Chapter 13: Money
“Good morning everypony, this is Mister New Pegasus welcoming you to another day in the busy New Pegasus, the city that never sleeps! As always, the best records are constantly spinning in this, your favourite station, here to make your everyday life a bit brighter! We’ve been listening to Dino Maretino’s newest hit: ‘A hint of the Desert’! This young buck has a promising future in the music industry, I tell you! If anypony wants to listen to him live, the Clops Casino and Hotel will host his show every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 PM. Don’t miss it!
Now, moving on to some news that should be of our interest… Freedom Field is becoming the stage of a daily dose of soap opera, friends. Ever since the broadcasts of pirate Radio Nowhere started airing, the relationships between the leaders of the gangs in our neighboring township have suffered a constant bombardment. The last report aired by this illegal station spoke of a confirmed infidelity from Saddle Buckmare, who had been allegedly been caught in the act of having sex with two of his hookers. As a responsible and sensible radio station, we don’t give credibility to such gossip, but…
This is Radio Nowhere, is there anypony alive out there? Ahh, we’re on air, and it feels so good! Get ready for your daily dose of Freedom Field gossip, everypony! The news nopony dares to air, we will bring them to you!
Now, where were we? Oh yes, more on the Golden Swallow infidelity scandal, or how people call it, Goldie’s getting Buckmared! Remember how we told you that Saddle Buckmare had been caught with his willy in one of his hookers? Well, he’s done it again! This time, he’s been careful enough to do it inside the comfort of his own Casino, but in the heat of action, he forgot to lock the door! Goldie’s the target of more than one joke in the streets of Freedom Field, and while we’re sorry about her, we can’t help enjoying the show!
Because that’s what it is… a real show! Goldie’s been acting like crazy, and her escalations of rage are close to reaching a legendary level! She’s broken all ties with Saddle Buckmare and his gang… which leaves other doors open!
Doors like the one of the Tesla Bar. Word in the streets says that there is a certain feeling between the ever mysterious Ampera von Ohm and our hero of the day, Saddle Buckmare. There’s still little to say about this fact, but it’s becoming a recurrent tale on the streets, so we’ll keep an eye on it!
This was Radio Nowhere, stay tuned! Back to boring Mister New Pegasus!
Me, boring? I’ll show that bastard… what? On air again? Oh, sorry, we’re doing our utmost to find who this pirate broadcaster is, but we have had no results yet. On to internal news, the Ferratura Murder Case is becoming colder day after day. The NPPD has had no luck with this last round of questionings, and the few available evidences seem to be driving the case into a dead end. Of course, the Ferratura family has shown his anger and repulse for the possibility of the case going cold, but law has its times and methods, folks!
On the outside of the walls, the NER keeps expanding to control all of Neighvada, in accordance to the treaty subscribed between Ambassador Merry Fields of the NER and the members of the City Board. Roads are safer than before, caravaneers travel to New Pegasus at larger rates and the region is prospering. Ambassador Fields has even promised the arrival of worker groups to start rebuilding the local infrastructure! Isn’t that good news?
Speaking of which, that’s all for now. I’ll leave you with another live recording of Dino Maretino at the Clops, this time it’s ‘Ain’t That A Buck In The Head’. Hoping you like it, this humble reporter wishes you a great morning. Remember, this is New Pegasus Radio, and I’m your host, Mister New Pegasus, speaking directly to your souls…”
We were absolutely exhausted, but we finally had Freedom Field in sight. The journey had been long and excruciating, but after all, we were close to our goals. We had arrived at dusk at the Neighvada teleporter booth, shaken and dizzy from the magic trip from one location to the other. After a brief time to put ourselves together, we decided to get a move on. All things considered, the night was a better time to travel through the Wasteland while carrying several saddlebags full of gold.
This was, quite reasonably, the most delicate part of our quest for wealth and glory. Out on the open, we were vulnerable. The heavy load we carried made us slow and easy to surround and attack. Therefore, we went almost paranoid in our way back. We only moved at night, hiding during the day in crags, ruins or wherever we could be less evident. Even when we were on the move, we watched our backs and stuck to any sort of wall that would appear on the way.
Due to all those measures, it took us three days to get back to town, instead of the day and a half we has used to reach the teleporter booth. However, it was better for us to travel safely than to travel fast. Now that the spires of New Pegasus were in sight, we could move by day, since the NER patrols made the surroundings of the city safe. I would have to remind myself to thank Harpsong for her diligent service. We sped up to cover the last stretch along the walls to get to the gate of Freedom Field.
“Farsight,” Nadyr asked “now that I think about it… where are we going to stash the gold?”
“That’s a good question!” Rose remarked. “I guess you’ll have given it a go.”
“Yes, I have.” I nodded. “We’re hiding it at Stuka’s place.”
“At Stuka’s? Can you trust her?” Nadyr was dubious.
“She works for Buckmare!” Rose seemed worried. “Are we going to leave all the gold to a member of one of the gangs?”
“Last time I heard, she was the only one I could fully trust… apart from you two.”
“Can you still trust her, though?”
“Do you have a better suggestion?” I replied. “We don’t have a place of our own, so we will do as I say.”
Nadyr grumbled something I couldn’t understand. I knew that he didn’t like leaving the gold with somepony (or some griffin) that he didn’t know fully; but it was our best option, and he had to be aware of that. We could hide our treasure in an empty building, but there was a risk of it being found by a lucky scavenger. By leaving it at Stuka’s, we minimized the chances of being robbed.
Once we walked into Freedom Field, we found ourselves back in our environment, as it seemed that nothing had changed in town. The goons walked around calmly, speaking to each other as if there were no rivalries between the gangs. Caravaneers and trades made their business in the streets, and little colts and fillies ran around trying to catch a spare cap or two. However, there was a subtle hint of tension in the air. Smiles seemed forced, the goons tried to act naturally but they were in fact ready to unholster their guns; more than usual at least.
“A storm is brewing.” Nadyr had noticed it as well. “One word too much, and bullets will fly.”
“Can this be a result of your radio thing?” Rose asked.
“If it is, we have succeeded.” I smiled smugly. “But let’s not waste our time. Let’s get to Stuka’s.”
We moved quickly and nimbly, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. Three ponies with some extra saddlebags were nothing out of the ordinary in the township, but we didn’t want to attract any unwanted eyes… our load was not the everyday trader junk. I sighed in relief when we got into the apartment building where Stuka had settled her “nest”. Nervously, I knocked at her door. If she wasn’t there, we would have to roam the streets with our valuable cargo.
“Coming…” the voice from the inside made me smile. “Who can it be this early… Farsight!”
Stuka was standing at the door, wearing a worn-out sleeping gown and looking rather dozy, although she almost jumped when she found us knocking. In a reflex move, her wings grabbed me and embraced me as they had done many times before… it felt like home.
“Farsight…” she cooed. “Where have you been? I’ve missed you.”
“Treasure hunting, baby. Treasure hunting.” I mumbled, as feathers almost choked me.
“Oh yeah.” I smiled, as she loosened her grip and I could take a step back. “I guess you already know my companions Nadyr and Rose.”
“Hi!” Rose grinned.
“Ma’am.” Nadyr bowed gently.
“Hi guys!” Stuka waved with a smile. “Yes, I do know them. Tell me, what did you find?”
“Before we show you, I need to ask you for something.” I put a stern face.
“What is it?”
“We need you to store it for us. Of course, you can’t speak about it… because it’s something that can, and will, shift the balance of power in town.”
“How intriguing.” Stuka whispered. “OK, you have my word.”
With a solid clunk, we dropped our saddlebags and began extracting the ingots and piling them in a corner of the room. Stuka’s face showed what I expected from her; that is, utter amazement. I couldn’t help to smile as I watched her ogle at the shiny metal blocks, probably wondering how much they were worth.
“Gold…” she mumbled. “Where did you find it?”
“That shall be our little secret, if you don’t mind.” I smiled at her.
“OK, I understand.” She nodded. “We all need our secrets. What do you want me to do with it?”
“Store it someplace safe. We’ll be grabbing some ingots every now and then, until we can finally move them to a final destination where it’s fully secure. In the end, the only thing you have to do is keep your beak shut about the gold, and it should be enough.”
“I can do that.” Stuka smiled. “You’ll have to buy me something, though.”
“I’ll take you out for dinner, OK?” I winked.
“You have my word.”
“Sorry to interrupt, lovebirds.” Nadyr said, with a frank smile on his face. “What should we do now, Farsight?”
My mind started working at full speed now that we had enough funds to undertake any kind of move. Our standpoint was that we needed to find a suitable candidate for Dee Cleff, to put her back on the center of Freedom Field’s political life. With a swift action, and according to what I had heard on the radio, Goldie’s opposition would be easily crushed. We needed to be careful on our steps, but our goal of forcing a treaty between the NER and Freedom Field was at our hooves’ reach.
“Grab five or six of the ingots and follow me, Nadyr.”
“What should I do?” Rose asked, eager.
“Hmm… I think the best thing you can do is go out there and see how things are going. The radio speaks about a rupture between Goldie and Saddle, but I want to know if it’s true. I wonder if Hertzian’s taken his job a bit too seriously and is spreading blatant lies out to the waves.”
“Consider it done!” Rose darted out of the room.
“Err, Farsight…” Stuka said, carefully. “That end is right. Saddle and Goldie have effectively broken up. However, she’s constantly trying to rebuild the bridges between them.”
I grinned when I pictured Goldie’s situation. Devoid of her alliance with the Buckmares, all her power, both military and mediatic, had turned to nothing. Now she was desperate to get back to the prior status quo, because the threat of being displaced by other leaders, such as Ampera or Dee, was very real.
“Thanks for letting me know, Stuka.” I kissed her gently on the beak. “Where would I be without you?”
“Come on, get lost.” Stuka laughed.
“We’ll be back!” I greeted the griffin and we left the apartment, ready to shake the foundations of Freedom Field.
Back on the street, Nadyr and I set our steps towards the Music School, hoping to meet Dee Cleff. There, we could put things on the move. We kept needing a suitable candidate, but I had an idea brewing in my mind…
“Nadyr,” I asked, “what do you think about Dee?”
“Haven’t you asked this question before?”
“I might, but that’s not the point right now. What’s your opinion on her?”
“In which sense?”
“Let me rephrase the question… If I told you that you could be the top pony in town, what would be the answer?”
“Top pony? You won’t be meaning what you’re meaning…”
“I mean what I mean.” I didn’t want to put it bluntly, but I saw no other way. “Listen, we need to arrange a marriage between Dee Cleff and a suitable stallion to show her as the leader Freedom Field needs. You’re the suitable stallion.”
“Me? You’re joking.”
“No I’m not. You’re rich, you’re young, you’re healthy, and you know when to keep your muzzle shut and let others get the spotlight. You’re the buck Dee needs.”
“A little bold of you, to ask me this, don’t you think?”
“I have to be bold. Think about it, Nadyr! You’d be treated as a king! Money would never be a problem, and you would get to shag a beautiful mare every night!”
Nadyr didn’t answer immediately, as he was considering my proposal. I knew it was a tough decision to make, but I had the hope that he would accept it.
“It sounds good, I must admit that… What would you get from it?”
“That question is pointless.”
“Come on, Farsight. You’re no charity association. If you do something, it’s because you’re getting a profit out of it. What are you expecting to obtain from this?”
“It’s a long shot, but here goes. The NER forced me to break the stalemate among factions in order to enforce a treaty between the Republic and Freedom Field. I got the treaty, and Dee is more than willing to sign it. However, some other factions, such as the Buckmares and the Followers, oppose it. In order to get things sorted out, we need Dee and her Stringers to be back on the lead when it comes to popular favor.”
“And when do I come in exactly?”
“To get popular favor, we needed two things: to erode Goldie’s status of a reliable, street-level hero, which has been sorted out thanks to Radio Nowhere; and to bring Dee back to everypony’s daily life. A wedding with a good candidate, properly shown off, would be the best way to do that. With the Stringers back as the leading faction, Dee would be able to enforce the treaty with Freedom Field and I would set things straight with the NER. That, and some of our precious gold should buy us our way into New Pegasus.”
“So that’s what you’re after.” Nadyr grinned. “I should have known. Anyway, I like the idea of being somepony important, but not having the responsibility of taking tough decisions. Count me in!”
“That’s the spirit, Celestia-dammit!” I roared in joy. “Let’s go!”
I felt really happy at the moment, relieved of the stress that had been following me since I got out of the Stable. Soon enough, all what I had strived for would finally come together and I would be a citizen of New Pegasus once again, as I should have been from the very beginning.
*** *** ***
The ever so familiar chime of the bell welcomed us to the Music School. Things kept being business as usual, or so it looked: foals and fillies queued in the lobby, waiting for their lesson time to come, while music flowed out of the teaching Hall, sometimes better, sometimes worse. The ring-shaped counter in the middle of the room was still there, still neat and tidy, still with a young mare behind it, filing an endless stream of papers. I was beginning to think that she only moved the papers from one side to another, but hey, who was I to judge?
Truth was we two felt alien and out of place in the School. We always had, but the distance and the time away from Freedom Field had made me notice it more clearly. Two Wastelanders were definitely not the target audience of the classy teachers of the establishment. To everypony’s eyes, we were there to attend other matters. It didn’t worry us all that much, though, it was just funny to see two grizzled stallions clad in armour standing in the middle of a well-furnished room, surrounded by colts and fillies brandishing their instruments.
I took a step forward and leaned myself in the counter, smiling calmly at the young mare behind it. She smiled back at me and left the papers aside, while she waited for me to state my business.
“Hi there, sweetheart.” I winked. “We’re here to speak with Miss Cleff.”
“Did you have an appointment?”
“No, we don’t; but you should tell her Farsight’s back, and that he wants to speak with her as soon as possible.”
“She’s very busy.”
“I don’t doubt that, but please, let her know we’re here. I’m pretty sure she’ll find a way of freeing up her agenda.”
“Fine, sir. Please wait.” The mare headed to the intercom and pressed a button. “Miss Cleff, sorry to interrupt you, but there’s a certain Farsight here, willing to speak to you… yes. Yes. I understand. Of course, right away.”
The mare left the intercom and returned to me with a kind smile.
“Miss Cleff will be meeting you shortly. Please head to the third room to the left, in the first floor.”
“Thanks, dear. I knew that she would listen to us.”
I made a sign to Nadyr, telling him to follow me; and we trotted our way upstairs, to where the meeting would take place. I hadn’t been to that room, and I felt frankly amazed at how large the building actually was. It did seem like the place to rule a city from, but I was going too fast. First we needed to get my striped companion married and the treaty signed. The mentioned door was open, and we found ourselves in a proper conference room, with a large table in the middle meant to host a large number of ponies. Dee was waiting for us at one end of the table, with Metronome to her side. Their faces showed a mixture of eagerness and satisfaction to see us there, as well as a pinch of skepticism. It wouldn’t be smooth sailing.
“It’s so good to see you two back here.” Dee greeted us politely. What I wasn’t able to make out, though, was if she really felt it.
“Thanks, Dee.” I bowed.
“You said you wanted to see me… what do you have to tell us?”
“Well, I’ve got some news and a proposal to make, but first, I’d like to know exactly how you’ve been doing… because that might alter my proposal.”
“Always hiding your cards, eh?” Dee smiled. “You are a very dangerous individual, you know, Farsight?”
“Should I feel threatened by that?” I asked, pretending to be surprised.
“Should you? It depends on whether you consider me a threat.”
“As a leader of a gang, you’re a force to be reckoned with, Dee. I wouldn’t want to mess with you.”
“Good answer.” Dee turned to Metronome. “I guess there’s no harm on putting our friends up to date, is it?”
“We can live with that.” Metronome shrugged, and looked at me. I winked back, reminding her of our little affair. “Things are as follows: Goldie and Saddle have broken up. It is, certainly, one of the best news we could have, since it disbands the main force in town… However, we haven’t managed to profit from it… yet.”
“So, I assume you’re still looking for your significant other.”
“I still am.” Dee seemed annoyed. “I never thought it would be so hard. Ponies seem to avoid me, I guess that they don’t want to be overshadowed by a mare and her obligations. Others may have hidden allegiances that would put them in a dangerous situation; and I have my qualms as well… it’s not like I would tie myself to anypony!”
“Good. It’s all reasonable.” I smiled broadly. “That’s all I wanted to know.”
“Now it’s your turn to play, Farsight.”
“Of course.” My smile seemed to get smugger minute by minute. “As you told us to do, we stepped away from the scene while you did your thorough search. We used that time to go explore and search for loot. We’ve had our fun and our strife, and I can definitely say that the experience has enriched us.”
Nadyr snickered at the in-joke.
“Now, while we were away, I thought about something. Why search, when the answer is right in front of us? Young, fit, discreet and handsome.”
“I thought you had stepped away from the competition.” Dee looked at me with amusement.
“Thanks for considering me fit and handsome, but I’m definitely not discreet.”
“My companion Nadyr.”
“NADYR?” Dee and Metronome started laughing out loud at the same time. I didn’t take it badly, since I knew that out of the blue it sounded like a crazy idea. They just needed to listen to my arguments.
“Why not? He’s a young and strong stallion, loyal and a great conversation partner. He’d be a perfect father for your foals.”
“I don’t doubt that.” Dee wiped a stray tear from her eye. “Still, he’s a nopony, no offence meant.”
“None taken, ma’am.” Nadyr grinned.
“I mean, he’s a hired gun, a low life thug. I wanted to stage a political marriage with somepony worthy of my position. Sadly, Nadyr doesn’t fit that position. Besides, he’s a zebra. The population won’t like that.”
“Even with all that considered, I keep thinking he’s the perfect candidate.”
“I think you’re hiding something from us.” Dee smiled.
“As bright and incisive as usual, Dee.” I nodded. “I’ve got; I mean, Nadyr has an ace up his sleeve.”
I lifted the ingots from my saddlebags and left them on the table. Dee and Metronome gasped and looked awestruck at the pieces of gold shining in front of their faces, mentally calculating how much they could be worth.
“That’s…” Metronome babbled.
“Gold…” Dee mumbled.
“Exactly.” I laughed. “He’s stinking rich. This is just a little morsel to show what I meant. Nadyr IS the perfect candidate: he’s young and handsome, he will step back and let you do your work as a leader; and his wealth will back all your actions up.”
“I see what you mean…” Dee grinned happily.
“Of course you do. They will love him as soon as you mention that he’s got enough riches to boost Freedom Field into a new age of prosperity, and then you’ll be able to enforce the treaty with the NER without opposition.”
“Goldie will be broken.” Dee was floating in glee.
“What about Ampera?” Metronome asked, staying sensible.
“Leave Ampera to me. I reckon she’s trying to hook Saddle up, am I right?”
“Yes, she is.”
“Perfect. I think I’ll get used to dealing good news.” I smiled and leant back.
“So, what now?” Dee asked.
“I believe you and Nadyr should get to know each other. I’m not expecting love to spark between you two, since it’s a political marriage, but it would be preferable to have a tad of cooperation and coordination, in order to give a good image, don’t you think?”
“Reasonable enough.” Dee nodded.
“I’m perfectly OK with that.” Nadyr smiled, and winked at Dee. “Who knows if we’ll get to like each other.”
“Metronome, I think you should start organizing a public presentation of Nadyr as Dee’s fiancé, as well as setting up the wedding as soon as possible. We need to get the treaty signed immediately.”
“Consider it done.” Metronome nodded. “I will get the other leaders rounded up for a meeting where we’ll discuss the treaty.”
“Please do so. In the meantime, I’ve got to pay a visit to the Coilites. There are some loose ends that have to be tied up. If you’ll excuse me…”
I bowed and left the room with Metronome, while Nadyr and Dee began to know themselves a bit better. Nadyr had already begun acting smooth and suave, and Dee seemed to like being treated like a proper mare instead of a gang leader. That couple had possibilities.
Soon enough, I was out on the street and heading for the Tesla Bar. It was fairly rewarding to see the pieces of your plan slowly ticking together, as if they were parts of a finely crafted clockwork mechanism, patiently built to serve a single purpose; which was to get me into New Pegasus, no longer being a pauper, but a rich stallion with all means to rule the City… or the world, if I felt like it.
Deep in those thoughts, I found myself standing at the entrance door of the Coilite base of operations. Last time I had been here, Ampera von Ohm had beaten me with simple arguments and solid points. This time, I had shaken the ground enough to make her points far less solid, or so I hoped. The entrance guard frisked me without much interest, as he seemed to know my face from before, and I walked into the Bar.
Ampera was standing behind the counter, carefully dismantling a laser pistol and cleaning each and every component with military efficiency. Her past as a Steel Ranger surfaced when she was handling any sort of technology, and that made her truly fearsome: a pony that had been cast out of the Rangers was capable of doing anything that got into her will, regardless of who or what stood in between.
“My, my.” Ampera left the pistol on the counter. “I never thought I would see you again.”
“I’m quite resilient, you should know about that already.” I acted friendly, as if I held no grudges against her. Honestly, I didn’t, but our last encounter had been a bit rough.
“I’ll give you that. What brings you here?”
“It’s not that hard, Ampera.”
“I don’t feel like guessing, Farsight. Speak up.”
“Word has it that you and Saddle Buckmare are very close.”
“Of course… since he left Goldie he’s been looking for a proper mare to be with. I’ve been looking for an alliance to strengthen myself and my gang, and besides, Saddle keeps being a very good looker, even if a bit rough at times.”
“However, you still keep going separate ways.”
“An alliance between us could spark a bad reaction from the other gangs. Goldie will definitely get irate, but her lot are just a bunch of hippies. Dee, on the other hoof, is far more worrying. I don’t want to bring the NER and its army knocking at the gates just because Saddle and I…”
“That’s what I’m here for. I’m your particular messenger of love.”
“Cut the crap, Farsight, you know how I react to it.”
“Fair enough.” I shrugged. “Here’s what I bring. Dee is getting married to a wealthy stallion that she’s met. Of course, this wedding is a political maneuver, to get her back to the leading spot. I remember you saying that you have no interest in power, or am I confused?”
“No, I did say that. Carry on.”
“Now, Dee has a treaty with the NER. Autonomous government for Freedom Field, with its independence guaranteed by the Republic. However, the treaty must be accepted by the population in town, and Dee knows she will have Goldie’s opposition. That’s why she’s trying to corner the Followers and leave them ostracized, but in order to do that, she’ll need your cooperation, or at least your complicity.”
“I see.” Ampera scratched her chin with her hoof.
“In practical terms, this means that Dee won’t take any action if you bring Saddle to your yard, provided you can control the vote of the Buckmare faction. You would be able to openly join Saddle, and the city wouldn’t suffer any harm. If nothing, it would prosper thanks to the good relationship with the NER forces.”
Ampera considered her possibilities, but from her expression I could make out that she was pleased. The proposal meant a win-win outcome for all of us, and she had to realize that without a trace of doubt.
“I like what you’re telling me. Will there be a meeting to get things sorted out?”
“Definitely. Metronome should be reaching you shortly, but in a nutshell, I’m assuming you’ll be summoned to the Music School to discuss the treaty. Just one thing, make sure that mister Buckmare doesn’t oppose us during the meeting. We can count with Goldie making noise, and we don’t want to give her reasons to fight. If she realizes that she’s alone, she’ll back down. That, or we’ll make her back down.”
“Well, look at you.” Ampera smiled. “Those are some powerful assertions. Don’t get too cocky, or those that now support you might turn their backs on you.”
“Thanks for the tip, Ampera.”
As we were talking, the front door opened and Metronome walked into the room. From the look on her face, she didn’t expect me to be there. Her expression quickly turned into a smug smile.
“We meet again, Farsight. Good day, Ampera.”
“Metronome.” Ampera greeted her with courtesy and distance.
“We were talking about you!” I smiled. “You couldn’t have arrived at a better time.”
“A meeting?” Ampera ironized.
“So he told you already.” Metronome frowned.
“More or less. In the Music School?”
“In half an hour.”
“I’ll be there.” Ampera nodded.
“Let’s go, Farsight.” Metronome grabbed me from the collar and dragged me out of the Tesla Bar. “Go get yourself a drink, or go to your griffin marefriend for a quickie, but I don’t want to see you messing around with Saddle or Goldie. Your big muzzle is not good for fine diplomacy.”
“Okay, okay…” I sighed. “Let’s not forget that I got you the treaty, but anyway…”
“Bugger off, smartypants. See you at the meeting.”
Metronome turned around and headed for the Four Little Diamonds. Her sudden harshness made me smile. I made her feel uncomfortable and insecure, and that was something that pissed her off remarkably, and somehow, I found that pretty funny. However, I didn’t want to press things to a point of no return, so I’d better leave her in peace. Half an hour should be enough to change and get a proper shower. All that Wasteland dust would require some proper scraping, and I needed to have an adequate look for the occasion.
*** *** ***
Once clean and dressed with my suit, I felt ready and eager for what was coming. To be honest, I had been waiting for this. After all those days of ‘regular adventuring’, fighting our way through the Wasteland, navigating forgotten swamp cities and so on; I was looking forward to getting back to my terrain, that was, plotting and scheming, playing with other ponies’ wills to my favor.
Truth be told, I realized that all this time had hardened me. I was no longer the fearful buck that left the Stable; instead, I had grown to be capable of handling myself out there. I thought that, if everything went awry, I would be able of making a living in the Wasteland. The original fears I had were gone, but they were substituted by another driving force: I wanted to make a living in the City.
In this world, there are two kinds of ponies: puppets and puppeteers. In the old Equestria, that difference might have been a bit less obvious, but in this new and wild post-balefire Equestria of ours, it was clear that some ponies pulled the strings and the rest danced to their beat. I had been played before, but I would become the one in control.
Fully hyped up and ready for what may come, I walked into the conference room in the Music School. Metronome was distributing papers on the table, presumably copies of the NER treaty, so the rest of the attendants could read along; while Dee and Nadyr were chatting on a corner, apparently very relaxed. I smiled at the sight of my companion playing his role with delight.
“Hey there!” I smiled. “I guess I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”
“Hello, Farsight.” Dee greeted. “Nadyr and I were getting to know each other.”
“It did look like that, yeah.” I laughed subtly.
“Dee is a true lady, bro. I hadn’t noticed that before, but now that I’ve been able to have some quality time with her, I’ve realized how intelligent and elegant she is.”
“Cut it out!” Dee blushed and hit Nadyr gently on the leg. I had never seen Dee blush until then… Nadyr was doing a fine job.
“Dee, please.” Metronome interrupted, looking stern. “The rest of the leaders are about to arrive… I guess you won’t like them to see you giggling like a filly.”
“Oh, of course.” Dee took a deep breath and hid herself behind a mask of cold calmness. “Let’s get ready, shall we?”
“Certainly.” I nodded. “Do you wish me to take part in this, Dee?”
“Not actively. I do want you to be around, because you can be a true charmer; but I want to handle things myself. This shouldn’t be a real hassle, if we do it properly.”
“I understand.” I readied myself, taking my place close to Dee.
“Good. Now let’s get this treaty signed, shall we?” Dee smiled cunningly. “Today, we’ll be writing a piece of History.”
While she was pronouncing those fateful words, the sound of hooves trampling let us know that our guests were coming. The door opened and the mare of the entrance counter made way for Saddle Buckmare and Ampera von Ohm, now acting officially as a happy couple. Saddle was wearing a much more fitting black tailored suit, even if a bit old and dusty. On his head, an Appleloosan hat gave him a far more sharp look. It looked like his new engagement status had given him a touch of elegance.
Ampera was wearing a fairly tight blue dress, giving her a more outrageous look than the one I was used to see on the ex-Ranger. However, I assumed that she wanted to get some attention from the public, as she was the mare that had occupied Goldie’s place in big old Buckmare’s heart… or at least in his bed.
“Saddle, Ampera.” Dee greeted the newcomers with courtesy. “Good to see you here.”
“Thanks, Dee.” Ampera bowed. “I hope you appreciate the gesture of not bringing any bodyguard to the meeting. We are willing to end this climate of tension, and therefore, we believe that those measures are unnecessary.”
“Most certainly.” Dee smiled kindly. “We need to take steps in that direction. Thank you, Ampera.”
“You seem to surround yourself pretty well.” Saddle remarked.
Ampera gave him a stern look, letting him know that his last assertion had been useless and fairly wrong. As usual, old Saddle was a loose cannon in need of a proper leash.
“What?” Saddle shrugged. “I count three ponies around her.”
“Saddle!” Ampera hissed.
“Easy now, Ampera.” Dee laughed, trying to calm her down. “Saddle is right, after all. They’re not bodyguards, strictly speaking. Metronome and Farsight are my trusted advisors, and Nadyr is my fiancé.”
“Fiancé?” Ampera asked. “Congratulations, Dee. I knew you were looking for somepony.”
“Thank you, Ampera.”
“Er… what are we waiting for?” Saddle asked, annoyed.
“Aren’t we missing somepony?” Dee replied.
“Of course. Now I notice.”
“Why isn’t she here?” Dee asked. “Metronome, did you let her know of the meeting?”
“Personally.” Metronome replied swiftly. “She should be here by now.”
A rushed sound of hoofsteps coming from outside was the reply to Dee’s question. The door of the conference room opened harshly and Goldie joined us, panting and huffing. She was still wearing her old and worn lab coat, and her mane looked as if she had been hit by thunder.
“Excuse me, I was in the middle of an operation…” she tried to catch her breath. “I got here as fast as I could… you.”
That last remark was directed at me, as she had seen my face of shameless satisfaction. Goldie was my only obstacle on the path to success, now that Saddle had been conveniently put aside, so every hardship she went through was a tiny bit of happiness for me. From her expression at the moment, I had the feeling that she had expected me to be gone forever, leaving her room to thrive as the leader of the township.
“Goldie, it’s so good to see you.” I smiled.
“I never thought I’d have to see you again.” Goldie grumbled.
“Life can be a box of surprises, you should know that.” I smiled more.
“Naturally.” Goldie’s tone was cold as ice, and her tone showed utter disgust.
“Goldie, please, don’t get too mad.” Dee intervened to get things sorted out. “We both know Farsight can be a bit of a nuisance sometimes, but don’t take it too badly. We’re here to solve problems, not to generate new ones.”
“If he stops being such a pest, I’ll listen to what you have to say.” Goldie grumbled.
“Farsight…” Dee gave me a stern look.
“Understood.” I nodded and stopped smiling.
“Good.” Dee smiled. “Shall we begin?”
“Go ahead.” Ampera answered promptly.
“Perfect. The reason I have summoned you all here is to discuss a treaty proposal that my assistant Farsight brought from the NER. Now, I know what some of you think of the Republic, but I beg you to listen to what the document has to say.”
“I don’t have anything against the Republic per se.” Ampera shrugged. “The fact that they’re actually willing to negotiate seems like a good sign to me, though. Let’s see what they’ve got to offer.”
“I agree with Ampera.” Saddle was quick to add his remark. “I wouldn’t take them as a dance partner, but they might have interesting proposals.”
I noticed a faint nod from Ampera as Saddle was speaking. She had been working this meeting with him, reaching an agreement regarding the stance the two would take in the negotiation. Those were the things that I liked, the machinery of power, the intrigue and the hidden agendas.
“You seem to have gone bananas.” Goldie grumbled. “Listen to you, Saddle! You were the one that wanted to fight for your freedom, and now you’re talking about proposals? You’re pathetic.”
“What do you suggest we do, then?” Ampera asked, ironically.
“I say we keep things as they are.” Goldie stomped the floor. “They won’t be able to do anything until we take a step. We keep having the upper hoof!”
“Goldie, you’re missing something crucial.” I intervened. “While it’s true that we have the upper hoof, things are not as calm as they were weeks ago. At the slightest sign of unrest, the NER will march into Freedom Field with full legitimacy. As far as I know, you haven’t been able to keep things under control.”
“Why you…” Goldie clenched his teeth.
“Farsight is absolutely right.” Dee sentenced. “We’ve played our gambit properly, and here’s the result. The Republic wants to reach an agreement with us. If we don’t budge now and things go out of hoof, they will feel authorized to impose their law. That will mean our end.”
“And we definitely don’t want that.” Saddle added, with a stern look towards Goldie. Now that was unexpected.
“Saddle, Ampera is playing you like a fool!” Goldie roared.
“Goldie, please. Calm down.” Dee frowned. “There’s no need to resort to that. Please take a moment to listen, this treaty might be beneficial for the Followers too.”
Goldie grumbled something unintelligible and lowered her head towards the papers on the table. I had to hide a smile of victory, because I was definitely enjoying watching the leader of the Followers take a diplomatic beating.
“Now that this little inconvenience has been sorted out, I’ll make a brief summary of the proposals of the NER. To begin with, the Republic is willing to give us a statute of autonomy. As long as we don’t adopt policies that come in direct conflict with their laws, they’ll let us govern ourselves.”
“Who will regulate that?” Saddle asked. Not a bad question, not at all.
“I presume that nopony will. After all, Neighvada is just a loose end in the NER map. They’ve got enough work rebuilding Canterlot, or Manehattan, or whatever they’re doing now. I’m pretty sure that once they’ve secured the territory, they’ll cross the Divide and leave us alone again.”
“That’s just an assumption.” Ampera remarked. “We have no guarantees.”
“Were you expecting any?” Goldie said sardonically.
“Of course it’s just an assumption. The fact that we’re accepting their treaty doesn’t mean we can’t back down if they break the terms.” Dee replied to Goldie’s attack.
“You’re planning to back down?” Saddle asked, puzzled. That was the old him again.
“No, not at all.” Dee smiled. “We are using this situation to our convenience. We have a good proposal, something that should be profitable for us, but we hold the right to break the treaty if things stop being convenient for us.”
“Let’s not get sidetracked, please.” Ampera said. “You said autonomous government, right?”
“Exactly. It means that we will have to constitute a sort of Town Hall, a formal authority to stick to Republican laws.”
“Oh yeah, and who would be the mayor?” Goldie snared.
“I would take that responsibility.” Dee replied, bluntly.
“See! That’s it, this is all a scheme for you to grasp power!” Goldie roared, her face curled in an ironic smirk of superiority. “You’re selling us to the Republic!”
“Goldie, please, calm down.” Ampera sighed. “I support Dee as a mayor. We know that things would keep being business as usual, while she would handle the bureaucratic issues with the NER. It would make things easy for the rest of us.”
“I agree.” Saddle nodded.
“Saddle! You too?” Goldie showed her incredulity.
“Goldie, you can run for mayor as well.” Dee smiled in almost a motherly way.
“Spare me the kind words. We know who would win.” Goldie grunted.
“It’s called democracy, honey.” Dee whispered with an evil look. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Now, they do want something in return.”
“What, exactly?” Saddle scratched his head.
“They want taxes for our commercial activities.”
“They want to bleed us dry!!” Goldie roared.
“Goldie, please.” Dee frowned. “Let’s keep this professional. Now, about the taxes and the rates, it’s all properly explained in the document, but in a nutshell, it’s not something outrageous. Consider it a pay for the protection the NER gives to the caravan trails that get here.”
“It sounds reasonable. Will the trade suffer some sort of regulation?” Ampera asked.
“Within the walls, trade is controlled by us. Outside, it’s NER business.”
“Drugs and guns?” Saddle mentioned his area of expertise.
“Once again, we will have autonomy to regulate all kinds of trade. What happens beyond the walls is not ours to discuss.”
“Fair enough.” Saddle relaxed, knowing his income was secure.
“But who says they won’t blockade us?” Goldie grumbled.
“If they do, we give them hell.” Dee said sternly. “We will give them a chance, and if they cock it up, we will show no mercy.”
“That’s something I like to hear!” Saddle laughed out loud and stomped the floor.
“Saddle, keep it down.” Ampera grabbed his partner to stop him from prancing.
“Now, there are some more odds and ends, but they’re minor things that can be sorted out afterwards. I propose voting whether we sign the treaty or not.”
“You have my support.” Ampera nodded with a smile.
“Count me in.” Saddle said proudly.
“You’ll regret this, Dee. I swear you will.” Goldie whined. “I know I have nothing to do, but I warn you: this treaty will turn itself against you, sooner or later, and you’ll rue this day. Mark my words.”
“Goldie, shut up and sign it.” Dee said in her coldest voice. “Admit defeat and let’s get this over with.”
Goldie mumbled something and walked to the end of the table where Dee was holding the treaty with her signature already on it. Both Nadyr and I kept a close look on her, expecting a possible violent reaction, but she only signed the document and left the room with a face of disgust. Ampera and Saddle took their turns to leave a mark on the paper, and once all the formalities had been sorted out, Dee turned to a hidden cabinet on the wall and took out a bottle of liquor and some glasses.
“To our success, mares and gentlecolts.” Dee filled the glasses with the ambarine fluid and distributed them among us. “Also, I’d like to let you know that Nadyr and I will be getting married in two days time. The ceremony will be held in the street, so that everypony can enjoy it. Metronome is already setting things up and spreading the news, right?”
“Absolutely.” Metronome nodded.
“Congratulations, Dee.” Ampera gave her a sudden hug, something that looked totally out of place in the hardened ex-Ranger. Guess she had her little feelings as well. “All the best.”
“Nadyr, you should come to the Diamonds for your bachelor party.” Saddle smiled cunningly. “I’ll show you the meaning of a good time!”
I was surprised at how easily enemies had turned into friends, or at least, partners. Not so long ago, Saddle was actively conspiring against Dee, and now, all of us were drinking together. The world can be such a complicated place…
“Now, Farsight.” Dee smiled and gave me the signed treaty. “Would you mind being my envoy for one last time?”
“It will be my greatest pleasure!” I bowed and picked the document, then I turned around and galloped out of the room. The plan was really close to its completion, and I had no time to lose.
*** *** ***
After making a quick stop to change back into Wasteland gear and pack some more gold in my saddlebags, I left Freedom Field to meet the NER. I knew I would need my best skills to get the last pieces in place, and some valuables to push things together, but I was pretty confident on the outcome. Besides, I knew Harpsong good enough to be aware of what to expect.
I expected to be directed to Nobuck, but Metronome had let me know that the NER had moved their base of operations to the old abandoned airport on the south end of town, since it was larger and better defended. I hadn’t even noticed that there was such a facility close to New Pegasus, but after a closer look on my PipBuck map, I found the traces of what could be the mentioned ruins. They were much closer than the old base was, which meant that the most probable reason for the relocation was related to keeping the city under control.
Since I was carrying some valuable material, I stuck to caravaneer groups and NER patrols all the way. I had to endure being questioned by many troopers about my reason to visit Macintosh Airport, but the good thing was that I didn’t have to lie: I was an envoy of Freedom Field in a diplomatic mission. Those words made my journey much easier, and some of the soldiers I met in the way offered themselves as an escort force. Of course, had they known I was carrying several ingots of pure gold, they wouldn’t have been so friendly with me.
By nightfall, I had crossed the gates of Macintosh Airport. The old courtyard had been turned into a practice field and a boot camp, with tents on the runways and obstacle courses along the chariot parking spaces. I headed for the main gate, located in a large block-shaped building that spanned from one end to the other of the airport grounds. Inside, I was directed to the top floor, to what had been a VIP waiting room, now refurbished to be used as a proper office.
A large flag of the NER decorated the far end of the room, with the two unicorn heads gazing blankly into infinity. A large desk had been located in the middle of the makeshift office, with its corresponding gear on it: a working radio, a lamp, some folders, some papers, and a hoofful of pens and pencils. The rest of the room kept its previous look: a couple of potted plastic plants, some lousy pictures on the walls, and an old carpet on the floor.
What was important in that room was the pony standing behind the desk; a familiar green mare clad in an expensive suit with a pin of the NER on its lapelles. Harpsong was deeply concentrated on a folder with some maps when I entered the office, but as soon as I began to take a look on what she was looking with so much care, she closed the folder and looked at me in the eyes.
“And the prodigal son returns.” Harpsong laid back and smiled smugly.
“Not a minute too soon.” I smiled back. “It’s not been a month.”
“I know. From your attitude, I assume that you will have something to say.”
“You know me so well, Harpsong.” I took the treaty out of my saddlebag and put it in front of her.
“This is the treaty?”
“The very one, signed by all four leaders of Freedom Field.”
“I am frankly surprised.” Harpsong whistled. “I will be totally honest with you, I never thought you would come out with this outcome. I expected you to go gunning your way to victory, but you have proven me wrong.”
“You have too little faith in me. When have I let you down?”
“That will show me.” Harpsong laughed. “My, this is one of the best things that have happened to me and the NER in the last weeks. I guess I will have to send Merry to have a word with the leaders of the gangs, and get things on the run.”
“Well, Dee Cleff is getting married in two days. I think that the Republic should have at least a diplomatic envoy in the celebration.”
“Sounds good to me.” Harpsong nodded.
“Now, Harpsong, I think I’ve gotten you much more than what you asked for. I believe I deseve a retribution.”
“Of course, Farsight. I owe you something… what can I do for you?”
“Well, my companions and I would like to become citizens of New Pegasus. For that, we need that somepony from the inside vouches for us, and I was thinking that the NER could use its embassy to make things easy for us.”
“That is true,” Harpsong raised her brows, “but there’s something else you need to take into account. The one who vouches for you must pay a quantity according to its status inside the city. The NER is just a guest, so the amount required for a Citizenship Card will be considerable, let alone for three of them.”
I let go a smug laugh and looked at Harpsong with delight.
“My dearest Harpsong, that’s where you’re mistaken.” I picked the gold ingots from my saddlebags and left them on the table. “This should make things easier for the Ambassador, shouldn’t it?”
“You can’t be serious…” Harpsong coughed. “This is Equestrian gold! We have been trying to find it! Where did you…?”
“A good magician always hides his tricks.”
“That belongs to the NER.”
“That belongs to whoever finds it, Harpsong.” I said calmly. “You’ve had twenty years to find it, not to mention all the ponypower at your disposal. The gold is mine now. One or two ingots should buy our way into New Pegasus, and the rest is a kind donation from me to the Republic.”
“I could take it by force, you know?”
“Yes, and you would have all of Freedom Field against you, and the Republic would be caught in a war. How will you explain that to your voters?”
“Damn, sometimes I wish I hadn’t met you.” Harpsong hissed. “You’re too expensive for what you give us… fine. I’ll send this to Merry immediately. She should have your Citizenship Cards ready for the wedding.”
“As always, Harpsong, it’s been a pleasure working for the NER.”
“Get lost before I lose my patience.” Harpsong shook her head. I had played her on her own terms, and I had won. Nopony likes that feeling.
With a final bow, like the one of an actor before his audience, I left Harpsong’s office, and I didn’t waste any time wandering around the hallways of the airport, now turned into a military base. The sooner I got to Freedom Field, the better. I had a wedding to attend to, and I had the feeling that the groom would ask me to be his best pony.
*** *** ***
Freedom Field was bubbling with activity by the time I got back into town, even if dawn had broken just a few minutes earlier. A large stage was being built in the middle of the city, right in front of the Music School, on the crossing between the two main avenues of the township, so that the wedding could be seen from all sides. It was nothing out of the ordinary, just a pile of scrap metal conveniently assembled, but it would do the trick.
I trotted past the groups of builders on my way to the School, while I started to picture my life on the other side of the walls of New Pegasus. Finally, after all the strife and peril I had been through, I would have reached my goal. Not to mention that I would be doing so in company of two ponies that I could call friends without a doubt; and one of those ponies was getting married today, in the greatest celebration seen in a long time.
With the chime of the bell, I found myself standing on the lobby of what had turned to be our home in Freedom Field. Since it was quite early in the morning, the place was empty, with no youngsters queuing up to take their lessons. The mare on the counter was taking a sip from a mug of coffee, while she listened to the familiar humming of the radio.
“Early bird, huh?” she said with a smile.
“Business never sleeps, you know.” I winked. “So… I was here to check on the groom.”
“Mister Nadyr? He should be on his room. First floor, first room to the right.”
“Thank you so much.”
“No problem… Oh, one thing. He came in pretty late yesterday, so he might be sleeping.”
“He’s getting married in less than six hours. For his sake, I hope he’s ready.”
The mare giggled and nodded.
“You seem to be his voice of reason.”
“More or less. We get together.” I shrugged.
“Of course you do.” She took another sip of coffee and stretched. It was very early for her as well.
I bowed goodbye and trotted upstairs to my zebra companion’s chamber, just to find the door was shut, and that some very familiar snoring noises were coming from the inside. Somepony had been up all night apart from me, apparently. However, while I was all fired up and ready to go, he seemed to have little tolerance to losing sleep. I knocked on the door gently, expecting him to wake up without making a fuss.
“Nadyr.” I called. “Wake up.”
No response, just another loud snore. This would require some patience, and if things didn’t work out, some extreme measures. I knocked once again, this time a bit more strongly, to see if I could beat the reverberating thunder of the half-zebra’s snoring. It didn’t seem to work, as I noticed after three attempts. My patience was starting to burn out, so I decided to go the hard way. I tried the handle of the door, and when I realized it wasn’t locked, I entered the room and hit the light switch.
“Wakey-wakey, mister soon-to-be-married!” I roared. “It’s your great day, get your ass moving!”
Nadyr’s sight was a true disgrace. He was lying on the bed, completely naked and still in a limbo between the land of the living and the land of dreams. Drool was dripping off his open muzzle, and he moaned in a pitiful way. I shook him hard to wake him up, and when he finally snapped out of it, he was still dizzy and lost.
“Errr… what? Where?” he mumbled.
“Nadyr, you’re getting married in five hours. What the hell did you do yesterday?”
“Yes, it’s me. I’ve been out of town and back, and I find you snoozing away on the day of your wedding!”
“Why are you so upset?” Nadyr mumbled, still sleepy.
Good question… what made me act like that? After all, I had all I wanted: the treaty had been signed and delivered, Harpsong had promised me that the NER would give us our Citizenship status; and yet, I kept pushing for things to carry on. I supposed that it felt dishonest to back down now.
“Go get a shower, then we’ll talk.”
I dragged Nadyr into the bathroom and closed the door. While the sound of running water let me know that my companion was getting clean and ready, I couldn’t help feeling a hint of pride and happiness for him. It was true that this engagement was mostly political and that there was no love beneath it, or at least that was the theory. Knowing both Dee and Nadyr, I had the feeling that they would get along pretty well, and that they would do a nice team and couple.
Still lost in my thoughts, I saw my companion come out of the bathroom, clean and tidy; and far more awake than when I had found him. He was drying his curly mane with an old towel, and he had trimmed his moustache slightly, to look classier without losing a sign of identity.
“Hey Farsight.” He greeted me with a smile. “Mind passing me the suit?”
“The usual suit?”
“Nope. Open the closet, please.”
I followed his orders and opened the large wardrobe that stood on one of the corners of the room; and I found myself looking at a sharp white suit. It looked fairly new, since things didn’t stay white for too long in the dusty Wasteland.
“This white suit, I guess, then.”
“That very one.” Nadyr nodded.
“Where did you steal this from?” I joked.
“Who do you think I am, bro?” Nadyr laughed. “It’s Saddle’s wedding present. Ever since he’s began sticking his thing in the von Ohm lady, he’s become quite friendly. You should have seen the party he threw yesterday.”
“That’s why you’re so hung over, right?”
“I’ve had far worse ones, dude. I’ll get over it.”
“Don’t mess it up, Nadyr. It’s your great day.”
“Come on, stop chastising me, bro!” Nadyr chuckled. “I would have expected that from Rose, but not from you!”
“I’m full of motherly love and care.” I ironized, while he got into his suit.
“Not at all. I feel like I could take on the world!”
“That’s the spirit, my friend, that’s the spirit.” I smiled and gave him a hug. “Congratulations.”
“Thanks, Farsight. By the way, where have you been all this time? You left in a hurry after the meeting, and you’ve been missing all the day.”
“Call me a bringer of good news.” I boasted. “I went to meet our old acquaintance, miss Harpsong Heartstrings, to close the treaty between the NER and Freedom Field. I also bargained for our Citizenship Cards, which we should have in our hooves by the end of the day.”
“Are you serious?” Nadyr asked, glad.
“Absolutely. Ambassador Merry Fields will be attending the wedding as a diplomatic envoy. She should be bringing us our tickets to paradise.”
“Celestia be praised for this day.” Nadyr pranced in joy. “Things couldn’t get any better.”
“Just wait for tonight. I have the feeling that Dee will know her ABCs in bed.”
“Hey, you won’t be implying that…”
“Oh, no, hell no!” I laughed out loud. “Not at all. It’s just a hunch of mine, but I can be mistaken.”
“I hope you’re not.”
“You’ll have to tell me tomorrow.” I shrugged.
“I will, rest easy. By the way, how’s my tie looking?” Nadyr had finished dressing up and was trying to find a proper mirror to do the final checks.
“It’s on its place.”
“Very helpful, Farsight!” he snared. “I thought you had a sense of fashion and elegance.”
“I do!” I winced. “It’s just that it’s alright. Don’t worry so much.”
“Fine, fine.” Nadyr huffed. “You know, I might be a bit nervous, bro. I’ve seen death eye to eye more than once, and yet, this gives me the chills.”
I couldn’t help laughing out loud. Seeing a pony that had faced the horrors of the Wasteland flinch at the perspective of his own wedding was a bit of a funny contradiction. I passed a foreleg behind his neck and smiled.
“I understand you. Let’s go have a beer or two, Nadyr.”
“Pretty please.” Nadyr smiled.
*** *** ***
Expectation could be felt in the air. Such a wedding was something unique, something out of the everyday routine, that would leave a mark in the history of Freedom Field. Not only was Dee Cleff, the Godmother of the poor, the patroness of the traders, getting married to a wealthy stranger that would help the township prosper; but the gangs were announcing the signature of an agreement with the NER that would benefit the status of the population.
Nothing had been left to chance by Metronome. Goons had been located in all the streets, in order to keep the population safe as well as to maintain things under control. Every pony with something to say would be standing on stage. That meant Nadyr and Dee, obviously, as well as the other gang leaders, Ambassador Fields, Stuka, Snake Eater, Metronome, LaRoche, Rose and me. Even the decoration had been considered, taking into account how difficult it was to obtain quality materials in the Wasteland. A large cloth made out of patchwork covered the stage floor, and garlands made out of scrap paper were hanging from the lamps.
The crowd cheered at the sight of the lucky groom walking onto the stage, followed closely by a blue stallion that looked at one side and another. Once on stage, I felt amazed and worried about the large number of ponies that had gathered to see the event. Somehow, I feared that if somepony wanted to cause damage, that was the best possible scenario. Every important pony was going to be displayed on top of a large platform in the middle of town, in sight of whoever walked by. Curiously, though, Goldie was nowhere to be seen, and that was a bit worrisome.
“Nadyr, my boy!” Saddle boasted. He was wearing a classy black suit with a hat, and he acted as if he was in the middle of a show. All bark and no bite was a good way of defining him. “I told you that suit would be a perfect fit.”
“Thanks a lot, Saddle.” Nadyr nodded. “White is not my usual colour, but it’s good for such an occasion.”
“Congrats, m’boy.” Old Snake Eater gave Nadyr a hoofshake.
“I’m very happy for you two, you’ll make a great couple!” Stuka cheered. “Hi, Farsight!”
“You look great today, Stuka.” I smiled. “New feather-do?”
“No, stupid, it’s the same old me.” She giggled.
A low-pitched mumbling arose from the crowd and made us stop the greetings, as the door to the Music School had opened and a group of ponies was coming out of it. Flanked by both Metronome and Rose, Dee Cleff marched with resolve to the stage, wearing a graceful white dress and a crown of nickeled steel. The bridesmaids wore gray dresses, but nopony had been able to stop Rose from covering her head with the blue beret of the NER. It was her signature garment, after all.
While we were watching the bride approach the stage, I was surprised by a purple-coated mare with a pale yellow mane clad in an azure business suit. A familiar pin with the shape of two unicorn heads hung from her lapelles, letting me know who she was representing.
“Ambassador Merry Fields, I presume.” I greeted.
“And you must be Farsight.” She nodded. Her voice was calm and patient, that of a weathered diplomat used to dealing with mobsters. “Give my warmest congratulations to the happy couple.”
“I will, but why don’t you do it yourself, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I don’t think they’ll have time for much diplomacy now.” She pointed at Nadyr, who was standing stiff on his place. “They have more pressing matters to attend to.”
“But we don’t, do we?”
“You get the hang of it.” Merry smirked. “It’s nice to talk to somepony that knows the trade.”
“I can’t say I know.” I shrugged. “I’m improvising as I go right now.”
“Not bad, in that case.” She shrugged as well, mimicking me. “But I digress… Vice-President Heartstrings sent me, as I assume you already know.”
“Yes, I do. I was expecting you.”
“Good. Then I can give you this.” Merry took three green documents from her saddlebag and passed them to me. “The NER thanks you for your services.”
“It’s been a pleasure. Harpsong knows where to find me, should she need more assistance.”
“No doubt. Now, I’ll get back to my place. The ceremony is about to start, and I wouldn’t like to spoil anything.”
“Naturally.” I bowed, and Merry returned to her original spot, while Dee Cleff climbed to the top of the stage and welcomed the crowd.
I took a look to the Cards Merry had given me. Made out of green paper and coated in a protective film, the documents enclosed a biometric description of the Citizen, as well as his name and an identification number. A pinch of old world bureaucracy in the new world, that was the underlying idea.
The cheering rose from the many ponies on the streets when Nadyr and Dee walked to the spot on which they would be proclaimed as a married couple. I couldn’t hide my smile when I saw Snake Eater walk to the spot of the authority. From all the ponies on that stage, I never expected him to be the one that would declare them bride and groom.
“It’s a matter of age, I believe.” Rose whispered. She had moved to my side with care and stealth, trying not to attract any attention.
“Whatever the reason is, I swear I would never have thought that Snake Eater could be the chosen one.” I mumbled, honestly puzzled.
“Duh…” Rose groaned. “Who cares? After all, this is all façade.”
“I’ll give you that.” I nodded.
Snake Eater cleared his throat and spoke at the top of his voice, so that his words could be heard from the four corners of Freedom Field. As a response to the signal, the whole crowd went suddenly silent, creating a stark contrast and a feeling of relevance in the air.
“Mares an’ gentlecolts, today is one great day indeed! We ‘ave met ‘ere t’join these two souls t’gether in marriage, so that they can love an’ care fer each other ‘till th’time comes. This’ll be a short ceremony, ‘cause we dun’ want them t’lose any time, do we folks?” Swift laughter came from the audience. “Ah knew it. Let’s begin, then. To everypony who can hear this, Ah, Snake Eater, declare that Mister Nadyr an’ Miss Dee Cleff ‘ave come t’this reunion freely, without any sort of force involved. Am Ah right?”
“Yes.” Dee claimed strongly.
“Yes.” Nadyr replied.
“Good. ‘Ereby Ah declare that both of you are fit and ready t’join yerselves in marriage. Now, let’s ask th’regulatory questions, ‘kay? Nadyr, d’you take Dee Cleff here as yer wife, to be ‘er rock in th’storm, to be ‘er shelter in th’dark, to care fer’er an’ to bear with’er ‘till the time to depart comes, may Celestia and Luna aid you in yer task?”
“I do.” Nadyr’s voice trembled slightly, but he stood firm.
“Great. Dee Cleff, d’you take Nadyr as yer husband, to be ‘is guiding light, ‘is savior in despair, ‘is caring companion an’ to make’im a better buck ‘till the time to depart comes, may the Sun and Moon give you strength fer it?”
“I do.” Dee Cleff proclaimed, with tears in her eyes.
“Perfect. Now that yer wills ‘ave been made clear to all the present ones, Ah shall declare you bride an’ groom. May you reach together more than what y’could’ave reached on yer own! Congratulations! Now dun’ be shy, kiss!”
The crowds roared in joy, cheering the names of Dee and Nadyr, as we pranced and stomped the floor of the stage, happy as we all were for those we appreciated. Nadyr took Dee in a dancer-like move and kissed her in the muzzle while leaning her down. The whole lot of ponies that had gathered exploded into a large “awww” when the couple showed its love to the audience. Indeed, if Dee wanted attention, she had put on a hell of a show. Once freed from Nadyr’s embrace, Dee walked to the side of the stage and addressed the crowd.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you so much! You have made me feel the happiest mare on Equestria, and I will never be grateful enough for this. Besides, I can say that I am two times happier today, since I have more good news to share with you. Not only have I gotten married to a wonderful stallion that will be my support and my sidekick for the rest of my life, but I want to announce that Freedom Field is now a true city, recognized by the NER!”
The cheering became stronger, as the Traders and locals that weren’t so easily moved by weddings and such events found something worth celebrating in Dee’s announcement.
“The Republic will consider us a legitimate settlement with our own regulations, and we will rule for the people of Freedom Field! In the next few days, we’ll constitute a Town Hall, in which I will assume the role of Mayor, in order to determine the laws that will help our community prosper! Of course, I can’t do this alone, and from this very stage I would like to welcome Ampera von Ohm and Saddle Buckmare to join me in this adventure that we are about to start.”
I noticed that she had consciously omitted the name of Goldie and I let go a subtle laugh. Dee was perfectly used to measuring her words to say exactly what she wanted to say, and many times her silences were more meaningful than her words. This was her moment of triumph, the peak of her life as a gang leader and now, Mayor of an important city in Neighvada. I was enjoying her speech, recognizing it as my work’s best-case-scenario result, when a familiar beep lit my alarms.
My E.F.S. had detected hostile life forces, coming from behind us, and fast. They were four or five dots spreading out in an arch, and judging from their relative position to ours, they had to be hiding on the rooftops. I quickly began scouting the nearby buildings, with an eye on the PipBuck. I got a glimpse of a masked face and the black, gaping hole of a gun on the roof of an abandoned building, just a second soon enough.
“DEE, GET DOWN!” I roared and leapt forward, towards her.
Machine gun fire roared from various spots and chaos descended upon Freedom Field. Where once was celebration, now death loomed from one side to another. My warning had made Dee duck and dodge a bullet directed to her head, but we were caught in a crossfire and exposed from all sides.
“Who the fuck?” Dee roared.
“Everypony get down!!” I yelled, trying to be heard above all the noise. “Try to find cover!”
“We’re exposed here!” Ampera was already on guard, but just the same as the rest of us, was unarmed.
“Give us weapons!” Metronome called the goons for aid, and a hoofful of guns flew onto the stage.
“Easy, folks.” Lavender’s voice sounded cold and calm. Rose had resorted to her in the moment of chaos. “I got this.” Her horn glowed and a glowing screen deflected the bullets away from us. Some of the stray shots landed on the ponies on the street, but those were collateral damages. There was no time to feel sorry for them.
“Where are they?” Saddle roared, with a pistol on his muzzle.
“If the Music School is twelve,” I checked the E.F.S. “One o’clock, three, five, seven and ten. Check the rooftops or open windows.”
I had been given a carbine as well, and I picked my target, the masked buck I had seen at seven. Just to ensure my shot went straight, I dove into S.A.T.S., using the slowed time to clearly aim to the head. Sticking to the basics, I held my breath and pulled the trigger.
A spray of bullets flew in the direction of the attacker, and I saw him flinch and fall back after being hit by two of them. With that sorted out, I turned around to check on the other assailants, but the rest of the ponies on stage had done their jobs properly. Guns had gone silent, and it was time to count the bodies.
“Dee, Nadyr, are you two OK?” I asked.
“I’m fine, thanks to you.” Dee sighed, still shocked.
“Just a little shaken. That’s all.” Nadyr smiled.
“Saddle and I are good to go.” Ampera stated.
“Ah’m fine, and so is Metronome.” Snake smiled. “Not bad, youngsters.”
“I’m good to go. Later.” Lavender said, then Rose’s voice returned to her muzzle. “Ambassador Fields?”
“I’ve taken a shot,” said LaRoche, “but it’s a flesh wound. I’m fine.”
“Wait…” said Saddle. “Where’s Stuka?”
It was true, the griffin was nowhere to be seen. Had she flown chasing an enemy, or had she been hit? We looked around, trying to find her. Not that it was hard, since she was bigger than all of us, but the crowd and the chaos made it hard to spot her. Suddenly, a commotion right beneath the stage let us know something was wrong. When we looked down, we saw the body of Stuka covered in blood. She had taken three shots to the chest, without wearing any armor.
“She’s dead…” Dee mumbled.
I felt my world shake beneath my hooves. It was true that our relationship wasn’t based on love, but she was one of the few individuals in this world that had showed me true appreciation; and losing her so quickly and harshly was a blade through my heart. Sadness and anger bubbled inside me, and I did nothing to hide a roar of rage. One second later, I was darting down the street, heading for the rooftop in which I had seen one of the goons.
*** *** ***
I had to force myself to keep calm as I climbed the stairs towards the place where I had seen one of our assailants fall. I wanted revenge for the death of somepony (rather, some griffin) that I held dear, but I had the feeling that there were others pulling the strings of this attack. If I had the luck of finding any of our aggressors alive, I would take my time prying the information from them, and then I would have revenge on them.
As I walked onto the concrete rooftop, I took a look around, searching for possible threats. After all that had happened in the last few minutes, it wouldn’t have been too far fetched to expect a second wave of enemies to finish the job. However, Freedom Field was silent, apart from the odd shot or scream. The pony I had shot from the stage was lying on the floor in the middle of a pool of his own blood. My bullets had hit him on the chest and on the head, so there was nothing I would be able to get from him.
Still, I didn’t feel deterred by that, and I walked to the body, hoping to get any hint of information, any lead to follow. The attacker was wearing a simple armored barding, recently painted black, but without any visible signs or symbols that spoke of that pony’s allegiances. I shoved the body with my magic, rolling it over, and I found a small object lying beneath the pony’s carcass. I lifted it close to inspect it, and I found out that it was a chip, but the symbol printed on it wasn’t that of Buckmare. Five cards, as in a poker hoof, had been drawn on the sides of the red chip. King, king, ace, ace, ace; the top card being an ornate ace of spades. That symbol didn’t belong to anypony in Freedom Field, and while there was a chance of this goon having come from beyond the Wastelands, the most plausible answer was that he had been hired in New Pegasus.
While I was wondering about who could have sent that pony to kill us, my E.F.S. warned me of a hostile pony coming from behind. Without wasting a second, I rolled aside and fired the carbine in the direction pointed by the Eyes-Forward Sparkle. A mare yelled in pain and fell to the floor, and I jumped back on my hooves to face my assailant.
“My, my.” I smiled when I found out who it was. “We had already noticed your absence, Goldie.”
“Ugh…” Goldie grunted. “You shot me!” She was using her magic to avoid blood loss from a bullet wound in the left foreleg.
“Yes, I did.” My tone was cold and wrathful. Adding two plus two, I knew that she was the one that had caused Stuka’s death. “And believe me, Goldie, shooting you will be the least of your worries.”
“Oh yes?” Goldie barked, still defiant. “What do you intend to do?”
“This.” I sent my forehoof slamming against her muzzle, discharging all my anger upon her. She flinched and rolled, blood and broken teeth spilling from her mouth.
“Fuck you.” Goldie spat blood. “You’re just another goon, Farsight. You’ve been used to do others’ biddings. You’re the lowest a pony can get.”
“Says she who’s lying helpless on the floor.” I bucked her in a knee, hitting it from the side. The junction broke with a loud crack, and Goldie wailed in pain.
“You are a monster!”
“I’m not worse than you, Goldie.” The hilt of my carbine darted against another of her knees, breaking it with a dry noise.
“Ugh…” Goldie coughed blood and rolled to the side. Her magic was dwindling, and blood had started flowing from the open wound. “I hate you.”
“The feeling is mutual.” I hissed in anger.
“Farsight, hold it!” Dee’s voice echoed from the open staircase door.
“Dee!!” Goldie cried. “Farsight’s crazy! He’s going to kill me!”
“Shut up, Goldie.” Dee walked close to me, followed by Nadyr. “You’re not getting away with it this time. You tried to kill us, with the help of Celestia knows who, and you’ve managed to take Saddle’s bodyguard down.”
“You have no proof!” Goldie yelled.
“I don’t need any. You weren’t on stage. That’s enough proof for me.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Goldie was crying.
“You have lost everything with the treaty. Saddle is with Ampera now, and I will lead this town with the help of the Republic. I think that’s a powerful enough reason for an attempt of coup d’etat.”
“Dee, please…” Goldie sobbed in despair. “Don’t let him…”
“I’ll do it myself, if it makes you happy.” Dee unholstered a pistol.
“No, Dee…” Goldie tried to get up on her hooves, but her broken knees made her fall to the floor. “Don’t kill me…”
“Dee, I don’t like begging.” I said sternly. “But let me have my revenge.”
“Fair enough.” Dee nodded. “Make it quick, though. We’re not animals.”
“OK.” I shrugged, then I stuck the cannon on the carbine in Goldie’s muzzle. “This is for Stuka.”
Droplets of blood and brain matter scattered over the concrete floor of the rooftop, and Goldie’s dead body fell off the edge of the building, pushed by the force of the shot. I felt a hint of satisfaction from her death, but something inside me told me that Goldie wasn’t the only one responsible for this attack. I would have to keep digging, but this time, I would have to do it on the other side of the walls.
“Well, we all knew this was bound to happen.” Dee sighed. “It’s just too bad that it had to cost us so much.”
“You expected an attack?” I asked. If Dee had seen it coming, why hadn’t she acted.
“Honestly, I underestimated Goldie, and this is what has happened. I know you felt something for her, Farsight. Sorry, blame me of her death, if that makes you feel better.”
“No, I can’t blame you. I never thought she could find goons to hire, so I guess she tricked us all. She’s dead now, and the next thing to find out is where she got the help from.”
“Have you got any leads?”
“I found this.” I tossed the chip at Dee. “The dead buck here had it on him.”
“A casino chip…” Dee mumbled. “I would say that this points towards New Pegasus.”
“Those were my thoughts exactly.” I answered, as Dee gave me the chip back. “I intend to keep searching for answers in there. I owe that to Stuka.”
“Of course.” Dee smiled kindly. “If you find anything helpful, please let me know. If somepony inside New Pegasus feels threatened by us, that is something that we should be aware of.”
I nodded and turned to Nadyr.
“Will you come with me?” I asked.
“Not this time, bro. I have other duties to attend to.”
“Of course.” I nodded.
“I’ll still be here, though, so don’t worry. We’ll keep having our adventures, trust me.”
I smiled and left the building, where Rose was waiting for me. She didn’t say a single word, but nodded and followed me in solemn silence. It was the moment I had been waiting for ever since I was cast out, but there was no trace of happiness in me, just the determination to find out who had orchestrated the attack that had killed Stuka.
We got to the checkpoint that led into New Pegasus and showed our brand new Citizenship Cards to the robot guards. A scanner beam went through the card for a couple of times, and the metallic ponylike machine emitted a faint beep.
“Welcome to New Pegasus.” The robot spoke with an artificial voice.
The gates opened with a low-pitched moan, and we walked into the neon jungle. Farsight was back in town, and looking for answers.
Note: Reputation change.
Freedom Field: Friendly. The ponies in Freedom Field know you and know about what you’ve done for them; and they’re thankful for it.
NER: Satisfied. You’ve proven a worthy asset for the Republic. Expect more news from them.
New Pegasus: Welcome again. Now that you’ve become a citizen, the gates to a new future are open.
END OF ACT III