Crimson Cross scanned the dark, deserted Canterlot streets. Sitting atop a low flying cloud, Crimson looked down upon the few ponies that still roamed the streets with trained, vigilant eyes. His cat-like pupils punctured the darkness with ease, allowing him to easily distinguish between the assorted groups of ponies.
There were the always-present night workers that roamed the streets, trying to solicit a few bits from either a weak willed pony or one with superficial deficiency’s. Frankly Crimson was disgusted with the whores, not only was their occupation illegal but they were essentially walking disease machines. Crimson lost track of time as he gazed at the prostitutes in morbid fascination. During this time, Crimson failed to notice that the few guards that had been patrolling had seemingly disappeared into thin air.
Moving his field of vision from the group of whores to the now non-existent guards, Crimson's stomach knotted itself into a bunch that would remain until he discovered the reason for the guard's mysterious departure.
Why would the guards suddenly leave their posts? This is a sketchy part of town, something is not right here...
Crimson was not exactly in the greatest neighbourhood. It may have been Canterlot, but even Equestria's crown jewel had its seedy underside. The ghetto was relatively small and secluded, but that did not mean that it was a non-existent facet of the city. A clock tower rang out throughout the streets signalling to any ponies still awake that it was midnight.
The loud bell failed to do anything to Crimson's attention. After the last slip up, he was not letting anything distract him this time.
Hearing the bell, the prostitutes all left the street, seemingly in unison. This served to only tighten the knot in Crimsons stomach even more.
A group of whores leaving at the same time? I think not, something is definitely going to go down here pretty soon.
Sure enough, a few minutes after all the ponies had left the street, the sounds of hooves could be heard coming from an alleyway.
Despite his well trained ears, even to an experienced pony like Crimson, it was nearly impossible to distinguish how many ponies were coming based on hoofsteps. Due to the fact that ponies were quadrupeds, it always sounded like there were more ponies than there actually were. One pony could sound like two and three could sound like six. That said, Crimson was not some rookie, he knew not to rely solely on his ears.
Crimson focused his blood-red eyes on the alleyway that the noise was coming from. The noise was originating from a dark alleyway, even with his natural night vision, his eyes were unable to puncture the complete darkness.
Then out from the darkness emerged the pony that Crimson had been waiting all night for. Prince Blueblood. Upon spotting his target, his eyes narrowed. He was so focused on Blueblood he was visibly surprised when he spotted the two armed ponies flanking the Prince. He smacked his face with his own hoof.
Come on Crimson! Get your head in the game, you're too good for this shit!
Blueblood casually strolled down the deserted street, not even taking the time out of his walk to look around to see if anyone was watching. Apparently he assumed that his guards would do that, too bad that they were abysmal at it. They kept their counter surveillance to the alleyways and streets. Apparently these ponies had never heard of pegasi.
More advantage for me I suppose.
Spotting this obvious weakness in Blueblood's security detail, Crimson became more confident in the probability of success for this operation. Not that he was pessimistic about the operation but knowing that his quarry was incompetent certainly was a confidence booster.
As Blueblood's party marched passed Crimson's cloud, Crimson took to the skies to continue his stealthy pursuit of Princess Celestia's nephew.
Crimson's coat was a dark crimson (Big surprise there) which blended with the night sky incredibly well. His shape was nearly invisible in the night sky as he shadowed the Prince and his party.
After following Blueblood for approximately fifteen minutes, the Canterlot Castle's great towers started to come into view. While the castle was light and happy during the daytime, at night it took on a much more sinister looking shape. It was almost ominous with the great towers looming over the city and Luna's much more aggressive Nocturnal Guard taking over for the Royal Guards. It certainly kept most ponies from loitering near the castle once the sun left the sky.
It was a shame at how many ponies were ignorant of what the Princesses did to political dissidents and enemies of the state. Upon seeing the castle, Crimson could almost hear the screams of the ponies in the castles dark dungeons, and torture rooms.
Most ponies would panic if they truly knew the extent of the Princesses cruelty, one does not simply rule for a thousand years without getting your hooves a little messy.
Shaking his heads of these thoughts, Crimson returned his attention to Blueblood who was still slowly sauntering his way to the castle, conveniently there was no one on the streets.
Probably paid them all off too. Deep pockets is one the largest benefits of being royalty.
The Castle was not directly in front of the prince's party. Waving his hoof, Blueblood dismissed his two bodyguards. The two guards nodded curtly and then walked away, melting back in with the darkness of the city.
Blueblood marched right up to the the Palace entrance and sauntered right in. The Guards lifted their spears and allowed the prince entrance without a single word.
More benefits to being royalty, everyone knows who you are.
Crimson kept his distance from the Prince, waiting for him to actually enter the Palace. Once Blueblood entered the Castle, Crimson descended to the streets and walked up to the guards.
“Halt! Present your name citizen!” One of the guards shouted at Crimson.
Crimson held up a small badge.
“Name's Crimson Cross, Equestrian Intelligence. I am on official EIA business, if you hinder my progress the princess's will hear about this and have you arrested.”
The guard had a dead pan look on his face, he was examining the badge. The Equestrian Intelligence Agency, or the EIA, was new so the badge was not very well known.
After a moment the guard submitted. “Very well.”
“Thank you kind sir.” Crimson gave a very lazy salute to the guard ponies as he passed the both of them.
Upon entering the Palace, the beauty was not entirely lost on Crimson despite his many visits. Even with the midnight black darkness enshrouding the city, the inside of the castle was still incredibly white, almost blindingly.
That said, Crimson knew he had a job to do and did not spend time observing the aesthetics of the palace that he saw nearly everyday. He had a pony to catch.
Crimson waltzed through the Palace. He reached the staircase in record time and just spotted Blueblood's rear end entering his room. Ordinarily, if Crimson was this close to a target he would walk as slow as possible in an effort to catch his quarry by surprise. Due to the fact that the floor was carpeted, his hooves made nothing more than a dull thump with every hoofstep. While not inaudible, it was much more silent than if it would have been simple hardwood or marble.
Finally reaching Blueblood's room, Crimson took a minute to realize the possible outcomes of his entering this room.
Maybe he booby trapped the door? Maybe he spotted me and is waiting in there with a dagger? Maybe there is a group of mercenary ponies on the other side of the door?
Whatever would await Crimson on the other side of the door, he did not let it get to him too much, he was a professional and had done this before.
I'm just nervous because it's a high-profile target, lets just do this like I always do. Quick, clean and efficient.
Crimson then inhaled deeply and prepared to enter the room.
Crimson then bucked the door open as hard as possible, shattering several parts of it in doing so.
Blueblood was in the midst of getting ready for bed, his clothing was folded on a chair and he was looking both very shocked and incredibly angry.
“Who the hay are you! Guards!”
Crimson walked over to Blueblood and bucked him right in the face, not so hard as to kill him, but just hard enough to put him to sleep for quite a while.
Blueblood was clearly not used to passing out, he was terrified. Evidently he thought he was going to die. A look of terror was plastered upon his regal face.
“Nighty night Blueblood.” Crimson said coldly.
And then Blueblood's world went black.
When Blueblood awoke, he was even more terrified than when he was being attacked by Crimson. He was in a very sterile, stark, white room that reeked of bleach, on one side was a large mirror. Evidently there it was a one-way mirror.
“Welcome back to the world of the waking Blueblood.” A distorted voice said through a speaker said.
“Huh?” Blueblood was still half asleep.
“Wake up Prince.”
Blueblood tried to rub his eyes with his hooves but soon realized that his hooves were tied behind his back.
“What the hay?”
He then noticed that he was sitting upright in a chair, hooves tied both behind his back and to the legs of the chair.
“What is going on here? I am royalty! I demand an answer!”
“You will not be making the demands Mr. Blueblood.”
“That's Prince to you plebeian!”
“Princes do not betray their nation.”
“What?” Blueblood shouted.
There was no answer.
Once again no answer.
Blueblood shouted for a good hour before anypony answered, unfortunately it was not an answer Blueblood was looking for.
The door to the whitewashed room opened and Crimson Cross entered.
“Why am I here? I demand an answer!”
Crimson just ignored the Prince's demands.
“We know what you have been doing, Celestia really does not mind if you make some money yourself, she would just prefer it if it were not selling secrets.”
“I've done no such thing!” Blueblood was starting to sweat now.
“Don't play innocent Blueblood, it does not suit you. You have sold Classified Equestrian secrets to Griffins, Changelings and even the Celestia-Damn diamond dogs!”
“Do you have any proof?”
“No, but we have ways of getting you to confess...They are rather unpleasant.”
“You really think that I am scared of you? I am royalty and Auntie Celestia surely will hear about this, your hide will be mine!”
“You clearly do not know the Princess. My orders to detain you came straight from the top, apparently you pissed off the Princess a little too much this time eh?”
“You think I am scared by the likes of you? I am royalty and you will be accountable to any harm done to me!”
Crimson simply shook his head as he slowly left the room.
After just a few moments, Crimson returned with a large black trunk on wheels.
Crimson stopped rolling the trunk and looked Blueblood dead in the eye.
“I'll give you one last chance, confess and you will not suffer.”
Blueblood responded without even thinking. “Please, stop with the theatrics and just let me go you plebeian!”
Crimson sighed rather loudly. “ Your fate is sealed.”
When Crimson finally opened the trunk, Blueblood's eyes widened and his pupils dilated. Inside of the trunk, were an assortment of stainless steel, razor sharp torture instruments. All were immaculately polished to a brilliant shine. The metal was glinting in the light of the white room.
“A-Are those supposed to scare me? You'll have to do better than that!” His own voice betrayed him as it shook with fear.
Crimson just shook his head as he reached for one of the many painful instruments.
“I...I conf-...I confess...J-just please...stop...”
Upon hearing Blueblood's confession, Crimson promptly left the room, his coat covered in blood, though his crimson coat hid it eerily well.
Blueblood was lying on the ground, his struggle had cause the chair to tip over. He was also sitting in a pool of blood. In all honestly he was nearly dead, he had even asked for death several times, but Crimson was on strict orders to not terminate.
Leaving the room, Crimson noticed that Princess Celestia herself had watched the whole ordeal through the one-way glass.
Crimson bowed “ Greetings Princess. I did not expect to see you here. The prince has confessed to his crimes.”
“Yes, I see that.” She closed her eyes for a moment, evidently in thought. “ I'm off to speak with him, stay right here, I will require your assistance in a moment.”
“Yes, your highness.”
Celestia walked into the room and closed the door. Out of respect, Crimson decided to not eavesdrop. Even taking respect out of the equation, he knew of only one reason for why Celestia would want to keep him around, she was probably just giving him his last rites.
A small mercy.
After about ten minutes, Crimson could hear screams coming from inside the room. They were not screams of pain, but rather screams of mercy, he was pleading, begging for his life. The screams made Crimsons blood run cold. No matter how many times you heard a pony plead for their life in the face of imminent death it never quite lost its effect on you. Crimson simply closed his eyes and tried to block the screams out.
The door swung open and Blueblood's screams were suddenly at deafening levels to Crimson, making them impossible to ignore. Celestia had her back turned to Blueblood, her eyes were closed, clearly perturbed by sending her nephew to death.
Celestia looked down upon Crimson. “Take care of him.”
“Yes your highness.” Crimson said grimly.
It was at times like this that Crimson often wondered if he had taken the right choices in life. Yes it was true that he was protecting Equestria, but there was no honour here. He was not a guard that would gladly give their lives in defence of the nation. A pony could take pride in the knowledge that they were serving in an honourable and honest line of work. Crimson could not take that same level of pride in his own work.
He entered the room and saw Blueblood's eyes open wide in terror,
“Please! I'll do anything.”
Crimson just kept walking towards the Prince.
“Anything!Bits! Mares! Power! Anything!”
Crimson was now directly over the shaking form of Prince Blueblood.
With that, Crimson slammed his hoof down on the Prince's neck, snapping it instantly and taking his life relatively painlessly. The sickening crunch of bone was the last noise that the Prince's body would made.
Crimson shut his eyes in contemplation. Logically he knew that he had followed his orders to the letter and that he was sparing lives by killing Blueblood. But emotionally he was distraught. It was not easy killing a pony, it changes you. A piece of you dies with each life you take. The problem with Crimson was that he had killed so much that nothing was left inside of him to die. He was cold, a husk of a pony.He used to have nightmares, but that was no longer the case. In all honesty,he missed them. The nightmares reminded him that he had a conscience, that he was good inside. When they stopped, that was when he realized just how dead he truly was inside.
Celestia interrupted his thoughts, “I know that that was hard, but it had to be done. He was a traitor and was putting the lives of innocent ponies everywhere in danger.”
Crimson's mind left his emotions in the dust and the logical portion took over.“Agreed Princess, I do not enjoy the taking of lives, but it is a part of the job and subsequently part of the defence of Equestria. A few dead ponies is much better than a full-scale war.”
Celestia smiled coldly “ And that, is why you are the best agent we have Mr. Cross.”
The compliment did little to raise Crimson's mood. It was a perplexing feeling to be complimented after taking a life. It was almost an oxymoron. All Crimson's life he was told that killing was wrong, and here he was doing it for a living.
“I have some bad news Agent Cross.” Crimson looked into Celestia's one visible eye. “ Blueblood was not alone.”
I figured as much, bits will make stallions do terrible things.
“It seems that there is an organization of Criminals that have their hooves in everything from the selling of secrets to sex slavery.”
“Did he give you any names your highness?”
“Unfortunately no, he was not important enough to earn the true names of any of the high-ranking members.” Crimson was quite disheartened at this revelation.
It's going to be pretty damn hard to find a bunch of nameless criminals...
“He did say one useful thing though,” Crimson's ears perked up a bit. “Blueblood revealed to me that several of the key players in the organization are hiding out in Ponyville.”
“Ponyville? Never heard of the place.”
“Exactly, it is not a heavily populated or urbanized town. It's not known to most ponies thus making it an excellent hideout.”
“Yes it does. Now, I'm going to be sending you to Ponyville to do some digging around. Find out who these people are and deal with them...You will have free reign on this operation to do as you see fit.”
Crimson was visibly surprised at this. He had been given free reign on a few small operations, but this was big. Really big. “I see you are surprised Crimson...” Once again, Crimson blushed invisibly.
“I'm giving you free reign for several reasons. The first is that it would not exactly be subtle if we sent you into a small town with a full team. The second is that you are simply the best agent we have. You get the job's done and you do it without making a mess. A stallion like you is exactly what we need for this job.”
“I thank you Princess, I shall not fail you.”
“I know you will not. Now I have a student in Ponyville, you should make contact with her when you get to town. She is trustworthy so don't worry about that. Her name is Twilight Sparkle and she can show you around town, give you a place to stay and can facilitate communication between the both of us.”
“Now go pack your bags, I want you in Ponyville by tomorrow.”
Crimson did a stiff salute and walked off to go pack his bags. He did not know how long he would be in Ponyville for, but he assumed it was going to be for a while.
Looks like packing light is out of the question...