23w, 1dAussie Bronies
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.