The Clopping Dead – Episode 1 “The More Things Change…”

image

EPISODE 1(PILOT Part 1) – “The More Things Change…”

The main doors of the Canterlot Courtyard slammed shut behind Applejack, the guards quickly securing the locking mechanisms followed by the on duty unicorns casting a sealing spell on it. A light pink hue covered it as the two on duty spell casters resumed their shift. AJ looked upon the vast spanning yard in front of her, the usual casual setting had long since been changed to what it was now, a bustling refugee camp where everyone who was still normal, was being set up in.

Walking from the entrance she came upon a long line of ponies all waiting to be checked and documented. The sudden influx of late had made tracking and registering them all a necessity, mainly due to the fact everypony was trying to find everypony else. A registry was the easiest way to do that, at least that’s what Twilight had thought of before she became more involved in the main castle after Celestia went down.
“..and welcome to Canterlot! Here’s your gift basket!” a remarkably out of place perky voice said.

Applejack raised her head above the crowd, her suspicions confirmed as she saw Pinkie Pie at the head of the longest line. Pinkie’s rather upbeat attitude became a bit of a problem during the start of the outbreak. Twilight found a place for her eventually after several ponyfolk began to complain about her rather detached cheery exterior. Making her the head of the greeting line in Canterlot seemed smart enough. The general atmosphere in Equestria, though not entirely fallen through, had become a bit more desperate. Tensions rose once the countrysides filled with Cloppers, and survival had overtaken the general harmony that was usual present. All that combined made it a seemingly logical choice to put a friendly face like Pinkie’s at the check in line.

“..and here’s your gift basket! Oh! Sorry we’re running low on balloons…”

Of course, there’s always a hiccup or two with any foolproof plan.

“Hi Applejack!” Pinkie suddenly belted out as AJ made her way past the regular folks checking in and towards the head of the Supply Line. The white and green pony began to run a quick checklist over AJ’s materials as Pinkie continued to speak with Applejack. “How was town!?” she smiled.

Applejack turned to Pinkie as she finished her question, raising an eyebrow at her and a second later she finally responded with what just about anyone would after a Pink Pony asked them how a Zombie ravaged town was after you’d come back from it.

“Seriously?” AJ blinked at her.

“Mmmhmm!” Pinkie replied, nodding her head with a bright smile. “Oh!” Pinkie suddenly shifted gears in her head and startled the next person in her line at the same time. “Rarity wanted me to tell you to stop by as soon as you can with those supplies cuz she needs them for whatever it is she needed you to originally get them for her for!” she inhaled and smiled.

“Uh…will do, thanks Pinkie..” AJ gave a nervous chuckle and started to scoot past her as she was waved on.

“Hey..something’s wrong…” Pinkie said, rubbing her chin then erupting in sudden conclusion.

“A lot of things are wrong..” AJ thought to herself amused at the very statement.

“Someone needs a hug!” Pinkie exclaimed and glomped onto AJ before anything more could be said, almost frightening her.

Applejack was in need startled and almost stepped back, but then gave into the gesture, remembering Pinkie Pie was still Pinkie Pie even with flesh eating Ponies a few meters outside the door. She smiled softly and adjusted her hat. “I suppose that was what I was missing; I better get to Rarity though. You take care now.”

“Okie dokie!” Pinkie waved back and turned to her station again, offering a bewildered mare a welcome, nearly startling the poor pony.

Applejack shook her head, smiling but for a moment before resuming her trek through the courtyard, the usual quietness of the palace’s front yards was instead filled with indistinct conversations of scared and displaced ponyfolk. She made her way through the beginning of them, excusing herself politely as she’d always been taught to, eventually her manners slowly faded as the crowd got denser the further she plodded through. Two spear tips high above the crowd signaled to her that she was approaching the front of the line, where Rarity sat behind makeshift desk of sorts, a distraught look on her face, too busy to notice Applejack’s approach.

“They simply can’t expect me to work under these conditions forever…”Rarity said off handedly as the next person in line approached her. A rough sign hung in front of the desk reading ‘Quartermaster’ along with the two guards holding the spears on either side o her sat. “Yes, what can I help you with?”

The next pony in line, Filthy Rich, stepped up and nodded to Rarity. “Yes I need food for myself and two other ponies.” He laid down a small invoice as he finished his sentence. “I’m in a bit of a hurry.”

“Everyone is, believe me I understand, but I need to just double check your paperwork here…” Rarity’s horn began to glow just slightly as a book next to her opened up and the pages flipped via her magic, eyeing back and forth from the paper to the invoice and back again. Occasionally humming assuredly to no one in particular, she closed the book and her horn intensified in it’s magic, a small box of some sort levitating from behind the desk and in front of them both. “Here you are then, everything you need for the next three days.”

Filthy opened the box and took a look inside, turning to leave and looking at it’s contents at the same time. He stopped in his tracks as he opened it wider and turned back to Rarity. “There’s barely enough in here for me, how am I supposed to feed my daughter as well?” he asked sternly.
Rarity turned to him and shook her head gently. “I’m sorry but there’s only so much and we have to make sure everyone’s fed. You understand.” She said gently but frankly to the once high and mighty pony business tycoon. “Next please.”

Applejack stepped aside as an unhappy Filthy Rich pushed past her. She blinked and watched as he stormed off, grumbling to himself. She sighed and wandered towards Rarity to the side, the guards letting her behind the desk. “Here y’all go Rarity, this is all I could find this run.” Applejack said as Rarity turned around.

“Oh, Applejack, thank goodness, we’re getting low on everything…” Rarity whispered back to her and looked through the saddleback AJ had plopped down behind the desk. Rummaging through it she was taken back at how little was in it, searching for more that obviously wasn’t there. “This is it? You must be kidding, I can’t make this last three more days!” she whispered a bit harsher, almost desperate, back to her friend.

Applejack gave a small shrug. “Ah’m right sorry, Rarity, most of Ponyville’s been picked clean of anything useful..” she sounded tired and annoyed, but mainly tired as she responded in a similarly hushed tone. “I’ll see about going through again sooner this time, but it’s hard to keep going myself, I can’t get anyone to help me much..”

“Oh I know, everyone wants something but no one wants to help! Look at me I’ve got two … dashing…guards.” She said, turning to the closest one who could obviously hear her. “That’s all the Palace is able to give me, the rest are all on watch duty.” Rarity finished.

“Can’t you ask Twilight to lend you some more help?” AJ asked, then thought to herself a moment. “Or me some more help for that matter…” Applejack watched as Rarity shrugged again.

“I’ve sent requests but I can barely get away from here to go to the powder room let alone see the princesses.” Rarity noticed the line getting a bit upset at the hold up, a disturbance in the back was getting louder. “Would you be a dear and ask her if you see her?”

“Sure will…” AJ nodded and noticed the problem in the back as well, some sort of commotion. Two stallions were obviously bumping heads over something, but it was hard to hear. She looked around and none of the guards were doing anything as the voices got louder. Each of them was too busy with their other assignments to lend any help.

“YOU don’t need this as much as we do!” a voice shouted, a hoof stomping on the ground. It was Filthy Rich, she could see his cutie mark from here.

“Ah’ll let you get back to it, excuse me…” AJ said, giving her friend a small nod and trotting towards the growing argument to see if she could help calm them down. Every now and then ponies would start being more aggressive as the tension and situation wore them down, AJ couldn’t blame them, but her morals wouldn’t let her just stand by and watch either.

“How dare you! Do you know who I am?” Prince Blueblood, a white stallion from the upper crust of society, snapped back, hardly in a tone one would call intimidating.

“Somepony whose been well fed for some time even before all this happened, my little girl’s wasting away and you self-important snobs can stand to lose a few pounds!” Filthy poked a hoof at the Prince, who was taking back at the words and gesture.

“I’ll have you know that if it wasn’t for us none of your kind would even be here!” Blue-Blood piped back, a few onlookers making astounded and gasping sounds. He seemed to understand in the back of his mind that he may not have worded that right, but his face didn’t betray it, only his eyes.

“You hear that? Our kind?!” Filthy took to the crowd, instantly recognizing that he may have them on his side. “Are you going to let—“

His gesture to the crowd was cut short as he was grabbed by the back of the neck along with Blue-Blood and drug along by Applejack, the crowd parting as she took them towards a balcony towards the outside of Canterlot. They both protested and were equally impressed at the young pony’s strength, but their argument was cut short again as she shoved them towards the edge of the balcony.

“What do you think you—“

“Hey!” AJ cut off Filthy Rich, holding up a hoof as one would to a child. She turned them both around towards the edge; past the security both of stallions had known for a bit now. Over the edge, within sight were at least twenty to thirty zombie ponies, all in various states of decay. All of them wandering along the countryside or in some cases the outside of the castle gates, their hooves making a slow staggering, clopping sound that echoed in the silence. All of them each giving out a different yet eerily similar moaning sound as they tried to make their way towards the castle and it’s occupants.

It was a sobering moment to them both.

“Ya’ see that?” AJ pointed to the countryside and the gates. “THAT there is a REAL problem.” She said standing back on her hind legs and crossing her front ones, looking at them both. “When you two have a problem of that size, ya’ll can stomp and whine like a buncha foals like you just were..” she took them back with her in the same manner she had brought them with her, past the crowd that had come to see just what she had in mind for them on the balcony. Everypony cleared away, though not out of fear as they had with the two stallions, a different kind of emotion drove them to move: Respect.

Applejack put them back to where they were in the courtyard. Both of them looked as if they wanted to crawl into a small hole and hide. She sighed and adjusted her hat. “Look. Ah know this is hard on everypony. This ain’t nothing we’ve had to deal with before.” She continued. “That’s why we all need to be there for each other, not against. Otherwise ain’t none of us going to make it. Ya’ understand?” AJ asked, hopeful but stern.

Blue-Blood snapped himself to a more proper stance and turned to Filthy Rich, clearing his throat. “I have some spare rations from my allotment, you and your daughter are welcome to them.” He nodded as he finished his sentence.

Filthy didn’t know quite what to say but almost as quickly as Blue-Blood had, he regained his composure, and nodded. “It would be greatly appreciated. I …thank you.” He finished, the last part sounding almost alien in its tone. “and you, Miss Applejack.” He nodded to her as did Blue-Blood, both of them shaking hooves and parting like gentlecolts.

Applejack waited for them to leave and then blew a strand of her hair out of her eyes, shaking her head. She noticed Rarity walking over to her, a stunned look on her face.

“Darling that was…” Rarity paused, trying to find the word. “Amazing. You handled those two larger boys like they were first year mares…” Rarity giggled, smiling at her and nodding in approval. “I’m glad you’re on our side.” she trotted back to her desk and began working again, this time the line had a more patient tone.

Applejack watched as everything resumed, one of the guards giving her a small nod in what she hoped was approval and not a kill command. She tipped her hat back and made her way up towards the main palace gates, trying to work out some solution in her head to get more supplies for the ponyfolk in Canterlot. As she ran different ideas through her head, she trotted past a small fenced in area with a hastily erected set of walls and roof. It resemebled, in some small form, the Ponyville school.

Several younger pony voices, all indistinct, filled Applejack’s ear as she came closer to the building, side stepping another line of ponies to her left. She tilted her head to the gathering, paying little attention to the schoolhouse to her right. She saw the center of them was a pony, she’d seen her a few times before at gatherings, Vinyl something or other. She’s been providing the music at times, though with things being the way they were, she’d have to find other ways to help out. Not much call for loud music during a zombie apocolypse. She seemed to be bargining for something between a set of stallions, but she didn’t have time to focus before she heard her name to the right.

“Applejack.” Cheerilee shouted from the makeshift shack she’d been using to teach inside. “Can I ask a favor of you?” A brown mailpony walked away and past AJ.

“I suppose, Miss Cheerilee..” Applejack nodded, half wanting to politely decline, but her true nature made it almost impossible for her to make up an excuse not to. She walked over and as she did, she became a bit more worried as she closed in on the school teacher. Cheerilee’s normal rose color coat was a bit messy, though most pony hadn’t had much of a regular grooming schedule since any of this madness had happened, that wasn’t what caused AJ concern.

It was her eyes.

Cheerilee’s normal demeanor was able to given reassurance to anyone who would speak with her. The brightness, dare she think, the life, wasn’t as present as the last time she saw her.

“Are you all right?” Applejack finally asked, scooting into the building, where a half dozon or so fillies, most unfamiliar to Applejack, stared at the new visitor. “Oh..um..howdy all..” she said to the classroom, who all gave different responses to her, all somewhat half hearted but still positive. AJ turned back to Cheerilee and waited.

“Applejack, could you keep an eye on the fillies for a moment, I…” Cheerilee stopped and seemed to lose her focus, but she shook her head a bit and seemed to clear the cobwebs. “I..need to take care of something very important..” Cheerilee almost stumbled across her words but it sounded half a request and half a plea.

“Well sure, it won’t take too long will it?” AJ said, looking back out the door, taking a quick moment to judge what time it was. “ I do have to get to the castle before sunset..”

Cheerilee paused, almost looking through Applejack but then focusing again. “Oh no no..I’ll be back in just a few minutes, I just have to ..I have to take something down…I’ll be right back..” she said, trailing off as she walked out at a steady but hauntingly somber pace.

An awkward moment of silence played out as Applejack’s focus turned from the school teacher leaving, to several sets of eyes staring at her. She gulped rather loudly and gave a bit of a fake grin, trying to break the tension. “So…how are y’all doing?”

Several of the younger ones blinked.

“What’ave y’all been learning? Vowels…um…division…” AJ stumbled along, she saw an older one raise their hoof. “Hmm?”

The light blue pony lowered her hoof as she was called on. “When can we go back home?”

Silence.

“Well Ah don’t rightly know when–” Applejack’s southern drawl began to come out more as the nervousness set in. She was almost regretting helping out when another one of the student raised their hoof.

“Where did Miss Cheerilee go?”

“Um….Ah don’t know…”

“What happened to all the other ponies, why can’t we let them in?”

“Well now ah’m sure there’s …another question Ah can answer…then that one……please?
Next question!” AJ said, trying to dodge the increasingly difficult questions, she was beginning to understand why Cheerilee was starting to look a bit unraveled. How was she supposed to answer–

“Where’s my mommy? She said she’d meet me here..” antoher one popped in, younger then the first.

Applejack felt more tension creeping up on her then when she’d been in the zombie infested Ponyville. She instinctively backed up into the only table in the room and knocked over a letter, no doubt the one the mailpony had been carrying. “Oh fiddlesticks..” she reached down and grabbed it, glancing over it. The more she read the more everything clicked into place. “So and so…behalf of the Cloudsdale Search and Rescue..so and so…regret to inform–”

“There we go, I’m sorry Applejack, I’m back now..” Cheerilee said, an almost false voice, more then likely for the sake of the students. She didn’t notice AJ’s looking over her letter, she instead was tossing a picture away into the trashcan. “I just had to run to the front …to see…Pinky-Pie.” she stumbled on her words. “I..got everyone treats! “ she said, pulling a small box of cupcakes with another wave of strengthened reassurance to her young charges. The room erupted in a less then loud, but still positive elation. “Now everyone thank Applejack for taking a moment from her busy schedule to help us all..”

The class thanked her in unison and AJ smiled back genuinly relieved a bit of the gloom seemed to have gone from the room.

“So…wait..Pinky Pie just had a box of those with her up there?” Applejack asked as she walked toward the door, a bit confused, she didn’t think she’d seen anything like that up there.

“Yes, I mentioned it would be nice if we had something to take the kid’s minds off..well..you know..and then she said she had just the thing. “ Cheerilee answered. “She rummaged under the counter she was at and pulled these out..we were lucky she had the right amount…thanks again Applejack.”

Applejack nodded and began to take in everything that had just happened, walking out as she bid everyone goodbye, she let the door close behind her. Turning back towards the entrance, she saw Pinky was still there, greeting everyone who came in, then her eyes drifted to the larger wall of missing ponies near her. The final piece clicked into place in AJ’s head and she gave a sigh, stopping for a moment she stared up to the sky.

“Sun’s setting. No time to worry about Cheerilee just now. Gotta get to Twilight and Luna.”

“I’m afraid the situation in the Crystal Empire hasn’t changed, Twilight..” Princess Cadance’s voice echoed down the stone halls of the Royal Palace. Cadance’s image hovered over a large circular stone altar in the center of a room filled with various guards and ponies. “We’re completely understaffed as it is, and thats just to keep the barriers up and running. Shining Armor is barely able to keep a rotation of guards and what spell casters we have from collapsing from exhaustion. We lost a lot of our population when this first happened.”

Princess Luna and Princess Twilight stood next to each other, looking up at the holographic projection of the ruler of the Crystal Empire. Both listened intently, they had hoped to contact the Empire for additional help with the zombie pony outbreak.

“I was actually hoping to get some help from you or Cloudsdale.” Cadance finished, a hopeful but weary look on her face.

Among the elite gathered at the meeting were a group Pegasus, wearing armor and military regalia. One with a golden crest stepped forward towards the image, a pale blue one with yellow eyes, their mark covered by the armor they wore. “Unfortunately The Pegasus Nation cannot spare any help for the time being..”

There was a murrmurr amongst the gathered leaders as Cadance turned to the figure “I’m afraid I don’t understand, the Pegasus Nation?” The projection flickered as she raised an eyebrow, obviously confused by the mention of the name.

The same Pegasus cleared their throat and looked at the image of Cadance. “As of two days ago Cloudsale initated two major edicts in the absence of any communication from Canterlot in a time of crisis.” He continued. “One was the immediate and indefinite Quartentine of Cloudsdale save emergency and military business…”

“Military?” Twilight asked, tilting her head, Luna obviously sharing her confusion and concern. “Since when do they have a military?”

“I know that prior to the unification of the three tribes of the world, the Pegasus were a militaristic complex as well as providing the weather, however they haven’t been used in centuries from what I’ve read…” Luna turned to Twilight and gave a whispered response.

“Two, with the ..absence of Princess Celestia and any aforementioned guidence from what little governing system we have left, the Pegasus have decided by majority vote to establish a governing body itself. “ he turned his head and gazed around the room. “As of the moment, the newly established military hiarchy is currently in command.”

“Led by whom?” Luna finally took a few steps forward, cautious but firm. “The greatest chance to survive this disaster is to stay together, not segregate ourselves..I must protest.” She rose her head high as she finished.

“The military currently is under my command, your Highness, General Tempest..” he finally identified itself. “ As for this problem that plagues our lands, we’re working on that right now, and intend to have several plans ready for action in weeks if not days.”

“What kind of solutions are you looking into, we’ve got almost every unicorn looking through every spell book we can find and we don’t have anything that–” Twilight began to ask, the projection of Cadance flickering again, it’s power weakening.

“We’re using a more militaristic approach, but I really can’t talk about that now, we’ve informed your royal highnesses of the intent of the Pegasus.” The General continued. “Anyone approaching Cloudsdale or any other Pegasus territory will be considered hostile and appropriate measures will be taken. Anyone visiting via magical spells or other means WILL be allowed to leave but not re-enter. In fact we’re encouraging them to seek shelter with loved ones.” He concluded with a stern nod “and of course these are only temporary measures until we’re able to get our nation under stabilized control. “Once that’s taken care of we’ll be more then happy to discuss terms for…cooperative operations. Good Day your Highnesses. Commander Warmonger, Captain, follow me..”

As the Pegasus left, Cadance turned to Twilight and Luna, at a loss for words, her image flickered more. “We’re losing energy on this end, we’ll re-send in three days if possible, we’re cutting transmission at this time-time-time” her final words fizzled as the magic runes dimmed and snuffed out beneath her image.

Luna turned to Twilight, who was already staring back at her, both of them rather confused and in a state of shock over the last few minutes. The sounds of wings flapping signaled to them the Pegasi had left for their city in the clouds, adding more worry to their thoughts. The remaining crowd began to stir a bit more but then Luna stepped forward, a louder thunder in her final hoofstep, garnering everyone’s attention.

“This changes little, we still need to organize what we have to ensure survival during these times. You’ve all been given your assignments, I must return to the research as well as the sun and the moon. Princess Twilight will handle the smaller details, excuse me…” Luna said, her voice confident but still had the slightest hint of uneasiness as she walked through a set of doors, the Royal Guardponies closing them behind her.
—–
Applejack stood in the doorway from the other end of the main meeting hall, not entirely sure what she saw the tail end up. The few guards along the inside turned to see her, then back to Twilight with a questioning glance. A nod to them was all that they needed to resume their stances as the Earth Pony made her way towards Twilight, several other ponies surrounding her, all asking something or informing her of an issue.

“Howdy Twilight…” Applejack finally got within range and the crowd didn’t seem to even pay attention to her approach. “Wow…ya sure have a lot on your plate..”

Twilight saw Applejack but could hardly hear her over the commotion all the others were making, finally she shot a small burst of purple light into the air that got everyone’s attention in the room. “Quiet, please!” she waited to see if everyone was going to actually settle down and then began again. “Now I know everypony needs something, but you can’t all bark at me with your demands at once, I need you to all get your lists organized and then form a line, a SINGLE line, and I will get to everyone of you in order.” She said, a tone in her voice demanding compliance, though nothing compared to the other Princesses. As ordered the mob became a smaller muttering group of ponies, each sorting a list out and giving Twilight a moment to breath, a moment she took to nod AJ towards a balcony from the room they were in.

Applejack followed, sidestepping the needy ponies and walked with her friend up the carpeted stairs and to the right, out onto the balcony, where the sun was just starting to set over the distant horizon. Below them a bustle of evening shift guards and other refugee ponies from all parts of Equestria. Everyone capable had made the trip to Canterlot in hopes of a cure or at least shelter from the living dead that was quickly and violently overtaking the entire land. Tents and makeshift shelters strewn about the once empty and pristine looking gardens of the castle made them look more like a poor village rather then the grand garden it used to be. Past the refugees was an outer defensive wall, Royal guard uneasily paroling in, occasionally looking down to the outside world below.

The sight below the land sides of the castle was a completely different Equestria then any were accustomed to: the torn up countryside from the moat to the edge of what one could see was littered with slow moving ponies in every state of decay and amputation. Some were hopping along on three legs, others crawled on two, creeping across the landscape as if a personification of death itself, inevitably closing in. The walls and moat thankfully stopped them, most stopped outside the castle’s waterline, simply standing there, idle, a distant look in their eyes as they simply waited for an opportunity to move closer. Others went over the edge by choice or accident, and where either floating in the moat, or slowly trudging through the waters in circles like a perpetually powered bath toy, endlessly swirling. Each day the herd standing outside got bigger and bigger. The immediate threat wasn’t great but the longterm implications were high: the more that gathered, the harder it would be to make it out for supplies, not to mention simply that more there, meant more had fallen to the plague that was doing this.

“Sure isn’t the Canterlot Ah remember from a year ago…” AJ finally said, taking her hat off and resting on her front legs on the side of the balcony.

“No, it sure isn’t..” Twilight gazed absently towards the outside, the moans and groans ever so distant a constant reminder that they were still staggering outside, regardless if she could see them or not. “They just keep coming…” she said, then her gaze lowered down to the gardens, then to the side of the courtyard, almost every part of Canterlot was filling up. “..and so do they…” she said, turning back down to the gardens, she saw Pinkie Pie handing several guards baked goods, and still as chipper as ever. Past her was a set of arguing ponies, over what who knew, another argument breaking out wasn’t uncommon for these times.

Two more ponies jumped into the argument, obviously trying to help their friends, finally a guardpony or two wandered over to break things up, separating the two parties. Just as it seemed to be over, one broke free and tackled one of the guards, and more armored ponies poured over, starting a chain reaction as one of the royal protectors began to strike one of the civilians to try and subdue him.

“No!” Twilight shouted, her horn quickly lit up and teleported her to the brawl that was quickly getting out of control. Another spell cast instantly immobilizing everyone in the fight, guards included, all suspended in the air by a purple aura. “There will be no harm caused here..” she turned to the regular ponies and then to the guards. “..by ANYONE..is that clear?” she dropped everyone with a thump and they all uttered a term of understanding one way or another, all of them looking rather exhausted or rundown. Twilight walked a few paces and stood up on a rock formation and turned back to them. “We’ve got enough problems without turning on each other, the only way we’re going to make any progress is by cooperating, I know it’s tough, but we have to try and work together, or we might as well walk out into the pack out there!” Twilight’s horn began to glow again, but it stopped, realizing her own anger was getting the better of her. “Now everyone, disburse…get some sleep…”

“But he stole my–” one of the origional ponies from the fight spoke up, only to be cut off by Twilight.

“I will have somepony come by and help settle whatever dispute you may have, now please, everyone…” she sighed. “Just go to sleep..” she got off her high rock, and watched as they all did just that, Applejack catching the corner of her eye as she trotted up. “That was close…”

“You’re tellin’ me. This keeps on happening we’ll have a big ol’ riot on our hooves.” Applejack looked around as the rest wandered off. “Good thing you were here, Twilight.”

Twilight sighed. “Yes but I shouldn’t be, I can’t be everywhere at once…I’ve come into more responsibilities then I think I’m ready for, but I don’t have a choice..” she walked with her friend, towards a set of heavier armored guards. Most of them wearing higher rank insignia, and all of them parting as they noticed the Princess come through. “We’ve been looking for a…ANY..kind of solution to this mess, we’ve cleaned out older libraries, storage rooms, everything…nothing to help us so far..” Twilight motioned for the guards to follow her. “Found quite a few old and interesting things in there, from older Canterlot..”

“I reckon there’s all sorts of stuff in there, nothing to help though, eh?” Applejack said, eyeing the guards behind her but paying them little mind. “Wish I could do something, but there’s not much we Earth folk are good for right now…’cept maybe takin’ up space..” she said with a frown.

“Well there is something YOU could help me with, Applejack…” Twilight paused. “If you’d be interested…I’ve already discussed it with Luna..”

“Discussed what?” AJ rasied an eyebrow, confused to say the least.

“I’ve heard several of my guards talking about how you’ve been running for supplies alone..and while dangerous I know you don’t want to put anyone at risk, and that shows me you may be up for this task..” she slowed her pace as did the guards. “I also heard how you’ve been dealing with our minor and unsettling number of conflicts in the courtyard and other housing areas when you can and for that I thank you..”

“Sure thing, just doing what seemed right Ah guess..” AJ looked down, pacing with her purple princess pal. “Whatcha’ll getting’ at, Twilight? Ah surely hope you ain’t thinkin’ to make me one of your guards…”

Twilight stopped and turned to her. “No, not a guard, more of a …constable perhaps…someone to help out the guards when they can’t be everywhere either?” Twilight tilted her head to one side. “What about that?”

“Isn’t that a captain of the guard kinda responsibility?” Applejack’s head canted to the side as well as she asked the question.

“Well normally yes, but thats more about keeping disipline among the guard themselves, this would be a more hooves on type of duty, keeping the peace, you know..” She answered. “You’d be able to work with the guards, use them sparingly, I know you’re good with deligation. You’d basically do everything that your doing now, but with a royal stamp of approval!” She smiled as she finished. “Would you…be interested in something like that?”

Applejack remained quiet for a moment, then turned back to her friend and nodded. “Twilight, Ah’d be honored.” she bowed before her friend, not forgetting she was a Princess.
“Excellent! We’ll be able to see each other more now too, you’ll have to bring me reports and everything!” Twilight’s excited motions drew some attention as she clapped her front hooves together a few times. “Oh I almost forgot..”
Her horn crackled with power and a small item teleported in front of Applejack. A shining gold plated six point star shimmered in front of her and AJ’s eyes, the gold centerpiece on it ‘Sheriff’. Another thought and Twilight’s magic carefully attached it to the top of Applejack’s hat. “I found this among the stuff we pulled out of the storage rooms, thought it would be more official looking and it kinda matches your look..” she smiled. “Tomorrow I’ll issue an edict..or a proclamation or…a memo..something!” she said, a bit bubbleheaded for a moment. “in the meantime these gentlecolts here have overheard everything I’ve said, haven’t you?”

The guard ponies all responded with a salute and a affirmitive.

“There we go, now, you should get some rest, you look exhausted.” Twilight said, turning to wander up a set of steps to the castle. “I’ll inform the staff and we’ll get you a room, now that your the Sheriff. “She smiled as she said that.

Applejack nodded, all a bit overwhelmed by the magic and sudden increase in responsibility, still she didn’t have an apple farm to worry about anymore, and she was starting to feel a bit antsy with nothing to do, part of the reason she went on supply runs to begin with. “Ah do need me some shut eye, Ah was dodging Cloppers in Ponyville and then Ah came back and everyone wanted…oh fiddlesticks…” she suddenly remembered “Rarity and Pinky Pie need some things..thats why Ah came here to begin with..”

Before Twilight could answer, a small mob of more ponies came along, in single file this time, though still demanding every possible thing under the sun, or moon as it were now. She turned back to AJ “Well, it may be a while..” she shrugged and sighed, pushing past them.

Applejack just stood there, watching the horde slowly wander after Twilight, and then the highest spire in the castle caught her eye as she looked up and saw Luna, standing on the balcony, looking up at the moon, then down across the pack of zomponies, seemingly scanning the entire herd as if for somepony specific.

Turning towards the makeshift houses and tents, Applejack sighed and looked up at her hat, towards the star that her friend had just issued her. She tipped her hat back and gave a louder sigh and wandered up the steps, towards the castle, giving everything one last look, because as new as the world was anymore, it was undoubtedly going to change even more for her.