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SteelEagle

Relaxation, the Apple Family Way! (Applejack)

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Being a member of the greatest family in the history of Equestria and beyond had many responsibilities and rewards associated with it. First, you had to work your flank off, and the Apple family didn't work in any office building or in some froo-froo business. They were orchard folk, farm folk born and raised. Beyond the physical labor, being an Apple meant you were part of a tight-knit unit. Apples were never as open and honest as they were with each other, never as friendly, angry, sad, happy as they were around others. It was a fact of life for most of the others that they were honest and consistently dependable in matters of the heart around each other, frankness and honesty valued above whitewashing and gentle feelings. To Apple Bloom, she chalked it up to another responsibility, and one she had some difficulty adhering to at times. But that was just the start of her responsibilities.

 

There was a mighty large list of them, though she preferred to think of them as just chores. Still, there was an equally long list of rewards for adherence. The fist was just being able to be around her family, the sort of reward that she would selfishly cling to no matter what. Big Mac could be a bore, but if there was anypony else in the world with a bigger heart, she would need to see proof. Granny Smith had once made her somewhat uncomfortable, maybe ashamed, but now Apple Bloom couldn't imagine a day going by without a story from her. Applejack was simply the greatest sister in the whole wide world and didn't need much more than that to describe her.

 

And another reward was that best big sister's after-dinner activities. Applejack was sometimes too tuckered out to play or do anything, but after dinner and as the family retired to go and do what they needed to do before they laid their heads down and gave in to the sweet release of sleep, Apple Bloom and Applejack could spend quality sister time without fear of interruption or worry. Well, at least when Applejack was up to it, which was most of the time even when she didn't feel like it since Apple Bloom was both incredibly adorable and took, "No" as a suggestion.

 

"Hey sis, whatcha wanna do?!" Apple Bloom said, the heavy soup in her stomach not seemingly having affected her in the slightest as she bounced up the stairs to the second story, where both of their rooms were located. Best part of the night was sister time!

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Applejack walked up with her hyper sister jumping up in front of her. She sure was excited. And why shouldn't she be? This was a night to relax. Granny, probably already sound asleep either on her rocker or in her bed, and Big Mac, who always went to bed early so that he could get up early and start the pre-dawn tasks before the heat of the day made it harder to complete, would not be awake during this time. Nope. This was Applejack and Apple Bloom's time. Almost every night they spent time together before bed. Telling stories, playing games, and even having sisterly arguments in which their differences never hung passed morning.

But what was tonight agenda? "Heh heh. Gee, AB, I don't know." Applejack rubbed her head and lifted her hat and hung it on her bedside hook where it would rest for the remainder of the evening. Applejack retreated back to her sister after a burst of brain churning. "Ah know! We could play Apple Settler Ponies!" Applejack rushed into her closet and took out a box containing the board game. She balanced it squarely on her nose as she trotted over to the center of the room. Dropping the box, Applejack opened it and threw together the piece of the game, connecting the board together, and organizing all the game pieces by color, and then finally shuffling the deck. Applejack loved this game. It was so strategic, and contained several tributes to homestyle apple farming.

"Don't you just love playing this game, Apple Bloom!?" Applejack, without looking at her sisters face, picked up the two dice and dropped them near the board. She got a 6. "Go ahead and roll, Sis, so we can figure out who goes first."

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Apple Bloom loved her sister something fierce, of this there was no doubt. It was only because of this that she could tolerate the high levels of extreme and at times overwhelming nerdiness she could exhibit in the privacy of sister on sister fun. Whatever game this was, Applejack's old writing on the box and rule cards and hoof-built pieces told Apple Bloom that it wasn't originally Apple Settler Ponies. Apple Bloom loved Apple settlin' as much as any other pony, but sometimes it was like her big sis' entire life revolved around apples! Apple Bloom rolled her eyes, her sister the dice. Well, the point was to have fun and her sister sure did love her some Apple Settler Ponies. Even if Apple Bloom believed Applejack's understanding of her likely custom rules was nebulous, and even if Apple Bloom didn't know what that word meant, this would be fun.

 

"Well, o' COURSE I love playin' this here game, sis!" Apple Bloom shot back as she grabbed the dice and rolled with her tail, getting a four.

"Ah, shoot, doesn't look like ah'm gonna stand much o' a chance 'ere, Applejack," She said before giving a laugh. Truth be told, she had forgotten the rules something fierce and looked at the pieces with a slight aura of confusion. Had she made any modifications since last time? Bits to Celestia, Apple Bloom wouldn't know and it wouldn't be the first time that her big sister had done it. Apple Bloom didn't know whether to admit to some sort of stunned amusement or sadness. Well, worse things she could be doing in her spare time, like going to a salt bar.

 

"Ah can't seem ta remember some of th' rules for tha game, been a spell since'a've played," Apple Bloom said with a small manner of shame. She didn't necessarily like making her big sister repeat the rules almost every session, but she had been caught with her figurative pelt off a few times due to some new twist and didn't want to get her sis all riled up. It was funny, but only in a twenty-percent sorta way. Well, more like fifty, but she wasn't going to let that show.

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"Oh sure, Abby. I can tell you the rules again." Applejack knew this wasn't the first time she had to repeat the rules to her sister. The irony of the situation, though, is that Applejack could easily make up the rules as she went and configure it to her own victory. Apple Bloom would never know, if she even cared. But Applejack would never let it get to that. She was too honest for her own good, and always told the house rules the same every time, and complied with them every time. Applejack didn't cheat. Nope. She beat her sister in this game the old fashioned way. And despite Apple Bloom being a young cutie mark-less pony with competitive spirits, it never even came close to comparing with Applejack's drive for board game rivalries.

"We start by placing our first barns on different acre pieces. We take turns doing it, and then when we each have two barns, we start rolling the dice to see what kinds of apples we get to harvest from those barns, and use those apples to trade for bits and expand the farm. Largest farm at the end of the game wins!" How fitting for this taking place on a a farm that could swallow Ponyville whole if it had the ability to do so. It was like watching the first beginnings of Ponyville on a much smaller scale. Applejack was the farm, and Apple Bloom was, well, everypony else. Applejack placed her first barn on a piece next to a enchanted forest. "OK, sis, you're next!"

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When Applejack was excited, and boy was she ever excited to teach her sister a thing or two about proper orchard building in a board game, it was a scene to behold. Her eyes lit up and she had the mannerisms of a filly, tail often times flailing about behind her in excitement. It was cute to see her sister so excited, even if Apple Bloom was certain that Applejack was more like an excited timberworlf circling a cub than a filly playing a game. She never cheated but she also showed her little just how little mercy could be shown in a game. You'd think that being her sister and all she'd cut Apple Bloom some slack but nope, she was utterly and completely merciless. With a smile. It would be scary if seeing her so excited wasn't so great.

 

Applejack went first, as usual, and took the best spot, as usual. The enchanted forest was all sorts of greatness as long as you didn't get unlucky and had it all under control. It was quickly Apple Bloom's turn and she scanned the board, her mind trying to formulate some sort of coherent strategy. Her normal strategy of flailing around like a lunatic as Applejack's farm overtook everything and left her looking more and more like the little sister in the game as in real life. This time though she would try something different- she placed her barn on a riverbank and gave a wide, evil smile.

 

"Ah pick tha riverbank, 'cause that means resources and such!" She blathered on, eschewing the tradition of plotting in silence. It didn't give her as much room to expand as plains or immediate resources like forests but water was always important, and rivers meant trade! She was smart, and reared up in excitement due to her brilliance.

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Applejack looked closely at Apple Bloom's position. The older sister had already thought up her next move, and a failsafe spot in case Apple Bloom chose her next spot and ruined her strategy. In order to play this well, Applejack knew you had to have several strategies ranging from different styles of play and that you had to be able to change your strategy when things suddenly did change. But no changing would have to happen as Apple Bloom chose a strange spot on the map. A trading port. These spots, Applejack knew, were useful for trading and getting ahead in points, but it was usually only usable once you got later into the game. Applejack shrugged it off an thought that maybe Abby had a secret strategy. Maybe, just maybe, Applejack would allow herself to be impressed by her sister's increase in strategy. And you can't be impressed if you interrupted their game style, so Applejack let it be.

"Uh, ok. That's an... ...interesting spot." Applejack smirked an evil smile back at Apple Bloom. "Ah'm going here for my second barn." Applejack parked a barn right on the tile next Apple Bloom's, blocking all roads that would lead back inland. If there was any chance of her expanding from that zone, Applejack had just removed them. Her spot gave her rights to fresh resources in the form of wheat, should she be lucky enough to get rolled. It wasn't the best spot in terms of increase Applejack's strategy, but it ruined her sister's in contrast. "Top that, Missy!" Applejack winked at her sister, assuming she knows what just happened.

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Apple Bloom had been full of vinegar and dreams as she placed her first barn, her long-term strategy being to wing it and make every turn so absolutely overwhelming that her big sister would be forced to concede. It was a flawless strategy as long as she played against a filly whose strategies were played out in the rosiest of scenarios, though against Applejack such hopes and dreams were likely to be dashed against reality's rocky sides. Or in this case, if Applejack was a total meanie and slammed her second barn next to Apple Bloom's defiantly, her wicked smirk and kind wink working to stun Apple Bloom into submission for a moment. Apple Bloom wanted to protest and after a few seconds of double takes, she did just that.

 

"Applejack! Ya can't do that!...Can you? It ain't righ'!" She whined, stamping her hooves lightly on the ground. She had little to no recourse, it seemed. Her trading route was cut off and her entire hair-brained strategy was ruined in one fell swoop. Applejack was the destroyer of civilizations and little filly dreams, and the second was the far more egregious offense. She crossed her front legs and sat on her haunch, eyes furrowed as she scanned the map. What path would be best for her burgeoning apple farm, seeing as her sister had pulled a unicorn and was being all sorts of tricksy? In the continued lack of good ideas, Apple Bloom choose one that seemed to fit her desire to exact immediate revenge.

 

"Well, how 'bout THEM apples!" The filly roared as she slammed her second barn directly next to Applejack's first, taking the more even ground next to the enchanted forest. It wasn't a winning formula, but it was an annoying one that was sure to dent her big sis's growth. Triumphant vibes booming in her heart, she stood up and trotted towards the kitchen.

"Ya want a cookie or somethin', sis?" She asked, hoping against hope that maybe Applejack would be too distracted to realize that Apple Bloom and cookies in the same train of thought was more often than not a very bad way to start that train's ride. It usually sugar crashed.

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Applejack Apple Bloom's second barn move. And a rather good one it was. "Nice job Abby! Um, Yeah, grab me three of those apple crumblers Granny made, and get me some milk to, please." Applejack looked at the board as her sister was away to confirm her strategy. Her forest barn was a great resource spot. However, Apple Bloom did sort of steal that goodness a little. So Applejack decided to play her strategy mostly of her second barn, which despite being less fruitful, had much more space and options to choose from. Applejack rolled the dice. She got a four. Applejack got something on a roll of four and so did Apple Bloom. "Hay, sis! You got a resource card. A brick card to be exact."

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You get two resource cards for every roll on a barn, and you get one for ever resource roll adjacent to a barn.

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Resources were wonderful things, but Apple Bloom had a sneaking suspicion that anything that put them on even footing was really just a way to improve Applejack's standing. On any semblance of even ground her older sister would dominate her, which was generally how the game went down anyway. It was just as well that Apple Bloom was away from the dice being rolled, lest her immediate desire to change her strategy do what it usually did to her strategy: Ruin it and ruin it terribly.

 

Apple Bloom passed by the milk just as her sister asked for a glass, which struck the filly just fine as she was fancying herself a glass of the same. She reached over and picked up two glasses, not bothering to look and see the contents of each glass before she took the milk in her mouth and poured two glasses. After that was finished, she dove into the cookie jar and dug out the contents, placing three cookies for each pony on tiny saucers. She placed the glasses on her head and saucers on her back before trotting back into the room with Applejack, more infatuated with the milk and cookies in their immediate future than the steadily decreasing possibility of her victory. She placed Applejack's milk and cookies down, then hers, and rolled the dice with her tail.

"It's a 2! Darn snake eyes. That means ah get a dirt an' you too, right?" She said while drinking her milk viciously.

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Applejack grabbed a cookie and shoved the entire thing into her mouth, enjoying its sugary goodness the best way she knew how to. Applejack made attempts at minding her table manners, since she doesn't have much training in regards to etiquette while eating. But, since it was just sister time with Apple Bloom, Applejack didn't feel the need for such careful consideration. She ate the way she wanted. Besides, its hard to have table manners while lying on the floor playing a board game with no table.

Applejack swallowed. "Yup, that's right!" Applejack grabbed two cards representing dirt and passed one of them to her sister. "May turn!" Applejack grabbed the dice with her straight cookie crumb-filled teeth and dropped the dice with style. "Seven! You know what that means..." Applejack took the black buffalo piece which until now had been sidelined due to inactivity. She placed the game piece on top of one of Apple Bloom's barn. "Ha! That tile has a buffalo run in it, so you can't get those resources if the number gets rolled. AND!" Applejack took one of Apple Bloom's resource cards away from her. "Ah get to steal one of your resource cards. That's what happens when a seven is rolled."

Applejack didn't enjoy patronizing her sister. But she did love this game. And few things outside of apple bucking excited the orange mare more than a lucky roll of the dice in a game of apple settlers. In celebration, Applejack reached for a second cookie. This time, she seemed to have trouble reaching it, but eventually grabbed it. As she brought it closer to her mouth, a splash could be heard, if Applejack was listening to it, which she wasn't. Applejack ate the cookie. While she munched, she spoke, as she could see the expression on Apple Bloom's face drop. "Now don't feel bad AB! You'll have chances to steal from me." Applejack swallowed and winked heavily at her sister. "If you roll a seven, that is."

Applejack's cookie munching called for a serving of ice cold white milk. She grabbed her glass with her teeth and lifted it up as the milk emptied into her mouth. She gulped with every half-breathe, not stopping in enjoyment of the refreshment a glass of milk brings after eating two of Granny's homemade cookies. But then she felt something. Something moving in her mouth. Stunned, Applejack dropped the glass and stopped swallowing, but left her mouth closed. Applejack's tongue panicked as she moved it to force whatever was moving towards the front of her mouth. Popping out of her mouth was a green caterpillar, one that had several different tone stripes down the segments of its body. The caterpillar's expression could be explained with a combination of several types of displeasure. The caterpillar forced its way out of Applejack's mouth and jumped down onto the ground scurrying away in a random direction as fast as it could.

Applejack stood still in amazement, as what had occurred had shocked her completely. Her mouth hung open and dripped milk left unswallowed, including the small amount that may have plastered above her upper lip. She looked at her sister as her left eye twitched. Applejack began to speak with fear. "Caterpillar? We gawt caterpillars!?"

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Applejack had a way with dice that if she were a unicorn would get fillies such as Apple Bloom in a tizzy, believing she was cheating as viciously as possible. This was how most of their games went though, Applejack's abilities with dice unnatural and terrifying. That was why Apple Bloom's dread at playing any game of chance was so well-founded. Of course it was only because it was a game of chance- it couldn't be that her sister was just an intelligent mare with solid strategies in a game she knew well. Could it? Apple Bloom would love to credit her sister with vast intelligence but she lived with her...and those dice provided a far more convenient outlet for her beliefs.

 

How was she to respond to this buffalo runnin', resource stealin' madness? She was not nearly as lucky or admittedly as smart as her sister and her momentary strategy was going so poorly that even against a filly of equal skill she would be in a poor spot. Against her older sister she had about as much chance of mounting a comeback as Granny Smith had of corralling stampeding cows in the early morning. What was she going to do here? There were few options and in many ways she felt as if she were putting up obstacles in a futile gesture to stop an overwhelming force. An orange, really smart and nice unstoppable force of hugs and love, but an unstoppable force nonetheless.

 

"You an' yer dice, sis. Ah swear ya must have funky dice or somethin'," She laughed as she took the dice and in one quick motion rolled the dice, the first hitting a six and the second spinning like a top for a few seconds. The excitement built inside Apple Bloom for a few moments as she wondered if the six-sided luck-changer would continue spinning and maybe fly away. She doubted that would happen but the possibility was endlessly entertaining- oh, wait, it stopped on a six as well. Her well-drilled math skills told her it was twelve. Twelve was a very bad number for Apple Bloom, though she was sure her sister was more than happy with the outcome.

 

"Gosh darnit! Ya get two water resource cards and ah get jack diddly links. Ya always get tha best of luck!" She was increasingly down and out, but that didn't mean she was going to get bratty or upset. Spending time with her sister was more than pleasurable and even in defeat, a night playing a game next to the fire with Applejack was worth more than the fifty sunniest days winning games of kickball at school or winning awards. She handed her sister two water resource cards before part of her brain moved away from the game and wondered why her sis was so shockingly silent about slowly crushing her sister like she was another apple orchard in town. Or in this case on some fantasy continent.

 

Apple Bloom took a bite of her cookie and looked up at her sister, whose look was one of fear and disgust. Apple Bloom's confusion was only momentary as Applejack blurted out the source of her dissatisfaction within a moment. Her eyes trailed the assailant and Apple Bloom followed it to find a cute yet disgruntled caterpillar scurrying away from Applejack. There were a few emotions she could have felt but the outcome was likely obvious.

"Aww! Look't him, ain't he a cutie? Can Ah keep'm?" She blurted out before without consideration for another living creature picking it up and staring at it. The caterpillar could only flail about lamely as she held it close and cooed.

"Ah'm gunna name him Jerry! Ah ain't never had a caterpillar before...Ah ain't ever seen a caterpillar before naw that Ah think 'bout it!" She blathered on some more before placing it on the ground and standing across from it as if waiting to play.

"How'd ya get 'im?!"

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Applejack watched the caterpillar crawl away from her, and into Apple Bloom's grab as the little critter unfortunately fell into the reachable territory of the little apple pony. Apple Bloom remarked on the caterpillar's cute image and asked for its possession--like for a pet. "Wh- N- No, ya can't keep 'em! What'er you nuts!?"

As Apple Bloom had placed the caterpillar down, Applejack took her now empty glass of milk and and grabbed it with her front hooves. She raised the glass up in a windup to set a motion for what looked to be a powerful blow the orange mare was capable of. As she motioned forward, Applejack's eyes grew dark and violent, and her expression was none too pleased. She slammed the glass down right on the caterpillar, face down, of course, trapping the caterpillar inside. The caterpillar began slamming it's tiny legs against the glass and made an almost un-hearable cry for help.

Applejack shoved Apple Bloom to the side as if there was harm in the way. "Don't you know what caterpillars do!? They're gonna eat our entire crop of apples if they're swarmin' all over the farm. Where did you find this one? It was in mah milk! Where's you get the milk!?" Applejack started shouting at her sister, almost inappropriately. Anypony who knew Applejack could tell this was a serious situation to her, and the game they we're playing was in the back of her mind, if it was still in her mind at all.

Applejack went towards the caterpillar and threatened it with her voice. "Where did you come from? Where are the others!?" After a continuous silent scream from the caterpillar, Applejack dismissed it. "Augh! This one's already gone soft on us, he's not gonna tell us anything. Quick, Apple Bloom, we need to search the perimeter for more of these critters. We'll start with the kitchen." Applejack started galloping her hooves across the wooden floor of the barn. Her eyes changed size to that of apple seeds with the scary thought of caterpillars stampeding over the entire apple crop, eating all the of the apples off the trees. Applejack made a nervous swallow as she ran down the stairs.

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Apple Bloom wasn't used to her sister getting so riled up and angry so fast, her tone and volume so swiftly rising and coming off with great vicious energy her newfound aggression. It was disquieting and the fact that Apple Bloom could trace its genesis to her didn't help matters any. Applejack launched into a short and concise bit about the dangers of caterpillars, which shocked Apple Bloom to no end. How could such adorable small bugs be a problem to anypony, let alone a threat? They look like they wanted to be hugged and played with, at least to Apple Bloom. Still, the fact they represented such a threat momentarily stiffened Apple Bloom- until she realized she was being asked a question by her big sister as the mare's mind and voice sped in circles in worrying ways, Apple Bloom struggling to get on the same path let alone as she followed Applejack in her gallop.

 

Apple Bloom wished she was more likely to help rather than hurt the family but there were times when she didn't know if she was a very good Apple. They all knew about the danger of caterpillars and that you shouldn't try to pull vegetables before they were finished but she couldn't help herself. Still, her mind tried to focus more on the danger posed by the adorable critters and less on the fact she felt partially to blame for her sister's slightly scary mood.

 

"Ah-ah just got tha milk f-from tha cupboard an' then poured tha milk. Ah'm sorry!" Apple Bloom apologized as she spoke, eyes wide in a mix of confusion and sorrow and her ears pinned against the back of her head as her shoulder sagged underneath. The two reached the kitchen in due time, Apple Bloom sharing her sister's vision of a destroyed orchard though to her the exact how or why was a mystery.

"Ah just got the glass from-" She started as she opened the cupboard which before she had not gandered in. She saw now her previous folly as almost a half-dozen caterpillars were squirming around. Apple Bloom's eyes shot out right before she slammed the cupboard in the caterpillars' mixed faces of annoyance and confusion.

"Thar's like a million o' them in thar!"

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Applejack started searching everywhere in the kitchen for the green little monsters. She looked in the cookie jar, on the table, on the place-mats, under the place-mats, in the stove, and even under that one wooden piece in the floor that you could remove to hide special items. There was nothing. But then Apple Bloom alerted that there was a gratuitous amount of them in the cupboard where she had so ignorantly gotten her snack supplies. "A million!?" Applejack stepped up to the cupboard, where Apple Bloom had slammed it shut. She moved her sister aside. "Watch out Apple Bloom, this might get ugly."

Applejack spit on her front hooves and rubbed them together. And then, with a moment to breathe, she closed her eyes, relaxed, and then inhaled deeply. She opened her eyes with a fiery vengeance and put her hooves forward to open the door. Using her might she ripped the door clean off, including the rusty hinges that kept it together. As soon as she threw open the door, caterpillars were seen everywhere inside, crawling on the insides of the wooden structure, scurrying to the nearest dark place they could find to avoid the light that had struck their weak bodies. "Com'er you!" Applejack pounced at the caterpillars, but they crawled to the next door-space of the cupboard. Applejack moved over and took the next door off, and they retreated to the next adjacent door-space again, except this was the last one--they could not retreat to another one. "Apple Bloom, grab that there bowl, and when they run out, you capture them to keep them from getting away. Ok?" Apple grabbed the cupboard door and prepared her weight. "Now!" Applejack ripped the cupboard door off. As Applejack waited for the caterpillars to run for dear life all over the kitchen, there was no running to be had. But why? Applejack looked inside the last ripped of cupboard door to reveal that the caterpillars had dug a whole clean through the bottom of the cupboard, straight under the integrity of the barn.

Applejack's worst fears were now in full motion, as it seemed that these critters were an uncontrollable force. If they could dig their way inside their home, what was keeping them from crawling up every tree in the orchard? "Mother of honey-covered apple seeds! They dug a hole clean through the barn!" Applejack ran towards the front door, and slammed it open. She ran out and looked outside on the side where the caterpillars had seemed to had run off to. There a lone tree stood. It was the closest tree to the barn and bore sentimental value to the Apple family for its age. Applejack ran over to it and inspected the tree. Caterpillars were not there, but they sure looked like they were. Several leaves had bites taken out of them, and some of the leaves had fallen to the ground.

Applejack rubs the tree trunk and comforted it. "Oh no, Leavi, did they hurt you, baby?" She circled her hoof-rubs for a few seconds before noticing one of the leaves on the ground has special markings on it. She looked down and saw a little yellow spec. This spec then broke open and out of it, came a baby caterpillar. The leaf showed the remnants of several hundred eggs that had already hatched. Applejack knew what this meant. A butterfly must have laid her eggs on Leavi, and the caterpillars hatched. Applejack's pupil's shrunk to the sound of her fear.

The caterpillars had found a way to dig their way into the barn, and now that they had been scared out, they would surely look for food elsewhere on the farm. Elsewhere, or everywhere. Applejack looked out towards the orchard, where she could see little movements of green wiggles reflecting the moonlight and racing their way to their next feast--the Apple family orchard. Several trees had already been bucked earlier in the day, and since they had planned on picking up the apples the next day, most of the apples rested at the feet of these apple trees. Usually, the apples would survive a regular night. A regular night involving no rain and no caterpillars. Unfortunately, these light green larva littered the farm under Luna's luminescent moon.

"Apple Bloom! It's a swarm o' them! It's worse then I feared. These caterpillars are tryin' to eat our entire crop of apples! We gotta grab all the apples before they can get to them! Hurry!"

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Apple Bloom never responded well to the the intensity of a situation deteriorating with increasing speed. The panic that most felt was the start of a fight or flight response that should have been easy to answer correctly: Fight. In this case, this translated more vaguely to not allow the caterpillars to get to her due to their sheer adorableness and ominous portends and shoo them back from whence they came. That was the proper response. That was the Apple response. That was why there were times when she wondered if she was more like an Pear or Peach, since she was initially more likely to sit back and gently get them away. Flight, maybe. Applejack was so different and it was not necessarily in the manner Apple Bloom would have liked to have seen. Applejack has pushed her little sister out of the way to stare down the would be home wreckers, her body tense and the aura she gave off a mix of aggressive emotions. She was scared. She was angry. She was ready to take action. Apple Bloom didn't know whether to feel inspired or terrified and settled for a confused, anxious fear as she witnessed her sister go about the work of hunting the caterpillars down.

 

She did this by doing the most responsible thing possible: Tearing cupboard doors off with her bare hooves in a mad panic to find and defeat her adorable and numerous adversaries. Finally, it appeared as though they had been cornered and their brief but disturbing reign of terror was to come to an end. Applejack ordered Apple Bloom to get ready to capture the vermin with a bowl and when her sister had that tone about her of command and that fierceness that was her birthright, she could do little but follow it. Apple Bloom grabbed a priceless family heirloom that was passed down from generation to generation, perhaps even the first bowl that they had eaten out of once they plopped down on this land. Whatever the case, Apple Bloom was perfectly willing to capture a few dozen to around a million- she had counted fast and math was apparently not a strong point of the Apple family- in it. That momentary show of bravado ended when Applejack tore the door off its hinges and sent wood splintering off in any which direction. Apple Bloom flinched and hid behind the bowl like a makeshift helmet and armor. If the caterpillars had made their escape into the kitchen, Apple Bloom would have been no obstacle at all. It was therefore divine luck that after a moment nothing had happened- no huge stampede of tiny legs nor dissapointed yet worried shouts from her sister after Abby had been overrun. She peeked out and could only see her sister poking her head into the space- and if Apple Bloom had the gift of eyesight at all, she could swear her sister lost color until her pelt turned as yellow as the sun. She could only guess at what that meant and as oats were to a balanced breakfast, she was to to the truth.

 

Applejack exclaimed and in a wild panic fled the barn, Apple Bloom in hot and able pursuit- as much as she could, anyway. Her legs were not nearly as strong nor long as her sister, but she gave it a jolly effort. They stopped in front of Leavi, one of the oldest trees in the Orchard that was almost as much a part of the family as Apple Bloom was. truth be told, she thought that was giving herself too much credit. Leavi was ancient and strong, his roots as deep in the very soil as the entire Apple family clan. It had seen generations grow, wither, pass on and endure in all of life's great cycles. It had been there since before she had been born and would be there long after she too had left. It was not just a tree; it was the tree. Applejack ran up and her concern was not just noted and understood by her sister, but Apple Bloom considered it almost underwhelming. Or at least she would consider it underwhelming if she had a better idea as to what the exact problem was. Her eyes tracked the tree- no giant gaps or great discolorations, at least as much as she could allow. It was as she followed the ground that she came to a realization. It came to her in the form of a hatching larvae; hundreds of caterpillars had been hatched from a butterfly? How many butterflies had she seen on a day to day basis and now she knew that those devilishly adorable bugs were actually whimsical and devious! They must have hated apples to have laid them on Leavi, of all the trees. It couldn't be the adorable caterpillar's fault as they were simply just doing what they needed to. No, just like all things that flew, the butterfly was nothing but trouble.

 

While Apple Bloom knew this was the truth, she also knew that there was little that could be done about the evil butterflies. They had won the Battle of the Larvae; now she had to win the Battle of the Apples or lose the War for Sweet Apple Acres. Apple Bloom may have previously had a manner of flight take hold when she considered it a problem more personal but now than it had grown to encompass the entirety of her home turf, she was ready to fight. In this case, this translated more vaguely to not allow the caterpillars to get to her due to their sheer adorableness and ominous portends and shoo them back from whence they came. Apple Bloom snapped off a quick salute to her sister-superior Applejack, determination radiating from her.

 

"AH-AH!" She bellowed off and proceeded to gallop into the apple orchard, eyes scanning for a bucket. She found it and without breaking her gallop took it by her mouth and hoisted it on her back. She continued to scan for fallen apples, her senses heightened due to the rush of adrenaline. Now they weren't just playing Apple Settlers dealing with some imaginary crisis through dice. They were real apple settlers dealing with a real crisis, and she could only hope that fate rolled the dice better than Apple Bloom did or by this time tomorrow her family would have to find work as a traveling circus. That wasn't the worst outcome possible, but something about Big Mac in Granny's girdle as a side-act was disheartening mightily. Caterpillars were everywhere, but they had not yet gathered in such huge numbers in any given area so as to decimate a section of the orchard. Occasionally, Apple Bloom would see an apple core and defeat stung her. But her successes were just as powerful and more numerous; perhaps the Orchard COULD be saved!

She rounded Tiny the Tree- an ironic name if there ever was one as the giant was almost as old as Leavi, even if only a third as useful- and found a sight that struck her mute. There were perhaps four dozen apples on the ground. There were almost as many caterpillars. Above, she could see caterpillars climbing on branches, snacking on leaves, making their way towards apples- Tiny was the epicenter of the caterpillar earthquake.

 

"GET AWAY FROM TINEH YAH STINKIN' BUGS!" Apple Bloom screeched as she ran forward and stomped her hooves with as much intimidation as she could muster. A few scampered away and with that a few apples were spared. But it was not enough- before her eyes, three apples were consumed by the swarm and another four had bites taken out of them. Above, a branch fell, the silly caterpillars accidentally burrowing through. One of Tiny's ancient branches with almost a dozen apples still on it fell to the ground, a few of the apples cracking open from the dual-pressure impact. Apple Bloom covered her eyes with her hooves in horror- this was the sort of trauma some fillies needed help to get over.

 

"APPLEJACK, THAY GOT TINEH!" Apple Bloom sobbed as she stood back up and removed her hooves from her eyes, beholding the carnage in front of her. A few caterpillars had found their way into the hole left by the branch and were probing the inside of Tiny. Two apples had been smashed and three more were split open, their juicy wounds gushing out sweetness and generations of cultivated Apple family love back into the soil and, increasingly, the waiting mouths of the insatiable caterpillars. The swarm had been distracted by the collapse of the branch and this had bought her time to grieve, but a few started to lose interest in the new addition to the ground party and started squirting their way back to the apples on the ground. Apple Bloom swallowed hard as her eyes drew back into her skull. She had to pick something to save. She could try and save the bounty of apples on the ground, but that would mean leaving the ancient tree to be destroyed piece meal by the caterpillar horde. If she saved the tree, she would likely lose the apples. There was no victory here, only the choice between which flavor of defeat she preferred.

 

"Ah'm sorry, Tineh," She whispered mournfully, a huge dramatic flourish cascading in her head as the emotional climax of her story was reached- for now, anyway, it seemed easier to leave the grand old tree to its fate for the bounty of apples if a dramatic score played in her head. It was something and right now she'd take anything. Fate had rolled a three- and Apple Bloom was starting to suspect either Fate had loaded dice or whoever was rolling them had no better luck than she. Stupid Apple Settler Ponies.

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Applejack sprinted towards the tree perimeter, hoping to beat the caterpillar front line to the next tree. In that distance stood Demitree, an apple tree known for his ability to grow apples in harsher weather situations than most apple trees are able to deal with. However, these were only experienced during mistakes in the pegasus weather schedule. Many a time Applejack would have a list of things to say to her friend Rainbow Dash to relay to whoever was in charge of such a problem, but would buck the apples down from Demitree anyways. He was so loyal. Trustworthy. And stubborn.

She pounced at a few caterpillars who made it the base of Demitree's trunk, swatting them away with her hoofs. "Get away, ya thievin' varmints!" Applejack put her back to Demitree's bark, and she began kicking away approaching caterpillars with her hooves, and made extra sweeping use out of her tail, knocking caterpillars away that may have thought that they ran out of the cowpony's peripheral vision. They thought wrong. However, as the caterpillars failed to breach the tree, they were definitely in range to attack the many basketfuls of apples lying around the tree. For many of the critters who had been swatted away were now within a few inches from dinner.

Applejack saw that the caterpillars were no longer interested in the tree itself. Why bother climbing a tree when all of the ripe apples were already sitting peacefully and unprotected at ground level? Applejack had to think quickly. She ran over to the nearest cart, which featured the typical harness for a pony to pull it. In haste, she pulled it to the deep shadows of Demitree's clutches and started throwing the basketfuls of apples into the cart, swatting away the thousands of caterpillars that attempted to climb the edges of the baskets that were laying on the ground. Almost like she had done it before, Applejack lifted full baskets with her muzzle and catapulted them into the cart. The years of playing those silly harvesting games with Apple Bloom on days were the chores weren't exactly the most fun activities on the farm were finally paying off.

"That's the last of them here." Applejack confirmed as she found that all of fruits from Demitree were saved from being devoured by the caterpillar swarm. But the swarm had made their way to other apple trees. This was an apple orchard, of course. Demitree was only one of thousands. Applejack looked in the short distance where Apple Bloom stood still in amazement at the tragedy that started to befall Tiny, one of the largest trees in this section of the farm. Applejack, cart and all, ran as quickly as she could towards the action. When she got there, she could see apples being tipped out of their baskets, heavy branches and leaves falling, and innocent fruity bystanders gushing out the insides of the white juicy insides that several apples contained. It was violent. And it was horrifying. Applejack saw that her sister was stunned, being apologetic to Tiny, seeing as though there's not much the little yellow filly could do at this very moment to prevent such a tragedy. Applejack hated seeing that look on her little sister's face. For what young pony deserves to experience such a horrifying moment in time, where helplessness ruled the slowest seconds of the worst minute of any single pony's life?

Applejack rushed to the side of her sister. "Apple Bloom!" Applejack shouted at her, projecting her voice over the chirping screams from baby crickets that littered the ground, and the crashing of exploding apples and falling branches around them. It was a war scene. "Apple Bloom!" Applejack shouted again, trying to snap her sister out of her panic attack, she could see the tear glands from under her little sister's eyes starting to puff up as they readied their reaction to the outpour of emotion that came straight from the little filly's heart. Applejack grabbed her sister's shoulders and looked her in the eyes, shaking as she tried to snap her out of it. "Apple Bloom! Look at me! Look. At. Me. Stop! Look!" As soon as Applejack got her sister's attention, it became clear that this was just going to be one of the most eye-opening experiences she would ever find herself in. "Look, I know you're sad about Tineh! But we got a job to do! We gotta get these apples saved and locked into the storage building."

The crashings continued. The eerie sounds of caterpillar legs walking along wood, the creeks of tree branches snapping to the weight from the caterpillars on them, the wind randomly blowing its dramtic whistles in the direction of the caterpillar's path, it was a symphony of disaster. "Apple Bloom, focus! I need your help. Ah need ya to swipe away the caterpillars that try to get the apples in mah cart while I try to grab as many apples as possible." Applejack stared at her sister, only hoping that she would get it. "Pulease!" Applejack begged. She ran over to the pile of expired apples where several caterpillars were on the ground feasting on the fallen apples. Applejack had to look hard through all of the mangled apples to find an apple that didn't already have a bite taken out of it. It seemed like for ever hundred torn apart apples, Applejack found a survivor. The apple casualties were staggering. After a few moments of this, Applejack felt she had gotten as much as she could and motioned to Apple Bloom that she was to pull the cart over to the storage building. As she pulled she looked at Tiny in the corner of her eye. "Ah'm sorry, too, Tineh. Hang in there, pal." At that moment, Applejack's first tear shed and hit the ground running under Applejack's hasty hooves. It wasn't often that Applejack allowed herself to cry, but she was not void of sadness during rough times. She just tried to shove it as far south as she could for the time being.

When she got to the storage building, she unhooked herself from the cart and swung open the doors. She closed her eyes and hesitated to look, for if the shed was also full of caterpillars, there would be no place left to rescue to apples. With just that much grace, the shed was completely empty, not even sporting the occasional spider web that may have one time hosted home for the privacy of a botherless spider. "Whew!" Applejack was revealed, and immediately started chucking apples from the cart into the shed. She didn't even care if the apples got mixed up. She could sort them out later. Right now they had to continue saving more apples and trees. As soon as Applejack emptied the cart, she whistled a call for a certain border collie on the farm.

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Winona was resting peacefully in her doghouse. There were times where Winona was allowed inside the barn to sleep with her Apple family. On rainy or snowy days, the border collie was always welcome inside. Tonight however, such a luminescent and clear night, Winona chose to sleep under the stars, underneath the modest shelter Applejack had built for her when she was a growing puppy. Winona was happy, as she was dreaming about her next birthday, where, in her mind, she was getting a buckton of bones as a present from the family. But then, the whistle from Applejack woke Winona up immediately.

Winona picked herself up and sprinted to the sound of the whistle. As the dog approached the shed, she could see both the Apple family sisters doing something with a apple cart and a random load of apples. What's going on? Are we going to play fetch this late at night? I want a bone! You ponies have a bone? I want a bone! Winona started running in circles playfully, not really gaging the intense environment just yet.

"Winona, guard the shed ok? Gotta keep them critters from gettin' at our crops."

Winona bounced out of her spin and look at the environment where she could now see and realize the entire farm was being harassed by a swarm of green caterpillars. Winona growled and then barked twice in obedience. Yes! I will do this, Applejack. I love you, Applejack. I hope I get a bone for doing this! Winona circled the shed, barking at caterpillars and scaring them away.

Applejack closed the shed and locked it. "Com'on, Sis. Let's get goin'!" Applejack strapped back on the apple cart and ran towards the next tree that was in despnate need of defense. "Hang in there Barktholomew, Ah'ma comin'!"

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The more she thought about it, the more the situation that around her threatened to grow from a severe threat to a personalized orchard apocalypse came to resemble all the worst possible outcomes of Discord's reign. Around her a swirling chaos consumed all that had taken ages to create. Something was benefiting; somepony was suffering. It was as if this was the great punishment that was to be handed down to her for the unleashing of Discord, but how unfair and horrible it was to behold. In front of her trembling hooves, Tiny the tree was laid low as the pulsing mass of caterpillars greedily fought over every splintered line of juice that spread across the trunk, dripped from branches, or settled in pools on the ground. None of these things lasted long as the caterpillars assaulted every source of sweetness within reach of their Tartarus-bred bodies. She could see them sucking the juice up or waiting on the ground for the droplets to fall in, but the true feast was on the ground.

 

Apple Bloom couldn't believe the terrifying savagery with which the apples around her were being massacred. To know that behind creatures of which adorably innocent eyes spoke glad tidings lay demons of the most insatiable order was bad enough. To see such thoughts glumly confirmed was an entirely different thing. Apples attempted to roll away but would find themselves surrounded and defenseless. Before Apple Bloom could even conceive of rescue, they were condemned. A few would fight for nibbles on the outside but the more adventurous ones dove right in, piercing the skin like the most trusty of spears. The apple would seemingly bulge and deflate before the top half with the stem would open like a hatch, and several pleased looking fellas would saunter on out. The apple would sometimes deflate into odd shapes, sometimes completely and other times the top half would fold onto the solid bottom half. Other apples were simply torn to shreds or had the unfortunate death of being split in half due to pressure. In the end, the specifics didn't matter.

 

The fact was that Apple Bloom was witnessing the near orgiastic evisceration of her family's work not only of this generation, but those that came before. Every tree that was depleted, every branch torn asunder, every apple destroyed, was a near mortal blow to the innocent soul of a young Apple farmer. When you were raised from the start to be mindful of your family's rich legacy and how it was vibrantly entrenched in the orchard itself, seeing such devastation was more than troubling. It was heart rending; it almost felt like she was losing brothers she had never truly gotten to know. To know that you couldn't move fast enough, be tough enough, be scary enough to do anything meaningful about it was the worst of all and even as she apologized to Tiny and attempted to move on to saving the apples, Apple Bloom moved as if dazed and confused. It didn't her nor the apples she was attempting to save a lick of good, however, as she moved too slow and found herself outrun by the swarm.

 

The only savior the apples would find this day would be Applejack, whose frame took the edge of a sword as she cut through the haze that had clasped to Apple Bloom snugly. She spoke and for a while all Apple Bloom could hear was the snapping of branches and the limbs of the great tree groaning and moaning in displeasure. It took more than Apple Bloom's failing will to register anything beyond that, Applejack's repeated exclamations the straw that broke the pony's back. At the very least the orchard had one pony ready to defend them effectively. She centered Apple Bloom and primed her focus using the most powerful tools available to the family, which shockingly enough was nothing more than the power behind such a trusty voice. It got Apple Bloom to ignore the groaning tree behind Applejack long enough to nod and to hoist herself on top of the cart once Applejack went to the task of picking from amongst the field the few survivors.

 

The next few minutes went by like a whirlwind, Apple Bloom swatting away the caterpillars that attempted to climb the cart with increasing vigor. Every success of hers built her back up from the pit that had nearly swallowed whole her energetic desire to see the orchard saved. Now with every caterpillar that was sent flying, her boldness and excitement came thumping back into her chest while her little filly heart trhat had slowed to a ceremonial and slow bang rose to a fever pitch. Her adrenaline came back as Applejack sent the cart on its way. Passing by the orchard allowed the filly to free the cart of its extra load of caterpillars and steal a quick glance at the situation around them. It was anything and everything but good. Caterpillars, even if scared off from one prize, were able to easily move to new parts of the orchard. Scattering one group only meant that you sent six smaller groups in six locations. Even as Apple Bloom's confidence in her ability to effect change grew by leaps and bounds by the minute, the realization that it was a losing battle as long they fought it the way they were.

 

Applejack reared up once more and cried out that their next target was Barktholomeow, Apple Bloom tossing herself in the cart a moment before it started up once more. Barktholomeow- of all the trees to be hit by the caterpillars, Barktholomeow was perhaps the one that everypony would roll their eyes and say it made sense. he was a lightning rod for disaster- literally! Nothing in this world was zapped as often by errant lightning as Barktholomeow. Or been found to house termites of such viciousness, squirrels of such recklessness, been the target of more angry bucks and dealt with less pleasant conditions than any other tree. Yet it supplied them with a steady if not remarkable crop of apples, as close to clockwork as the lifestyle of a farmer allowed. It would be a tragedy if he was attacked by caterpillars but, she thought with a degree of belief, if there was any tree that could handle it then Barktholomeow was the one.

 

The duo reached him and found that their worst fears were not realized. A few caterpillars were milling about but they were at most the tip of the spear aimed at Barktholomeow's heart. It didn't take long for the Apples to clear the area and get to collecting the apples, both from the ground and from the tree itself, Apple Bloom's swift hooves and Applejack's determination and bucking clearing the area mighty fast- so fast that even as Apple Bloom saw the caterpillars starting to approach, they were off. But she also saw that as great a victory as that was, it was a victory in a sea of desperation. Trees nearby were under attack and the problem only grew by leaps and bounds. Apple Bloom bit her lip as she batted away several caterpillars from the cart.

"Applejack, thar's too many of 'em! If we just run 'round pickin' apples and fightin' one tree at a time, we'll lose almost everything!" the filly yelled as out of the corner of her eye she saw a line of Red Delicious being cornered and set upon by the vicious, adorable creatures of the cocoon.

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[colour=#ff6600]Pulling the cart down the dusted orchard path, Applejack ran as fast as she could pull towards the next closest trees at danger. It was fortunate that the caterpillars had their own speed limit. Only a dozen or so trees were infested with the green worms. But if they weren't controlled soon, they[/colour][colour=#ff6600] would be all over the farm. Every second counted. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Hang on Apple Bloom!"[/colour][colour=#ff6600] The cart bounced violently as she made her way to Barktholomeow. Such a tree was destined for fruitless seasons. And a caterpillar raid would only be insult to injury for the helpless app[/colour][colour=#ff6600]le tree.

Nonetheless, the apples on the tree and near his roots still needed saving. And fortunately, it looked like this tree was in the early stages of being damaged, something Tiny wasn't blessed with by the time the ponies came to their futile rescue. The caterpillars were everywhere, squirming along side Applejack, racing her and her cart for the right to grab the fresh picked apples that rested in their baskets.

Fortunately for Applejack, she got there before most of the creepers. But they were not far behind. As Applejack started picking up apples one by one, she noticed that the caterpillars were able to pick their apples all at once. One pony could not beat an army of bugs to an apple pick. Even if the pony was the best athlete in all of Equestria. Even her sister knew the odds were against them. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Applejack, thar's too many of 'em! If we just run 'round pickin' apples and fightin' one tree at a time, we'll lose almost everything!"[/colour][colour=#ff6600] But then she noticed something. She stared at the caterpillars who were attacking the apple fodder. On one apple, two caterpillars started fighting each other for the right to claim that apple. Applejack's head sparked.

The apple crop was so important, that in order to save the apples by picking them, she would have to grab them one by one. But if she was to pick the caterpillars away instead, she could probably deal with several at a time. Caterpillars were smaller than apples, and Applejack could care less if she accidentally squeezed them. Applejack was all about the equane way to get rid of caterpillars. But she knew she could do a better job of protecting the orchard is she dealt with them first.[/colour]

[colour=#ff0000]"Apple Bloom, climb down and grab one of them empty baskets. Lets throw these caterpillars all together so they don't run all over the place."[/colour][colour=#ff6600] Applejack knocked apples away, she could pick them up later. She pounced on several caterpillars and grabbed them with her mouth. They tasted awful. They even tasted like dirt. But the dirt was the good part. She spit them out into the basket Apple Bloom was holding. [/colour][colour=#ff0000] "Now keep them from crawling out. They can't get far when they're stuck in there."[/colour][colour=#ff6600] Applejack grabbed the caterpillars around her, three at a time, spitting them out in haste. Despite the disgusting taste the caterpillars had, everything at the moment was looking appetizingly controlled. And on top of that, less caterpillars were eating.[/colour]

Applejack.pngMadden.pngGranola_Gracie.pngArrow_Plain.pngMiracle.pngRemington.pngSugar_Rush-1.pngCoconut_Lime.png

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It wasn't often that Apple Bloom found herself befuddled by her sister's odd ideas. Not really because Apple Bloom was super smart or nothin', but more because she wasn't used ta Applejack coming up with ideas that didn't involve the straightest line from point A ta point B. She admired that 'bout her sister, always cuttin' out the middle stallion and gettin' ta the crux of the matter. She had realized pretty quickly that her little sister had nailed the stallion on the head with a braeburn, and just as quickly that finely tuned Apple family mind leapt into action. Applejack's orders were received alertly and Apple Bloom replied with a quick, snapping salute as she bounced off the cart and into the fray.

 

"Ah got it!" Apple Bloom said with as much intimidation she figured the caterpillars could stomach. Or whatever else they did for digestion, she wasn't exactly an expert on the subject. Oddly enough, Snails well. Okay, that wasn't too odd. Odd would be like if Sweetie Belle was an expert. You didn't have to be an expert at anything to follow Applejack's orders though, so Apple Bloom set about the task with her usual dose of energy and verve powered this time by a sense of panic and a tinge of fear. It made one heck of a cocktail.

 

She kicked over a bucket and it landed open-side up, a rather good effort if she said so herself.

"Ha! Good job!" Which she did soon after, picking up one caterpillar in both of her front hooves and two in her mouth. They struggled, but against a pony of any stature they couldn't do anything and she was a pony of some stature, any stature. It wasn't long before one bucket was full of the little critters, Apple Bloom's hooves working swiftly to bat the little buggers away. In no time at all, she had filled up a bucket that was nearly overflowing. She kicked it up into the sky and then took the handle and slammed it open-side down into the ground with such force that it went a solid two inches into the ground, further compacting the varmints.

"Ah got a bucket! Ah got a bucket! Applejack, Ah got a bucket!"

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[colour=#ff6600]An apple bucket. Once used to store amazingly tasty crispy apples, was now serving as a local penitentiary for about thirty caterpillars. But only thirty. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Woohoo! Good job, Apple Bloom! Keep the buckets comin'! We're gonna need all of them in order to trap these varmints!"[/colour][colour=#ff6600] Applejack swung her tail side to side, sweeping the critters towards the wrath of her little sister. A litter sister who served as the smaller giant, able to juggle a basket and corral the little meanies inside of it. All of a sudden, this was easy. Applejack was even having a little fun. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Hey, AB! Try to catch this one."[/colour][colour=#ff6600] Applejack raised her tail and swung it extended, a practical golf swing, using her tie and the end of her tail as a way of producing a weighted force from which she shook her flank. This was easier than dancing. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Four!"[/colour][colour=#ff6600] Applejack chuckled.

Around her, the caterpillars were starting to lose the battle. It was no longer that they could take a bite out of any apple or tree leave before the power of the blond sweeper got to them. But then, the caterpillars started to change course. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"They're not going to the apples any more, Sis! Woohoo, they're retreatin'!"[/colour][colour=#ff6600] Except they weren't retreating. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Look at them, they're going. Um, they're comin'? They're, uh, comin' this way!"[/colour][colour=#ff6600] The caterpillars, in their tiny little consciousness of a brain, wised up and decided to attack something else. Applejack. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Get away you beatin' bugs!"[/colour][colour=#ff6600] The caterpillars started crawling all over Applejack's legs and tail, climbing the extremities of the orange mare. Applejack tried to shake them off, but they were able to hold onto her soft pelt for what it was worth. They continued to rise to the top of her haunches, and climbed all over her head and mane. At first, it was no big deal, Applejack would just try to swat them off. But there were so many, maybe a hundred caterpillars trying to drown the farm pony with their presence. The caterpillar-covered Applejack would take a few steps and try to brush them off, but eventually the caterpillars weighed the pony down enough, and she crashed to the ground. The last part of her uncovered was her mouth, and she gasped. [/colour][colour=#ff0000] "Apple Bloom! Help!"[/colour]

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The strategy that the two had thrown together on the fly was having more success than Apple Bloom could have ever dreamed. One by one, two by two, five by five they were catching the little buggers and tossing them into buckets galore. She wasn't sure if it was necessarily a winning strategy, but Apple Bloom felt that what they were doing was a step in the right direction. Or at least it was a step past feeling as though they were utter failures who were gonna lead the farm into ruination. Apple Bloom slammed buckets into the ground full of caterpillars a full inch or so into the ground, the odds starting to come up Apple slowly but surely. It started to become fun even, with a game starting to formulate in her head. Maybe it could be one point per caterpillar per basket and they could take two fifteen minute halves. Whoever had the most points wins!

Though as Apple Bloom watched her sister leisurely thwack a caterpillar like she was a unicorn with a golf club, she reconsidered her stance. Yeah, Applejack was better athletically than Apple Bloom. There wasn't much doubt about that, Maybe it would be about who had the fewest caterpillars? Yeah, that would be a stupid game. On second thought, maybe it was better to keep this not a game. This was a serious affair full of serious apple pony sisters being serious about the future of the farm. Buckets after buckets were done and the numbers seemed to be a bit thinned out. Were they going to be able to do this all about themselves? The caterpillars seemed to act scared and were starting to reform. Applejack said exactly what Apple Bloom was thinking, and Apple Bloom felt a surge of epic Apple family pride.

[colour=#ff0000]"Woo-hoo! Yeah! Take that, ya varmints!"[/colour] Apple Bloom started stomping the ground with her eyes closed, already declaring victory. She didn't see what happened next, though she felt a rush around her, like the leaves were alive. And then Applejack started screaming and her eyes blew wide open.

The caterpillars started to surround her, envelop her like some sort of evil insect commune. The mighty workhouse tried to fight through the horde but even she couldn't stop them. Applejack buckled and fell, the swarm growing in intensity. She could shout out one last time before eventually even her mouth was closed off. A small primal fear shot through her: What if these caterpillars were eating Applejack?! Then they would eat Apple Bloom! And even if she got away with just a hoof or two missing, now that they had tasted pony, they would attack others. Big Mac and Granny Smith were still asleep, and Ponyville was full of, well, ponies!

The only solution was to save Applejack from these horrifying monsters. Apple Bloom felt a surge of courage powered by love- and adrenaline, which had flowed for some time now.

[colour=#ff0000]"Applejack, Ah'm comin'!"[/colour] Apple Bloom leaped once into the caterpillar pile, making swimming motions through the swarm. She made some progress initially but within a full moment, she lost all traction. She stopped making swimming motions, but she didn't stop moving as the swarm reacted and she started to tumble. She waved her hooves out in front of her and knocked a half dozen off at a time, but soon she too was too clogged up with caterpillars. Just as she lost any ability to move, she felt her face slowly rub up against her sister's inner upper arm, like they were cuddling after a bad storm.

[colour=#ff0000]"Errr...Ah...tried..." [/colour]She mouthed directly into Applejack's chest, though whether her sister could hear her was up for debate. At least she could confirm they weren't eating ponies. For now.

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[colour=#ff6600]There was nothing worse in this poniverse than an Apple pony being subdued by a swarm of raging hungry caterpillars. Unless of course there was two Apple ponies being subdued by a swarm of raging hungry caterpillars. [/colour][colour=#ff0000] "Consarnit, Apple Bloom."[/colour][colour=#ff6600] Applejack muffled in the abyss and layers of caterpillar words. Neither Applejack nor Apple Bloom could move, but they were indeed moving. Applejack kept trying to peek through the holes of the caterpillar mosh pit to see how they were moving, but as the lack of soft grass blades brushing up against her spine could indicate, the caterpillars were carrying them both somewhere. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]Where are they taking us?[/colour][colour=#ff6600] Applejack pondered, only concentrating on the disaster that could soon befall the farm. She worried more about the life of the foliage on the orchard than she did for her own pony hide.

The caterpillar travel machine eventually brought the almost paralyzed ponies to a tree where they slammed their backs up against it. With the strength of maybe a thousand caterpillars, the swarm held the ponies in place and brought a rope from Applejack's cart over to the tree. A crafty little caterpillar took the rope and ran it around the tree about a dozen times, tying the sisters firmly to the tree. Once the tie was complete, the caterpillars jumped off the ponies they were weighing down. As Applejack opened her eyes, she could see the sly smirks on all over the critters faces. Some of them were even making mocking faces and sticking their disgusting insect tongues out to insult. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Why you little-" [/colour][colour=#ff6600] Applejack's face turned red. She was so mad, she would just started eating the caterpillars if she could reach them. Whatever would teach them a lesson. But when she tried to get out of the rope's tie, she was unable to move. Both her and her sister were tied extra firmly to the same tree.[/colour]

[colour=#ff0000]"This can't be happening. This isn't happening."[/colour][colour=#ff6600] Applejack was starting to lose it. She couldn't believe the nightmare that had and is occurring. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"No. No. This is all a dream. Soon, Ah'm gonna wake up and everything will be alright."[/colour][colour=#ff6600] She looked to her right, where she saw her little sister in an equal state of desperation. [/colour][colour=#ff0000] "Maybe its a dream, Sis."[/colour][colour=#ff6600] Applejack decided the try some waking tactics. So she bit her sister's ear.[/colour]

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The world was a swirling mess of orange and yellow pelt mixed in flagrantly with the bright green of the evil caterpillar army that rolled the two sisters like pony beachballs. Apple Bloom couldn't make heads of tails or hooves of plots as they rolled, any chance at peeking past the chaos fleeting at best. She eventually found herself slammed against a tree, a meager little mewling escaping her lips as she woozily felt a rope tightening around and around like she was an out of control steer at a rodeo meeting her reckoning in the ring. With a final chest-crunching tug, it was over. Her vision returned slowly, though when it had returned Apple Bloom quickly wished it hadn't.

The whole lot of them were mocking the sisters, some sticking out their gross little tongues and generally patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Well, they couldn't pat each other on the backs so it was more of a hopping up and down and smirking affair, but the point was the same. Caterpillars rule, apple sisters drool. That about set Apple Bloom off. First she had been getting her petootie whooped in Apple Settlers, which was fine considering it was at least a game. Then caterpillars had saw fit to ruin the good times with the icky presence. It wasn't fun but still, she could see some good coming out of it. Then Tineh had taken a tiny tumble and Barkthelemeow had barked up the wrong branch. Now she was tied to a tree and watched as the caterpillars started to slowly pull away from the trussed up sisters and went back to destroying their livelihood. Was this it? Were they just going to watch as generations of hard work and dedication were undone by these vicious little creeps? Apple Bloom struggled mightily and wiggled her hind legs around to no avail. Her night was turning into a disaster. It had gone from a good night to a bad night to a terrible night.

[colour=#ff0000]"Applejack, wha-"[/colour]

-And then Applejack bit Apple Bloom's ear. The filly pulled back in a reactionary fashion, blasting out an alarmed yelp. The ear throbbed a bit and compounded with everything else, it tossed the little filly overboard.

[colour=#ff0000]"What in the hay are ya bitin' me for?!"[/colour] Apple Bloom screamed with fury born out of feeling helpless against the caterpillars. Immediately, she launched her head forward and bit Applejack's snout as hard as she could before pulling back.

[colour=#ff0000]"How'd ya like THEM apples?!"[/colour] She didn't mean to taunt her sister with one of her own catch phrases; it just came out. She glared at her sister for an extra second before turning her wet eyes back to the problem at hand. Being bit had turned her from feeling panicky to just angry.

[colour=#ff0000]"Ya stupid bugs! Why, I oughta chew my way outta here and eat the whole lot of ya!" [/colour]She noticed that a nearby caterpillar gave her the evil eye, then promptly started to squirm away.

[colour=#ff0000]"Ya better run! WINOOOOOONNNNAAAAA! WIINNNOOOONNNNAAAA! COME'N GIT MEH OUTTA HERE!"[/colour] Apple Bloom flopped her ears from side to side, whacking herself in the face several times as her temper tantrum continued. She was almost on the verge of tears by the time she stopped.

[colour=#ff0000]"A-Applejack, we gotta get outta here! These evil little buggers are gonna take everything! You gotta know how ta handle these things. It can't have been the first time this has happened, right?"[/colour] Apple Bloom asked tersely, her voice chocked with a mixture of pain, frustration, and almost overwhelming horror.

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[colour=#ff0000]"Ouch!"[/colour] [colour=#000000]Applejack resisted the urge to defend the bite from her sister. After all, she was just trying to wake up too. She couldn't possibly blame her for the mistake she just made. They were not dreaming at all. This was indeed real.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Apple Bloom started calling Winona. Thankfully, Winona was a little more obedient to the sound of Applejack's voice the squeak from her little sister's muzzle.[/colour] [colour=#ff0000]"No, Apple Bloom! If Winona comes to us, we take the risk of losin' all those apples we just stuffed in there."[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Applejack sat there quietly for a moment, almost implying ignorance to what was going on. She had to think of something. She had been caught in many a pickle. But this one was very alive in her fears. If only her other friends were around, they could take these critters on no problem. But for now, they were hopeless. Hopelessly stuck tied to a tree by caterpillars. Applejack gave a nervous swallow, allowing herself to consider the possibility that the caterpillars would eat the ponies once they were done eating all the apples. All of the horrors. Ponyville would starve. The caterpillars would overthrow the Mayor and the town would become a monarchy of monarch butterflies!

Applejack shook her nightmarish thoughts. The sweat from her brow fell off the steepest parts of her face as her mind turned over and sideways. And then she got it. She wondered why she hadn't thought of this before. She was constantly thinking big. But sometimes less is big, and its times like these that the most unlikely of things come into the light to balance every evil force that comes a pony's way. Applejack looked at her little sister with enlightenment, smiled, and then took a deep calm inhale of air.[/colour]

[colour=#ff0000]"Brraaaaawwwwkk! Brrrraaaaaawwwwwwwwkkk!"[/colour]

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Applejack occasionally said sensible things. Like this one time, she told Apple Bloom that diverting the stream into a field was a bad idea and you know what, she was right. It was a bad idea. The trees had been nearly destroyed and she had deserved more than her six weeks of grounding by her reckoning. The point was, she had been right. She had been sensible when she told Apple Bloom that you needed to clear the space in front of the cart before you went home for the night on account of local cleaning crews tracking down and fining you for leaving such a mess. Well, fining your sister or big brother, but the point still stood. Applejack was a sensible pony and as such Apple Bloom bit back a response when she went off regarding Winona. A part of Apple Bloom just wanted to see Winona tear apart the critters that threatened their livelihood. But being a sensible pony, Apple Bloom was sure Applejack was right. Even if it wasn't a sensible thing to go about biting her sister.

For a split moment she doubted her sister was sensible any longer as she started bawkin' and bawkin' away. Maybe she had gone made and acting the part of a chicken was the final sign that all hope was lost. But that fleeting moment of panic left as she realized what Applejack was trying to do; why summon one dog when you had a whole coop of angry chickens ready to viciously assault your enemies? It was a stroke of brilliance. It was a stroke of sensible thinking. It was a stroke of desperation and Apple Bloom was desperate enough to join in.

[colour=#ff0000]"Brrrrrrraaaawwwwwwwwkkkkk! Brrrraaaaawwwwwwwwkkkkkk! Brrrraaaawwwwwwkkkkk!"[/colour] Apple Bloom joined in. All around them, the caterpillars were having a ball. She could see them run up and down trees and branches, carving their way slowly, forcefully, through the wood. She heard a branch fall and the distinct sickly pop of an apple detonating while in her field of view she saw caterpillars assaulting the apples with reckless abandon. A few apples had seemingly formed defensive lines to stop the attack, but that didn't help much when the enemy could just eat you. The lines collapsed, apples rolled, apples were vanishing from existence. Happy caterpillars abound and started to high five- how, Apple Bloom couldn't really understand- and go back to work. A honeycrisp apple was broken open and a half dozen caterpillars greedily dove in. The giant apple seemingly burst and Apple Bloom could make out that the critters were committing the greatest of evils, even worse than simply eating the apples: they were even eating the seeds. Or at best just chewing on them until they were destroyed. Not only were they slaughtering apples, they were destroying future generations.

Apple Bloom kept her eyes wide shut.

[colour=#ff0000]"BRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWK!" [/colour]

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