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November 21, 2011
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"Attention employees.  It is now five o'clock.  Your shift is over for the day.  See you next week."

Breeze stomped his front hooves in satisfaction upon hearing the intercom message, and quickly cantered out of Equestria Speedy Shipping Services' Headquarters.  Once outside, he bent down and extended his wings, ready to take off.

"Hey Breeze!  Wait up!"

Breeze turned to face the source of the familiar female voice, looking up as Ditzy Doo descended and (for once) landed successfully.

"I just got back from a job," Ditzy panted.  "Are we done for the day?"

"Yep," Breeze replied.  "Candyfloss just announced it was closing time.  We're done until Monday."

"Alright, I guess I'll head home then," Ditzy said.

"Which way are you headed?" The male pegasus asked.  "Towards Cloudsdale?"

"Well… in that general direction," Ditzy replied.

"Cool.  We'll fly together."

The two pegasi took to the air, quickly passing over Ponyville and crossing the countryside towards Cloudsdale.

"So… it's been a whole week already," Breeze observed.  "If you don't mind me asking, Ditzy, what did you think of your first week working at Equestria Speedy Shipping Services?"

Ditzy grinned.  "It went a lot better than I thought it would," she replied.  "But a week of assignments isn't enough to take away the nervousness that comes with being a matchmaker."

"Come on, now," Breeze replied teasingly.  "You've been on, what, four jobs now, and you haven't failed yet!"

It was true.  After Ditzy's assignment with Lyra and Bon-Bon, the mare had received a few more jobs throughout the rest of the week, completing each one with what Breeze called "an unusual amount of creativity."

Ditzy laughed.  "Yes, Breeze, but I've been getting lucky so far.  There are definitely more complex jobs out there then the ones I've been getting, and now that I've been doing well, Candyfloss is probably going to start giving them to me."

"And I'm sure you'll find creative new ways to handle those jobs, just like always," Breeze reassured her.

"Wait, sorry, hang on," Ditzy said suddenly, glancing around.  "Are we still going the right way?"

"If you mean toward Cloudsdale, then yes," said Breeze.

Ditzy caught sight of the landmark that she was searching for, which had escaped her vision for a few moments.  "You're right.  Sorry, I get lost pretty often."

"It's cool," Breeze said simply.  "Don't worry, we're still on course."

Ditzy turned to Breeze, hovering silently in the air for a moment as she stared at him.  "It occurs to me, Breeze…" she said slowly.  "…That you are the first pony in years that has never once asked about my eye troubles.  Even when I get lost in an obvious place, like I just did, you don't speak up.   Not that I'm complaining, but… why haven't you?"

Breeze shrugged.  "You get around fine by yourself.  You usually manage to overcome any obstacles in a moment or two when you do come across them.  I didn't see a need to bug you about it."  He thought for a moment.  "It's like… like asking a pony with an obscure Cutie Mark what it means.  It's not exactly impolite, but why bring it up?  It's not bothering anyone as is."

"Well, I appreciate it," Ditzy replied.  "It's nice to know there's actually somepony out there who wants to know me more than they want to know about my eyes."

Breeze just nodded, and the two pegasi flew in silence for a few more moments.

"These eyes are the reason I lost my last job, you know," said Ditzy quietly.  "All my deliveries were too slow, too inaccurate, or totally lost.  Sometimes I just can't tell where I'm going, or if I'm about to run into something, or even what address I'm at.  My vision just wasn't good enough to keep up with the demands."

"Then maybe it's a good thing you work with us now," Breeze suggested.  "We're not big on deadlines and accuracy here.  Heck, you could get lost on the way to an assignment and still make it to the client before any earth pony.  Well… except for Watt; I'm a pegasus and even I can't keep up with him."

The pegasi laughed about their unusual coworker.  "The point is," Breeze continued finally.  "None of us, except maybe Glow, are going to judge you just because you're different.  We work to bring happiness to lonely ponies, and I think most of us are better because of it.  For the sake of our jobs, we need to understand and empathize with those around us."

"Yeah, I guess so," Ditzy answered thoughtfully.  "And if there was one thing I was good at while I was a mailmare, it was making friends with the ponies on my mail route."

"See?" Breeze replied.  "You're made for this job.  All it takes is a determined and personable pony with a little intellect and creativity to be a successful shipper.  You've got all those qualities in excess anyway."

"I…t-t thanks…" Ditzy stuttered, turning away and blushing a little at the praise.  She glanced down and noticed her cottage coming up in the distance.

"Alright, Breeze," she said.  "See you later.  This is my stop."

"Where?" Breeze looked all around in confusion.  "I don't see any houses up here."

"That's because I live down there," the mare replied, pointing to the small building.

"Oh!" Breeze said, surprised.  "I didn't realize you lived on the ground.  Why don't you live in a cloud house near Cloudsdale?"

"I did when I was younger," Ditzy answered.  "But my husband was a unicorn, so I had to move down here to be with him.  I would have moved back up after he passed away, but my daughter is a unicorn, too."

"Is she?" Breeze asked with interest.  "I don't think you told me that."

"Say," said Ditzy suddenly.  "Would you like to come and visit for a minute or two?  You could meet Dinky."

"I'd love to," Breeze replied.  "Lead the way."

The two pegasi descended to ground level.  Ditzy landed on the wide, bare hill that she had purposely kept clear of trees and shrubs to provide herself with a landing pad even she couldn't miss.  She lightly touched down, and trotted toward the cottage, Breeze following along behind her.

"One more thing," Ditzy said.  "Dinky doesn't know I've been fired from my old job yet, so try not to bring up work, okay?"

"Gotcha'" Breeze said with a wink.

Ditzy pushed open the front door, and was greeted with a squeal of delight as her filly leapt up from couch and ran to her.  Dinky jumped up and hugged her mother tightly; Ditzy returned the hug, smiling warmly at her daughter.

"Hiya, Dinky!" Ditzy said.  "How was school today?"

"It was great!" Dinky replied excitedly.  "Miss Cheerilee taught us all about…"

The little unicorn stopped mid-sentence when she spotted the red pegasus standing in the doorway behind her mother.  "Mommy, who's that?"

"Dinky, this is Breeze," Ditzy said.  "He's a friend of mine from work, and he stopped by to visit today on his way home."

Dinky trotted over to Breeze and smiled.  "Hello, Mr. Breeze," she said sweetly.  "Mommy doesn't bring friends from work to visit very often.  Are you staying for dinner with us?"

Breeze laughed.  "No, no, I just dropped in to say hello.  I don't live very far away, and your mom and I got off work at the same time today, so we decided I could come and visit."

"You know, Dinky," Ditzy cut in.  "Maybe we can have Breeze over for dinner another time though; we'll plan it in advance, and I'll have time to make something special."

Dinky beamed.  "Please, can we do that soon, mommy?  I love it when we have guests for dinner."

"Sure we can," Ditzy replied.  "That is, if you're interested," she added, turning to Breeze questioningly.

"I'd love to," Breeze answered.  "Just let me know at work, and I'll come over for the evening."

"Of course," said Ditzy.  "We'd be happy to have you."

"Speaking of dinner," said Breeze.  "I should probably go get some now myself.  I'll see you on Monday, Ditzy."

"Bye Breeze!" the mare and her filly called as Breeze took to the air again.  The male pegasus waved, before turning and rocketing off towards Cloudsdale.

"We should eat dinner too," Ditzy said to her daughter.  "If you eat all your alfalfa like a good little filly, I'll bake you some muffins for dessert."

"Yay!" the little unicorn chirped in excitement.  The two ponies trotted back into their cottage for the night.

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The weekend passed quickly, as weekends often do, and before Ditzy knew it, it was Monday morning again.  The pegasus slowly opened her eyes and glanced at the clock on the bedside table.

"Oh no!  I'm gonna be late!"

As quickly as she could, Ditzy washed up and brushed her mane, and then hurtled out the door as fast as her wings would carry her.  Ten minutes later, she barged through the door of Equestria Speedy Shipping Services, and collapsed on the floor in the lobby, panting hard.  She was only there for a few seconds when the intercom crackled to life.

"Miss Ditzy Doo, I have an assignment for you.  Please report to my office."

Looks like I made it just in time, Ditzy though, staggering to her feet and down the hall.  She tapped on Candyfloss's door before letting herself in and falling into the chair.

"Good morning, miss Ditzy," the unicorn said.  "Today, I'd like you to…"

He paused, noticing the pegasus's disheveled mane and fact that she was still panting.  "Goodness, are you alright?"

"F…Fine," Ditzy panted.  "I was just a little late… so I was hurrying to get here.  I'm sorry."

"Don't let it worry you," Candyfloss replied.  "Tardiness now and again is entirely excuseable."

He turned his attention to the papers on his desk.  "Now, I've just received a call about a potential job I'd like you to handle.  Apparently, you will find your client at the north end of the Ponyville outdoor marketplace, at the carrot vendor."

"The carrot vendor?" Ditzy asked.  "Why, that's probably Carrot-Top!  She's a good friend of mine!"

"Splendid," said Candyfloss with a calm smile.  "Good luck with your assignment as always."

"Thank you sir!" Ditzy replied excitedly as she galloped out the door.

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Carrot-top breathed deeply, enjoying the fresh smell of the morning air.  The brightly colored Earth pony had just finished setting up her stand, and now she waited patiently for any customers willing to buy her home-grown carrots.  The market was not very busy yet at this hour, but Carrot-top was content to just enjoy the early morning peace.  Nothing could break her serenity today.

"Hey!  Carrot-Top!"

Instantly, Carrot-top's pupils dilated in panic.  Her body tensed as she turned toward the sky, catching sight of the shape plummeting toward her.  With a cry of terror, the earth pony dove under her carrot cart, covering her head with her hooves and cowering in fear.

She caught sight of four legs belonging to a certain grey pegasus appearing next to the carrot cart.  And a moment later, a pair of misaligned yellow eyes peered into the crawlspace.

"Uh… what're you doing, Carrot-top?"  Ditzy asked.

Carrot-top crawled out from beneath the cart.  "Just… taking precautions," she replied awkwardly.  "I mean, your landings around here are usually a little… destructive."

"You're still mad about last month, aren't you?" Ditzy questioned.

Carrot-top twitched at the horrific memory.  "I still have nightmares," she grumbled.  "Can't you try to crash into a cart that sells something less dangerous next time?  I mean, that one big cleaver landed about an inch from my neck!"

"Oh, it wasn't that bad," said Ditzy dismissively, waving away Carrot-top's complaint.  "Anyway, I wanted to ask you…"

"No!" Carrot-top cried suddenly.  "You can't borrow any more money!  Or food!"

"It's not that," Ditzy answered.  "In fact… here."  She reached into her saddlebag and extracted the fifty bits Carrot-top had loaned her.  The earth pony accepted the money incredulously.

"You're… paying me back?" she asked skeptically.  "The eternally pressed-for-funds Ditzy Doo is paying me back?"

"I'm actually not too bad in terms of money right now." Ditzy said, eliciting another shocked look from the other mare.  "I wasn't coming to ask you about money.  I was coming to ask you if you contacted Equestria Speedy Shipping Services today.  Have you?"

Carrot-top's look of surprise was even more extreme this time.  "You… you…" she stuttered weakly.  "You work for…"

Carrot-top couldn't finish her sentence; she wobbled dangerously and Ditzy moved to support her so she wouldn't collapse.

"I'm sorry," the woozy mare mumbled, running her forehoof nervously through her bright orange mane.  "It's just… one surprise after another.  You didn't destroy anything when you landed, you paid back your loan in full, and now you happen to work for Equestria Speedy Shipping Services?  Who are you and what have you done with Ditzy Doo?"

Ditzy grinned.  "Maybe I'm just getting my act together," she replied.  "Now, tell me why you called for a shipper.  Do you have your eye on somepony?"

"Well… yes," Carrot-top admitted.  "I've been in the fruit and vegetable business for a long time now, and I think I'm falling for a certain business competitor."

"Which one?" Ditzy asked curiously, glancing around the market in an attempt to predict the object of Carrot-top's affections.

"It's… um… Applejack," Carrot-top responded, blushing slightly.

"Applejack?" Ditzy repeated.  "But Carrot-top, our services are for discreetly matching up ponies, so that it seems like it happened by chance.  But Applejack is a totally friendly and accepting pony, and she's very straightforward.  I'm sure if you just went up to her and told her how you feel, she would probably give you a chance.  Using the sneaky setup method just seems like it would overcomplicate things when dealing with her."

"That makes sense," Carrot-top replied.  "And if I were any other pony, I would take that advice in a heartbeat.  However, there's another problem stopping me from doing that."

"Another problem?  What kind of problem?"

Carrot-top sighed.  "It's the silly Ponyville produce feud.  The Apple and Carrot families have been rivals for three generations, since we both sell produce in Ponyville.  Apparently, Applejack's grandfather and my grandmother got into an argument about whose product was better, and ever since then, the Apple and Carrot families have been bitter enemies."

Ditzy scrunched up her nose in thought.  "But, if the Apple and Carrot families hate each other, why don't you hate Applejack?"

"Because I'm not really part of the feud myself!" Carrot-top answered.  "I only grow a few carrots in my personal garden; most of the ones I sell here come from the carrot farm my cousins run; all I do is sell them.  My cousins are the ones who keep the feud going with the Apple family.  And since Applejack does the farming as well as the selling, she's got plenty of reason to turn up her nose at the mention of anyone in the Carrot family."

"But don't you think if you just tell Applejack you want no part of this feud, she'll believe you?" Ditzy asked.

"Look, Applejack is loyal to her family to the point that she can be described as… just plain stubborn." Carrot-top said.  "She grew up hearing nothing but bad things about the Carrot family, most of it probably lies, from her grandmother and older brother.  And I've heard it isn't easy to change Applejack's opinion once she has her mind set to something."

Carrot-top turned to Ditzy imploringly.  "I really respect Applejack, and I'd like to get to know her better, and find out if she returns my, um… interests.  But that's impossible as long as the feud between our families still stands.  And that's what I need you to do something about.  Once Applejack doesn't hate me, then I'll try to make her like me."

Ditzy placed a hoof on her chin, pondering the situation.  "Well, I can probably work something out," she mused.  "Now, about the price…"

"Ah, this is kind of expensive, isn't it?" Carrot-top asked.

"Well, normal jobs go from one to two hundred bits," Ditzy replied.  "And ending a feud that spans several generations probably qualifies it for extra costs…"

"Fine.  I'll give you two-hundred fifty bits," Carrot-top answered.  "But only if you put this stupid feud to rest once and for all!"

"Well alright then," Ditzy said.  "Operation End-the-pony-produce-feud is now underway!"  The pegasus spread her wings haphazardly, knocking a few loose carrots from the earth pony's stand.  "I'll be back later!" she announced before launching herself into the air.

Carrot-top watched the goofy pegasus flutter out of sight.  "Dear Celestia," she whispered.  "I just left a delicate diplomatic operation in the hooves of Ditzy Doo.  When this is all over, I'll be lucky if our little family rivalry hasn't escalated to an Equestria-wide war."

The concerned mare just sighed and bent down to pick up her scattered carrots.

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The sun shined brightly on Sweet Apple Acres, and a certain farm pony reveled in the morning air.  Applejack grunted in satisfaction as she watched another barrelful of apples fall from the tree, somehow all landing neatly in the container as usual.  But her satisfied smile turned to a frown when she noticed one lone fruit still dangling from a branch.  The earth pony bucked the tree again, harder, but the stubborn apple remained in place.  Snorting, Applejack planted her front hooves firmly, and bucked the tree again and again with all her strength.  Panting, she turned to check if she had succeeded.  But the apple still hung there, taunting her.

"Consarn it!" the earth pony cried.  "What's it gonna take to get you down from that tree?!"

Out of nowhere, a certain wayward pegasus pitched sideways in midair, snapping the branch and its offending apple from the tree before crashing into the ground and leaving a sizeable skid mark.

"That's one way to do it I s'pose," Applejack chuckled.  "Y'alright there, sugarcube?"

"I fink tho…," Ditzy found it hard to speak, considering the entire stubborn apple had wound up rammed into her mouth upon landing.  She pulled the fruit out of her mouth.  "Do you want this back?"

Applejack cringed.  "Y'all can keep that one on the house."

Ditzy shrugged and bit into the apple.

"So," Applejack started awkwardly, watching the oblivious pegasus enjoy her treat.  "Any particular reason y'all dropped by?"

"Oh yeah!" said Ditzy, finally regaining the train of thought that had been derailed in her crash landing.  "I wanted to buy some apples, but you weren't at the market today, so I came here!"

Applejack brightened.  "Well, why didn't you say so, sugarcube?  Come on over to the farmhouse and I'll get you a bushel or two."

The two ponies trotted through the hills toward Applejack's place of residence.  "If you don't mind me askin'," Applejack began.  "What do y'all need apples for?  Gonna bake some of those famous apple cinnamon muffins of yours?"

"Yeah!" Ditzy replied.  "I'm making a bunch of different muffins actually.  Why just this morning I was at the market getting some fresh carrots from Carrot-top, and I…"

Ditzy stopped mid-sentence when she noticed Applejack had stopped walking.  She turned to the earth pony curiously.

"Let me give you a bit of advice," said Applejack slowly.  "Ain't nothing good comes from associating with Carrot-top, or any of the Carrot family, for that matter.  Best y'all just stick with apples when you can."

"There's nothing wrong with Carrot-top!" said Ditzy defensively, realizing that her client's fears concerning Applejack's disposition were surprisingly accurate.

"The Carrot Family," said Applejack with a scowl, "Are a bunch of no-good, cheatin', lazy, stuck-up, mean-spirited…"  Her chain of adjectives continued for a few moments, with longer gaps between each one.

"…I plum went an' forgot my point," Applejack deadpanned.  "Point is, them Carrot ponies are bad news."

The mares had arrived at the farmhouse.  Applejack opened the door and retrieved a bushel of apples in a sack.  "There's yer' apples," she said icily.  "Ya'll run along now."  She moved to close the door.

"Wait!" Ditzy cried.  "At least tell me why you don't like the Carrot family!"

Applejack's mood seemed to drop lower each time that name was mentioned.  "Look here," she said through clenched teeth.  "The Carrot family has been tryin' to steal all our business since my old Granny Smith was just a filly.  They make for lots of produce and easy sales by growing acres of cheap, low quality carrots, undermining the true hard work we put in here at Sweet Apple Acres.  Now I don't wanna talk about them no more, so you just mosey on along now."

Applejack closed the door, leaving Ditzy on the doorstep.

"Well, shoot," Ditzy mumbled.  "I know that Carrot-top, at the very least, isn't any of those things.  But how do I make Applejack believe me?"

"Well, I believe you," said a small voice.

Ditzy looked around and spotted a yellow filly peering around the corner of the farmhouse.

"Sorry for eavesdroppin'" the filly continued.  "My name's Applebloom; Applejack is my big sis'."

"Hello Applebloom," said Ditzy pleasantly.  "Did you say you believed me?"

"I did," said Applebloom.  "I don't think miss Carrot-top is trouble.  But, let's talk about that somewhere else; I don't want my big sis to overhear."

The mare and the filly walked slowly among the trees of Sweet Apple Acres, talking as they did so.

"I don' believe a thing about this whole feud," said Applebloom.  "I expect the Carrot family is actually real nice, hardworkin' ponies like the Apple family.  An' I tried one of miss Carrot-Top's carrots at the market once, and I thought it was delicious."

"Carrot-top is a friend of mine," said Ditzy.  "And she doesn't want this feud to go on any longer.  I want to end it, but I need to find a way to convince your sister."

"I wish I could help," Applebloom mumbled.  "But bringin' diplomacy ain't my special talent."  Suddenly, the earth filly's head shot up, her eyes wide as an idea formed.  "Or… maybe it is my special talent!  Or at least Sweetie Belle's or Scootaloo's!"

Much to Ditzy's surprise, Sweetie Belle and Scootlaoo appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.  "Did I hear our names just now?" Scootaloo asked Applebloom.

"Yeah!" cried Applebloom excitedly.  "Girls, today we're gonna' try somethin' new!  We're gonna' end the feud between the Apple and Carrot families!  And if we can make everypony friendly towards each other again, we'll be gettin' our Cutie Marks for sure!"

"Cutie Mark Crusader Diplomats!  Yay!!" the three fillies cried.

"Woah, wait," said Ditzy quickly, feeling a growing sense of dread at the developing situation.  "I'm not sure you three should…"

"Meet us at our clubhouse, Miss Ditzy!" Applebloom said.  "We'll be formulatin' our plans there!  C'mon girls!"

The Cutie Mark Crusaders took off into the trees, leaving Ditzy standing alone.

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Ditzy was finally able to locate the clubhouse by the sound of the Crusaders' excited squeals.  At last, tired and covered in grime from her wanderings through Sweet Apple Acres, she trudged up the ramp into the pastel-colored building.

"There you are!" Applebloom said as Ditzy entered the small room.  "What took you so long?  We already came up with a bunch of ideas!"

"Yeah!" Sweetie Belle chimed in.  "Then again, some of them might not work if we can't find a Mariachi Band…"

"Um…" Ditzy said, trying her best to ignore Sweetie's unusual comment.  "Maybe we just need to demonstrate to Applejack that Carrot-top isn't that bad."

"But how do we do that?" Scootaloo asked.

"That's what I've been trying to figure out all day!" Ditzy moaned.  "But I just haven't had any… wait… I just had a crazy idea!"

Struck by sudden and somewhat bizarre inspiration, the pegasus beckoned for the others to lean in close, and explained her secret new plan in a whisper.  When she finished, the Crusaders were grinning ear to ear.  "That could actually work," Applebloom said with excitement.  "Let's do it!"

The Crusaders and their pegasus friend sped out of the treehouse to enact their plans.

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An hour or so later, Carrot-top watched from a distance as Applejack arrived at the market, pulling a large cart full of apples behind her.  She set up her merchandise in the baskets at her stand.  Ditzy Doo was nowhere in sight, and Carrot-top began to wonder if the absentminded mare had entirely forgotten about her assignment.

"Psst!  Carrot-top!"

Carrot-top turned around and suddenly found herself nose to nose with Ditzy.  "I'm working on your request," Ditzy said quietly.  "In a few minutes, two fillies are going to come by and ask to help you sell carrots.  It's all part of our setup; just play along."

"O-okay," Carrot-top stuttered, watching Ditzy disappear into an alleyway again.

Sure enough, the mare soon spotted Sweetie-Belle and Scootaloo wandering toward her stand.  Carrot-top was still unsure if it was smart to play along with any plan that involved Ditzy Doo, but she decided to give the grey mare the benefit of the doubt, more out of curiosity than anything else.

"Hi!" said Sweetie Belle cheerfully as she and Scootaloo arrived at the carrot stand.  "Miss Carrot-top, do you think we can help you run the stand today?  We're trying to earn our… um… mercenary Cutie Marks!"

Scootaloo laughed nervously and gave Sweetie Belle a nudge.  "She means merchant, not mercenary," the orange pegasus corrected.

"Now who's the dictionary?" Sweetie Belle responded with a mischievous grin, eliciting a glare from Scootaloo.

Carrot-top tried to laugh, but her giggle came out even more nervous than Scootaloo's.  "Sure, I… guess there's no harm in letting you help with my stand."

"Yay!" the fillies cheered, darting behind the cart to help their new temporary employer.

The next few minutes went well; Sweetie-Belle and Scootaloo actually did what Carrot-top told them (much to her relief), but the mare still couldn't understand how these new junior helpers would lead her to the end of the feud with the Apple family.

Ditzy, on the other hoof, knew exactly what to do next.  "Okay, Applebloom," she whispered to the filly hiding in the shadows with her.  "You know what to do."

Applebloom nodded, and proceeded to wander as nonchalantly as possible into the wide plaza.

"Hey Applebloom!" Scootaloo called from the carrot stand, doing an excellent job of pretending that she hadn't expected to see her friend there.  "Wanna buy a carrot?"

"Uh, I don't know," said Applebloom.  "My big sis' isn't real fond of carrots.  I'm not sure I should."

"Oh, come on," Scootaloo coaxed.  "Just one couldn't hurt."

"Alright, fine," Applebloom responded.  "She handed a few bits to Scootaloo, who in turn gave them to Carrot-top, and Sweetie Belle tossed a carrot to Applebloom in return.

Applebloom bit into the vegetable, and her eyes lit up in surprise.  "Why, that's delicious!" she complimented.

"Why thank you," said Carrot-top, shocked to have received praise from any member of the Apple family.  Perhaps Ditzy had been up to something useful today after all.

Continuing with the plan, Applebloom wandered across the market, coming to linger near her sister's apple stand, and taking care to keep the carrot she was eating in plain view.  It took only seconds for the desired effect to occur.

"Applebloom!"

The filly turned to look at her angry sister, the carrot still dangling from her mouth.  "Yeah, sis?"

"Are you eatin' a carrot?" asked Applejack, indignation clearly recognizable in her voice.

"Yeah," said Applebloom.  "Just one carrot once in a while can't hurt, right?"

"Wrong," said Applejack.  "What are you thinking buying from the Carrot family?  Don't you know we're competin' against them?  If we want enough money to keep running the farm, we gotta get more sales then them.  Now spit that dang thing out an' I'll throw it on the compost heap."

Applebloom reluctantly parted with her half eaten carrot, and then trotted off the the peripheral streets surrounding the market once again.

"It didn't work," she called once she located Ditzy.

"I know," Ditzy called back.  "I guess it's time for the next phase.  Go give the warning signal to Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo.

Applebloom cantered off once again, leaving Ditzy alone.

This is going to be really risky, Ditzy thought to herself.  Even if this goes exactly as planned, it's going to be a mess.  If anything goes wrong, not only will I fail the mission, but I'll lose any fragment of trust Carrot-top still has in me.

The mare gulped nervously and ascended to sit on a roof overlooking the market.  Once perched there, she took a pen, a piece of paper, and a protractor from her saddlebags.  A few simple physics calculations later, she had determined the trajectory and velocity she would need for what she was about to do.  She waved down to Applebloom, who moved to the shelter of a nearby overhang, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo in tow.  Carrot-top, as well as all the other ponies at the market, remained oblivious to the fact that anything was about to happen.

Ditzy took to the air, flying high above Ponyville.  She stared down, struggling to focus her poor vision of the tiny rectangle that was the carrot cart.  I need to do this with absolute precision, and still make it look like an accident, she thought to herself.  Here goes nothing…

The mare folded her wings and dove downwards with incredible speed.  The small market quickly grew much larger as Ditzy raced toward the ground.

"Mayday! Mayday!" Ditzy cried, pretending she was out of control once again.  "We're going down!"

Carrot-top didn't even have time to prepare herself; she could only watch in horror as the destruction unfolded.  There was a resounding crash as the plummeting pegasus crashed into the carrot cart like a meteor, sending the entire wooden structure hurtling into the air.  All eyes in the market took immediate notice as the stand flew through the air, raining loose carrots down on the merchants and shoppers.

Applejack cried out and jumped backwards just in time as the flying vendor crashed into the apple stand, utterly obliterating them both and leaving a chaotic pile of apples, carrots, tattered fabric, and splintered wood.

After a moment, the noise ended and the dust settled.  Ditzy managed to yank herself out of the ten foot skid mark she had left in the dirt, to find all eyes in the market staring at her.

"Heh… sorry everypony," Ditzy said apologetically.

After a few moments of awkward silence, most of the stands that weren't affected by the crash returned to their daily business.  Ditzy looked behind her to where Carrot-top was standing.

The mare hadn't moved an inch since the moment Ditzy collided with the cart.  She simply stood unblinking, mouth agape, staring into space in the direction she had been looking when her cart was decimated.  Ditzy trotted over to see if she was okay.

"Carrot-top?  Um… Hello?"

Ditzy waved her hoof in front of the other mare's face, eliciting no response whatsoever.

"Um…" Ditzy wondered what to do next when she heard hoofsteps behind her.

"Alright Carrot-top," came an accented voice.  "We need to talk."

Applejack's arrival managed to snap Carrot-top out of her shocked paralysis.  She turned to find the orange earth pony glowering at her.

"Yes, Applejack?" she asked weakly.

"Look, I don' like you, and you don' like me, but we gotta clean up this mess."

Carrot-top finally seemed to become aware of what had happened after her stand was annihilated.  "Oh, yes… yes we should."

The two mares trotted over to the pile of rubble that was all that remained of their two stands.  Ditzy followed along at a distance.

"Sheesh," Applejack said, looking over the mess again.  "It's gonna take all day to separate all this.  Guess we're both done selling for today."

"But you can't be done already!"

The mares turned to see the Cutie Mark Crusaders.  "Miss Carrot-top hired us as apprentices today," Sweetie Belle said.  "But we hardly got to do anything."

"Sorry girls," Carrot-top said.  "But we can't exactly keep working like this."

"Sure we can!" Applebloom piped up.  "We just need to set up an apple and carrot stand for today!  That way I can work with you, sis, and Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo at the same time!"

"Oh, no," Applejack said in a warning tone.  "There ain't no way I'm working with a Carrot pony!"

At this moment, Carrot-top finally made the connection; she understood the meaning behind Ditzy's actions and knew that the next move was hers.

"Now Applejack," Carrot-top said, keeping her tone as businesslike as possible.  "I know we have our differences, but don't you think it would be in the best monetary interests of both of us to, you know, form an alliance… only because of the current circumstances, of course."

"Yeah, right," Applejack responded.  "You'll probably sabotage my merchandise, or steal my share of the profit, or…"

"No she won't, sis!" Applebloom interrupted.  "Me an' the girls will keep an eye on both of you, to make sure nopony's cheatin' nopony."

"Yeah!" Scootaloo agreed.  "When I pony comes asking for an apple, sell them an apple.  If they want a carrot, sell them a carrot.  No arguing, no persuasion, no tricks, just fruit and vegetables."

Applejack looked defeated.  "Well… alright," she said finally.  "But if I catch you steppin' out of line even once, Carrot-top, I swear I'm gonna…"

"No need for threats, now," said Carrot-top.  "You have my word; we do completely honest business, and that's that."

The two ponies overturned the cart Applejack had used to carry her apples to the market and used it as a makeshift display stand, and the Crusaders assumed their "guard" positions.  The two ponies, begrudgingly in Applejack's case and much less so in Carrot-top's, began to sell their produce again.

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The sun was setting; it had been a long and busy day at the Ponyville market.  News of Ditzy's crash had brought a large number of curious ponies to the market that afternoon, most of which had wound up purchasing apples, carrots, or both.  Both Applejack and Carrot-top made a bigger daily profit then either of them had in a long time.

"Well, I'll be," Applejack commented when it finally came time to pack up for the day.  "A whole day, and not one trick from the Carrot pony."

"I told you, I've never done dishonest business," Carrot-top replied.  "Heck, I don't even want to be part of this crazy feud between our families.  I'll admit apples are just as important as carrots."

"You know," said Applejack slowly.  "If you'd said that to me yesterday, I'd have laughed in yer' face and accused you of treachery.  But after how well everything went today, I'm starting to think you might be tellin' the truth."

"I am!" Carrot-top insisted.  "This feud is way older than me or you.  It was probably fought over something stupid in the first place.  Don't you think we can just end it and behave like decent ponies for once?"

Applejack was quiet for a long moment.  "Well," she said finally.  "If you tell them cousins of yours to stop it, then I'll let the rest of the Apple family know."

"It's a deal," Carrot-top said.  She held out her hoof.  "Truce?"

Applejack took her hoof and shook it firmly.  "Truce."

The two ponies finished loading the unsold produce into their bags.  "It's crazy," Applejack commented.  "If that goofy pegasus hadn't caused all this damage, we'd still be bitter enemies right now."

Carrot-top, who had slowly been processing this very fact all day long, said nothing.

"Applejack," Carrot-top said finally.  "Now that we're friends and all, how about we get dinner, and talk about an alliance.  Maybe a business partnership?"

"Might not be a bad idea," Applejack commented, rubbing her chin in thought.  "I'll meet you at the restaurant on Mane Street after I drop of the apples at home."

"See you then," Carrot-top responded, before the ponies went their separate ways.

No sooner had Carrot-top left the market when she spotted a familiar shape dropping out of the sky once again.  She ducked for cover, but Ditzy alighted easily this time.

"Well?" Ditzy asked.  "What did you think?"

Carrot-top gave Ditzy an inscrutable look.  Ditzy couldn't tell if she was about to be praised, or yelled at.

"Ditzy…" Carrot-top said.  "You… are a genius.  You're positively, undeniably insane, but you're a genius."

"I can live with that," Ditzy chuckled.  "Can you take it from here?"

"I have more-or-less a dinner date with Applejack," Carrot-top replied.  "We might wind up going into business together, and I'm sure if we do that, a relationship can easily evolve from there."

"Great!" the pegasus replied.  "Now, two-hundred bits, please."

"I thought I owed you two-hundred fifty?" Carrot-top answered in confusion.

"Yeah," said Ditzy.  "But I destroyed your stand, so I think I can offer you a discount."

Carrot-top smiled.  "You're crazy, you know that?  You even got those fillies in on your game."

Ditzy shrugged.  "Hey, whatever works!"

Carrot-top handed over the money to Ditzy.  "Right, then!" the grey mare announced.  "See you around, Carrot-top!"

"Wait," the yellow mare said quickly as Ditzy spread her wings.

"Yes?"

Carrot-top grinned darkly.  "Remind me never to ask you for help again."

The two friends laughed loudly as Ditzy took to the skies, sailing home by the light of the setting sun.
Chapter 4.

Yes, I'm very late in releasing this. I've been working on this for like, a week. If you haven't noticed, this is the longest chapter by a significant margin.

I like how things turned out, though. Decent amount of humor, some action, lots of secret plans, and Carrot-top being... awesome.

My apologies Carrot-top. I put you through a lot in this chapter.

Anyways, enjoy, and comment!


My Little Pony and all related characters, locations, sentences, merchandise, parallel universes etc etc etc is all (c) Hasbro
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:iconterinal-soul:
terinal-soul Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2012
mercenary Cutie Marks that would be my cutie mark lol XD
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:iconportaljumper339:
portaljumper339 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2012  Student General Artist
Great chapter, and I especially like the detail that you put into Ditzy's schemes.

Almost makes me forget I'm reading a pseudo-shipfic, and that is a definite plus.
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:icondolphinbuster:
DolphinBuster Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
That was definitely unexpected! Applejack and Carrot-top? DAYUM
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:iconfighterx345:
Fighterx345 Featured By Owner May 9, 2012
You're a literary genius. You should write your own stories
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:iconpegasusrescuebrigade:
PegasusRescueBrigade Featured By Owner May 9, 2012
My own stories?
You mean like not fanfiction?

I already do that. I just don't post it here; I want to be known as PRB for my pony stuff and by my real identity for original stuff.
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:iconfighterx345:
Fighterx345 Featured By Owner May 9, 2012
"Well… yes," Carrot-top admitted. "I've been in the fruit and vegetable business for a long time now, and I think I'm falling for a certain business competitor."

"Which one?" Ditzy asked curiously, glancing around the market in an attempt to predict the object of Carrot-top's affections.

"It's… um… Applejack," Carrot-top responded, blushing slightly.

OH SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH-

I did not see that coming.
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:iconportaljumper339:
portaljumper339 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2012  Student General Artist
You too?
Reply
:iconvideogamehunter:
videogamehunter Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2012
I just now started reading your story and I love it so fare. I read some more tomorrow.
Reply
:iconsapphire475gs:
sapphire475gs Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2012
Simply the idea that Ditzy was responsible for a delicate diplomatic assignment, had the Catastrophe Making Crusaders helping her, AND making physics calculations put me on the edge for this chapter.
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:iconpegasusrescuebrigade:
Yes, Contrary to the usual, Ditzy is definitely not depicted as "slow" in this story. She has to come up with some very complex plans and handle careful operations.

She's just clumsy due to her physical handicap.
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