• Published 28th Nov 2019
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Quantum Leap Forward - Halira

Cheerilee wakes up twenty years in the future, in the body of Big Mac's daughter. Now she must find out how to get back to her proper time and body.

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Chapter 3: Some Ponies Change, But Some Never Do

"Come on, young filly, we are going to wait outside," Silver Spoon said, directing her towards the door.

She flattened her ears. "Why?" She wasn't eager to be left sitting in the open where she could just see anypony she knew walking about. Ideally, she'd somehow convince Applebloom that she was who she said she was, and that Applebloom would have gained enough knowledge and expertise about potions in the last twenty years to undo whatever this failed potion had done.

The teacher gestured at the mess. "As I told Cheese, I don't know what that stuff is, and I don't know what effects it might have. For all I know, it could be dangerous just being in the same room with it for extended periods. I cannot stress to you how potentially dangerous what you did was. Potions are advanced magic, and shouldn't be experimented with willy-nilly by a foal your age."

She snorted, and wished she hadn't; Silver Spoon might take it as a sign that she was not taking her seriously. It was hard not to, obviously; a potions accident had brought her here to begin with! When she got back to her own time, the younger Applebloom was going to be getting the lecture of a lifetime about that very subject. Hopefully, she'd avoid getting a preview of that lecture given by the older Applebloom.

She got up, and left the school, Silver following. Cheerilee admired Silver’s firm, reasoned response, and hoped that she’d have done as well in the same situation. Looking back through the door, though, she realized that Candy’s experiment probably would have been important as well. What Candy had been trying to accomplish with the pilfered potion ingredients was unknown, and she had no clue what the filly might have inadvertently done. It might be important to find out exactly what was in that collection of glass, liquids, and other unidentified muck on the floor. Determining that might be a challenge, if she couldn't convince Applebloom of her identity where she had failed to convince Silver Spoon.

When she stepped outside she looked around and gaped at what she saw. The familiar dirt road that led up to the schoolhouse was gone, or at least, it wasn't where it had been. In its place, there were a half dozen small buildings that were arranged in a circle around a large playground area, with one somewhat larger building opposite of where she stood that had a large sign hanging over its doors that read administration. The Ponyville Elementary School seemed to have grown sixfold in size in the last twenty years.

A congregation of almost a dozen adult ponies walked towards them as they exited out of the building, including one changeling. She recognized with distaste one of the mares that was in the group, Spoiled Rich. The mare's mane had gone completely grey, and it looked as if somewhere down the line she had fixed that pointed nose of hers to look more natural, but it was definitely her-- she still radiated the same attitude that she had twenty years before. Most of the others she couldn't recognize, but the unicorn mare with the light greyish-purple fur and gold mane with streaks of white in a tight bun at the head of the group was vaguely familiar.

"Is everything alright, Silver?" The vaguely familiar unicorn asked as the group approached.

Silver Spoon sighed, and gestured at Cheerilee. "Candy was just getting up to mischief again. It is getting resolved, and nocreature got hurt, thankfully. I've already sent somepony to go fetch her aunt."

Spoiled Rich sniffed haughtily. "Nocreature got hurt? Is that the new standard for acceptable with this school? What manner of discipline do you intend to use to bring this ongoing menace of a filly under control?"

Her former student firmed up her jaw and stepped partially between Cheerilee and and the group of ponies. "I intend to contact her parents and have a long discussion about her behavior. As I said before, her aunt is already on her way."

The long-standing member of school board raised an eyebrow contemptuously at Silver Spoon. "Just a talk with her parents? Really? Are you claiming her parents aren't aware of the fact that their daughter is a little hooligan? I think they very well do, and that they are simply too inept to enforce some basic discipline. I ask again, what are you going to do to make sure this egregious foal is brought under control, Miss Spoon?"

Cheerilee grit her teeth tightly, and tried not to openly snarl at the mare. This reminded her far too much of her own dealings with Spoiled Rich in her own time, and it seemed the mare had barely changed in that regard. She'd often been at Spoiled's mercy back then, as she was dependant on the Richs' contributions to even keep the school running, but seeing Spoiled Rich continue to bully teachers in this time was infuriating.

The unicorn at the head of the group flattened her ears as she glared at Spoiled Rich. "Mrs. Rich, Miss Silver Spoon will take care of the matter as she sees fit, and I have total and complete confidence in her."

Spoiled rounded on the unicorn mare. "Is that so, Principle Doo? Are you just a figurehead, or does that title actually mean something? Do you make your teachers do what's necessary, or do you just let them walk right on over you?"

Cheerilee blinked. Was that little Dinky Doo? The streaks of white were new, but it wasn't uncommon for ponies to show minor changes in coloration of their manes as they progressed beyond foalhood, or to add highlights themselves through dyes. In her own time Dinky was a student who wasn't due to graduate from her elementary school for a few years yet. Beyond being a rather gentle and curious foal, with a love of hugs, Dinky had yet to really demonstrate much of a direction in life, and was still blank-flanked. It was a mild relief to see that this adult version was wearing a light green frock that hid her mark from view; every little piece of information that was learned was a little too much.

Dinky was apparently of stronger will than Cheerilee was, as she seemed to be unwilling to tolerate Spoiled's demands. "Mrs. Rich, we are a team here at Ponyville Elementary, and we put our students first. Candy can be trying at times, that is true, but she isn't a bad foal. And even if she were, foals can turn themselves around."

Spoiled snobbishly raised her nose up high. "My daughter has made her case well that our students are long-term investments, and I should not be quick to dismiss any student as worthless. However, this filly has been nothing but trouble for some time now." It figured that the only way Diamond Tiara could appeal to her mother about treating students right was by appealing to her in financial terms. Spoiled had precisely two things she cared about: money and stature.

The wealthy mare turned her gaze back to Silver Spoon. "And what, pray tell, was the mischief she got up to this time? You said nocreature got hurt; that implies that it might have been a possibility."

That seemed to make Silver Spoon uncomfortable, and Cheerilee cringed back behind the now older pony's legs. "She took some potion supplies from the School of Friendship and was attempting to make a potion in my classroom," the teacher meekly explained, then looked Spoiled in the eyes. "But there was no harm done, other than a mess."

"No harm done?!" Spoiled shouted, and Cheerilee cowered, even though she knew she wasn't personally responsible for what had happened. She was ashamed to admit she was conditioned to fear Spoiled's displeasure. After all, her displeasure meant the school didn't get needed funds. "I think you just admitted that filly isn't just a liar, but a thief. While her elaborate lies might be passed off as merely a public nuisance, theft was a crime, last I checked! The criminal shouldn't be getting a parent-teacher conference, she should be getting arrested!"

Silver Spoon stomped a hoof, and Cheerilee reflexively jumped back. "I highly doubt either her aunt or Starlight Glimmer will be pressing any charges, and I'm not having my students arrested! This will be taken care of, and it'll be taken care of in a way that helps Candy Apple move forward having learned from her mistake."

"Learn what? How get away with lawlessness? You are only encouraging her to continue these actions." Spoiled sneered back. "Yes, let's just help her become better at her life of crime, you soft-hearted disgrace for an authority figure. I demand that foal be expelled from school, before she corrupts any other youths!"

"Enough!" Dinky shouted. "Mrs. Rich. You may be the head of the school board, but you don't get to just dictate how we deal with our students. Believe me when I say we take this matter very seriously, and will be taking steps to see it isn't repeated, but you will not threaten or bad-mouth our students or our faculty."

Spoiled turned her sneer to Dinky. "This is completely unacceptable!"

Dinky pointed a hoof off towards a nearby path. "Your current behavior is what is unacceptable. If you want to make a case for expulsion then you better bring the whole school board here to do it. I'll be speaking to Diamond Tiara about this incident in the meantime."

Spoiled's eyes widened briefly with fear. "There's no need to bring her into this."

"Are you afraid of what your daughter might think of you?" Dinky questioned with a smirk that said she knew she had the leverage she needed against the elder mare. Cheerilee took smug satisfaction in seeing Dinky figuratively have Spoiled Rich by the tail. It was a rare sight, and one that always filled her with morbid joy. Ironically, it had been Diamond Tiara who had first taken Spoiled down a peg years before, and it seemed the mere invocation of her still could. "Or are you more afraid she might cut your allowance? She's warned you more than once about this kind of thing."

Spoiled hesitated, then clicked her tongue. "This isn't over, Dinky Doo. If I may offer a word of advice: you've been in this position for just a few months. I would not get into an early habit of having to run to others for help. It makes you seem weak and ineffective. The citizens of Ponyville might not want a weak and ineffective pony in charge of this school. Consider that well, for your own sake." The elder mare then turned, and after giving a strong flick of her tail, walked proudly off the school grounds.

Cheerilee let off a sigh of relief as her long-time nemesis left the area. In both her own time and this one, Spoiled Rich was still the worst. Sadly, and it was a shame to admit it, she wasn't sure if being in the body of a foal made her any less effective in dealing with the mare. Even though Silver Spoon and Dinky Doo of this time were in a sense different ponies than the foals she knew in her own, she couldn't help but feel a sense of pride in her former students for standing their ground against the scourge of the school board. If only she could manage to do the same.

Dinky seemed to want to be sure that Spoiled really left, and kept her eyes glued to the path for several seconds after Spoiled had vanished from sight. She then looked around at all the various ponies (and one changeling) and gave them a beaming smile. "Okay, we've had our excitement. This is a teacher work day, not a teacher stand around the field day. I want you all back to work. Silver Spoon, stay where you are, you and I are going to have a talk."

The group turned and walked back to the larger building labeled administration, talking in hushed voices about what had just happened. She couldn't help herself, and tried to tell if she knew any of these other teachers; examining each of them as carefully as she could, and looking at cutie marks where visible. Not a single one of them was familiar to her, the only two ponies at the school she was familiar with were Silver Spoon and Dinky Doo.

Dinky held her smile until the teachers all finally entered into the building. The smile then slipped, and she hung her head while letting off a tired sigh.

"Thank you for standing up for me, and for our students," Silver Spoon said, before Dinky had a chance to speak. "I know everypony is happy to see you did that too. No offense, Dinks, but nopony was sure what to expect would happen when you and…" Silver Spoon paused and glanced at Cheerilee, as if reconsidering what word to use around a foal. "--that pony inevitably got into it. Seeing that she didn't run roughshod over you was a huge relief."

"I'm not even upset you were worried. I wasn't sure I could stand up to her until just now," Dinky replied, then her ears sagged. "However, she is right about one thing; if Candy stole something we're going to need to do more than a parent-teacher conference."

Cheerilee suppressed the urge to scream. This kept getting worse and worse. She had no desire to be punished for Candy's misdeeds. Dinky was in the right to want to make sure some sort of effective discipline happened, but had no way of knowing that she wasn't the filly they thought she was. She briefly considered trying to appeal even harder that she wasn't Candy to Dinky, but making a case for identity to Dinky would be even harder than with Silver Spoon, as Dinky was younger than Silver Spoon and had been much better behaved in class-- which meant that she and Dinky had even less personal history to draw upon for proof of identity. While the younger of the Doo clan didn't seem to be a strict authoritarian, she was clearly no fool. She would be exceedingly skeptical of anything that came out of the mouth of a pony known for pretending to be somepony else.

She made a mental note to herself for when she got back to her own time; after Candy Apple was born and started school, she needed to nip this behavior in the bud.

Except, if she got back to her own time, wouldn't she have already have done that? She still didn't know what had happened to herself after that moment when she tried to fling away Applebloom's potion. Had she vanished? Had Candy taken over her body as she had Candy's? If Candy had taken over her body, and still had it to this point in time, wouldn't Candy want to step in and intervene in things now? But that last option assumed that she didn't get back. And would this whole future even exist if she did make it back to her own time? She'd be carrying a lot of information that could alter its course, when and if she returned. She groaned internally; she just wasn't cut out to understand the complex paradoxes of time travel! She really needed an expert in the subject.

"I'm aware," Silver Spoon sighed. "When Applebloom gets here I'll talk to her, and I will be escorting her home to talk to her parents." She gave Cheerilee a raised eyebrow. "What were you attempting to do with those things anyway?"

She shook her head. "I wasn't trying to do anything. It was Candy." She winced as she said that. If she didn't keep consistently telling the truth it would be impossible to ever convince anypony that it was indeed the truth, but listening to herself she knew she how much it sounded like a filly who didn't want to take responsibility for her actions.

"This again?" Dinky said in shock. "Who is she supposed to be this time?"

Silver Spoon grimaced. "She's claiming she's Cheerilee now."

Dinky bit her lip then laughed. "A little less grand than normal. So tell me, Cheerilee, what made you suddenly decide to quit without warning and take off to Vanhoover at the start of the school year?"

What? She was still around, and she quit her job? She would never just quit her job out of the blue! Maybe at some point in the future she'd retire, but even at the age she should be in this time period she should still have several years left before she'd consider retirement, and when she did she'd definitely give plenty of forewarning. It would also happen at the end of a school year, not the beginning, She simply wouldn't do such a thing to her students.

"I… I-I don't know. That doesn't sound like me. I'm from twenty years in the past," she said, dumbfounded.

"Oh yeah, I forgot that extra twist on the story," Silver Spoon giggled, much to Cheerilee's consternation. They were so used to Candy's stories that they learned to take amusement in them. "You definitely have a great imagination." Silver smiled at the principal. "Dinky, do you think we could possibly try starting a drama club for the school? That might be an excellent outlet for her to channel this into. She's an outstanding actress, who puts her all into her roles. I think she could be very successful in a stage production if given the opportunity. What do you think?" Cheerilee stood open mouthed as she listened. The mare wasn't being ironic or joking, she was being serious! It was wonderful that they were considering options that would help one of their students, but right now she just wanted to scream in frustration.

Dinky rubbed a hoof against her chin. "It definitely has some merits. It could be a healthy way of giving her the attention she so obviously craves, and as you said, she's very good at it. We'd have to be careful about what role she was cast in, since she refuses to drop character until she finally gets bored. It might also take some convincing of the school board to get the funding for a proper stage and props. You know how they can get about the budget."

They were just going to actively refuse to entertain the idea she was really Cheerilee, not even playing along with it just to humor her! On top of that, she now had to worry about the fact her older self had decided to quit her job at the beginning of the school year. That really wasn't something she could picture herself doing. Was it actually Candy in her body, in this time? By this point Candy wouldn't be a foal in an adult's body, she'd be an adult in an adult's body who had lived the majority of her life in that body. Perhaps that was the reason for the hasty retirement. At the beginning of the year Candy might have realized that the point they switched bodies was coming up, and wanted to avoid any chance they switch back!

That was all speculation, and wild speculation at that, but she was desperate to understand this and fix it. As another possibility, it could really be her that was here in this time. If that was the case that meant she managed to get back home. That also meant that this whole thing could be resolved by just getting in contact with her older self and finding out how her older self had managed it. Except… why had her older self skipped town if that was the case? Shouldn't she know that this was coming, and be ready to help? This didn't add together right.

The conversation the teacher and principal were having came to an abrupt end as Cheese came happily pronking onto the school grounds. "She's coming, but she needed to slow down," Cheese announced, he then looked at Cheerilee excitedly, and pounced on her, drawing her into a tight hug. "The bad pony didn't get you!"

She tried to escape his hug for a second, before just accepting it. "The bad pony?"

He released her and lifted his muzzle high. "The mean old mare that walks around with her nose up like this."

Silver Spoon cut off a laugh, as if knowing she shouldn't be laughing at the pony who signed her paychecks, but couldn't help it. "That's a-- that's a very good impression, Cheese."

She agreed, but wasn't in a mood for humor. "Why would Spoiled Rich 'get me'?"

Cheese's expression fell, and he hugged the rubber chicken close to him like it was a squeaky stuffed animal. "I saw her when I was coming back. She was saying all kinds of mean things about you-- well, about Candy… are you Candy or Cheerilee right now?"

"I'm Cheerilee," she replied, trying not to sound cross.

Silver Spoon groaned. "Candy, what will it take to make you stop this performance? You have to see it is getting you nowhere."

Dinky let off a small laugh. "Just let her run with it. At least it is an imitation of somepony who should be well behaved." The principal seemed to consider this a moment. "Were you Cheerilee before or after you stole from the school?" She just noticed that Dinky was wearing earrings shaped like muffins with smiling faces on them, hanging by small golden hoops. She had no idea why that drew her eyes, but she found them fascinating.

She shook her head, Dinky's odd choice of jewellery wasn't important. "I have no idea what Candy was doing with that stuff, but I'd love to know." She then looked again at Cheese. "And you said you didn't know who I was! They said I was teaching here up to the beginning of this school year."

Cheese blinked. "You mean Principal Cheerilee? You said Cheerilee, not Principal Cheerilee. I might have gotten confused again." Seriously? She was the principal now, and still randomly took off? She banished that thought, as she was afraid it would summon some new complication.

The yellow foal seemed to consider this further. "Well, if you are Cheerilee from twenty years ago, that means you and Principal Cheerilee aren't really the same pony, because Principal Cheerilee would know me, but even my big brother and sister aren't that old. She was a really nice principal, so I hope you're nice too."

"Do you think I'm a nice principal?" Dinky asked the yellow foal. Dinky was smiling, but she could tell that the answer actually personally mattered to the mare. That made sense, if she was new on the job, wanting affirmation that she was doing a good job was just natural.

Cheese beamed up at the purple unicorn. "You’re nice too, Principal Doo." He clapped his hooves together excitedly after that, giggling. "I made a rhyme."

Dinky lit up her horn and used her magic to playfully ruffle Cheese's purple mane. "That you did, but I need you to head home now. It's time for the adults to talk to your friend."

Cheese's face fell. "But Miss Pumpkin said I needed to make myself scarce until dinnertime, that she had too much work to do for me to be back at the shop. And Mommy is in her cave, and I'm not allowed in there."

Silver Spoon and Dinky exchanged a concerned look, then the teacher lowered her head down next to Cheese and smiled. "How about you go to the Twistibon Chocolate Shop. Tell my wife that I promised you could have a milkshake, my treat, as long as you stayed out of trouble while there. Then around dinner time you can go back home. Does that sound like a good idea?" Cheerilee plugged her hooves into her ears, trying to block out more information she had no business knowing. Silver Spoon had a wife? The effort wasn't very effective, and she considered loudly singing Hearthswarming carols to further drawn out the sounds around her.

"Okay, Miss Silver Spoon," Cheese answered, expression bright and cheerful again. He quickly hugged to Silver Spoon, then Dinky, and finally her, before putting his rubber chicken on his back and pronking off.

As Cheese was leaving the schoolyard, a yellow mare with a bright red mane came wearily walking onto the school grounds. She seemed out of breath, though she didn't seem to be exerting herself very much. As she approached it became clear why; her underside was very distended. It was obvious that Applebloom was very heavy with foal, one due any day now. Just great, more things she really rather not know about.... It just kept piling on.

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