The Unicorn and the Cat
"I'm so sorry, Miss Rarity, but I've tried. She won't see you. Please don't be mad."
Fluttershy lingered in the hallway to converse with the stylish younger mare who had attempted to enlist her assistance. Rarity--a member of the board of Rainbow Enterprises--was probably the most attractive business executive Fluttershy had met in her years of service. Enormous purple curls slid down the back of her neck and rested on her pearl-white coat. Her deep blue eyes shone with an intelligence and determination that felt almost overpowering to Fluttershy.
"It's important, Fluttershy," she insisted. Her voice held an accent that Fluttershy could not exactly place, despite her years of travel across Equestria.
"Ms. Dash is as determined as ever to ignore important subjects as trivial ones," she replied sadly, and added, "I'm sorry, again," under her breath.
"Don't be, Miss Shy."
The chuckle that accompanied the remark came from Filthy Rich, who had strode into the mares' conversation with a smug look on his rugged and weathered face. The business tycoon, who was one of the leading business owners in Ponyville, had his iconic tie on and his shockingly black hair (Fluttershy was sure it was a wig) slicked back. His attention shifted to Rarity.
"Don't take it personally, Rarity," he told her. "Everypony in town knows Dash is up there with overgrown fetlocks, peeing into her own collection of vases." He chuckled at his own line, then turned back to Fluttershy, adding, "Fluttershy...it's good to see you still allow me on the grounds."
Fluttershy was not one to dislike another pony. Filthy Rich was one of her few exceptions. Without bothering to hide her distaste, she said, "The Soarin' Act is about Ponyville. Even you, Mr. Rich." With that, she turned and left the hallway, bowing politely toward Rarity and adding, "Miss Rarity, always a pleasure."
Halfway down the hallway, she could still hear the two ponies she'd left conversing, and she stopped and turned back to watch them.
"Why do you waste your time," Rich asked Rarity, "when you know that the mare that is hiding somewhere in this maze of a home isn't going to give you back the investment you made on some save-the-world project? He can't get you your money back. But I can."
The unicorn replied coolly.
"I could try explaining that a save-the-world 'vanity' project is worth investing in, whatever the return. I could try that, Filthy, but seeing how you understand only money and the power you think you can buy with it, I wonder, why waste my time indeed." She spun on her hooves and trotted off, head held high. Rich was left glaring menacingly after her, the effect of the use of his first name spreading across his visage.
Fluttershy resisted the urge to giggle. Bravo, Miss Rarity, bravo.
Rainbow Dash had grown up in Rainbow Manor, albeit in a previous incarnation, so she barely noticed the exquisite decor of the drawing room as she limped toward the her dinner. She hated her cane, felt like it made her look like Applejack's late grandmother, but she'd learned to ignore it years before. It didn't matter, as long as she wasn't seen with it.
And she was never seen.
Her face was emotionless and drawn back. Dark purple circles hung around her dulled maroon eyes. Along with the spectrum of color that burst out from her mane, a seventh shade was making itself visible, even to her. A silk blanket was wrapped around her shoulders. The sound of her hoofsteps was made silent by the slippers she wore on her hind legs.
The aroma of the meal awaiting her rose from the silver tray, and she found herself licking her lips. She wondered what Chef Gustav Le Grand had prepared for her tonight? She reached the table and raised a hoof to pull the cover off of the tray, and stopped suddenly.Her eyes scanned the room briefly.
Something was off.
Her gaze stopped on a door that led to the room connected to the balcony she'd previously stepped out onto to hear her friend Twilight's speech. Or, what she'd thought would be her speech.
Looking at the door now, though, she noticed something odd about it: it looked more open that when she'd left it.
Cerise eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"Well well, what have we here?"
The sitting room was gorgeous, and looked even more expensive than the rest of the mansion. The maid resited the urge to snoop around the rest of the room, and instead focused back on the task at hoof.
Don't stay too long, silly filly, she told herself. Don't want to take too long.
A row of photographs, some singed, others ancient, rested on the chest of drawers she was currently crouched by. She stood up and examined them, recognizing the faces of the late Mr. and Mrs. Rainbow Spectrum. They had been brutally murdered when their dear little Dashie had been just a filly. A third photo portrayed a young pegasus, grinning photogenically at the camera while clearly showing off her flank and the Wonderbolt's logo adorned on the spandex suit that covered said flank. The mare's flaming hair made her instantaneously recognizable: she'd been the biggest celebrity athlete around, until the Joker came to town, the people said.
Ms. Spitfire, late Captain of the Wonderbolts, the maid thought. What are you doing here?
She set the photo aside and continued over to what seemed to be a fully equipped indoor archery range. In truth, it was simply the gear present on the table behind her, and a target that was mounted onto a large wooden cabinet. An array of arrows stuck out of the target, all of them centered on or around the bulls-eye. She reached out to take and inspect one of them, curious to see what damage they'd done beyond the target.
The maid jumped back and yelped as a new arrow whizzed by and struck the target, mere millimeters from where her hoof had been reaching out. She spun around and found herself looking at Rainbow Dash, who was setting the compact bow she'd fired the arrow from down. The pegasus hadn't made a noise, and the maid was actually impressed.
No one ever snuck up on her before.
Rainbow Dash took up her cane again and took a step towards the maid.
"I'm...I'm terribly sorry, Ms. Dash," she stuttered, a deep red blush accenting her already pink cheeks. She looked very young, and very embarrassed. "It is Ms. Dash, isn't it?"
Rainbow Dash nodded, and gestured to her mane. "The colors sorta give it away, right?" She smiled reassuringly.
"Well, you don't look like you've got overgrown fetlocks or any...facial...scars..." The maid trailed off mid-sentence. Rainbow Dash didn't recognize the maid, and simply assumed she was a temp. Couldn't resist looking around the coolest spread in Ponyville, I guess.
"So, that's what those Gabby Gums' are saying now, huh?" she asked, still smiling.
The maid shrugged nervously. "It's just that, nopony ever sees you anymore."
Well, I got one thing working for me, Dash thought.
She glanced at the multi-colored necklace laced around the pink mare's slender neck.
"That's a pretty cool necklace," she commented. "It looks just like the one my mother had. Rainbow Pearls, the jeweler called them, found in the lakes above the ground in Cloudsdale. A bunch'a sciency crud, didn't pay attention. 'Course," she said, meandering over to the bureau where the maid had been only a minute ago, "those can't be the same ones. There right here, in my safe-"
She cut off when her cane opened the hidden compartment on the drawer, revealing an all-too-opened safe. It looked like it had been fried from the inside. She turned slowly to the maid, saying as she went:
"-which the safe guy said was uncrackable."
The pink pony in the maid's outfit changed instantly. Her demeanor became more lax, and her nervousness evaporated, replaced by a cool calm and overall bounciness that Rainbow Dash found troublesome. Her form straightened as confidence seemed to pour into her from out of nowhere. She tilted her head innocently, a grin widening on her face.
"Oopsie. I didn't know it was uncrackable. Soooorry!"
Rainbow Dash hid her impressed look and pointed at the necklace.
"I'm gonna have to ask you hand those back over." They had been her father's gift, as an anniversary present. The present his mother gave back was a trip to the opera, where they had been murdered out behind the theater. In a way, the expensive look of the pearls themselves had caused her parents death. One had to keep heirlooms, though, and she gestured for the pink mare to hand them back to her.
She giggled, and stepped towards her, running a hoof across her swirly and equally pink mane and acting as though she didn't care what Dash wanted from her. "Okie dokie lokie," she said, "but first, you gotta play a game. Give it a go?"
She continued without learning of Rainbow's consent. "Okay, so, here are the rules. You, the one with moral standards, gets to watch me trot around your mansion, knowing you wouldn't hit another mare. Me, the pony with all the party pizzazz, gets to walk around without laying a hand on you."
With that, she spun and bucked the cane out of Dash's hooves. The pegasus went down, and kust as her wings reached out to keep her from hitting the floor, the mare's hoof came out of nowhere and struck her in the joint where her wing joing the rest of her body. Rainbow hit the ground hard, and grunted from the sharp, lasting pain in her bad knee that the fall had brought.
"Ding ding! We have a winner, folks! I guess I'll just have to pack up my things and be off!" the maid announced, then vaulted onto the bureau and then the windowsill. Rainbow Dash knew that it was at least a twenty-foot drop down into the hedges below. She heard the thief's final words:
"...with my consolation prize, of course."
Then she flipped out the window and into the night.
Rainbow Dash lay on the floor of the sitting room for a few more moments, knowing it was useless to try and follow the "maid." Not when it was the pearls she'd taken. Finally, the cyan mare rose up and looked over at the broken safe. Her eyes narrowed at the door to it, noticing something off about it.
The mare made her way through the shadowy outskirts of the yard, still moving on her hind legs, and watched the party wind down. Guests began to leave, and she knew it was the perfect time to get a ride out of here.
Perfectly timed, she thought, congratulating herself. As always.
She tore off the white collar, cuffs, and apron that marked her as one of the help. Now wearing a small black dress that accented her slender form and moderate curves, she dropped back down on all fours, adjusting the radiant necklace laced around her neck before stepping out of the shadows into the light of a dozen or so cars attempting to leave the party at the same time.
A valet stepped over to offer her help, and after scanning the crowd of cars for a moment, she found exactly what she wanted. And who she wanted.
Accepting the valet's offer to hold the door for her, the bubble-gum pink pony slid into the sleek black limo she'd chosen, scooting up right next to Fancypants. She looked over at him, relishing the ignorant surprise and (mostly) excitement of seeing her in his car.
That's right, big colt, lap me up like a milkshake.
"Can I have a ride?" she purred, never breaking her coy undertone.
Fancypants grinned and set his drink (he'd lost count after ginger schnapps) aside, giving his attention to the extremely attractive mare sitting next to him.
"You read my mind," he answered, and with that, the limo pulled out of the driveway and drove down into the city.
Fluttershy found Rainbow Dash hunched over a broken safe, rubbing her hooves against its surface gently. The pegasus was cautious about asking what her employer was doing, and instead coughed to get her attention. When she didn;t appear to, she simply began talking anyway.
"Miss Rarity was asking to speak with you again."
"Hmm," replied Rainbow, still absorbed in the task of whatever-she-was-doing at the safe. "Persistent."
"And very lovely," Fluttershy added. She blushed a little, and added, "You know, if you were wondering."
"I wasn't," Dash answered, without looking up from the safe.
Fluttershy sighed, reminded herself to apologize to Rarity later, and focused her attention on her employer's new obsession.
"Something the matter, miss?"
"We've been robbed," Dash stated flatly. "I'm examining print dust." The laid-back voice she always used in public was gone, replaced by the cold, intelligent one that only Fluttershy and a select few were allowed to hear.
"WHAT!?" Fluttershy's eyes widened, the pupils shrunken down to mere dots, and she began looking around the room frantically, as if the thief was still in there waiting for her to lower her guard. Through her mind played images of all the horrible things the thief could have done while she had been ordering around the other staff: he could have taken millions of bits worth of antiques, or broken them (Filthy Rich came to mind when she thought this), or he could have lit the manor on fire (again), or he could even have murdered Mistress Dash!
Her wings began buzzing as her breathing deepened, and Rainbow Dash finally drew her attention away from the safe. "Calm, Fluttershy," she said, raising a hoof and putting it on her butler's shoulder. "All she took were the pearls. And the tracking device that comes with them." She turned back to the safe.
Fluttershy sighed. The pearls. That's all. She heard herself think these words and immediately regretted them. The pearls that had once belonged to Rainbow Shimmer, Dash's beloved mother, were one of the most valuable items in the manor. To Rainbow Dash, at least. If anything happened to them...
At least we have the tracking device, she thought, then realized something else.
Dash nodded, still examining the black powder that Fluttershy now noticed was sprinkled on the front of the safe. "She. It was one of the maids. I suggest you stop letting them in this side of the house." She glanced up briefly at Fluttershy, giving her a wry look.
The yellow mare glanced back, her eyes beading with irritation. "Then perhaps you should learn to make your own bed," he suggested. Her cheeks darkened again, and she covered her mouth in shock at her own words. "I'm sorry, Mistress Dash", she muttered, and regained her composure slowly. She bent over Dash's shoulder to look more closely at the safe. "Why are you dusting for hoofprints, then?"
Dash's reply sent her into another worry-fit. "I wasn't. She was."