind. Then immediately pointing to a building below and behind he added, “I’m fairly sure that’s the Hoofington guard station. If you file the report with them I’m sure they’d be more than happy to have somepony look into it for you.”

“I don’t need to file a report! I need to know if you’ve seen anyone with a briefcase in the last minute or two!” the griffin yelled, already looking the chariot over and frowning on seeing only a pegasus filly dressed as if she belonged in a ballroom.

“Hmm… We passed a couple of pegasi a few minutes ago but I don’t remember seeing any briefcase,” the stallion offered, pointing to two colorful dots in the sky behind them.

“How about you? You see if they had anything?” the griffin asked the filly in the chariot, using opportunity as an excuse to more closely look over the chariot itself.

You want high-and-mighty-snob-brat huh? I can do that. The filly thought to herself as she conjured up the image of a certain pink earth pony filly in her mind. One that she felt fit that description perfectly. Trying her best to impersonate said pony’s way of speaking the pegasus filly answered, “Sorry, I was too busy thinking about what I’m going to do today to pay any attention to the likes of them.”

The griffin snarled under his breath and departed, looking to the ground as he flew off.

A few minutes latter the griffin returned to the hotel. The moment the griffin was out of sight the pegasus stallion dropped low and changed his heading some, aiming south of Canterlot.

A moment of silently staring at her dress later and the filly had to ask, “Captain Cloud Wall, why do you have my flower girl dress from Cadence’s wedding?”

The stallion laughed before he gave his reply, “I may lead a shadow ops unit but we are actualy royal guards too you know. I was at the reception as security and I ran into the mare who made that dress. So I pointed you out to her and told her some story about having a niece your age who was suppose to be a flower girl soon too and asked if she’d make a dress like yours for me. I thought it would be a fitting addition to the costume collection, just in case I needed to pass you off as a Canterlot pony or something. Oh and good job in there today.”


* * * * * * *

It was still morning by the time the two pegasi approached another small town, this one called Ponyville. The buildings of the town were mostly of wooden construction, with thatched roofs. The occasional standout building spotted the town, like the one building that looked like a life sized gingerbread house, or a large tree with windows and a balcony protruding from it.

“Scootaloo, drop zone incoming,” Captain Cloud Wall said over the winds.

The orange filly stood up at the sound of her name. She had long since returned the flower girl dress to its hidden compartment and now only wore a purple helmet with two white stripes down the middle. Scootaloo moved dangerously close to the back edge of the pegasus chariot and opened her wings. For a moment she savored the feel of the wind in her face, her tail, and around her wings. If not for the weight on her hooves it felt like flying, a feat she herself was not yet capable of.

The chariot dipped below rooftop level and flew through an alleyway. Scootaloo took one last step backwards and fell from the chariot’s rider platform. A few beats of her wings were all it took to correct her aim as she fell towards her target. Sitting atop a pile of crates was a blue scooter with red wheels and Scootaloo landed on it, bracing her legs against the baseboard and handlebars simultaneously. The forward momentum from her fall launched the scooter off its hiding place and down to the alleyway below. Scootaloo made a hard right turn and shot down a different alleyway, while Captain Cloud Wall continued straight and pulled up, back into the open sky above.

With the dismount hidden in the alleys nopony noticed that the royal guard flying above had lost his passenger. Scootaloo emerged from the alleyway onto the dirt road streets of Ponyville, racing through her hometown.

As she arrived at her house Scootaloo swung around to the back door, where she took off the helmet and hung it on the handlebars of the scooter, knowing that they weren’t truly her own but, like the dress she’d used earlier, were only replicas of her scooter and helmet. She darted into and through her house, finding her actual scooter and helmet waiting just inside the front door, right where she’d left them. And more importantly so were her saddlebags with all her school supplies, lunch and homework. Properly outfitted for class she used her wings to push her scooter out the front door.

* * * * * * *

With the excitement of the morning long over, and the fact that she had woken up well before dawn to get dragged to another town and back, Scootaloo was beyond tiered sitting in her seat listening to Miss Cheerilee read from a history book. Thankfully she and Cheerilee had long since come to an understanding of each other. As long as Scootaloo turned in work with passing grades in general Cheerilee usually turned a blind eye to the filly sleeping through history class when she thought it was too boring.

A hoof slammed down on the desk startling Scootaloo awake. “Care to repeat what I just said?” the teacher asked the drowsy pegasus filly.

Scootaloo’s eyes darted to the chalkboard for a clue only to find a math problem written on it. Her body clock yelled that something was wrong, there was no way she’d slept through recess and into math class. The filly’s eyes found the wall clock, which said she had done just that. Turning her head to the window she grinned. “Something like, let’s play a trick on Scootaloo and see if we can make her think she slept through recess,” she finally answered her teacher.

“What makes you think you didn’t?” Cheerilee asked, grinning back and her student.

“You forgot to change the clock on the clock tower too.” Scootaloo answered, pointing out the window to the tower that said it was an hour earlier then the wall clock in the room did.

Cheerilee both sighed and smiled as she responded, “Well, if nothing else I guess I’m teaching you to be observant. Featherweight can you change the clock back, everypony get your history books back out. Now I was talking about the trade treaty of…”

Cheerilee continued her lesson but Scootaloo was too tired to care about boring old names and dates. The exciting parts of history were the adventurous stories of exploration and war, not the parts about political deals or who was a famous artist that died long before she was born. So the filly planted her face firmly back into her pillow of a history book.

Lunch had helped Scootaloo get back her youthful energy and the rest of the school day proceeded as any other. Until Cheerilee dismissed class for the day but asked her to stay for a moment. Scootaloo even received a worried glance from her two best friends when their teacher shooed them out of the schoolhouse so she could speak with Scootaloo alone.

“Scootaloo you’re worrying me. That’s the fifth time in the last two weeks you’ve come to school tired like that,” the teacher voiced her concerns.

“Sorry. I’ve had some… chores around the house lately… and I don’t get to choose when they happen or how long they take to finish, sometimes they keep me up late. ” Scootaloo answered, staring at the floor, unable to look her teacher in the eye while lying to her. However, the apology was truly sincere, she really didn’t mean to treat her teacher like this, but she had long known that some secrets were worth keeping and her teacher didn’t need to know what was really keeping her up at odd hours.

“Then maybe I should talk to your father, so he’ll stop giving you things to do when you should be in bed.” Cheerilee half-threatened, half-bluffed, as she knew how much of a pain it was to schedule a parent teacher meeting with the filly’s dad.

As much as Scootaloo hated lying to her teacher’s face she knew this next lie had to be delivered boldly if it was going to work. Looking up with her best poker face and trying to purge any emotion from her voice she said, “Talk to him all you want, but he’s going to back me up on this one.” Scootaloo was only half bluffing really. She knew that her dad would excuse her behavior to Miss Cheerilee. But if the matter was brought to her dad’s attention he would investigate, and Scootaloo knew she couldn’t keep secrets from her dad. He would find out the truth, one way or another. That thought made a shiver run down her spine and a drop of sweat form on her forehead.

Cheerilee stared at the filly for a moment, knowing her student was hiding something. But she also couldn’t help but remember the few times she had spoken with Scootaloo’s father. He had always been aloof, only seeming to care about his daughter’s behavior if it was hurting the quality of her work. What little evidence the schoolteacher had said that Scootaloo was telling the truth, her father probably would just dismiss the complaint. One more chance Scootaloo, I’ll give you one more chance. Cheerilee thought to herself as she conceded. “It’s not healthy for a filly your age to suffer sleep deprivation. Please get to bed on time,” she finally said, opening the door and allowing her student to leave.

Scootaloo rushed home as quickly as her wing-powered scooter allowed. Bursting in her front door she let her scooter fall to the side, with one quick motion she tossed her helmet onto the couch as she ran past it heading for the stairs. Upstairs and in front of the door to her room was where her haste finally abated as she pushed her door open.

She didn’t enter her room, for she knew the nets lining the ceiling weren’t as ornate as they appeared, and each and every one of them was linked to a booby trap. Whether it was the pressure plate under the yellow flower rug or the all but invisible trip lines wired around her room.

Scootaloo knew where all the traps were, mainly because she’d set them herself. Of course, she was in too much of a hurry to walk carefully through her own traps, so she began flapping her wings. Her wings might not have been able to lift her off the ground but they could cancel out most of her weight. With a single wing-boosted leap she cleared her room and landed on her deck by the window.

First she slid her schoolbags off, setting them on the edged of the deck she was standing on, doing so she noticed something outside her window. Sitting on the outside part of her windowsill was a small pouch. Scootaloo opened the window just long enough to bring the bag inside, and set it down on her desk once she had stepped down from the desktop and onto her chair.

The clatter of coins came from the pouch when she set it down. Ignoring the pouch itself, she moving her attention to the small note stuck in its drawstring. Freeing and unfolding it Scootaloo found a simple message saying, ‘4 the usual tree, tomorrow.’

That was fast, Cloud Wall. She thought and she pushed the pouch aside, she could worry about that latter. Ripping the note in two, she tossed the halves into her trashcan. Finally she brought her attention to the one thing that needed to be dealt with right now, her homework.

Scootaloo had less then an hour if she was going to meet her friends at the clubhouse and she was determined to not be late. Today was her day to choose what they did after all, and time was of the essence if they were going to pull off her plan for the day. And so she rushed through her schoolwork, if she couldn’t make an educated guess in under five seconds she just made something up, so that every question had an answer.

When she finished Scootaloo looked down at her work and frowned. Already knowing the piece of paper with her history work had too many guessed answers, and Cheerilee was probably going to give it back and demand she do it over. But at least the filly had something to turn in tomorrow, and that meant she wouldn’t be docked points off her final grade for being late, even if she did have to redo the assignment.

Regardless, she stuffed her books and now complete homework into her schoolbags and set them on the floor next to her desk. The coin pouch was the only thing left on the desk. At least it was until Scootaloo climbed up from her chair and joined it on the desktop. Taking the pouch in her mouth she started flapping her wings again and leapt across the room to land on her bed. From there she walked onto her dresser and then down to a safe spot on the floor in front of her dresser.

Scootaloo pulled open the bottom drawer. Inside were spare sheets for her bed, folding them in half, revealed what was below, that being rows of pouches just like the one grasped in her mouth. Four of the rows had ten coin pouches each. She placed the newest one on the fifth row, bringing it up to eight.

Officially Scootaloo wasn’t part of Captain Cloud Wall’s team, and as a civilian hire free agent she had to be paid off the books, on a per mission basis. The filly’s life’s work may only totaled a few months worth of an adult’s salary but it was still more money than she knew what to do with, literally. Mostly because she didn’t have an allowance and the first time she bought something for herself her father had noticed it and asked how she came up with the money to buy a pair of night vision goggles. Scootaloo had to tell her dad some story about helping her friends sell apple juice and buying them from the local costume shop. In hindsight she was surprised her excuse worked, as her dad of all ponies should have been able to tell the difference between real night vision goggles and costume ones in a heartbeat. But whatever the reason her dad hadn’t bothered to press the issue.

Not that it mattered, the event had taught her she couldn’t just spend what she earned on things that could lay around the house to be found. So most of the coin pouches were still untouched, only a few had their contents spent and even then mostly on little things like the occasional treat or supplies she could leave at the clubhouse that she shared with her friends.

The thing that mattered most to Scootaloo about the collection wasn’t the useless money she couldn’t spend, but the pouches themselves. For she had long ago adopted the practice of returning the emptied pouches that had held the pay for what she considered failed missions, so the coin pouches now arrayed hidden at the bottom of the drawer represented her successful mission. She looked down at the collection and thought to herself. Two more, then he can know. Fifty can prove I won’t mess up anymore. Scootaloo folded the blankets back and closed the drawer.

She put on the saddlebags that had her crusading supplies and with one final hop she cleared the only trip wire between herself and the door. Leaving her room she glanced down the hall and spotted the open door to the master bedroom. Still open, just as it always was. Scootaloo couldn’t see what was inside from this angle, but she didn’t need to. That room never changed. Save the dust on the floor that betrayed the hoofprints, showing that once in a while somepony went to and from the bed but everything else in the room hadn’t been touched in years.

Looking at the door she bowed her head and whispered to the emptiness, “Dad’s house.” And a memory played in the back of Scootaloo’s mind.

* * * * * *

It was a bright day, a cheerful day. A gray pegasus mare with a yellow mane and a wall-eyed stare stood at the front door to her house. Scootaloo had just finished signing for a package when the mail mare cheerfully said, “I promise, one of these days I’m going to get your dad’s signature.”

“Ha, good luck with that! You know I’m the only one who really lives here,” Scootaloo joked back.

The two of them giggled for a moment. Then the mail mare’s laughter turned nervous as she added, “Good joke… I’d better be going.”

Scootaloo closed the door slowly as the burning sensation on the back of her neck made her realize that today of all days was one of the rare days her dad was actually home. Finally turning around she confirmed that her dad was standing right behind her.

Her father then gave her the sternest reminder that he owned the house. Scootaloo remembered the anger in his eyes hurt her far more then one of his old spankings, and that she wished he’d have just struck her instead of looking at her with those eyes burning with rage. But he hadn’t done that to her in years by then, she was too old for that kind of discipline now, and he had trusted her for far too long for physical pain to be of any use disciplining his daughter.

When he finished his rant, when for a the briefest of moments Scootaloo thought her dad might be angry enough to hit her anyway, she cringed, closed her eyes and turned away, ready to take the blow she had preyed for. Only to be pulled into the most loving embrace she could remember receiving from her dad. The words her dad spoke next were still clear in the filly’s mind, “I am so sorry I’m not around enough, that you’d feel alone enough to even make that joke. But know I am your father and I will always love you. Even if the needs of the world keep me from you physically, you are never alone in spirit.”

* * * * * * *

Scootaloo looked away from the master bedroom. She had known long before that day why things had to be this way. But that was the day she truly came to understand that it was because her dad loved her that he was never there for her. The memories of love were dulled from time but they were enough, at least until the next time her dad remembered to show his love for her in some way other than making sure she had a roof over her head and food to eat. Smiling briefly and weakly, she even giggled a little as she whispered what her dad usually said to say ‘goodbye’ to her, “Have fun. Guard the fort. Don’t burn the house down.” With that she headed downstairs.

With her scooter back in her possession and helmet retrieved from the couch, Scootaloo stepped out into the daylight once more and closed the door to her house. The cares of the past melted away as she opened her wings and smiled a truly happy smile. She had ten minutes to get to the crusader’s clubhouse on the other side of town and she knew she could do it and doing so was even going to be fun.