• Published 14th Jun 2012
  • 9,335 Views, 179 Comments

Mare Genius - Samarkand

Agatha Heterodyne comes to Equestria

  • ...

The Play's The Thing

The earth ponies of Applelachia were renowned for their skill at distillation. The product of the family still was never sold. It was made for those special occasions when a hoe-down needed a little extra buck. Each matriarch of a family had their own secret recipes, handed down from elder to filly. The specialty of the Apple Family of Ponyville was Granny Smith's Zap Apple Horse Liniment. Known ingredients of the mash included the year's best barrel of cider, molasses, zap apple jam, and literal moonshine. Granny's still was only fired up on nights when the wind was blowing away from the town.

Applejack tugged her Stetson lower over her eyes. She reckoned that Twi's insistence that Princess Celestia could only exist on a high pedestal, perfect and darn near holy, was a mite off the mark. It had been the Princess herself who had asked Applejack to bring a couple of mason jars of Granny's finest. Whoa nelly. That stuff certainly helped blow off the tension after that tussle with those nasty changeling critters. Worth having Chief Thunderhooves stampedin' through her brain. She was taking the slow way back home in the back of a hay wagon drawn by one of her cousins. Twi and Pinkie were taking the train home later in the day. Twilight because she was visiting her folks. Pinkie was sleeping off a cupcake eating contest with Princess Luna.

Some party. Last memory from that was her, Rarity, and Fluttershy singing-- Uh. Just like biting into an apple and seeing half a worm, Applejack realized that she'd been singing That Song that Granny always did whenever the fumes from the still made her more peculiar than usual. Applejack's understanding of certain things usually covered by taking a filly behind the barn and explaining that those dogs weren't fightin' had been expanded considerably.

Yup. Def'nitely a-goin' to Tartarus.


Agatha had never expected her second day in another universe to include tending to a catatonic pegasus. Tea towel in her mouth, she flapped it at Fluttershy while Spike attended to brewing tea in the library's kitchen. A small retinue of woodland animals chafed the traumatized pony's hooves and chittered what appeared to be words of encouragement. They included three squirrels, a badger, two birds, and a white rabbit. The rabbit waved smelling salts by her muzzle with little effect.

Spike came out with a fine tea service that wouldn't have been out of place in Lilith's parlour. Strangely enough, the teapot and cups had curving handles better fit for human hands rather than hooves. Unicorns could levitate such objects with no problem, but it pointed to a human influence that was out of place in an equine world. Right out a children's book, indeed. The dragon poured a cup of a light herbal tea that smelled of spices and flowers. Fluttershy roused somewhat as the steam drifted past her nose. Her reaction was to flip her mane over her face and cower into a tiny ball.

"I should leave," Agatha said.

"Oh, don't leave on account of me," Fluttershy whispered. "I'll go into a corner and tremble in shame very quietly. I don't want to put you to any trouble."

"Had a bit...much, last night?" Agatha asked, mindful of times when student were rowdy in the streets after tavern-crawls.

"All I did was sniff the jar," Fluttershy said. "And then Applejack was singing, and I didn't want to be rude, and then I said all those words in front of everyone."

"It can't be that bad," Agatha said, stroking the girl's mane.

Fluttershy mumbled out two lines involving a platypus and an act of advanced contorsionism.

"Ha." Agatha tugged a non-existent collar. "Well, I once had to perform in a play involving amusingly oversized tools. My lines were recited out of context to prevent spontaneous combustion."

"You're a showmare?" Fluttershy peeked out from her pink locks. "You're so very brave. I couldn't imagine standing in front of everyone."

"The first time is the worst," Agatha said. "In my case, I thought someone in the audience would run out and stab me on stage."

"So how do you do it?" Fluttershy asked. "I was so clumsy when I was a filly that I hate performing in front of other ponies. My animal friends are more understanding."

"For me, it was losing myself in the story," Agatha said. "It helped I'd been reading Heterodyne B--Colts stories since I was a girl. The audience disappeared while I was in character."

"Listening to stories during sleepovers is fun," Fluttershy said. "But you must think I'm a terribly naughty mare for saying those things."

"I've heard worse," Agatha said.

"Oh, you couldn't have," Fluttershy said, cringing. "Begging your pardon, I don't mean to say I doubt you--"

Nothing for it.

Agatha repeated what she had heard her first time as Madame Olga.

"Um." Fluttershy cocked her head. "That's much worse."

"I know--" Agatha gulped. "Ah, Herr Spike--"


"I don't have any idea what you were talking about," the little dragon said, the scroll burnt by his flame becoming a sparkling green mist. "Maybe the Princess or Twilight can explain it to me. Are the Heterodyne Colts stories any good? Never heard of them."

"You'll find them stimulating," Agatha said. "Unless you're too disturbed by thrilling tales of adventure, Fluttershy."

"I'll be brave." Fluttershy shuddered. "No dragons, please. Especially big, growly, hungry dragons."

"'The Heterodyne Colts and the Turbines of Atlantis' it is."

A creak came from above. Agatha glanced up at one of the windows high above. A cloud had obscured the light from that direction. Fine. She was under surveillance. Stubborn verdamnt flying irritant. Well, if she was going to introduce this world to the exploits of Bill and Barry, a library was most appropriate. Spike had quill and parchment ready to record her tale. Agatha wondered what sort of spell he had cast on the other parchment. Hopefully for all concerned it had been consumed utterly.


Princess Celestia was in the midst of mid-day court when the scroll puffed into existence before her. Hmmm. As far as she knew, her most faithful student was still in Canterlot. Perhaps Spike had sent along a friendship report from one of the other Element Bearers of Harmony. With her usual tranquil smile, she unrolled the scroll.

Her ethereal mane exploded into a fair impression of a dandelion clock hit by lightning.



"Mornin', Dash," Applejack said. "Ah don't suppose you've seen Fluttershy? Ah owe her one big--"

"Shutupshutupshutup!" Rainbow Dash said, head stuck through a library window. "She's getting to the good part!"

"What in tarnation are you talkin' about, sugarcube?"

"You've got to listen to this!"

"Whoa," Applejack said, after several minutes of eavesdropping. "Where did she come from?"

"New mare in town. Found her hanging around with Gilda." Dash rose up from her crowd. "And I wasn't here and listening to her! Still think she's evil."

"Dash always was a stubborn cuss," Applejack said, opening the library door to say howdy.



Agatha hid her unease of nails being pounded into her hooves. Applejack was a competent farrier. Well, it would make sense for a pony to know best how to shoe themselves! Still, the comparison with sharp metal objects smacked into a body part was disturbing. Agatha was not religious--at best, a vague Deist--but she had attended enough church services for certain comparisons to make her uneasy.

At least it was a chance to see a pony at work with tools. She watched the orange, freckled mare wield hammer and rasp in her mouth. Several nails were held between her teeth and tongued into place when needed. Every so often, Applejack would wipe her face with a rag. She balanced it on her hoof in a deft manner. Fine motions like this would take a lot of practice; simply turning a book's page was an exercise in mild frustration. Applejack's skill was a promise that Agatha really wouldn't have to resort to ye olde saw. That would be awkward. She would have to ask Rarity for help with the stitches.

The final nail was tapped home. Agatha tested out the second-hand horseshoes. It wasn't any more noticeable than wearing boots. She took a turn around the barnyard to check for any problems. All around her was the abundance of Applejack's farm. The mare had invited her to Sweet Apple Acres after apologizing to Fluttershy over her song choice from last night. The great orchards spread out over the fields and hills that dominated Applejack's property. Smaller only by comparison, gardens were planted with other crops doubtless intended for the table of the large barn-like farmhouse. Chickens pecked and pigs rooted in a sty.

Hmmm. Either ponies could stomach bacon, or else the swine were garbage disposal.

"Apple tart?" Applejack offered a treat balanced on a hoof. "Right out of Granny Smith's oven."


"Donkey?" Applejack tipped back her slouch hat. "Where? Ah swear, if them mules are rustlin' from our trees--"

"Never mind." Agatha's taste buds danced in delight. "This as good as my mom's papanasi."

"That's home-cookin' for you," Applejack said. "Nothin' better'n hoof-made, Ah say. Nothing better'n hoof-made with Sweet Apple Acres apples."

"Ponyvillians seem to be so generous," Agatha said, licking her lips. "I'll pay you back any way I can."

"Shucks, weren't nothing," Applejack said. "Couple of mah old shoes, is all. What the hay, I count bits more'n anyone Ah know. That don't mean you have to be stingy. Kindness paid is kindness returned. We could use another mechanic 'round here."

"I suppose this is a good enough place to stay," Agatha said, looking around the landscape. "I'm used to small towns. I spent most of my life in Beetleburg."

"Big cities mean big problems," Applejack replied, with the certainty of one who's found her place in the world. "Now, Ah ain't speaking against city-folk. Takes all sorts. All Ah know is that places like Manehatten are lonely for a single pony trying to make her way in the world."

"I'm less lonely with each hour I spend here," Agatha said.

"Mmmmhmmmm." Applejack munched an apple. "Hear you're staying with Gilda. Don't like folk who cause problems."

"I insisted that she be on her best behavior." Agatha's tail drooped. "She showed me hospitality, Applejack. She took me flying. I owe her."

"Mebbe you're her second chance." Applejack flicked her tail at a cloud lurking behind a nearby hill. "Mebbe there's someponies who want her to have one. Time'll tell. Tell you what--mah lil' sister Apple Bloom's coming home on the train. She's fixing to be a right good carpenter, if she ever listens to herself. You spend some time with her--"

"I will do my best," Agatha said.

Applejack nudged over a bright red toolbox. Inside were used tools, though cared-for. Most of them were for carpentry. She tugged out an adjustable spanner with her mouth. The taste of metal wasn't too bad. Placing a nut and bolt on the ground, she carefully set the span of the head with her tongue on the screw adjuster. Ach, this would take weeks to get used to! She be as much Apple Bloom's apprentice as teacher. Once she learned how to use tools--more specifically, the fine ones used in clockwork--she could make her little helpers again. In the meantime, she could earn bits through performing plays or playing the piano. Time with Master Payne's Circus had taught her that small rural towns were starved for entertainment.

I had a castle.

Agatha dropped the wrench. I had a town and a title and a destiny. Now? What do I have? Yes, these ponies are friendly. But they don't need me. The ones who do are across an unimaginable gulf. By the time I managed to learn enough magic or science to return--if I even do--then either Lucrezia will have won or the Baron will have destroyed the town. They're dead. They're dead because I failed and I've lost and what is there for me here? A life eking out a career of fixing farm machinery. Or worse: I succeed as only a Spark can do. This is a peaceful land. Othar said all of Europa's troubles came from Sparks. Europa was used to centuries of warfare. If I go bad or lose control of an experiment, these ponies will have no idea of what horrors I can unleash upon them. It's all gone wrong. Mein Gott! She had forgotten about Lucrezia. The pressure of her mother within her was gone. If there was the slightest chance Mother was in there and escaped--

A great form embraced Agatha with one leg pressing her close. Agatha leaned in against him, as she had against Adam that last day they had been together. Adam and Lilith had held her in a circle of warmth and strength and silent love. Blinking away the tears, she stared up at the shaggy red stallion who stood beside her. He was far taller than any other pony she had ever seen. He wore the heavy yoke around his neck as if it were a cravat. His embrace wasn't intimate. It was comforting--the comfort of someone offering succour to a stranger. On any other day, Agatha would have flushed and stammered at such improper conduct with a naked--

--shut up, you wittering idiot, he's a horse just like you are now--

Agatha relaxed.

She wasn't alone.


"Y'alright, big brother?" Applejack asked.

Big Macintosh puzzled the straw between his teeth.


"New mare headed off?"


"Ah wish she wasn't palling around with that griffon. Well, long as that troublemaker don't bother Apple Bloom or the town, Ah'll live with it."


"You really alright, Big Mac?" Applejack squinted at him.

The red stallion stared down the road at the dust raised by a newly-shod pony.