“Well honestly, if those low class ruffians would just show a little more respect for their betters and try a bit harder to control their baser nature Canterlot wouldn’t have such an awful crime problem. These days I’m afraid to even step out of my manor after Celestia’s sunset!” said Prince Blueblood. The great white unicorn stood at the center of a gaggle of sycophants and hangers-on, a knot of stallions and mares who hung on his every word and nodded obligingly whenever he spoke.
The prince tossed his expertly styled mane with a single movement, one he had likely practiced in front of mirror for days until it seemed casual. The mares around him subtly jockeyed with one another to get close to him, except for one outsider who seemed unimpressed. The commissioner of the royal guard reflected on how every pony at this stupid party seemed eager to sacrifice their dignity to buy even a moment’s advantage.
Commissioner Girdle winced inwardly. She’d been surrounded like this before, years ago, but that had been in a dark alleyway in a bad part of town. Among the made up beauty queens around her, her visage stood out for being plain and weathered by experience. None of the ‘noble’ ponies at this party had missed a chance to remind her of it. At least back in that alley she had known who the bad guys were, and who she needed to belt in the muzzle to get away. She had the scars to prove it. Not that she wouldn’t have thrown a punch at any of these rich idiots if she thought she could get away with it. “Well, Prince Blueblood, I’ll be sure to let them know you feel that way next time I arrest one of them peddling salt cubes for the bits they need to feed their family,” said Commissioner Girdle, “or at least I will if Lord Farthing doesn’t cut funding to the guard like he’s planning to. Though I’m sure your majesty hasn’t concerned himself with that minor detail.”
“What? You’re saying Farthing is the pony behind the cuts to guard funding in the most recent appropriations bill?” asked Blueblood. The Commissioner arched an eyebrow, surprised at the prince’s sudden interest in anything that wasn’t himself.
“You’ve read the appropriations bill, Prince?” asked Girdle. For just a second, she thought she saw a hint of fear and guilt slip across his face, like a foal caught with their hoof in a cookie jar. But a moment later it was gone and replaced with righteous indignation.
“Well, of course I read it, you plebeian! I am a Very Important Pony, after all,” said Blueblood.
“You reeeeeeally are, Prince Blueblood!” said one of the mares at his side in a nasally voice that she probably thought was endearing. Girdle suppressed her gag reflex for the ninth time that night.
“Quite right, Stabella,” said the prince, “in any case, I will not allow any cuts in the budget that may compromise my, er, that is Canterlot’s well being. Let me assure you, Commissioner, these cuts will be reversed before the bill reaches the floor. I will make sure of it personally.”
Commissioner Girdle blinked a few times in surprise. Had she just inadvertently secured a major political victory by talking to this plothole? She opened her mouth to say something else, but before she could press her luck any further the Prince cut her off. “Oh, is that Lady Stirrup over there? Commissioner, you are dismissed.”
Without waiting for Girdle to respond, Blueblood walked away followed by his entourage. Girdle watched them go with the same sensation she always felt after speaking to the Prince. He could be such a wonderful ally, if only he weren’t such a self-absorbed prat. Still, she had come out ahead by speaking to him, and preventing the cuts to the royal guard would be a huge win for her and the city. She walked away from the conversation satisfied, but unable to shake the feeling that she was missing something important.
Blueblood’s chauffeur pulled the carriage he piloted up to the front entrance of Blueblood Manor and stopped. When nopony stepped out, he disengaged himself from the harness and walked around to the side of the carriage to open the gate for his passengers. Looking in, he saw his patron Prince Blueblood scandalously intertwined with a pair of fillies who looked barely old enough to be attending university. Glancing upward, the prince noticed his servant’s stare.
“Pardon me, ladies, but it seems we’ve arrived at my manor,” said the prince.
Neither of the fillies moved from Blueblood’s personal space. “Well, Prince Blueblood, the night is still young. I’m sure the two of us could come inside with you for some... further entertainment?” suggested one of them.
“I wish you could, but alas I’m off to meet with a business partner of mine tomorrow morning on the Marebian Peninsula, so I’m afraid I really do need to call it a night. Perhaps another time?” said the prince.
“Any time you like, Prince Blueblood,” said the other mare. She still wore a smile plastered over her heavily made up face, but an attentive observer would have noticed that any genuine satisfaction she’d had a moment ago was gone. Blueblood noticed, but didn't especially care.
“Fantastic, rain check then?” asked Blueblood. Without waiting for either of them to respond he climbed out of the gilded carriage and turned to address his chauffeur. “Take... actually, I don’t remember their names but take these two wherever they want to go, would you?”
He turned towards the manor and walked down the path to the front door, not pausing for even a moment to look back at the departing carriage as it took off once more.
Stepping into his manor and sanctuary, the Prince let out a sigh of relief. Blueblood rubbed a hoof across his face, wiping the idiot smirk from his visage to be replaced by an expression that reflected both exhaustion and determination. He wished he really could call it an evening, but his night had only just begun. His butler, Alferrier, was waiting for him right inside the front door.
“Ah, Master Blueblood. I trust you had a productive engagement at the ball tonight?” asked his servant. “I see you’re still quite able to sway the opinions of attractive young mares, at the least.”
“I got what I needed. Lord Farthing is behind the effort to reduce funding to the guard. Doubtless he hopes that the increased income he’ll receive from the criminal enterprises he’s connected to will outweigh the risk he runs of being thrown out of office,” said Blueblood, ignoring the jab at his choice in companions.
“Indubitably, sir. Why not call it an early evening, then? Or do something for yourself. Call up the police commissioner and have her over for a drink, or perhaps that mare from the Grand Galloping Gala last month? You said yourself that you wanted to travel to Ponyville one of these days,” suggested Alferrier as the two ponies walked through the manor’s dark halls to the Prince’s bedroom.
“Not tonight,” said Blueblood. “The Canterlot crown jewels are on display at the Smithponian, and they’ll need extra protection.” He stripped off the tuxedo shirt he had worn to the party that night and handed it to the butler. The grey earth pony took it and folded it back up with a few quick, practiced movements.
“Very good, sir,” he said, taking Blueblood’s outfit into a walk-in closet that was larger than most ponies’ entire bedroom. As he left, Blueblood did some quick stretches and dropped to the floor, beginning a set of 50 push ups. His muscles tingled with the familiar effort, but he was fit enough that he was still able to continue the conversation the two were having.
“The visit to Ponyville isn’t going to be a pleasure trip, Alferrier. I need to drop by the Cottage for Criminally Insane Animals and make sure everything there is going smoothly. That night at the gala Warden Fluttershy looked like she might be on the edge of some sort of nervous breakdown. Besides...” the Prince’s resolve wavered for just a moment as he allowed himself to reminisce on the events of a month ago. “That mare will never be interested in me again. I made sure of it that night.”
“I believe that they created something recently for situations like this one, something called an ‘apology.’ Perhaps you should look into it?” came the voice from the closet.
“Very funny, Alferrier.” Blueblood switched from push ups to sit ups as he started to work up a light sweat. Most ponies thought the Prince exercised so rigorously out of vanity, or so he would always be certain of fitting into the most fashionable line of high-end suits. Most ponies thought wrong. “My mind is made up. No Ponyville trip tonight.”
“As you wish, master Blueblood. Shall I make the usual arrangements downstairs?” asked the butler.
“Yes, please do, I’ll be down in a moment,” said Blueblood. Finished with his warm up exercises, the Prince stepped into the master bathroom to take a quick shower and begin his real work for the night.
A few minutes later, a soaking wet but refreshed Blueblood stepped into the manor’s den, a towel wrapped around his dripping mane. The shower had given him a chance to clear his mind, and put aside the facade of the rich spoiled ponce he pretended to be when he was out in public. He glanced around the room, just in case. Even as he did it he knew that it was a silly gesture. There wasn’t anypony watching, he had taken thorough (some might even say extreme) steps to make sure of it. Still, caution and preparation were second nature to him.
His glance showed him nothing he hadn’t expected to see. Thick, luxurious carpeting covering the floors. Bookshelves filled with tomes of knowledge, including a number of rare, out of print, and first edition copies that had been handed down through his family over the centuries. Expensive and high quality furniture, kept immaculately clean even though it rarely saw any use. He turned his attention to the most important object in the room, a baby grand piano in the corner.
Uncovering the keyboard, he pressed his hoof on three seemingly random keys in sequence. As the third note rang out from the piano a clock on the far wall swung open, revealing a staircase descending into blackness. Walking into the darkness, Blueblood emerged a moment later into a huge cavern, a natural hollow within the mountain Canterlot had been built upon. Enchanted lanterns lit the way down, the stalagmites on the floor below casting wavering shadows on the far walls, lending the space an otherworldly feel. Alferrier stood on the rocky shelf at the base of the staircase, making adjustments to the outfit sitting on the mannequine in front of him.
Blueblood considered the outfit carefully, going over it with a judgemental gaze and ensuring that not a stitch was out of place. The outfit had been crafted with the finest materials that he’d been able to purchase with his vast wealth, and in a few cases where no suitable materials had been available created himself from scratch. He had engineered the outfit, redesigning and refining it until it offered him unparalleled protection and unrestricted maneuverability. It was blacker than the coat of Luna herself, save for a bright yellow logo on the chestplate emblazoned with the black silhouette of a bat. It was not only his armor, but a symbol of the figure that struck fear into the hearts of the criminals in Canterlot.
Blueblood nodded to Alferrier, and wordlessly the stallion put on his body armor in preparation for his duty to the citizens of his city. His duty to protect them from harm, whatever the cost.
The Smithponian museum was deathly quiet in the still of the night. The only light came from the cases, which still cast their spotlights on the glittering gems on display as part of the royal crown jewel exhibit. Usually there was no pony around after the museum closed to appreciate them, but tonight was an exception.
The mare wore a black, skintight catsuit that covered her entire body and mane, leaving only her unicorn horn and white muzzle exposed. She crept through the shadows, her special goggles allowing her to see clearly despite the low light. Waiting until she was sure the patrol of the night watch pony had taken him somewhere where he wouldn’t be a problem, she sidled up to a display case. Removing her goggles, her blue eyes stared hungrily at the magnificent jewels.
“Oh, these are even more fabulous than I expected! They’ll look absolutely smashing on me. Ooh, that emerald will be simply magnificent when I pair it with one of the dresses from my latest line! I think I’ll make one of these opals into a new collar for Opalescence. Or is that a little bit too on the nose?” she asked herself.
“I’m afraid the only one getting collared tonight is you,” said a husky, stoic voice behind her. The mare spun around as a dark, flowing figure slipped down from the rafters above and landed a few feet away. As his cape settled to the floor, a stallion in black armor stepped forth as if he'd emerged from the shadows themselves.
“Batmane!” gasped the thief.
“Catmare, we meet at last. I knew you must be behind the rash of jewelry store break ins. Why don’t you save both of us a lot of trouble and tell me how you got past the security systems?”
If the mare was intimidated, she hid it well. “Oh come now, a girl has to have some secrets doesn’t she? But I knew I’d run into you eventually. Actually, I’ve been looking forward to it.”
“If you surrender quietly and cooperate with the royal guard, I’ll ask them to be lenient at your sentencing,” said Batmane.
“Oh don’t be so boring, dear. After hearing so much about you I expected a great deal more than 'come quietly'. It’s such a let down when a pony you’ve been chasing fails to live up to your expectations, isn’t it? Why, just a month ago I met a stallion at a party who I’d rather admired from afar for some time, and he turned out to be the most garish blowhard I’ve ever met. Don’t tell me you’re going to let me down too?” asked the mare, with an exaggerated pout on her face.
“I’m going to have to ask you to come with me now,” said Batmane. Ignoring the mare’s banter he stepped forward, but Catmare backpedalled away as he did.
“I’m not the sort of lady who makes it that easy. If you want me, and I know that you do, I’m going to make you work for it,” said the thief.
Batmane let a hint of a smile play at the corners of his lips. “If you insist,” he said.
Springing into action he leapt towards the mare across from him, who spun away and began to gallop down the hall. Batmane gave chase, sprinting through the gallery after her. Reaching into into a pocket of his utility vest with his teeth, he pulled out a coil of wire attached to a heavy weight at each end. Still running after the thief as quickly as he could, he twisted his neck to the side and rotated his head until the spinning weights pulled the wire taunt. Jerking his head forward again, he released the bola and sent it soaring forward. The shot was true, and the weights tangled among the thief's legs bringing her crashing to the ground. She struggled to free her hooves from the cable and finally rolled over onto her back to look up at Batmane as he trotted over to her.
“Well, if this is what you wanted you should have just asked me, darling. I pride myself on being a very open-minded mare. Although I would have made you buy me dinner first,” said Catmare.
Blueblood could no longer entirely suppress a smile. “You really are something else, aren’t you?”
“Oh, you haven’t even begun to find out yet,” said the mare, batting her eyelashes.
That would have been that, on most nights. Blueblood would have tied her up thoroughly and left her in Girdle’s office, giving the commissioner the surprise gift of starting her morning by booking the arrest of an infamous jewel thief as an anonymous apology for making her sit through 15 minutes of listening to Blueblood talk about which of his several chariots was the most fun to drive at the party earlier that night.
He would have, except the wall at the end of the gallery exploded.
As the smoke and dust cleared, Batmane saw a figure on the other side of where the wall had stood. It was an earth pony, sitting on top of a cannon. The mare was bright pink, with an equally pink mane, but her face was smeared with white cake frosting and her lips and cheeks were covered with a arc of strawberry jam, giving the impression she had a smile as wide as a mile.
The new pony trotted straight up to the pair. Batmane recovered before Catmare did. “Pink Prankster,” he said, narrowing his eyes behind the cowl. “I should have known you would be after the gems as well.”
The pink mare considered this for a second. “Well, I am pink, and I do like pranks, so OK! That’s me! You must be Batmane! Hi Batmane!” The Pink Prankster stuck a hoof out to Batmane in greeting, and seemed a little hurt when the stallion only glared at her in return. Slowly lowering her hoof, she thought for a moment before an idea struck her. “Ooh, I know! Do you want to see a magic trick? Watch me make this pencil...” she pulled a pencil from somewhere within the puffs of her mane “...do this! Woobidywoobidywoobidywoo!”
Grasping the pencil between her two front hooves, she rapidly moved it up and down so the pencil seemed to waggle like it was made of rubber. “Isn’t that a neat trick?” she asked.
“Why are you here, Prankster?” replied Batmane, all business despite the pony’s bizarre antics.
“Oh, right! To take the jewels! Because I’m throwing a party for my friend Twilight Sparkle but don’t tell her because it’s a surprise party and I wanted to give out party favors and I wondered what kind of party favors they should be and then I thought well her name is Sparkle so the favors should be something sparkly and nothing's sparklier than jewels and the best jewels are the ones in the royal collection so I came here to get them!” she said. “That reminds me. Come on everypony! Lets go get the jewels!”
“CUTIE MARK CRUSADER MINIONS, YAY!” came a trio of voices from back by the cannon. Three young fillies ran into the museum through the hole in the wall and down another hallway. Blueblood made a mental note to pursue them once he had dealt with the two masterminds here.
A moment before the Prince could leap into battle, there was the sound of a burst of magic back in the center of the gallery. “What now?” the hero wondered to himself as he turned and charged back to investigate.
An azure unicorn stood amongst the jewelry cases. She wore a pointed hat and a robe, and had used her considerable proficiency with illusion magic to change them from their usual blue and purple color scheme to a dark green, and changed the stars that usually adorned them into black question marks. Her plan was proceeding flawlessly so far. It would be the work of just a few more minutes to steal the royal crown jewels and plant the evidence that would lead straight back to Twilight Sparkle. For some less clever ponies that might be sufficient revenge for the sorts of indignities she had suffered, but not for her. No, she would add a series of puzzles and brainteasers that, if deciphered, would point back to the true thief. Not that Twilight would be able to figure them out. Her failure would prove once and for all who the smartest, prettiest, most magical unicorn in Equestria was. The best part would be that nopony would ever know the real identity of the Befuddling and Mysterious Puzzler.
“Hey, look over there everypony! It’s Trixie! Hi Trixie! Where have you been all this time?” called out the Pink Prankster from down the hall.
Trixie spun around just in time to see Batmane leap to tackle her. “Oh, horseapples” were the last words she had time to think.
“Pinkie, why are you saying such random words?” asked Catmare. She had taken advantage of the distraction to slip out a small blade and cut through the cable that was binding her hooves.
“Not just any words, funny words!” replied the pony who was very obviously Pinkie Pie.
It only took a few moments for Prince Blueblood to subdue his stage pony opponent and tie her up. “By Celestia, who else could possibly show up tonight?” he asked aloud.
Having been irresistibly tempted, fate responded by sending the roof crashing in on the exhibit. As the debris rained down Batmane called upon his training and finely-honed reflexes to dive away, slipping into the darkness and allowing it to fully conceal him. He was shocked when none other than Luna, Princess of the Night landed in the middle of the gallery. “Did we hear some pony in here? Where hast thou gone?” the Princess asked, glancing at the tied up and gagged unicorn on the floor with confusion. “Oh, we understand. Thou thinkest the darkness is thy ally. But thou merely adopted the darkness, we were born with it, shaped by it. The shadows betray you, for they belong to us!”
With that the Princess spun around to face the exact spot where Blueblood had hidden and leapt at him with unnatural speed. He didn’t have a chance to even flinch before the Princess fell upon him and glomped him in a hug. “We very much enjoyed this game! May we play in the next round as well?”
Batmane used the mental exercises he’d learned in the monasteries of Pongri-La to slow his heart down after the panic attack he’d just suffered. “This is no game!” said Batmane, putting on his gruffest and angriest-sounding voice. “These mares were trying to take the royal jewels! I’m in the middle of thwarting a robbery here!”
“Huh? We’re not playing a game? I thought we were,” said Pinkie, bouncing in from the hallway
Luna’s happy expression fell away, replaced with one of crushing disappointment. “If you did not want to play with us, thou could have just said so. Thou did not have to lie to try and spare our feelings, knave,” she said.
“I’m tired of playing this game anyway. Hey Princess, do you want to go get ice cream instead?” asked Pinkie. Luna perked up at the suggestion.
“Ice cream! Indeed! We will purchase ice cream for all of you this very moment!” she declared.
Blueblood facehoofed. “There is no game, and there’s no time for ice cream! I’m thwarting a robbery! That mare is illicitly taking property as we speak!” he shouted, pointing to Catmare who had just scooped up a few rubies and dropped them into a black silk bag around her neck. She whistled nonchalantly as the Princess looked over at her.
“Batmane! You would rebuff an offer of free ice cream and besmirch an innocent mare’s honor rather than spend time with us? We art appalled! We should—” Luna was interrupted by an exaggerated ‘pssst!’ from Pinkie Pie, who waved the Princess over and began to whisper furiously in her ear. The Princess’ expression went from confusion, to shock, to sly understanding as she listened. “We understand. ‘Thwarting a Robbery’ is truly the euphemism modern ponies choose to employ for referring that activity in this era?” she asked. Pinkie Pie nodded emphatically.
“Very well, Batmane, we trust that you have sufficient protective equipment for any ‘crime fighting’ you will be doing tonight, hmm?” asked Luna with a not-at-all-subtle wink in his direction. “Well, if nopony else wants ice cream—”
“Trixie wants ice cream!” cried Trixie, having just chewed through her gag. Nopony cared.
“—then Pinkie and I will take our leave while you two ‘thwart a robbery.’ Farewell!” said Luna, spreading her wing in a dramatic fashion.
Pinkie clambered up onto the Princess’ back. “Bye Rarity! Goodbye Prince Blueblood! Let’s play this game again some time, it’s fun!”
Luna took off through the same hole in the roof she had come in through, leaving two ponies awkwardly shuffling their hooves and refusing to look at one another. And Trixie.
“Tell you what,” said Rarity, “why don’t I put these jewels back, you let me go, and we both pretend that didn’t just happen?”
Blueblood considered the offer for a moment. “Deal,” he said.
“Trixie would also like to pretend that tonight did not happen!” shouted Trixie. Nopony cared.
“Oh, and Pri... Batmane,” said Rarity as she dropped the bag of jewels she had been carrying and began to walk away. “There’s a display of priceless artwork hanging in the Canterlot portrait gallery that I’ve had my eye on for a while in case you feel like thwarting my robbery next Saturday, say 9:00? Just something to keep in mind.”
Blueblood blushed furiously, but said nothing as he watched the unicorn mare walk away. Finally coming to his senses a moment later he used his magic to pick up the blue unicorn who was shrilly complaining about something (he wasn’t really listening) and walked out of the museum prepared to drop her off in front of the first police station he came across. This was the most satisfying night of crime fighting he’d had for a while, but he couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that there was something important he was forgetting.
The next morning, the Cutie Mark Crusaders sat in their treehouse, staring at the gigantic diamond they had successfully stolen the night before.
“Ah can’t believe how easy that was,” said Applebloom. The other two nodded in agreement.
“But what are we supposed to do with it now that we have it?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“Remember when we had the sleepover at Twilight’s library a couple of weeks ago?” asked Scootaloo. The other fillies nodded. “Well, Rainbow Dash was picking me up afterwards and she was late. But when she finally got there Twilight was telling her about some new magic trick she had just read about. She was saying how if she had a big gem like this one she could use Rainbow’s speed and run it through a prism or something and that would reverse it somehow. She was talking a lot and I kinda stopped paying attention for a while in the middle but I think she said that she could enchant it so that Rainbow Dash could shoot a kinda beam from it that stopped whatever it hit.”
“You mean like some kinda’ freeze ray?” asked Applebloom.
“Yeah! Except with pegasus magic instead of ice!” said Scootaloo. “I think we should give this to Rainbow Dash and let her use it to, I don’t know, fight crime of something! Think of what super awesome things she could do with it! More importantly, think of the awesome one-liners she could say before she fired it!”
“Like, ‘you might be a big scary monster, but I’m the one who’s going to come out on stop!’” suggested Sweetie Belle.
“Yeah! Or, ‘maybe you’ve got claws, but I’ve got pause!’” said Applebloom.
“The tide must be coming in, because it looks like high cease ahead!”
“We must be near a market, because you look like you’re about to stall!”
“You might think you're aces, but I know I’m desis...t!”
The three fillies gasped for breath and looked at one another.
“Actually, let’s just go ahead and bring it back to the museum. And let us never speak of this idea again.”