Heart of Silver
Since they were stuck waiting for Firefly to return with assistance, the Weather Patrol had established a field base on a nearby hill. The rogue storm from Everfree had now grown to cover a large portion of Sweet Apple Acres, and the constant rain had flooded the more low-lying areas.
Rainbow Dash sighed at the sight of the monstrosity, and then turned to survey the team's conditions. Most of their weaker flyers had been grounded by the strong winds alone, but many had been injured in their attempts to tackle the beast of a storm behind her. As Cloud Kicker finished setting up a small tent, Rainbow walked over. "So, just how bad off are we?"
"Well, if the wind picks up too much I don't think these tents will stay put long." the gray pegasus answered.
"No no. I mean how badly are our teammates injured?"
"Mostly bruises, small cuts and sprains. Nothing they won't recover from, but some of them might not be ready to try again when the Cloudsdale team arrives." Pausing a moment to adjust her saddlebags, she continued "Honeysuckle got the worst of it; blown into a tree at high speed. Broke her wing."
Looking back at the thunderhead, Rainbow prepared for another run. "I'm going to try spotting those foals again. Be back in a jiffy." Once they saluted each other, she was off for the northern edge of the orchard.
* * *
Archer was slowly growing rather bored. Being a habitual clock watcher, she glanced up at the clock in the Apple family kitchen and did a double take. According to it, class should've been dismissed fifteen minutes ago. Waving over her teacher, she asked "Miss Cheerilee, is class over yet?"
"Excuse me?" Glancing over at the clock the earth pony was pointing to, Cheerilee gulped. This was it; she and Applejack had been careful to prevent the class from realizing that anything was wrong, but now they wouldn't be able to hide it behind the appearance of a class project.
"One moment." Biting her lip, she walked over to the only other adult in the room. "Applejack, we're going to have to tell them."
Several of the foals had already stopped what they were doing when they heard Archer's question, but now the entire room was staring silently at the two mares.
Sun Glimmer spoke for all of the foals as she asked "Tell us? Tell us what?"
"Ah'm sorry ta have ta tell ya'll this," Applejack began, "but that there storm outside? It's not the work of the Weather Patrol."
"But if the Weather Patrol didn't make it..." Twist said, shifting on her hooves, "... then that means it came from... from..."
"Yep. This'n here storm came from the Everfree Forest."
The foals swarmed to windows, trying to get the best view of the clouds overhead. After a moment, Twist turned back to the mares, looking worried. "The Weather Patrol can clear this up right?"
"Ah hope so sugarcube. Ah really hope so."
* * *
Diamond Tiara snickered as her friend placed a sixth peg into her carriage. "My my, Silver Spoon. I didn't know you had it in you."
Grinning, Silver Spoon replied, "At least some ponies don't need like, a second carriage to hold them all."
Looking at her two carriages full of pegs, the pink earth filly scratched her head. "Just what are foals like, doing in this game anyway? Some sort of penalty at the end or whatever?"
"Honestly, I have like, no idea. I mean, this game is about making more bits than anypony else." Silver Spoon leaned over, picked up the lid to the game's box and started skimming the rules.
While she did so, Diamond Tiara quietly reached over and helped herself to a bill worth 20,000 bits from the bank. Acting as if nothing had happened, she asked, "Find anything?"
"Well," the gray filly began with a frown, "It says that every time someone has a foal, everyone else has to like, give them 500 bits."
"Seriously? Then what are you like, waiting for! Pass me the 5,000 bits you owe!"
Looking at the bills in front of her, Silver selected a 10,000 bit bill and started making change for it. Stopping mid-count, she looked up. "Wait, did you like, just hear something?"
"Just the sound of you not giving me my bits."
After pausing a moment, she resumed getting the change for her bill and gave her friend the play money she owed.
"Thanks!" Diamond Tiara cackled as she added the money to her growing loot. "Hey, wait a second. This is only 3,000 bits. I mean, where's the other half?"
"I thought I'd like, speed things up a little." Silver Spoon replied, "I owed you 5,000 bits, but you also totally owed me 2,000. I just kept it."
As her friend reached to for the dial to take her turn, Silver's ears perked up. "There it was again!"
"What was it again?"
"That sound! I'm totally sure I heard it that time."
* * *
Honeysuckle looked up as she heard the familiar flutter of wings outside the tent. A moment later, a soaked and clearly exasperated Dash let herself in. "Any luck finding them?"
The yellow mare offered her teammate a fresh towel. "Things just don't seem to be on our side today."
Rainbow took the towel and sighed. "Any luck coming up with a way to deal with this mess?"
Cloud Kicker nodded, and pointed to a chalkboard that had been set up near the back of the tent. "We've been working on a plan, and we think we have an idea of what to do."
Dash frowned. "I hear a 'but' coming."
"Yeah. We don't have enough pegasi to pull it off ourselves anymore."
"How many more do we need?"
"Only about six. The team from Cloudsdale will give us more than enough help."
Finding a comfortable spot on one of the cots, Rainbow tried to relax. "Great. Then all we have to do is wait for Firefly to return with the cavalry and we're good to go."
"Um, excuse me." All eyes in the tent turned to the door flap, in which a very worried and thoroughly drenched pegasus was standing. "I hope I'm not interrupting, but I really could use your help."
"Come inside Fluttershy." Rainbow waved, "It won't do you any good to just stand there in the rain. So, what can we help you with?"
With a gentle "Thank you," Fluttershy took the blanket offered to her by Cloud Kicker and walked over to the cot occupied by her friend. She was followed closely by Angel, who had the foresight to be wearing a yellow raincoat and galoshes. "Um, it's like this. This storm has flooded most of the area, and the river near my home has flooded too."
"This storm turned out to be more than we were ready for. Sorry about getting you caught up in it."
"No no, that's not the problem." she apologized, "Everyone made it to higher ground safely. Well, almost everyone."
Looking over at Cloud Kicker, Rainbow muttered "This doesn't sound good."
"My kitty friend Percy didn't get all of her kittens out before the water washed away her home."
"Great, so now we have two lost foals and a litter of kittens lost in this thing."
Fluttershy balked at this news. "Oh no! Two foals are lost in this somewhere? We have to find them quickly!"
"We've been trying." Cloud Kicker replied, "No luck yet. It's too dark and too difficult to stay in the air and search the ground at the same time."
Getting up, Rainbow Dash walked over and put a hoof on her friend's shoulder. "I know you're worried Fluttershy, but the best thing to do now is to wait for backup to arrive and then take out this storm. We'll find everypony once the sky is cleared up."
* * *
"Right, now that's how ya do it!" Applejack cheered as Sun Glimmer reached the end of the obstacle course without dropping the spoonful of nuts balanced on her nose.
Cheerilee smiled and called out for her team's runner to try their luck. "Come on Archer! You can do it!" As the blue earth pony took up her spoon and started slowly across, the purple mare turned to her friend. "Suggesting we play party games was a great idea Applejack. It's simple, fun and it's keeping everypony from going stir crazy."
"Well, ya can't say I didn't try. If ya want to be cooped up with a herd o' anxious an' bored foals, ya can do that in yer own house!"
The group cheered as Archer reached the end of the course and Bonnie moved to take her turn. Watching from the sidelines, Apple Bloom walked over to her sister. "Say Applejack, ah was wonderin' somethin."
Keeping her eyes fixed on the wavering pony moving towards her, Applejack replied, "Wonderin what?"
"When's Diamond Tiara gonna take a turn? Archer's gone three times now!"
With a shudder, Applejack sighed. "Cheerilee, they got us again." Leaning down to look her little sister in the face, she began, "Sis, I gotta be level with ya. When ya'll came inside, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon didn't follow. We don't right know where they are; just that they're in that mess out yonder. Sorry."
"Well," the filly said with a huff, "Good riddance!"
Suddenly, the entire room went silent and turned to look at the pair of Apples. Bonnie stopped abruptly, spilling her spoonful of nuts everywhere.
"What?" Apple Bloom asked.
Speaking in a tone that made it very clear she was less than pleased, Applejack answered "That's no way to talk about yer friends - or anypony for that matter!"
"Well ah was just bein' honest. It's not like they ever treated us nicely," the filly began, shifting on her hooves and avoiding eye contact with anypony, "and they ain't ma friends neither."
"That doesn't mean it's alright to go wishing ill on anypony. Now say yer sorry Apple Bloom."
"I'm sorry." came the reply as she backed away from the angry mare. Heading back to a spot in line she added quietly "But ah still don't like em."
"Didn't say ya had to sugarcube." Turning back to the slack-jawed crowd, Applejack raised her voice. "Sorry 'bout that ya'll. Let's start that round over."
* * *
With a few light taps, the blue carriage moved further down the track. Looking over her options, Silver Spoon picked up a Stock Market ticket. "I'll try my luck with the stock market."
Handing over the number strip, Diamond Tiara grinned. "Good luck, you'll like totally need it."
As she placed the ticket over her chosen numbers, Silver's ears pricked up again. "Where IS that noise coming from? I just like, heard it again!"
Her friend rolled her eyes. "'That noise'. 'That noise'. Seriously, that's all you've been talking about."
Looking out the window, the gray pony couldn't see anything. "It's like, too dark out there now. I totally can't see anything." Stepping back, she walked over to the toy chest and started rummaging about in it.
"Is it too much trouble for you to like, take your turn? Whatever this thing your hearing is, it's obviously not like, interested in bothering us."
Finding a flashlight (albeit a goofy one shaped shaped like a large red fish), Silver Spoon walked back over to the window and shined it outside. After looking around, her light settled on a branch that had lodged itself against the house's stilt-like supports. It floated just above the water line, and a wreck of what appeared to be a wet cardboard box and linens was crumpled in the twigs and sticks gathered around it. "What is that thing? Hey Di. There's like, something out there! Come over here and see for yourself!"
Gritting her teeth in annoyance, Diamond Tiara went over to the window. "What could be so like, interesting out there?" Looking the box and branch over, she looked over at her friend like she'd grown a third eyeball. "It's a box. So what?"
"I think there's something in it."
"Like, whatever." Stepping down, Diamond Tiara returned to her spot next to the game board. "Come on Silver Spoon. You're like, holding up the game."
Silver Spoon watched the box for a few moments, then headed back over and started to spin the dial as Diamond Tiara watched closely.