• Published 5th Dec 2012
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Tangled Roots - Bad_Seed_72



The CMC know that Babs Seed was bullied in Manehatten, but how bad could things really have been?

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Unleashed In The East

Unleashed In The East

Sixteen years of loyal service, sixteen years of unpaid overtime, no holidays off, no vacation, and pay that would make the most desperate of vagabonds turn back to the road, all down the drain. For sixteen years, he held his tongue taut, letting its only vibrations be mutterings of respect and complacency. He had been asked to do literally everything in the book but sexual favors (though he would have had no choice but to indulge even those), reducing himself to a mere footstool under the hooves of the most powerful pony in Manehatten.

Greyhoof had enough.

Pressing a bag of ice against his swollen and painful eye with one hoof, tossing his meager belongings into a suitcase with the other, Greyhoof found the circumstances of his resignation quite fitting. He had put up with Madame Orange and her obsessive need for perfection in all forms of sensory input, Citrus Blossom’s fussing and worry over absolutely everything, and Babs Seed’s rebellious and reckless ways. Oh, he could handle the mares just fine. Stallion-to-stallion, he couldn’t take it anymore. Bernie Madhoof was a wreck of a pony.

Drink or no drink, punch or no punch, the butler had read the writing on the wall some time ago, noting that the cheese had long been stolen away at the end of his maze. All the promises of almost two decades ago had disintegrated like dust in the wind.

“Ten percent stock options? Full medical coverage? Paid vacation? Buck me.” Greyhoof growled, packing away his pipe and last container of tobacco. “Oh, that ol’ fool is damn lucky I have no patience for the incompetence in this wretched town. If this were Canterlot, Trottingham, Ponyville even… oh, he would be finding himself a cot and a coltfriend right now!”

Suitcase packed, one hoof gripping his feeble attempt at self-care, Greyhoof took a mournful last look at the servant’s quarters. No, the servant’s shack. That’s what it was, what it had always been.

Sixteen years ago, Madame Libra Scales had planned to start a greenhouse and learn the basics of hydroponic farming, fascinated by its efficiency. Madhoof would have none of that nonsense, and made an incredibly economical business decision: rather than build an extension to his grand home, or maybe an extra room or two, or, hay, let the servants have the unused rooms, he halted Libra Scales’ blueprints and threw some beds in the greenhouse for good measure.

“Servant’s quarters now,” he had droned, cocktail in hoof. “You got your roof, your walls, your floor, your bed. That’s all you need.”

Greyhoof was not a material stallion. Shunning the pursuit of wealth for wealth’s sake—one of many ironies in the twisted tale that was his life—he had kept few possessions through his stint at the Orange Family Mansion. Not that it could have been any different. Bernie Madhoof’s bits had paid off the butler’s debts and kept him fed and clothed, but that was about it. A small stash of bits under the bed was the last item Greyhoof packed, knowing it wouldn’t last him long.

Greyhoof didn’t care. He’d heard rumors of gold mines and oil fields discovered far out west in the desert plains, beyond the settlement of Appleloosa. Service jobs would be in pleading demand once the first lines and claims were discovered and tapped. A taxi-carriage was on its way, and, after that, the steam of the train’s engine would propel him to his final outpost.

Shaking the dust from the floor of the shack off his hooves, Greyhoof gave the room one last sigh, and exited. A foal waited on the welcoming mat for him.

“Madame Babs Seed. What are you doing out here, my dear?”

“Seein’ youze off.” The filly’s deep green eyes met the withered stallion’s, the stars reflecting as beacons within her windows. “Citrus says it’s too hard fo' her ta say goodbye, an' Ma’s dealin’ wit' Da’ now. I didn’t want youze ta walk outta heeya alone.”

A gentle smile spread across his tired, sore muzzle. “That’s very kind of you, Madame.”

“Aw, cut wit' the names, will youze? I ain’t the boss o' youze. I never was.”

Greyhoof chuckled. At least she had that part correct.

Babs Seed laughed with him, finding a strange but welcome sense of familiarity with the butler. Even though he was a total rear half the time, he still cared 'bout me, an' dat’s what’s important. “Greyhoof… I’m gonna miss youze. Allspice jus' isn’t a good substitute.”

He couldn’t help but sigh, realizing that the burden of his duties would fall on the poor chef. She was the second senior and would now become the whipping mare to all of Bernie Madhoof’s convoluted demands. Greyhoof made a mental note to keep in touch with Allspice. At first sign of trouble, he would pay his old employer a personal kind of visit.

Leaning down to Babs's level, Greyhoof said, “Babs Seed, there’s something I want you to know. You need to listen very carefully, okay, m’lady?”

She nodded, urging him to continue.

Plucking his words with care, the stallion said, “You see, Babs Seed, ‘family’ is a funny word. We think of it to mean our mother, our father, our sister, our brother. We take it to mean all those ponies who are bound to us by blood. You understand that, of course, don’t you?”

“Yes, Greyhoof,” Babs said, nodding.

“I thought so. But, Babs Seed, do you know what the other kind of family is?”

Anotha kind o’ family? Babs felt her eyes widen as she shook her head.

Feeling truth rising up from the Earth into his hooves, the source of all Earth pony magic, Greyhoof said, “There is a kind of family that is entirely yours. It is the family you create. And though you didn’t choose to belong to the one you were born into, you cannot leave it. Even if you run, far, far away from this place, you will always be your father’s daughter, Babs Seed.

“But… someday, when you are ready, you can choose to craft a family of your own, whether they are bound to you by blood or not.”

Lifting her head by the chin, staring into her eyes, Greyhoof whispered, “Do you know what is thicker than blood, Babs Seed?”

“What?”

“Love,” he answered, and pulled the filly into a hug as her tears began to wet his shoulder.

~

Citrus Blossom and Babs Seed got to work in the library, creating flyer after flyer by hoof. Remembering her vow to the Cutie Mark Crusaders back in Ponyville, their newest member would waste no time searching for new recruits. She remembered the words of the Turner-angel on her shoulder. What betta time than now, kid?

“Youze’s sure the teacha ain’t gonna mind iffa I use the classroom afta school ta hold the first Manehatten CMC meetin’?” Babs asked, reluctant to do anything that might provoke the instructor, whom she was pretty positive had not forgotten the last time she had graced his classroom with her presence.

“Oh, darling, just relax,” Citrus said, putting the finishing touches on one of the flyers before picking up a new leaf of paper. “I’m sure he won’t mind. You have the same teacher I had when I was a foal, you know. If youze like, I could… pull some strings,” she added, giving her a wink and a smile.

Babs grinned. “Aww, Citrus, youze would do dat fo' me?!”

“Of course, little sister." Citrus chuckled.

Excitedly finishing up the flyer she was working on, Babs Seed felt a spring of hope, a blade of grass struggling and bursting through the cobblestone. Maybe I can do dis.

~

The sun is, quite literally, a big ball of gas—hydrogen—burning at ten thousand degrees Fareneheit, constantly producing another gas—helium—via nuclear fusion. Without this powerful orb in the sky, life in Manehatten, Equestria, and Earth itself would cease to exist. It went without commentary that ponies worshiped and reveled in the alicorn who made it rise and fall each day. The sun was being, life, and meaning itself.

This morning, Bernie Madhoof hated the sun.

Waking up in his empty, king-sized bed, Bernie rolled over, groaning and clutching his forehead. The hangover struck with a vengeance, sending hammers upon blacksmith’s anvils, scorching hot in his brain. His throat felt as if he’d been wandering through desert sand dunes without a canteen. The stallion barely made it to the bathroom, swinging his bedroom door wide open and nearly sending Allspice to her hooves in his wake—“OUTTA MY WAY!”—before the dry heaves came, and then the pre-digested kale, all over the sink, splattering the walls.

Panting as a second wave of nausea wracked his body, Bernie Madhoof was already contemplating his cure. There would be a business meeting with a few merchants in town at noon and a round of golf with another business partner at five. That didn’t leave him too much time to sleep, he reasoned, bowing low to the porcelain goddess. No, the dog had bit him, bit him good, so, now, it was time to pluck its hairs once more.

Stumbling back to his bedroom, leaving the mess in the master bathroom to one of the servants, Bernie went straight to his desk. There, in the one of the drawers under a small typewriter and a day planner, was his salvation. Applejack Daniel’s. Only the finest apples in Equestria, aged to perfection, extracted by masters of their art and distilled in aged oak barrels.

The taste never got old.

One shot down, two more to go. His memory was beginning to fail him, though little gray speckled through his mane. He vaguely recalled an incident the evening prior. Perhaps a business deal had gone bad?

No. “Greyhoof.” He growled to himself. That piece of crap. He always resented that butler, that fake, greedy stain upon his household. He had no regrets; Greyhoof was a coward. He didn’t even have to ask; Bernie knew that the shack held one less scumbag now, and nopony would miss him.

There was something else. Had the markets taken a turn for the worse? Were customers beginning to see the value in apples again, rather than oranges?

Ah. It came back to him. Babs Seed. Such a bad, bad seed. His youngest foal. Well, the youngest one he knew of.

Bernie Madhoof couldn’t lie to himself; he had not kept his marriage vows clean. He doubted Libra Scales had either. From the day she was born, twelve years ago, Father Orange had been suspicious of Babs Seed. She didn’t look a thing like him, only like her mother—if somepony squinted hard enough. And her name… Libra had chosen her name. He'd had no say. What was up with that?

Another shot, down the hatch.

For a while, Bernie Madhoof had been forthright with his wife, accusing her of gestating another stallion’s foal. He searched for any stallion who might have been legally-or-nick-named Babs—what the hay was that short for, if anything?—feeling his wife was taunting him with that name. Babs… Seed. Not his seed. It couldn’t have been.

He remembered his foalhood, his own relationship with his father. His father had been stern, wise, bold. Teaching his son all the ways of being a stallion, the most important lesson Bernie recalled from his father was a quick one. It was about blood. No, not violence, although his father used it oftentimes to make his point.

No, blood was all that mattered. One’s blood, one’s genes, one’s chromosomes, one’s essence. Foals were a continuation of oneself, an extension beyond the realms of death into eternity. It was important, his father had told him, to sow his wild oats as far as his eyes could see, to bring himself eternal life through the eyes of another.

Beyond blood relations, ponies were for two things: manipulation and exploitation.

And, so he had created life, filled the Earth with more of himself. More than twice, he assumed, though nopony confirmed it for him. Well, more than once, he guessed. Second times don’t always count, do they?

Libra had been hurt at his piercing accusations, even offering to see a unicorn doctor in Canterlot to perform a paternity spell to prove the bad seed was his. He refused. It wouldn’t matter anyway. Even if Babs Seed shared 100% of his DNA, the entirety of her double helix intertwined with his, she was still not his daughter. She was nothing like him, and never would be. There would be no grandfoals. Oh, he saw the signs.

Oh, his father had taught him those, too. Taught him all the ways that the devils hide. The demons were within her now, as they always had been, but now they were raging. She was a bad seed, indeed. Her lineage would end where it had began, in her. Bernie didn’t care. She wasn’t his daughter, even if Celestia herself said so.

“It would be such a shame,” he said coldly, licking down the last drops of whiskey from the bottle, shaking it onto his tongue, “for the apple to think itself an orange.”

~

Aw, horseapples, come on, work wit' me, clock…

The school day was winding down to a tight close. Today’s lesson had been about, of all things, geology, again. The stern and no-nonsense stallion had noted the remarkable number of failures two weeks ago, and in his disapproval, chose to repeat the lesson plan all over again.

He whacked a yardstick at the chalkboard. “Pay attention, foals! Now, who can tell me how igneous rock is formed, an' its characteristics? … Nopony? ... Nopony whatsoever? ... Ah, youze rotten bunch ‘o’ brats, I oughta—“

His voice droned on and on into the recesses of Babs Seed’s brain. Twenty minutes. Twenty minutes and the first meeting of the Manehatten branch of the Cutiemark Crusaders would begin.

Following her remarkable lightbulb moment, Babs Seed had posted flyers advertising the club all over the lockers, doors of other classrooms, and even doors to the bathrooms throughout the schoolhouse. Surely, there oughta be at least a few foals who’ll come an' see what’s up, right? I can’t be the only pony in dis entire school without a cutiemark, right?

The day had dragged on and on like carriage wheels through the mud. All five of her tormentors were absent, their desks empty and barren. Nopony had jumped her during her morning routine, nor at recess or lunch. Babs refrained from thanking her lucky stars a second time. She sensed that, sooner or later, they would make their presence known again.

And dis time… I’ll be ready.

“… Metamorphic rocks include shale, marble, an' thundereggs, formed by intense heat an' pressure under the crust o' the Earth, inside the mantle… mwop mwop mwop mwop…” The teacher's words became pure and utter nonsense.

Babs groaned, burying her head in her desk. If it had not been for Boone, she would have aced that test. At this point, she could have become a “Cutie Mark Crusader Rock Identifier”.

Yay.

~

Saved by the bell, Babs Seed ruffled through her saddlebags, finding her Cutie Mark Crusader cape and fixing it tight around her neck. It’s now o’ neva.

Trotting gently up towards the teacher’s desk, the stern stallion grumbling to himself as he packed up supplies, she asked, “Um… sir?”

“Bah! What is it?”

“Um… is it okay iffa I use youze classroom fo' ma club meetin’?”

Shrugging, her instructor locked up his suitcase and grabbed his coat. “I don’t see why not. But don’t youze trash dis classroom, young filly, o' youze’ll be cleanin' it wit' youze own toothbrush!”

He shot her a warning stare, then cantered out of his own classroom, leaving it in her hooves. The door slammed behind him, heavy and final.

Blinking slowly, Babs whispered, “It’s a deal… I think?”

... How the hay would I even…?

A creak of the door on the opposite side of the class brought her to stand at attention. Babs Seed spotted four younger foals—two fillies, two colts—poking their heads through, nervous looks on their faces, scanning the classroom with wondering eyes and looking ridiculously out of place.

A peregrine colt with a dark blue mane looked to his left, than his right, then at the only remaining pony in the room and inquired, “Um, is dis the ‘Cutie Mark Crusaders’ club meetin’?”

Her cape flowing behind her, Babs Seed trotted over to the little group and smiled.

“Welcome.”