• Published 8th Feb 2013
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Harmony's Warriors: Flutterhulk - Avenging-Hobbits

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Act III - 16 - The Storm Clouds Gather

Act III:
“Naqoyqatsi (Life as War)”

Chapter Sixteen:
"The Storm Clouds Gather"

Fluttershy and Tree Flower stood on the steps of the relatively unadorned brownstone building just across the street from Manehattan’s prestigious Celestial Park. On the door in front of them, was a small sign that said “Dr. Cheerilee, Biochemist”.

“Well, here we are,” Tree Flower said, looking towards Fluttershy. “Are you ready Fluttershy?”

Fluttershy simply nodded without saying a word. She honestly was just happy that they had managed to get this far without being found out or her losing control. Tree Flower meanwhile, seemed relieved as well, as she smiled kindly and knocked on the door. There was a long, awkward pause as the two awaited a response.

“Well that’s odd,” Tree Flower muttered, once more knocking on the door, this time with a little more force. Fluttershy meanwhile, took this as an opportunity to get a better bearing on her surroundings. The streets were impeccably clean and well maintained, with an almost postcard level of tidiness exuding from the look of everything. The windows on all the buildings were nicely polished so that they reflected the setting sun brightly, and across the street was a grove of trees inside the boundaries of Celestial Park. Fluttershy felt a chill run through her as an unexpectedly crisp breeze swept through the air, sending the leaves on the ground tumbling and twirling through the air.

Autumn must be coming… she thought, taking notice of the vivid kaleidoscope of color that the tree leaves had turned. Probably should have packed a jacket, she thought wistfully, as she was quick to remember what had happened as soon as they left the house and how little good a jacket would have been. The streets themselves were also calm and idyllic, with only a few ponies walking about, all dressed in what looked like comfortable sweaters or jackets. On the benches on the edge of the park were several couples, some nuzzling each other lovingly. Fluttershy felt a pit develop in her stomach at the sight of the gentle nuzzling. She knew that, unless her mother was right and this Dr. Cheerilee had some sort of miracle cure for Fluttershy’s alter-ego, she would never be able to truly experience anything remotely like that. She’d never be able to really have a romantic relationship, as there would always be the risk...the risk that it would all go wrong and collapse around her, just like it had a thousand times before.

She bit her lip, refocusing her attention to a random lightpost. Don’t think that Fluttershy, she mentally scolded herself, Maybe there’s still a chance… her train of thought trailed off when she noticed that the lightpost was missing the wanted posters she had seen adorning much of Ponyville. The thought that her face wasn’t being shown on billboards or posters for all to see was enough to calm her nerves slightly, and she felt a wistful smile spread across her face.

At least nopony will recognize me, she thought, the sound of her mother now practically slamming at the door catching her attention.

“Damn it! What does it take to get noticed!?” Tree Flower grumbled, moving to press down on the doorbell, and Fluttershy could hear the muffled sound of it ringing inside the house. Tree Flower lifted her hoof from the button, and tapped it impatiently against the ground. There was the sound of what sounded like shuffling hoofsteps, interlaced with the sound of plastic hitting the door. The sound of locks tumbling and muffled muttering greeted their ears and the door swung open to reveal a grape colored earth pony with a slightly lighter shade of purple mane, which looked a tad disheveled. She wore a slightly over sized snow white lab coat.

“I’m so sorry for making you wait,” she apologized, before looking towards Tree Flower. “I assume you’re Mrs. Flower?”

Tree Flower nodded, her previous iteration seemingly having evaporated and she smiled. “Yes I am. And this is my daughter, Fluttershy,” she added, motioning towards Fluttershy. Fluttershy reflectively hid behind her mane. Just in case.

“Wonderful, I’m Dr. Cheerilee,” the purple earth pony said, extending a hoof in greeting. Tree Flower reached out to shake it before pausing and looking down at the extended hoof. Fluttershy looked towards the hoof and felt her eyes widen ever so slightly at the sight of shiny plastic instead of a normal hoof. Cheerilee seemed to notice this as well, as she glanced down at her artificial hoof and quickly retracted it.

“Oops, sorry about that,” she said, switching to her left hoof. Tree Flower shook her head.

“No, that’s okay, I shouldn’t have stared, that was rude of me.” Cheerliee nodded her head in acknowledgement.

“Well, we all make mistakes, and I’m kinda use to it by now. Care to come in?” she asked, motioning for them to step inside. Cheerilee stepped aside, allowing Tree Flower and Fluttershy to enter. Cheerilee led them down the somewhat cramped hallway into what seemed to be her living room, given the elegant carpet that muffled their hoofsteps and the couch tucked in the corner next to the window.

“Nice room,” Fluttershy said quietly, admiring the patterns in the carpet. Cheerilee nodded.

“Thank you. You can sit, I’ll get you both some coffee then?”

Fluttershy shook her head, with Tree Flower taking notice. “I think we’d prefer tea.” she said.

“Alright then, tea,” Cheerilee said, walking off into the kitchen. As the carpet gave way to linoleum flooring, Fluttershy could hear the shuffle of hooves and plastic on the floor. Fluttershy's expression was pensive. She honestly had never seen an amputee in her life, since most of her life had been spent moving from town to town in a constant state of fear, so seeing a pony who was missing a leg seemed rather...off. But Cheerilee seemed to be a happy pony, despite of the disability, and Fluttershy knew it would most likely be taken the wrong way if she were to ask how it was lost.

“Fluttershy, you can sit down you know,” her mother said, moving to sit on the couch. Fluttershy nodded and sat down, letting out a sigh of relief to finally be resting her legs. However, the fact that the couch was right next to the window, allowing anyone outside to have a peak inside.

“Well, are you ready Fluttershy?” Tree Flower asked. Fluttershy shrugged slightly.

“I’m not sure Mother...I mean, we haven’t been seen or anything...but..."

"You feel worried?" Tree Flower asked. Fluttershy nodded.

“Yeah...I mean, it just feels too easy. I mean...how do you know this pony can be trusted?” Fluttershy asked, not even really noticing how worried she sounded. Tree Flower gave her another kind smile and a comforting hoof on the shoulder.

“Don’t worry Fluttershy. I checked my references. She checked out just fine. Remember, don’t let all that fear you have control your life. You have to let it go, start trusting ponies a little more. Not everypony in this world is out to get you. And besides, we’ve gotten this far without incident, so have some faith.”

Fluttershy sighed, looking down at the carpet, “Oh...okay then. If you say so. But if I get to stressed can we leave?”

Tree Flower nodded. “Sure. You know I would never knowingly put you at risk. I’m your mother after all.”

“Here you go,” came Cheerilee’s voice, and Fluttershy looked over Tree Flower’s shoulder to see the purple earth pony walking in, holding the cups of tea on a trey that wobbled precariously in the grip of her mouth. She set it down on the coffee table. “Nice fresh chai tea.”

“Wonderful,” Tree Flower complemented, taking a glass in hoof as she helped steady the tray. Fluttershy smiled and took her own glass in hoof. It had been a long time since she last had tea, and she relished the somewhat spicy flavor of it on her tongue.

The trio sat there quietly for a while, all sipping their respective glasses of tea, until Cheerilee spoke up. “So...Miss Fluttershy,” she started, looking towards Fluttershy. “Might I ask exactly what your problem is?”

Fluttershy shifted on the couch slightly. She honestly still wasn’t a hundred percent sure if this pony was trustworthy, and Fluttershy honestly feared that, if she gave away too much information, Cheerilee might make the connection between her and New Fluttershy. And then what would happen? Most likely a panicked run to the nearest phone and calling the authorities. Tree Flower seemed to notice Fluttershy’s unease, as she put a hoof on her shoulder before turning to Cheerilee.

“Well, Dr. Cheerilee, my daughter would prefer not to talk about the exact details of her problem.”

Cheerilee’s expression soured slightly, “Well, then how am I supposed to know what to do to help her? I need to know all the fact Mrs. Flower.”

Tree Flower nodded. “Of course, which is why, I will talk to you on her behalf. Would you like that Fluttershy?” she asked, turning towards Fluttershy. Fluttershy shrugged slightly.

“I s-suppose.” she murmured, her voice hushed. Tree Flower smiled and leaned a little closer.

“Don’t worry dear,” she whispered. “I’ll just tell her what she needs to know. Nothing else, okay?”

“Alright then,” Fluttershy replied, shifting on the couch again, this time more to get a little more comfortable then out of any real fear. She was happy that it was her mother telling the story rather than herself. That at least meant she didn’t have to worry about slipping up out of her own paranoia.

With that, Tree Flower stood up from the couch.

“So, where would you prefer to talk about it?” Cheerilee asked.

“Any place would be nice,” Tree Flower replied. Cheerilee nodded.

“I guess the kitchen will do...I’ve got more tea brewing anyways. Come then,” and with that, the two earth ponies retreated into the kitchen, leaving Fluttershy alone. Now that she was alone, Fluttershy had nothing to do other than familiarize herself with her surroundings, as her predominant focus before was mostly getting inside the house and away from any potential prying eyes.

The walls were painted a relatively calming shade of off white, while the carpeting was a rich auburn. All around the room were scattered bookcases of various sizes, all practically overflowing with books of various kinds. Out of curiosity, Fluttershy quietly stood up from the couch, walking over to better see the contents of a particular bookcase that was nearby. Unsurprisingly, most of the books seemed to be large, thickly bound manuals and field guides to various aspects of biology. However, one topic above all others stood out among the books. Almost all of the books were about reptiles, with titles ranging from, “Herpetology for Dummies: A Beginner's Guide to the World of Dragons, Lizards, Turtles and Snakes”, to “Regrowth: The Miraculous Healing Regenerative Properties of Lizards and Their Potential Application in the Modern Medical World”, which appeared to have been written by Dr. Cheerilee herself. Fluttershy furrowed her brow. Even with her love of animals, she had never quite been as comfortable around things with scales, instead preferring little critters with lots of fur and whiskers. I wonder if she has any books about bunnies, she thought absent mindedly, nostalgic memories of her pet rabbit drifting through her mind.

In the background, she could hear the disembodied voices of her mother and Dr. Cheerilee, with them apparently engaged in hushed conversation. She could tell they were actively talking about her at that very moment, and what exactly that entailed, as her own name would pop up every so often, usually followed by what sounded like quite a bit of complicated science talk and medical technobabble.

Fluttershy returned her attention to the bookcases. Not polite to listen in like that, she told herself. It’s rude. She scanned her hoof along the books, being sure not to get any too dirty, as they all seemed to be very well taken care of and several of them looked quite old. Here we are! she smiled as she finally found a book with the word ‘Rodent’ on it. She pulled the book out and looked at the title. Her heart froze.

The title of the book was “Nutritious Rodents: How to Properly Feed Your Pet Snake with a Cornucopia of Rabbits, Rats and Mice” by a certain Hearty Meal. Fluttershy was quick to put the book back where she found it, her body involuntary shivering at the morbid image on the cover of a snake trying to swallow a rabbit that seemed to be three times the size of the snake. It didn’t help that above the snakes head was a thought balloon that said “Yummy!”

Fluttershy quickly looked around for something else to attract her attention. Preferably something that wasn’t nearly as morbid as snakes eating baby bunnies. Her eyes landed on what seemed to be a large coffee table book lying lengthwise on one of the bookshelves. “Dazzling Jewels: The World’s Most Beautiful Reptiles” it was named, and Fluttershy gently pulled it off the shelf and walked back to the couch, setting it gently on the coffee table nearby. She opened it, immediately being greeted by a tremendously beautiful brightly colored photograph of a Griffinheim Green Lizard sitting proudly on a rock.

Fluttershy felt some relief come over at the sight of natures beauty, and therefore spent the next few minutes paging through the book, admiring the various wild and beautiful color schemes of reptiles from around the globe. However, the sound of oncoming hoofsteps caught her attention and she looked up to see Dr. Cheerilee and her mother entering the living room again, having apparently finished the conversation. Fluttershy could tell by the way Dr. Cheerilee looked at her that she was now fully in the know as to what exactly was Fluttershy’s...condition.

“Well, Miss Fluttershy,” Dr. Cheerilee said, sitting in a chair across from the couch. “You’re mother told me about your, um….condition, and how it affects your life, and suffice to say that I give you my deepest condolences.”

Fluttershy smiled, “Thank you.” Dr. Cheerilee nodded, obviously still a tad uncomfortable.

“Well, I might already have a solution, but it’s only based on an assumption. In order to better test it, I would require a blood sample.”

“Blood sample?” Fluttershy asked. The idea of getting a needle jabbed into her was certainly unattractive.

“Yes, but don’t worry, we don’t have to leave here. I have a fully functioning laboratory upstairs. Not quite as fancy as the one I have at Rich Corp, but it’s still quite well set up and I think we can find the solution without having to bring anypony else into the loop. Would you mind me taking a sample to test?”

Fluttershy looked towards Tree Flower, as if she held some secret answer. Tree Flower simply nodded, “It’s okay Fluttershy.” Fluttershy shifted on the couch again, her eyes drifting about the room.

“Um...okay….I guess,” she murmured. Dr. Cheerilee’s expression brightened at that, and she stood up from the chair.

“Excellent. Now, let me take you upstairs and we can sort this…” she paused, and there was a hint of trepidation in her expression, as if she were unsure of herself, “....dilemma of yours,” she finally said, putting on a slightly larger than necessary grin. Tree Flower beckoned for Fluttershy to follow, and the trio started out of the living room and down the hall again. Dr. Cheerilee led them aways down the hall, eventually stopping before a polished stainless steel door.

“We’ll take my elevator,” Dr. Cheerilee said, pressing a button next to the doorway.

“I didn’t know you had an elevator,” Fluttershy said out of curiosity. Dr. Cheerilee nodded.

“Oh yeah. Had it installed after…” she motioned to her prosthetic limb. “Just to make it a little easier to get around and all," she said, trailing off. Her voice seemingly perfectly at ease with her missing limb, but Fluttershy had a feeling that she shouldn't press the issue any further than this, since she could tell that the look on Dr. Cheerilee's face was one of wistful nostalgia. Probably would be rude to ask anyways... Fluttershy thought, as the trio stepped inside the small elevator and started upwards.

//////////////////////////

Hoofcuff watched as the pair entered the brownstone, while trying her best to blend in. She sat on the park bench, actually enjoying the crisp breeze that was blowing through the air. She wondered if it was a good idea to follow into the building, but a quick glance through the window revealed that most likely, this wasn’t just an office building, but rather someone’s home. And that would require a warrant, and that would require bringing in the entire Manehattan legal system. Not exactly the subtle “walk in, walk out” style capture she would have preferred. She'd entertained the idea of calling NEIGHS, but figured that would just get Iron Will even more angry at her, which would just lead to disaster.

The low sound of what sounded like a low flying zeppelin caught her ears and she glanced up to see the familiar, whale-like shape of General Iron Will’s zeppelin looming over the skyline. Really subtle genius, she thought, furrowing her brow and reaching for her walkie talkie.

“Hoofcuff here, General I can see you, over.”

Yes. We know. We’re sending a pony down to provide back up and get everything ready.

“Well, can you try and be a little more subtle, they’ll probably hear the airship.”

Don’t worry, Marshall,” scoffed General Iron Will. “We’ve got everything covered. Now, where exactly is the target?” Hoofcuff’s eyes darted back to the window across the street.

“She entered the brownstone on SW 103rd Street. And what do you mean send me backup?” Hoofcuff replied.

Look up and you’ll see.” Iron Will replied. Hoofcuff looked up to see a small, white dot descending from the zeppelin above. As it came closer, Hoofcuff could make it out to be a pegasus. Something in her gut told her that she was probably going to be very familiar with whomever it was Iron Will sending.

“Snowflake…” she grumbled once the pegasus in question came into focus, landing a couple of feet to Hoofcuff’s left. Hoofcuff’s eyes narrowed and her eyebrow arched at the sight of at least three large, black saddlebags that Snowflake had strapped to his body. Before, he seemed to be simply on the edge; now he looked as if he was ready to explode at any given moment. His red eyes darted towards Hoofcuff and he tersely nodded his head in acknowledgement.

“Snowflake,” she said, trying her best to sound level. “How you doing?”

“Good, good,” he replied. “Where is she?” he asked, and Hoofcuff could sense the tension in his voice. it was as if the very idea of him having to wait to capture Fluttershy made him stressed.

“She’s over there. But we’re not supposed to make a move apparently until everypony gets here,” Hoofcuff replied, watching warily as Snowflake pulled out a long barrelled sniper rifle that looked more like a cannon. Snowflake seemed to visibly tense up at those words, and his eyes darted towards a nearby oak tree.

“If you need me, I’ll be in there.” he said, flapping his wings and disappearing into the bushley top of the tree. Hoofcuff nodded glumly.

“Sure thing…” she called out, already hearing the rustling of the tree branches. With that sound, she hunched slightly. The wind seemed to grow just a little more cold, and a touch more biting, and she was honestly fearful. Something about the way Snowflake was acting, and the sheer over-the-topness of the weaponry he had brought with him only managed to enhance her fear that everything was probably going to go wrong. Now that she thought about it, everything had been just a little too easy, too straight forward over the past few hours.

I just hope this doesn’t end in disaster, she thought, as her eyes watched the zeppelin overhead bank gently towards the park.

Author's Note:

Well that was fast. Sorry that it's rather short, but hey, they can't all be 5,000 word epics?

Also it's a crying shame that I couldn't think of a song for this chapter...grumble, grumble.

Also, if you're sharp, you can see what I'm setting up Cheerilee as in my universe (unless you've seen all the blog posts...then you already know).

And I'm already working on the next chapter of Flutterhulk right now, so hopefully, this will be updated really soon.

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