The night wind tried one last time to snatch her ponytail, but she kept a tight grip on it as she stuffed it under her black hood. The skin tight leather snapped against her ears, and she brought the mask down over her eyes while bringing her collar up over her mouth, leaving only her nose exposed.
She stood and felt the leather rub her in all the right places. She raised her arms up, proudly sticking her chest out before bending backwards and touching her palms against her heels. “Oh, that feels good.” Her collar doubled as a muffler.
A light hiss sounded next to her, and she lifted her legs over her body before bringing them down behind her and settling on her stomach. “Is someone ready for the big heist?” the woman said in a babying voice.
A black snake with white stripes slithered across the rooftop, stopping in front of the woman’s face and flicking its tongue at her exposed nose.
“That’s my Jörmungandr. So eager to help mama. Well then, let’s get this show on the road.” She rolled onto her back and jumped up onto her heels. Utility belt wrapped around her waist and laptop bag over her shoulder, she strutted over to the domed skylight. Jörmungandr quietly trailed behind her, gently rocking his body side-to-side.
“Alarm is already disabled,” she said, patting her laptop. “Wasn’t even a challenge. We’ve had a harder time stealing from babies.” She lifted a panel of glass and looked down into the Canterlot Art and History Museum. Shadows consumed most of the blue velvet carpet, driven away only by the spotlights surrounding each exhibit.
Jörmungandr slid up his master’s back and coiled his five foot body gently around her neck. The black clad woman removed a grappling hook from her belt and attached the claw to the metal frame, then slowly lowered herself into the building.
She landed in shadows, just outside the range of one security camera. With a click of a button, she recalled her grappling hook, then slunk across the floor with measured and precise steps. Her eyes browsed over the displays of Canterlot’s History. Old wagons, pottery vases, muskets, and oil paintings of mayors past.
Silence covered her, a cool blanket that masked her every movement. A sound brushed against her ear, and she instinctively dove for cover, choosing a small alcove behind a porcelain vase. It was quite nice, catching a gleam even without direct light. But, the thief was here for one thing, and one thing only.
A security guard walked past her hiding spot, flashlight in hand, eyes forward. The thief frowned even as he walked away. He wasn’t supposed to show up in this room for another six minutes.
Waiting precisely twenty seconds, she got up and moved on. She’d deal with him later if need be, but first, the cameras. She made it to the end of the western exhibit hall, having to make two more unexpected stops in the process.
There wasn’t this much security during my stakeouts, she thought, lip curling under her mask. She was going to have to leave a bit of a scene if she wanted to escape with her prize. Oh well. I do love it when they know who to blame when things go missing.
She grinned. Because, try as you might, you’ll never catch the Snake Queen Lamia!
Lamia zigzagged across the tiled floor of the decoart exhibits, avoiding the spots she knew the cameras were zoomed in on. At the back wall, Lamia reached up and pressed her hands against it with all her might until the sticky adhesive came to the surface of her gloves. When she tried to pull away, she felt a steady resistance and pulled herself up, bracing her knees against the wall. She climbed quickly, her hands making soft, squelching noises each time she moved. An air vent waited for her at the top. She switched the latch, opening the grates as wide as they could go.
“Go on, Jorgey, you know what to do.”
The snake flicked his tongue, then slid off her shoulders and into the vent. Lamia dropped down and waited behind a curtain, watching another security officer walk by. This was always the moment of truth: whether Jörmungandr could make it to the security room, and whether or not he could subdue any guards inside.
Two minutes passed, and she heard a soft hiss come from above her. Lamia stood and smiled. Seventy-four thefts, and Jörmungandr hadn’t let her down once. She cartwheeled across the room, freely enjoying the open movement. She reached the door to the security room and picked it with ease. Inside, three guards lay on the floor, their eyes glazed over and their muscles tense beneath their uniforms.
Lamia tutted and nudged one of them with her boot. “Were the big, bad policemen overpowered by a wittle snake?” There were only supposed to be two. Still, Jörmangandr proved to be her greatest asset. She kneeled down and reached into their pockets, swiping a total of eighty dollars from their wallets. Next, she reached into her belt and pulled out three vials, slipping them into their breast pockets.
While she wasn’t above killing, Lamia wanted to be remembered as a thief, not a murderer. As such, she always left an antidote for Jörmungandr’s neurotoxin. Said snake lowered himself down from the vents and coiled himself around Lamia’s neck again. She scratched him under the chin and cooed, “You’re such a good boy, Jorgey. They didn’t hurt you, did they?”
“Good. Mama’s proud of you.” She looked at the large monitor in front of her, split into twelve smaller screens, each showing a different part of the museum. Lamia squatted down in front of the control panel and pulled her laptop and a USB cable from her bag. While her laptop booted up, she connected it to the computer. When the startup initialized, she opened one of the files littering the screen and ran her fingers over the keyboard. A loading bar popped up in the corner, taking only seconds to fill in.
“You guys should really invest in better security. You never know what might slither in.” She looked back at the monitors, watching the images flicker out for a moment before settling in again. To the untrained eye, everything appeared normal, especially with the timestamp still running. Lamia, however, knew it was all an illusion: the same ten second loop playing over and over again and being recorded into the security history.
Her work done, she packed up her laptop and walked out, making sure none of the remaining security guards were around. The priceless artifact collection was a quick jaunt away. Without the cameras, Lamia found outmaneuvering the roving guards much easier. Not that it had been particularly hard in the first place.
She rounded the corner and grinned, her hungry eyes falling on her long-awaited reward. Centered in the middle of the hall with surrounding gems to compliment it was the Crystal Heart. A single spotlight illuminated it from above, making its blue surface gleam with an otherwordly light. It was big enough that Lamia would need both hands to cradle it.
“Beach house in Greece, here we come.”
Jörmungandr bobbed his head in agreement.
Lamia crept closer, her reflection appearing in the glass case around the Heart. Lift, swipe, and run. She was on the homestretch now.
From the hall to her left, voices floated in, tearing through her blanket of silence. She hissed under her breath and retreated behind a pillar. “Jorgey, get ready to sick. My patience with this patrol is running thin.”
However, it wasn’t just an officer that walked in. Two figures flanked him, also dressed in black with theater masks covering their faces. The one on the left wore the white, happy mask. A black, sad mask decorated the figure on the right.
“Good job,” the sad mask said, a gruff, feminine voice coming from beneath. “Now, make sure to delete any footage of us off the cameras. And when you wake up in the morning, you’ll say you don’t remember anything.”
The guard nodded absentmindedly and walked out, stumbling a bit as he left. The sad girl doubled over and took a deep breath. “Crap, that took a lot out of me.”
The happy mask put a hand on the other girl’s back. “Are you okay, Aria?” The voice reminded Lamia of a valley girl, and she could already tell, that one was not the brains of whatever was going on.
The sad girl, Aria, waved her off. “I’m fine, just give me a sec.” She straightened up and took another breath, then smacked her partner over the head. “You could have helped.”
“You told me not to,” the girl whined.
“Whatever. Let’s just get the Heart and go home.”
The happy mask cocked her head to the side. “I still don’t get it. Why didn’t we just, like, ask the people to give it to us? Why did we have to be all sneaky about it?”
Aria held a hand to her mask. “Because, you dunce, then we’d have to explain why the museum gave it to us to the police, then to the city, and literally everyone else who asks. It’d be a waste of energy to keep manipulating everyone into just accepting it. This way’s easier.”
“But, like, it’s not gonna matter in the long run, right?”
“Yeah, but it’s annoying in the short run. Sonata, just let me and Adagio do all the thinking. It’s not your strong suit.”
“Ha! I don’t even wear suits.”
Lamia rested her head against the pillar. Well, I was right about the ditz. Still, she had no idea what they were talking about, only that they were after her prize. Well, if she had to leave two more paralyzed bodies on the ground, then so be it! The Crystal Heart belonged to her!
She lowered her arm, allowing Jörmungandr to slide down. “Sick.”
He weaved around the pillar and hissed on approach. Sonata let out a loud, “Eeeep!”
Aria punched her in the shoulder. “Shut up! It’s just a snake.”
Jörmungandr lunged at Aria’s ankle, fangs extended from his wide mouth. With surprising deftness, she stepped diagonally, moving like it was a choreographed dance move. Jörmungandr twisted and struck again, and Aria jumped out of the way, spinning her foot back to kick the snake across the room.
“Okay, as cool as that is, why the hell is there a snake here?” Aria asked.
“Maybe it’s a secret agent,” Sonata offered.
There was a soft thud as Aria facepalmed her mask. Lamia counted on a scathing retort to follow, but approaching footsteps cut the conversation short. From the same hall the two jokers had entered from, another security officer came running in.
“What the—how did you get in here?”
Jöormungandr reacted before either of them could move. He whipped around and struck like a whip, sinking his teeth into the guards ankle. The guard gasped in pain and tried to shake Jörmungandr off, his movements becoming more sluggish with each kick. The snake let go and slithered back, but the damage had already been done.
The guard fell over, twitching and spasming as his muscles locked up. He managed a few gurgles before he fell onto his back, his arms freezing by his sides.
The cool silence returned for a brief moment before Aria ruined it. “Okay, that was pretty wicked.”
Lamia pressed a hand to her forehead. Of all nights. She pushed off the pillar and stepped around it, hands on her hips as she strutted forward. “Past your bedtimes, isn’t it, kiddies? Does mommy know you’re out this late?”
“Jokes on you!” Sonata said. “We don’t have a mom!”
Aria, still eyeing the snake, sighed deeply. “Just… stop talking.” To Lamia, she said, “Who are you and what do you want?”
“Who I am is none of your business. What I want, however, is that Crystal Heart.”
Sonata put her hands on her hips and leaned forward. “Well, too bad! Finder’s keepers, loser’s weepers, and we found it first!”
“Listen, kid, it’s a bad idea to cross me. Just ask that poor man on the ground.” Lamia pointed to the downed officer. “I’m not afraid to add your bodies to the pile.”
“Tough talk for someone who’s outnumbered and outmatched,” Aria said smoothly. She snapped her fingers. “You know what to do.”
A pause. Then Sonata asked, “I do?”
“... Sing , you halfwit!” Aria hissed.
“Oh, yeah, duh!” She clutched her hands in front of her chest. “Aaah aaah ah. Aaah ah…”
Every instinct tempered by years of experience told Lamia that whatever was happening was wrong. Yet the soft melody that floated out from under the happy white mask sang to her a song of tranquility. Her muscles loosened up and her eyes started to droop.
Do I really need the Crystal Heart? These girls seem nice; I should just let them take it.
“Aaah aaah ah. Aaah—eeeeeep!” Sonata barely evaded a strike from Jörmungandr, falling on her back and rolling away as the snake struck again.
The haze around Lamia instantly dispersed, leaving her with an itch inside her skull, and several questions as to what just happened. Questions she would ask later. She had had enough of whatever freaky voodoo was going on around here.
With Aria helping to fend off Jörmungandr, no one stood between Lamia and the Heart. Approaching the glass, she threw prudence to the wind, the night’s operation having already been butchered, and grabbed the sides of the case. With a mighty heave, she flipped it back, sending it crashing to the ground.
“Hey,” one of the girls shouted. Lamia couldn’t tell which, nor did she care. She grabbed the Crystal Heart, feeling its hefty weight.
The sad mask girl jumped over Jörmungandr and charged. Her speed was impressive, Lamia gave her that, and she gave no tell of how she intended to strike.
Lamia heaved the Heart straight into the air. She blocked a low punch from Aria with the back of her arm and a high kick with her other. Lamia pushed both Aria’s arms back, then raised her right leg high while Aria regained her balance. Lamia brought her boot across Aria’s face, then quickly brought it back across, sending her spiraling to the floor. She put her hands out and caught the Crystal Heart as it fell.
“Well, this has been fun,” Lamia said, “but we really must be going now.”
Sonata flew at her, left fist drawn back. As she brought it forward, Lamia held the Heart up. She heard a satisfying thwack from the other side, and a loud whimper of pain. Sonata buckled to her knees and held her hand to her chest.
With a smirk of satisfaction, Lamia turned to leave. Something yanked on her ankle as she stepped forward, and she fell to the ground, the Crystal Heart slipping out of her grasp skidding across the floor. Aria clambered over Lamia trying to reach it, but Lamia struck out and took her back down to the ground while Jörmungandr slithered around both of them and coiled himself around the heart.
Aria twisted out of Lamia’s grasp, and both girls got to their feet. Lamia made the first move, striking high with her left hand. Aria ducked out the way and punched with her left, only to be blocked and pushed back by Lamia’s arm. Lamia brought her leg up again to kick Aria’s already crooked mask, but Aria was wise enough to duck this time. With Lamia’s leg still raised, Aria jabbed forward into Lamia’s gut and sent her to the floor.
“Get up, scatterbrain!” Aria shouted to Sonata.
“But it huuuuuurts!” she said, rocking back and forth, hand clutched tight to her chest.
Lamia flipped up to her feet and struck her palm out for Aria’s chest. Aria grabbed Lamia’s arm and threw a punch for her head. With her wild flexibility, Lamia bent backwards, forcing Aria to overextend. Lamia then dropped to her back, bringing her knees up as Aria came down. Aria wheezed at the impact to her gut. Lamia followed up and tossed Aria overhead before hopping up again.
Just in time to see happy mask Sonata rush her again with surprisingly fast punches. Lamia kept up with blocking each of them, noticing Sonata favored her right hand. She waited for Sonata to hit with her left again and took the blow to her shoulder. When Sonata recoiled, Lamia broke into her guard and made a two-fingered jab at her right shoulder, then followed it up with a full jab to Sonata’s stomach and a palm strike to the chest.
“Oooowwwww,” Sonata moaned from the ground. “My arm feels funny.”
“Freeze!” two voices yelled. Lamia uttered a stream of curses as two well-dressed officers ran in from the hall on her left, guns drawn. From the right, two more museum security rushed in, unarmed but putting Lamia into a pin.
“So, the tip we got was right,” the blonde female officer said. By the lines on her face, Lamia guessed she had never had a day of fun in her life. Her strapping male partner, however, looked like he might know how to have a good time. He had shaggy blue hair, charming purple eyes, and looked quite handsome in his suit.
Not now, Lamia chided herself. She had to find a way out of this crappy situation first. Jörmangandr kept himself curled around the heart. The handsome detective notice and pointed his gun at the snake. The other woman kept her gun on Lamia.
“Well,” she said stepping forward slowly. “I know who you are, Lamia. I didn’t know you operated with accomplices.”
“They’re not with me,” Lamia said coldly. “In fact, do me a favor and arrest them first.”
“Aaah aaah ah, aaah ah. Aaah aaah ah, aaah ah.”
Lamia’s muscles relaxed again and the tranquil calm washed over her. Something wasn’t right… but why did she care? The music sounded so pretty. Through a green haze, she could see the officers lowering their weapons. The two girls eased their way toward Jörmangandr, who snapped at them, coming dangerously close to Aria’s ankle.
The singing stopped and the haze cleared away. Everyone save for the two girls looked confused, but Lamia got her bearings first. She reached into her utility belt and flung a throwing knife at the blue haired officer while she charged the blonde one. The knife hit his hand knocking his gun away.
Lamia roundhouse kicked the remaining officer, knocking her off balance. She jabbed her in the solar plexus with two fingers then again in the sternum and sent her to the floor, then spun and blocked her head from the other detective’s second attack. On the other side of the room, Aria and Sonata fought off the museum guards, Sonata fighting with only one working arm.
As Lamia defended herself from his attacks, she caught sight of the name on the officer’s badge. Shining Armor. She smirked. “It’s too bad you’re a cop,” she said with a sultry purr. She ducked under his swing. “You could be my knight any day.”
Shining took a step back and raised his arms to block Lamia’s side kick. “Sorry, I’m happily engaged.”
Lamia pouted. “You’re no fun.” She dove to the side and scooped up Shining’s gun. He froze and held his hands up when she pointed it at him. “Sorry, officer, but I’m leaving with this heart.” She took two steps back.
A rough hand clawed into the side of her face, and another one grabbed her arm at the joint, forcing it down. With her unobstructed eye, Lamia could see the remaining security on the floor, while Sonata tried to fight Shining Armor.
Under Aria’s tight grip, Lamia dropped the gun, but drove her other elbow into her attacker’s gut multiple times. “Piss off already!” She threw herself to the ground, crushing Aria with all her weight. Using her momentum, she threw her legs up and back into the air and performed a backflip, freeing herself from Aria’s grasp. Unfortunately, she didn’t get out of it unscathed.
A quick breeze brushed over Lamia’s left eye, and a bang came undone from her ponytail and fell over her face. She jerked a hand up, finding only part of her mask had been torn, but it was enough to turn her blood to magma. She turned to Aria, still lying on the ground with the black fabric in hand.
Lamia marched over, her exposed eye wide with fury. “You meddling piece of s—”
“Aaaiiie!” Sonata skidded across the floor, mask askew but still covering her face. Shining reached for his partner’s gun, but Lamia threw another knife, knocking the weapon away. She kicked Aria in the side as hard as she could for good measure, then finally turned back and grabbed the Crystal Heart and her snake.
She didn’t spare them a hateful glance as she ran down the hall, shoving the heart into her laptop bag. Footsteps echoed behind her. Without looking back, she knew Armor had followed. She made a sharp turn around a corner and pressed herself against the wall. The second Shining came into her line of sight, Lamia shouted, “Sick!”
Jörmangandr struck him in the shoulder, lightning fast. Shining cried out in pain before falling silent thanks to Lamia’s boot in his gut. He fell to the floor, going still as the neurotoxin raged through his body.
Lamia dropped another vial next to him. “This is only because you’re cute,” she said softly, keeping her face in the shadows. “See you never.” She bolted for the nearest window, throwing herself through the glass and onto the pavement.
A block away from the museum, she pulled her grappling hook out and fired at a low rooftop, propelling herself up and vaulting over the edge. She took a breath of victory, then spat in disgust. “Those brats turned this into a freakin’ disaster.” She felt the torn part of her mask and growled. “Better find a place to lay low.” She patted Jörmungandr on the head. “At least we got our prize, right, baby?”
Aria leaned against the alley wall and ripped her mask off, greedily sucking down air. Sonata collapsed next to her, moaning and clutching her arm. Aria ignored her. The image of the thief running away with the Heart in her hands blinded her everytime she closed her eyes. She sank to the floor, letting out a groan as she did. Everything hurt, most notably her head and sides. Now that she was down, standing up would prove to be a struggle. Next to her, Sonata attempted to try, feebly propping herself up before resting against the wall.
“I can’t feel my arm. Is that normal?” she asked, her mask in Aria’s direction.
Anger provided a great muffler to Sonata’s asinine questions. Aria’s patience to deal with her sister’s stupidity had reached its limits for the night. This was supposed to be easy! Aria clenched her teeth until her jaw ached. We were supposed to walk in, take the Heart, and walk out! That snake loving bitch ruined everything! It was right in front of us and it got away again!
“Adagio’s going to be mad, isn’t she?”
“Shut up, Sonata!” Aria snapped, putting as much vice into her words with what little energy she had left. It worked as intended. Sonata curled in on herself, knowing that Aria was not in the mood for one of their back and forths.
In fact, Aria realized she might have used too much vice when she heard Sonata sniffle. With a roll of her eyes, Aria lifted a hand and pat Sonata on the head. While she loved knocking her sister down, Aria couldn’t stand it when Sonata blubbered like a baby.
“Stop crying,” she said, keeping the edge to her voice. “I’m sorry, all right? Didn’t mean to snap at you like that.” She forced herself up, muscles yelling in protest. When she got steady on her feet, she held a hand down. “Come on. Can you stand?”
Sonata quickly lifted her mask to rub her eyes, then dropped it and held her good hand out. “But, Adagio’s still going to be mad, right? We didn’t get the heart thingy. And we don’t even know who took it.”
As dumb as she was, Sonata had a point. Despite the beating they had taken, Adagio wouldn’t be above punishing them further for failing to return with the Crystal Heart. Aria couldn’t entirely blame her. It wouldn’t make coming home any easier though.
She looked at the skyline, wondering where the thief was now. “You’re right. We don’t know who took it.” The gears in her mind started to turn. Adagio wasn’t the only one who could come up with a plan. “But I might know how we can find it.”
When she looked in Sonata’s direction, she could feel the blank stare from beneath the happy mask. Aria facepalmed and sighed. “Just follow my lead, stupid.”