When the curtain rises, and the spotlight shines down, who is standing before the crowd? Is it the actor, come to bear their soul, struggle, passion and commitment to the stage? Or is it the hero/heroine, mindlessly existing for those finite and fleeting moments in a closed world to entertain a majority they'll never meet? Who indeed...
Rainbow Dash flew quite leisurely through the skies of Southern Ponyville, hoping not to attract to much attention to herself. This was absolutely contrary to the cyan Pegasus' nature, as she absolutely loved to dazzle a crowd, but more so in the central region of Ponyville where most of her friends were in close proximity; currently she found herself in a district that was akin to the inner city slums of Cloudsdale that she had spent the early years of her life in. She tried her best not to look at any of the underdeveloped housing structures, the homeless, or the tranquilizer junkies lining the street; lest she be reminded of her own upbringing before her parents saved up enough bits to move to a nicer venue, and sent her to flight school.
Rainbow Dash remembered that Mayor Mare had promised to renovate this area if she were elected, but lo and behold things actually got worse: what was just a little down trodden area of the town slowly turned into a miniature underworld. If Rainbow looked down right now, she was certain she would see some tranquilizer junkies mugging somepony in one of the downtrodden alleyways. Tranquilizer... She hated that substance, some really bad memories associated with it. She had only ever done it once when she was a filly, with some colt she liked. Never again.
Nostalgia flowed through her mind like the wind blowing through her mane at this moment, and she began to recall: An empty needle on the floor of a dilapidated earth pony carriage, the view was absolutely breath taking aside from that. She was on a mountain with that colt, (she had forgotten his name years ago) gazing contentedly into Cloudsdale during sunset, the reddening light of the sun giving the illusion that it was setting the giant cloud city ablaze. The tranquilizer kicked in and she felt it slowly relaxing her muscles and making her lightheaded, like she was on a cloud--- no, as though she were a cloud. Every sensation in her body became more and more intense, and she brushed up against the colt, desiring his warmth and comfort. The colt returned this by embracing her, and began to nuzzle her snout and neck; she rather enjoyed the sensations she was feeling from this amorous gesture, so she returned the nuzzle. Then he started licking her cheek, and she returned this as well. The colt was clearly enjoying this so he decided to take it to the next level, and his licking became kissing and it only intensified from there. Even in her impaired state she had enough sense to push him away and tell him she wasn't ready, but he didn't care; he kept trying until he became insatiable and aggressive, to the point that he pushed her to floor of the carriage and forcibly--- “NO!” Rainbow clenched her eyes till they hurt, trying to fight the memory.
By the time she finished clearing the memory from her mind and opened her eyes, she found she had drifted slightly off course and decided it was best if she didn't fly in this state. She descended to the streets, and proceeded among the filthy and dark atmosphere. ‘Just like home,’ She mused to herself. After 10 minutes of wandering the streets, she arrived at her destination: a dark alleyway that presented only a few dumpsters and a door as scenery.
Rainbow trotted over to the door and pounded on it with her hooves, and a few second later a latch on the door slid open to reveal only the yellowing eyes of an irritated looking stallion.
"What do you want?" Inquired a disgruntled voice
"I'm here to make a delivery, so let's make this quick. I got ponies to do, things to see yada yada."
"Hmmm...." The eyes in the slit began to size up the source of the sassy remark "Oh, if it ain't good ole Blink! Just a moment..." The slit slammed shut, there was some unintelligible yelling from the inside, and the door swung open to reveal a rather slim, greasy looking tan Earth Pony, with a mark of a syringe on his flank and a thinning wiry black mane.
"Blink, how've you been love? Come, give ole' Serum a peck..." At this point the Stallion attempted to wrap his fore-legs around Rainbow in a clumsy bear hug motion, to which she responded by ducking out and forcing her Crossheart insignia saddle bags into the embrace.
"Yeahhh... no. Like that'll ever happen; keep dreaming lover-colt. Now if you don't mind, I'll be taking my bits for this delivery and be on my merry way, the Sotto Capo isn't exactly a patient horse," she stuck her hoof out, expectant of the pouch of bits for this delivery, but instead only received a wadded up piece of paper.
"Hey, what gives?" She asked irritatedly.
"Well..." Serum had opened up the bag and was rifling through and inspecting the contents, all of which were vials of clear liquid from which Dash quickly averted her eyes, feeling ashamed for looking at them, much less having delivered them, but she had her reasons. "If you'd be so kind as to open that paper, you'll find that you aren't quite done yet love, Chronos has need of you, but if you want you could stick around and we could...."
Dash never got to hear what they could and could not do, as she had decided to send the "no way in hell, you mule" message with a good ole' fashion fore-hoof to the snout which resulted in knocking the sleazy stallion on his back, while he applied heavy pressure trying to keep it from bleeding. After chuckling a bit to herself, Rainbow promptly flapped her wings and began to hover away while inspecting the contents of the paper. There was only the name 'Honeylump Bakery', and, having no choice but to comply, Rainbow flew the few blocks to reach the place.
She landed in front of the bakery which, compared to the rest of the run down district, was in surprisingly good condition give or take some peeling paint and scuffs around the wooden door. Otherwise, it was nowhere close to Sugarcube Corner, not by a long-shot. The building was a purple cube, with a brick chimney that was likely connected to a brick oven on the inside. Not a particularly fancy or eye catching joint, with the exclusion the color, which Rarity would probably have described as 'Garish' or 'Daft'. Nonetheless, Rainbow approached the door, noting the sign in the window stated the establishment was 'Closed', pressed the door open and proceeded to enter.
The aroma that hit her was unique, definitely scent of pastry though it seemed a little stringent and smoky, burnt perhaps? Regardless, she proceeded into the bakery; it was rather hectic: a couple of chairs and tables were flipped over, the sales-counter itself was littered with flour and other spices which had spilled to the floor, and behind it, another counter with random ingredients and sheets strewn about, covering some sort of pastry she expected, and lastly an old style baker’s oven made out of brick, just like the chimney which seemed untouched. Rainbow proceeded to float through the bakery looking for Chronos. She knew what he looked like, as she had met him a few times in equine, but she had no idea what he did for the Crosshearts.
As she flew behind the sales counter to investigate the kitchen her attention was immediately drawn to the sheets that covered up most of the counter, more specifically the odd lumps that lay underneath them. Not really one for caution, Rainbow whipped off the cover and there were no pastries as she anticipated; instead there were three dead unicorns lying on their backs as though they had been moved after their deaths: A blue unicorn stallion, a caramel colored unicorn mare, and a vanilla unicorn filly. ‘Didn't even earn her cutie mark yet...’ Dash said under her breath while noting the filly was indeed a blank-flank. The corpses looked fresh as though they had only died moments ago, but the burning pastry smell in the kitchen might have suggested otherwise. The cause of death for the stallion and the mare appeared to be multiple stab wounds, but the Filly looked physically unharmed aside from some heavy bruising on her side. Another thing Rainbow noted was that the blood from the stallion and the mare seemed....fresh. Had this occurred before she came in?
After offering her condolences, she turned to scan the rest of the kitchen, and she didn't have to look particularly far to find what er... who she was looking for. A brown Earth Pony stallion with an hourglass mark on his flank lay facing a corner next to the oven. After a quick once-over she had identified the brown Stallion as Chronos, and arrived at the conclusion that he was clearly dead, most likely due to the knife protruding from the front of his skull. Between the three on the table, and Chronos being stabbed in the head, it was a chore in itself to distinguish who had killed who.
Chapter 1.5: Time Dies when you're out of Puns
Let's Rewind the clock and change players for a moment...
"Sup' Doc'?" A passing colt said casually
"Excuse me?" The 'Doctor' responded to the question with a question, but it fell on deaf ears apparently. ‘Must be some younger stallion slang greeting, I'll never understand how the youth works... Why does everypony call me the doctor anyway?’ He supposed it could've been his doctorate in Natural Sciences, more specifically in Pony Physiology and Natural medicine, but that was information only he and the Crosshearts were aware of.
Shirking the thought, he proceeded down the street and stopped in front of a mirror in a store window. Looking first at his reflection: Brown coat, tired hazel eyes, unruly brown mane, hourglass mark on his flank, lumpy saddlebags, yup that was him alright. But that wasn't why he checked the mirror, he had this feeling he was being watched since he departed from Central Ponyville that morning; as though to put his suspicions at rest, he scanned the mirror hoping to pick up something from the opposing side of the street, and.... he saw nothing.
‘Maybe all the time I've spent doing this is starting to get to me,’ he sighed and proceeded to Honeylump Bakery.
Once he arrived at the doorstep, he noticed the sign on the door read 'Open' and as he opened the door, a very peculiar pink earth pony pranced out from behind the door with a box in tow and proceeded to hop down the street humming to herself. ‘Weird,’ he thought to himself before he slid a hoof behind the sign, flipped it so it read 'Closed,' and then stepped inside the bakery.
He looked around the empty bakery and was greeted by a familiar jovial blue unicorn. "Heya doc, how’s it goin’?"
"Quite good I assure you, Mr. Flake. Now I love small talk as much as the next Stallion, but circumstances would have me cut right to the chase. I take it you know why I'm here?"
It only took a moment for all of the blood to drain from Flake's face, resulting in an amusingly lighter shade of blue.
"I.... uh...we... L-l-look, w-we'll get the Don his money, it's just gonna take some more time alright? Times are tough over here, Doc, you know how it is, right?" Flake looked nervous but hopeful that he could somehow convince the Doc to allow him at least another week. That hope fell on cold eyes, and those pleas on deaf ears.
"Flake, Flake, Flake.... Don't you remember? The Family already gave you an extension.... 1 month ago. Personally, I think that should have been enough time for you to come up with the cash."
"C'mon Doc... I got a Mare and a filly to take care of..." Flake continued to plead, maybe the family angle would do it.
The brown stallion sighed and proceeded to walk behind the sales counter while speaking: "Three things Flake: You should pay your debts on time, don't worry about your family; they'll be joining you shortly, and my name isn't Doc, it's Chronos as far as you know." With that the Brown Stallion drew a dagger from his bag, and with a flourish, stabbed Flake in the chest. He stared into the deadbeat baker's eyes, placed both hooves on the handle, and twisted the blade before withdrawing it. Before he let the blue unicorn collapse, he reached back into the bag and pulled out a vial full of green liquid, which he poured directly into the wound and covered with a towel, resting the Stallion on his back.
The vial contained a fungi based coagulant that he had discovered during his time studying natural medicines. It was unique in the respect that, when synthesized properly, it could be absorbed immediately into the bloodstream through open wounds, and created temporary clots that would drastically slow, but not stop the flow of blood until the clot dissolved in the bloodstream, after which point the blood flow would return to normal after a... gushing period... There were probably better uses for this coagulant as it prevented bleeding out for at least 4 hours, but seeing as how the Crossheart Family was paying his tuition at the time, he decided it was best to use it for their benefit.
"Don't die too quickly now, I'll need a proper alibi, and it wouldn't help me at all if you bled out before I return to Ponyville central. Now wait here while I fetch your family," Chronos instructed while cantering off to the back room of the bakery.
About 10 minutes later, Chronos was staring at his three victims with a look of shock, regret, and fear slowly overtaking his features. Most professional killers would either be proud of this moment, or indifferent having seen it many times before. But not Chronos, somehow the concept of '3 bodies, 2 kills' didn't ring right with him. After he had dealt with Flake, he ran into the backroom to deal with the mare and the filly. The mare had put up quite a futile struggle, throwing things flipping furniture, levitating random spices and throwing them, but Chronos eventually caught her in the neck with his dagger, but it didn't end there.
"How in Celestia's name could I have screwed up this badly?" His attention was squarely upon the filly; The one body that completely rendered his Modus Operandi pointless.* She had wandered into the bakery, and upon seeing Chronos stab her Dam, she began to run to the backroom, but crashed into a bookshelf in the kitchen causing it to topple over and crush the filly underneath it.
How was he supposed to deal with this? Bleeding and crime scenes he could manipulate, but this... The time of death had already been set in stone, there wasn't a lot he could do with an already gone corpse as the natural stages of decay had no doubt began. He then turned his attention towards the oven. It looks big enoug--
A cold sharp sensation suddenly pricked at the back of his neck, and it was accompanied by a mare's voice "Drop any weapons you may be holding and turn around slowly. If you fail to comply I will use force as necessary."
Chronos was used to getting the jump on his prey, but it was amusing to see what it was like on the other side of the blade. He closed his eyes and judged how close the blade was to his neck It's actually touching my neck....what amateur could have gotten the jump on me and made such grave mistake? No matter...
He calculated his retaliation and began to turn slowly, while adjusting the pivot points of all his hooves; bringing them closer together, and proceeded to snap around, drop his own knife, and pounce; with his right hoof ready to parry the knife and his left to strike the attacker directly. He was certain he would be in range of whatever novice had dared to put him at knife-point. He had calculated this attack for an earth pony or a pegasus, but was less than pleased to find that his assailant was a free-floating dagger and for his troubles he received a deep slash to his left fore-leg, and a buck to the face from a pair of violet hind-legs which knocked him to the ground. He then felt something slither up and bind all four of his legs together.
He gazed upon the source of the buck and saw an equine figure concealed in a cloak that covered up most of her face and body. "I warned you, no sudden moves, but I guess you won't be making any more then?" the figure replied in a matter-of-fact tone. She pulled out a piece of paper and began looking at it, then at Chronos; "Let's see here, brown coat, brown mane, cutie mark of an hourglass... you must be Chronos, I presume?"
"How did you kno--"
"I'll be asking the questions if you don't mind," the cloaked mare interrupted while wiping her dagger.
"Who are you?"
The figure sighed, "My name, as far you know, is Violet Page of the Royal Canterlot Interceptor Agency, and that's all you're cleared to know."
Damn the R.C.I.A. was on to me? How much could they know?
"Well, it seems you've got quite the rap-sheet here. Let's see, you've been arrested for over 23 equistricides, an---"
"Yeah, I think I know my own arrest record, let's cut to the chase." Chronos knew where this was going, the R.C.I.A. didn't screw around, they barely made any arrests, and if you wound up on their list....
"Okay fine; who are you working for and why?" She inquired
"I can't say"
"You don't know what my employers would do if they found out."
"You don't know what I'll do to you if I don't find out."
Chronos now looked at this cloaked figure, tried to find the eyes and stated: "Ma'am, it would be like a small mercy in comparison."
"Well, I'd personally beg to differ. You see if you cooperate you can spend the rest of your life safe in a cell underground with thousands of others just as twisted, if not more so, than yourself. If you don't.... well let's just say I enjoy practicing new spells and I happen to have a new one that's quite an.... out of body experience."
"Well ma'am I'd like to plead the fifth," Chronos declared dryly.
"I was hoping that you'd sat that," She proceeded to pull out a blank green parchment from underneath her robe, "You see field interrogation is too easy, and can get a bit messy, and I don't really like messy or easy. I like an organizable challenge. Another thing about field reports, there's also a lot of writing and, as much as I love reading, I hate writing; just ask my assistant. So when you decided not to cooperate," she re-brandished her knife, touched it to her horn, which gave it a purple charge, and then pointed the glowing blade at the restrained stallion, "you just made my work-load a lot faster, and a lot easier."
She thrust the glowing blade deep into Chronos' forehead, and he only gave a whinny of pain before he felt the magic surging through his brain; it felt as though there was a whirlpool in his mind and all of his knowledge and memories were slowly being flushed out of his brain and being fed to the blade. All he could see was a vivid white light that was accompanied by the most awful ringing he'd ever heard in his life, and just like that, it was over; everything was going dark, he decided to rest now.
We need to change players once more...
Twilight certainly didn't enjoy having to stab the stallion in the head, but she was ecstatic that her new memory drain spell worked; all that was left was to touch the green parchment to the blade, and a small spark caused symbols to fill the parchment, in a circular manner akin to the red scrolls she always received from the agency.
"Eureka! It worked, it worked!" Twilight began to prance around, as she often did when she became overly excited about things; like recalling how she earned her cutie mark; but stopped herself when she remembered her surroundings. She left the brown colt in the corner, cleared off the counter in kitchen, levitated the three bodies that the colt had just left on the floor, and placed them carefully upon the counter as it was certainly large enough. She put the Sire and the Dam closer to the sides, gently lowered the filly in the center, proceeded to cover them with the cleanest sheet she could find, and said a prayer to Celestia. She collected all of the brown colt’s things and placed them in his saddle bags, which she promptly took with her; she'd need this evidence more than the local authorities would for upcoming events.
Twilight decided to leave a letter for the unlucky pony who stumbled across this scene detailing exactly what happened, excluding herself of course, making it seem as though she were just in the wrong place, at the right time, and proceeded to assign her Violet Page identity to the letter since she was still on duty.
She exited the bakery in search of Spike, in case he had coughed up anymore scrolls throughout the day.
Chapter 5 continued
Turn the clock forward and let's pick up where we left off...
Rainbow looked around the bakery one last time after reading the letter, deciding it was best if she just left now since it was getting dark, and since the letter hadn't detailed what happened to Chronos, she didn't want to be accused of murdering a murderer. She made it to the door deciding to inform her boss of what had transpired, when she heard some coughing from behind her. She whipped around to see that something was moving in the sheets. She raced back over and pulled them off again to reveal that the filly was still alive. She looked very weak, but she was still alive.
The filly looked up at Rainbow with big green eyes and asked "Who are you, Miss?"
Rainbow picked her up gently, hoping that in the darkening atmosphere she wouldn't notice her parents on the table. She hoped that for today the Bureau would allow her to break her undercover persona off without any repercussions. "Hey kiddo, I'm Officer Rainbow Dash of the Equestrian Investigation Bureau."
"Where are my parents, and what happened to that bad Stallion who was in our house earlier?" The little filly asked.
Rainbow put a hoof on the filly's poofy orange mane, began to pet it, and with false bravado exclaimed: "Don't worry about the bad stallion, a friend of mine took care of him in 10 seconds flat."
"Wow, really?" The filly's eyes were wide with excitement now.
Dash took this opportunity to place the filly on her back and promised to tell the story if she held on tight, and Dash took to the skies, embezzling that story to the best of her abilities.
She had two objectives now: To get this filly into the Bureau's protection, and once she had done that she needed to rendezvous with "Violet Page." It was time Rainbow came clean about everything she had been doing for the past few years, and the purpose for her undercover work in the Crosshearts’ employ. All the things she had witnessed, all the emotional abuse and danger she had put herself and her loved ones in, all the drugs she had transported and ripped off. As if the irony that she was contributing to the drug problem as opposed to ridding the streets of the stuff hadn't done it yet, she had hit her breaking point tonight after reading that note and seeing that now orphaned filly, orders be damned she was doing this with or without higher ups’ approval.
Chapter 5 end.
Act I: Re-introductions Complete
Footnote: *Modus Operandi-- Mode of operations