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[Sweet Apple Acres]...The More Zap Apples Stay the Same. [PM for invite/Apple family welcome]

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Braeburn

Braeburn had no better idea what to do pass his "borrow a rainbow" idea that he earlier proposed. Sugar Apple was quick to point out that the Everfree produced it's own weather, and regardless, rainbows were in short supply, but at least she would attempt to acquire one from Cloudsdale. What if she couldn't though, or at least one in time before the sun had set? The goldenrod stallion was beside himself in worry, especially given all the promises he made back in Appleloosa in regards to Zap Apple jam. His fellow townsfolk were so excited over the impending harvest that they made 400 jars worth of orders and Braeburn guaranteed delivery! Why not? His cousins had never let him down before! "Well that's just great, Ah'm going to become th' laughin' stock of APPPPPPPPLELOSSA!! Probably have to leave mah beloved town for exile in the Pinto Desert!" A black mark indeed, one on all Apples!

Braeburn was about to go into length about his impending humiliation and new nomadic existence of banishment when Bramble got everyone's attention with a magical version of the familiar triangle. Turned out the purple unicorn had an idea of his own on how to bring the rainbow back! Braeburn didn't understand all the details, but he had the jist of it; flowers that could serve as rainbow substitutes! "Yeehawww! Well Miss.. er Mister Bramble Rose, why y'all didn't say so in th' first place?! We all could use dem Rainblooms to spark th' Zap Apple trees into ripenin' their fruits!" It was an excellent idea! At least that is what Braeburn was going to keep telling himself; he needed that flicker of hope!

"What y'all waitin' for? Let's go get 'em flowers! Ah'll give our lil' unicorn friend a hoof carryin' 'em back! Cuzin' Applejack, w'all need to just figure out ah way to pay Bramble Rose back an' all; Ah'll he happy to help there, us Apples stand together after all, through good 'n bad!" The goldenrod stallion galloped over to Bramble and gave a huge smile, one born of desperate hope, "shall we head off and get 'em? Y'all can tell me what th' Apples can do to pay y'all in kind for 'em".

Cheerilee

Cheerilee was lost to what to even suggest next and looked on with increasing worry as the others began to squabble, that is until Bramble Rose used his own version of the old school bell to get every pony's attention. Perhaps she should get a triangle for the classroom to get the rapt attention of the occasionally unruly students? It was something to consider.

What was important though is that those who were in the know: Applejack, Bramble Rose, Ingrid Marie, and Sugar Apple, actually had some ad hoc contingency plans, hopefully they would work but truthfully Cheerilee had no real idea, as she was completely inexperienced with farming, let alone Zap Apple care, having only a small garden at her humble home as her only claim to working with the earth. Well she could at least be encouraging and volunteer to help in anyway she could; with that idea in mind she gave Apple Bumpkin a reassuring snug and nuzzle on the nose and walked over to the quartet that was planning their next move, "umm, hey, I was hoping I could help? I know I don't have any understanding of the magic behind the harvest, or how to make rainbows or anything, but I can give a hoof in any physical part, so if you need an extra pony to pull, dig, or whatever, please let me know." Cheerilee gave a large smile, it isn't easy for her to admit her ignorance, but at least she can still be useful.

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Bramble Rose looked around as suddenly, everypony was depending on him. W... what? It was just an idea! He didn't know anything about zap apples! That's why he was here! To learn! "Well, Miss Marie, my hypothesis is really more along the lines of fashioning a swift fertilizer from the Rainbloom petals - they absorb rainbow energies, they don't emit them. But they might be able to be used to provide those much-needed energies for the zap apple harvest!"

He was surprised when Braeburn immediately chipped in to offer to help. He was sensitive to that almost-mistake, but now wasn't the time to think of that, and Miss Cheerilee seemed eager to help as well. "All right!" Bramble said, "Let's get to my place, it's not too far! Everyone without allergies who wants to help, come on along!"

He took to his hooves, leaving all his notes and everything behind to gallop down the road. It wasn't long before they reached his own place that was off in the fields outside Ponyville, with a bunch of large greenhouses clustered around a cozy little shack. "No, no," he was reassuring Braeburn again. "I mean, I appreciate it, just ... well, research doesn't pay for itself, so just a few bits towards replacing them would really be helpful, but your family was nice enough to let me study the harvest, so we're rather even."

He stepped into the fourth greenhouse. "Mind the blood orchids - I haven't fed them recently so they might be a bit peckish. And don't touch the lumines, they've been a bit dim lately and are just now getting better. But here, right back here."

One of the long troughs had a row of lovely daisy-like flowers, but instead of white petals, they had six petals which were each a different, vibrant color. What's more, they had a faint glow to them, so that a shifting aurora showed over the wall behind them, slowly changing from one color to the next. There were several dozen of the flowers along the row. "I'll start up the lab's burners ... what I'll need from you is to carefully harvest the flowers. Cut the stem close to the base, then, while over a tray, I need you to pick the petals and separate them by color into these bowls. Then leave the center of the flower in the tray along with all the pollen that fell off, I'll need that, too. I've some nitrogen nodules I'll mix in, and ... oh, let's just get to it, I'll explain it all later! Be careful and be gentle while you take care of it!"

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So the Rainbloom petals would actually function as an emergency fertilizer? Ingrid Marie did not know personally whether flower petals could ever be used in such a matter, but frankly, there were no other options left to try. When dealing with an unprecedented zap apple crisis, if a plan is crazy but it works, then it isn’t crazy. It was too bad though everypony was in a tough spot right now; Ingrid could have lingered around Bramble’s greenhouse for quite a while, just marvelling at all the unique plant varieties he cultivated. It made the magic counselor think about adding a couple of magical plants of her own into the unicorn mare’s garden.

Right now though, Ms. Marie had a job to do. Following Bramble Rose’s instructions, the mare proceeded to harvest the petals, making sure her work was flawless. The Apple family was counting on her, and the others!

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Braeburn

Braeburn smiled broadly at Bramble Rose's incredible generosity regarding sacrificing his flowers, especially given, if the little purple unicorn's plan worked, he may have just saved the Zap Apple harvest, "well that is mighty kind of ya Bramble, but Ah'm sure Ah can convince may cuzins' to spare ah few free jars for ya all; it's the least we can do!"

He treaded carefully through the warm, fresh smelling greenhouse, following Bramble instructions against touching the other plants; he wasn't careful out of fear, not even of the blood orchards, but because he wanted to make sure there were to no accidents or distractions; there was too much at stake right now! Sure he wasn't used to the plants, but he was an orchard pony and an earth pony to boot, being so clause to so many flowers just felt second-nature to him, and they always appeared to react well to the presence of him and his kin before. The only thing that did catch the goldenrod stallion by surprise was the stunning appearance of the Rainblooms themselves, a species he had never encountered before and every bit as beautiful as Bramble hinted at, perhaps even more so by the way they glowed in the morning sun.

The only thing that worried Braeburn at this point was possibly messing up Bramble's instructions on harvesting the colorful flowers, as it required very delicate work, something he wasn't used to. It made sense given the nature of orchard harvesting, which to him met regularly hitting a tree with his hind hooves, albeit with precision born of years of experience and good old fashion Apple blood. "Uhhh.. Sure! Cut and separate, right!" Braeburn's first instinct was to bite the stem off, but his first couple attempts didn't work so well and that was when he could get his head at the right angle to bite the short stalks, resulting in him accidentally biting the petals themselves, at least they tasted fruity and sweet… abet a bit strange.

However, eating the petals was not helping no matter how well they may have tasted. Bramble had some sheers, but the holes to hold them were much too small for his large hooves and more than likely, the purple unicorn used his magic to cut with them anyway, but all was not lost in that department. "Here cuz'!" He nosed the sheers over to Ingrid Marie, "Ah'd figure y'all should do this part, since y'all got magic an all". That just left the petal separation, which he was sure he could do once the stems were cut.

Cheerilee

As Braeburn slowly and clumsily pulled apart of the petals from the plants Ingrid cut, Cheerilee was merrily doing both without a hitch! Having her own little garden really paid off! Who knew tending the small plants that populated the windowsills of the school teacher's quaint, little home would ever come in handy outside of her own personal enjoyment! Even the extra pair of sheers were just the right size for her smaller hooves, thank goodness she wasn't some bulky stallion or she never be able to use these things.

What made the purple mare truly happy though was not the ease of the job, but the fact she was finally contributing and not nearly standing on the sidelines feeling useless. Perhaps that was a bit harsh of a self-critique, after all she was there to learn about Zap Apples, knowing ahead of time she had virtually no knowledge on the magical harvest, and a novice at helping with whatever the Apples required.

Speaking of ignorance; Cheerilee never heard of rainblooms either, or even blood orchids for that matter, her discovery of them served to only fueled her desire to learn more and pass said knowledge to her students, "say Mr. Rose would it be alright if I was able to take one or two of some of your exotic flowers to show the students? I'll be happy to pay whatever bits is required" Well as long as it stayed within school budget for such things; how much could a single flower cost anyway? Just in case though… "or you could bring some with you to the school and give a show and tell lecture about them for an hour; if it wouldn't be inconvenient, that is". It was asking a lot of a pony set just met, but the worst that could happen is that Bramble would say no, which wouldn't be too unexpected. In such a case Cheerilee would just use her usual backup plan: Book research. Not as exciting, but there was no way she was going to walk away from this experience without at least learning a little about the exotic plants she just discovered!

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As Bramble left with Ingrid and Cheerilee and Braeburn, Applejack swallowed another dry mouth as her anxiety increased. She was glad Bramble came up with the idea for a rainbloom flower that might just create some sort of plant magic. She would pay him for the favor of course. Heck, if it ended up working, she might have to do something a bit more worth her while. As desperate as she was, Applejack could possibly indebt herself to the pony who solved the issue at hoof.

Meanwhile, fireworks started firing off on top of one of the orchard hills. Applejack didn't yell anything, though she wanted to. But it was too late by then, the strange old mare sent them flying like she was trying to ruin the farm. But, since the fireworks were already in the air, Applejack might as well watch how the explosions effect the zap apples. A large firework exploded overhead. Nothing. Two more zip close to one of the trees. Nothing. A few more, flying very high. A quick look at the zap apples, and there was no magical power coming from the gunpowder. One firework shot straight at a tree and when it hit the leaves of the tree, instead of exploding, the firework dulled out, and was extinguished by the electrical fluctuation of the zap apples. Well, at least we know the apples are still alive.

As Applejack waited for ponies to return with information, she decided to try her own idea she had thought of a few minutes ago. She rushed inside and started dragging a large chest full of golden bits. After a few strong tugs, bringing the chest out in the open, she opened the chest and let the glitter of the coins sparkle in the sunlight. She stared and waited.

Nothing.

To the ponies looking at her, rather confused, she responded defeated. "I guess leprechaun ponies are just a made up story. It was worth a shot."

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Granny Smith felt a sense of defeat and frustration she had rarely felt in ages. She was still furious at Miss Harshwhinney, who had stolen Haywire's firecracker rockets and launched them into the sky before anypony could stop her. When the rockets had no effect on the sky or Zap apple trees, the elderly mare was both relieved and disappointed. Relieved that they didn't make the situation any worse, but sad because the orange mare's wild idea didn't work. Tears filled Haywire's eyes as the rust colored filly received a hug from the gray maned mare.

"Now now youngin, it'll be alright," Granny said as she embraced her.

"She stole mah rockets an' used'm!" Haywire sobbed, "how could she, do this ta me!"

"Der der, young fraulien," Uncle Apple Strudel added, joining in hugging the distressed filly, "vee vill find a vay to make dis right!"

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Watching the distressed filly sobbing from a distance, Ms. Harshwhinney, her head bowed low in shame and sadness, turned to the pony nearest her, Flam.

"What have I done?" she whined, tears now forming in her own eyes.

"You made a big mistake, believe me, I can relate," Flam said, removing his straw hat and bowing his unicorn head. "My brother and I have made more than our share, mistakes we couldn't possibly make right. I can't blame other ponies for feeling the way they do about us, we earned their distrust. But in your case, ma'am, I believe you do have an opportunity to make this right. First, you need to apologize, and second, do whatever you can to for that sweet little filly."

"But, but, I.."

"DO IT! We may not be able to solve the Zap Apple problem, but YOU certainly have to power to help Haywire! Don't miss this chance!" Flam pleaded.

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