• Published 15th Mar 2013
  • 34,049 Views, 544 Comments

The Numbers Don't Lie - shortskirtsandexplosions



An ancient magical artifact causes floating lie meters to appear above everypony's heads. This causes Twilight to reflect on honesty and friendship. Based on an idea by theworstwriter.

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"...and, figurin' that this here ain't exactly Apple Buck Season, I can only chalk up the farm's most recent success to them weather ponies and their fancy hoofwork in helpin' the fields get rain extra early. Which just goes to show that, when yer wantin' to make the best of things—to seize the day, as it were—it's a might bit hard to do it by oneself. Teamwork really does make the world go round, Yer Highness."

With a smile, Applejack plopped her hat back atop her golden mane and tossed a bright smile across the dusty library.

"Yer loyal and dependable subject, Applejack."

"Aaaaand..." Spike licked the edges of his mouth as he finished the final scribble across the brown parchment. "...Done!" He rolled the scroll up and smiled. "Whew! Fastest letter I've ever written!"

Applejack gazed aside, her freckles awash in a slight blush. "Ya reckon we should change that to 'Miss Applejack' or somethin' fancy right there at the end?"

Twilight Sparkle giggled, shaking her head with a flounce of her mane. "Not at all, AJ. The Princess knows fully well who you are. The Kingdom of Equestria has depended on you and the other Five Elements of Harmony time and time again. You're practically family now!"

"Family? Awww, shucks..." Applejack rubbed one hoof against the other as she gazed nervously towards the floor. "Not sure I feel quite right with myself, bumpin' branches withthe princess' family tree."

"Awwww, please, AJ." Twilight trotted over from her reading seat and gave Applejack a friendly nuzzle. "Don't sell yourself short. Celestia cares for you no less than any other pony."

"Enough to read an entire letter about my recent success with the apple crops?" Applejack asked with a raised eyebrow. "Seems rather borin' for the ruler of Equestria, don't you think?"

"Not at all, Applejack!" Twilight grinned. "She's always asking to know more and more about the friends I've written about! Your letter is perfect!"

"Not to mention simple!" Spike gave a thumb's up while sliding a seal over the scroll in another. "It certainly made my job a lot faster!"

"Spiiiike..." Twilight glared his way.

"You sure that I wasn't too... oh, I dunno..." Applejack scratched her chin with a hoof and thought aloud, "What's the word that Rarity is always usin'? 'Uncouth?'"

"Heehee! Hardly!"

"I know I went on and on quite a bit about the weather ponies waterin' the crops for the early harvest. Thang is, I just don't want them to be losin' any credit for what they did n'all..."

"Applejack, it's okay! You were completely and utterly honest," Twilight said with a wink. "And if there’s anything that ponies have come to expect from a friend like you, it’s the truth, forever and always." She turned and glanced at Spike again. "How's the letter coming?"

"Way ahead of you!" He raised the letter to the ceiling, and, with a belching sound, sent it across Equestria on a wave of green flame. "Whew! Talk about feeling accomplished!" He excitedly pumped his arm and grinned. "Now I can go back to shoveling for gemstones outside of town to fill my dragon cupcake batch!"

"Just don't track any mud on the way back in from your digging, Spike." Twilight raised an eyebrow, smirking. "We talked about this, remember?"

"Funny..." Applejack brushed some bangs out from under the brim of her hat. "It must be diggin' season or something. Apple Bloom asked if she could borrow the family shovel this morning."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. Seems like they're havin' some fancy shmancy science project at school. Earth worm diggin' or something. Brrrrr. Just glad they didn't make us do that when I was a filly!"

"Really?" Twilight blinked awkwardly at her. "Today is a Thursday. Cheerilee always gives out quizzes on a Thursday. We've talked about it over tea before. There's barely any room to fit in a project like that, on account of all the schoolwork."

"Heh..." Spike waddled across the room, carrying a dirt-stained bucket over each shoulder. "If you asked me, somepony's not planning to do any studying today!"

Applejack frowned after his moving figure. "Are you makin' sass about my lil' sis?"

"You gotta admit, AJ," Twilight said. "It is kind of odd, don't you think?"

"Land's sake, Twilight!" Applejack chuckled and gave her an oats-eating grin. "This is 'Honest Applejack,' remember? I swear, if you trotted door to door to every household in Ponyville, you wouldn't find no foal who was raised more proper than the one Big Mac and I looked after." Her smiling teeth glistened.


"Dig faster, girls!" Apple Bloom shouted, her face covered with dirt and clumps of grass as she stood, panting, over the edge of a tremendous ditch on the east side of town. "We've been at this for three hours and we've barely made a hole big enough to fit a trough in!"

"Ugh... I'm telling you..." Scootaloo hissed, using her tiny wing-stubs for counterbalance as she heaved more and more clumps of earthen clay out of the muddy pit. "We're too close to the river! We're not going to find any gold here!"

"You're thinking backwards, you emu!" Sweetie Belle squeaked. With a high-pitched grunt, she flung her sister's ornate garden shovel into a wall of mud and glanced up at Apple Bloom. "Apple Bloom, could you hoof me that book again?"

"Sure thang!" Apple Bloom snatched a book entitled Gold Digging for Donkeys that was lying by her side. "I don't see what good it's gonna do us! I've been takin' a gander at it ever since we switched places, and I haven't seen anythang that'll tell us how to dig better!" She nevertheless tossed it down to the dirt-stained filly.

It bonked hard off the side of Sweetie's fluffy head. "Ow!" her voice cracked. She rubbed her soiled mane, then gasped down at her hooves. "Oh no!"

"What?!" Scootaloo jumped. "Is it a snake or something?"

"No, it's worse," Sweetie whined. She knelt down and winced as she gingerly picked the mud-splotched book out from the depths of the brown muck. "It's messy now from front to back!"

"You..." Scootaloo squinted. "...didn't check that out from Twilight Sparkle's library, did you?"

"Uhm..." Sweetie's cheeks turned rosy. "Maaaaaybe."

"Ungh! Perfect!" Scootaloo shoved her shovel down and barked up at Apple Bloom. "I told you guys that this was a bad idea! Cheerilee is going to give us detention! Then kill us! Then give us detention again!"

"She'll forget everythang once we've shown up to school with some sparkling gold!" Apple Bloom remarked with a bright grin.

"Uhhh..." Scootaloo bore a lethargic expression. "Just how's she not gonna wanna tear us limb from limb and tell on our families?!"

"Cuz we'll be the only fillies in the last hundred years of Equestria to earn ourselves cutie marks in gold diggin'!"

"Uh, maybe that's because the last miners who ever tried digging for gold all died in a freak accident ages ago!"

"Hey!" Sweetie Belle brightened, holding the book up high. "I think I found something!"

"Really?" Apple Bloom hopped down into the dirt and crowded around her along with Scootaloo. "What is it?"

"We're not supposed to be looking for gold next to the river..." Sweetie Belle looked up at the others. "We're supposed to be looking for gold inside the river!"

Scootaloo and Apple Bloom blinked. The feathered filly was the first one to groan.

"That's it! I'm going home!"

"Awwwww! Come on, Scoots!" Sweetie Belle cooed.

"Yeah! Just give it a chance!" Apple Bloom pleaded.

"I've gotten in enough trouble for skipping school already without you two adding to the mix!"

"That's because yer always sneakin' out to watch Rainbow Dash kick clouds all day," Apple Bloom slyly said. Sweetie Belle giggled.

"Hey! Shuddup!" Scootaloo frowned and grabbed her shovel. "I'm going home! The sooner I get there, the sooner I can fake being sick and save my flank today!"

As the pegasus made to hop out of the ditch, her shovel ran into something, making a reverberating clanking noise.

"Shhh! Did y'all hear that?" Apple Bloom whispered.

"Scootaloo, freeze!" Sweetie insisted.

Scootaloo did so, her wings sticking in place. Her violet eyes blinked as her two companions crouched around a tiny, muddy object that the shovel had exposed from within the deep pit.

"What in tarnation is it?" Apple Bloom murmured.

"It made a loud noise... like it was made of metal or stone or something..."

"Does gold make that sound?" Scootaloo hoarsely inquired.

"Why should you care?"

"Pfft! I'm just asking! Jeez..."

"Hold up." Apple Bloom dug at the thing, wiping her yellow hoof across its grimy exterior. Soon, a polished surface appeared: the color of silver. "Well, t'ain't gold."

"I wonder what it is..." Sweetie remarked, trembling in a breath of uncertainty.

"Oh for crying out loud." Scootaloo dove in. "Allow me."

"Hey!"

Scootaloo courageously plucked the cylinder from the muck with a squelching noise. Not expecting the size of it, she did a double-take at the reflective object dangling in her grasp, marveling at all the shapes and lines being exposed as it dripped clean of all the soil and detritus. The images of several grimacing unicorn faces shimmered in the noonday sun.

"Whoah, hello there."

"It's... it's..." Apple Bloom blinked.

Sweetie Belle bit her lip and squirmed away. "It's sc-scary-looking!"

"Pfft! It's just a totem pole!" Scootaloo said with her wings buzzing.

"A totem what?"

"Rainbow Dash told me all about them from her visit to the buffalo of Appleloosa."

Apple Bloom raised her eyebrow. "Since when do buffalo make things out of silver?"

"Yeah... well..." Scootaloo twitched. "I wanna see you two come up with a better explanation!" She shook the object to get the rest of the mud off, and suddenly it glowed with a loud hum. "Uh oh..."

"Scootaloo!" Sweetie squeaked. "What did you do?!"

"I-I dunno!" Scootaloo's teeth chattered as she held the vibrating cylinder at forelimbs' length. "I think the stupid thing doesn't like to be shaken!"

"Well drop it!" Apple Bloom shouted.

"Drop it where?!"

"Girls, look out!"

All three of them squealed and dove to the side as a bright flash of silver luminescence fountained outward from the object. Every blade of grass, every green leaf, and every fluff of cloud billowed from the glowing wave's touch. The sparkling aura swam from horizon to horizon, briefly engulfing the blue color of the sky. Then, as swiftly as the pulse had began, it ended, drizzling a fine layer of twinkling dust over everypony's coat that disappeared after a few fragile seconds.

"Unnngh..." Apple Bloom was the first to get up, rubbing her skull and blinking dazedly across the tiny trench. "Mule muffins! What was that?" Gulping, she gazed around the hole. "Is everypony okay?"

"Apple Bloom?" Sweetie Belle blinked steadily at her. "Are we dead?"

"No, we certainly ain't dead!"

"Then how come you have a halo over your head?"

"Huh?" Apple Bloom made a face. "The hay are you goin' on about?"

"That halo!" Sweetie pointed. "Over your head!"

Apple Bloom felt a hoof over her mane, but all she made contact with was her hairbow. "I feel nothin'..." She did a double-take, then leaned forward with a squint. "But you sure as heck got one over yers..."

Sweetie gasped, flinging her hooves up. From Apple Bloom's perspective, the tiny unicorn's forelimbs were waving through the shape of a vertical ellipse, as if shadows were passing through a silver beacon of light. The circular emblem stayed hovering at a fixed point over Sweetie's head, no matter how many times or in what direction her skull moved.

"I don't feel anything..."

"I'm not makin' this up, Sweetie Belle! You've got something over yer head!"

"Well, you've got something over yours too!"

"Unnngh..."

At the sound of the moan, both girls looked over at their pegasus friend. "Scootaloo! Are you okay?"

"Nnngh... uh..." Scootaloo sniffled. Sitting up, she stared at a nasty bruise on her forelimb. It started to bleed while throbbing with undeniable pain. Nevertheless, Scootaloo dried her tears before so much as looking the other fillies' way. "Ahem. Yeah. I'm f-fine..."

"Ya sure? Cuz you just took an awful tumble—" Upon hearing a magical chime sound alight the air, Apple Bloom did a double-take. Her eyes shot up over Scootaloo's head.

Sweetie Belle gasped, her hooves flying to her pale muzzle. "Apple Bloom, look! She's got a 'one' over her head!"

Scootaloo blinked awkwardly, unaware of the floating silver "1" above her crown. "The heck are you two going on about? Did you hit your heads hard or something?"

"Scootaloo..." Apple Bloom gazed suspiciously. "Are ya sure yer alright?"

"Didn't I tell you already?" Scootaloo sniffled and hid her bruised forelimb. "I said I'm fine, sheesh!" This time, she too heard the magical chime. The number "1" morphed into a floating "2" over her head. She blinked nervously and began to sweat. "Uhhh... what are you t-two staring at?"

Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom exchanged glances. Collectively, the nervous trio gazed at the still-glowing totem in their grasp.


"Huh... That was really strange," Lyra remarked. She and everypony else in the center of Ponyville had frozen in what they were doing to glance up at the sky. "That wave of light just now..."

"It was probably the sun passing through a cloud," spoke a mustached unicorn waiter who stood beside her table at a restaurant patio. He levitated a pen over a notepad and scribbled across a sheet of paper. "Will that be all you're ordering today, madame?"

Lyra snapped out of it, wrenching her gaze from the equine passerbies who were frozen in their awkward skygazing. "Oh, uhm... that's all for me. I'm waiting on my friend. She should be here anytime now."

"Very well." The waiter gave a curt bow and pocketed away the order into his suit. "I'll leave one menu with you."

"Oh! Really quick!" Lyra smiled and pointed at the chalkboard resting on the front of the restaurant behind him. "I was passing by here yesterday, and now I can't help but notice that the Soup of the Day is the same as was written on the board last afternoon. Is that a mistake? I mean, your soup is always fresh, right?"

"Absolutely, madame!" the waiter smiled pleasantly. "Freshest soup in all of central Equestria!" There was a chiming sound, and the number "1" appeared over the stallion's head.

Lyra blinked. "Uhhh..." Her brow furrowed. "Huh... well... thanks?"

"It is my absolute pleasure to serve you, madame," the waiter said with a slight twitch, issuing another chime. A "2" appeared over his head as he bowed out and trotted off towards the kitchen.

Lyra scratched her chin. Her ears flicked as she heard more chiming sounds from behind. She turned around to see Berry Punch chatting pleasantly with Minuette over a table of daisy alfredo.

"And that was that!" Berry grinned wide, a "4" levitating above her skull. "Since then, I've been completely dry!" The "4" flickered and was replaced with a "5." "I'm telling you, I'm completely giving up the bottle, for real this time!" With another chime, a "6" appeared.

"Uhhh..." Minuette sweated nervously, scrunched up in her chair. Her eyes were locked on the number above Berry Punch's mane. "Berry? Are you... well..." She smiled awkwardly. "Are you telling me the truth?"

"Of course I am!" Berry Punch frowned. It was a "7" now. "Aren't we friends?! Don't you trust me?"

"Oh, you know I do!" Minuette nervously squeaked, and just like that her "0" became a "1."

"Ugh! The nerve!" exclaimed a feminine voice from behind.

Lyra spun and looked towards the street corner. Blossomforth was hovering down the sidewalk with an indignant upturn of her nose. Behind her, Thunderlane stumbled with drooping wings.

"Honey! I don't get it! What's the big deal?!" the stallion stammered in spite of the huge, glaring "12" hovering over his spiked mane. "I've only ever been honest to you!" With a chime, a "13" appeared. "I think you're making a mountain out of a molehill!" Chime. "14."

"Hmmmph!" Blossomforth spun around, her forelimbs crossed as she glared and said, "And what about Cloudchaser and Flitter? For such molehills, you've certainly hiked across them like the Haymalayas!"

"Darling, how many times do I have to tell you?" Thunderlane sweated in spite of his courageous smile. "Those two fillies mean nothing to me!" Two chimes: "16."

"Ungh! I don't know why I've never bothered to notice, before, but I can look through you like you're made of glass, Thunderlane! Leave me alone!" She flew off.

"Baby! Baby, come onnnn!" He hovered limply after her, whimpering. His voice was drowned out by a gradually rising commotion as every pony in every corner of Ponyville stopped to murmur, gripe, and bicker with a random friend or stranger.

Lyra blinked several times, running a nervous hoof through her bangs. She was almost oblivious to Bon Bon when the mare finally showed up at the table, pausing in the middle of unshouldering her saddlebag to gaze awkwardly at the confounded villagers.

"Yeesh!" Bon Bon's voice squeaked. "Looks like everypony's got the case of the grumps!" She sat down in a slump. "You have any idea what's going on?"

"Not a clue," Lyra murmured. With a jolt, she polished the table with her forelimb and looked down. In the glossy reflection, she barely made out the number "1" above her lime green horn. "Hmmm..."

"Whatever the case, sorry for being late. I got caught up having to cross some ugly construction site at the corner of Mane Street, downtown."

"That's n-no problem," Lyra murmured. However, at the sound of a loud chime, her ears twitched. She looked up, squinting.

The number "3" hovered over Bon Bon's head. "So, they're serving soup today!" The mare grinned, her blue eyes swimming over the menu she held in her grasp. "Mmm-mmm! I'm famished!"

"Right..." Lyra slowly nodded. She gulped and leaned forward. "That's why you hurried here, correct?"

"Oh, you know it!" Bon Bon smiled without looking at her. "I got here as quick as I could!" With a chime, a "4" appeared.

Lyra blinked. With thin, scathing eyes, she murmured, "Bon Bon, you... did agree to go on that diet, right? Cuz of your high sugar levels?"

Bon Bon gave Lyra a double-take. "Why, of course, Lyra! We talked about this!" Chime. "5." "I haven't snacked on any sweets for over two weeks!" "6." "You know you can trust me!" "7."

Lyra was glaring at this point. "So, you haven't been by Sugarcube Corner today...?"

"No!" Bon Bon frowned, completely oblivious to the "8" above her head. "Honestly! What do you take me for?"

"Honestly...?" Lyra droned.

"Honestly!"


"Well, honestly... erm..." Sweetie Belle looked down at her squirming hooves as she stood beside Scootaloo and Apple Bloom atop the welcome mat of the Carousel Boutique. "It was Diamond Dogs." Chime. "4."

Rarity glared down at her sister and her two friends. "Diamond Dogs..." She murmured, "Is that true?"

"Mmmhmmm!" Sweetie nodded. "5." Her green eyes went wide as she gasped, "They tossed us around like hoofballs, demanding gemstones and jewels!" "6."

"Yeah!" Scootaloo added, still trying to hide her bruise. "Mostly diamonds!" With a chime, she flashed a "4" over her head.

"Cuz that's what diamond dogs want!" Sweetie Belle grinned. "Diamonds! But we were just like you, sis!" She waggled her eyebrows. "With our ladylike charms, we got them to leave us alone!" "7."

"Yup!" Scootaloo nodded. "We're all perfect ladies!" Double chime. "6."

"So I see..." Rarity paced before the group. Her scrutinizing gaze fell upon the centermost pony who was presently hanging her head. "Apple Bloom, darling, you've been awfully quiet. Was there any glistening nugget of truth you wished to add to this most disastrous account?"

Apple Bloom fidgeted, staring down at her hooves. Her lips moved, producing an indecipherable mumble.

Rarity leaned in. "I beg your pardon?"

Apple Bloom looked up, flashing an awkward, mud-strewn smile. "The d-diamond dogs were sure... f-fixin' to make us... dig our way to Ch-Chyneigh?" Her smile cracked as soon as she heard the chime. Her skull brandished the paltry number "1," and yet she instantly broke into a fountain of tears. "Auuugh! It's a lie! It's all a lie!" she drawled, falling to her haunches and burying her face in her forelimbs. "Please don't be mad at us! My big sister's gonna lock me up in the barn for an entire year!"

"Unnngh..." Scootaloo face-hoofed while Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes. The two slumped in defeat as the most conscientious of the three wailed like an infant.

"Now don't be making such an outrageous scene, Apple Bloom. I am not entirely mad at the three of you." Rarity smiled and reached her hoof out to comfort her. She paused in mid-gesture, however, as she studied all of the mud and grime on the yellow filly's coat. "Erm..." She not so stealthily floated a towel over, wiped Apple Bloom's skull clean, and then finally leaned in to give her a delicate hug. "If anything, I am most exceedingly glad to have witnessed you three returning home safely. There's been a relatively calamitous series of events transpiring around Ponyville this morning; I've had three separate customers abandon the Boutique in the middle of exchanging bits over dresses. Celestia above! I saw ghastly numbers floating above the ponies' heads as if they were haunted! I suspect some foul magic is at play, and it's such a relief to know that you three are safe in spite of it all!"

"Foul magic?" Sweetie Belle remarked, her eyes thin. "Really?"

"Shhh!" Scootaloo swatted her atop the pale horn. "Come on! Shut it!"

Rarity frowned at the gesture Scootaloo made to her younger sister. She leaned forward over Apple Bloom's sobbing form. "Scootaloo..." The fashionista's blue eyes fixated on a sparkling item clutched beneath Scootaloo's orange feathers. "Be a good dear and show me what it is that you're hiding."

"It's nothing!" Scootaloo chirped with a twitching smile. "Honest!" Her "6" skipped all the way to "8," and her wings drooped as did her expression.

"Mmmmm..." Rarity's glare could shatter diamonds.

"Fiiiine..." Scootaloo limply hoofed over the glowing totem. "We found this in a hole by the river as we were digging to discover our gold farming cutie marks," she droned.

"My word..." Rarity held a hoof over her gasping chest as she levitated the silver item in front of her dazzled eyes. "This is... certainly a most remarkable find!" She gulped dryly and bore a delirious smile. "You mean to say that you found an item of such resplendent fabulosity in the middle of an ordinary ditch?!"

"It took a lot of digging," Sweetie Belle's voice cracked. "And it sent off this big flash of light after Scootaloo shook it!"

"Hey!" Scootaloo squawked. "Don't blame all this on me!"

"Blame all of what on her?" Rarity remarked with a raised eyebrow.

"I d-don't want to live in a baa-aa-aarn!" Apple Bloom continued to wail.

"Now, there there, darling..." Rarity consoled her with a hoof-pat to her shoulder. Her eyes studied the silver shine of the totem, comparing it to the glowing "8," "7," and "1" over the fillies' heads. "I do believe I'm starting to ascertain the truth here..."