• 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 9: What Goes on Before a Bakery Opens for the Day

Sugarcube Corner could have been transported straight from her time to this one. It looked almost exactly the same. It was minutes before opening for the day, and if she closed her eyes, she could imagine Mrs. Cake-- Mrs. Cup Cake-- preparing the pastries and sweets for the morning breakfast rush.

Mrs. Cup Cake wasn't in the kitchen, though, it was Miss Pumpkin Cake, and she broke the illusion that this was the Sugarcube Corner that Cheerilee knew.

"Hurry up! Those bagels should have been out on display five minutes ago! How are the muffins coming? What do you mean they aren't done yet?! Oh, this is a disaster! Move faster! No, finish that first! Do I have to do everything around here?"

It just didn't stop, the constant stressing by the female Cake twin. Everything was always going too slow for her, and she seemed focused on a dozen things at once. Worse, she vented her frustration out liberally on Ma Apple. The Cake twins were not even due to start classes with her for another year or two, but she was trying to not develop an early prejudice towards Pumpkin as she listened to the grown mare version of her be such a difficult boss to work for. Ma Apple had to have the most patience of any pony she'd seen, her and Pound both.

Cheerilee sat out in the lobby, trying to ignore the sounds coming from the kitchens. The sun was just starting to rise outside, even though they'd been here over an hour already. Cheese sat with her at the table, working diligently on a puzzle of a hot air balloon. The other Cake twin, Pound, was busy getting the register counted out and ready for customers, and winced on and off as his sister let off a round of explicatives that no foal should be allowed to hear.

After one particularly long line of cursing, Pound turned and shouted back into the kitchen. "Sis… we have foals up front. Try to keep it down. We go through this every morning lately. It's going to be alright. Maybe you should put aside the graduation cakes for right now, and help out with getting the morning orders done. You can come back to them."

"I'll fall behind schedule! We only have two days left before we have to have these all out!" Pumpkin shouted back.

"Two days that can't go by fast enough," Pound grumbled.

At that moment, a somewhat familiar pink earth pony came trotting happily down the stairs. Her mane was in a massive beehive style, and looked like it was packed with items. Pinkie Pie was known to store things in her mane, and it looked like in the past twenty years she had brought that up to a new level.

The party planner came over to the table and grabbed her foal up in a big hug, causing him to giggle. "Good morning to you, my little whoopie cushion! Ready for another extra special day?"

"Yeah!" Cheese yelled out enthusiastically, throwing his forehooves upwards while in his mother's embrace. It was enough to make Cheerilee smile, despite the muffled cussing in the background.

"Pinkie," Pound said hesitantly, glancing back warily at the kitchens. "Do you think you could give my sister a little help in the kitchen, before Ma Apple decides to quit and walk out on us?"

The ghost of a frown passed over Pinkie's lips as she set her son back down. She ruffled Cheese's mane and gave him a sad smile. "It looks like I'm needed. You and your friend be good, I need to help make your auntie Pumpkin be a little less frowny."

The colt gave a small look of disappointment, then gave a forced grin to his mother. "Okay Mommy!"

Pinkie paused and looked at Cheerilee. "And you look way too serious for a little filly." The pink pony reached a hoof up into her mane and shuffled it around for a second, before pulling out a big lollipop. The candy seemed to stick in the party pony's mane as she was trying to pull it out, and it took a few good tanks to dislodge it. She then held it out happily towards Cheerilee. "A candy for Candy, to help make you smile."

Cheerilee looked at the hair covered lollipop and shook her head in disgust. "Um, thank you, but I'll pass."

Pinkie shrugged, and jammed the lollipop back into her mane. "Suit yourself." She then started pronking towards the kitchen. "Pumpkin! Who's being a grumpy goose? Aunt Pinkie is here to help."

"You can help by frosting these cupcakes that should have been frosted twenty minutes ago!" Pumpkin yelled. Her voice then took on a frantic tone. "I need to work on the Breeze family graduation cake, it was supposed to be done last night, <BLEEP>!"

Cheerilee blinked. What was that last sound? She was confused.

"Did you just bleep me?!" Pumpkin demanded loudly. "<BLEEP>ing <BLEEP>!"

"Somepony has a potty mouth, and there are foals in the shop… including mine," Pinkie said for the most part cheerfully, but the last two words had sunk to a warning tone.

Pumpkin let out a loud groan. "Okay, I'm out of line. Please help. There's just too much to do." There was a brief pause followed by a contrite, "Sorry, Mrs Apple, I know you're doing your best."

The reply from Ma Apple couldn't be heard, though something was said. Ma Apple just wasn't as loud as the baker and party pony.

"All better now," Pinkie said happily. "Now, let's get this all done, and have a happy day!"

The work in the kitchen went much more quietly after that, though it was impossible to tell how smoothly it was going. On and off, Ma Apple or one of the others would bring a tray up to put on display. Pound Cake finished with the register, and began polishing the glass of the display case, whistling as he worked.

Cheerilee just sat and watched her companion put his puzzle together. She was still very tired. She counted herself as an early riser, anypony born and raised on a farm had no problem getting up before dawn, but it had been a long time since she had to get up quite this early. The fact that Ma Apple did this every day, then came back home to work on the farm, then took care of her foals and dinner in the evening, showed that the mare deserved a medal for her hard work-- and a vacation.

Cheese's mood seemed a little suppressed as he continued to put his puzzle together. She had a sneaking suspicion at what was up, and she raised an eyebrow at him. "Do you not get to spend a lot of time with your mother?"

The colt paused what he was doing and looked up at her. He squirmed in his seat for a moment before answering. "She's busy, a lot. I don't mind, she's a really important pony, and she makes lots of ponies smile. I know she wants to spend time with me." He then returned to his progress on the puzzle.

Cheerilee had seen the disappointment on Pinkie's face when her time with her son had been interrupted. This was not a case of deliberate neglect. The mare really was that busy. She continued to watch the colt at work, and she continued to consider her plans. She felt a pang of guilt again that she'd need to use him for her own needs, and felt like she owed it to him to help him in some way. There just wasn't much she could do for him, busy parents were nothing new, and she had many a foal in her classes that had to deal with that as a fact of life. At least his was somewhat present in his life.

"Do you know a pony named Scootaloo?" She asked her yellow companion.

Cheese blinked and then smiled. "I know everycreature in Ponyville, silly! Miss Scootaloo is a professor at the School of Friendship."

She gave him a smile. "I meant, are you friends with Scoo-- Miss Scootaloo?"

Cheese seemed to consider this. "Well, not really I guess. She's nice, but I never really talked to her a lot."

"Maybe you should," Cheerilee said with a small smile. "Tell her about how your parents are busy all the time and you wish you had more time with them. I'm sure she'll understand better than anypony. Where is your dad anyway?"

"Traveling, with my older brother and sister. They are gone a lot," Cheese explained morosely, and then got excited. "Mommy says now that the school year is out we can all travel together next time! It's going to be my first time being able to go!"

She smiled. "Sounds like it will be fun."

He nodded back to her. "It will be, and we get to do it all together! I get to learn all about being a party pony like my mommy and daddy, and my big brother and sister, and help make ponies smile!"

She had a feeling that most of his enthusiasm was directed at the fact he'd be spending time with his whole family, but didn't know him well enough to be sure of that. "Just make sure you take some time sometime soon to talk to Scootaloo. She's a fil-- a mare that might have some good advice for you."

Cheese gave her a curious stare. "Are you still Principal Cheerilee?"

"Miss Cheerilee," she corrected. "Twenty years ago there was just one teacher for all of Ponyville Elementary, and that was me."

Cheese blinked. "That must have been a really big class."

She waved a hoof. "There were a lot less students, so I could manage. Lesson plans get a little complicated sometimes, dealing with so many different ages in the same classroom, but I'm a pro." She gave him a curious look back. "Why do you ask?"

Cheese gave her a downtrodden look. "Most ponies and creatures Candy ends up being don't seem to care about me."

She frowned. "If that's so, and Candy is other ponies and creatures most of the time, then why did you come checking on her yesterday?"

"Candy's nice when she's Candy," Cheese replied as he stared at his puzzle. "Most creatures at school aren't really nice, not to me. You seem nice."

"Do you really believe me? That I'm really Cheerilee?" She asked hesitantly.

Cheese looked uncomfortable with the question. "Maybe? I don't know."

Well, it was more than she was going to get out of anypony else. She'd take what she could get. "I don't know anything about Candy, or Ponyville in this time. Are you willing to help me find things out?"

That the colt nodded confidently about. "Yeah, it will be fun!"

Pound walked over to them and gave them a big grin. "I'm about to open the door for customers. I need you two to stay seated where you are, and don't run off anywhere. Don't talk to strangers either. I've got a good view of you from the counter, and will be watching."

"Don't talk to strangers?" Cheerilee repeated in confusion. "I figured Princess Twilight would be telling ponies that strangers are just friends they haven't met."

Pound nodded. "Oh, absolutely, almost that exact wording."

She quirked an eyebrow at him. "Then why are we not allowed to talk to strangers?"

Pound pointed a wing back towards the kitchens. "Because Pinkie is more likely to notice a stranger if you do, and then she goes into her full 'welcome to Ponyville' song and dance in the middle of the shop when it's busy. We're trying to avoid that; we've gotten complaints." He stopped and furrowed his brow as he looked at her. "And you're pretending to be somepony else right now, right?"

She took a deep calming breath. "I'm not pretending. I really am Cheerilee."

Pound looked relieved. "Oh good, one less potential problem."

"Huh?" She asked, befuddled.

Pound smiled again. "That means you probably won't be trying to destroy all the customers' muffins. I can deal with your acting, but I can't deal with you slapping muffins out of customers' mouths and jumping on the muffins like your trying to put out a fire."

She blinked a few times. What in the world was going on with Candy and muffins. This wasn't just not liking a food, this was downright insane. "And has Candy ever given an explanation why she does that?"

Pound rolled his eyes. "You claim they're alive. Then proceed to try to kill them. I've yet to figure out where you got that idea."

"Candy says they have faces and they are staring at her," Cheese said quietly. "They scare her."

Pound laughed. "If they were alive, I think they'd be more scared of Candy. Candy's the one that ends up grinding them to a pulp." He turned towards the door. "Anyway, you two sit tight and stay out of trouble."

Cheerilee just nodded and sat quietly, trying to process this new information. It sounded to her like Candy really did need that psychologist. Still… she wasn't prepared to dismiss anything Candy did as completely crazy. "Cheese, do you remember the earrings that Principal Doo was wearing yesterday?"

"Um, yeah, what about them?"

"Did they have smiling faces on them?" She asked, hoping he said yes. She had seen those earrings before she had seen the drawing, so it couldn't have played with her mind to make her see things that weren't there.

Her hopes were dashed as he shook his head. "No, she wears those same earrings all the time. They're just muffins, regular old muffins."

She took another deep breath. If Candy was crazy, then that crazy carried onto her. She didn't think the filly was crazy though, just dealing with a crazy situation. It was a new piece of the puzzle, but it actually made another piece of the puzzle click into place, one of the books she had checked out, the one about paranormal creatures. She was going to have to sit down and read that thing thoroughly tonight to find out what it was they were both seeing. But why was it just her and Candy seeing the faces, and not everypony else? And why just on muffins? Did it have anything to do with this regular possession of Candy, or was it something else entirely? This was another thing to talk to that magic expert about.

I'm trying to help you Candy, but you and I both are over our heads in something weird. She thought to herself, hoping that somehow or somewhere Candy could hear her.

A new thought occurred to her, about a potential perpetrator of the entire mess. Doing this to a foal seemed extremely malicious, even for him, but it sounded like something that involved him. "Has Candy seen Discord?"

Before Cheese could answer, the Lord of Chaos himself appeared right beside their table. "Oh! Somepony is talking about me. I always like to be talked about. You're no doubt discussing how handsome and great I am. I do autographs on Tuesdays, and you can get photos with me on Fridays." He looked at the two of them, and put his hands up to his face as if gushing. "Foals! And if I'm not mistaken, you're Applejack's niece. I'm a big fan of your work. Have you finally decided to call upon the master to up your game? I'm honored, truly I am!"

Before she could reply Discord turned to Cheese. "And you're Pinkie Pie's fun for all genders ball of fluff. It's so great to have the next generation taking an interest in little old me!"

"Um, actually-" she began.

"Get out of the shop!" Pound shouted as he came hurrying over. "You're too disruptive, and you shouldn't be messing with foals!"

Discord gave the pegasus a peeved look. "They called on me, or mentioned my name, one or the other, it's all the same. And I've done nothing to the foals. Your baseless accusations are completely unfair, and unfriendly. Is this how you're supposed to treat a friendly face? What would Princess Twilight say?"

"You're still serving a ban from the store after you made all the cupcakes go on a singing and dancing parade!" Pound continued.

"Discord!" Ma Apple called out as she came running out of the kitchen. "If you do anythin' to my daughter, I'm goin' to tell Big Mac he isn't allowed to an O and O session for a year! She's in enough trouble as it is! She doesn't need your kind of trouble right now!"

Discord put on a white robe and made a halo appear over his head. "I'm intending no trouble with your little candy cane." He turned to Pound. "And it was a slow day when that happened. I think I actually attracted business for you that day, you should have thanked me."

"The mess took five days to clean up!" Pound continued. "We clean up after foals all the time, but they don't make messes that bad!"

Discord held his nose high and crossed his arms. "Fine, I can see I'm not wanted. Let me just find out what the filly wanted from me and I'll be on my merry way."

She was unsure if she should ask, given the trouble unintentionally summoning him caused, but everypony was staring at her, so she assumed she was free to speak. "Um, Candy has been seeing faces on muffins. Did you have anything to do with that?"

Discord looked down at her and blinked. Then looked upward and scratched his head absently. "Faces on muffins? I recall doing no such thing, at least not anytime in the last few years." A bell appeared next to his head and started shaking with no sound. "It does ring a bell about something…" He reached up and grabbed the bell and shook it violently. Then tossed it aside, having it vanish in a puff of smoke. "Defective. I guess it doesn't ring a bell. I can tell you I didn't do it if you're seeing faces on muffins. I would have remembered."

"Since that is settled, can you please just go?" Pound pleaded. "I already have to worry about my aggravated sister scaring off customers without you here too. We'll cater your next tea party for Fluttershy half off."

Discord gave him a grin. "Half off? You've got yourself a deal. I'll be sending my order this afternoon." The draconiquis then promptly vanished.

"Can't he just make cupcakes?" Cheese asked.

Pound groaned. "Don't question it. He does a regular order, even with him being banned from coming in the store." He turned to the front door. "Coast is clear, everycreature; we're open for business."

As customers started filtering into the shop and making their morning orders, Cheerilee sat and pouted. So much for that idea. Discord was the type to brag about things he did, or at least give hints that he had tried. He seemed legitimate in his assertion that he had nothing to do with the muffins. That left her with wondering if she and Candy were sharing the same brand of crazy. Although, she'd only seen the smiling faces on Dinky's earrings, not any of the actual muffins that had been molding in the closet. She had Candy's eyes at the moment, so maybe Candy really did see things that weren't there, and she was just catching random bits of the same thing. She glanced up at a customer buying several muffins, and saw no faces on the baked goods. She wasn't sure if she was happy she didn't or if seeing them would make her feel more like she was onto something.

She watched Ma Apple pull a grey earth pony mare with a short curly grey mane (different shade of grey) aside, and the two start a quiet conversation. There were occasional looks from both of them in her direction. That must be the psychologist, and it wasn't a pony she recognized, even trying to age up foals in her head to try to match. The shrink likely heard that whole exchange, as she had been one of the customers at the door when Discord had been present. At least they had something to talk about right away.

"Do you know the name of the pony Ma Apple is talking to?" She asked her resident Ponyville expert.

Cheese looked and then smiled and nodded. "That's my Aunt Marble! She and my mommy are twin sisters. Aunt Marble is nice, she talks to me about school and how I'm getting along with other foals, and stuff like that. She takes notes when she's doing it. Nocreature else takes notes when I'm talking, so it makes me feel important, like Mommy."

She looked back at the mare. She'd only met Maud out of Pinkie Pie's sisters, but she had heard that all her family was a bit… what was a good word… socially inept. This mare seemed friendly and sociable, at least from a distance. That didn't really line up with what she had heard about them. Of course, it had been twenty years, and time can change ponies.

Marble Pie wasn't who she was waiting to talk to today. It was that grad student. She also was now wanting to see Dinky again just to see the principal's earrings. Tonight she'd read Candy's library books, and between everything today she'd be in a better position to start making actual plans of action tomorrow.

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