by SpiralWriter

VIII - It Came With Packages, Boxes, and Bags


By: Quisky


Chapter Eight:

It Came With Packages, Boxes, and Bags

"This the place?"

"Definitely. You can just smell the sleaze and greed in the air."

". . . I thought that was general smell of the city?"

"Oh, it is, but much more concentrated here."

"You seem very proud of that." I remarked towards Goldguard, who only shrugged back to me as a reply. With the map we had garnered from the ever-so kind shopkeep of the streets, we had stumbled upon the very business my investigation was to begin with. It was, in all honesty, just a really big warehouse down by the docks with the fanciest sign splayed on the front. The title of the establishment, 'Boxes and Bags Shipping', was pretty noticeable, but the big part of the lettering was displayed in boldly and in a much larger text size. 'A Subsidiary of Flim and Flam Incorporated'. Looks like those two didn't spare any modesty here.

This area of the city wasn't nearly as loud as the main heart of it, but it did retain some kind of busy aspect. Down by the docks one could make out pony sailors scurrying about on the decks of the ported ships, while in the distance factories released steam and grey smoke from their towers into the atmosphere. That looked absolutely healthy for the environment.

Legion stepped forward to join us after examining a nearby garbage can, apparently the remains of thrown away lunch and rotted fruit was appealing to him. His nose wiggled, sniffing the remnants of scent in the air before saying his own piece.

"We do not smell any 'sleaze' or 'greed', as you say Goldguard."

"I can." I interrupted.

". . . But we can smell the layer of smog hovering over the city from factories and several distinct chemicals that are harmful to ponykind."

"Gotta love Manehattan!" Goldguard chuckled, taking in a big whiff of air, only to cough out loudly. I rolled my dual-hued eyes at both of them before stepping forward, opening the entrance door to the facility and stepping inside, having to duck my head seeing as how the ceiling suddenly took a long drop to accommodate for pony-stature only. Legion seemed pretty okay with it, seeing as how he was low to the ground on all fours anyway.

We now found ourselves in a small reception room, complete with uncomfortable plastic chairs, a table lined with magazines nobody wants to read, and a small female earth pony of a cream color sitting at the receptionist desk, too busy delving into her own book to notice that we had entered. Behind her was a door that probably lead into the main part of the warehouse.

Goldguard nudged me forward, and I coughed, adjusting the tight armor around the base of my neck. I approached the desk, coughing a little louder so that she would hear me. No dice, not even a glance upwards. It better well damn be an insightful page-turner for her to be so enthused with it. I coughed again, and again, and again.

With that getting me nowhere, I noticed a little bell on the side of the desk with a neat little sign in front of it. 'Ring for service' it politely stated. I lightly tapped the top of it, the small bell releasing a ding that resounded through the tiny room. No immediate response, so I went with the only logical course: Repeatedly smash the bell until someone tells me to stop.


". . ."

". . ."

"I broke it."

"You did." The receptionist looked up from her book with an annoyed glare, setting her book down and turning her attention to the three strangers in the room. She didn't look very happy. "How may I help you?" She asked, each word dangerously laced with explosives that could go off at any minute. maybe I should've been patient and just waited.

"Um . . . yes." I coughed again, this time more out of nervousness than anything else. "We are here on behalf of Princess Twilight Sparkle. Your employer, Stock Smith, has information regarding an important investigation we are conducting. When might we be able to see him?"

Fuckin' nailed it with being proper and businesslike.

Her steady gaze of annoyance never left despite my proper conduct of words. "Right through that door, probably on the shipping floor. Watch out for falling crates, we tend to get a couple of our workers squished every now and then."

"Thank you for your time . . . and sorry about the bell." I nodded at her as I stepped over to the door, the three of us going through before those explosives of hers could go off. God have mercy on whoever trifles with one who has been reading and disturbs them.

"Real smooth with the bell and everything." Goldguard commented. "No, really, ringing it more than one time until it breaks really put our investigation off to a good start."

"Stow it before I feed you to Legion." I grumbled in reply, looking around for whoever this 'Stock Smith' was. The warehouse was big, as most were. Crates and shelves holding smaller crates were stacked to the ceiling, ponies running about doing various tasks, larger earth ponies carrying the crates to and fro, pegasi flying overhead with clipboards, taking stock of what they had and where it was going.

I tapped on pony on the shoulder, and when he turned to me, it was the familiar 'What the everloving fuck are you' stare.

"Excuse me, you wouldn't happen to know where the shipping floor is, would you?"

He nodded in the general direction, down a narrow walkway to a much more wider area in the back. I gave him a quick smile and a nod of my own before we headed off there. We found Stock himself bellowing orders to whoever passed his way. He was a portly fellow of earth pony origin, light brown with obviously a shipping crate as his cute mark. He wore a little bowler's hat that covered his mane, and he seemed rather . . . sweaty.

"Err . . . Stock Smith?" I inquired, stepping towards him slightly, but not too closely. I didn't want any of his sweatjuice flying onto me.

He turned around, chubby face screwed into an expression of confusion. "And you are . . . ?" He had a voice one would expect from him, upper-class, but slow and deep to match his body.

"Oddjob. This is Goldguard and Legion," I pointed at the two beside me. "We're here on behalf of Princess-"

"Oh thank goodness! I thought you would never come!" He bellowed in relief, sighing a great deal. Still his sweating did not go down. It wasn't even that hot in here! Well . . . not to me, anyways. I wondered how my warmblooded friends were faring?

"You seem very . . . excited about helping us." Goldguard mused. "Glad to finally see some civilian cooperation."

"Helping you?" Stock Smith said curiously. "But . . . aren't you help I requested from the castle to aid me with my problem?"

"Um . . . nope." I said bluntly. "We're here to ask you about certain occurences relating to an investigation beset by the princesses."

"Oh . . . oh yes, I did get a memo about that today . . . nevermind."

"There's been talk of . . . changelings in the area?"

"Bah, don't believe everything you hear. Some of the night crew said they saw a pack of them, flying in the night sky overhead. I don't believe 'em, it was dark and they were probably drunk, it could've been some pegasi for all we know."

"Can we speak with your night crew? Are they here now?"

"Normally, they are, but I fired them a couple days ago."

Goldguard flinched noticeably. "You . . . fired witnesses that could've helped us?"

"Eh, they were costing me too much money to keep anyway, much cheaper to add extra time to other worker's schedules anyway."

". . ."

"Do you know where they are?"

"I do." He nodded.

". . . Mind telling us where?"

This time, he shook his head, but a smirk crossed his flabby features. "Now that, my friend, comes with a cost. You want something, and I want something. That usually leads to an agreement made between the two parties."

"You're . . . bargaining with us?!" Goldguard snapped. "You're impeding a royal investigation, we could have you sent before the noble court for this."

"But you won't." He shrugged, still smirking. Alrighty then, Stock Smith going on a list of people I don't like.

"It's fairly simple. You do what I want and I tell you where my fired crew normally spends their time. It's a win-win."

"Fine." I said, Goldguard whipping around to shout "What?!" I raised my hand towards him, trying to calm him down, guy took his job pretty seriously. "Goldy, this is my lead, and like you said, I'm in charge. I say we hear what Stock has to say."

"Listen to your strange friend, he seems the most reasonable out of you lot." Stock chuckled deeply. Slowly, Goldguard simmered down to a point where he could contain himself. Once he seemed calm enough, I turned back to the businesspony. "Alright, what to you want?"

"I refer back to the help I've been needing earlier. I sent a request to Canterlot for help, but you know how slow those royal guards are." Ooh, sharp blow right to Goldguard. I inched a little in front of him to keep him from jumping at Stock and making him a pile of fat with cuts and bruises.

"Recently, a certain . . . package was stolen from my warehouse say . . . three nights ago? What was inside is very valuable, to myself, investors, and to my employers."

"Flim and Flam?"

"Exactly. They'll be arriving here any day now to see how this part of their business world is coming along, and they'd be very . . . upset to find that their special package was missing from the inventory."

"You want us to find this package and bring it back." I crossed my arms. "Seems easy enough."

"Oh, it is. I know who stole it and where those ruffians are probably hiding out."

"Then why haven't you alerted the local authorities to do their job?" Goldguard said through gritted teeth.

"The thieves have too many ties in this city. I needed help outside of Manehattan, which just so happened that you came onto my doorstep. What do you say?"

"We'll help. Just give us any information you have on the thieves, and we'll have your package back in no time."

"Ooh, delightful!" He chuckled again, sending a wave rolling down his body. Note to self, always eat healthy and exercise. Maybe. I do enjoy pie every now and then.

"These hooligans normally 'hang', as you younger folks say, around the shadier part of Neigharlem. They're probably camping there right now, ready to move the package at any time."

"Anything else we need to know, or are we good?"

"Just that the thieves are the Talons, but that shouldn't be any problem for ones as heavily armed as yourselves."

I bidded adieu, and we left. Just outside the warehouse, I stopped Goldguard. ". . . Who're the Talons?"

"Talon Company, a mercenary band." He replied with a bit of disgust in his mouth. "Nasty group, just as bad as the King Family you took out years ago."

Great. More criminals.

"Most of their numbers consist of griffons and drakes, so they are to be wary of." Legion added, going back to observing the trash can again.

"And how would you know that? That isn't common civilian knowledge." Goldguard said.

"If you have not noticed, Guardian of Gold, we are not common. The Talon Company have hunted us before for our rarity, we are a prize to be won and sold for quite the bounty."

"Yeesh, looks like we're dealing with some nasty customers here then." I shrugged. "Nothing I haven't faced before." I reached into the pocket of my overcoat and pulled out the map, unfolding it to get a good view of the city. "Now . . . where's Neigharlem?" I gazed at the paper world before I found it. That area of the city had been darkened, a skull sitting beside it and words of wisdom.

Danger, enter at own risk of being shot, stabbed, maimed, or otherwise horribly scarred.