Ditzy was busy doing some housework, taking the time to take in the world her mail mare job was providing for her and Dinky. It wasn't fancy but it was warm (mostly) and it provided them with everything they needed (so long as they were frugal).
But there was more to life than just surviving and no matter what she felt about moving to Manehatten, what mattered most was providing for Dinky. It wasn't the money that mattered but the quality of life she was providing her daughter.
"Mommy!" Ditzy was brought out her thoughts by the feeling of Dinky giving her a hug.
The grey mare brightened instantly as she returned the hug. "Hello, muffin. Did you have fun with Sparkler?"
"Yeah!" the young filly then started to list off all the things the two sisters had managed to fit into their afternoon. About halfway through was when Sparkler made it into the apartment.
"Just remember to stop for breath." She teased.
Dinky replied by taking in a deep breath and blowing a raspberry at Sparkler. Ditzy would have scolded her if Sparkler hadn't blown a raspberry right back. Dinky then ran off to put away her school bag, giggling the whole way. The two older mares looked at each other and smiled as they rolled their eyes in good natured camaraderie. They then quickly looked away, things were still awkward between the two mares but they were getting better.
"Hope she wasn't any trouble."
"She was wonderful." Sparkler assured her. "I really had a great time."
"That's good, Dinky had been looking forward to today."
"Yeah, me too." Sparkler replied.There was another moment of silence. This time a little less awkward. "So Dinky was telling me about a Fluttershy today and how she had helped her with the bunny census."
"Yeah, Fluttershy takes taking care of the animals around Ponyville seriously. Dinky likes to help out when she can."
"Well between helping out Fluttershy and being an assistant for The Night Court Representative's Magic shows, Dinky definitely leads an exciting life."
Ditzy paused, thinking about Fluttershy, Trixie and all the other things Ponyville had to offer. "She does, doesn't she?"
At that moment Dinky came back in. "Mommy, Sparkler taught me the sparkle charm she uses for her displays. Take a look at this." Dinky's horn lit up as she prepared to do the spell.
Sparkler quickly leaned over and whispered into Ditzy's ear. "Shield your eyes."
The room was then filled with a blinding white light.
"Still a little strong, Dinky."
Trixie led Cheerilee to her lounge. The teacher declined the offer for a drink as she made herself comfortable on the couch.
"Alright so what did you want help with?"
"Did you know Big Mac was a bounty hunter?"
Cheerilee stopped and starred at her. "How is this relevant to the policy you wanted my help with? In fact, how is that relevant with anything?"
"Relevant!! Bounty hunters are nothing but a bunch of money crazed scumbags!"
Cheerilee pursed her lips. "You know my father used to have a bounty hunter license." She paused "I don't think he ever caught anyone though. I think he just kept renewing his license cause mom liked it. I remember she would shake her flank at him, saying 'I've got your bounty right here'. Then they'd send me to go play at the neighbour’s house."
The teacher sighed when she saw the look of dismay (and slight disgust) Trixie was giving her. "Look, I know that bounty hunting comes with a stereotype but it is legal. Also, it's common practise for big farms to have at least one employee with a valid bounty hunting license. Honestly, would you want to mess with a farm that had a bounty hunter, especially one that looks like Big Mac?"
"This isn't just about precaution, Big Mac has collected." Trixie levitated over the registry and opened it to the relevant page showing the bounty collections that had been paid out by Ponyville Representatives, including who they were paid to and the criminals that they were paid for. "Look at the top three pay outs here in Ponyville. Hardball, Steal-Beak the griffon, Chuckles, all three were high profile bounties with substantial pay days, all collected by Big Mac."
Cheerilee nodded her head as she looked at the list. "True, though you know what else they have in common? All three were dangerous criminals hoping to hide out in Ponyville." She explained "I know for a fact that Chuckles had put at least three ponies in the hospital and could have killed one of them if Big Mac hadn't stepped in. He was doing Ponyville a service."
"And getting paid handsomely for it."
"Oh, you are not going to play that card." Cheerilee scolded. "Tell me, how big was our reward for stopping Corona again?"
"Yes because it was you getting the reward." Cheerilee rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Look I know this is somehow going to lead to you accusing Big Mac of having an agenda, so let’s hear it."
"What if somepony has put a bounty on the elements?" Trixie theorised, "Big Mac might be trying to collect."
"Well, for a start, it would be illegal. License or not, collecting a bounty that is not government sanctioned would lead to him potentially getting prosecuted for various crimes including abduction, harassment, assault and trespassing, to name a few."
"If he was caught."
"And if he was suspected of taking private bounties he could lose his license."
"Why are you so quick to defend him?" Trixie asked.
"Why are you so quick to condemn him?" Cheerilee shot back. "Look, I know you want to be cautious but this has gone from being cautious to being paranoid."
"Maybe a little paranoia wouldn't hurt."
Cheerilee closed her eyes and mentally counted to 10. "Trixie, let me explain a little bit about how being a teacher works. I have a classroom full of young fillies and colts that I have to teach. Do you know what that means?" She didn't wait for Trixie to answer. "It means that I have to leave all personal feelings and opinions I have about my students or their families at the door. What I do in that classroom could affect my students future so I don't get to hold grudges or suspicions. Hay, there's one student whose mother used to call me 'Smear-ilee" at school but you can bet that I still give that student the same care as I give any of the others."
"But it's not easy." Cheerilee continued, "I'm not perfect and some days I find it damn hard to stay professional, especially after having to deal with some stuck up know-it-all parent looking down their nose at me and thinking either I'm the one who should be raising their kids or that they know more about teaching than I do. But every once in a while I deal with some pony decent, who wants the best for their family but also trusts me to do my job. Somepony like Big Macintosh." Cheerilee then seemed to stare right through the representative. "Now I know this whole thing is your way of trying to be a good friend but just remember that tomorrow I have to look Applebloom right in the eye and act as if a friend hadn't tried to 'prove' to me that her brother is dirty and out to get me."
Trixie stared and then opened her mouth, not sure of what she was going to say, but then closed it again when Cheerilee raised her hoof.
"Look, did you actually want my help or was this all some scheme to talk to me about Big Mac?"
Trixie, slightly hurt by the accusation but realising that she kinda deserved it, pulled out a file and laid it on the table. "You don't have to..."
Cheerilee gave Trixie a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "I love helping my friends. So what did you want help with?"
It was late at night at Sweet Apple Acres, Big Mac was the last pony up, pouring over his file of active bounties. So far he hadn’t found anything matching the two he had seen in the market but Caramel had done some digging, none of the local builders knew anything about a Manehatten based Construction Company coming to Ponyville and absence of a bounty didn’t mean absence of guilt.
He was brought out of his thoughts by a mug full of tea being placed on the desk. He looked up and saw the wise old face of Granny Smith smiling at him.
“Saw yer light on.” She looked at the papers. “Planning yer next hunt?”
Big Mac smiled gratefully before taking sip. “Eeyup.”
Granny Smith chuckled as she ruffled Big Mac’s mane. “Just like yer grandpa, always keeping yer eyes open for ways to make Equestria a better place.” She then took the empty chair nearby. “So Applebloom told me ya went to see Cheerilee today. Did ya tell her about the job offer?”
“She take it?”
“Well no surprise there. Speaking from experience, once a mare like that strikes a claim there’s little in this world or the next that will get them to move.”
Big Mac sighed. “I know.”
“The important thing is that ya tried.” Granny Smith said, “Besides, maybe it’s for the best. I know ya trust yer connections in Fillydelphia but it’s better to keep those six together and as they say, if ya want something done right, do it yer self.”
Big Mac pointed to himself “Just one stallion.”
“Sonny, the day that yer ‘just one stallion’ is the day I’m a just a senile old grandma.” Granny Smith paused. “Don’t answer that.”
The next day was another bright and sunny one as Ditzy headed to the post office, her spirit considerably lighter than it had been the night before.
"Ah Miss Doo, puntcual as always." Ditzy turned to see Parley and his assicioates. "I trust that you have had a good night. Did you think my offer over?"
"I did," Ditzy replied. "and the answer is no."
"Excellent, now we will have to leave soon so I've taken the liberty of..." Parley did a sudden double take. "NO?!"
"Thank you so much for the offer." Ditzy said sincerely. "But Dinky and I have a good life here in Ponyville and I don't think now is the right time to move."
Parley stared at Ditzy, trying to process what he was hearing. He then chuckled. "Well I guess we were kinda short changing you. Tell you what, why don't we add another 50% to what we offered you before."
"Sorry but the money was never what was important to me."
"Not.. important...."The gears in Parley's head start to grind. "Well then, tell me, what is important? What can I offer you that will make you reconsider."
"Is there I way that I would be able to work from Ponyville?"
Parley did not look amused "No."
"Then there is nothing you can offer me." Ditzy turned to leave. "Sorry to have wasted your time but I hope you enjoyed your stay anyway."
Parley, looking even less amused, signalled Plata and Plomo. The two big stallions proceeded to box Ditzy in against a nearby wall. Parley also closed in, leaving a Ditzy with no real means of getting away aside from straight up but considering how close the stallions were, they would be on her before she could fly away.
"Alright, I'll keep this simple. Have you ever heard of the expression 'carrot and stick'?"
Ditzy looked around at the three stallions that were suddenly crowding her "Er...yeah, there's a mule on my route who sometimes uses it."
"Well, Ditzy. This job offer was the carrot, it's big, it's juicy and it's ten times better than anything a pony like you could ever hope to get."
"I told you, I'm not interested."
"Now you see, the funny thing is, I don't care. My employer doesn't take no for an answer. Which means I don’t take no for an answer. Which means you are going to go to Manehatten, whether or not you’re interested." Parley closed the distance until he was almost touching noses with Ditzy. "So take the carrot or else get the stick."
"HEY!! LEAVE HER ALONE!!"
Ditzy and Parley looked away from each other and saw Post Haste standing there. Parley scoffed at the scrawny postal worker.
"Beat it, my friends and I were just having a word with Miss Doo."
"Well your word's over."
Silver Script stepped out of the post office, carrying a baseball bat that had the words "Love & Tolerance" written on it.
"If you don't leave right now, I'm going to love and tolerate the shit out of you!"
Parley weighed his options, not really wanting this encounter to turn physical. "Alright, point taken." He turned back to Ditzy. "I'll be at room 6 of the May Flower Motel. In case you change your mind."
The Manehatten ponies then left. Once they were gone, Silver Script lowered the bat and went to check on Ditzy.
"You okay?" Ditzy nodded. "What did they want?"
Ditzy took in a deep breath to steady herself. "They wanted me to take a job in Manehatten and when I told them no, they started to threaten me."
Silver Script nodded. "Alright Ditzy, you're taking the day off." Ditzy opened her mouth to protest. "No arguments. Post haste will cover for you." Ditzy closed her mouth. "You're friends with the Night Court Representative right?" Ditzy nodded. "Do you trust her?" Ditzy nodded again. "Well then come on, I'm going to make sure you get there safely. No arguments."
Parley was muttering angrily to himself as he spied Ditzy and the bat wielding postal worker walking off from around the corner. Once they were out of he turned back to Plata and Plomo.
"Got everything you need for plan B?"
"Sí. A diferencia de usted, realmente podemos hacer nuestros empleos."
"I heard a 'Sí' in there, so go get ready. We're leaving this afternoon." Parley ordered. "I'm gonna go get these tickets exchanged."
As Plata and Plomo left, Parley pulled out the two tickets and looked at them for a brief moment.
"Ditzy Doo, you brought this on yourself."