.the 94th equestrian hunger games.
a crossover by friedmangoslushies
"…and so then I told her, 'that wasn't a bass drop, that was the wubs getting stuck in the elevator!'"
Twilight Sparkle winces at the unicorn's boisterous laugh behind her, trying to block out the terrible jokes which we somehow related to music, though she couldn't understand quite how. "If you don't mind, I'd like to focus on my life and the positive things that came out of it because I very well could be fated to die in just a few short minutes!"
The unicorn with yellow fur so pale it looked almost white behind her smirked. "Sorry to rustle your breeches, Prissy Pants." she joked, then "Hey, aren't you that unicorn that transferred here from the Capitol? President Celestia's orders or something?"
"Yes," the purple unicorn muttered, "and in case you were wondering just as very one else who has posed that question before: yes, I was her personal student, and yes, I am still eligible to compete in the games for this District. I don't like talking about that time in my life. Now if you would excuse me, I need to continue fearing for my life." The words were barely out of her mouth before she declared, "I think I've heard your voice before!"
"I was waiting for you to say that." the rowdier of the two responded. "Name's Vinyl. You may know me as the one and only DJ Pon3, deejay for the best radio station in Equestria, Filly 107-5!"
"I've heard that station before." the purple unicorn remarked, before adding "I needed to rush to the bathroom after listening."
The deejay stopped beaming in pleasure, instead struggling to conceal how offended she was. "Figured you prissy Capitol types couldn't appreciate good music, anyway."
"And I figured that moving to a district such as this one would involve dealing with ponies who honestly think the sound of two washing machines fornicating could make enjoyable music."
The two didn't speak to each other again until after they were both Reaped.
Vinyl began giving hasty goodbyes to her fans, saying "it'll only be a few weeks, and then you'll be back to listening to the hottest, newest music on the airwaves, as well as the hottest DJ!", and telling her apprentices "you guys take care of the station, 'kay? Good, quality wubs while I'm gone."
Twilight walked to the stage shaking, wondering if anybody was crying or cheering for her, when a voice cried out from behind her. She whirled around to see a baby dragon calling her name from outside the barriers separating the stage from the rest of the district, and called back his name in vain, but neither could meet each other.
Vinyl had a whole hoard of ponies clamoring for autographs coming to see her in the tents. Twilight had Spike.
Then they were off to the Capitol.
"I do so wish we lived in District One." a white unicorn absentmindedly remarked to the pony beside her as the orientation film played. "Wouldn't that be wonderful? Living a life of glamour, dressed to the nines each dat? Or, ooh! District Twelve! Remember the star-crossed lovers about twenty years back – who were they, Katneigh and Pita Loaf? What odd names, but strike me dead if it doesn't add a bit of extra mystery to their life. What a romantic tragedy! I wonder- if I were to live in Twelve, if I'd ever be swept up in the life of a romantic tragedy."
"Are you insane?" the pony next to her responded. "Twelve would be one of the worst places to live. You'd be in constant poverty, never knowing if you could have enough to even buy food for yourself… it would be such a terrible life."
Rarity scoffed. This pony obviously did not know her facts. The idea was beautiful and Celestia banish her to the moon if she couldn't see the beauty to such a scenario.
("Sweetie Belle, please, just wear one of the dresses we bought earlier! You don't need to prove yourself here! It's the Reaping; you should look your best!")
"Well, I still think any place would be better than this district. Really, most districts have an important job, like- like grain from Nine, or power from Five. What do we do? Make clothes! And so we always get terribly overlooked every time the Games roll around, being shoved into tacky mismatched clothes just to prove the fact that we make textiles. Did you see the costumes in the parade last year? Aqua polka dots over magenta fabric for the shirt, and burnt orange stripes over dark purple pants – I frankly can't see what part of that didn't scream "this is a terrible idea!"
The pony beside her clicked her tongue thoughtfully. "I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side." they finally responded. "Although it would be nice to live in a district with more wealth or fame, such as Two."
"Ugh! Those barbarians?"
"Well, it was just a suggestion."
("No! This is my first year, and I wanna wear my designs like you, Rarity! You wear your clothes every year to the Reapings to get more business, and I wanna do that, too!")
"I can't see any District being better than the Capitol, though. The sheer decadence and luxury! Goodness, I feel faint merely thinking of the lavish lifestyle they live. Imagine – waking up to the sun shining through your bay window, your eyes opening to the sight of your crystal chandelier, slowly rising from your feather mattress, putting on your silk slippers, and walking out your French doors to your balcony on the top floor of your apartment where you can see the entire Capitol! Wouldn't that just be divine?"
"Seems a bit too frou-frou for me." the pony replied. "It would be nice to live in a world where money would never be a struggle, but I do prefer living an honest lifestyle where I work for my money instead of being born into it. District Four seems like a nice place to live – a fairly wealthy District where the inhabitants are honest fishers who cultivate their aquariums to earn what they need. That'd be a nice blend of the work I want and the money I'd need."
("I wear my designs because I have my own boutique where I sell the fabrics and clothes that I made! You, Sweetie Belle, you just take the products I've worked so hard on to hastily sew them together! I'm not letting any sister of mine wear such haphazard clothes to such a fine occasion!"
"Ruffian." Rarity scoffed, and turned away with a flip of her hair.
The pony on the stage, Red Velvet, levitated two slips out of those glass bowls. Setting the second down, she read off the name, projecting her voice across the area with a simple amplifying spell.
("But I worked hard on those designs! I want to be a designer like you one day, too! Why can't I wear them, just one time?")
The crowd of 12-year-olds began to part, and Rarity felt her world collapse. She sank down on her knees, the world twisting and spinning, her strength threatening to give out completely.
Sweetie Belle, an expression of equal parts horror and confusion on her face, began to finally walk forwards after a small nudge from one of her classmates. The tears began to spill as she murmured a few simple "no"s and made her way up the stage.
("Because you're just not a good designer! Your clothes are absolute trash! I'm not letting you ever wear those, not ever! Go get changed into something that doesn't look like a baby did it and then we're leaving!")
Suddenly Rarity found her strength. Rising to her feet, she stepped away from the crowd of 18-year-olds, using that same amplification spell to project her voice.
Sweetie Belle's expression changed from a contorted mix of betrayal and fear to one of relief and shock.
("But what if I get Reaped? You always say that if you get Reaped, you'll be wearing one of your outfits to boost business, to make us more money. We need money!")
Rarity ran to her sister, wrapping her arms around her neck, and Sweetie Belle returned the hug. "You said I would be safe!"
"I thought you would." the older unicorn responded weakly. "'Belle, listen to me. Run home, run as fast as you can. See if one of your classmates can help walk you back. I want you to lock up the shop and don't you dare open it until I get back home. Keep yourself safe."
"But what if you don't come back, Rarity?"
("You won't get Reaped. Get yourself changed so we can go.")
"I will come back. I promise that I will be coming back."
"I'm scared. What if I get myself Reaped?"
"You ain't gonna get Reaped." Applejack reassured her. "This is my sixth Reapin', Macintosh's seventh, and neither of us got Reaped ever before, even though we keep buyin' all that extra food for us which gets our name in there more than there should ever be. You'll be fine on your first Reapin'."
"How many slips in there got y'all's names in there?"
"Applejack's got thirty-two." Big Macintosh responded calmly. "And I've got seventy-nine."
"Seventy-nine?!" Apple Bloom cried out. "Macintosh, you're insane! That's too many! You can't keep yourself safe that way at all!"
"But we needed food, and even with Granny Smith helpin' out, four mouths is hard to feed." he explained. "'Sides, if I can make it through this Reapin', I'll get through 'em all, and then we'll be fine. I can get a job workin' for ol' Heron after today, and that'll bring in some steady money."
"And I can teach you how to bake fritters this year, won't that be fun? With the apples I can harvest and your cookin', we can get so much done in half the time!" Applejack exclaimed. "But now, you gotta go on over to the 12-year-old section, and Big Mac and I are gonna go over to our sections, and in a few minutes we'll all be fine. Now hurry along, 'Bloom!"
"I will!" the yellow filly exclaimed, and trotted off to her section. Applejack sighed and scanned her section for someone she could stand by, finding a neighbor her age who often helped the Apples with their work after she had finished her chores.
"Howdy, Peachy Pie!" Applejack exclaimed, and Peachy Pie returned the greeting with a hug.
"It's great to see you! Isn't your sister's first Reaping this one?"
"Sure is." Applejack confirmed. "I think she's takin' it pretty well, though. She's worried that she could be Reaped, but ain't we all?" She gave out a half-hearted chuckle, and Peachy Pie weakly smiled. "Anyway, how's your leg healin'?"
Peachy Pie grimaced. "It's still pretty bad, I think. I tried walking on it without crutches today, but I couldn't go much farther than only a step or two before falling down again."
"That's great!" Applejack cried. "At first you couldn't even stand up at all. I can't believe you risked your life to chase down those ponies who stole your harvest! That's the bravest thing I've ever heard-"
"Shhh!" Peachy Pie urged. "She's drawin' the names."
"I'unno, I think that's a guy."
This time, Peachy Pie's urgent "shhh!" gave way to peals of muffled laughter that could only be silenced once a name was called-
Immediately, the orange pony sobered, snapping to attention before dejectedly walking to the stage.
"What do ya think you're doin'?" Applejack hissed. "You can't even walk right now!"
"My leg will heal, AJ." Peachy Pie insisted. "I'll be fine."
"You'll get killed!"
"I'll be okay!"
"No, you won't!" Applejack screeched before jumping away from the herd of 17-year-olds and screaming, "I volunteer!"
Peachy Pie turned sharply. "Don't do this, AJ."
"I have to" was the response, and Applejack helped Peachy Pie back to her section before trotting up to the stage.
Once on her side of the stage, she nodded curtly to the escort and tried to find Big Macintosh's face in the crowd. She couldn't… until he stepped out of the herd of 18-year-olds and began to head towards the stage… no! He couldn't have been Reaped, too!
"You cain't do this, Mac!" Applejack cried to her brother, then to the escort. "We cain't be forced to kill each other! We're brother and sister! Ain't there some rule against this or something?"
"A brother-sister team in the Games?" the escort responded briskly, clearly avoiding the true meaning of the question. "How exciting! The first in years, and the only from District 11!"
Applejack, unable to sway their Reaper, turned to her brother. "We cain't do this, Mac. We cain't be forced to kill each other."
"But we have to." he responded with a sad, resigned tone.
Instead of shaking hands, the tributes hugged.
The escort unravels the slip. She peers at it. Speaks.
And a yellow pegasus shrinks behind her long hair, peeking out at the large crowd, tears flowing down her cheeks.
A blue pegasus somewhere in the crowd cries out how she plans to volunteer, as is common practice in District Two – after years of training, on the last Reaping someone would volunteer and typically go home victorious. Except this volunteer wasn't eighteen at all – she was a brash, bold fifteen-year-old who, while well-known as a talented athlete, was far from prepared.
Most volunteers, however, don't hug the original tribute, sobbing her name into her mane.
"You're not volunteering for me, Dash!" the shyer cries into a rainbow mane, her tears staining her friend's blue coat.
The more brash replies "But I had to, 'Shy! I'm not letting you get killed out there!"
"But I had to do it for myself! I could do it!"
"I didn't want to lose you!"
The yellow pegasus suddenly pulls away, staring at the escort. "Could I volunteer to be the next tribute, then?"
"Flutters, don't you dare! Don't let her-!"
"I volunteer, too." she whispered, and made her way to the stage, Dash flying behind her. Then they hugged yet again and sobbed, Dash only able to ask "why" and Fluttershy replying "I had to."
"There you go. Aww, you guys look beautiful!"
Pinkamena Diane Pie sets the hair brush on the nightstand and grabs two hairbows – one purple, one pink, and begins tying them on the ends of her little sister's braids.
"What's the Reaping like?" asked Blinkie, wide-eyed and so young, so innocent. It almost killed Pinkie to think she'd have to keep going through these pointless Reapings until she was an adult.
"Well, they're sort of like a fun game." Pinkie began, trying to dance around the fear and horror that came hand in hand with the Games. "You've gotta go with the kids in your age group, and they've gotta pick a name. And if they pick your name, then you're the winner!"
Inkie rolled her eyes. "It's not like a game at all. Have you ever even seen the Games, Blinkie?"
Blinkie shook her head. "No. I've been too scared."
"Well, they're not fun at all. They involve killing and backstabbing. It's horrible."
Pinkie frowned as she watched Blinkie begin to quiver, her smile becoming an uneasy grimace. "Aww, you're just looking at it wrong! The Games can be really fun. You've just gotta, ah…" she lowered her voice, "not get picked."
"See?" Inkie screeched proudly. "Not a game at all."
"Hey, but look on the bright side!" Pinkie cheered. "This is my fifth reaping. After today, I've got two more to go. I've never once needed to put more than the one slip per year in the bowl. Now think of the thousands of ponies in District Twelve. Many of them have even more, and yet they never get picked in their lives. So you just gotta hang in there! Chances are you'll never even get picked in your life, and we can put the Reapings behind us. They're just a little whoop-sie in the party of life, is all."
The girls sat in silence for a while before Blinkie finally piped up. "I wish I had curly hair like yours, Pinkie."
"Oh, but it's really difficult to brush, you see. Yours is super shiny and thin, though. You hardly ever get tangles. I hardly ever get a day when there aren't too many tangles. All I gotta do is think really happy thoughts, though, and I can sometimes get it to brush itself out on its own!"
"What do you think about?"
"Well… I like to think about that rainbow that helped show me what real joy was. Do you remember that rainbow? You might've been too young. That was what gave me this curly hair. My hair used to look so much like yours!" Lost in her thoughts, she continued to ramble. "It was the most incredible thing I'd ever seen! It was so many colors at once… it was a beacon of light against the dark of the coal farm! I have no idea how it existed, but if it could return… I haven't gone a day without thinking about it, you see. It was just that life-changing!"
Glancing at the clock, Pinkie gave a shrill shriek. "We've gotta go, girls! Come on!" And with that she ran to her siblings, hoisted the fillies on to her back, and they didn't stop laughing from the speed and adrenaline until the reality of the day caught up with them.
Once Pinkie had helped sign her sisters in and place them in their respective herds, she found her way to the corral marked "16-year-olds" and waited patiently, smiling in hopes that she could vanquish her fear.
She watched as a girl forced to grow too fast was called up – a 17-year-old named Cheerilee who had been a teacher since she turned thirteen. Her students had loved her, and Pinkie hoped she could find a way to make it back to teach again.
Then her name was called, and her feet began to move before her mind could comprehend what was happening. She began grinning widely to disguise her terror, only slowing down as she passed her sisters. To Inkie she nodded and bit her lip, to Blinkie she murmured "looks like I won the game" with a false smile and forced her tears back.
And then she was pushed on a train and whisked away from the coal mines of Twelve.