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

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Granny Smith slowly began to walk out into the orchard, carefully observing all of the activity going on. When she spotted Bramble Rose still in his bunny suit, the Apple Matriarch walked over to him.

[colour=#00FF00]"Time ta git outta that bunny suit, sonny! We got trees ta water and baskets ta put out," [/colour]Granny Smith said in a polite, nice tone before spotting Flam finishing watering a half dozen trees with his magically levitated watering cans. [colour=#00FF00]"HAY YOU! Git on over here and help this colt outta his bunny suit!"[/colour]

[colour=#FF0000]"Coming!" [/colour]Flam shouted as he galloped over and stopped with a front hoof salute, [colour=#FF0000]"Your wish is my command, I'll do whatever you demand and.."[/colour]

[colour=#00FF00]"And knock off the singin' and help this colt, PRONTO! While yur doin' that, I'm gonna go help Strudel with more jar talkin'!"[/colour]

[colour=#FF0000]"Yes ma'am!" [/colour]Flam replied before turning his attention to Bramble Rose. [colour=#FF0000]"I hoped I'd encounter you again, young stallion. You talked to me and I was about to engage you in polite conversation before I got sent skyward by that old... er.. by Granny Smith. Allow me to introduce myself!"[/colour]

The mustached stallion took a deep breath before he broke out into song.

[colour=#FF0000]"My name is Flam, that's who I am, and I have a brother who looks like me![/colour]

[colour=#FF0000] Pleased to meet you, now I greet you, with all this happy en-er-gee!"[/colour]

Before he could sing another note, a flying apple bonked Flam on the head, knocking his straw hat off in the process.

[colour=#00FF00]"STOP THAT SILLY CATERWALLIN' AND GIT BACK TA WORK, YA LOAFER!" [/colour]Granny shouted from far off as she walked into the pantry, strapped on her Army helmet and then relieved Apple Strudel. [colour=#00FF00]"Take a break, brother, I got this!"[/colour]

[colour=#006400]"Javol, mein sister!" [/colour]the bearded stallion neighed.

Suddenly, Big Mac's words caught Miss Harshwhinney's attention.

[colour=#FF8C00]"Oh my, sorry about that my love.. er.. I mean, Big Mac," [/colour]the still lovestruck orange mare said with a wide grin on her face. Her smile got even wider when she heard Braeburn's comment about the burly red stallion taking her out. [colour=#FF8C00]"Y'know, big guy, that hat wearing stallion's got a great idea, what'dya say?"[/colour]

Meanwhile, little Haywire was now busy helping the other foals placing baskets under trees.

[colour=#B22222]"Oops! I'm outta baskets!" [/colour]the rust coloured filly neighed as she glanced over towards the fenced in area around the barn. [colour=#B22222]"Betcha thar's some baskets over that'a way!"[/colour]

Haywire quickly trotted over to the wooden rail fence gate and swung it wide open, spotting a few weather worn baskets in one corner. What the blonde filly didn't know was that she had just opened the gate to the pigpen and instantly a dozen oinking pigs rush out the gate past the stunned blank flank filly.

[colour=#B22222]"Uh oh!" [/colour]Haywire neighed as the newly freed pigs scattered in all directions. [colour=#B22222]"I sure didn't mean ta do THAT!"[/colour]

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Apple Bloom noticed a rather odd look from Winter Dazzle, which Apple Bloom was going to chalk up to maybe a bit of shellshock concussion due to the zaniness of the day. Ya know, it wasn't too rare for ponies in Apple Bloom's radius to become injured in some way for reasons that were far beyond Apple Bloom's understanding. Maybe she had something to do with it but if that was the case it was more on the other ponies for not being as awesome as she was, especially when it came to being on the orchard. Luckily, Dazzle recovered quickly enough to follow Apple Bloom, and they went about their appointed task with all the gusto and energy they had. The poor baskets never had a chance!

[colour=#ff0000]"Let's beat them desert dwellin' pansies!"[/colour] She belted out, taking one basket after another and tossing them under trees very much like a frisbee, just like her Manehattan cousin, [colour=#ff0000]"How's it going back thar, Dazzle? Keepin' up?"[/colour] Apple Bloom offered between breaths, panting ever so slightly as she continued overexerting herself. 'Twas the Apple way! Competition bred more injuries and consternation than all the work in the world, as hard and fast as they played and lived more acutely defined when what was on the line was pride and the hard-earned family pecking order that despite all other claims was very harshly defended when it came down to it. And heck, Apple Bloom thought it was a lot of fun! Well, a lot of fun anyway until she saw Babs get bucked about in the cart.

[colour=#ff0000]"Babs, yer okay over thar?!"[/colour]

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Recovering from the embarrassing misidentification of the purple unicorn as a mare, Cheerilee suggested that Ingrid Marie ought to introduce herself to Bramble Rose, being a unicorn too. Nodding at Cheerilee, the beige middle-aged mare then turned to Mr. Rose; [colour=#008080]“Yes, my branch of Apple family comes from the Solstice Heights. My mother was an earth pony, and my father was a unicorn, and well... here I am; a unicorn in the Apple family!”[/colour] In a fit of silliness, Ingrid saw fit to giggle and point to her horn.

When the purple school teacher suggested that they should help take the cans to the trees, Apple Bumpkin offered that the group instead ought to paint the kitchen. Ingrid’s cousin had the right idea to do something that wasn’t already being done by somepony else, but the magic counselor couldn’t help but worry about one issue; [colour=#008080]“Pardon me for asking, but you do know how to paint the kitchen correctly, right?”[/colour] Ms. Marie had a vague understanding of what it took to produce Zap Apple jam, but only a vague understanding since she never had to make it herself before. Assuming Apple Bumpkin knew as much as Ingrid, was the yellow mare qualified to handle that task without direction?

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Her concentration starting to drift from the reparative task of throwing baskets about, Babs Seed wasn’t paying attention to the speedy cart when Applejack suddenly heaved the cart towards the right; [colour=#daa520]“WOAHHH...!”[/colour]. Caught by surprise, little Babs lost her footing and slid off the tilted cart, falling into an inconveniently-placed pool of inexplicable mud with a big splash.

Now soaked from head to hoof in grime, Miss Seed could only dignify Apple Bloom’s question with a death glare. Babs really hated to admit it, but she wasn’t really having all that much fun at all helping with the harvest today. Adding to the humiliation, Valen of all ponies had been doing a superior job of tossing baskets and being of use than Babs, and everypony knew of Valen’s prior struggles with farm work. Rather vexed by the present circumstances, the goldenrod filly remained motionless... save for spitting out a rogue chunk of mud. She was in no hurry to get back on the cart.....

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Bramble Rose twitched at Cheerilee's initial fumbling words designating him as 'one of the ladies' ... but he relaxed as she fumbled helplessly over her words. He could definitely sympathize with putting your hoof in it.

But at Apple Bumpkin's words,he froze, his eyes widening just a little. A single long, white strand of his mane suddenly freed itself from his bunny hood with a little *twang*, the normally luxurious, straight hair instead kinked and curling in front of his face.

[colour=#808080]"Paint the kitchen?!"[/colour] he asked tightly, and a clipboard floated out from behind his back with a soft green glow, and flipped through its own sheets of parchment clipped tightly to it as Bramble checked his notes. [colour=#808080]"We have to paint the kitchen now?! And we haven't even gotten close to watering all the trees yet! We need to get those trees done! I don't have anything in my notes about painting the kitchen being part of the proper rituals for today! Ohgeeeeze, this is gonna completely disrupt my schedule!"[/colour]

And as Granny Smith came on over, giving her own orders, his eyes widened a bit more, his pupils shrinking. [colour=#808080]"Yes'm!"[/colour] he said to her retreating back. His quill twitched left and right...[colour=#808080] "paint the kitchen... water the trees... um ... um ... um ... "[/colour] How could he be in two places at once?!

And he was getting another introduction! [colour=#808080] "Yes!"[/colour] he said, barely controlling himself, and nodding his head to Ingrid. [colour=#808080] "Pleasure to meet you! Are you going to be watering the kitchen or painting the orchard?"[/colour]

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[colour=#800080]Cheerilee[/colour]

Up until now Cheerilee was pretty sure that everypony else knew what to do and she'd be the only odd pony out, but it quickly became apparent that most of the others with her were just as inexperienced as she was. Perhaps it was normally just the Apples of Sweet Apple Acres itself who harvested the zap apples annually. Unfortunately both Applejack and Big Mac were too busy running around placing baskets to offer advice. There was only one thing Cheerilee could think off in this situation, organize things herself! Surely they wouldn't mind, and surely it had to be far easier then keeping a room of hyperactive foals coordinated.

Cheerilee wrapped her forehooves around Apple Bumpkin and Bramble Rose with a wide, warm smile on her face. [colour=#800080]“Well since we got to do both before the day is done, all we have to do is one chore at a time as a team![/colour]” She gave an encouraging smile to Bramble first, [colour=#800080]“handsome stallion, why don't you get out of that bunny suit and then us fine mares will gladly help you carry the watering cans to the trees, as long as you don't mind chatting with us ladies![/colour][colour=#4b0082]”[/colour] She figured that would appeal to the silver maned unicorn whether he preferred mares or just more wanted to be like one.

She couldn't forget her special Bumpkin though, and with an affectionate nuzzle Cheerilee turned to the red maned Apple mare, [colour=#800080]“then we'll all together paint the kitchen, with three unicorns helping, it will be a breeze![/colour]” Her eyes darted back and forth among the gathering of ponies as she smiled in hopes they'll go along with her idea, [colour=#800080]“does that sound good class, I mean guys?”[/colour]

Hopefully that would get things back on track, Cheerilee felt self-assured, after all it shouldn't be too difficult to paint and how hard could placing watering cans be?. It's a perfect plan! Before she could start though or even get a reply, several noisy pigs suddenly ran by, knocking over and even stomping a few of the cans in the process.

Cheerilee facehoofed; maybe it is like a typical school day after all.

[colour=#DAA520]Braeburn[/colour]

Braeburn looked back at the cart he was quickly towing and noticed what his little cousin, Apple Pie, was trying to get across to him. They were just about out of baskets! This was a good thing though, as Braeburn was sure in his mind when they swiped the cart, it had about half the baskets that needed to be set, which meant mo matter how many baskets Applejack or Big mac each did, he and little Pie had to won first place! Sure there was no way to actually remember who put out each individual basket where between all three groups, but he was confident the others would recognize that the Applelossians had won fair and square!

After all who could contest their superior orchard skills!

Braeburn reared in his assured victory,[colour=#daa520] 'yeeeeehaaaa! Lil' Apple Pie, Ah think we did it! Score one for Apppppppleloosia! Now what'cha all think of us getting' some juice and sittin' a spell under the tree while those slackers play catch up?”[/colour] Without even waiting for a response for his cousin, Braeburn turned the cart around and proudly trotted back towards the barn.

Of course being the competitive sort he was, Braeburn had to get at least one or two jabs in. [colour=#daa520]“Keep going cuzin' Applejack, you'll can still get second place!”[/colour] That put a big smile on the goldenrod stallion's face. He loved his cousins dearly, but more often than not, Applejack won any competition that spontaneously sprung up during the family reunions.

Of course as fun as it may be to banter with AJ, what was even more entertaining was some friendly mischievousness towards Big Mac, and this love sick middle-aged mare tagging along with the large red stallion was just the ticket.[colour=#daa520] “Ma,am, the best way to get anywhere with mah cousin there is to be direct, just ask 'im out an' all!”[/colour] Mischievous perhaps, but helpful! Poor lonely Mac was always too shy to ask any mare, but Braeburn was pretty sure his cousin was also too polite to ever refuse if one asked him!

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Mac was startin' to feel the burn for the first time during this whole contest - the apples were workin' themselves hard between them during this contest, even if it was all in the spirit of good fun and for the sake of what lay ahead of them with regards to the zap apples. Determined to push through it, Macintosh gritted his teeth and deployed another bunch of baskets to their destination with a few deft flicks of the head - he wasn't about to let that l'il cocksure cousin of his have the bragging rights THIS day, if he could yet do anything about it.

His mind occasionally found itself distracted, however, by the rather curious remark made by harshwhinney - she really seemed very determined to 'get the better' of him for other reasons, which whilst very admirable and sweet of her, the Stallion wasn't really certain he was going to be able to give her the answer she wanted most. Still, it DID seem like a rather silly thing to not at the very least give her something by way of thanks for her 'efforts', such as it was, and thus Mac inwardly sighed as he decided that perhaps he owed the mare something of a reward...and since Braeburn had already planted the apple seed of an idea in her head, he knew he was cornered and caught in a peculiar situation that he wasn't likely to get out of so soon.

" [colour=#b22222]Ah tell ya what[/colour]... " Mac says, glancing over at the mare whilst reloading himself on some baskets, deciding to just get the whole thing over with. " [colour=#b22222]After this l'il contest of ours, ah'll think about takin' ya'all to a small l'il thankyou dinner, jus' a l'il appreciation for y'alls help up here today... [/colour]" Mac says, not a trace of the mental sigh he was making right now leaking into his words - he wasn't really the kinda stallion to normally do something like this, but it only seemed fair to repay her for volunteering out here like this.

Big Macintosh only hoped he didn't come to regret this particular decision, as he flicks another basket into position...his mind now returning back to just beating Braeburn at all costs!

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Sorry in advanced to everyone, I'm wrapping up the third day. Fourth day will begin immediately following this post. Any developments between characters can be continued normally. It's just the next day.

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[colour=#000000]Applejack winced as she saw Babs take a short midair trip into a puddle of mud. And then she looked over yonder at Braeburn happily trotting slowly back to the barn with a smirk on his face and an empty cart behind him. Applejack could argue easily that his cart had less baskets. She could even beg to differ on the fairness of the competition. But Applejack wasn't a mare to really take it that far. She was a good sport, and it was all about getting work done anyway. Besides, she could barely see it was getting so dark. The sun set behind the trees and the orchard became a mystifying woods area. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Alright gang,"[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack said to her team of foals around her, [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"it's time to get back home and call it a day. Let's go clean up."[/colour]

[colour=#000000]As she retreated, she found the microphone that laid near a tree for the occasion of shouting directions. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Everypony, the day is done! I thank everyone kindly for their hard work, we got a lot done today. But for now, lets take in a quick supper in the kitchen, and I hope you guys will be here to help us tomorrow. We got a lot to do still!"[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack was proud of everypony who came. Lots of ponies gave their free time to be here and share a hard work ethic with the family. Some characters still had a lot of suspicion on them, while others may only be here for the entertaining of getting hitched with AJ's brother. Regardless, Applejack was happy for the turnout. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"If you need a place to stay, your more than welcome to sleep in the hay loft in the barn. There's plenty of room for everypony, as long as you don't mind a little rustic style dormitory,"[/colour][colour=#000000] she chuckled.[/colour]

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In the middle of the night, the sky rained a meteor shower that sparkled throughout the entire night. Large balls of light glittered over the moonlight and sprinkled the atmosphere with a dazzling glow. When it settled, the zap apple blossoms burst into their fruits, large grey apples that hung stubbornly from their stems. They weren't much to look at, but they were indeed the amazing zap apples everypony was here to see.

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[colour=#000000]It was morning, and the sun was in the process of being raised by the Princess. Applejack got on her loud speaker again. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Up an at 'em, everypony! Rise and shine!" [/colour][colour=#000000] In the kitchen, several platters of apple pancakes and syrup where already awaiting consumption along with a crate filled with chilled apple juice. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Eat up everyone, we got a lot of work to do."[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack compiled a lovely list, unrolled it and displayed its length, something Applejack learned from one of her best friends Twilight Sparkle. [/colour][colour=#ff0000] "First thing's first, we need some ponies to water the trees. There's a cart outside with all the watering cans waiting for ya'll. Next, we still need to paint them pink polka dots. We need some honey from the bee stand downtown today, the flowers are waiting by the door. And we still need to finish putting out some of the baskets."[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack eyed Braeburn and smirked a little. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"And if you can't find anything else to do, you can either clean the kitchen, or help prepare lunches. Oh, and one more thing. Whatever you do, don't try to hit the trees."[/colour]

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As every pony was helping themselves to breakfast, Granny Smith whistled loud enough to get everypony's attention.

[colour=#00FF00]"Alrighty y'all! Listen up! We're all outta honey and we need ta go git a big bunch more'a it! I'm lookin' fer some volunteers ta go with me ta fetch some! Who wants ta go with me?" [/colour]the Apple Matriarch asked.

[colour=#006400]"I vill volunteer!" [/colour]Uncle Apple Strudel neighed, raising a front hoof high in the air.

[colour=#00FF00]"Nope Strudel, need ya ta stay here and keep a'talkin' to more jars! Git'm ready fer the zap apple jam we're gonna be makin' brother!"[/colour]

[colour=#006400]"Javol, mein sister!" [/colour]the bearded stallion neighed as he strapped his Germane pointy Army helmet on his head.

[colour=#B22222]"I wanna go, Granny!" [/colour]Haywire shouted, standing up on the table and waving both front hooves in the air. [colour=#B22222]"It's the least I could do, after accidentally lett'n all them pigs out yesterday."[/colour]

[colour=#00FF00]"Alrighty kido, you're in! Anypony else?"[/colour]

[colour=#FF0000]"I'm certainly NOT going on such a ridicious quest," [/colour]Flam snorted as he kept eating only to have Granny walk over to him and dump his current plate of food over his head.

[colour=#00FF00]"YOU'RE A comin' with me, pointy head! Soes I kin keeps my eyes on ya! ANY OBJECTIONS?"[/colour]

[colour=#FF0000]"No, none at all," [/colour]a frightened Flam whimpered, forcing a smile on his face.

[colour=#FF8C00]"If Big MacIntosh goes with your group, then I will gladly join up!" [/colour]added Ms. Harshwhinney, who was seated beside Big Mac and loving every minute of being near him. [colour=#FF8C00]"What do ya say, big guy?"[/colour]

[colour=#00FF00]"Alrighty everypony! Who else wants ta join us fer this honey run?" [/colour]Granny Smith asked.

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At one end of the crowded breakfast table, an odd couple of ponies sat in relative silence as they ate their meal. One pony, an earth pony filly slightly more bulky than the other children dejectedly thought about the embarrassment she suffered yesterday. Babs Seed was in no particular rush to quickly finish up and be that clumsy kid who gets dragged around by cousin Applejack and look like a helpless fool in the process, so the goldenrod filly munched on her food slowly and methodically.

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To the right of Miss Seed sat Ingrid Marie, a middle-aged unicorn mare who could have looked like the filly’s mom to the untrained eye. Yesterday, Ingrid’s harvest work found itself derailed by a herd of escaped pigs. It turned out the same girl who let them loose also herded them back in months ago at Apple Bloom’s birthday party. To make a long story short, it took Miss Marie and a band of companions until nightfall to get the livestock back in, leaving the unicorn too pooped to do anything else but nap... and miss dinner.

And now this morning, Ingrid guzzled relentlessly on her apple pancakes. The beige mare thought that perhaps today, she should accompany another member of her extended family. Maybe her niece Apple Bloom, perhaps? The two ponies hadn’t really spoken to each other since the birthday party, after all. For the time being, she too ate in silence despite everything else going on.....

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Cheerilee

It was a bright, cheerful morning, the sun shone with only a few clouds in the sky, while a cool, light breeze blew though Cheerilee's two toned lavender mane; just enough to be refreshing without threatening to blow away the cute straw sun hat she wore. It was the beginning of a new day at Sweet Apple Acres where the purple mare was researching the Zap Apple harvest for future school lessons, and the best way the research the harvest was to participate in the harvest!

Sure, things were behind schedule thanks to yesterday afternoon's pig fiasco, but Cheerilee was pretty sure things could be brought back on track as long as folks stayed organized. There was plenty to do: Finish getting the watering cans to the trees, painting the kitchen with polka dots, and one of the Apples mentioned last night during the porker round up something about having to collect honey today as well. Was that one of the secret ingredients to the jam itself? Honey? Well, she was sure going to find out soon enough!

First thing is first though, Cheerilee had promised the unicorn mare, er stallion, Bramble Rose that she would help him with getting those watering cans to the trees as it appeared to be a paramount importance to him that it was done next given how much he fretted about it. That made her wonder, was he a researcher too? She never bothered to ask, well she'll have that opportunity again today!

As she trotted up to the entrance to the farm, Cheerilee turned to her companion, Apple Bumpkin, who spent the night at her house in town, "hon, I think we should get those water cans out first, that poor Bramble fella seemed beside himself over having that done first thing; it's the neighborly thing to do…" Cheerilee's head turned as she got a whiff of something wonderfully delicious: strawberries, bananas, and waffles! "First, breakfast though; it'd be rude to let any of that go to waste after all!"

Braeburn

The goldenrod Apple stallion smiled proudly as he looked out the loft window of the Sweet Apple Acres barn towards the brightening orchards. He had a good night's sleep after the hard work of getting so many baskets out, and the soft straw of the loft was a perfect place for him to nap: Quiet, cool, outdoorsy, and comfortable! At least to a rugged farming pony like himself. Rugged, and fast! After all he and his little cousin Apple Pie easily beat Applejack and Big Mac yesterday in getting the most baskets out! Sure, no pony actually counted the amount of baskets they put out, but he was absolutely positive he and Pie did the most!

Of course now it was the next day and he was determined to do his part to get those Zap Apples ready! After all he needed some 400 jars himself for Appleloosa, and there was no way he go back emptyhooved. He just had to find out what he could win at, er help with next! First though was breakfast!

With that in mind, Braeburn trotted happily down into the main dining room, "howdy granny! Say what's all for breakfast this morning? Smells like you have one amazing cook back there akin some great vittles!"

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Macintosh was in the middle of enjoying his apple-themed meal, a helping of apple pancakes and a big glass of Apple Juice, mentally preparing himself for whatever work laid ahead - there were a few tasks to be done today as demonstrated by Applejacks speech, which left the red Stallion pondering just what he should take up for the days work. Watering the trees seemed to be a fairly easy task, and he wasn't sure that was the best use of his abilities - the polkadot painting wasn't really something he was planning to get involved with either. Mac was also relatively sure he didn't need to be out doing more baskets after the marathon effort himself and Harshwhinney had put out the night before...and it didn't seem like he really needed to go out and involve himself with a task as simple as dealing with the honey purchasing.

His train of thought finds itself derailed by harshwhinney, as she speaks up to voice her own: "If Big MacIntosh goes with your group, then I will gladly join up! - What do ya say, big guy?"

Remaining calm, Mac blinks once and shovels another mouthful of apple pancake into his maw, gulping down a quick drink of applejuice to think this over.

" Eeeeenope - ah'm gonna be watering the trees... " Macintosh says after a moment of pondering his reply.

" Ah think that'd be a better idea...that way ah'm available on the farm for anythin' else AppleJack might wanna ask me t'do whilst everypony is busy! "

Perhaps it was not the most effective use of his abilities, Mac reasoned, but if the mare was going to head out to the honey shopping...then he'd happily choose the more peaceful option. It wasn't that he disliked the mare, of course, but her overenthusiasm for being around him was beginning to creep him out just a bit...

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Apple Bumpkin yawned and stretched as she rubbed her eyes a bit. Last night was an event in and of itself. All day yesterday even was a workout and an exercise in teamwork and strange rituals.

"Yea, 'Ah reckon that breakfast would be the best choice first." She nods her head a few times and sits down close to Cheerilee not fully awake yet and still not understanding how she could be such a morning mare. "After that we can find out what the rest of the teams are doing and go help out with something." Bumpkin yawns again and lays her head onto Cheerilee, her hoofkerchief askew and her mane not done up as proper as she wished it was but that would have to wait for later. First came breakfast, and lots of it.

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Apple Pie clung to Braeburn like glue and as they strode in to the kitchen, she was secretly still sleeping on Braeburn's back but no one would notice as her bonnet covered her face. Her mind filled with dreams of bucking trees and baking Apples Pies suddenly invaded by dreams of Pinkie Pie and remembering the strange but catchy song that she had song about finding true love and that gender shouldn't matter as long as the love is real. Or at least that is what Apple Pie took away from the whole meeting.

"hnn..true love...true colors...apples..." was all that fell out of Apple Pie's mouth as she softly snored and slowly breathed.

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Dazzle rolled over and fell out of Apple Bloom's bed. Yawning and sprawling out on the floor she looks around trying to figure out how she ended up on the floor, with all the blankets around her already folded and and made into a neat pile.

"Now how in the..." Dazzle wondered how she even had time between rolling out of the bed and fully waking up to have folded the sheets and blankets in her sleep.

"Well Abby looks like I had an interesting nap time at the very least." She giggles as she stands up and looks at Apple Bloom still sleeping on the bed.

"Hmm, well I will just go to the kitchen and let you sleep then." Dazzle sighs softly and grins as she trots off slowly to the kitchen.

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Apple Bloom had a rather active day yesterday! No real different from normal mind you, the life of a farm filly that of constant hard work. But yesterday had the ring of normal hard work and familial excitement mixed with competition and the rush of a family reunion. The biggest day of all the days and she had exhausted herself so much that by the end of the day she had flopped sweating into bed with a huge grin on her face. She had dreamed of sugar, spice, and everything nice, twice waking up as she nearly fell out of bed thanks to Dazzle taking up a relatively huge part of it. By the time she finally went to sleep for real, it was late and when Apple Bloom slept, she slept. When Dazzle woke up and moved out of her bed, Apple Bloom took the rest and continued sleeping, snoring up a storm all the while.

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Valen felt confident about his success so far in Zap Apple harvesting, his semi-forced participation turning around to become something positive for the team yesterday. He couldn't say the same about his cousin Babs, who had a negative run of things slam her yesterday and it didn't help that at one point she ended up on the ground after being ejected from the cart. But today would be a new day, and he was sure she would have a "good'n" as the locals would say. He sat down next to her and as they both ate some good old fashioned country cooking, he gave her a smile.

"Well, you had quite the day yesterday. But I'm sure today will be better. I'm sure we'll get back to you getting the better of me and I getting embarrassed by my Apple cousins," he laughed, downing some milk. He turned his attention to Big Mac.

"Need help with the watering, I suppose?"

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Bright and early, as the sun spread a bushel of it's warm beams across the earth, the soft clop of hooves against dirt shifted against the air. Milk chocolate eyes, as warm as the rays from the light above, scanned the unfamiliar terrain in curiosity. It had been more than a few summers, since this particular pony had crossed into this part of Equestria, since powdered ivory hooves felt this particular soil swirl and imprint with each good natured step. She certainly hoped that she was not too late, though her tardiness was barely something within her control. Things at her own farm had gotten more knotted than long summer wheat in a late fall breeze. Honestly, she may not had come at all, if her little brother had not insisted upon it. Though she worried, she trusted that her sibling knew his limits, and if he said he could handle it, then he could handle it. Then again, although Pippin was almost a stallion now, he was still technically a young colt... maybe she should turn around? The young mare gave a quick shake of her head. Oh, she was just being a frazzled foal! With determination to focus, and a flick of a deep red tail that curled at it's ends, Caramel Sweets trotted under the entrance to Sweet Apple Acres. She had not come this far to worry about home now! Her family there had everything under control, her family here however, had sent a call for help.

Caramel tipped her hat back as eyes peered curiously towards a particular orchard not far off, only to widen considerably at what was already burdening their bows. Dog-gone it, was it really so close to harvesting time already? The young mare picked up her pace towards the cozy farm house, assuming that that was where the rest of the family would be, seeing as no one was out and about. Quietly she scolded herself for stopping to make camp yesterday evening, if she had known that she was this late, she would have galloped all the way here! Okay, maybe that was a might bit of an exaggeration, though the sentiment remained steady. Adjusting her yellow saddle bag against her light caramel coat, Caramel Sweets stepped that last stretch of the apple family threshold, before raising a hoof to knock on the front door. She felt terrible for arriving so late, though she would be a washed down filly if she didn't work her darndest to make up for lost time.

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Bramble Rose had been frustrated at not finishing up his readings properly yesterday, thanks to the disruption by that little troublemaker ... but such was science. And he hadn't been able to finish his part of the chores, either - an injury that stung deeper than the readings. He'd always had to prove himself to his sire's side of the family, prove he wasn't just some scrawny, undersized Canterlot unicorn who couldn't help with the harvest. And here he was - another harvest, proving himself yet again. Different accent than his family, but the same focus on physical labor...

He'd gotten up exceptionally early - earlier than almost any of the apple family visiting - in order to watch the star shower. He would have been able to tell when it had started even with his eyes closed - the feeling of the magic coursing around him had energized him, and his readings had gone off the scale! He'd been in *awe* of the beauty of it ... sitting there, in the orchard, in the dead of night, with the equipment scratching away at reams of paper around him, and him just staring up with eyes and awareness wide open.

Of course, once he was up and worked up like that, there was no sleep for him that night. He had stayed around to help with the morning chores, help prepare breakfast - not that his cooking was really up to snuff, but there'd been simple things he could do, like mixing batter laying out the table. Even now he hurried to bring more bowls of delicious apple-family food out to the day's workers, still wearing one of Granny Smiths' frilly aprons as he hurried between kitchen and the long setup of picnic tables. "Just let me know if there's anything you need!" he said often, with the bowls and glasses floating around him.

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Cheerilee

Cheerilee watched as the other ponies slowly but surely made it out into the kitchen; she didn’t see Applejack or Big Mac yet. Were they still sleeping? Most likely, given how hard they worked day in and day out, they were already out in the fields preparing for everything that had to be done for Zap Apple Day Four.

Just at that moment, the silver maned unicorn, Bramble Rose came trotting in wearing one of the frilliest apple-marked aprons Cheerilee ever did see; perhaps he was one of those types of stallions, which was fine with her. “Hello Mr. Rose! If you wouldn’t mind, I could do with some waffles please.”

Cheerilee was about to just relax at the table when she suddenly remembered her earlier train of thought. “Oh! Mr. Rose! Umm ... Bramble. may I call you Bramble? I just wanted to say I noticed how important it was to you to finish getting the watering cans out to the trees yesterday, and of course, thanks to one little scamp, we didn’t”. Cheerilee put on a great big smile of encouragement, “I just wanted to say how much I appreciate scholarship and research, and it is no secret that is why you are here. So, after breakfast, I will be happy to assist you in getting those watering cans out first thing!”

The cheerful schoolmare put her forehoof around Apple Bumpkin, who had been sleepily leaning on her side, “what do you say, Bumpkin? Shall we help this fine stallion with the watering cans first? Perhaps Miss Marie would want to assist us as well! It’ll be just us ladies!”

At that moment Cheerilee’s eyes suddenly widened in embarrassment from her verbal faux pas, She’d done it again! “I mean, us ladies and mister Bramble Rose!”

Braeburn

Braeburn entered the kitchen all smiles and sunshine, toting little Apple Pie on his back, “good morning y’all! Ready for another…” The goldenrod’s speech stopped suddenly by Bramble Rose’s appearance in what was the frufru-est apron he ever did see. He just smirked as he looked the purple unicorn up and down, “oh, ah see now, well alright then!”

He stood at the table and looked about, his Sweet Apple Acres cousins weren’t down in the kitchen yet. “Say where is Applejack, Big Mac, and lil’ Abby? Hope they’re not tuckered out from comin’ in second in basket placin’! That reminds me, Granny Smith, what is on the schedule for today? After we have the vittles of course!”

The goldenrod stallion was about to sit down in front the table and slide Apple Pie off his back so she could have some breakfast too when he heard somepony knocking at the door. His ears perked up and his face brightened, at the prospect of greeting somepony, “Ah’ll get it! “ Braeburn swiftly trotted to the front door with enough balance in his stride as to keep the still sleeping Appie Pie securely on his back, he opened the front door with a great big, goofy smile, “howdy!! Welcome to Sweeeeeet Apple Acres!! What can I do you for?!”

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Applejack counted the heads of all the ponies. Some of them were supposed to be here, but they weren't currently at breakfast. She counted the foals and realized that her own sister had not come to the table yet. So she trotted upstairs to Apple Bloom's bedroom, slammed open the door, and sure enough, there she was, cocooned in her own blankets hard asleep. Applejack would rescue her by grabbing the blankets with her mouth and yanking them of the bed, unrolling the yellow filly that was inside. "Rise and shine! It's time to get back to work! Only one more day until harvest!" Applejack went to the window and opened the shades, allowing all of the sunlight to pour into the bedroom.

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Caramel had been waiting patiently, albeit with a sprinkle of nervousness, for an answer at her knock. Her mind was already beginning to turn about her options if an answer didn't come. She certainly wouldn't just barge in, though a quick circle 'round the outside of the house wasn't out of the question. Heck, maybe everypony got flanks kicked up extra early to get to work. Thought's wondering, her curious irises took a glance around the front yard, until the click of the door's knob brought her attention back to the front. Her ears pricked forward, hoofs shifting slight enough to cause a brief scrape against the surface beneath, before the wooden blockade opened an-By Uncle Salsberry's Knickers!

Caramel's eyes widened in honest surprise at the loud, but still warm welcome that came from the blur of a stallion in front of her. Goodness gracious, she was near certain she felt a wind come off that greeting! Auditory points pricking back up, she gave a near laughing smile to whom she assumed was one of her distant cousins, though she couldn't quite remember if they had met.

"A bright howdy back at ya," she responded first with a friendly wink, her voice a right bit more level than the male's and containing a tone that wasn't precisely feminine, yet still rung with a sweet note of it's own, "I'm here on account of Apple Jack's call for some helpin' hooves. Been runnin' a bit late on account of some skitterin' back at my own spread, but I'm glad to gander that I haven't missed all the fun," Come on Caramel, think. The young mare briefly scanned the stallion's goldenrod coat, energetic eyes, and... was there a filly napping on his back? Dang, that little gal must sleep as sturdily as a hundred year oak. Shoot, she just distracted herself. Still there was no no luck to be had as she just couldn't bring up the male's name. So she would assume introductions were in order. "Caramel Sweets, I'm from the family up at Solstice Heights. Lil Pippin Seed is back workin' our acres, or he woulda been trottin' to come along too."

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Being reminded of her embarrassments yesterday by her cousin did not do anything for Babs Seed but to make her even moodier. Then again, it would be quite ironic if something bad happened to Valen today, and tomorrow HE’D be the disgruntled kid moping about his bad luck from the day before. At the moment though, the goldenrod filly fired back with a grumpy; “Mind yah own business, cuz.”

With that mention, Miss Seed remembered that her other cousin hadn’t shown up at the breakfast table yet. She took a few seconds to scan her surroundings, but still no Apple Bloom. Babs wasn’t too dejected though; the thought of Valen Orange suffering one of his trademark farmyard humiliations helped the little girl in her attempt to forget about yesterday. For a moment, Babs wondered whether to prank the Orange family colt for laughs and giggles… but swiftly rejected doing so because it could possibly be a bit too mean.

Still though, as she finished up her breakfast, the devious idea from a minute ago sounded rather tempting to Miss Seed in her grumpy state.....

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Braeburn

Braeburn didn't recognize the young tan colored mare with the ruddy mane, but she definitely sounded like an Apple, even if she had a bit of an "eastern" accent to her. In any case, Braeburn did what he does best, next to orchard farming that is, greet with enthusiasm! "Well howdy Caramel Sweets, well shall I say cuzin' Caramel Sweets, since no doubt you'd be a cuzin' in some way, being an Apple an' all! " Braeburn gave a wink along with his enthusiastic smile. "Ah didn't know we had orchards in Solstice Heights, yet again ponies are still amazed about AAAAAAAAAPPLELOOSA being on the edge of a desert an' all!"

The goldenrod stallion turned around to head back into the kitchen, "so come on in! Name's Braeburn, and this lil' filly on may back is lil' Apple Pie! As I mentioned before, AAAAAAAAAAPPLELOOSA is where we are from! Ol' Applejack should be down any minute now, she'd probably just slept in after bein' out done yesterday."

As he entered the kitchen, Braeburn couldn't remember much about what the fourth day of Zap Apple harvest consisted of, given he hadn't helped since he was a colt, but whatever came his way, he was sure he could handle it just as well as any pony there. "So Granny, once our miss Bramble, ah mean mister Bramble, has breakfast served, where did you need me today?"

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Mac couldnt help but chuckle at Braeburn being so very typically himself - the enthusiastic stallion was always the one who held events together with an almost unbridled positive but sometimes overbearing passion for his family craft, oftentimes leaving many newcomers to his particular antics a little confused and uncertain as to just what it was that had blown by them...he was still an appleoosian whirlwind of positive energy!

Still, Macintosh admired the stallion for being the outgoing pony he was - he had a lot of things to handle, and from what Applejack had told him some time ago, had actively participated in the planning and execution of a unique defense strategy for the protection of both the town and the apple crops that they had planted in order to sustain a way of life out in the otherwise harsh wilderness of the area...a feat even the red stallion would likely have found a tall task on his own. Of course, his cousin wasn't on his own during this particular event...he had the whole town of appleoosa and his sister, along with her best friends, for help - it was good to have heard of such a thing taking place, and that ever since then the town had grown into a much more booming and prosperous location because of it!

Anyhow, any serious bonding with his crazy but well intentioned cousin could wait a little longer....Mac had to tend to his own things for the time being, and those things seemed to include trying not to get too caught up in the crazy machinations of one Miss Harshwhinney - although right now, that seemed to be a tricky task to fulfil than he'd expected. For the current moment, however, he was just achieving maximum mac-zen status as he finished up another small round of pancakes, watching the gathering of pony-craziness around him...

Ah, Apple family events...how Big Mac loved every minute of having these crazy ponies an' mares around!

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Just as she was just about to finish off her breakfast, Ingrid Marie noticed one of her nieces from the Solstice Heights area trot into the room. The middle-aged mare did not harbor the belief that many more of her more immediate family would have gotten the notice to help out with the zap apple harvest. Thus, she found it a wonderful surprise to see that Caramel Sweets was able to come by Sweet Apple Acres. While swallowing the last bit of pancake, Ingrid gave her niece a friendly wave hello acknowledging that she noticed her.

Now that her stomach was sufficiently full, the beige unicorn felt she finally had the energy to get on with the business of the day. As Apple Bloom was still tardy for breakfast, Ingrid Marie instead headed towards her harvesting partners from the day before: Cheerilee, cousin Bumpkin, and Bramble Rose. And apparently, Cheerilee just namedropped Ms. Marie’s name too! “I actually planned on seeing what the children are going to be up to, mmmkay,” the apple unicorn explained; “Especially Apple Bloom; I haven’t gotten the chance to talk to her since her birthday party, actually. But I’ll see if I'm able to lend you fillies,” Ingrid winked at Bramble; “And gentlecolt, a little help sometime today.”

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The unicorn could hardly believe herself, how could she be late for this?! While she may have not been a part of the apple family she had most definitely heard of them, their incredible apple orchard and amazing cooking. The young yellow-tan mare was very fond of their cooking as well as their way of life both out here in ponyville and in the frontier village of Appleoosa, but the zap apple harvest was something she'd only read about and heard of in the towns she'd visit. The various stages of the zap apple harvest sounded especially interesting... even if she had already missed the chance to see some of the events.

While painting what she would see at the orchard would indeed be the main reason she was here, she did have a few ulterior motives... one being food due to her forgetting to eat fairly recently after getting extremely involved with one of her paintings the previous night. She'd not only forgotten to eat dinner but because she had run out of bits that day buying paint for that portrait she could go anywhere to eat anything. The mare glared at her stomach as it gave another growl,"C'mon... I can't offer to be a Ranchhoof if I don't make a good enough impression! So shut it!" she growled right back at her hungry tummy. Her second reason was because she had always wanted to visit a farm as a filly but her sheltered upbringing didn't really encourage it, but it didn't stop her from reading all about it.

The the slightly tomcoltish mare had tidied herself up today, having actually combed her mane as well as the usual wash she would give it although even she admitted this seemed rather pointless seeing as she still had her typical messy look with the ends occasionally curling. The mare's silvery-white mane could glisten in the sunlight if hit just right so it wasn't a total waste. Today she was not wearing her usual straw, conical sunhat seeing as she hat wound up eating it the previous night to give herself something to temporarily sate her stomach. While her hat was gone she was still wearing her beloved blue scarf around her neck that still fluttered lazily in the wind.

Presteza took a deep breath as she approached the door to the apple family's household. The smell of the delicious home-made meal almost immediately got her attention and made her mouth water and almost put her into a near hypnotic trance but soon she shook her head rapidly to snap herself out of it. The mare put on a determined look and lifted her hoof to knock at the door smiling a kind smile before she knocked.

Upon being greeted she would speak up in a cheery tone,"'lo there! I'm Presteza... I'm not part o' yer family but I was wonderin' if ya needed any help with the Zap apple harvest." she said in her typical Trottingham accent. "While I may no' look it at first ... look I'm stronger than I look and I really would love ta see ya at work and with yer permission paint all who participated." she said practically all in one long breath.. followed by her stomach growling which was shortly accompanied by a nervous smile and blush from the young mare.

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Apple Pie was still fully asleep on Braeburn's back. She had drifting in and out of her slumber as she heard faint whispering of jobs that needed to be done. She was sure that Braeburn would pick the one that best suited them and take her along with him. She knew that she should normally be awake by now but under these very special standings she figured that she herself should do something strange and unheard of. Taking long naps. She nuzzles softly at the back of Breaburn's neck as she speaks under her breath about flower fields and pillow fights. Her hind leg twitching every now and then as she slumbered.

She stood up now fully on his back and yawned, arching her back and flicking her tail about a bit as she finally awoke fully.

"What did I miss by taking the elongated sleep schedule. I sure hope that there is still food prepared." Apple Pie started to brush her mane a bit still standing perfectly still on Braeburn.

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Apple Bumpkin was feeling much more awake now that the whole of the world wasn't so sloshy. Her whole being was now one and just the sheer joy of being on the farm and having not only her family and friends but Cheerilee here as well only made her day that much better. It was a good thing that she was going to be working with all of them today since it was the fourth day of the Zap Apple harvest. It was as good of a time as any to give Cheerilee some good photo-ops and even get her some education into the strange phenomenon that was the Zap Apple and the Zap Apple Harvest.

"Well we already placed all the buckets down at the trees and we did yell at some jars. So 'Ah guess that Granny would have to refresh the checklist." Bumpkin found herself nodding her head in agreement with herself before she shook her head no and looked around at all those who had gathered there. "Well Cheerilee, whatever you planned to do 'Ah suppose 'Ah can help. Less 'Ah'm pulled away to somethin' else." She giggles and rests her head back down still waiting for the food.

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Dazzle sat in her spot not wanting to move, wondering why Apple Bloom hadn't been up and at them yet like the rest of her family was. It was a bit strange, every other time the two had had slumber parties Apple Bloom was always up WAY before Dazzle was. But then again Dazzle was notorious for oversleeping and being late, it was like her catch all, you could always count on Dazzle to be late.

"Oh I sure hope she isn't sick or something, that would be most unfortunate and bad." Dazzle spoke softly trying to not alert any others to her plight about the apple filly.

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Cheerilee

Cheerilee felt a little embarrassed, she didn't mean to draft Ingrid Marie, or any other pony for that matter, into her plan to assist Bramble Rose in his desire to make sure all the trees were watered next, she just assumed they would want to, but the beige unicorn's response showed that Cheerilee had assumed wrongly. "I'm sorry Ingrid, I didn't mean to press you into the watering group; it's a good idea that all the foals get together and have some fun activities during all of this and someone will have to watch over them." She was thinking in instructor terms again, not realizing that Ingrid may not be thinking in terms of 'organized activities' as much as just wanting to chat with her young relatives.

At least Apple Bumpkin appeared interested in helping out, until she gets drafted somewhere else, "thanks hon; with luck I'll get some real insider information on this tradition unique to Ponyville. Maybe next year the Apples here will let students join in as part of an educational field trip, oh I bet the students would love that!" Even if the field trip to Tiny Apple Valley was a near disaster, Cheerilee was... Reasonably sure she could keep another hooves on trip to a farm under control.

At worse for the watering just be Cheerilee and Bramble, and how difficult could watering trees be? This raised another question, why did they need watering at all? Trees are not normally watered, and certainly not by watering can, as a single can could never hold enough water to make a real impact on a full grown tree… There had to be something else to it, something special, just like having to yell at the jars, which Cheerilee had to admit, was a tradition that was completely lost on her. Bramble appeared to be some sort of flora magical researcher though, maybe even a scientist; perhaps he would know!

Cheerilee gave a cheerful smile towards the silver maned unicorn, "so Mr. Bramble Rose, or is it Dr. Bramble Rose? I think we could start back up that watering once you finish serving breakfast, I'd love to hear why you think this is done…" Cheerilee suddenly felt maybe that was a little to presumptive again, "I mean, if you wouldn't mind."

Braeburn

Braeburn smiled warmly when little Apple Pie finally awoke after her morning nap. Poor filly, she must have been really tired after the Great Basket Race yesterday, which the Appleloosians totally won of course! "Howdy Apple Pie, y'all didn't miss much, it's still breakfast time! Ah guess AJ and Abby are being plum slow getting' outta bed after we all beat them so badly in the race 'sterday! Still gotta find out what grandma wants us ta' do today, so git yerself some vittles 'fore their all gone!"

It was then the goldenrod stallion noticed a newcomer, a golden colored unicorn mare with a silvery mane. Unlike that strange Bramble Rose fella, Braeburn was sure this mare was the genuine article! He took off his Stetson and held it to his chest and gave a huuuuge grin, "howdy miss! Welcome to AAA- uh.. Let me start again.. Welcome to SWEEEEET APPLE ACRES!! Y'all here for th' harvest? Well if y'all are, y'all arrived just in time! W'all still finishing' up breakfast so get yerself inside and grab some vittles before we start, uh Miss..?"

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