• Published 13th Mar 2017
  • 8,028 Views, 208 Comments

Inoculation - Tumbleweed

"Every normal pony must be tempted, at times, to spit on her hooves, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”

  • ...

Chapter 2

“Mayor Mare!”

Twilight pushed past a bewildered-looking earth pony at the door to the mayor's cramped but well-appointed office, and Fluttershy followed close behind. Both of them were attired in their villainous best: dark eyeshadow, billowing capes, and scandalously-cut evening gowns, all courtesy of Rarity.

“Princess?” Mayor Mare looked up from a cluttered stack of paperwork. “I don't remember scheduling a meeting, unless-- oh no, is it an emergency?” She haphazardly stuffed her files into a desk drawer (albeit after a little bit of stomping to pack the other files down) and turned her full attention onto Twilight.

“Oh, it's an emergency … “ Twilight smiled, and swished her cape through the air. However, given the size (or lack therof) of Mayor Mare's office, Twilight's cape tangled itself around a key-to-the-town plaque hanging on the wall. Twilight fumbled around and yanked at her cape, causing both the fabric to tear, and the plaque to clatter to the floor. She cleared her throat and focused on the mayor once again. “For you!”

Mayor Mare blinked. “I … don't follow.”

“Oh, you will follow! Me, that is. Follow me. Because Ponyville is now under my control, effective immediately! As we speak, my friends-- er, my minions are securing key points around town, and there's nothing you can do about it! Mwa ha ha!” Twilight tried for a properly nefarious laugh, but it came out more than a little forced.

“You're kidding,” Mayor Mare said.

“Oh no, I'm deadly serious.”

Fluttershy made a little whimper from the back of the room.

“Figuratively speaking.” Twilight added on.

“You really mean it, don't you.” The realization finally began to set in across Mayor Mare's face. “You're taking over Ponyville.”

“That's right. And there's nopony who can stop me!” Twilight flung her cape across her other shoulder, and wrenched a black and white photo of some old-timey ribbon cutting ceremony off the wall.

Mayor Mare sat back in her chair, stunned. Tears welled up in her eyes, and soon started to dribble down both sides of her muzzle.

“Oh.” Twilight held a hoof up to her mouth, and winced. “Don't cry? Please? I didn't mean to--”

“No. No.” Mayor Mare wiped her cheeks with an errant sheet of legislation. “It's okay. I'm just so, so happy.

Twilight blinked. “Wait what.”

“I always thought the whole 'Princess' thing was just an honorary title, but I'm glad to see you're really stepping up to that responsibility.” Mayor Mare gave a nervous, derisive laugh, and tossed the crumpled and tear-stained page over her shoulder. “I mean, I do what I can, but I've been hoping someone else would run this town for years now. Do you know the last time I was able to take a vacation?”

“Er, no?” Twilight said.

“That makes two of us!” Mayor Mare sprang out of her chair with renewed vigor. “But, this is even better than I could have hoped!” She immediately made a circuit of her office, collecting personal knick-knacks off the shelves and dumping them into a cardboard box. “If I hurry, I'm pretty sure I can make the next Train to Manehattan-- and from there I can jump on one of the cruise ships heading south. I've heard Zebrica's beaches are wonderful this time of year.”

“Hold on--” Twilight tried not to trip over her cape as she followed Mayor Mare around the room. “This isn't exactly what I had in mind.”

“Oh, you'll do fine!” Mayor Mare beamed. “Just remember, there's a school board meeting tonight at seven. I usually don't go to those, but someone's been making a stink over some of the books not being 'appropriate for young children' or something. Oh! Speaking of making a stink, some engineers from the sewage company are supposed to stop by in a couple of hours. Honestly most of what they say goes right over my head-- I'm a politician, not a plumber –but as long as they keep the toilets flushing, I say just let them do whatever they want to do.”

“But I--”

“That's about it!” Mayor Mare dumped her personal belongings into a saddlebag, and then neatly tossed the bag onto her back. “I've got the rest of the week scheduled in my files over there.” She pointed to a precariously leaning tower of battered notebooks, post-its, and the occasional cocktail napkin. Twilight Sparkle felt her stomach churn as she gazed upon the small monument to disorganization. She half expected tiny Discord-cultists to start dancing around it and making sacrifices at any moment.

“Oh!” Mayor Mare caught herself before walking past Fluttershy, and out the door. “I almost forgot the most important part!” She dashed back to her desk, opened the bottommost drawer, and pulled out a half-empty bottle of amber liquid. She took a celebratory swig, and then thumped the bottle back down on one of the few uncovered spots on her desk. Without a coaster. “You'll need this.”

“But I--”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you Princess Twilight!” Mayor Mare pulled Twilight into a grateful hug (ruffling some of Twilight's black lace in the process), and then dashed out the door.

Twilight stared after her.

“Wow.” Fluttershy murmured. “Maybe being evil isn't so bad after all.”

“The good news is, our takeover of Ponyville has gone off without a hitch.” Twilight Sparkle mused aloud. “The bad news, nobody's seemed to notice.” She sat at the head of the conference table, surrounded by her best friends turned conspirators. City Hall wasn't quite as regal or comfy as Twilight's castle, but it seemed only appropriate to make use of the meeting room by right of conquest.

“Yeah, what gives?” Rainbow Dash said. “I spent all day rounding up thunderclouds to look all scary and stuff, and then Thunderlane thanked me for doing his weatherwork for him.”

“That's okay, Rainbow Dash!” Pinkie Pie's eyes shone blue behind her domino mask. “Once the Weather Dominator's up and running, you'll have all the scary weather you could ever want! I just need to track down an ion correlator, and we'll be good to go!”

“What's an ion correlator?” Rainbow Dash said.

“It correlates ions!” Pinkie Pie said, cheery. “Duh!”

“Let's not get sidetracked.” Twilight said. “Pinkie, the mad science stuff is good, but I think we might wanna save that for later. Besides, didn't you say you were working on a different evil scheme?”

“I sure did!” Pinkie Pie said, cheery. “I did something totally, horribly, unspeakably evil!”

“Oh dear.” Fluttershy started to tremble. “What did you do?”

“I made cupcakes!”

“That doesn't count!” Rainbow Dash said. “You do that all the time!”

“Yeah, but this time I used a secret ingredient!” Pinkie Pie narrowed her eyes, and the shadows around her seemed to grow longer. “Artificially flavored frosting.”

“That's bad?” Rainbow Dash said.

“Very.” Pinkie Pie nodded gravely.

“The additional preservatives in artificially flavored frosting aren't very healthy.” Twilight rubbed at her chin. “So I guess that's a start. Good work, Pinkie. Or, uh, bad work? Good at being bad-work? This villain stuff is harder than I thought.”

“You'd think that being evil would attract more attention.” Rarity pouted. “Would you believe that absolutely no one's commented on my new look?” She took a moment to fidget with her cloak.

“Um,” Fluttershy said, “that's not entirely true. Didn't Roseluck say you looked nice?”

“She did! That's the worst part!” Rarity rolled her eyes. “I'm not supposed to look nice, I'm supposed to look evil. All the visual cues are here! The darker color palate is a reflection of my troubled soul, the asymmetrical patterns show my disdain for the current social order, and the sharp edges of my lapels indicate just how dangerous I am.”

“Oooh, what're the fancy stockings for?” Pinkie Pie chimed in.

“They make me feel pretty.” Rarity noted, matter-of-factly. “But honestly, with all the effort I put into this, you'd think somepony would notice. I've pretty much done everything but stand in the middle of town yelling 'Look at me! I'm nefarious!'”

“Rarity, you're a genius!” Twilight said.

“I know, darling, but thank you all the same.”

“All we have to do is call a town meeting, and then we can tell everyone how evil we are!”

“Thanks for coming, everypony!” Twilight Sparkle put both hooves on the podium, and looked out over the crowd. Not every pony in town had made it to the meeting (one particular apple-farmer was notably absent), but it was close. Every seat in town hall was filled, and several more ponies stood (or hovered, in the case of the occasional pegasus) in the back. Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity were all positioned at strategic locations across the room, ready to intervene in case things got … heated. Not that it seemed likely, but proper evil needed a proper contingency plan. “I know this is on short notice, but I've got some important announcements to make--”

“It's about time someone did something about the filth in this town!” Spoiled Rich shrilled from the front row.

“Beg your pardon?” Twilight furrowed her brow.

“This!” Spoiled Rich waved a battered paperback in the air. “'The Adventures of Buckleberry Finn!' Would you believe that so-called teacher Cheerilee is corrupting our youth with such drivel? This so-called 'novel' only encourages youth delinquency and the improper use of language! Won't anyone think of the children?”

“Corrupt--” Twilight sputtered, and shook her head. “Look, I know that Buck Finn can be a … problematic book, but that doesn't make it any less worthwhile. In fact, that almost makes it more important, as we should use this as an opportunity to examine prejudices from the past that have endured to the modern day, albeit in different forms.” She stood up taller at the podium, resolute and lecturing. “Not to mention the fact that Samolaco Clemens is one of the most brilliant satirists to ever put pen to paper. In fact, I promise each and every one of you, that for as long as I reign over Ponyville, no book will be banned! I say, let the colts and fillies read whatever they want-- our place is to guide them, not to put arbitrary barriers in their way! Because books like Buckleberry Finn aren't going to 'corrupt' our-- well, your, considering I don't have any kids and don't intend to have any anytime soon – children! In fact, reading this book could be the very thing that inspires some little filly or colt to become the next Samolaco Clemens! A little bit of rough language is a small price to pay for that, don't you think?”

Spoiled Rich stared at Twilight, shocked. She began to fumble out a reply, but her words were soon drowned out by the eager applause from the rest of the crowd. Twilight basked in the attention, feeling the warm satisfaction of a good deed done.

“Oh wait.” Twilight murmured under her breath, and shook her head. She held up a hoof for silence. “While the freedom of literacy is very important, that's not why I brought all of you here today. What I wanted to say is--”

“BLARG!” The raspy, hungry roar was enough to shake the timbers of Ponyville Town Hall. Many of those timbers were then reduced to kindling as a monster smashed through the far wall. Slimy and reeking, the creature seemed to be mostly based around a cavernous, tooth-filled mouth. Two beady eyes swayed back and forth on snail-like stalks, and two long, muscular tentacles flailed through the air, grabbing bits of debris and furniture to shovel into its mouth. It shambled forward on three stumpy legs-- and as it got closer, the creature's horrid smell (a piquant bouquet of rotted eggs and old curry) wafted through town hall.

Naturally, chaos broke out. The gathered ponies stumbled over each other as they stampeded away, some of the more desperate ones flinging themselves out of windows in order to escape. Acting on instinct, Rainbow Dash streaked across the room, scooping up a young filly moments before a flailing tentacle could wrap around her.

“What … what is it?” Rarity stammered in nose-holding horror.

“Otyugh!” Twilight blurted.

“My sentiments exactly.” Rarity backed up a few paces. “That thing is positively nauseating! Eeeugh!”

“Not 'eeeugh,' otyugh!” Twilight said. “That monster is called an otyugh!”

“That's a stupid name.” Rainbow Dash said as she circled around the otyugh, weaving between its flailing tentacles. “Why don't they just call it a crap monster?”

“Just because it lives in sewage and eats sewage and covers itself in sewage doesn't mean it's a--” Twilight cut herself short. “Okay, it's kind of a crap monster, but we should use still use the proper term.”

“BLARG!” said the otyugh as it crammed a tangle of folding chairs into its mouth.

Rarity turned a little greener at the display. “But what's it doing here?”

“I don't know!” Twilight said. “I mean, otyughs are extreme omnivores, in that they'll eat anything … but they usually don't come to the surface!” She threw up a magical barrier to deflect errant bits of splinters and spittle. “Unless … none of you guys summoned it, did you?”

“Actually, I might be able to explain that part.” An earth pony wearing a construction helmet and headlamp poked his head out from behind the pillar he'd been using as cover.

“Who're you?” Twilight teleported over to the same hiding spot.

“My name's Royal Flush-- I'm with the Ponyville Sanitation Department.” He looked around. “We were digging a little deeper to make room for the new water main, when … uh, we found that.” He winced as the otyugh started to chew on the corner of the stage. “I was going to tell Mayor Mare, but she wasn't in her office.”

“Okay, so that's where it came from, but how do we stop it?” Twilight said.

“I was kind of hoping you'd have that covered, Princess.”

Twilight facehooved. “Okay. Fine. I can deal with this.” She shook her head. “Just go and get somewhere safe.”

“Thanks, Princess Twilight!” And with that, Royal Flush dashed away.

Twilight grit her teeth, and turned back to the otyugh, already summoning up her magical energy reserves. “It's just another giant monster everyone!” She called out. “Nothing we haven't dealt with before! We just need to stay calm and--”

“My cape!” Rarity shrieked. She looked down at the brownish-greenish glob of … something that had splattered onto her outfit, and then glared daggers at the otyugh responsible. “Do you know how long it took me to make this?” Rarity's horn sent a blazing streak of magic across the room, into the otyugh's slimy bulk.

“BLARG!” The otyugh lumbered forward, bearing down on Rarity. The unicorn leapt to the side, ballet-graceful, but the otyugh curled a tentacle into Rarity's cape, cutting her escape short. It hoisted her up into the air, dangling her above its toothy maw. Rarity flailed, desperate and terrified as the yellowed fangs grew closer and closer. She screamed.

Her scream of horror turned to more of a confused squeak as a yellow and black blur zipped through the air, yanking Rarity out of harm's way. All that was left in the otyugh's tentacle was a scrap of dark silk (which it ate anyway).

“Sorry I tore your outfit!” Fluttershy said, tears welling up at the corners of her eyes.

“Given the alternative, I'll manage.” Rarity tried to keep casual, despite her racing heart. “I'll just make another one. Designing outfits is only marginally more challenging than dealing with the occasional monster.”

“You can't solve every problem with a makeover, Rarity!” Rainbow Dash yelled from across the room.

“I can try!”

“Wait, that's it!” Twilight beamed as the inspiration struck her. “Rarity, where do you keep your perfumes?”

“The top-left drawer on my bedroom vanity.” Rarity said. “... why do you ask?”

“I'll be right back! Don't get eaten while I'm gone!” Twilight disappeared in a burst of teleportation magic. A few chaotic, flailing-filled minutes later, Twilight returned, carrying a paper bag with her. “Alright, everypony! Arm up!” With that, she began tossing delicate-spray bottles of perfume to her friends (much to Rarity's chagrin).

“Twilight, what're you doing? That's Eau de Canterlot-- it's a limited edition scent!”

“Even better!” Twilight said, and held a couple spray-bottles in the air with her telekinesis. “The otyugh has a very sensitive olfactory system, like many subterranean species. It's used to living in filth, but if we present it with the opposite of that … “ Twilight strode fearlessly towards the slimy crap-monster, and sprayed it with a puff of Eau de Canterlot.

“BLARG!?” The otyugh recoiled in horror, as if it had been scalded by hot water.

Twilight smiled, and hit the otyugh again. And again. “C'mon girls! I'm going to need your help!”

With that, the five of them converged on the otyugh, spraying away with their perfume bottles. With the otyugh-repellent properties of the fancy scents, it was a simple matter to herd the creature back into an open sewer drain, which the otyugh slipped through with a sickening 'splorp!' noise.

“Alright!” Twilight Sparkle panted, and dumped the last of her Eau de Canterlot down the drain. “All we need to do is make sure all the major drains and sewer lines in town get lined with perfume, and that should keep the otyugh from getting out again.”

No sooner had she outlined her plan and turned around, the citizens of Ponyville emerged from their hiding places and started talking amongst themselves.

“They did it!”

“She stopped the monster!”

“They saved us all!”

“She's a hero!”

“Three cheers for Princess Twilight!”

“And her friends!”

Within moments, Twilight and company were hefted up onto the shoulders of an adoring, cheering crowd. Twilight blushed at the attention, trying to play it off. “Oh, just another Tuesday. You know how it is.”

“Um. Twilight?” Fluttershy said, somehow managing to be heard over the din.

“What's that?”

“Aren't we still trying to be evil?”

“Oh.” Twilight said. “Crap.”