Since our return from banishment we have had the sincere pleasure to encounter hundreds of ponies who have each become, to varying degrees, our friends. One of these ponies, who we would define as a semi-reliable acquaintance, is the “Discordian Detective” Time Turner.
A mundane appearing earth pony, Time Turner possesses an unusual philosophy and view of the world around him. Despite our initial reservations we have found that Time Turner has a surprising habit of returning results seemingly out of a mixture of skill and dumb luck.
Over the last few decades we have personally requested Time Turner’s services on several occasions. Our working relationship eventually yielded permission for us to compile his collected case notes for public distribution.
This record takes place two years before our release from the nightmare and consists of Time Turner’s earlier dealings with the criminal cartel known as the Marefia. The writing compiled within has been drawn primarily from Time Turner’s records and remains in its original form. Be aware that Time Turner has displayed a tendency to bend the truth and occasionally fabricate sections of these records.
While our corrections to the record itself have been kept to a minimum we have also included our own notes when Time Turner’s own explanation is lacking. Notes on a subject will be marked and then entered for easy reading at the end of each chapter.
We shall indicate a note thusly (1).
Yours in good faith
Guardian of the Moon and Princess of the Night
Canterlot: Capital of Equestria and seat of the Princess. It is a city for the rich, the famous and the paranoid. Understandably there’s a lot of work here for a private detective, especially one who doesn’t belong to any of the local political factions.
Moving here from Trottingham had to be the best decision I ever made. I always found it strange that ponies in Canterlot will keep secrets from their friends and then give them easily to an outsider. It’s probably a unicorn thing, or perhaps earth ponies are just more trustworthy.
Still, it had been a quiet week so far. The political infighting always dies down just before the summer solstice as Equestria shifts into party mode. The Canterlot Symphony Orchestra had a royal performance coming up and every night club had a full event list. Ponies from every walk of life were getting together and having fun, everypony except me.
My work was all about fixing disruptions: finding missing items, solving disputes and finding evidence for clients. There’s not much to fix when everypony is having fun.
I stared morosely at the finished crossword puzzle from this morning’s paper; they didn’t last as long as they used to. I picked the paper up and flung it across the room to the pile. The paper hit the side of the haphazard pile, knocked it down and scattered old newspapers onto the floor.
I considered the newspapers, the full bin and the “miscellaneous” pile of junk sitting in the corner of my office. I didn’t have anything else to do today, so I decided to clean up a bit.
I chose to start with something simple, my mystery wall: a collection of pin boards covered in newspaper articles, notes, surveillance photographs and anything else could be useful in future. I began to search it for old material I could discard, starting with a hastily scrawled note reading “Beware of the Panther”.
If there was one basic truth that I had learned in my career as a detective is that, “In the harmonious world that we live in, anything strange or unusual will always lead to something wrong”. At the time I had no idea what “beware of the panther” could possibly mean and I’d decided to discard the note.
As I moved to tear the note down I was interrupted by a knock on the door. “Come in,” I called out. The door opened as a beautiful unicorn walked into my office.
“I do hope I am not interrupting, but I saw your advert—oh, but this room is so... filthy.” The unicorn turned and left, slamming the door behind her.
This is why you should keep your room clean. First impressions are important and ponies will judge you on this sort of thing.
I didn’t want to lose a client over this mess, so I invoked my special talent, “reset.”
Time froze and reversed itself, taking the world back to where it was before the unicorn had arrived. The ability to reverse time by short periods is my special talent, but it’s a bit limited in that I can’t go further than forty two seconds into the past. It’s good for fixing mistakes, avoiding traps and winning at card games. Incidentally, my name is Time Turner (1).
This still left me with a client rapidly approaching and no way in Tartarus to clean this up in time I had available, so I decided to meet her halfway. I made good use of the head start and nipped out the door into my office’s waiting room.
Outside, I locked my door and brushed my mane back with a hoof. The only visible sign to show that time had been rewritten was the movement of sand in the hourglass on my flank as it flowed down from the upper bulb.
Composed, I made my way down the stairs to meet the unicorn mare. “Hello there, Miss,” I greeted the unicorn with a smile.
“Good morning, gentlecolt.” She returned my smile and said, “I am Rarity and I am looking for a ‘Detective Time Turner’, who I believe has his office in this building.”
“Well lucky for you, Miss Rarity, you just caught ‘Detective Time Turner’ on his way out to an early lunch.”
“Oh,” she said, “I hope I’m not interrupting you, Mr Turner; I’ll wait for you in your office.” Before Miss Rarity could continue past I lifted a fore hoof to interrupt her passage.
“Not an interruption at all, however I’d be delighted if you were to join me for lunch and save yourself from waiting in my office.” Better that she come with me than see the office.
“Why thank you, Mr Turner,” she replied with a nod. “I would be most delighted to accept.”
I walked past Rarity and motioned with my head for her to follow. “Allow me to show you to my favourite Cafe.”
Just across the street from my office sat the best café in Canterlot. Café Noir follows the theme for which it is named with dull lighting and private booths for diners. The walls are painted in a dull brown and every lantern hangs over a table to keep the light localized, with controls so occupants can dim the light for a private moment.
I make it a point to try and meet all my clients here, rather than in my office. Meeting in Café Noir allows me to use the mysterious air of the café to enhance my own credentials as a detective and the private booths provide a comfortable place to discuss business.
As we entered I gave a friendly wave at the waitress and led Rarity over my usual booth. The waitress knew well enough that I would want a few minutes alone with my client before she came over to ask for our order. We took our seats across the table from each other and made ourselves comfortable.
“Well, Mr Turner,” Rarity said. “Thank you for interrupting your lunch. Could we discuss your services while we eat?””
I gave her a nod and a smile, “Of course, Miss Rarity. While we wait for the waitress,” I asked in a welcoming tone, “would you like to tell me what has brought you to me?” It is important to keep a client as comfortable as possible. Usually anything that requires a detective tends to be awkward for a client to ask about.
“Well, Mr Turner,” she began, a slight blush appearing on her cheeks. “It’s probably a rather trivial thing to ask a detective, but my darling little kitten has gone missing.”
Don’t laugh, I told myself as I fought to keep a straight face. It’s what the client wants, remember? It was a bit trivial, but I didn’t have anything else to do.
“May I ask what your kitten looks like, along with its name and breed?”
Rarity’s eyes lit up. “Thank you for taking this so seriously, Mr Turner. I honestly thought you would refuse to take my case. Well, her name is Opalescence: she’s white, with long fur and purple ribbon in her mane.”
“A Purrsian breed kitten?” I guessed and Rarity gave me a nod. “That’s a very popular breed here in Canterlot, their temperament and appearance matches the city quite well.”
“Detective,” Rarity asked with a slight giggle. “Are you implying that I’m not from Canterlot?”
I flicked my eyes across her appearance. “Yes.”
“Might I ask how you figured that out?”
“Well first, you just told me.” Rarity rolled her eyes at me. “Second, you carry yourself with pride like most Canterlot ponies, but its pride in your ability and not your wealth. You’re also hiring me, so you do have some wealth. That would make you a self-made mare from somewhere else.”
I leaned back in my seat. “There’s not much room in Canterlot for somepony to make themselves. The wealthy tend to crush competition and you don’t look like somepony who’s been crushed.”
“I think I’ll take that as a complement.”
“You should, but I digress from the subject at hoof.” I brought my hooves together. “So, Miss Rarity, why have you come to me instead of going to the animal shelter instead?”
“A few reasons, Mr Turner: Opal has been missing for four days now and she still has not returned to my hotel suite, nor has she been rescued by the animal shelter. However my greatest problem is that I simply cannot work without her.”
I raised an eyebrow, “she’s vital to your work?”
Rarity’s eyes wandered as she looked for an explanation. “You could say Opal is my inspiration, or perhaps you could call her a critic.” Rarity leaned forward onto the table, “I’m a clothing designer and I work very hard to make all my designs chic and unique. Whenever I have Opal around my work seems to get easier. Perhaps she’s a calming influence or a natural reminder of grace.”
She looked across the table at me, “I’m still a newcomer to the fashion industry, Mr Turner. I need all the help I can get. I simply must get Opal back and her disappearance has simply been the worst possible thing!”
As her outburst reached its peak, Rarity was leaning across the table and shaking me in her hooves. “You simply must get her back! I need her so much!” She fell onto the table and burst into tears. I glanced around the café and noticed that many of the other patrons had stopped to watch us. I reached up to the lantern above the table and turned it down.
So, I had a stunningly beautiful mare crying in front of me over a missing kitten and no way for me to turn her down. Even though I can be an emotionless mule sometimes, I wasn’t entirely unsympathetic.
“I’ll find her, I promise,” I said to her.
Rarity pulled me into a hug and her tears flowed down onto my shoulder. “Thank you, Mr Turner,” she said between sniffles. “Thank you so much.”
“Just Turner will be fine, Miss Rarity.” She moved back to her side of the table and brought a napkin to her eyes. The gloom quickly disappeared from her face as she moved back from the dim light.
“Well I suppose we can start with lunch.” I signalled for the waitress, and she appeared as soon as I raised my hoof.
“May I take your orders, sir and madam?” A notepad and pencil hovered nearby.
I ordered for the pair of us, “We’ll have two daisy sandwiches, a plate of hay fries and one of your famous chocolate sundaes for my friend here.”
One of the benefits of being a regular at any café is that they start to anticipate your requests. The order I gave to the waitress was for the same meal I ordered every time I brought a client in, so when I placed my order the waitress immediately returned with it pre-made for us.
“That was rather impressive service,” Rarity noted. “I can see why you would take your lunch here.”
“Well I helped the owner out a while back, so service tends to be quick and occasionally there’s an extra helping as well.”
I turned the lantern back up so we could eat and noticed that Rarity had already returned to her pristine self. During the dim lighting at some point she must have fixed her mane and returned her makeup back to the way it was before her outburst.
We ate in silence, Rarity used her magic to daintily eat her sandwich while I was stuck doing it the “earth pony way”. A lot of the more “upmarket” unicorns tend to look down on anypony eating directly off the plate but Rarity paid no attention to it.
As Rarity began to finish her sandwich I brought up a crucial topic. “So Miss Rarity, since you’ve convinced me to take your case, we need to discuss my fees.”
“Oh, yes of course,” Rarity agreed. “Whatever you need to find my little darling.”
“I think you’ll find my rates reasonable and fair.” I listed off my only slightly extortionate list of prices and expenses to Rarity, who agreed without hesitation. I wondered briefly if I should have charged more.
I took some of the hay fries from the shared plate for myself, and Rarity took the opportunity to ask a question as I ate.
“Turner, might I ask how you are going to find Opal?” She gave a slight smile. “I hope that it would not take too long, I’d like to be able to go home with her soon.”
“My methods are based upon the fundamental harmony in all things, which is centred on the principle of disharmonious events leaving an impression on the underlying harmony.”
Rarity blinked. “Beg pardon?”
“Well when something disharmonious happens, like Opal’s disappearance, it creates a disturbance in the harmony of the world.” I pressed a hoof down on the cushion back of my seat. “When disturbed the subtle harmonics of the universe will start to influence the world around the disturbance.” I pushed harder against the seat to increase the indentation my hoof made around it.
“Strange coincidences and events will surround disharmonious events. So all I need to do is follow the trail of chaos and it will eventually lead me to Opal.” I took my hoof away from the seat, letting it return to normal. Despite my attempt to explain, Rarity didn’t seem to understand any of my speech and had simply been nodding her head and making “uh-huh” sounds as I spoke (2).
“Alright,” she said. “When will you start?”
“Right away, once I have some of my tools from my office I’ll start my search.” I slid my way out of the booth.
“One more thing, Turner,” Rarity said and then began to smile. “Would I be able to accompany you?”
I paused for a moment to consider this. I usually work alone, and I don’t allow clients to follow me because they tend to get me into trouble.
“Well I don’t usually…”
She gave me puppy dog eyes. Rarity was around nineteen years old and had enough youth in her face to make her parasprite grade adorable.
Don’t give in, I thought to myself. Don’t give in because you’ll know you’ll regret it and sweet Celestia she can be adorable when she tries… ah horse apples.
“I suppose it wouldn’t be too much trouble.”
“Why thank you, Turner. I will just finish my dessert while you get your things. I shall meet you outside your office again once you are ready.”
I left Rarity to her chocolate sundae, well aware that she had managed to manipulate me again.
I unlocked my office door and got out a pair of saddlebags. I then went around my office to find anything I thought could be useful to me on this case. I started by packing my detective’s fedora and a scarf to keep me warm during the cold mountain nights, followed by a rope and a magnifying glass. I’d probably end up using everything except the magnifying glass, which I only carry because a detective is expected to carry one.
I decided to spend a few moments flipping through the pile of newspapers to catch up on current affairs. Most of the focus in the articles went toward the events surrounding the lead-up to the summer sun celebration next week. One interesting article detailed the sudden spike in illegal alcohol sales as the city’s party atmosphere built up.
Other subjects included Hoity Toity’s new fashion line, the antics of the Princess’s personal student and the other mundane things that newspapers tend to rag on about.
There was a knock on my front door downstairs. I looked up at the clock on my wall and realized that I had been reading my back issues for a good twenty minutes. Time can really get away from a pony when he’s reading.
I snatched up an issue of the paper that had a feature on the illegal alcohol racket for later reading and a book of crosswords that I hadn’t finished yet and put them in my bags along with a set of pencils.
With everything I could think of I went downstairs to meet my client and – Chaos willing – find her kitten.
(1) The nature of Time Turner’s ability also means that few ponies will actually witness it without being innately resistant to changes in time, us for example.
(2) As above Rarity probably does not understand Time Turner’s explanation. We also suspect Time Turner does not entirely understand it either and simply uses it to sound clever.
Rarity stepped up to me as I came out of my office. “There you are, Turner. You were gone so long I was starting to think that you had gotten lost in there.” Since I last saw her a few minutes ago she’d put on a satchel and a large green sunhat. I have no idea where she got them from.
“I got a little lost in my notes,” I explained. “Nothing a quick ring of the bell wouldn’t snap me out of.”
“Darling, you do realize the bell is broken? I rang the thing when I arrived earlier.” Rarity lit her horn up and gave the rope a tug to demonstrate.
The rope hung from a lever next to my front door, which was emblazoned with the words: “Time Turner’s Discordian Detective Agency” and below that was written, “Ring bell then enter”. You might be thinking to yourself, “when was the last time Turner heard that bell ring?” Well it was a month before then, give or take a few days.
Surely somepony would just walk up to the office if the bell didn’t work, right? I asked myself and was not pleased with the potential answer.
“I’ll just have to get the bell fixed later.” I looked toward my client, “Alright, Miss Rarity. First stop in our search is the animal shelter. I assume you know the way to get there?”
“Of course, darling. I have been visiting the shelter every day since Opal disappeared to ask about her.” A frown darkened her face. “Each time I visit they tell me that they have not seen Opal. Why would you want to go there?”
“A few reasons, I’ll explain on the way.” I started out onto the street that led towards downtown Canterlot and Rarity fell into step beside me.
“I was just there a few hours ago, Mr Turner,” Rarity objected. “Why would you want to start somewhere I have already searched today?”
“The animal shelter is a good place to ask about animal problems,” I explained. “If they still haven’t heard from Opal I can ask them where I should be looking and they’ll happily point us in the right direction.”
“If that is what you think is best,” Rarity conceded.
“I also have a few questions to ask you, Miss Rarity.” I switched to a conciliatory tone, “If you’re willing to answer them, that is. The answers could be helpful in our search.”
Rarity nodded, “what do you want to know, darling?”
I began by asking, “Opal has been missing for four days so far, right?”
“Yes, during the night four days ago. It was Saturday evening to be exact.”
“A kitten like Opal should have been found quickly and taken to the animal shelter. It’s strange that it’s taken so long.” I hummed in thought for a moment before asking my next question. “Miss Rarity, do you have any enemies who would want to catnap your kitten?”
“Why of course not,” Rarity answered with a little affront. “I have not done anything to make anypony want to do anything to me or my deal little Opal.”
“That’s good because it means that if anything happened to Opal it wasn’t intended to do you or her harm. It still doesn’t tell us why she’s still missing. How could somepony identify her if they found her, does she have a collar at all?”
“Well I’m afraid not, just before she disappeared I gave Opal a bath. I have to be rather forceful because my little darling dislikes water so…” she paused for a moment. “I took her collar off to polish it and she left for her nightly walk before I could put it back on.” Rarity used her magic to levitate a jewelled collar over to me. Its centrepiece was a large opal socketed into a silver surround engraved with Opalescence’s name.
“Well, even without this collar, Opal should have turned up at the animal shelter by now,” I reasoned. “Hopefully nopony has adopted her already.”
“And if somepony has adopted her?” Rarity asked.
“I’ll still find her. Then you can ask the adopter to let you take Opal home to where she belongs. If not…” I shrugged, “we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.”
As I finished we reached the end of my street where it came out onto Palace Boulevard, one of the main roads through Canterlot. We went downtown, traveling away from the Royal Palace and through the traffic of other ponies going about their daily business. It was still early afternoon and the traffic hadn’t yet devolved into the slow moving head-to-flank herd that characterized the late afternoon rush hour.
As we travelled through the traffic we participated in the usual public conversation, the occasional song and the cutie mark guessing game. The trip across Canterlot took a fifteen minutes and brought us to the quieter streets near our destination.
Once the noise had died down Rarity decided to start asking questions beyond the more public chit chat we had engaged on during our brief trip.
“So, Mr Turner. How exactly did you become a detective?”
“I put an ad in the paper,” I remarked.
Rarity ignored my response and asked, “Specifically a ‘Discordian Detective’. I cannot say that I have ever heard of one before or even a detective outside of the Royal Guard.”
“Interesting things always seem to happen around me, for one reason or another,” I shrugged. “When I began to investigate what caused these events I found connections between them. Eventually I got good enough at it that I decided to try doing it professionally.”
I thought up an example. “For instance, most ponies wouldn’t make any connection between say, a dragon migration and a sudden decrease in the price of gemstones.” I took a brief moment to make a connection as a flash of curiosity crossed Rarity’s face when I mentioned gemstones.
“Dragons can’t carry their entire hoard when they migrate, so they eat as much as they can and then sell whatever they can’t carry. The next migration is in about three or four years. You might want to set aside some bits for a large order,” I finished with a wink. Rarity face lit up as she considered the possibilities, allowing me to walk the final furlong in silence.
The Animal Shelter is a somewhat mismatched collection of brick and stone structures that were all individually bought up by the Royal Animal Protection Society. The RAPS – a terrible acronym – has combined all these buildings into a single complex that combines a home for lost animals and Equestria’s largest veterinary hospital.
This all sounds nice until you realize how large the shelter has been forced to become. The trouble here is not that the animals are being so well cared for, rather it's the fact that it's necessary for so many to be protected in the first place. My opinion’s probably biased because every time I see this building it reminds me of my colthood companion Jess: A little dog that never returned home from this place. I don’t like hospitals either, for similar reasons.
Regardless of my own opinion, the Shelter is much more organized and cheerful once you walk inside. It’s amazing what a group of ponies can accomplish with love, friendship and royal funding.
The lobby of the collected buildings is a huge brightly painted room reminiscent of a doctor’s waiting room. Posters are strategically placed around the walls that encourage ponies to adopt pets, along with Nurses and doctors that constantly walk through the room and pets of every sort accompanying their owners for health check-ups.
The centrepiece of this room is a large enclosed reception desk that surrounds a statue of Princess Celestia caring for a small menagerie of animals, including: dogs, cats, several birds, rabbits, a turtle and a suspiciously lifelike pigeon sitting on her head (1). The desk was tended by a large staff attending to ponies and their pets.
I sent Rarity to ask after Opalescence at the desk while I checked the lost and found pet notices. The noticeboard was completely plastered with flyers and signs, primarily listing cats that had been found and were waiting to be claimed. Normally cats would only make a small portion of these notices and the board was too crowded for this to be a regular occurrence, otherwise it would be larger.
As you might have guessed, our dear Opal wasn’t listed. With so many cats missing there had to be a connection of some sort and I had questions to ask. So I trotted over to a door marked “Staff Only” and walked through.
I walked calmly down the hallway making every attempt to look like I worked here. I picked up a stethoscope and threw it over my shoulders to complete the illusion. Generally, if you look like you know what you’re doing, nopony will question you. None of the staff made any attempt to stop me, and a few even gave me a friendly nod as I passed.
Following a few signs I found a staff break lounge where I hoped to find somepony who would be willing to answer a few questions. I sighed loudly as I walked in and brought the conversation in the room to a halt. Attention gained, I walked over to the coffee vending device that was standard issue in any staff break room.
I pulled a bit from my saddlebags and inserted it into the device’s coin slot, selecting black coffee. I prefer coffee over tea because when I drink something hot I want an energy boost, not an aromatherapy session. The device lurched into motion using complex unicorn enchantments to create my coffee.
As the machine hummed I lent my head against the device itself as I put on the role of a doctor who has been overworked to breaking point. Deception requires acting and acting never looks real unless you truly throw yourself into the role. I could feel my back burning from the attention I was getting from the other occupants of the staff break room as I waited.
Eventually the device went ping and gave me my coffee. It was contained in a cup with an easy grip, spill reducing lid designed for the earth pony or pegasus with a caffeine addiction. I trudged over to the table with the cup in my mouth, pausing twice to sip gingerly at the contents, and sat down at the large communal table with nopony sitting directly next to me. There were two ponies at the table, both mares and probably nurses, so it was only going to be a matter of time until…
“Are you okay?”
I looked up at the source of the voice; it was an earth pony mare with a khaki coat and a curly brown mane.
I gave her a tired smile. “Doing well enough, just tired from dealing with the cat-tastrophy.” I chuckled humourlessly at my own terrible pun. “There’s just so many lost cats coming in right now I’m pulling an extra shift just to keep up."
“You mean all those cats we keep getting in?” Another voice came from a pegasus further up the table. I nodded in response as I took another sip from my coffee cup, and then coughed it back after accidently filling my mouth with the hot coffee. The earth pony nurse gave me a sympathetic look while the pegasus chuckled at my discomfort.
“Doctor, perhaps you should get some rest,” the earth pony asked with concern.
“I’m fine, there’s too much to do yet,” I declared as I held up a hoof. “Anyway this coffee is really starting to wake me up.” I took a more careful sip. “What I really need to know is what is causing all this, where the cats are coming from and what’s getting them lost.” I held my head in my hooves as I waited for an answer.
“I was talking with one of the desk mares earlier,” the earth pony began. “They’re being brought in in groups, so something strange is going on and it’s leading a lot of cats astray when they go out at night.” I took note of what she said, because strange things always lead to something wrong.
“That is strange,” the pegasus agreed. “What could be doing that?”
“No idea,” the earth pony replied before continuing on a positive note, “At least we can return them to their owners again. It gives me such a warm feeling inside when I see them reunited into a loving family.”
I rolled my eyes, they’re getting sentimental, I thought to myself. I’d better go before they start trading pictures.
“Well I’d better go get back to that and find out what’s going on with these cats.” I lifted my coffee cup up and downed the cooled coffee. I nodded at the earth pony mare, “You’ve been very helpful, thank you.” The mare blushed at my complement and mumbled something along the lines of “you’re welcome” as I got up to walk out the door. I put my coffee cup in the bin and went out the door into the hall outside.
I walked back toward the lobby and thought about what I knew so far. First: large numbers of cats have been going missing. Second: The missing cats were being returned, and Opal was for some reason not among them. I pondered this as I approached the exit to the lobby. A picture was starting to form but I needed more information.
Pushing through the lobby door I noticed Rarity talking to an old flame, Vinyl Scratch. Vinyl is a popular local DJ who performs under the stage name DJ-P0n3, one I expect you’ve heard before. This was a couple of years before she became a national sensation and “dropped bass across Equestria” so her fame was localized to Canterlot. Back then we were, for various reasons, not on the best terms with each other: it involved a ruined performance, broken records, awkward questions and I think she’s gone off stallions entirely as a result.
Rarity gave me a friendly wave when she spotted me. Vinyl noticed who Rarity was waving to and shot a glare at me. Clearly bitter, Vinyl refused to look back at Rarity and she stormed out of the lobby (2).
So my client and my ex-marefriend just happened to meet at the animal shelter while I was on a case. In my line of work random occurrences are often a symptom of a greater problem, this was chaos at work. I needed to know what they had been talking about, and what they would have said if I hadn’t interrupted them.
So I activated my universal rewind, “reset.”
Time wound itself backwards and I found myself in the hallway just outside the lobby doors. I didn’t want to interrupt, so I looked through the one way glass window on the staff entrance. Sure enough, the pair was standing together in what appeared to be polite conversation. Both mares were relaxed and at ease with each other, I guessed they’d met before.
I stood for a few brief minutes watching them as they continued to chat and joke as only mares could. Until I was interrupted as a pair of ponies came down the hallway toward me in a rapid canter. I recognised the pair as the nurses from the staff break room.
The earth pony mare called out to me as she approached, “Doctor, wait!” While the Pegasus came to a halt further up the hall and watched us with a sly smile.
I fell back into my role as tired vet as I greeted her in a friendly tone, “Can I help you…” I hung onto the last word as I spoke to ask for her name.
“Nurse Catch, Lucky Catch,” she answered with a slight smile.
“How can I help you then, Mrs Catch?”
“Actually, it’s just Miss.” She started to look into my eyes.
Naturally everypony knows about the slight bias towards the female side of the mare-stallion ratio in Equestria. With about four mares for every stallion the competition for a mate in our predominantly monogamous society can become rather intense (3). This is made worse when stallions make themselves unattractive by being rude, stuck up, splashy or one of the other hundreds of things mares hate to see in a colt.
My eyes took a brief trip along Catch’s khaki coat past her cutie mark, which was a set of three paw prints, and focused on her curly brown tail. She didn’t have a ring or any memento to say she was in a relationship.
She caught my wandering gaze and stepped closer to me, her smile growing.
My thoughts started to race as I realized that Catch had been struck by the Foalence Nightingpony effect, and had fallen in love with the poor tired vet that she met moments ago. Worse, my mark was still moving as my reset recharged.
“Just ‘Miss’?” I asked as I put a neutral smile on my face. “I would have thought a mare like you would be spoken for already.”
“I could be,” Catch said. “I was wondering if you like cats, because there is an excellent show down at the theatre and I would love to take you there.”
She began to advance toward me and I started to retreat backwards.
She started to move faster and I started to retreat faster as well, until I hit the door that led out into the lobby. With a sudden pit forming in my stomach I realized that I was probably about to be spotted by Rarity and Vinyl. I needed to hide behind something and there was only one option.
I reared up to take Lucky Catch between my hooves and spun around her to put her between me and Vinyl. Unfortunately Catch took this as an invitation and launched into a kiss with me. She pushed forward and wrapped her hooves around my torso while my tongue played tower defence in my mouth.
Locked in the embrace, I looked over Catch’s shoulder at Rarity and Vinyl. The pair had yet to notice us and were waving goodbye at each other as Vinyl moved toward the exit.
Before I could pull myself out Catch took a deep breath through her nose and slammed me against the door, launching another assault on my mouth. The slam everypony’s attention as the entire lobby came to a stunned silence. Thank Celestia that Vinyl had already left, because she would have gone absolutely insane if she saw this.
Eventually Lucky Catch pulled back from our embrace and stared deep into my eyes, looking very pleased with what she saw. “Doctor, that was amazing,” she puffed before following with a snort.
“It was all you,” I replied. She seemed to take this as a compliment.
“So dinner tonight followed by the theatre?” Her grin took on a sultrier slant. “After that we’ll see where the night takes us,” she said as she ran a hoof along my back. The insinuation left no doubt in my mind about where she intended the night to take us, back to her apartment, followed by a trip to the palace in the morning to get married.
“Thank you, Miss Catch. Any other night I might take you up on that offer.” My words dulled the smile on Catch’s face, but I didn’t want to reject her outright. With the way this world works I was probably the first colt that Catch thought she actually had a chance with.
“Goodbye Lucky Catch, perhaps we’ll meet again someday.” I broke away from her loosening grip and galloped toward the door and out on the street. Freed from the confines of the RAPS Animal Shelter, I galloped away. Doing my best to ignore to voice that cried out for the stallion that she only knew as “the Doctor”.
(1) After our return the RAPS animal shelter received an anonymous donation to add a second statue to their lobby. The new statue depicts our own royal form with a selection of nocturnal pets. Reportedly bats and owls have become much more popular of late.
(2) We find it unlikely that Vinyl Scratch would have simply walked away from Time Turner if they met. Considering their past relationship we can reasonably assume that her reaction would be more violent than Turner has indicated.
(3) The gender imbalance has been a constant in pony life since the Age of Grazing in distant prehistory. In modern society the development of complex emotions along with a lack of pressing need for population growth has led to monogamy being the rule rather than the exception.
It was five street corners, two near collisions and basket of spilled melons before I stopped running. I halted on the side of the road and stood thinking about happened a few hectic minutes ago. I hoped that Lucky Catch would forget about me; because the last thing I needed in my life was another jilted mare out for revenge.
It was a few more minutes before Miss Rarity caught up to me while huffing and puffing like an angry dragon. Unicorns seldom need to gallop anywhere or even perform enough hoof work to keep themselves in shape, the hazards of a horn I supposed. Like most earth ponies I try to keep myself in shape, at least so I’m able to outrun my problems.
“Time Turner!” Rarity called out as she ran up to me, “what were you thinking taking advantage of a mare like that?” Before I could respond she positioned herself in front of me and slapped me across the face.
“Well Time Turner? What in Celestia’s name did you think you were doing back there?” I opened my eyes again and looked into the anger in her eyes. The slap had hurt for a moment, but Rarity looked like she was prepared to do a lot more to me.
“It wasn’t my idea,” I said, “I didn’t ask her to be my marefriend.”
Rarity huffed in outrage. “Then what were you doing kissing her? You certainly were a willing party in that.”
“I was hiding from Vinyl Scratch, that’s why.” I sighed and sat down on the road. I tapped a hoof in invitation for Rarity to join me but she took one look at the ground and decided remain standing.
“Vinyl doesn’t like me, and I didn’t want to interrupt your conversation. I would have waited behind the door but then Miss Desperate and Dateless decided that she wanted a special somepony. Once she forced me out into the lobby and the only place to hide was behind her, that was when she kissed me.”
I continued in a more apologetic tone, “I’m sorry it came to that, her name was Lucky Catch if you must know.” After my apology the righteous rage faded from Rarity eyes, though I doubted that she’d forgiven me. Eventually she restarted the conversation on a different topic.
“Then what is so special about Vinyl Scratch?” Rarity asked.
“Me and Vinyl have a bit of a history, we used to be friends once but we had a bad… falling out. Ever since then she’s gone out of her way to avoid me.” I rubbed my forehead with a fetlock. “Miss Rarity, I need to know why Vinyl was at the animal shelter. Her sudden appearance is too much of a coincidence for her not to be involved somehow.”
“She was simply returning a cat that followed her home last night. How could you possibly think she would be involved in my darling Opalescence’s disappearance?”
“Miss Rarity, a lot of cats have gone missing lately but in almost every case the cat in question has been returned. Opal is only unusual in that she hasn’t been found yet.” I brought myself onto my hooves again. “I can’t be sure if Vinyl is involved with all these disappearances but I intend to find out,” I said with a thump on the ground. “Did she say where she has been performing?” I gave Rarity a “tell me” looks.
“I believe it was some uncouth nightclub called, *ugh*, Fillyfools,” she rolled her eyes as she spoke the name.
I groaned and sat down again. Fillyfools – as the name suggests – caters exclusively to the mares of the mare-mare persuasion. As I’ve mentioned before there’s the four to one mare-stallion ratio to consider, and so it's not uncommon for a mare to take up playing for the all filly team. Personally I have nothing against it, it’s cute, but the nobility and the higher classes seem to have an allergic reaction to it (1).
My problem with Fillyfools is that everyone inside is a mare and so a stallion will stand out like an orange in a field of apples. Getting inside was going to need a cunning plan, but it would be awhile before I could get one together. I looked up at my client, I couldn’t take Miss Rarity with me and she looked like she needed a rest.
“Well, Miss Rarity. I’ll go find out what’s going on with Vinyl at that club. While I’m doing that you can head back to your hotel room and get some rest. Leading you on a race across Canterlot couldn’t have been pleasant for you.” Rarity opened her mouth to say something, probably to argue with me, but she reconsidered.
Rarity opened her mouth to say something, probably to argue with me, but she reconsidered. “Indeed, Mr Turner. I shall retire and come see you at your office tomorrow.” She gave me a smile. “Have a productive evening.” She turned and left, presumably to head to her hotel to get some rest.
“Well that was easy,” I mumbled to myself.
I set off toward the nightlife district while working on my plan to get inside Fillyfools. I delved through my saddlebags while I walked to check my inventory for ideas and found an inspiring article in the issue of the paper I had in my bag.
The article detailed the illegal alcohol trade which had been growing across Equestria in the last few years. In Canterlot the illegal alcohol supply was controlled by a local organized crime syndicate called the Marefia, which held a jealous monopoly on the racket. At the time alcohol was still prohibited by royal edict in response to the widespread poor behaviour that resulted when inebriated ponies lost control of their inhibitions, along with other bodily functions. The cleaning costs were horrible.
The ban is poorly enforced and most nightclubs will still sell disguised cups of the stuff. Alcoholic cider is generally the most widespread and sold as regular cider. A popular club like Fillyfools will sell gallons of cider, especially with Vinyl on stage.
Thus my plan started to take form. I would take a delivery of “cider” to the back entrance of the club and talk my way in to “deliver the keg”. I created a simple disguise by pulling my fedora down over my face and combined it with a terrible Manehatten accent. I’ll admit that it doesn’t sound like much but with a disguise less is more.
Night was approaching as I passed through the Bridle Street Markets and most of the stalls were closing down. I approached one tired looking apple seller who sold me an empty cider barrel for five bits to complete my disguise. I hid my saddlebags inside the keg and set off for the bordering nightlife district while formulating the rest of my cunning plan.
The Fillyfools night club was in a bland building that would have gone unnoticed if it were not for the line of mares waiting to get into the club and the large unicorn mare acting as a bouncer. The black vest she wore suggested she was also a member of the Marefia providing protection to the club. I figured that the crime syndicate had a lot of influence over the venue and controlled the alcohol supply inside.
The sun was low in the sky when seven pm was struck on the palace clock. The loud chime signalled the princess’s magic as the sun accelerated in its orbit to slip over the horizon. A few minutes later the moon rose from the east and settled into its orbit for the rest of the night as Celestia herself retired to her own bedroom (2).
The sudden shift from day to night signalled a change in the atmosphere as music started in the clubs of the nightlife district. Vinyl Scratch, performing under her stage name DJ-P0n3, started her set list inside. Perfect timing, I wanted to get into her preparation room backstage while she was performing so I could search it in peace. After her performance I’d try confronting her with whatever evidence I could find.
Walking with false strain under the “full” keg on my back, I turned down an alleyway leading to the back of the club. As I rounded the corner I found a service entrance guarded by a pair of mares wearing Marefia vests.
There’s a technique I’ve learned that I call the “Hoofington Herding Trick”. The trick relies on the pony herd mentality, in which ponies will tend to follow a leader. It’s quite simple: just act like you’re in charge – or working for somepony who is – and so long as your target believes that you’re actually more important than them, they’ll go along with whatever you say. This is usually as simple as just talking loudly, quickly and even shouting. A little method acting also helps.
The two guards, a pair of pegasi mares, glared at me as I approached. I pretended to be straining under the “weight” of the cider keg and spoke with a feigned urgency while maintaining a confident undertone. It’s not as hard to do as it sounds.
“Extra cider delivery, the boss says you’ll need it.” I didn’t pause to ask permission and walked straight at the door. As I approached the pair extended their wings to block my path with a passable impression of a Royal Guard. I rolled my eyes with a theatrical sigh. To make the trick work you need to take refuge in audacity; over dramatic acting is key and half the fun.
“Can I go in?” I asked as I rocked the keg on my shoulders. “This thing is heavy you know.”
The one my left spoke first with a deep guard voice, “There’s not supposed to be another delivery.”
“That’s DJ-P0n3 on stage isn’t it?” I asked rhetorically. “You’re going to sell out, guaranteed, so your boss told my boss to send around an extra keg and here it is! If your boss didn’t tell you it was coming, it’s not my problem.” I gave them both an impatient look, they were wasting my time and I had better things to do.
“So are you going to keep me out here all night? Or can I get this Tartarus damned thing off my back?”—I had established my authority as being higher than theirs and if their own boss wasn’t keeping them in the loop I didn’t have to care about their petty opinions.
“What’s in the keg then?” the guard on my right asked.
“Apple juice,” I returned.
“It’s apple juice?” Lefty asked, clearly not getting the point.
I gave an “is she that clueless?” look to the guard on the right.
“The best kind of apple juice, the fun stuff, party juice,” I directed at Lefty.
“Didn’t you know cider is made from apples?” Righty asked Lefty.
“Or pears,” I chimed in.
Lefty looked frustrated now. Righty lowered her wing, but before I could ask Lefty to do the same she refused.
“We’re not allowed to let stallions inside the club,” she declared like Celestia herself had decreed it.
“Stop being sexist,” I groaned. “Look this keg is very heavy and I’m having trouble with it. Me, an earth pony stallion. Last time I checked you pegasi were big on agility and speed, not strength. Neither of you two would be able to pick this up and it would probably break those hollow bones of yours if you tried.”
Caught in a glare from Righty, Lefty eventually grumbled and lowered her wing. I gave a nod of appreciation to Righty and went inside.
The service entrance brought me into a short hallway with several doorways leading off from it. I ditched the keg into the first storage room I found and returned my saddlebags to my back. The second room on the left was marked with a star and a name tag reading “DJ-P0n3”. I quickly ducked inside while I was still unseen by anypony else.
Vinyl’s prep room was a mess. Actually, I’m understating it: This room looked like Celestia had dropped the moon here and rolled it around for a bit. It was a square room about five pony lengths in width with a door on the left leading to a storage closet.
On the right the room contained a bed that looked recently slept in with a set of music turntables at the hoof end for Vinyl to warm up on before she went on stage. Most of the remaining space in the room was filled with boxes of records and knickknacks. Where the floor wasn’t taken by boxes it was covered in used glow sticks and other rubbish.
Somehow I suspected that the sole reason Vinyl still had this room was that it would be more effort to evict her than to let her stay. Since that probably also got her more time on stage it was an unintentionally brilliant plan.
The thing that really caught my eye was a box of herbs that sat open on the turntables, marked with the name Nepeta. Vinyl never struck me as the new age type and usually the only green she ever saw was on her dinner plate, a box of herbs like this was unusual. A cursory examination showed that several of the flowers appeared to have been ground up with a mortar and pestle, though for what purpose I couldn’t imagine. I placed a few shoots of the herb into my saddle bags to check later and then started to investigate the rest of the room.
The boxes that were strewn around the room contained everything from spare enchanted parts for the turntables to a pouch containing replacements for Vinyl’s sunglasses. I admit I took a set of them, sunglasses are cool. Unfortunately my looting spree was interrupted by a musically inclined mare crashing through the door.
My head spun toward the door to look into the covered eyes of Vinyl Scratch. Surprise turned to anger on her face and before she could do something violent I said, “Reset.”
Time spun backwards by the full forty two seconds as I drew as much time as possible to hide. As time restarted I searched around for a hiding place and settled on the storage closet. I just had to hope Vinyl didn’t keep anything in there, although judging by the state of the room she probably didn’t.
I galloped across the room and shut myself inside the dark closet. The only contents inside were a set of costumes that didn’t suit Vinyl’s style, so I figured I’d be safe for a while. I sat down on the floor and set my eyes against a small vent at the base of the door to see what was happening outside.
There was giggling from the doorway as a pair of mares entered the room with a jug of cider telekinetically floating after them in a light blue glow. The first was Vinyl Scratch herself, her coat damp with perspiration and her horn responsible for the cider jug. The other mare I had never seen before; she had a grey coat, a messy black mane and a pink music thingy as a mark and looked like she was also fresh from the party.
Vinyl was back much sooner than I expected; she was supposed to be playing until early morning. I supposed that the blame lay on the other mare for that. I had been planning on confronting Vinyl myself to get some answers out of her but with the second mare hanging around that part of the plan was effectively bucked.
Vinyl shut the door behind them with a kick and threw a foreleg over her friend to pull her into a hug.
“Tavi, I knew ya had it in you to get down. You should have come out to one of my parties sooner.” Vinyl looked like she was still running on an adrenaline high from her performance and “Tavi” looked a little on edge.
“I will admit it was more jovial than I thought it would be, Scratchy,” the grey mare added a sly tone on the last word.
“Scratchy?” Vinyl exclaimed, pulling her leg back from around Tavi. “I thought I told you ta stop calln’ me that.”
“Only if you stop calling me Tavi,” she returned sweetly.
Vinyl ignored the scowl on Tavi’s face as she walked forward to the turntables and placed the cider jug on one of the decks. Tavi joined Vinyl on the other side of the room from me and blocked my view of whatever the pair was doing. I leaned over to try and get a better view out of the vent but got nothing.
“What is that herb you're putting in the cider?” Tavi asked.
“Nip, it makes the cider stronger and using this is cheaper than buying more of the stuff, since well, they keep raising the price all the time. You know what I mean, Octavia?” Vinyl explained.
The two of sat on the bed together with the cider jug between them. Vinyl brought over a pair of cups and filled each before presenting one to Octavia. The pair brought their cups together and then drank.
“This... is surprisingly delightful Vinyl.” Octavia took another sip. “This herb goes well with the cider.”
“If there’s one thing I know how to do Tavi, it’s how to party hard.” Vinyl followed this declaration by downing her entire cup of cider in a single shot.
“Slow down, Vinyl, this is probably the last batch the club will get this week.”
Vinyl finished her drink and threw her hooves up in the air while cheering, “Whoa yeah. I’ve been three kinds of awesome tonight, the dance floor was rocking, I have my favourite mare and...” Vinyl wrapped her hooves around Octavia. “I’ve got all night with her.”
“Your music was excellent tonight, Vinyl.”
“Yeah, but the night is still young and there’s more where that came from.”
After their next drinks they moved onto a discussion that seemed to be about music. I admit I understood nothing about it. Eventually an off hoof comment from Vinyl about how cute Octavia looked led to the grey mare kissing the DJ in a long drawn out motion that was a surprise to both of them.
As the cider in the jug disappeared the two soon moved into outright fooling around on the bed. I decided that was something I didn’t need to see, and pulled my crossword book out of my saddlebags to pass the time until they went to sleep (3).
It was three pages of puzzles solved under the light of a dull glow stick before the two mares finally fell silent. Soon all I could hear was a light snore from the two mares combined with music from the dance floor. I finished another two pages before I decided it was safe enough for me to sneak out of the room and leave.
I quietly opened the door and crept toward the exit, the room was dark and the lanterns had been turned off, leaving only the old glow sticks on the ground for light. The two mare-friends—the recent sound effects leaving me in no doubt about that—were sleeping together on the bed locked in a loving embrace. It was rather adorable, the two mares sleeping in each other’s arms with smiles on their faces. I wished I had a camera to capture that moment forever.
I regretted my inattention immediately. The distraction caused me to crush a glow stick with an alarmingly loud crunch. I froze, neither of the two mares seemed to notice and I continued with a lot more caution toward the exit.
I closed the door behind me, the light in the hallway dazzling my eyes as they slowly adjusted from the darkness of Vinyl’s closet. The sound from the dance floor continued as the party went further into the night under another DJ. The party wouldn’t stop until Celestia brought the sun back around for the dawn.
“Oh Peeping Colt”, a familiar voice came from behind me with a disturbing sing song quality. I turned my head to look behind me, a mare stood in front of the open door wearing a look of barely restrained sadistic fury. “I hope you enjoyed the show, because I’m about to make you pay for it.”
It was Octavia.
(1) The practice of “filly fooling” is largely accepted across Equestria by the average pony. However the nobility are still against it because they hold status through their hereditary and bloodlines. As filly fooling does not usually result in foals the nobility consider it a threat to their “husbandry” and is therefore considered to be beneath them.
(2) One of the more useful traits our sister shares with me is that neither of us requires sleep as understood by our subjects. Over the centuries however our sister has maintained an illusion that she still requires rest from her duties and retires to her chambers after moonrise. She uses this precious free time to read, meditate and relax from the pressures of court. We however like to sleep for a few precious hours once the dawn breaks, dreams are part of our domain so we take the opportunity to experience it for ourselves, even if it serves little purpose beyond entertainment.
(3)Despite Time Turner claiming to have ignored Octavia and Vinyl we find it unlikely a stallion would pass up a chance to watch a colt’s ultimate fantasy. We consider this a blatant fabrication as Time Turner probably observed the entire encounter.
I’ve heard that Princess Celestia’s wrath is a terrible thing to behold, imbued with the solar fury of the sun itself. However it's hard to compare it with the fury I saw from Octavia; If looks could inflict harm upon somepony I had little doubt the glare she was directing at me would have banished me to Tartarus and locked me in a cage with some ancient unspeakable horror.
“Well,” I chuckled nervously. “I, uh, I didn’t watch,” ever hopeful I suppose.
She snorted steam from her nostrils, literal steam. “Of course you watched. What kind of stallion are you?”
“I hope I’m a fairly fast stallion.” I looked over her shoulder. “Oh hello, Vinyl.”
Octavia froze and looked over her shoulder at the empty doorway. The brief distraction was all I needed to rediscover my earth pony heritage in speed and I took off like a wonderbolt. The mare was between me and the service entrance, so I went the other way toward the dance floor. Octavia an earth pony herself came galloping after, slowly gaining on me as I burst through the stage door. The delay brought my pursuer right up to my flank as we crossed the stage.
I ran past the DJ and leapt over the turntables. One of my rear hooves caught the arm of the record player and dragged the pickup needle across the record as I flew toward the dance floor. Octavia crashed through the DJ before jumping over the turntables herself.
The screech that came from the turntables, as I leapt over them, brought the dance floor to a standstill as dancers suddenly lost their beat. I wove my way through the stunned ponies, not even daring to shift my focus to find out how close Octavia was behind me. The sound of her threats was encouraging enough to keep me running.
Fearing for my life, I put on a burst of speed as I cleared the crowd and ran for the exit. It was shut and still guarded by the bouncer, but I was going at full speed, it didn’t stand a chance.
I blew the door right off its hinges as I flew out onto the street. My cast iron shoes slid across the cobblestone and threw off sparks as I changed direction to go down the street back to my office.
Octavia wasn’t far behind me. She caught up while I was still disoriented from slamming through the door. She picked up speed by running in my wake and came up alongside me.
“Pull over!” She rammed her shoulder into mine and nearly threw me off my hooves.
“Are you always this aggressive? Or is it just your time of the year?” I shot at her as I returned the favour.
Octavia gave a feral growl and threw herself into my flank, spinning me off course. I got a small measure of vengeance by flicking my tail at her face and heard a cry of pain. As I spun away I saw her lose balance and fall, a hoof cradling the eye I had just flicked.
The victory was short lived as the bump from Octavia sent me stumbling in a lamp post. I hit the post with the same momentum that took down the club door. Unfortunately, lamp posts are a lot less yielding than doors and the impact felt like it broke more than a few bones.
As I fell to the ground I slid to a halt on the rough road and between my cries of pain I pulled together everything I had, “reset.”
Between the injuries and the pain I could only throw myself back in time to a few seconds before I hit the lamp post. Doing my best to avoid impact I pushed out my legs, brushed past the post and hit a market refuse cart instead. The impact was painful, but more forgiving, and threw me head over hoof into the rotten pile of fruit in the cart. I let myself sink in the refuse, too dizzy to do anything else.
The markets were closed for the night. The bare stalls giving it an eerie feeling when compared the hustle and bustle of the day. Octavia trotted through the market, searching for any sign of me as I hid myself in the pile of rotten fruit. I willed myself to stay hidden, restraining my gag reflex from adding my dinner to the terrible stench.
Octavia muttered a few oaths about what she would do to me if she found me before she gave up and went back the way she came. As she left the smell of rotten apples and oranges – which are very similar – finally got to me and my dinner joined the stench of the cart.
I’ve never seen the point in having a house as well as an office. I live on my own so there’s no need for me to waste bits on two places to rent. When I got back to my office I smelled like the compost bin of an apple orchard, next to the pig sty. In dire need of a wash I got my portable tin bath out and dragged it to the bathroom to fill it with hot water from the sink. It’s not a very modern arrangement but I consider it an efficient one.
After a good hour of soaking in the soapy water I came out of the bathroom smelling of lemons, rotten lemons. I still felt like a new stallion considering how filthy I was before. I wandered back into my office, locked the door behind me and dried myself off. Once I was back to a normal state I got my bedroll out of my desk and set it up by the window.
As I laid down to sleep I took a few moments to consider the afternoon I had: I’d been kissed by a desperate and dateless veterinary nurse, trapped in a closet by a pair of fillyfooling mares – incidentally, Vinyl is a screamer – and finally I was chased halfway across Canterlot by a vengeful spirit of Tartarus before being thrown into a cart that stank worse than a skunk after a twelve hour run.
Mares, if I ever understand them I’ll die laughing.
Still, for all my attempts at progress I still hadn’t found Opalescence. I decided I could attempt understand chaos in the morning after I slept on it. Lying in bed my mind drifted back to my escape from Octavia, and the uncomfortable memories of the bone breaking impact. No amount of sheep counting served to shake my mind from its thoughts. It was going to be a long night.
I woke up the following morning to the sound of a hoof knocking on the door. I groaned and rolled over to ask the ultimate question.
“Who is it?” I called out with a groan. Sleep was a weasel to catch last night, so enthusiasm was a tall order.
“Darling its Rarity, I simply must talk to you about last night and what you did to poor Octavia.”
“Reset,” I said as I fell back onto my bedroll.
Time flew backwards to before I was woken up. The memories from the future slapped me and brought me back to consciousness. Hearing the hoof falls on the stairs beneath the office I rolled myself out of my bed and stumbled toward the door.
I slapped myself a couple of times as I walked to bring my mind back to whatever counted as sanity for me. I reached the door just before Rarity could knock and opened it for her.
“Good morning, Miss Rarity,” I put on as much cheer as possible. “It’s lovely to see you.”
“Mr Turner, it's two in the afternoon,” she said dryly.
I cursed the fact that my reset was still rewinding. I should have checked the clock damn it.
“Well come on in, Miss Rarity.” I moved aside to grant Rarity entrance.
“Why thank you, Mr Turner, I would—“she froze in disgust at the state of my office/home. “Oh this room is so... filthy.”
“I know it might not be up to your standards Miss Rarity, but you’ll just have to ignore it for now.” I led my client across to my desk and we took the seats on either side. “So Miss Rarity, I suppose you want to ask me about last night.”
“I will admit to being rather curious as to why Octavia was so upset with you.”
“What?” I twitched in surprise, sitting up straighter in my seat. “Miss Rarity, would you mind telling me how you know Octavia?”
“I met her at the club last night before she chased you out the front door. She came back afterwards looking quite furious. What in Equestria happened between you two?”
I leaned back into my seat with a sigh. It seemed I wasn’t going to get out of this without explaining what happened in Vinyl’s room. I avoided going into too much detail and my client listened intently as I spoke. She was unsurprised to hear about Vinyl’s early return and gave me an unbelieving look when I explained my imprisonment in Vinyl’s closet.
“Mr Turner,” Rarity said consolingly. “I think under the circumstances you can forgive Octavia for being somewhat angry.”
“She intended to kill me,” I replied dryly.
“With the exception of your pride you are entirely unharmed.”
That’s what you think, I thought as I remembered the injuries I had narrowly escaped from.
Rarity continued uninterrupted, “She is quite a nice mare if you get to know her.”
I rubbed a fetlock across my forehead. “Alright Miss Rarity. Taking into account that she was angry for a good reason, I’ll hear you out. How is Octavia a ‘nice mare’?”
“Well as I said before I met Octavia at the club last night.”
“After you said you would go back to your hotel room.” My eyes narrowed, “how did you get in anyway?”
“I just batted my eyelashes at the bouncer.” I raised an eyebrow in interest. “Though she spent a little too long staring at my flank,” Rarity finished with a huff.
Hmm, so Rarity’s straight, I noted to myself.
“I met Octavia at the bar,” Rarity continued. “She was gazing toward Vinyl from a distance. When I sat down next to her I noticed that she looked rather down, so I struck up a conversation with her.”
I tilted my head forward, “About what?”
“Why, music of course. Did you not see her cutie mark when you were watching them?”
“Hey, I didn’t watch them,” I objected. “Anyway it was a pink… thingy.”
Rarity gave me an amused snort, “Turner, I am surprised that you do not know what that is. That ‘thingy’ is a treble clef; a part of formal musical notation. I asked her about what she thought of the music, and she said that she enjoyed Vinyl’s work, even if it wasn’t to her normal classical taste.”
That was mildly surprising. “Why would somepony with a taste in classical music enjoy Vinyl’s noise?”
“Octavia described it as being a, ‘wild mix of low repeating base notes like baroque, yet filled with the passion and expression of romanetic music.’ So – taste aside – Vinyl’s ‘noise’ isn’t too different from the orchestral concertos that Octavia preferred.” Rarity gave me a shrug, “Though to be honest I cannot say I feel the same way.”
“I know what you mean.” I’ve heard a lot of Vinyl’s music before, I never enjoyed it. “I hope Octavia doesn’t play the same music,” I groaned. “The world’s only got room for one mare like Vinyl.”
“She said that plays for the Canterlot Symphony Orchestra,” Rarity continued as my eyebrows came together in thought. “Though I didn’t ask what instrument she plays.”
“The CSO?” I asked as I leaned forward. “That orchestra is almost exclusively funded by the nobility, and half of its members are noble unicorns. Do you know how many members are earth ponies or pegasi?” Rarity shook her head. “Not many and they have to be absolutely amazing to get in without connections. Octavia’s an earth pony so she would have to have pulled a lot of strings to get in, and she’s a fillyfooler to boot.” I chuckled and Rarity’s face turned to shock when she realized as well.
Octavia was walking a dangerous road. Any rumour about being a fillyfooler or any involvement in a public scandal and she’d lose her seat in the CSO in an instant. It was an interesting titbit of information that I filled under B for blackmail. If Octavia ever tried to come after me I could just send a letter to a gossip magazine and ruin her career, so long as she never slipped up herself.
“So,” I asked my gossip source. “How did Octavia meet Vinyl?”
“After a performance by the orchestra, apparently Vinyl’s agent sent her to one so she could improve her music.”
I laughed, “Yep, that’ll work.” Rarity gave me a disapproving look and I quieted down. “Sorry, continue.”
“They met at the bar and got talking. Then they struck up a friendship that grew over a few months.”
“Cute,” I said dryly. “So it wasn’t love at first sight then.”
Rarity tilted her head in thought, “I would have thought it would be. They seem like the perfect couple.”
Somepony reads too many romance novels, I thought. I’m a detective and I know from experience that love at first sight doesn’t always last.
“It’s such a shame they have to hide it,” she said with genuine sadness. “I’d hate to think what would happen to Octavia if ponies started to talk.”
“Yeah”, I said while thinking about how to use this info. “Let me show you something interesting to take your mind off it.” I led Rarity over to the Mystery Wall. The notes pinned up can have an almost hypnotising effect on ponies, it’s a good distraction. “See if you can see anything interesting, Miss Rarity. I’ll just make a few additions for your case.”
I selected one of the few blank sections left and started adding some notes relating to Opal’s disappearance. “Cats getting lost everywhere in Canterlot” was connected to, “most get returned” which lead to the conclusion: “Opal is either willingly lost or being held” which was in turn linked to a central note labelled “The Missing Kitten of Inspiration”. Another set of notes were, “Vinyl Scratch returns cats” connected to a note labelled, “Nepeta” to which I attached a sample of the herb Vinyl had in her room backstage.
“There is something strange about this herb,” I mused. “Vinyl had a whole box of it and was adding it to her cider. Do you know what it is?”
Rarity didn’t answer, instead she was staring at a section of the wall that related to the various rumours I had heard about vamponies – a pet project of mine. There’s usually some truth in fiction after all and there is a lot of fiction about vamponies, a fact I later came to hate (1).
“Miss Rarity, you awake in there?” I asked as I tapped her on the shoulder. “Better to focus on something more important.” I tapped a hoof on the wall near the herb asking, “You wouldn't happen to know what this herb is by chance?”
“Sorry to drift away darling,” she apologized and asked, “that herb?” I nodded. “Turner, I would be a poor caretaker for Opal if I did not recognise it. That is catnip.”
“Catnip?” I said as I looked at the herb shoot. “Vinyl was using it to make her alcohol stronger.” The pieces were starting to fall into place.
“I suppose it could have that effect. Catnip causes numbing and drowsiness in ponies but with cats the smell is a very sweet narcotic.”
I wrote catnip onto the Nepeta note and linked it to “illegal alcohol”.
Rarity brightened up, “Turner, Vinyl told me she has been returning a lot of cats that have been following her home. They must be following the smell of the catnip!” I suppose she was right to be cheerful, progress was being made. I linked, “cats are going missing” with, “illegal alcohol”.
“It's likely more than just Vinyl,” I said. “The illegal alcohol trade the Marefia runs has a lot of customers for an expensive product. I’d wager that catnip is being sold all over the city with the cider.” I linked the catnip with an existing note further across the board: “The Marefia” which had existing links to several crimes, lists of suspected members and photos of thugs armed with violin cases.
“Well, looks like this is starting to go deeper than I thought.”
There was a knock on my office door, I froze and assumed that fate in its sadistic ways had brought the Marefia to me. Speak the name and they shall appear. I trotted over to the door and cautiously opened it, discovering that fate was even more sadistic than I thought.
(1) There is indeed truth in the fiction surrounding vamponies. We spent a great deal of our time in the past containing them and other creatures of the night in order to protect our subjects. Our dear sister hath however allowed them to flourish out of ignorance of their activities, something we have started putting right after our return.
Love is a fickle thing. It comes and goes, and in some cases it's downright monsoonal. In my doorway stood Lucky Catch; average height, khaki, a curly brown mane and three black paw prints for a cutie mark that was probably related to her job as a veterinary nurse at the animal shelter.
Oh did I mention I had kissed her?
Bless that damn four-to-one mare/stallion ratio; for mares it’s either go fillyfooler or start the long desperate search for Mr Right. Catch here managed to get a kiss out of me and probably became fixated on the idea of making me her coltfriend. Judging by that grin on her face, the answer was yes.
“Hello, Doctor.” Her face widened into a grin. “Or perhaps I should say, Detective?” I was posing as a doctor at the time, so sue me for malpractice.
“Lucky Catch, it’s nice to see you. How did you manage to find me so fast?” I forced a smile while I cursed inwardly.
“Well I missed you so much last night I decided to hire a detective to find you. It must be fate because I seem to have found you on my own.” Then she started to nuzzle my shoulder. Fate must really hate me.
I moved back away from physical contact. “Well you can come in if you want to, I’ll introduce you to Rarity.” Catch walked in through the doorway I had cleared and locked eyes with Rarity who had been watching with some interest.
“So, who are you?” Catch directed toward Rarity with a harsh undertone. The crazy mare was trying to lay claim to me.
“Hello darling, I am Rarity and I’m currently Detective Turner’s client,” Rarity replied disarmingly.
Catch’s tone improved remarkably. “Oh, well… that’s good then, what did you hire him to do?”
“I hired him to find my lost kitten that went missing five days ago. Time Turner has been very helpful so far.”
Mentioning a missing kitten made Catch spontaneously sympathetic. “Did you want some help looking? I can join you and Detective Turner.” She smiled nervously and said, “I couldn’t bear the thought of a lost kitten out in the rain somewhere.”
“The help would be very much appreciated, Lucky,” Rarity said with a nod. “I hope this won’t inconvenience you.”
“It won’t, it’s my day off,” Catch reassured Rarity.
Clever girl. Without giving me a word in edgewise Catch managed to convince Rarity to let her join and now she was probably going to follow me like a puppy. Celestia save me, I prayed silently as Catch sidled up alongside me.
“So, it looks like we’re working together now.” She stood close enough for our coats to brush together.
I tried to ignore her advances and gave Lucky Catch the short version of where the interconnected chaos was leading to. “…so if my wall is correct the next thing that will lead us to Opalescence involves the Marefia in some way, probably in relation to the catnip infused cider,” I finished.
“So these Marefia ponies, how do we recognise them?” Catch asked.
“Well, they tend to wear black formal vests and they use musical instruments as weapons. Violins mostly, although some of their members use other instruments as well.”
“They use musical instruments?” Rarity asked with a sceptical tone.
“It’s a bit hard to explain, they use instruments because they can get away with carrying them. If they had iron bars or something else it would be easily spotted and the guards would arrest them. However classical music is popular in Canterlot, so nopony thinks it's strange for a group of well-dressed individuals to walk around carrying iron bars disguised as orchestral instruments.”
“So that group of ponies outside with violin cases are from the Marefia?” Catch asked.
“Ponies outside?” My heart froze, that was not good news. I walked over to the windows behind my desk and surreptitiously looked out through the blinds. There were a half dozen ponies in black vests outside carrying violin cases, as well as a familiar grey mare with a cello case on her back.
“Oh no, it’s the Marefia alright. Miss Rarity, do you remember what you said about Octavia being a nice mare?”
“And that she also plays for the Canterlot Symphony Orchestra?”
“What about it, Mr Turner?” Rarity replied.
“Well,” I said with a sigh. “Because she looks like she also plays for the Marefia.”
Rarity came across to the window and looked out at the group of thugs. She let out a gasp when she recognised Octavia. “She was such wonderful mare to speak to last night...”
“It’s always the nice ones, Rarity. Although if she lugs that huge instrument around all day it does explain how she was able to keep up with me last night.” Rarity gave me a withering look after my assessment. Lucky Catch joined us at the window as well, leaning over us to get a better look.
“What are they all waiting for down there?” Catch asked.
“Probably for me, they might not know I’m here,” I replied. “Can you see any more of them Catch?”
“I think there might be more over there.” Catch leaned against the glass to get a better look, “Yeah there’s one more down the street.” Before I could comment Octavia looked up at the window and spotted the three of us leaning against the glass like bored fish.
She gave a yell and the Marefia thugs charged toward the entrance, sending Lucky Catch into a panic. “They’re coming up! What are we going to do?” she squealed.
I’ll admit that this was the first time I’ve been attacked in my own office, but I’d been preparing for this day for a long time. I knew that I’d eventually annoy somepony crazy/dangerous enough to actually attack me and between the options of defending my office or running like a scared filly, I was going to choose life.
I grabbed my saddlebags still loaded from yesterday’s adventure and my fedora from the desk. Both items still smelled of rotten apples but I had the threat of an instrumental beating to worry about. I ran over to a pin board in the corner of my office and yanked it back to reveal a staircase headed upstairs to the roof.
“Alright, everypony head up upstairs, now.” I shut the pin board behind us to hide the stairway. Months ago I removed the old door and covered the hole to give myself a hidden emergency exit. Considering what was happening I think my paranoia was justified (1).
The exit to my escape passage was an iron grill similar to the neighbouring air intake. I bucked it out of its frame and we all walked out onto the rooftop. Then I led my merry band across to the rear edge of the building where I would execute the next step in my cunning escape plan.
“Time Turner, how are we getting down from up here?” Rarity asked.
Rarity and Lucky Catch looked at each other. “Beg pardon?” Rarity asked.
I pointed down into the alleyway behind my office where a large bin sat open. It was filled with food scraps from a nearby restaurant. Once the other two noticed it I said, “That should be soft enough for a landing.”
Rarity took one look at the bin and turned green. “No, I absolutely refuse to leap willingly into that.”
“I think we’re a bit too high for that,” added Catch. For the first time I actually saw doubt on her face. “Is there another way?”
“It’ll be fine. Look, I’ll go first,” I declared as I positioned myself to take a flying leap off the building. “Just do what I do.”
I started to gallop forward and then leapt off the building, easily clearing the distance to the bin as I tucked in my legs to land in the soft pile. Despite appearances the pile wasn’t as soft as it looked. Somepony must have put a broken table or chair in there because when I landed pain shot up through my legs and into my barrel.
The smell of rotting food scraps mixed with the pain of my landing to turn into a new form of torture, leaving me with only one choice. “Re—*cough*—reset.”
Once I was back in one piece on my roof I said, “You know what? This won’t work.”
Rarity looked a little relieved and a smile returned to Catch’s face. I spun around, searching for a new escape route before I spotted a fire escape leading down from the roof of the neighbouring building. It was an easy two pony-length jump to reach it that didn’t include a multi-story fall. I should have probably have thought of that exit first, but then again I’ve never had to do this before.
“Alright that way, jump over to the next building,” I said with more enthusiasm than I had for my last plan and charged across the roof toward the jump. The speed I built up as I accelerated to a full gallop was enough to carry me across the alleyway and onto the next building. Lucky Catch made the jump on her own but Rarity was not nearly as able. She failed to cross the gap entirely and was left hanging onto the edge of the next building by her hooves (2).
“Aahhh,” she screeched, “somepony save me!”
I ran back over and reached over the edge of the building with my forelegs to pull her up. Unfortunately the thugs in the alley below us heard her shriek as well.
We galloped for the fire escape, only to see a pair pegasi mares fly up in front of us. I was mildly surprised to see that it was the two mares that had been guarding the back door to Fillyfools last night: Lefty and Righty – who were still positioned as such.
Each had a violin strapped to one of their forelegs in the same way the ancient pegasi carried blades of war to use in flight. Ironically, Lefty had hers attached to her right foreleg while Righty had hers strapped to her left.
Without shouting for us to surrender or even issuing a decent threat, the two dove toward us. Lefty, probably still mad at me from last night, locked her wings and flew straight at me. I threw myself into a roll to dodge her attack – a painful experience while galloping at flank speed. My good fortune was not echoed from behind me as I heard a pained cry from Lucky Catch, mixed with a clashing sound from a violin.
I reached the fire escape before Lefty and Righty could make another pass. Only to run into the last mare I wanted to see: Octavia, and she already had her cello out.
I might be unique in that I can reverse time, but anypony can see it slow down. As Octavia’s cello swung slowly toward my head, I noticed that it wasn’t a proper performance cello. Which wasn’t a surprise really – she wasn’t going to ruin her good cello with my face – instead this one looked like it was reinforced with some form of metal and it made a terrible sound when it hit me.
I found myself in the palace gardens, surrounded by hedges and an assortment of statues. I heard giggling and I turned around, behind me stood an entire class of foals. I could remember most of the faces. This was my old class from Trottingham and they were on the standard cultural field trip to Canterlot every foal goes on. I looked at myself, I was a foal as well and I didn’t even have my mark yet.
It was a familiar dream, a memory I’d never been able to forget. The teacher stood in the distance talking about the statue she stood next to. I couldn’t hear her words properly because I never bothered to listen. It was boring field trip, we’d already been told off for talking and I’d only had the teacher to listen to. I was at the back of the group leaning against a nearby statue.
“Are you bored little colt?” a voice asked.
“Well duh, this trip is the most boring thing ever.” Face it everypony talks like that when they're little. “I just wish things were more exciting.”
“Something I can sympathise with,” the voice replied. “Cheer up little colt, I’m sure you’ll live in interesting times.”
I looked up at the statue I was leaning against. It was a nightmarish combination of creatures cobbled together into a single form locked in a cheerful dance.
Then a crash of sound filled the air with discordant notes as the statue moved to look down at me. My eyes widened with fear.
The statue laughed at my terror, wrapping its arms around its body as it bent over in mirth. The dream fell apart around me, the sounds of laughter tearing the world apart as I began to wake up.
I tried to stretch my legs as I drifted out of the limbo of concussion-induced sleep. When I found that I could barely move them, I looked down to see that all four of my legs had been tied together. I tried to ask what was going on, but my words were muffled by a rope in my mouth.
I looked around to find myself in the familiar surroundings of my office with the addition of six or so Marefia thugs. I tried to look over my shoulder and found I was lying back to back with Lucky Catch, who was probably tied up just like me.
“Hey, put that gag back on,” said a raspy voice.
“Whrt?” I still had the rope wrapped around my head.
“I will most certainly not. I can hardly breathe with that thing it on.”
It was Rarity’s voice coming from behind me. I couldn’t see her, even with my head fully turned. I gathered some strength to roll myself over, my bound legs coming to rest on Catch’s back. Catch gave a muffled squeak at the contact and turned her own head to see me. She was gagged as well and tried to make eye contact while I looking past her at my client.
Rarity was bound up just like us but had removed her gag, and got the attention of every thug in the room at the same time. “Might I also ask why I am trussed up like this? I hardly think that your organization would have even the slightest quarrel with me.”
“Be quiet, filly.” The raspy voice said again, this time I could see it came from a unicorn stallion standing over Rarity. “You’re going to sit there until we’re done here.”
He seized the rope on the ground next to Rarity but when he tried to put it over her head Rarity lit her own horn. She took hold of the gag as well and started a game of three-dimensional tug of war, doing her best to prevent the gag going back on. The unicorn stallion’s face screwed up in concentration as he fought against Rarity’s telekinesis.
Rarity didn’t even pay him any attention, deftly manoeuvring the gag while continuing to complain to everypony else. “I have been very busy over the last few days and this interruption is disrupting my schedule. Let us not forget the damage all this has done to my perfectly styled mane and my coat is going to absolutely filthy from lying on this floor.”
Damn that mare could multi-task. She was making a laughing stock of that stallion while complaining about her appearance of all things. If I didn’t have a gag in my mouth I would have been grinning. Rarity turned to look at each thug in turn to glare at them, but when she met my eyes she threw me a subtle smile. As she continued to hold their attention I could feel my gag loosen.
“I would hope to expect better from all of you,” She accused. “To be so finely dressed, yet you act like such barbarians in Canterlot of all places. Whoever you work for should be ashamed of your behaviour and teach you all some better manners.”
The gag soon fell away and I could use my mouth again. I kept myself quiet though, there was no point losing the element of surprise.
“Now that I have your attention, could I perhaps ask for a glass of water? All this—“And that was when the stallion hit her. Getting nowhere with his magic, he slapped Rarity across her face and dislodged one of her eyelashes.
“Shut up, you nag!” the stallion yelled. Rarity looked up toward him, fear written all over her face while tears welled up in her eyes.
“Hey!” another shout rang out as Lefty and Righty shot forward to stand over Rarity. “The boss said not to hurt her,” Lefty finished. I raised an eyebrow in interest, a quick glance around the room showed that Octavia wasn’t here.
“I don’t answer to her. My ponies are only here because the Donna sent us.” As he spoke the other three thugs formed up behind him.
“Octavia is in charge of this mission as the Donna’s representative,” Righty argued as she and Lefty both opened their wings. “While you’re here, you answer to her.”
This was too good to be true, the thugs were about to knock each other out. I felt a slight tickle as a blue glow untied my legs. Rarity, you magnificent mare, I cheered silently. I could move again and the odds were about to swing in our favour.
“I don’t answer to any dirt pony,” the stallion continued and earned a scowl from me, “or any featherbrain.”
Lefty’s response was immediate; she spun around slapping the stallion across the horn with a wing to disable his magic and then bucked him full on in the face. The drill head fell over with a crash as Lefty turned to face her next opponent, while Righty was already flying at another.
This left one more unicorn thug unengaged but distracted by the fight in front of her. I threw myself to my feet and crept up behind her. Once I was close enough, I spun around to swipe my rear hooves under her legs and stomped her horn against the ground. A unicorn’s horn has a direct line to their brain, so a good hard blow can knock a unicorn out if they’re not ready for it. The blow wasn’t hard enough to break her horn but she would be feeling that for the next week (3).
With the rest of the thugs distracted, I went over to Catch to help her to her hooves. She was unstable getting up and had a huge bruise over her right eye that showed through her coat. She’d taken a heavy blow from Righty on the rooftop. Once I got her up we started to make our way toward the door where Rarity was already waiting for us.
There was a crash behind me and I winced when I saw that Righty had slammed her opponent across my desk. They wouldn’t be distracted for much longer and I wanted to be anywhere but here. As I reached the door with Catch it was opened by Octavia, cello in hoof and ready to use it.
“Back up and sit down.” She slammed the iron stand of her cello against the ground, “now!”
Horse apples, we were so close to getting out. I did as she said. I wasn’t going to be able to take on an armed pony head on. Catch was still unstable and I doubted Rarity could do any better than me. I looked behind me to see that the pair of ambidextrous pegasi had finished off their opponents.
“Well, now that we’re comfortable,” I said, “I think it’s time we had a chat.”
(1) Given the enemies Time Turner hast cultivated over his lifespan the escape route from his office is a reasonable measure, even at this early period of his career.
(2) Time Turner’s record of these events is contested by Rarity. According to her account, Rarity made the jump across the alleyway easily and the Marefia thugs below were instead tipped off by Time Turner’s hat, which had fallen down during the jump. We remind readers to take these events with a lick of salt as Time Turner is dishonest whenever it suits him. However Rarity is not Applejack and cannot be expected to be entirely honest either, we have our doubts about both stories.
(3) The sensitivity of a unicorn horn is a result of the alicorn material comprising it, which is magically and nervously conductive. The same also applies to earth pony hooves which have a detailed tactile feeling and pegasi wings that can sense air currents, as well as being notoriously sensitive to tickling.
“If you are feeling talkative, perhaps you can explain yourself and what has happened here.” Octavia’s voice took on an irritated note, “because it seems I cannot visit a bathroom without somepony causing more trouble than they’re worth.” She shot a glare towards the two remaining pegasi thugs.
Lefty and Righty looked appropriately cowled. “We were only following your orders,” Righty quietly objected. “Not to harm the unicorn. The others were going to hurt her, we couldn’t let that happen.”
Octavia looked toward Rarity and tears came to my client’s eyes. “It was simply dreadful, Darling. That thug,” she indicated the stallion lying on the ground, “struck me across my beautiful face.” Rarity lay down on the ground and began to sob openly.
Octavia’s gaze seemed to soften as she moved to comfort Rarity, setting her cello on the ground as the embraced Rarity in a hug. While Octavia held my client she whispered into her ear and ran a hoof along her back.
Doubtless inspired by the sight, Catch latched herself around me. To think that I had almost forgotten about this, I should have been so lucky. I tried to nudge her away but she only gripped tighter.
Across my office Lefty tapped Righty and then pointed at my predicament, chuckling quietly to herself. Righty on the other hoof could barely bring herself to look at Catch, averting her gaze and trying to ignore us.
“Catch,” I whispered, “ponies are watching us.” I tried to nudge her off again.
“I don’t care,” she said as she buried her face in my coat. “I just don’t want to see you hurt like that again.”
Somehow I’m actually starting to miss Vinyl now, I thought. The way she used to try surprising me and failing. The way she couldn’t cook anything other than pop tarts, and her music… as my thoughts trailed off I realized something. Actually, I don’t miss Vinyl.
I looked back at Lucky Catch, I wonder if she can cook.
Octavia released a hoof from her embrace and pointed it at the ambidextrous pegasi. “You two: take these idiots out to the back alley,” she gestured to the unconscious thugs. “When they wake up send them back to the Donna, when we are done here I will make sure she knows how worthless they are.”
The pair nodded and started to pick up the unconscious thugs, throwing them on their backs. As soon as they left Octavia spoke again, “How hard can it be to find a few competent ponies? Those two alone seem to understand the image and professionalism we need.” She turned to look back at Rarity. “We are not all thugs, otherwise what good would we be?”
Rarity took a long halting breath. “I understand what you mean, darling.” She gave a sniff. “One must always try to hold themselves to a higher standard, otherwise how would we better ourselves?”
“I’m sorry you got involved in all this Rarity,” Octavia apologized. “But your friend over there—”she gestured at me, “needed to be dealt with.”
Rarity tears stopped falling as she quickly composed herself. “What could he have done to make do you need to, ‘deal with him’, darling?”
“First: he entered a nightclub with the intent to sell alcoholic cider to one of our customers and undercut our supply.”
“That barrel was empty,” I objected.
“Second:” Octavia continued, “Time Turner broke into Vinyl Scratch’s room and spied on us while we were… alone.”
“Why does nopony believe me when I say I didn’t watch?” I complained (1).
“The Marefia wants him punished for the first and I want to make him pay for the second. I also can’t have him galloping around telling anypony who matters that I’m a fillyfooler, I’d lose my seat in the orchestra if the nobility found out.”
The first reason should have been irrelevant because I never sold any cider to the club. Of course it was probably just Octavia’s excuse so she could use the Marefia’s help to chase up her real reason: to stop me blackmailing her. With the kind of influence Octavia seemed to have, I could have forced the Marefia to leave me alone and never bother me again. It was too late for that kind of thing anyway, I needed time to set up a good bit of entrapment and Octavia had gotten to me before I could use it.
Thinking about the lack of time brought me to my next question, “How in Celestia’s name did you find me so fast?”
Octavia snorted in response. “As soon as I told Vinyl what you looked like she told me where to find you. Vinyl is very unhappy, she told me to and I quote, ‘teach that heartless bastard a lesson’.”
Yep, Vinyl was still bitter about that and she passed it onto Octavia, wonderful. Lucky Catch reacted to the insult by hugging me tighter.
Catch took her face out of my coat to call out Octavia, “Who is she to want to hurt my detective so badly?”
“His ex-marefriend and my marefriend,” Octavia shot back.
The relationship I had with Vinyl was very short. It started after I solved a problem for her and then ended after she discovered what I was really like. I also might have told her I didn’t like the song she mixed for me. Regardless she seemed to be better off now that she’d switched a cynical earth pony stallion for a cynical earth pony mare.
“Well, he’s my detective and you’re not taking him from me.” Lucky Catch released her hold on me and stood between me and Octavia. While having a pair of mares staring each other down over me was flattering, my office had been damaged enough today. That and Catch was also laughably outmatched by Octavia, couldn’t have that either.
I stood up beside Catch. “It’s alright,” I said to her. “Let me work this out with Octavia.” Catch stood down. I had to give her some credit; the foalish mare had guts to stand up against a Marefia enforcer. This girl really had it bad for me and all thought of safety and sanity seemed to be missing from her mind.
“Well Octavia,” I stood before her, “here I am. Do you want to chase me across Canterlot again or can we settle this peacefully?” Before Octavia could reply Rarity stood on her hooves and walked between us, the tears she had been shedding merely a memory. Even the ruined makeup and missing eyelash had been replaced when nopony was looking.
“Darlings, I believe I have a solution to all our problems. Octavia, sweetie, Time Turner never had any cider so the Marefia has nothing to do with him, and if you want to make sure that your “affairs” with Vinyl remain a secret then just hire him.”
“Hire him?” Octavia asked.
“Hire me?” I asked.
“Why yes, darling. If you are one of his clients he will be obliged to protect your secrets.”
“Rarity is right you know,” I admitted. There wasn’t really a specific rule against me blabbing everything I know about a client to the papers, but a detective wouldn’t be popular if his clients didn’t think he was trustworthy. “Octavia I think you’ll find my prices are quite reasonable, especially with the new ‘don’t hit me with your cello again’ discount.”
Octavia scowled at me while she considered the option. I had the uncomfortable feeling she was measuring what she thought of me. I was also measuring her as well, most importantly in her ability to chase me should I decide to do the running of the leaves two months early.
A quick reset would give me the head start I needed and I could be out that door in a flash. Once I was gone Rarity and Catch could look after themselves while Octavia chased me across Canterlot again. I thought I’d be able to make it to the Royal Palace at least and then lose her long enough to start setting up some blackmail.
“Alright Rarity, I’ll hire Time Turner.” Octavia gave me a stare, “how much detective?”
‘Really?’ I was so busy thinking about escape I didn’t even consider how much I’d charge her for. I pondered the question for a few moments thinking about what I could get away with. A quick glance at Rarity reminded me about the other two mares in the room and that I hadn’t eaten since I threw up last night.
“I’ll accept an apology lunch for all of us at Cafe Noir, including their extra-large sundaes. You can also invite Vinyl if you wish so I can patch things up between us.” It seemed like a good idea: everypony won.
Octavia agreed with a nod. “I’ll meet you there in an hour.” Octavia picked up her cello and went out my door without another word spoken.
“Well that turned out better than I expected,” admitted Lucky Catch.
It’s not every week that I get to eat at Cafe Noir two days in a row. I normally can’t afford to unless I have a client with me. Even then the cost of the meal usually finds its way onto my list of expenses. Today was even better, this time I had two clients and one was paying for the entire table.
The hour we had before lunch was barely sufficient time to prepare, with both Rarity and Lucky Catch obsessing over their appearances (2). Rarity pulled a selection of fabrics from her saddle bags, rapidly tailoring a casual dress for herself while Catch obsessed over her mane and coat in my bathroom. I simply pulled out my crossword book and completed some more puzzles while I waited. I hadn’t intended to wear anything other than my fedora, but unfortunately I lost track of it in the fracas earlier.
By the time Lucky Catch emerged from my bathroom forty minutes or so later Rarity was already wearing a burgundy coloured dress, and she had a second dark green one for Catch.
“Ohhh!” Catch squealed. “Rarity, thank you, you shouldn't have, how can I repay you‽”
Rarity just smiled, “it was nothing at all darling, I simply couldn’t go out to lunch all dressed up and leave you without something as well.” I admit Rarity was very generous, a dress like that would have sold for almost a hundred bits here in Canterlot and she was simply giving it away so Catch wouldn’t feel under dressed.
I was still wearing nothing when we left my office, despite Rarity offering more than once to make me a bow tie or something similar. The short walk gave Rarity and Catch time to talk and the pair seemed to be developing a friendship from their shared experience this afternoon.
Octavia and Vinyl met us outside Cafe Noir. Tavi was still wearing her Marefia vest with a black bowtie in its collar but had thankfully left her cello at home. Vinyl on the other hoof only wore her signature sunglasses.
“Hello again darlings,” Rarity greeted, “It’s good to see you all again. Shall we go inside?” Octavia gave us a nod and led the way. Vinyl on the other hoof didn’t even acknowledge Rarity. Instead Vinyl had glared at me from behind her glasses, her body language promising violence. I tried to ignore her, it had been a concession on my part to let Octavia to bring Vinyl, and she was probably going to try to make this lunch uncomfortable for me.
Octavia brought us to a large round table set for five ponies and surrounded by privacy screens. It seemed Octavia had already been inside to make sure a table was ready, the vest probably helped. As we sat down a loud growl from my stomach reminded me that I hadn’t eaten since lunch time yesterday. I wondered how deep Octavia’s bit bank ran, because I had no intention of eating small today.
“Well it’s nice that we’re all here together now,” I enthused. “Lunch is a much more painless way to solve your problems.” I gave an alongside glance at Octavia who raised an eyebrow and returned a disdainful at look at me.
“I recall it being the condition for your silence, Turner,” Octavia replied. “After all, it would threaten my musical career if my audience believed some the rumours you could tell them.” This drew Vinyl out of her balefire filled glare she was still giving me.
Vinyl’s voice breaking she asked, “Octy... are you afraid to be with me?” Octavia gave Vinyl an affectionate nuzzle in response.
“No, Rarity was right when she said that if I truly loved you then I should not let anypony stand in my way.” Then she threw a glare at me and growled, “anypony.” The pair embraced each other in a hug. Lucky Catch let out an appreciative “dawww” at the sight as she leaned her head on my shoulder.
Once their hug had ended, I signalled for the waitress to make her way over and we all ordered our meals. I requested an additional serving of hay fries as well as the famous sugar saturated chocolate fudge sundaes for everypony. Octavia had no objections to the large order indicating that it was “covered” before pulling out a large purse of bits to pay for the extravagant meal.
The meal paid for and preparation underway, we drifted into other topics of conversation. After a few minutes Octavia regarded me with some interest before asking, “Time Turner, what could have possibly led you to us?” Octavia asked.
I put my hooves together. “I operate by investigating the fundamental harmony in all things. Normally everypony in Equestria exists in harmony with one another. When something breaks that harmony it will create ripples that affect the world around it. These ripples can create unusual events that can be followed to the source, becoming more and more powerful the closer they are to the truth.
“When I’m asked to investigate a misdeed I search likely locations for these ripples, it could be a random act of chaos or a mare delivering lost cats to the animal shelter.” I nodded toward Vinyl. “As I follow these ripples the chaos increases with stranger events and random encounters leading me closer to my goal.”
As I finished my monologue Octavia snorted derisively, “I cannot see how that can possibly work.”
I grinned annoyingly, “I commend your scepticism, Octavia, but even the sceptical mind must be prepared to accept the unbelievable when there is no alternative. After all by my visiting the Animal Shelter we’ve somehow been led up to this point. I know you probably can’t explain how, why or what, but you know it makes sense; just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s not true.”
Every mare around the table gave me a blank look that lasted until Vinyl spoke up. “Chaos led you to my room huh?” Vinyl said, “Which reminds me, tell me why you were watching me and Octy when we were alone?”
“For the last time, I did not watch.” All the mares gave me snort of disbelief. “I was only there to search for Rarity’s cat, I figured if so many lost cats were following Vinyl I’d find why and I’d be able to find Opalescence herself.”
Both Vinyl and Octavia looked nervous all of a sudden.
“So what I’ve been returning lost cats?” Vinyl asked.
“Did you realize, Vinyl,” I replied. “That herb you’ve been adding to your alcohol was catnip?”
“I thought they just liked my music.”
“Well it does sound like a cat scratching a chalkboard,” I retorted. Vinyl resumed her death-glare.
Eventually the waitress brought out our lunch and everypony began to eat between conversations.
“Timey-Wimey,” Catch addressed me – Vinyl snorted her drink through her nose – “Vinyl hasn’t been the only pony returning cats. There have been others as well, how much catnip is out there?”
I thought about this while absentmindedly chewing on a mouthful of hay fries. Catnip consumption would be something that only dedicated party ponies like Vinyl would do. Beyond them it probably wasn’t widespread, but the number of cats going missing didn’t make sense if it were just a few offenders. As I thought more I realized that my discordian detective skills had already brought me to the right pony to ask.
“So, Octavia—”I asked between mouthfuls, “how much catnip has the Marefia been selling around the city?”
Vinyl dropped the sandwich she had been holding with her horn.
“As I understand it we are only just starting to use it now,” Octavia explained. “The catnip is being sold premixed with alcohol so nopony notices when we water it down. Combined it has a similar effect and it’s cheaper to produce. However the catnip has been leading a lot of cats down to the brewery, so they’ve been forced to return them to the Animal Shelter.”
A reasonable explanation, it solved the matter of the sheer number of missing cats. I was about to ask if Opal might have been found, but Vinyl interrupted me before I could say anything.
“Octy, you’re a member of the Marefia?” Everypony else at the table realized Vinyl had been characteristically clueless about this and Octavia hung her head in shame.
“Yes,” she announced it blankly without any enthusiasm, as if it brought her physical pain to tell Vinyl.
“How, when?” Vinyl asked.
“Years ago they offered to help get me into the Canterlot Symphony Orchestra.” Octavia face took on a wistful look. “I had always dreamed of earning a seat on the Orchestra, but I faced the challenge of getting in through the nepotism of managers who only hired distant relatives and nobility. Anypony else has to be supremely talented and be lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time.”
“So an earth pony with no connections had almost zero chance of getting in,” I said and Octavia nodded sadly. A sad typical truth, there’s no real discrimination between the old pony tribes but there’s still family ties. The Orchestra probably consisted of three or four extended unicorn families with history going back to Canterlot’s founding.
“Then I received the offer: I would get my seat using criminal connections and in return I had to work for the Marefia on the side.” Octavia leaned back in her seat with a sigh. “As soon as I got a chance to show my talent I found myself catapulted forward to the first chair cello. Suddenly I had a connection with the nobility and the Donna made me her representative to them.”
“What a terrible way to live,” Rarity said as she leaned over to Octavia. “You have no choice but to do what they tell you to do or they would take your dream away.”
“Then what happened?” asked Lucky Catch.
“I met somepony at a party who did not care who I was or who I knew, somepony who became my first real friend in this city.” She turned toward Vinyl. “It was you,” she said as she brought one of Vinyl’s hooves to her lips.
I rolled my eyes and groaned at the sappy scene before me. Instead of glaring this time Vinyl threw a fork at me.
“As cute as you two are, I should probably start getting back to work solving my cases.” I pushed my empty plate forward and I stood to leave before Octavia stopped me.
“Time Turner, I’d like to hire you for something else as well.”
I sat back down, “and now I’m listening.”
Octavia produced the large purse of bits she used to pay for the meal and threw it over to me. “I need you to help me bring down the Marefia.”
(1) To answer Time Turner’s question: no mare would believe a stallion would pass up that opportunity. We certainly wouldn’t believe Time Turner in a thousand years, and neither shalt thou as your Princess decrees that he did watch.
(2) As always Time Turner still does not understand the mares around him fully, appearance means much more to a mare than a stallion. Rarity likely sees this as a social occasion as there is more than two ponies present, while Catch probably considers this a first date with Time Turner.
“I want you to help me take down the Marefia,” Octavia reiterated.
“How, exactly did you get the idea into your head that it's even possible?” I returned.
“I know how they operate, and you are quite probably insane enough to try it,” Octavia reasoned. “Besides take a look in the purse I just gave you. It’s all yours, up front, without even a guarantee of success if you take my case.” I searched the purse she gave me and it was filled to bursting with not just normal bits but the solid gold high denomination values.
There was over nine thousand bits in here at least. “Octavia, where did you get all this money?” I asked.
“Does it matter?”
“Of course it does, on your salary there’s no way you could put this all together at short notice.” My eyes narrowed, “you took this out of the Marefia’s treasury didn’t you?”
Octavia gave me a slow nod and I brought both of my fore-hooves to my face. When the Marefia discovered that Octavia had taken this much from them, they wouldn’t just be coming to take it back; they would want to make an example of Octavia by killing her. Either the Marefia dies or she does and if I accepted this payment I would be under the same doom.
“Octavia,” I said from behind my hooves. “You realize they will kill you for taking this. Flat out murder, do you even know how long it’s been since somepony was actually murdered in Canterlot?” I didn’t even wait for an answer, “more than a decade and you seem dead set on making yourself a target.”
“I know,” Octavia’s voice cracked, “There’s only one thing I can do to spend the rest of my life in the happiness I’ve found and I'm going all in.” Tears started to well up in her eyes as she turned to Vinyl and held one of her hooves. “I know this is sudden, but I cannot think of a better time. I want to spend the rest of my life with you but to do that I need to destroy my old life. Vinyl will you join me?”
Vinyl was silent. She’d barely spoken since Octavia revealed her secret. After a moment she pulled her hoof from Octavia’s grip and stared at the table. After a few moments Octava started to look worried and more tears fell from her eyes.
I was tired of waiting and Octavia was a client after all. “Vinyl, you’re an idiot.”
“No I’m not, I’m just thinking,” Vinyl responded flatly. She sat staring at a single point of the table.
“You’re an idiot, you don’t need to think. Pick a path and run it.” I started tapping a hoof impatiently waiting for her response.
“I’m just not sure, I mean I love Octavia but—“
“Good enough, Octy: kiss her.”
Taking my advice Octavia lent forward and kissed Vinyl on the cheek. When Octavia pulled back Vinyl turned to face her again and the pair finally embraced each other properly in unspoken agreement.
I muttered, “About time.”
A moment later I received a telekinetic nudge from Rarity. “So Time Turner, are you going to leave these two to fight the entire Marefia on their own?”
Lucky Catch nudged my other shoulder. “You should help them,” Catch opined. “I mean, who else can? You’re the best detective in Canterlot.”
“I’m the only detective in Canterlot,” I grumbled in return (1).
“Besides, think about it, if the Marefia have all the catnip you can stop all those cats from disappearing, I’d love to help you,” Lucky Catch announced. Once again she had declared herself to be on-board without a thought of consequence or the danger involved. That was either very brave or very stupid, probably both.
“You may also find my dear Opalescence, Turner. So you are doing this for me as well.” Rarity added with a flutter of eyelashes.
They were asking me to take on an entire criminal organization armed only with limited insider knowledge, four ponies for backup and a whopping great reward paid in advance. As much as I wanted to choose life over a potentially painful death I had the feeling that none of these mares would ever forgive me if I refused. Octavia would probably hit me with her cello again for one.
Confound these mares. They drive me to foalish causes.
I thought about what I could do with all those bits. A lot, it was the kind of sum that could buy a house outright or if properly invested could make the rest of my life easier. A bit of selfish hope helped to smother my fears.
“Well,” I announced. “I’ll do it then, but I’m going to need help from all of you.”
All four mares gave me a nod.
Once we finished our dessert I invited everypony back to my office to discuss strategy. Once we arrived I asked Octavia to join me in private, leaving the others to sit outside in my waiting room.
Rarity went over to my kitchenette to make some tea for everypony, while Vinyl and Catch got bored quickly and started talking to each other. Most of their conversation centred on Vinyl’s new pet “Wubzy”. Like most stallions I lose track of conversations between mares unless something gets my attention. Vinyl telling Octavia what they might be doing together tomorrow night when they were alone for example.
No, I didn’t watch them last time.
Alone in my office with Octavia, I shut the door behind me before leading her over to what remained of my desk.
“You have given me an interesting task, Octavia. I need to bring down a long standing crime family with ties to every level of society in Canterlot and apparently doing so will lead me to find Opal as well.” I gestured to the front of my desk, asking Octavia to sit while I went to my side at the back. “So what I’m going to ask you now will be a little intimidating, I would like to hypnotise you.”
“Surely you cannot be serious,” Octavia replied.
“I am serious. Hypnotism may be regarded as mere quackery by most ponies but I’m my position I’ve discovered it's not only possible but also useful as well.”
Octavia snorted. “What could you possibly hope to accomplish with it?”
“Octavia, I need as much information as I can get. You’re not in the operational part of the Marefia, you’re a liaison. However you probably know more than you realise and using hypnosis I can drag out information you didn’t even know you had.”
Octavia rolled her eyes. “If you think it will help, then fine.”
I pulled out an hourglass attached to a chain which I hung from my left hoof. The hourglass was weighted with sand and would maintain its vertical orientation relative to the ground no matter how hard I swung it.
“It will help tremendously,” I said. “One more thing before we begin however.”
“Don’t call me Shirley.”
Under hypnosis Octavia gave me the basic structure of the Marefia. It was modelled on the equestrian monarchy with a mare known as “The Donna” sitting at the top. The rest of the organization was structured into task based groups overseen by the Donna herself. Thanks to Octavia’s liaison role she had also discovered that the Marefia was currently dependant on the easy income stream their illegal alcohol brewery provided.
This means the Marefia had two weak points for me to exploit: The first was the Donna herself. To protect Octavia I had to make the Donna think Octavia was unsuitable to continue as a member of the Marefia. The obvious alternative was to remove the Donna from control.
The second was the alcohol brewery. With some further questioning I discovered that the Marefia’s brewery was located where nopony would be suspicious of well-dressed ponies with instruments. The basement of the Canterlot Concert Hall, which had a performance scheduled tonight by the Canterlot Symphony Orchestra and would be attended by the entire Canterlot Nobility along with Princess Celestia herself.
It was a crescendo of chaos, a perfect opportunity and by Celestia’s day glow mane I wasn’t going to let it go to waste. I started to lay some plans down and make preparations.
Octavia stirred in her chair and blinked her eyes before rubbing them with her hooves.
“You have a wonderful evening planned for tonight.” Hearing my voice Octavia started to look around my office.
“Don’t disappoint me by asking if it worked,” I said confidently. “You can see on the clock that time has passed.” I leaned back and looked toward her over my joined hooves, “you were under hypnosis for an hour.”
“It actually worked?” Octavia asked. I sighed in response.
“During the time you were under I asked a dozen or so questions which helped me learn a lot about the Marefia. Now that you're awake I suggest some tea to help you recover.” I raised my voice, “Ladies, you can come in now.”
The office door opened and the three mares that had been waiting outside came in. Rarity brought in a tea tray with her holding a teapot and several cups. I gathered everypony around to organize my cunning plan as Octavia drank her tea.
“Alright everypony,” I began, “I’ve come up with a cunning plan based on what Octavia has told me. To be successful we need to break up the part of the Marefia responsible for brewing alcoholic cider.” Vinyl groaned before I could continue. “Yes Vinyl my heart goes out to you; you won't be draining cider jugs for a while.”
Not to miss an opening, “Hah, so you were watching,” Vinyl accused.
“Celestia damn to you Tartarus, Vinyl,” I returned. “I saw you drinking but I didn’t watch your ‘wrestling match’ on the bed. You turned off the lanterns remember?”
“Well of course I believe you then,” she shot back. Nopony else seemed to believe me either.
“I’m never going to live that down am I?” I moaned as Vinyl stuck her tongue out in response. I sighed. “Well, getting back on topic. I won’t go into too much detail, but what we need to do is simple: we sneak into the brewery located beneath the Canterlot Concert Hall, knock out any guards, save any cats and then blow it up.”
“What‽” Vinyl, Rarity and Catch yelled with varying levels of disbelief.
“Why would you possibly want to do that Turner‽” Rarity asked.
“Isn’t that dangerous‽” Catch asked.
“This is going to be awesome,” Vinyl enthused.
“Calm down,” I reassured, “It’s an illegal brewery, so it'll be easy to blow up. The explosion doesn’t need be large because all we want to do is attract the guards. They’ll arrest any Marefia members present and seal off the crime scene while we disappear off into the night. The best part is it will probably just be considered an accident in an unsafe facility.” The mares accepted my explanation and I continued on.
“We will need to prepare for this and it needs to be done before the Marefia becomes suspicious about the missing bits Octavia stole.” I started to list off what we needed.
“Vinyl: I’ll need you to set off the explosion and you may have to create a distraction. So I want you to bring some of the pyrotechnics you use at your performances.” Vinyl gave me a wide smile that made me feel rather uncomfortable as she nodded.
“Lucky: I need you to look after any cats we find in the catnip. You’ll be responsible for taking them to the animal shelter with no questions asked about where they came from.” Lucky Catch nodded, obviously thrilled at the chance to rescue more cats.
“Rarity: We need to protect our identities so the Marefia won’t be able to take reprisals against us. This means full body suits: no coat colours, marks or manes can show.” I fished a small pile of bit coins from my advance. “This should cover the cost of the material. We’ll need four by tonight to fit everypony except Octavia.”
Rarity took the coins, seemingly thrilled by the challenge. “I shall have them ready by sundown.”
“What about me?” Octavia asked, now fully recovered from her hypnotic trance.
“Octavia, you have the most important job of all: your alibi. We can’t let the Donna discover that it was you who hired me or that it was you that stole the bits. She must know where you are when it happens and that you are a victim, not the perpetrator. Therefore you will go the Concert Hall and perform as normal. Leave me to solve your problem.”
She nodded. “I shall go prepare for my performance tonight. I will return to check on you sometime around sundown before I go to the concert hall myself.” Tavi gave her DJ a peck on the cheek as she left while everypony else started their preparations.
Canterlot is an ancient city and, like most cities of its age, there is much more beneath the surface than meets the eye. When you ask somepony what Canterlot is built on, the normal answer is “Canterhorn Mountain”. In truth Canterlot is actually built on what used to be Canterlot, with new buildings built on the ruins of the old. The Concert Hall is one of the city’s oldest buildings and is linked to a set of tunnels that were built long ago, most of which are forgotten.
One of these tunnels guides water from the mountain itself to the Palace where it flows out into a waterfall. According to what I learned from Octavia, the Marefia used this tunnel to smuggle cider out of the brewery by throwing full kegs into the water. The water flow then carries the keg downstream to a team of ponies waiting to receive it. The empty kegs are returned by placing them in the tunnel upstream.
Too few ponies remember that the waterfalls need to get their water from somewhere, or that old Canterlot was once dependent on this water supply. It was also rather ironic that the Marefia’s own clever use of these tunnels would end up bringing them down.
While Rarity was making our sneaky suits and Vinyl was collecting her “toys” I had Catch help me to find my old inflatable raft. It had been hiding at the bottom of my office’s miscellaneous pile in the corner for a long time. With Catch’s help we inflated it so that we could find and repair any punctures. After fixing a few leaks it was deflated and unceremoniously stuffed into my saddlebags.
Once we were all prepared, we made our way to an upstream entrance of the tunnel: a well located in the Canterlot Public Gardens. The well was a large ramp that led down to a beach where a pony could fill a bucket directly from the water.
We inflated the raft and placed it in the water, Vinyl held it steady while we boarded. Rarity tied a rope to an anchor point and wrapped it around mooring mounts on the rim of the raft. Once secured, Vinyl pushed us out into the tunnel and the flow of the water pulled us along until the rope went taught. Rarity slowly let more and more rope out to send us deeper into the dark tunnel, lit only by her and Vinyl’s horns.
Half an hour’s journey in the dark tunnel brought us to the well in the basement of the Canterlot Concert Hall. It was a smaller ramp built into the wall of the tunnel that led up to a door above.
We disembarked and took a brief moment to dress ourselves into our “sneaky suits”. Despite the darkness we worked quickly, listening out for any noise that wasn’t the passing water. The mares had no issues getting into their suits but I found mine was tight where Rarity had forgotten to make allowances for a stallion’s different physiology. A stallion’s muzzle is larger than a mare’s, but rather than offending my client I simply kept the hood off. Rarity was comfortable in her suit and it revealed only her eyes. Catch also had a perfect fit and Vinyl already had her sunglasses back on.
“Alright,” I said, “is everypony ready?”
I got “Yes” from Catch and “Of course” from Rarity. Vinyl gave me, “Why is it so dark?”
“Take your Celestia damned sunglasses off, Vinyl,” I said as I rolled my eyes.
“The exit’s a quarter turn to your left and then forward,” I instructed.
Vinyl turned and walked into a wall. “Damn it, Time Turner!” Vinyl complained, rubbing her horn with a hoof.
“Take the glasses off, Vinyl.” Conceding to my instructions, she grumbled as she revealed her eyes to the world. I’ve seen them before, they’re nothing special, but she’s gotten attached to her identity with those glasses on. I suspect they’ve become something of a security blanket to her and she can’t let herself be seen without them in public. I’ll have to ask a psychologist about that someday.
With everypony ready we went up to the hatch that leads into the basement proper, I opened it a crack to look in without any fear of discovery. After all if I was noticed stealth was a simple reset away. Fortunately the brewery was unstaffed at the moment. I presumed that everypony was upstairs watching the performance and left the alcohol to ferment overnight.
“Rarity, Catch: go check the storage rooms,” I directed. “Vinyl: let’s go have a look at the brewing setup.”
The brewery looked like a fairly simple setup that was probably still capable of creating a lot of alcohol. What drew my attention was the large metal kettle in the centre with a small fire pit beneath it.
“Vinyl,” I asked. “What do you think about this?”
“It’s a cooper, a still for beer or whisky production instead of cider. I didn’t even know they made anything else.” Vinyl hit it with a hoof and it released a hollow sound. “It’s empty, where’s the liquor that came from it?”
“It’ll be around here somewhere,” I said as I looked around. I saw Rarity giving me a come here gesture so I tapped Vinyl on the shoulder and we went across to see what she wanted.
“What did you find?” I asked Rarity.
“The other two rooms are full of kegs, but have a look at what our dear Catch discovered in here.” Rarity led us inside, the room was filled with bundles of catnip and cats, most of the latter were gathered around Lucky Catch with the rest moving to join them. Despite their love of catnip the cats seemed to love Catch more, and surrounded her in an affectionate pride.
“They seem to like you,” I remarked.
“It’s my special talent,” Catch explained. “Pets love me and so I love them in return.” Catch cuddled up with the mixture of cats.
“I am afraid I cannot see Opal here,” Rarity announced sounding a little distraught, I gave her shoulder a comforting rub.
“Don’t worry, I’ll find her.” I looked around the room, taking note of the features of the basement. There was an open air duct that I guessed probably led to the surface like the others I’d seen. This one was probably how the cats got in here.
Interesting, but I had a brewery to ruin.
“Vinyl,” I asked. “Can cider catch on fire?” I could see Vinyl’s grin through her suit, while music might be her talent she also had an unhealthy knowledge of pyrotechnics and alcohol.
“The alcohol in it can.”
“Is there any way to set that on fire?”
“Not normally, but you can boil off the alcohol and set the vapour on fire.” Her smile widened. “We can do it in the cooper.”
“And this room is full of fuel,” I added gesturing to the catnip bundles around us. “How big a blast have you got in mind, Vinyl?”
“If I block the cooper’s vent it’ll pressurise once the alcohol starts to boil off. Then I just use one of my toys to set it on fire.” She looked around, “It will make a big bang and destroy the cooper and anything next to it. The basement is solid stone, so apart from smoke it won’t get out of this room.” Once Vinyl finished her “guess” I found myself wondering why I was her ex-coltfriend, it was clearly an unhealthy thing to be.
“Perfect,” I could already see the headlines in the paper tomorrow. “Royal performance ruined by booze explosion,” I said with a chuckle.
“Alright,” I said as I rubbed my hooves together. “Rarity: start setting up the catnip around the cooper. Vinyl: come with me and let’s get some cider to stuff into that thing.”
The cooper didn’t take long to fill and we poured in four casks of hard cider. While we were filling it up Rarity put her telekinesis to use and piled the entire catnip supply around the cooper’s base. We also moved the rest of the brewery equipment as close as possible to the cooper to get as much damage out of the blast as we could.
Once we were set up Vinyl showed me her toy. “It’s a sparker,” she said as she held the device in front of me. “I use these to set off fireworks during my performances. I just give it a slight jolt of magic and—” It fired off some sparks in demonstration. “I’m pretty good with these things, It takes a fair kick but I can set one off from a mile away.” Vinyl finished her boast, opened her mouth and took out a piece of chewing gum to stick on the sparker.
“How long do we have to wait?” I asked.
“The longer the better, but I can set it off whenever.” Vinyl proceeded to float the sparker through the spout and attached it to the inside of the cooper. It was rather strange having a normal—more or less— conversation with her. Not even our rocky history could distract Vinyl from her passion for fireworks and music.
Sparker secured inside, Vinyl gave it a test. Once she was satisfied I gave her a boost up and she used her magic to weld the steam vent shut.
Once it was ready we gathered at the door that led upstairs. Catch brought her army of cats out and Vinyl prepared another toy to set the catnip on fire. I opened the door and we left with Rarity leading the way (2).
I turned to Vinyl, “Alright, do it and let’s get out of here.” Vinyl’s grin returned as she broke open a flare and threw it at the pile of catnip to set it alight.
Then we left. Cool ponies don’t look at explosions.
(1) Time Turner’s claim of “being the only detective in Canterlot” is not entirely true. Our Royal Guard and Treasury have a dozen detectives between them that spend the majority of their time investigating tax fraud and organized crime. However Time Turner remains the only private detective within Canterlot itself.
(2) Time Turner forgets entirely about his method of entrance. The inflatable raft eventually broke loose of its moorings and was carried downstream. Eventually the raft caused a blockage in the water tunnels that flooded several basements throughout Canterlot and caused one of the palace waterfalls to stop entirely.
Everything was going well, too well.
The way we got in was clever, yes, but there were no guards and somehow we weren't interrupted during the whole period of our sabotage work.
It was possible that Octavia might have ordered the Marefia thugs to clear out for tonight, but I hadn’t asked her to do that for us. The last thing she needed was for somepony to get suspicious. I expected something would happen shortly, chaos has been building up over the last few days and it was probably going to be big.
Regardless the job was done and the primary objective of my cunning plan had been completed. The brewery would be cinders in just a few minutes, the Marefia’s income would be crippled and Octavia wouldn’t be incriminated by its destruction. The next part of my cunning plan was a little vaguer but would, with luck, leave Octavia entirely in the clear.
“Alright everypony, herd huddle,” I announced with the three mares – and a small army of cats – gathering around me. “The cider needs time to boil before it will be ready to blow. Until it’s ready we’re going to keep an eye on Octavia.” Rarity, Vinyl and Catch nodded.
“Vinyl: I have to warn you that in a few minutes you’ll feel an absolute burning desire to buck me in the face.”
“I always want to buck you in the face.”
“More than usual,” I deadpanned. “ But it’s extraordinarily vital that you don’t, Octavia’s future depends on it. I assume that’s enough incentive?”
Vinyl rolled her eyes at my request, “I promise I won’t buck you, in the face, tonight.”
“Oddly specific but that’ll do.”
“But tomorrow is another day,” she cheerfully reminded me.
Thank Celestia I’ve already been paid for this, I thought to myself.
“Rarity: stay close to me.” She nodded before I addressed the general of the feline army, “Catch: how are the cats?” she surveyed the cats around her.
“Some of them are getting distracted by the smell of catnip. The fire is starting to spread the smell of it everywhere.”
The smell of catnip everywhere, that’s interesting. I considered it for a few seconds.
“All part of the plan,” I reassured as I came up with an idea. “That smell is going to start spreading out from the concert hall and half the cats in Canterlot will follow it right back here.”
Rarity burst into a smile, or at least I thought she did. It was hard to tell though her suit. “Brilliant idea,Turner. I can’t wait to get my little darling back.”
“Catch: I’ll need you to head outside once we get upstairs and find the cats as they start to arrive. When you think you have all of them, take them to the Animal Shelter.” Catch raised a hoof in salute. “Now that we’ve covered that, let’s get upstairs and see if Octavia is as good as they say she is.”
We came out of the basement into the marshalling area just behind the imposing organ that sat prominently at the back of the orchestral stage. The lights were doused to hide the presence of this room and the light we had was from the concert hall itself, passing through the gaps between the Organ pipes. We all gathered to look through the gaps at the orchestra and the audience beyond.
The concert hall was a long thin room with ascending rows of seats built to channel the sound of the music to as many ears as possible. Along the walls on the side were a series of elevated private boxes that were filled with noble ponies. I recognised a lot of them. The majority of the Canterlot nobility was here for the performance.
The reason for the high attendance was sitting in one of the two boxes on either side of the stage. Tonight was a royal performance, and Princess Celestia would be sitting in one of the two audience boxes reserved for royalty. The pair of boxes represented the setting sun in the west and rising moon in the east. From where I was standing I couldn’t tell which (1).
While the entire nobility was here to suck up to the princess, the rest of the seats were filled with ponies here to suck up to the nobility. These ponies that made up the bulk of the audience were dressed up as well as their budgets would allow. Among them was a group of vest wearing ponies that surrounded a single well-dressed mare in the centre. I would place a thousand bit bet on who it was, but there’s no pony in Equestria dumb enough to take me up on it.
It had to be the Donna herself: Noble Prize, Crime Princess of the Marefia. The big problem was asking why the Donna would turn up to this performance with that much backup. I could think of a few reasons why she would be here in person, but none of them were good for Octavia.
“Vinyl,” I addressed my ex. “Go around to the front of the concert hall and join the crowd, you’ll be keeping an eye on Octavia.” Vinyl gave me a reasonable impression of Octavia’s derisive glare before departing through a side entrance.
I was about to tell Lucky Catch to head outside when Vinyl came running back. Fortunately she was still wearing her sneaky suit, so her identity was still safe. Unfortunately a coat-tight black suit also draws the attention of the wrong sort of pony, like the four Marefia thugs chasing her.
I normally go as far out of my way as possible to avoid violence, hospitals are expensive, but with no real escape route open? Buck it. I charged forward, taking note of who the four were: there was a unicorn mare, an earth pony stallion and a pair of pegasi mares. The pair of pegasi was – you guessed it – Lefty and Righty, the pair back in their usual orientation as they came straight at me.
Rarity stood on her rear legs and raised her fore hooves into an offensive position, awaiting the charging earth pony. Catch unleashed her army of cats, swarming as one toward to the unicorn mare. The Marefia unicorn was struck by the wave of feline aggression with cats of all sizes throwing themselves at her. She attempted to use her magic but could not stop so many.
Vinyl continued to gallop toward me, leading my favourite pair of thugs. The pegasi came at me, flying low in the enclosed room, attempting to grab me as they passed and succeeded only at tearing the ill-fitting stealth suit I wore. Vinyl fired a blast of raw magic over me at the retreating pegasi and scorched Lefty’s tail. Righty growled and threw herself at Vinyl.
The earth pony stallion charged at Rarity, only to be bucked in the face by her version of hoof to hoof combat before having his hooves swept out from under him and collapsing. I made a note to myself to find out who taught her that.
Lefty came at me again. I leapt forward toward her, twisting in my leap to fly like a rolling cartwheel and pushed off the ground again as I landed with my forelegs. Now flying backwards toward Lefty I shot my rear legs out and bucked her full on in the face. We both fell into a pile on the ground, while I was fine Lefty had been knocked out cold.
Righty gave a cry when she saw Lefty fall. She dodged another of Vinyl’s wild magic blasts and flew toward me. I tried to scramble up onto my hooves and was barely standing when Righty ploughed into me. The blow knocked me away from the pair and sent me sliding across the floor.
I looked up from where I fell to see Righty standing over her partner with wings open in a territorial display as angry tears fell from her eyes. I shouldn’t have been surprised; I’d seen the pair together so many times over the last two days that it should have been obvious they were together.
I backed away from the pair and glanced around at my compatriots: Rarity was on top of the earth pony that attacked her and had her hooves around his neck in a sleeper hold; Vinyl was watching Righty with another blast of magic ready; Catch was standing with her cats watching over the unicorn mare that was huddling in a corner covered in small scratches.
Righty was the last thug standing. She looked ready to continue fighting but held her position over her partner and looked toward me, instead of the unicorn with a charged horn. It was a standoff as we both waited for the other to decide what to do. I decided we’d done enough and gestured for the members of my party to follow me to the exit.
“That was rather undignified,” muttered Rarity.
“Sorry guys,” Vinyl apologized. “I ran into them before I got out of my costume.”
“It’s fine, Vinyl,” I reassured. “I don’t think we did any permanent harm.” I looked behind us and saw Righty crying over the stunned Lefty. This was why I try to avoid violence, at the end somepony gets hurt and I don’t have laws protecting me like the royal guards do.
I sighed, “Rarity, Catch: head outside and find any cats, try not to look suspicious.” I turned to my ex marefriend who was pulling off her suit, “Vinyl let’s keep an eye on Octavia.” We split off into our pairs, Vinyl leading me to a side entrance to the concert hall and we entered just as the climax of the final movement began.
Our entrance went unnoticed by the audience that was focused on the building melody. Vinyl followed me as we crept toward the empty first row seats reserved for friends and family. I caught a smell in the air, a subtle taste of something familiar; Catnip from our impromptu bonfire in the basement downstairs. Strangely nopony else seemed to worry about it.
As we sat down Vinyl whispered quietly in my ear, “This is the ‘Ode to Friendship’. It’s one of Octy’s favourites. She calls it, ‘poetry in orchestral form’.”
“It’s a fairly soft tune,” I whispered back.
“You won’t think that in a minute,” Vinyl replied with a smile.
“When did you become an expert in classical music?” Vinyl elbowed me in the gut.
“Damn it, Vinyl. You said—“
“I said I wouldn’t hit you in the face.” I slumped forward in defeat, she had me there.
“Can you reach the sparker from here?” I asked.
Vinyl lit her horn and concentrated for a moment. “Just barely, it should have been long enough by now. Did you want me to set it off?”
“I think we can wait for Octavia to finish her song.”
The music played softly as the choir started to sing in an old language that I couldn’t understand, perhaps it was old unicorn. Then right on cue the orchestra launched into full volume, each member throwing themselves into the tune. Octavia was up front with her performance cello, eyes closed, and playing the tune from her heart. She even started to dance lightly with her cello as they played.
Music can deliver a message in its tone even if you can’t understand the words. The message I received troubled me; it seemed to tell me I was missing something in my life. I dwelt on the experience I had over the last few days, especially the teamwork involved. It was food for thought to say the least.
Just as the music was starting to calm down I looked around the audience. I quickly noticed something the smell of catnip was joined by something else. Smoke was starting to leak out the vents on the walls.
I looked back at the stage where Octavia was looking down at the pair of us with a wide grin on her face. I suppose knowing that your music is appreciated makes it all the sweeter, especially when it’s appreciated by somepony you care about. I turned to look at Vinyl and she was returning Octavia’s smile in a combined sappy love moment.
Well I couldn’t let that continue. “Vinyl,” I said as I tapped her on the shoulder. “Do it.” Vinyl lit her horn and scrunched her eyes up in concentration as she tried to trigger the booze bomb in the basement below.
The sound of the explosion echoed from below the stage. The sound threw the Orchestra out of sync as everypony turned around to search for the source of the sound. The real panic started to set in when everypony finally noticed smoke starting to poor out of the air vents around the concert hall.
It was the calmest panic I’ve ever seen. I remembered that Rarity had told me before that catnip had a calming effect on ponies, but I was surprised to see that the effect on the audience: Everypony just seemed to stand up calmly and walk toward the exits. There were barely any shouts of “Fire” or cries of “The Horror, The Horror!” There wasn’t even any pushing or shoving for pony’s sake.
I looked at Vinyl who simply shrugged at the minor absurdity of a working evacuation. I shook my head, stood up and headed to the stage where the performers were calmly packing up their instruments. Octavia herself had already slung her cello onto her back and was ready to go, giving us a welcoming smile as we came onto the stage.
“Turner, Scratchy, I hope you enjoyed the performance.”
“Octavia, you're a little calm for somepony in a burning building,” I pointed out.
“Oh it’s probably just the music,” Octavia replied, a little too calmly for my taste. “The ‘Ode to Friendship’ is one of my favourite pieces; a little smoke isn’t going shake it from me.”
“There’s no smoke without fire.” I looked at my ex. “Vinyl, do you have catnip back at your apartment?”
“Yeah, what's it to you?”
“It’s very calming, isn’t it?” Came a voice from behind me.
Vinyl and I both spun around in shock while Octavia just smiled at the intruder.
“Hello, Noble Prize. Did you enjoy the performance as well?”
There stood somepony I never wanted to meet in person, the Donna herself, the ruthless unicorn crime boss that had control of everything illegal in Canterlot. Somehow I found that fact that her name was “Noble Prize” to be strangely unsettling.
“One of your best performances, Octavia, although it might be your last,” the Donna replied. If Octavia noticed the blatantly veiled threat she didn’t show it. “You’re nice and loud on stage but everypony in the audience heard that explosion. Failing to protect family assets? That’s bad and then this moron,” she planted a hoof on my chest, “that I specifically told you to get rid of suddenly turns up at your performance.” She slammed a hoof down, “I’m not a foal Octavia. I know you're behind this.”
It was about this point that I was wondering why a mare with such a ruthless reputation was simply berating Octavia rather than beating her over the head with a viola. I quickly put two and two together to realize that the Donna had been dosed with the same stuff Octavia had. She was calm and relaxed, even though the same couldn’t be said for the goons that were accompanying her. They were paying more attention to other things then their boss.
Overall I prefer my crime bosses when they’re chatty, so I fell back on the old hero standby: keep them chatting while waiting for help to come rescue us from the burning building and its resident gangsters.
The crime boss halted her tirade against Octavia and turned her attention on me.
“What do you want moron?” She levelled at me.
“Just saying the name, no-bul Pri-z-ee, it sounds a bit weird really, no-bell might be better. Nobel Prize, hmm yes that sounds like a much better fit. It even has the added advantage that it sounds like there’s no bells attached, because you're not a very noble pony are you?”
She returned a hard stare at me. “Just what are you supposed to be then, a detective? I’ve heard about you ‘Time Turner,’ the incompetent detective who relies on blind luck alone to solve his problems, convincing everypony he sees that somehow the universe wants him to win. Your name makes you sound like some sort of time traveller yet all I’ve seen out of you are word games rather than any form of competence.”
“Hey I like word games,” I objected.
“It was all you ever did in my apartment,” agreed Vinyl. I glared at her while the Donna smirked at me.
“Vinyl—” I groaned, “insult the other pony please. Try to remember whose side you’re on.”
Vinyl looked toward the Donna. “Your cider is terrible.”
“Thank you for that wonderful insight, Vinyl.” I looked back at the Donna. “So, No-bell Prize, your organization can’t make decent cider. A shame really, because you’re practically the only provider in town.”
“Well, tough. I worked long and hard for that status; do you have any idea how many competitors I ran out of town? You showed up at a club that I control with a keg on your back so I sent Octavia around to teach you a lesson.” She turned to look at Octavia who had been calmly observing the rest of the room, “except this silly nag couldn’t do it, could she?”
“Well, no, not really,” I answered gaining the Donna’s attention again. “She’s a much better pony than you despite what you might have tried to get her to do. She’s got friends, a career she enjoys and she’s good at more things with that cello than just hitting ponies.” I smiled in the smuggest possible way. “You have none of that, do you?”
The Donna’s scowl deepened as she levitated a star shaped blade out of her dress, her horn glowing a dull red. “None of that will save her.” She shot the star toward Octavia.
The next few seconds seemed to move slowly: Octavia’s calm demeanour was the first to go as she saw the danger flying toward her, shifting into a look of panic and disbelief. I gave a cry and leapt to try and catch the star, already preparing to invoke my reset if I failed. Vinyl was faster than either of us, leaping in front of Octavia and attempting to use her magic to create a shield but getting nothing more than a grey glow between her and the approaching star.
Then a Miracle occurred as a goddess interfered: Deus ex Sol herself.
The dark red field around the bladed star was wiped away with an almost effortless use of brute force power. Then as the Donna was staring in shock at her star-blade it turned white hot and disintegrated in front of us. The Donna was picked up by a gold field, turned around and then forced to sit down. The look on her face was an absolutely priceless mix of surprise, shock and fear.
It wasn’t a surprise to anypony else. During the entire time the Donna was confronting us Princess Celestia herself was hovering in the air behind Noble Prize, watching her dig herself into a deeper hole. She looked down at the Donna not with anger, but with disappointment. Somehow it was even more terrifying than rage (2).
She had the attention of everypony else on stage as well. The Marefia thugs had been pinned down by the Princess’s magic for a few minutes now. The Royal Guard had arrived and were already searching for the source of the smoke, or helping evacuate more ponies from the hall.
I took a deep breath to bask in the moment. Getting the Donna to admit to her crimes and attempt to kill Octavia in front of the Princess? It was all part of my Cunning Plan.
We were escorted out of the concert hall by the Princess who calmly requested the story behind the night’s events. Rather than being critical about what we did or the panic we caused the Princess took the night’s events with a smile, giving me the distinct impression she was pleased with us. I decided it was better not to know her reasons; the thoughts of a nigh immortal being would be difficult to comprehend.
Outside we were greeted with the sight of the crowd of concert goers who had been waiting out in the street, including the vast majority of the noble audience. Princess Celestia opened her wings and raised her voice to address the crowd.
“Good evening my little ponies. I regret that tonight’s performance was cut short, but however I am pleased to announce those responsible for tonight’s disruption have been caught.” The Princess presented the Donna to the gathered audience, now in shackles with a magic inhibitor on her horn. “This pony is the leader of the criminal organization known as the Marefia. She was apprehended by myself a few minutes ago with the assistance of these three friends.” She drew attention to us as we stepped forward and bowed before the crowd.
“Well, Time Turner—” Octavia said to me quietly, “you're certainly worth your fee. I’m impressed.”
I gave her a smile. “I’ve got one more thing to do for you, Octavia. After all, ‘it’s all part of my cunning plan’.”
The effect was immediate: Octavia leapt at me, locked her fore hooves around my neck and drew me into a deep kiss. Vinyl’s mouth fell open in shock as the crowd around us began to cheer.
After a moment Octavia pulled away with a mild surprise in her eyes, my smile widened into a grin. “Now nopony thinks you're a fillyfooler.” My remark was met with more surprise from Octavia and I brought my mouth to her ear and whispered, “Ask me about it later.”
Behind us the Princess laughed quietly and gave us a smile, “Congratulations, my little ponies. I’ll let you have the rest of the night to yourself.” She gave the Donna a shake. “Rest assured that I’ll deal with this one myself. However I caution you to be careful in dealing with any of her associates over the coming weeks, as it will be some time yet before the Marefia collapses.” With that said the Princess departed with a detachment of guards following in tow with the captured thugs, including Righty and an unstable Lefty.
“Back in a moment”, I said to Octavia and ran after the departing group to catch up with the Princess.
“Princess Celestia, a moment of your time?” I asked as she paused raised an eyebrow and nodded her head, I accepted this as permission.
“I’m afraid you have a couple of innocent ponies under arrest,” I gestured at Lefty and Righty who were surprised at my actions. “I would greatly appreciate it if they were released together. The one on the left has a concussion and probably needs some medical attention.” Celestia looked at the pair who remained next to each other as she silently judged both them, and they in turn did not dare to look back at the Princess.
“As you request, Time Turner,” she said with a soft smile. “Make sure they stay out of trouble.” She nodded to her guards who released the pair from their wing restraints and the Princess left without saying anything further.
The pair of pegasi embraced one another. Lefty held up by Righty as she recovered from the concussion I gave her earlier.
Righty turned to look at me. “Why are you doing this?”
“I recall that the pair of you stood against four of your own comrades to protect my client.” The pair looked at each other in surprise.
Lefty looked back toward me, “Really?”
I nodded in return, “Consider it my way of saying thank you and apologizing for all the trouble I’ve caused you. One more thing though, you two owe me, so here’s what I want you to do: You walk away from the Marefia and get out of this city; then I want you two to make something with your lives and the clean slate the Princess just gave you. Finally if I need the help of two formidable pegasi I want you two to come flying, savvy?”
The ambidextrous pair held each other for a moment and then as a pair nodded toward me.
“Good, when you do settle down send a message to my office with your contact details.” I put a smile on my face. “I’ll be looking forward to hearing what you do with your new lives.”
I turned and walked back to the concert hall where my friends were waiting for me. Halfway back I looked over my shoulder to see the pair slowly walking away with Righty still supporting Lefty. I genuinely wanted to see the pair again someday just to see if they would change.
The crowd had dispersed to leave my favourite four mares standing outside together. As I approached I noticed that Vinyl had gone beyond death glare and was now trying to kill me with her eyes. I supposed that she did have a good reason this time.
Rarity on the other hoof was being consoled by Catch, the pair were still in their disguises but it was fairly obvious from a distance that Rarity hadn’t found Opalescence yet.
“Are you okay, Miss Rarity?” I asked.
“No, I am afraid not, Mr Turner,” she sighed. “Even with all the cats we rescued tonight I still have not found Opal. I cannot bring myself to think what could have happened to her.”
“Miss Rarity it’s okay,” I said as I gave her a comforting hug. “It’s okay because I know where Opalescence is.”
She stopped crying and looked into my eyes, “Really?”
“I’ll have her back with you before you know it. Shall we go get her now?”
“Yes,” Rarity nodded with cheer returning slowly to her face.
“Come on everypony, I’ll lead the way. You won’t believe where she is.”
(1) Our sister had requested the plans be altered to suit two Princesses when the hall was built centuries ago, the additional box was intended for our royal form upon our return. Nevertheless we usually sit in the same box as our sister, Blueblood gets the other one.
(2) Our sister rarely shows anger towards our subjects. As she has (or had) absolute control over Equestria she is careful not to be perceived as a tyrant, lest her own subjects rebel against her. Instead she prefers to take the position of grandmother. One of her favourite tools is what she calls the, “Mummy isn’t angry, she’s just very, very disappointed” voice.
A mystery is like a jigsaw puzzle: there are pieces and they fit together. If you're lucky, there’s only one way for them to fit together with helpful border pieces and a big obvious picture on the box. Sometimes though there are pieces missing and other pieces join where they shouldn't.
This puzzle had lots of missing pieces. It also had a puzzle within a puzzle to distract me even when the answer had been on the box and as obvious as Celestia’s dayglow mane. Still the puzzle had been solved and I also got a generous reward out of it from Octavia.
Once our group was alone on the night time streets of Canterlot Vinyl finally gave into her doubts and asked Octavia the question.
“Do you still love me, Octavia?”
“Of course,” replied Octavia who was taken aback at Vinyl’s tone. “Everything we did tonight was for us.”
“Then why did you kiss Turner?” Vinyl’s left eye was starting to twitch, bad sign.
“I... well, I’m not quite sure why,” Octavia struggled to explain herself.
“How could you do this to me‽” She started to yell. “I risked my life for you tonight and blasted somepony’s tail off, and now I find that you were cheating on me with my ex colt friend!”
This was starting to get out of hoof, the last thing I needed was an overreacting unicorn. “Vinyl calm down, I’m not here to steal your marefriend. “ Shame really, Octavia’s a great mare, I admitted to myself. “Miss Octavia has no feelings for me other than gratitude for what we did tonight. That kiss was ‘all part of my cunning plan’.”
As soon as I finished the sentence Octavia leapt at me, once more embracing and pulling me into a deep kiss. I suspected Vinyl was about to burst, Catch was glaring at the mare that made a move on her coltfriend and Rarity just looked confused.
Octavia quickly pulled back from her embrace her eyes wide open in shock, “What, why, how... again?”
“Hypnotism,” I cheerfully explained. “I just needed to—“There was a flash of light and a scream of rage from where Vinyl was standing.
Vinyl’s mane had turned to flame and her eyes had gone hot red, she’d rage-shifted. I had this phenomenon explained to me sometime later; magic—particularly unicorn magic—is directly related to a pony’s emotional state. Send a unicorn into a blind rage and they’ll instinctively summon an absolute flank-load of magic to throw at something, often burning up all their magic in the process.
Of course she directed all of it at me. Vinyl’s horn burst into flame as she charged up a blast of magic and shot it at me. The blast took me in the barrel and sent me spinning through the air into a wall before falling to the ground. I looked up to see Vinyl normal again, but still pointing her horn in my direction.
“You asked for this one, Vinyl.” I took a breath and said, “Reset.” I spun time backwards to just as Octavia started to kiss me, just to spite Vinyl.
On cue Vinyl gave her scream of anger and rage-shifted. Forewarned I broke out of Octavia’s kiss early and dove out of the way of the incoming blast that continued on to demolish a statue. Vinyl had blown most of her power on that blast and was struggling to charge another. I closed the distance between us and clapped a hoof across her burning horn.
Vinyl’s magic dissipated and ended her rage-shift. With her coat covered in singe marks from her own magic, Vinyl collapsed onto the ground with a sigh.
“Miss Rarity: could you please keep Vinyl restrained for a moment?” Rarity gave a quiet nod and put a magic field over Vinyl’s horn. “Miss Catch: please stop staring at Miss Octavia like that.” Octavia turned to look at Lucky Catch, who was looking elsewhere and humming nonchalantly.
“Right, I’m going to explain what just happened so we can all move on and never speak of it again. Are you okay with that, Vinyl?” The restrained unicorn considered it for a few moments before she finally nodded.
“Wonderful. Octavia, part of what you wanted out of this night was to protect your career. So, during our hypnosis session, I implanted a phrase in your mind that would cause you to kiss the nearest stallion. By having you kiss me in front of the entire Canterlot Nobility, I have guaranteed that they will continue to believe that you are into stallions and any rumour from here on out that calls you a fillyfooler will be ignored simply because they know the ‘Truth’. This way, so long as you don’t kiss Vinyl right in front of them, anything you do with her will be entirely platonic in their eyes.”
I spent a few moments basking in the stunned silence.
“So ...” began Vinyl, “anytime she hears you say the phrase ‘it was all part of my cunning plan’ she will—“Vinyl was suddenly interrupted by Octavia kissing me again.
“Anypony, anytime, Vinyl,” I explained after the kiss ended. “To remove it she just has to say a phrase she is unlikely to use in normal conversation.”
“What is this phrase then?” Octavia asked, and I leant forward to whisper it into her ear. Armed with the new phrase, Octavia turned to Vinyl.
“Vinyl Scratch, you are a genius.”
“Aww thanks Octy, you can be really sweet when you wa— wait...” Seconds passed. “Buck you, Time Turner. Buck you, in the face,” growled Vinyl.
“So, Turner, did it work?” asked Octavia.
“Well that insult was also ‘all part of my cunning plan’.” We all waited for a moment. “So yes, it worked.” I looked around at everypony. “Well if there are no more questions about that we can crack on.”
Our first stop on our impromptu late night tour of Canterlot brought us to the RAPS animal shelter. Lucky Catch still had a small army of cats following her that had collars and ponies that were probably missing them dearly. We waited outside while she led the feline assault force indoors to be put into temporary care.
Of course the rest of us were waiting outside. “Why are we still here?” asked Vinyl.
“Returning the cats that we’ve rescued, Vinyl,” I answered. “I’m so sorry, I should have realized you were blind behind those glasses and told you right away.”
Vinyl gave me a low growl, “I wasn’t asking your opinion, jackass. I’m still not happy with you.”
“Huh, didn’t see that one coming,” I replied and Vinyl had returned to her regular strategy of glaring at me from behind her sunglasses. The pair had managed to patch up their relationship in the short walk. Once Octavia’s connection to the Marefia had been broken and the hypnotism had been resolved, Vinyl found she no longer had any reason to hesitate. I had to spend time antagonizing her just so she wouldn’t start kissing Octavia in the street and ruin all our work.
“Octavia,” Vinyl began. “We should go back to my place and get some sleep. We’ve done enough for one night.”
“Not quite yet, Vinyl,” Octavia replied, “I admit to being curious about Opal’s whereabouts, and I believe Time Turner has earned the benefit of the doubt for one night. Do not forget Rarity either, we forced Turner to put her case on hold so the least we can do now in return is to help them see it through.”
Rarity gave Octavia an appreciative nod at her comment. “It was no imposition, darling. Once I saw what trouble you were in I could not simply leave you alone to deal with it yourself.” Rarity tilted her head in thought. “Although I admit I am quite curious, Mr Turner. Where is Opal? I cannot for the life of me figure out where she is.”
Rarity asked a reasonable question so I intended to give a reasonable answer. “Well I’ll give you all a quick explanation of some of yesterday’s events while we wait for Miss Catch.” I explained briefly to Octavia and Vinyl the events that took place within the animal shelter the previous afternoon, omitting irrelevant details like my encounter with Lucky Catch.
“… So you see, with so many cats being returned it became clear to me that Opal was being held instead of being returned with the rest. She wasn’t wearing her collar either so she was most likely adopted by the pony that found her, who would have assumed she was just a stray.”
The doors to the animal shelter swung open again for the returning Lucky Catch, she returned alone without the cats that had been following her. With everypony together I led the way toward my office.
We only made a brief stop at my office, I asked everypony if they wanted to put anything down or get a drink before we continued on. We all dropped off our sneaky suits and unnecessary equipment. I put on my scarf and we left to find our missing kitten.
As we continued our late night trek across Canterlot we eventually reached a dense residential area. This neighbourhood was opposite to the royal palace on the other side of the city. Primarily apartments for the average pony, the area had several complex buildings as well as a series of apartments that had been carved into the side of the Mountain itself. The cloud trimmings suggested the residents were pegasi.
The building we stopped in front of was familiar to both me and the magnificent musical mares. I led our party up to the locked entrance.
“Vinyl, would you do the honours?” I asked.
“Why are we at my apartment?” Vinyl asked in return.
“Because it’s where we need to be,” I explained. Vinyl didn’t move or respond so I took matters into my own hooves, reaching into my saddle bags to pull out a key. The key was a little stiff in the lock but the door opened at my touch and I led the way into the lobby.
“Wha?” Vinyl’s mouth dropped open. “Time Turner... I took your keys away from you when we broke up!”
“I made copies. I thought they might be useful someday.” I led the way up to the second floor and along the hallway until we came to Vinyl’s apartment. Without a further comment, I opened the door once again while ignoring its furious owner. The only thing keeping Vinyl from attacking me again at this point was probably Octavia’s presence.
“Miss Rarity,” I said to my client. “Follow me.” My client followed me inside, other than the usual chit chat between the girls Rarity had been silent for the entire trip.
Vinyl’s apartment was a reflection of her backstage room at Fillyfools; simply “filthy” according to our party’s style expert. Unlike Vinyl’s backstage room this place had several doors leading to other rooms including a full sized kitchen, which had a large basket in the corner filled with catnip and a small white kitten.
“Rarity, meet Vinyl’s pet kitten ‘Wubzy’. I believe you know her best as Opalescence.”
Rarity charged forward, snatched up the kitten with her horn and brought it to her in a telekinetic hug. “Oh Opal, it is you! Momma missed you soooo much!” The kitten itself seemed surprised, a stunned look sat on its face throughout Rarity’s hug based assault.
The other three mares followed us in: Catch looked delighted at the reunion, Vinyl was looking sheepish and Octavia was giving me an interested look.
“How did you know where to find her Turner?” Octavia asked.
“You just have to connect together all the chaotic events of the last few days and eventually the pattern emerges.” I walked past Rarity and gave Opal a pat. “Do you remember what I said earlier about Opal being adopted?”
“Yes, you said that since she had no collar and was not returned to the animal shelter she must have been adopted by somepony.”
“Correct,” I said. “Although it was entirely possible she was being held captive for some other reason by the Marefia. What lead me to Vinyl was that she had been returning so many cats that were following her catnip infused smell home. It’s not that surprising for her to decide keep one if it was collarless and she took a liking to it, am I right Vinyl?”
The DJ looked to Octy for reassurance before she answered my question. “She really dug my music; I was going to return her in the morning like the rest of them, but when I was mixing up some tracks for my gig at Fillyfools she sat in front of me and judged. When there was something she liked she purred, if she didn’t she hissed and swiped at the turntable arms. I took her advice and it was one of the best sets I had ever played. I decided to adopt her and named her Wubzy because that cat really knows her music.”
“She’s like that with me as well, darling.” Rarity walked over with Opal sitting on her back. “My dear Opal is so very good at helping me with my dresses, why I think I would not have been nearly as successful as I would have been without her.”
“A critical cat,” coined Octavia. “Perhaps I should play some of my music to her as well. I might be able to compose something for the orchestra to perform.”
The three artists began to dote on the kitten. Patting her and cooing to get her attention, hoping she might help them improve their work. Not that any of them needed it: Octavia was wonderful in concert, Vinyl was already on top of the local DJ scene and Rarity had proven her ability to be fashionable over the last few days without Opal. The dress she made for lunch earlier was only one example, along with the sneaky suits and the new pink bowtie Octavia had worn tonight.
Though looking at the clock now I realized that was yesterday. Celestia was due to bring the sun up in five hours. Yet even at this early hour the three continued to fawn over Opal. Artists everywhere believe in lucky brushes and other such things. I suppose that believing a cat is going to make all your artworks brilliant is not much more of a leap.
“So what else led you here, Timey?”
The question broke me out of my thought bubble. Catch was still more curious in me than Opal. “Catch, you probably remember that a lot of the cats started going missing two days ago.” My eyes flicked back to the clock. “Well three days now really. Rarity told me Opal went missing six days ago and Octavia told me that the Marefia only got their stockpile together four days ago.”
Catch nodded at my explanation. “I suppose that makes sense, if Vinyl was the only one who had catnip when Opal went missing.”
“That’s Vinyl for you, she’s the first the try out the new thing.” I nodded to myself recalling past incidents. “I couldn’t be absolutely sure though, so checking the Marefia stockpile became the only way to find out. An added bonus was the catnip scented cloud we made, it covered half of Canterlot.”
“It must have brought out most of the cats in the city. I’ve never seen so many in one place,” Catch affirmed.
“It was probably most of the cats in Canterlot. Certainly every cat on that side of the city. What you probably never noticed is that we’re on the other side of Canterlot from the concert hall, the smell never made it to this apartment.”
“That you just happened to have a key for,” Catch returned.
“That’s why we had to go back to my office actually. I don’t carry it everywhere.” Lucky Catch pulled me into a hug.
“Oh Timey Whimey, you can be so brilliant sometimes.” She finished with a peck on my cheek. I flinched at the contact, but nopony else seemed to notice. The cat was distracting everypony else and Catch couldn’t conceive of me doing anything wrong. It was going to be a long night.
We spent the night in Vinyl’s apartment. By the time all was said and done we were too worn out to do anything else. Octavia joined Vinyl in her bed while Rarity shared the spare with Catch. I slept on the couch. In the afternoon when I woke up again I found that during the night Lucky Catch had joined me and was sleeping with her head on my shoulder.
So I found myself considering what would come next. I was more or less indifferent to Catch’s rather aggressive advances so I was content to let her continue. It seemed to make her happy at least. She had probably been looking for a coltfriend for a while with no luck and latched onto the first good looking, intelligent, considerate stallion she could find. I was starting to wonder how long it would be until she started thinking about foals. It would probably be a month at most.
After a few more minutes of waiting on the couch, Vinyl walked in. She quickly noticed us and gave me a rather mischievous grin while walking over to her sound system. I gave her a glare which she just smirked at before starting the turntable and lowering the arm onto the record. The entire apartment was filled with heavy bass notes that shook the entire room. Needless to say this woke Lucky Catch up with a jolt and she fell off me and onto the floor.
Vinyl rolled on the floor in laughter. Catch picked herself up and walked toward her with fury evident in her every step. The music stopped moments later with Vinyl still lying on the ground, but this time without the laughter.
I could definitely learn to like Lucky Catch.
We were all gathered around Vinyl’s kitchen table. The prank had ensured everypony was now awake and so now we were eating her pop tarts. Vinyl sat at the end of the table with an ice pack held over her eye, not taking any enjoyment from the food she was eating.
“Now, before we all go our separate ways there’s something we need to discuss.” I announced and got everypony’s attention. “Last night the Princess warned me to avoid dealing with any of the Marefia’s associates for a while. I’d prefer to take her advice. The Marefia will now be aware that the Donna has been arrested and now, without her, the organization will collapse into infighting.”
“It will be awhile yet before the dust settles and the family rallies around a new leader,” Octavia said. “Until then we will be targets for anypony looking for an advantage in the political war.”
“How long would it take?” I believed that she would have a better idea than anypony.
“I would guess about six months, give or take a few. I would say eight months to a year to be safe.”
“That means for the next six months at least we will be in danger, well me, Octy and Vinyl that is. Thanks to your disguises Rarity, you and Catch will be safe.”
“Mr Turner,” Rarity asked, “why did you keep your hood off then? You could have been safe as well.”
“The hood wasn’t big enough to go over my muzzle,” I replied.
“Impossible,” Rarity said in a scandalized tone. “I specifically made sure that your suit was the right size.”
There was a low chuckle from across the table and we all turned to stare at Vinyl.
“Vinyl,” Rarity began. “Did you switch suits with Time Turner?”
“Maybe,” Vinyl admitted. Octavia face hoofed, I planted my face on the table top and Catch gave her a kick under the table.
“Well this means we need to leave Canterlot for the next six months,” I said to the table surface I was facing. “Anypony have Ideas?”
Octavia was the first to answer my question. “Well I have been meaning to go visit my parents in Hoofington, and Vinyl can come meet them as well. You can come too, Turner,” she offered.
“As kind as that offer is I’d just get in the way over there. I’m also sure that Vinyl won’t want to see me for a while,” I replied. Vinyl gave me a glare to confirm my suspicion.
“Turner,” Rarity began. “If I might be so bold as to suggest, you could accompany me back to my boutique in Ponyville.”
“Of course, darling. It is a very nice town where everypony knows everypony else and it is not far from Canterlot.”
“How large is the town? How much law enforcement does it have? And how’s the food?”
“There are only three hundred ponies within the town itself and perhaps half again in the farms surrounding. As for the second question, we never needed any law enforcement because crime is non-existent.” I detected some pride creeping into Rarity’s voice. “Finally the food in Ponyville is straight from the farm, you won’t find better anywhere else.”
“Hmm, sounds ideal,” I said as I thought about it. “Anypony that follows us will be fairly obvious so it should be safe enough. That and the food, can’t forget that.”
“I shall put you up in my guest room, she declared. “After all you have done for me and Opal I could not possibly abandon you.”
“Well, I suppose that's settled then. Shall we leave today?” I received nods of agreement from most ponies and they split off to prepare to leave Canterlot.
The only pony who didn’t agree was Catch. Once everypony had left the table she came over to me. “What will I do without you?” she asked me.
“I can’t ask you to follow me to Ponyville, Catch. You have a life and a job here in Canterlot.” A look of disappointment crossed her face, she was probably about to break out into tears. So I relented, “of course that doesn’t mean you can’t send letters and visit on weekends.”
Catch leaned forward to nuzzle my neck and said, “I will.”
We took the train out of Canterlot. Catch came to see us all off from the platform with tears in her eyes, promising to stay in touch with all of us. Octavia and Vinyl shared the same train as us, but they would be traveling further on past Ponyville. Opalescence was locked in a cat carrier with the luggage above us. Rarity didn’t want to risk losing her kitten again and was being appropriately cautious.
During the trip down the mountain and across the fields the three mares spent their time chatting with each other. For me the entire conversation blurred into nothingness because there was little to make me interested in what they were talking about. It was probably about shoes. Once we arrived at Ponyville Station we gave our goodbyes to each other as Rarity led me off the train and into the town.
It was one of those pleasant country villages you always hear stories about: clear air that smelled of apples, cakes cooling on windowsills and a rustic aesthetic that put Canterlot to shame. Celestia knows how many times this place probably won the “Village of the Year” award.
As we walked down Mane Street – ha-ha it’s punny – I began to notice a lot of ponies looking at me, as the new guy in town I’d supposed I would be the primary subject of discussion for a few days. The local mares were probably already talking about Rarity’s new coltfriend that she brought back with her from Canterlot. I made a mental note to get Rarity to spread some better rumours about me. Something that sounded more innocent so I wouldn’t draw too much attention to myself. It would be best for me to just fade into the background of the town.
Eventually we arrived at a building that looked like an old fashioned merry-go-round from a town fair. Rarity went up to its front door unlocked it and led me in.
“Welcome to Carousel Boutique where everything is Chic, Unique and Magnifique.”
I nodded in approval as I entered and shut the door behind me. It was a nice shop, very stylish, but before I could complement Rarity on the décor the door slammed open behind me.
“Rarity! You’re back! How was your trip? Did you have fun in Canter— GAAAAHHHHHHHH!” a pink pony suddenly appeared in front of me. “I’ve never seen you before!”
This couldn’t be good.
“Do I really have to do this?”
“It is just a party, darling.”
“Whatever happened to keeping a low profile?” I asked as I struggled to stand comfortably. “I’m getting a town-sized party thrown for me!”
“Oh, I imagine it would have happened anyway. Pinkie would have just found another reason for a party.” Rarity thought for a moment. “I am quite sure this will be a lovely opportunity for you to make some friends around here, darling. After all you are staying here for the next six months.”
“Or longer,” I said as I surrendered and allowed Rarity to continue making my party attire. Against my intentions, and without any interest in payment, she had made me a cream coloured vest with a matching brimmed hat. She insisted that I go to the party in some form of dress as I was, “representing Canterlot” something that neither I nor the city really cared about.
Still, it was the town where everypony knew everypony, so I suppose it was expected of me to attend. This would be a good opportunity to get to know the other ponies and I’d learned recently that working with other ponies was much more entertaining that working alone. Even Vinyl had been interesting to work with between insults and death-glares.
My first afternoon in Ponyville so far had been spent mostly in Rarity’s “Carousel Boutique”, where she had immediately started preparing me for Pinkie Pie’s “Come meet Time Turner” party. The afternoon had swiftly disappeared as Rarity wove her magic around me and I had been standing in the same spot for most of it while attempting to learn the art of sleeping while standing up.
As evening approached Rarity eventually declared my outfit fabulous and Opal stopped trying to tear my hat apart. We departed together to go to the party venue.
Under the night sky a few things about the town became obvious. Ponyville does not have the same level of street lighting as Canterlot or nearly as much noise. The sky was far more brilliant than it was in the city as the light from the stars shone brighter in the comfortable darkness. The cold mountain wind that blew through Canterlot every night was replaced by a pleasant breeze that carried the sound of birdsong, even at this time of night.
The pair of us walked down the streets toward the brightest and loudest thing in Ponyville, presumably where I would be meeting everypony. As we continued I noticed a number of houses without any lanterns lit.
I remarked on this to Rarity who replied, “Pinkie’s parties are legendary around here, darling. Few in town would miss one if they had the choice.” That didn’t reassure me at all.
The party was outside a large gingerbread building on a series of tables that were covered in food with music playing from a gramophone player. I was genuinely shocked by the turn out. The party had already started with dozens of ponies present who were already having a good time.
“Hi, you’re here!” said the pink pony as she appeared again. “Are you excited about your party‽ I know I would be, when I saw you earlier I knew that I didn’t know who you were, but I know everypony in Ponyville, which means you’re new and so you don’t know anypony but Rarity and that’s terrible because there are so many friendly ponies in Ponyville so I had to throw you a massive party so you could meet everypony!” She gave me a grin so wide her mouth actually became larger.
“So do you like it‽ Huh‽ Huh‽ Huh‽?”
“You don’t like it?” she asked, deflating.
“One moment, Pinkie,” Rarity interrupted before waving a hoof in front of my face. “Hmm, I believe you drove him into shock.”
“Oh, I have just the thing for that.” Pinkie reached out into mid-air and pulled out a cupcake with the word “Welcome” iced onto it. She opened my mouth and shoved it in.
Sweet does not begin to describe the taste. It was a super dense concentration of sweetness, it was literally impossible not to be happy with it in your mouth.
“Wow!” I declared through my full mouth.
“You liked it? I made it myself just for you,” Pinkie enthused. I nodded in response and Pinkie beamed, “great let’s go meet everypony!”
Pinkie Pie dragged me around to everypony, introducing me by telling me their name and then dragging me to the next one. “Alright ,Time Turner: this is Berry Punch, this is Lucky, Caramel, Ditzy Doo, Cloud Kicker, Carrot Top, Minuette, Bon-Bon...” As Pinkie’s parade of ponies continued, I tried to remember as many faces as possible. In the end I could only reliably remember twenty or so.
Once Pinkie Pie had finished introducing me to everypony in record time I began to get my wits back together and made my way toward the buffet table. Only to be intercepted halfway to the muffin platter by a unicorn mare with a two-tone blue-white mane that looked like toothpaste.
“Hi there, new guy,” she said with a wink. “I’ll save you a spot tomorrow.”
“A spot?” I asked.
Oh silly me, I’m Minuette, the town’s dentist. I’m always booked out for a week after a party like this, so I’m going to save you an appointment at 11:00AM tomorrow.”
“Ah… thank you, Minuette. That’s kind of you,” I replied.
“Ok, it’s a date. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She walked off as I resumed my course toward the buffet table while mentally reviewing the last sentence she said to me as she left.
As I reached the table I was interrupted by another mare from across the doughnut platter. This one I recognised as the purple coated Berry Punch.
“Hey there, Time Turner.” She nodded at the bowl to my right, “Give the punch a try.” I looked at it before glancing back at her; she was giving me a hopeful smile. I took the ladle out and filled a glass with the mixture before drinking it in a single lift.
“Like it?” Berry asked and I nodded. “I made it myself, although it’s not nearly as strong as I would like.” She drifted off in thought and then snapped back, “So, Time Turner, I hear you're staying with Rarity?”
“Yes, just for a while. Why do you ask?” Berry simply shrugged at my question.
“Just wonderin’. Well, since you like the punch, I’ll drop some more of it over later just to be neighbourly.” She glanced around before announcing, “There’s Pinkie. I’m just going to go say hello to her, I’ll see you later.” She walked off in Pinkie’s direction with a spring in her step.
With Berry Punch gone, I returned to searching for the Muffin platter I saw earlier only to find it empty. I spotted a grey Pegasus walking away from me with what must have been the last muffin in her mouth.
Now resigned to not getting any muffins I went over to the next table to get a slice of cake instead. I walked carefully and kept watch for anypony else waiting to ambush me in conversation. The last two had been slightly suspect in their aims.
At the cake table I found Rarity again using her magic to divide slices of the cake for everypony, her distinctive flourish evident in her horn work. “Ah Turner, How are you enjoying the party so far?” Rarity asked.
“It’s been excellent. Everypony is really friendly, very friendly in some cases.”
“I should suspect so,” Rarity said with a conspiratorial smile. “Why I have had so many ponies ask questions about you.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“Mostly, where you are staying and how long, although others have asked about how we met.” She must of seen the look of concern cross my face. “Oh Turner, you do not have to worry so much. I kept our little adventure a secret. Although, I have made it clear to everypony that we are just friends in case you were wondering.”
“I suppose Minuette and Berry Punch asked you about that?”
“Why, yes, how did you know?”
I thought back to the conversations I just had, “Just a hunch. I suppose we’ll need another party for when Lucky Catch visits just so everypony can meet her as well.”
“Of course, darling,” Rarity said with a nod. “Pinkie Pie would love to arrange that; she does it all the time.” Rarity hovered a plate of cake over to me. “Here you go; it is your cake after all.”
I took the plate over to a table and spent a moment enjoying a slice of my cake. It seemed to be a mixture of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry combined into layers of flavour. The taste was so sweet that I could feel my teeth complaining.
“Hey, my hooves got all dancy,” Pinkie Pie said as she interrupted my taste test. “Did you want to throw a party for somepony else?”
The morning after the party I woke up with a pounding headache. It felt like there was sandpaper being run around the inside of my skull; probably caused by way too much sugar last night from the dozen things I had eaten at my party. A dull ache from my teeth seconded the motion while a glance at the clock reminded me of my dental appointment at eleven. I was probably going to need it now.
Making my way downstairs I found Rarity at the boutique entrance receiving a parcel. She bid the grey delivery mare good day as she signed for the package and placed it on the pile next to the door.
“Good morning, Turner.” she greeted me. Rarity’s cheeriness was at odds with the sugar induced hangover I was experiencing.
The mare giggled at my pain. “You will have to learn to pace yourself at one of Pinkie’s parties, Turner.” Then she gestured at the pile of packages by the door, “Half a dozen ponies have already been here today to bring you gifts to welcome you to the town.”
“Really?” I asked as I started to look at the items in the pile. Every package was addressed to Time Turner and it looked like most of the guests from last night had sent something.
Rarity went through the pile drawing my attention to some of them. “A basket of apples from Applejack at Sweet Apple Acres; a box of sweets from Bon-Bon; a bottle of Fruit Punch from Berry Punch, I suggest you go easy on that one it’s probably alcoholic, and Mayor Mare sent a list of vacant houses in town if you decided to make your stay permanent.”
As Rarity finished, I began to go through the pile myself. I rarely received gifts, most ponies that knew me were clients and they almost always tried to forget about me as soon as I had done my job. I was genuinely touched. My life in Canterlot was quite lonely at times, and it was something I had used to want but the events of the last few days have given me more perspective.
I thought it all over for a few seconds. It wasn’t a hard decision. “Rarity, where’s that list of houses the mayor sent over?”
“Right here, why do you ask, Turner?” Rarity inquired.
“I think the Fundamental Harmony of the world has led me here. I’m suddenly happier than I’ve been in years with enough bits to buy a house and everypony apparently wants me to stay.”
Rarity gave me a friendly hug. “Welcome to Ponyville, Time Turner.”
Princess’s Luna’s Afterword:
Despite the low key nature of Time Turner’s work many of his actions have influenced Equestria and the ponies around him.
The arrest and subsequent sentencing of Noble Prize took only a single day, with her guilt proven by her foalish attempt to mortally wound Octavia in the presence of our sister. The former Donna was sentenced to imprisonment in exile in order to prevent her from receiving any assistance from her subordinates within Equestria.
Octavia and Vinyl Scratch have since returned to Canterlot. Time Turner’s deception has allowed the pair to work together publicly and both of them have been regularly hired to perform at major events.
Lucky Catch faced review by the board of the RAPS animal shelter for her role in the admission of a large amount of cats into the shelter in a single night under her authorization. However all penalties were waived on royal request with additional funding provided to ensure the lost cats were returned to their rightful homes. Catch regularly visits Time Turner, traveling between Canterlot and Ponyville whenever she has leave.
Rarity was saved the cost of Turner’s fee for locating Opalescence when the detective decided her generosity was payment enough. Rarity has since ordered most of her fabric through mail order, not wishing to lose Opalescence on another business trip again.
Time Turner is now living happily in a house just off Stirrup Street in Ponyville. He does not advertise his detective agency within the town and maintains a cover story of simply being in charge of keeping the local clocks in time. This position is a sinecure he arranged with the assistance of the Mayor, a job that includes little to no work and is an ideal position for the Detective who regularly works elsewhere.
Time Turner now arranges appointments by mail before traveling to meet clients at Café Noir in Canterlot. When not on contract Turner lives quietly in Ponyville, after a few months his Mystery Wall eventually expanded into a Mystery Room. An entire section of which is dedicated to Pinkie Pie.
Time Turner's Discordian Detective Agency: The Panther of the Bluebloods
Here's a peek.
“You shouldn’t let yourself get distracted,” she chided with a smile, ”anyway if Pinkie is as crazy as you say she is then trying to understand her will just drive you mad.”
“So let me get this straight, I’m a timekeeper with a secret life outside this town in which I am a detective who solves mysteries using the intricate balance of chaos and harmony in events of the world around me. I routinely cheat at cards, my cutie mark is actually a paradox and somehow studying Ponyville’s Premier Party Pony is going to make me even more insane?”
Lucky Catch considered this for a minute and then asked, “Your cutie mark is a paradox?”
Daring Do and the Long Journey Home
Loaded down with the treasure of ancient Zebra King Imzohtep, Daring Do now faces the long trip back to Canterlot. To get there she has to cross the expanse of the Canterbean Ocean, fend off attacks from Pirates and outwit Ahuizotl's goons while protecting her latest find.