• Published 12th Mar 2013
  • 1,650 Views, 120 Comments

Secluded Once More - AgentSnail



With Dash and Jason re-drafted into the military, Scootaloo is left alone, without that spark that made her life turn around. Now she's back where she started, and the chances that her situation's going to get better don't look good,

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Distractions

Distractions

"How can it be Sunday already? We haven't even done anything since we said we were going to do this on Friday!" Scootaloo yelled out to nopony in particular, her voice reverberating slightly off of the treehouse walls. Rumble shifted from his position sprawled on the floor, and tried to wet his mouth a little before answering.

"We couldn't come up with anything for the prank, and then we just kinda brainstormed for what time we did have. It wasn't that bad, really."

"But Ah thought we'd at least figure somethin' out, but we're no closer than when we started!" Applebloom complained, shaking a hoof angrily into the air.

"Maybe we're going about it all wrong." Sweetie piped up, sitting up against a wall. "We've been too busy thinking, we haven't actually acted! Maybe that's all we need to do, we haven't gotten our cutie marks in thinking up pranks, and honestly, I don't know what that would even look like. But come on, let's get going!"

"Where?" Scoots asked. "We were trying to plan so that we could start acting. Jason always says that something without a plan is, well, fucked from the start."

"He said that?" Applebloom asked, her mouth slightly open. "Like, all tha time?"

"Well actually he said that once in another room, but he still said it."

"But in order to have a plan we need supplies, right?" Rumble asked. "How are we supposed to prank Cherilee without stuff to prank her with?"

"But we don't know what we want!" Sweetie yelled, catching them all a little off guard.

Rumble scratched his chin, pulling himself off the floor into a sitting position. "But it would be easy to go looking for things that we did want, right? We can just choose from them later."

"We could go grab some explosives, that could work." Applebloom mentioned, gesturing to a blown casing she'd recovered from the square a few days before. "Ah'm sure we could come up with something funny. And, ahem, non-letal."

Scoots pressed her hooves to her forehead and dragged them down her cheeks with a groan. "Fine, whatever. We'll see if we can find anything else on the way."

Sweetie took a deep breath, "Cutie Mark Crusaders Prank Item Prospectors..."

"YAY!" They yelled as their hooves bumped together, a board on the roof visibly shaking as they cheered. They broke the huddle and ran towards the door, before they all stopped and returned to grab their saddlebags. Scoots was the first to exit, abandoning the stairs and gliding directly to her scooter.

She loved the way it gleamed, the way it didn't feel cheap or like it was going to break every time she took a hard lancing. Sure, that was partially due to the care she treated it with--she cleaned it almost every day--but it was also genuinely awesome craftsmanship. Scoots latched the wagon to the back of the scooter before she hopped on and gave her wings a test flap. She looked backwards and saw the three other crusaders staring at the wagon awkwardly.

"I'll just fly, I guess." Rumble said to the other three, before walking towards the front of the caravan. "That really is a nice scooter, Scoots." He said, blocking its glint with a hoof.

"Yeah, you've said that a lot. You want a ride?" She resisted the urge to shove a hoof in her mouth. Where'd that come from? A ride? How would that even work?

"How would that even work? Not that I don't want to go..." Rumble asked, looking at the scooter. Well you've made your bed, now you've got to sleep in it...

"Just--can you stand behind me?" She asked, moving her beck hooves forward.

"Do-do you want me to? It's fine if you don't..."

"No-" Sweetie said something about a forgotten item and galloped back to the treehouse. "Just jump on before I change my mind, kay?"

"Y-yeah, sure." He mumbled, trotting over and jumping on the back, attempting to fit all four of his hooves on the back of the scooter.

"Rumble, just grab onto something." She heard a sigh as she turned back around, before his hooves wrapped around her lower midsection.

"I'm ready!" Sweetie yelled from behind, giving a few taps on the side of the wagon.

Scootaloo ignored the reddening in her cheeks and started to accelerate, struggling with all the extra weight. Suddenly, it got easier, and she got up to top speed. Or, what she thought was top speed with the wagon. But they kept speeding up, and she looked behind herself in a panic, bumping her muzzle against Rumble's as he looked over her shoulder.

She looked away with another blush, but at least she had found the source of the phenomenon. Rumble'd been helping her out, and although she felt like arguing that she didn't need it, there was something else that she felt needed saying, like she was glad that he was helping. Teamwork maybe? She'd worked in a team before, but that'd usually been because she was in a game or task that needed more than one pony.

She quite liked this though, the extra speed as they raced through the short stretch of apple orchard, the feeling of his hooves around her waist...

Another blush crossed Scoots' face at the thought. Sure, it felt nice, but that didn't mean anything, right? Of course not. But she hadn't even noticed when one of her other friends had been in the same position. So he was different because why? Did she want to try to answer that? If she always felt like this around him, then maybe she actually--

"Scoots, look out!" She snapped to attention, jerking the handlebars to the side in an effort to swerve out of the way of an oncoming tree. The cart and scooter started to skid sideways, sliding skew to the slope of their previous approach.

"Rumble, flap your wings harder!" She yelled, straining her own as the wagon and scooter caravan continued to drift, something she hadn't expected it to do without flipping. Applebloom and Sweetie were a lot of help, screaming and yelling as they narrowly missed the tree Scoots had been trying to avoid.

Their rag tag vehicle rotated around until it was backwards before stopping its slide and beginning to slowly roll. She stopped the movement with a few more flaps, before she stepped off the scooter and collapsed, panting heavily. Rumble's fore hooves hit the ground behind her, and she could easily hear his own breathing.

"What was that, Scoots?!" Applebloom shakily yelled over. "We coulda' hit that tree!"

"I'm...sorry...I got...distracted."

"But-" She was silenced by Sweetie, who shook her head slightly.

"Hey Scoots...come on, we're at the edge of town anyway." Rumble said, taking a few slow steps into her field of vision. He offered her a hoof and she quickly took it, pulling herself to her hooves.

"I...know we're all tired and all...and you two almost got hurt...but that was still pretty cool."

Applebloom frowned as Sweetie giggled next to her, before she got up to stretch a little, running a hoof over her blank yellow flank. "Ya know," she started, her normal upbeat attitude starting to return, "If we did hit that tree, ah'd say that we'd have a pirdy good chance at gettin' our cutie marks in bein' crash test dummies."

"And get the little yellow and black circle, right?" Scootaloo said with a grin.

"It's not just for buggy testing anymore!" Sweetie burst out, causing the four to break out in laughter. Scoots took a few more deep breaths and calmed herself before climbing to her hooves and grabbing the scooter, wheeling the now emptied cart and tow car towards town. The other three caught up and trotted along with her, accompanying her as they moved towards the blacksmith.

Scoots passed by an alleyway and shivered, before she left the scooter leaning against a completely splintered bench across the street. She walked around the building, before she arrived at a pile of debris and missing wall.

"What is this, Scoots?" Sweetie asked, kicking a piece of rubble.

"This is a hole Dash blew in the wall to get Jason back. Like when he was being tortured."

"In there?" Applebloom inquired, squinting her eyes. "I can't even see inside, how did they know he was in there?"

"I guess you'd have to ask Dash or Luna." She turned and started walking back to the wagon.

"Sorry, did ya say Luna? As in, Princess Luna?"

"Yeah, she got sent out here or something to help get Jason back."

"They sent a Princess for Jason?" Rumble asked, his mouth ajar.

"Yeah."

"How important is he?"

Scoots smirked. "He's just under Shining Armor in military command. Higher, when it comes to planning. Dash is the same."

"Wow." Sweetie breathed. "I never knew it was like that..."

"Yeah, it'd be a lot better if it didn't mean that they were gone fighting this thing." She grabbed the scooter and started to push it, blushing slightly and relenting as Rumble insisted he take over.

"So they're in the griffin empire someplace?"

"Yeah, I think they just moved camps on Friday or something. So they're getting closer to winning, I guess."

"I guess that's good." Sweetie replied matter-of-factly. "My sister really hates griffins, I'm not really sure why." She giggled. "Maybe they're uncouth."

They all shared a laugh, coming to a halt as they reached the blacksmith. "Okay, Crusaders, all we need is a few of the nonlethal smoke ones. I don't even want to deal with the other ones." Scoots paused, looking back at them as she pushed open the door with a hoof. "Now let's get those explosives!"

____________________________________________________________

"What do you mean we can't get any explosives?!" Scoots yelled, looking up at the blacksmith as they all made begging expressions.

"Very funny kids, but I'm not giving you any of these to you. I'm pretty busy with orders anyway."

"Like what?" Rumble asked, trying to peer over the counter.

"Specifically for a changeling, of all clients."

"Jason?"

"Your father, huh? He's said a lot about you, wrote specifically in his letter," He pulled out a piece of paper, simultaneously putting on a pair of reading glasses. "Do not give any of these explosives to the Crusaders."

"But-"

"Wait, it goes on." He looked back down at the paper. "Under no circumstances should she be allowed to have fun or frolic with her friends, after the incident."

"What? He wrote that?" She asked, flabbergasted.

"No, I'm just having a little fun. The first part was real though."

"But-"

"I've heard of what happened last week, I'm not letting you near these things. But this is a nice break from making all these 'bullets'." He put air quotes around the word. "Most annoying thing I've ever done. At least I'm getting paid, whether in bits or advertisement."

"So no explosives?" Sweetie asked, looking downtrodden.

"Nope, sorry. Maybe when you're older, okay?" They all dipped their heads. "Don't hurry to grow up, once it's gone, it's gone. Now get out of here, your dad sent you a package, by the way."

"He did?! Come on, we gotta go check it out!" She sprinted for the door, quickly bowling through it with the rest of her friends after Rumble disengaged himself from staring at the blacksmith's work in awe.

They piled onto the rag tag caravan again, speeding off towards the grassy knoll that currently sat under Dash's house. She was at least able to concentrate with Rumble's hooves, although the thought never left her mind. Scoots fanned her wings backwards, slowing them to a stop before she got off and stretched out her wings.

"We'll be right back." She said back to Sweetie and Applebloom, who were extracting themselves from the wagon happily, their manes completely blown back from their foreheads. Rarity was going to have a fit, she realized with a giggle. "You coming Rumble?" She asked the other foal, unable to keep from blushing as she watched him struggle ever so slightly to get his wings to cooperate.

"Sure, let's go." He replied with a slight grin, taking off in front of her and quickly gaining altitude. Scoots grinned back and caught up, her wings starting to get that slight burn to them as she pushed herself. Rumble kept pace with her, no matter how she tried to get ahead, and before she could stage a successful push they had already arrived. Scoots curved off towards the door, spying the package laying on a small wooden platform and landing next to it on the wood. The sound echoed out as she tried to figure out how she was going to get this thing down.

"Rumble, yell down and tell them it might be a little bit." She said, watching him go over to the edge of the house and start to yell downwards. She walked inside, looking around for anything that would allow her to either support or move a box that was almost as big as she was. They'd obviously expected her to open it up here, but she didn't want her friends to miss out...especially if it was something they could use to get Cherilee.

She looked around, her eyes coming to rest on something sticking out of the corner of the room. Scoots walked over and investigated the thing, not entirely sure what it was. It popped out of the corner when she pulled on it, boasting the name: Cloud house disguise, canister 8/15. She turned the smoke bomb over in her hooves, unsure of when Jason had apparently booby trapped the house, but more importantly unsure of whether she should leave it here.

"Meh, there were fourteen others." She said to herself, stowing the canister in her saddlebag. Honestly though, she didn't know how she could move this thing, she thought to herself as she walked back outside. Rumble was sizing the box up, testing its weight and durability, apparently.

"So I was thinking," He started. "We couldn't lift this alone, but what about as a duo?"

"I dunno, I was stuck at how we would get it off here."

"That's easy. Get to the side of the cloud over there, and be prepared to meet this midair." He backed up a few feet, preparing to give the box a shove.

"No wait-" But it was too late, he'd already pushed it off and started his flight to the side before diving over. Scoots did the same, diving and meeting up with him next to the box. He put his hooves against one side and motioned hurriedly for her to do the same before he started pushing upwards with his wings, slowing the descent. It was a slow and rather scary process, if they slowed too fast the box would slip, but if they slowed too slow they would hit the ground.

Luckily, they ended up ten or so feet above the ground, and lowered the box carefully into the wagon. Sweetie and Applebloom managed to squeeze back in as Rumble resumed his blush inducing position, which she had decided was quite nice, and they set off.

________________________________________________________

"There's probably some sort of futuristic technology in there!" Sweetie exclaimed, looking at the box. "It's so heavy, it could be anything!"

"I guess there's only one way to find out!" Scoots replied as she cut the tape open with a pair of scissors. They al huddled around as she opened the lid and revealed...

A few bricks. One of them was labeled 'ha.'

"Looks like Jason pranked us!" Applebloom exclaimed, bursting into laughter over the concept.

"But-but-" She pulled out the bricks, setting them on the floor. There had to be more to this, Jason wouldn't do this, right? Dash wouldn't let him go through with it anyway, she thought. Scoots directed a kick at the box, hearing things shift around. Wait... She looked back into the box, which she now noticed had a bottom that was much closer to her face then the floor was.

"Oh, very clever Jason." She said with a chuckle, carefully turning the box over.

"What?" Rumble asked, walking back over with renewed interest.

"It's a fake bottom." She replied, cutting open the back of the box and opening it to a much better pile of things. She pulled out a green plastic thing with buttons all over the back, labeled with a piece of blue tape. Calculates math problems, it said.

She handed it to Rumble, who looked at it a little longer than she had before setting it down. Some books, a few slightly flattened board games that she'd never heard of. A 'hackisack', which came with a brief page of attached directions and a multi tool came next, followed by a rock with googlie eyes and a small bottle of pills, which had huge writing on a paper that was firmly taped to them.

Scoots read the pill bottle immediately, too intrigued by the warnings Jason had made all to evident. Ibuprofen, it read, Painkiller, for use with headaches, muscle pains and other miscellaneous pain relief. Scoots, take one or two every six hours, no more unless you're really hurt. Don't give this out, besides to close friends, or sell it.

"Hey, this says it heals headaches. I thought only sleep did that!" Scoots exclaimed, shaking the bottle in her joy.

"No, that's impossible." Applebloom retorted. "Ah wouldn't trust it anyway."

"But it's from Jason, I trust him."

"Good point. We'll just have ta see it 'n action then."

"Touché." Scoots replied, a smirk on her face.

"But, none of this helps us with Cherilee." Sweetie groaned, sifting through the pile of things. "I like this rock though, he's a little cutie." She reared up on her hind legs, pushing the rock onto a shelf. "Do we have a mascot?"

"What, a rock?" Applebloom asked, chuckling to herself. "What's so good about a rock?"

"Uh, nerves of steel?" Scoots ventured.

"It doesn't need to mean anything, I just like the little guy." Sweetie replied, tapping a google eye and watching it move around.

"But back to that thing about Cherilee, I have a better idea." She pulled the canister out of her saddlebag, showing it to the other three.

"Is that...what ah think it is?" Applebloom asked, a smile spreading on her face. "Ah guess this means we have a plan after all."

"Yeah." Sweetie confirmed, still looking at the rock.

"Hey, guys, you wanna camp out here, get our stuff together that way?"

Sweetie turned and shifted nervously. "What, do you mean overnight?"

"Yeah, why?"

"It's scary in here at night."

"But there'll be four of us, we can take on whatever's out there." She struck a heroic pose. "Plus, I said earlier that we need a plan, and this is a good way to make sure we all know what we're doing. School's tomorrow, we may as well be prepared."

"Ah'll have ta ask Applejack, but ah think ah can."

"I dunno about Rarity though, she's been kinda weird since we let Rumble into this whole operation." Sweetie mumbled, shooting a nervous gaze at the other foal.

"I can just go home, I don't want you to miss out on your own thing."

"No!" Scoots erupted before she could catch herself. "I mean, it's either all or nothing, no crusader left behind."

"Maybe we need a slogan more than anything else." Sweetie mumbled, distracting herself with the calculator.

"Ya got anythin' from Jason?"

"No, he didn't talk all that much about stuff back there. We could probably ask him when he gets back."

"Don't you have that thingy? Rumble asked, gesturing to her saddlebag.

"Oh yeah, I'll see if I can get a hold of anypony." She pulled it out and looked worried for a moment bewrote a few words, before a silence stretched on. Her face suddenly lit up, and she wrote some more.

"Who is it?" Sweetie asked, squinting at the new numbers when she pressed the equal sign.

"Dash, the army got attacked last night. Jason wrote the first message." She moved her face closer to the pad and squinted. "They're both fine, well Jason's passed out because he healed some pony, but that's pretty close to fine, anyway."

"How is that close to fine?" Sweetie asked, "One of them's passed out, that can't be good, right?"

"I'm beginning to think Jason's to tough to actually die." Scoots said triumphantly. "You remember when Diamond was punching at him, right?"

"Yeah, and he was jus' laughin'." Applebloom shivered. "That was creepy."

"Well he's like unbelievable, he was walking around on a hoof with the end cut off on day two." They all stared. "It's really painful or something."

"Ah can guess." She sighed. "Anywho, what're we gonna do with this?" She asked, picking back up the smoke grenade.

"If I may?" Rumble asked, sticking out his hoof. Applebloom handed it over, watching him expectantly. "If we're going to use this in a prank, we need to figure out how it works."

"Well you just pull the pin, and then--"

"I mean what happens inside."

"You know, that doesn't look like one of the old ones..." Scoots piped up, scratching her head.

Applebloom nudged Sweetie, gesturing towards the door. "We can go ask permission while you look at this, does that work?"

"Sure, just don't tell them about the prank." Sweetie replied, nervously watching Rumble as he started to take the bomb apart.

"No problem, mah lips are sealed!" She made a zippering motion across her mouth, before looking between the Rumble and Scoots and stifling a giggle. Scoots felt her cheeks heat up as she assumed the meaning of Applebloom's look, before her friend turned and left.

Scoots turned back to Rumble with some annoyance, how was it their place to tease her about this? She didn't even know what she wanted, they didn't need them to make it harder for her...

"Scoots, you okay?" Rumble asked, waving a hoof in front of her face. "You zoned out for a second there."

"Oh, yeah sorry." She stuck out a hoof and brushed part of his mane out of an eye. This was getting ridiculous! How was she supposed to think about this when she kept letting herself wander like this, brushing hair out of his eye like what? His mare friend? She turned away, making herself look distracted at something Jason had sent. She noticed a note at the bottom of the box, and grabbed it, happy for the non-Rumble related distraction.

Scoots,

I know it's been a while, and that maybe things won't go as well as we want them to, but I want you to know that we're both going to make it back, hopefully before The Running of the Leaves. So stay strong, Scoots, I know you are, just don't let people make you think you're a pony that you aren't. You're a good kid, just don't grow up too much while I'm gone. I already missed having you as a daughter for most of my life, another day at this point is torture. Even if Dash hasn't made it obvious already, I know she feels the same way.

Love you Scoots,

Jason

Scoots smiled and hugged the letter to her chest, almost able to feel as though Jason had been talking to her in person, given how much feeling he seemed to put into the letter. It was a real pick me up, a morale booster that reminded her that even over the large distance of separation, she was still loved. Scoots blinked away a tear and put the paper carefully away in her saddlebag. This was going up on the wall in her bedroom for sure. Even when they did come back, she knew it would always hold some kind of meaning for her.

"Hey Scoots, I--" Poof! Rumble started coughing and she turned around, laughing as she saw his face, covered in white dust. "I got the thing open." She broke into laughter, rolling around as she felt her worry almost float away. Eventually she recovered and got to her hooves, looking at the container that Rumble had set down a little too hard.

She rubbed her hooves together, taking on a malicious expression. "Guess we better get to work."

Author's Note:

It's kinda short, but the next one should be longer, I think.

I don't know if anyone noticed, but I kinda put a really long alliteration in here. "...scooter started to skid sideways, sliding skew to the slope..." I would say that it's a tongue twister, but it's pretty easy to say...

Some people wanted foalcon. First, let me laugh heartily. I'm slightly surprised. Oh well, maybe at some point it'll become necessary. In which case, I might be able to work it in. But considering all the other things I want to do, it's going to be a while either way. And I guess I'm not sure how much I'd actually want to do it. Yeah, actually, I'm not gonna.

Ricin (pronounced wri-sin) was on the news today, that's really not something you want to see. For those of you that are behind, or don't watch the news, ricin is a poison that can kill through something as small as skin contact. It was sent to a senator today in what is probably an attempted assassination. The worrying part about this is that it's incredibly hard to make. Saddam Hussein himself decided it was too expensive and stopped the project. And he was the malicious dictator of an entire country, even if it was pretty poor.

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