ACT IV: EVENING
Chapter 14: Private Investigations
“Hello there, mares and gentlecolts, this is Mister New Pegasus speaking to you from our central studios, here at New Pegasus Radio, bringing you the latest news in the Wasteland and the best music for your ears! Speaking of which, that last one has come to you courtesy of the NER Parade Band! That last piece was part of the repertoire played at the Tenth Anniversary Jubilee of Manehattan’s rebuilding, and I tell you, it sounds simply amazing. Those of you who listen to me regularly know that I’m more into other kinds of music, but every now and then I feel the need to try something different.
Speaking of the NER and different things, around a week ago the Republican troops patrolling across Neighvada found a Radio Station that had been under frequent use in the last few weeks, and that was set to override the frequency of this station. In a nutshell, they located and dismantled the pirate Radio Nowhere, that had been causing so much trouble with its illegal broadcasts. I want to thank the authorities of the NER personally and in behalf of New Pegasus Radio for their diligent work and their swift actions.
Now, let’s move onto other issues. Remember that unrest that broke out in our neighboring township - excuse me, neighboring city - Freedom Field, right after the big wedding between the new Mayor, miss Dee Cleff and his wealthy husband? We have recently learnt that the Town Hall of Freedom Field has asked for a joint investigation between them and the City Board of New Pegasus, based on the suspicion that the attackers might have come from inside the City walls. Of course, such an accusation lacks valid proof, and the most plausible outcome is that the City Board will reject such an inquiry.
Related to this fact, I would like to share some personal thoughts with you, that do not represent the opinions of the station at all. Honestly, how do you feel about the last decision of the NER, giving Freedom Field the status of a City? I thought that the meaning of such a township was to leave those unworthy of being called citizens out of New Pegasus. As far as I know, Freedom Field grew as a sort of illusion of a safe haven in the Wasteland, but still working with the same wild laws of the open territories. Now that the gangsters in Freedom Field have obtained the degree of citizens, how long will it take until they start demanding for privileges like ours? How will the Republic react then?
Now, before I keep digressing, let’s move forward. The Ferratura Case, yes, our infamous daily dose of darkness, is just about to be considered as a cold case by the NPPD and left aside. Chief Investigator Brass Badge and his team haven’t been able to find any valid evidence in the last few days, and the pressure enacted by both the Ferraturas and the Full House Group are threatening to bring the work of the Police to a final standstill. In the meantime, the tension between the two leaders, Verrazano Ferratura and Full House, has kept on escalating, with both sides accusing each other of the murder.
Outside of the City Walls, things keep being more or less the same. The Republican forces have finally secured Hoofer Dam for the NER, thus ensuring power supply to the City. Hooves up for them, folks, and give me a cheer! Also, Ambassador Merry Fields has promised to bring teams of Pegasi Elite Troops to scout above the cloud cover, trying to find a reason for why it still keeps enduring. It seems that beyond the Divide the skies are clear, friends, but I haven’t been able to witness such a wonder. Who knows, maybe we’ll be seeing it soon!
And that was all from the news for now, mares and gentlecolts; so let’s return to some music! This record I’ve got here is a true classic, but it never gets old. If I mention the word ‘Hoofbeats’, what comes to your minds? Exactly, time for another dancehall tune from the expert hooves of Vinyl Scratch! Enjoy it, and remember, you’re listening to New Pegasus Radio, and I am your host, Mister New Pegasus, speaking directly to your souls…”
Six weeks had passed since we entered New Pegasus, but for some reason, I had the feeling of being stuck in the same routine day after day. No matter what I did, I always ended up with the same results: nothing at all. The main difference between Freedom Field and our new home was that everypony kept a very cautious silence about the things that went on in town. It wasn’t all that hard to understand, after all. Freedom Field was the Wasteland exposed, where no appearances needed to be withheld. A raider could act as a raider, a thug could be a thug, and as long as certain individuals weren’t bothered by their actions nothing would happen to them. In New Pegasus, everypony wore a disguise, and nopony was what he or she appeared to be.
When we crossed the gates to the bright lights of the city, we were summoned to the Embassy building of the NER by a couple of troopers that waited for us in the entrance checkpoint. Soon enough, we were standing in the office of the Ambassador, waiting for her to meet us. I used that time to take a look around, fueled by my usual curiosity. Similarly to Harpsong’s office in the Airport, a large NER flag was hanging from one of the walls of the room, as well as a portrait of a pale peach-colored mare with purple and blue curly mane, dressed in a sharp suit.
“That’s President Praline of the NER, Farsight.” Merry had opened the door and entered her office.
“I see.” I raised my eyebrows. “How did you know I was going to ask you about it?”
“I know the likes of you very well, young one.” Merry smirked in irony and made herself comfortable behind her desk. “You’re always trying to gather the most information from every pony or place. I thought I might as well spare you the effort of posing the question.”
“I think I understand how you got to be Ambassador.” I grinned.
“That’s it, Farsight. Hard work always pays.” Merry waved a hoof to change subject. “Now, let’s get down to business, shall we?”
“Well, you tell me what you want.” I shrugged. “We just came here.”
“I already know that. Just as well as I know that you don’t have a place to go now.”
“That would be true, yes.” I admitted with a faint nod.
“Take care of one thing, Farsight. Even if you have got a Citizenship Card, that doesn’t mean you can be wandering around for days in town without getting arrested or deported.”
“Is there a sort of curfew or what?”
“Not at all, but if you’re always outside, lazing around in the streets, you’ll start attracting other ponies’ attention, and in the end, you’ll get investigated.”
“What’s your suggestion, then?”
“You should get yourselves an apartment or a loft. A place to hide in every now and then, so that you appear more… civilized. I reckon wealth isn’t your problem.”
“Who told you that?” I asked, even if I knew the answer beforehand.
“I am in constant communication with Vice-President Heartstrings, and she told me you appeared there with a hoofful of gold ingots from the Equestrian National Reserve.”
“I should have seen that coming.” I grunted. “Never mind. Carry on.”
“My point is that the NER would make great use of that gold, and that you will attract too much attention if you use it as your currency here. I propose paying you generously for each ingot you bring here… nopony will ask questions if you intend to pay with Republican bits.”
Merry seemed too eager to get her hooves on our gold, and I didn’t like that. The NER had been very helpful to our interests, but that didn’t mean that I trusted them fully. Therefore, I decided to be cautious.
“I see your point, but to be really honest with you, I’m not sure whether I like that idea. Don’t get me wrong, though. I appreciate all the Republic has done for me in this time, but that gold is not fully mine to deal with. Just to be fair with you, I will bring you some of my ingots, in order to get proper NER currency; so that Rose and I can acquire a proper place to live in. From there on, I will consider what to do with the remaining gold.”
“Hrm… understood.” Merry didn’t hide her disappointment. “As you wish. I can’t say this is what I wanted to obtain, but I have no authority over you. However, let me warn you: others will want that gold as well, and they won’t be offering you a proper payment in exchange for it.”
“Do I have to remind you where I come from?” I said ironically.
“Don’t fool yourself, Farsight. This is a different game. This is a different league, I’d even say. Don’t think that whatever tricks you pulled off in Freedom Field will work here.”
“Is that a threat?” I smirked.
“No.” Merry looked at me sternly. “I’m just giving you a heads-up. It would be a pity that a smart buck like you would get played like a puppet just because he’s too confident in his abilities.”
“I can’t believe the NER is so worried about me.” I chuckled.
“I am not.” Merry grunted. “But others are.”
“I… see.” I mumbled. “Good, is that all?”
“Unless you have any other subject to speak about…”
“Nope.” I shook my head. “I’ll be back with your payment, Ambassador. See you soon.”
*** *** ***
After our little welcome party, we had exchanged some of the gold we brought from Neighorleans for a big case of NER money, with which we managed to buy a nifty little penthouse in an apartment building close to the New Pegasus Strip, the main avenue that crossed town from North to South, and around which all casinos and venues were built. Our new home was comfortable and quite clean, considering what we were used to in Freedom Field.
As soon as we had made ourselves at home, I left Rose to begin searching for information on our attackers. Our only lead was the chip I had found on the dead assailant, and I wasn’t going to be so bold to start asking around about a nopony that had been shot in an unrest in Freedom Field. Such questions would make me suspicious to the local population, and I definitely didn’t want that to happen.
My approach to that inquiry was simple: I would start hanging around at bars and casinos, leaving generous tips and keeping an eye and an ear open for anything suspicious. It wasn’t the best option, since I relied on things happening by themselves instead of making them happen by myself; but I needed to be very careful not to bring unwanted eyes upon me. Soon enough, I learnt that it wouldn’t be so easy to get the information I needed.
Smalltalk was a matter of everyday, but there was nothing I could pry out of the usual bartender or croupier. Not even when I posed more “aggressive” questions did they give me a hint of where to keep looking for. Day after day, I tried different places, different ponies, different approaches; and none of them worked. Finding out who had provided the goons for the assault on the wedding was proving to be a daunting task.
I didn’t give up, though, even if my patience was constantly dripping away with every failed attempt. The rage and sadness because of Stuka’s death had been substituted by determination and a will for answers, since I realized that mourning her would be futile. Nothing would bring her back, and what I needed was a feeling of closure and retribution. However, every day without results was a painful reminder of what had happened.
That very day, though, six weeks after our arrival, something happened that broke the deadlock we had driven ourselves into. I had been trying my luck in the area around the Clops Casino, without any positive results, and I had returned home to have lunch and to have a little shuteye before hitting the streets once again. Rose had been doing the same up and down the Strip, walking close to couples of goons that were having a little laugh, or staying at a short distance from street vendors that might let go a bit of info. Sadly for us, cautiousness was a common trait among the inhabitants of New Pegasus.
All of a sudden, somepony knocked at the door, making me jump from the couch I was lying on and putting both of us on guard. Carefully, I walked to the entrance of our apartment while I told Rose to get a gun ready, just in case. Our time in Freedom Field had made us twitchy, to say the least. When Rose gave me the OK sign, I opened the door and found myself looking at a familiar face: a big, dark green stallion with a short grey mane.
“Captain Brass Badge!” I smiled. “What a pleasant surprise!”
“Farsight, welcome to New Pegasus.” Brass Badge laughed and walked inside. “It’s Commissar Brass Badge now, by the way.”
“You’re six weeks too late for a welcome, but thank you anyway.” I closed the door. “Tell me, what brings you to my humble lair?”
“Humble lair my flank!” Brass Badge laughed. “You’ve got yourself a quite elegant place to be a newcomer… but it’s none of my business.”
“Let’s say I have my ways of getting a stable income.” I shrugged and looked at him in the eyes. We both smiled at our tacit understanding. Don’t ask, and don’t tell.
“Good, I’m glad for you.” Badge noticed Rose for the first time. “And who is this young lady?”
“That’s Desert Rose.”
“Nice to meet you, Commissar.” Rose waved cheerfully.
“Nice to meet you too!” Badge looked at me with irony. “This won’t be your…”
“Oh, no, not at all!” I grinned and waved my hoof. “I met her in the open Wasteland, and we decided to team up. She’s proven to be a worthy companion.”
“I see.” Badge scratched his lower jaw. “Oh well, who am I to judge? I’ve seen odder things in my life.”
“I… won’t ask.” I mumbled. “Anyway, I’m just being rude. Can I offer you something?”
“That won’t be necessary.” Badge smiled. “Still, thank you. If you don’t mind me occupying your couch, though…”
“Please, go ahead.”
Badge stretched and made himself comfortable on the couch. He emitted a faint groan and a sigh.
“All these years of patrolling the streets are starting to have their toll on me. I remember the earlier times, when I could stay on my hooves for four straight days…”
“Errr, sorry, Commissar…”
“Call me Badge, Farsight. I’m off duty now.”
“Fine, Badge. I don’t want to be rude, but there must be a reason for you to come and pay a visit. A reason other than pure etiquette, of course.”
“There is, I admit it.” Badge sighed. “From the day I first saw you I noticed that you were a very perceptive buck. What has brought me here is what happened in Freedom Field the day you entered New Pegasus.”
I had to refrain from gasping. What did he know about the incident in the wedding? What was he intending to obtain from us? Maybe he would be the one to give me the information I had been looking for the last weeks, and he did seem prone to talking freely. Sometimes the least expected pony was the one you needed. Still, even if Brass Badge seemed rather trustworthy, I wouldn’t risk giving him all I had to give without bargaining for something in return.
“That incident.” I sighed. “What makes you so interested about it?”
“The City Board has become quite insistent over the last few days about it… I guess they don’t feel comfortable with Freedom Field becoming a city and having such problems at the same time.”
“That’s bollocks, Badge.” I shook my head. “What did they tell you?”
“Gang unrest, that’s the theory handled by the big bucks in the Board.”
“And you believe them?”
“I’ve learnt not to believe a single word from a politician.” Badge shrugged.
“How wise from you.”
“Thank you, Farsight, you’re too kind.” Badge laughed coarsely. “What we know is that all attackers were shot dead, and that there was a casualty among the attacked. A female griffin.”
“Yes.” I grumbled.
“You knew her… no, you were attached to her.”
“How do you know?”
“Experience has taught me how to decypher ponies’ feelings. You’re not hiding them properly this time.”
“Fine.” I sighed. “There’s nothing wrong in letting you know. We had a relationship.”
“I’m very sorry, Farsight, but I assume you’ll be irking to find answers, am I right?”
“I am.” I admitted. “But I want to know your motives too. I believe it’s fair, don’t you think?”
“It’s understandable. When the attack took place, the Mayor of Freedom Field, Dee Cleff, sent a request for a joint investigation between the NPPD and the security forces of our neighbors, based upon the suspicion that the attack had come from New Pegasus. Of course, the City Board would never accept that theory, so the request was promptly denied. Some time later, we asked the authorities at Freedom Field to let the New Pegasus Police to conduct some questionings and some searches over there.”
“Which will have been swiftly replied with a large no, knowing Dee.” I laughed ironically.
“I knew we wouldn’t get anything from them after our politicians’ last decision, but I was forced to try. Now, the big leaders keep asking me for conclusions on the attack… probably intending to build a case against Freedom Field, in order to complain to the Republic. However, I can’t do anything, since I am not allowed to go to Freedom Field in search of information, and the City Board won’t let their investigators into New Pegasus either. That’s why, as soon as I found out that you had made it here, I decided to come ask for your help.”
“Hm…” I wondered. “I don’t feel too comfortable helping the politicians that cast me out, but I guess that both of us can profit from what each other knows.”
“That would be very kind of you.” Badge smiled.
“It’s not kindness what drives me, Badge. I’ve got my own agenda. You should know it by now.”
It seemed like we had reached an agreement, and Badge was the kind of pony that gave me a positive vibe. Stern, straight and strong-willed, he didn’t seem the betraying kind. With all that in mind, I picked the chip I had found in the dead goon and gave it to Badge.
“I found it on one of the attackers’ corpse. It’s a casino chip, but it doesn’t belong to any of the gambling dens of Freedom Field.”
“That’s odd.” Badge inspected the chip with care. “The symbol is that of the Full House Group, so I believe this chip must come from the Platinum Horseshoe.”
“Aren’t you sure?”
“They change their designs regularly, to avoid forgery.” Badge shrugged. “This could be their latest design, I can’t say for sure. However, as I said, the symbol is clearly theirs.”
“So this means there was some implication.”
“I can’t say as much, but it doesn’t look like a gang warfare issue to me.” Badge nodded. “At least, with this in my hooves, I will be able to dismantle that theory.”
“Good for you… Now that you have what you wanted, I think it’s time you started telling me what I need.”
Badge smiled mysteriously before clearing his throat.
“I think I’ve got a better idea. You two happen to have a job?”
“Not yet.” I shook my head. “What are you up to, Badge?”
“I have had an idea that might interest you. Since you’re looking for information, I propose that we team up.”
“Me, becoming a cop?” I laughed to tears. “Seriously, Badge, no offence meant, but I don’t think you got me right.”
“Stop blabbering, you idiot.” Badge groaned. “It’s not that easy to become a member of the NPPD. Besides, I also don’t think you’d fit in. What I’m suggesting is that you two become private eyes hired by the City of New Pegasus. You would have access to our facilities and archives, and if things get a bit out of hoof, you can count on me to cover you… up to some point, of course.”
“That sounds interesting. What’s the catch?”
“Why do you think there’s a catch? You’ll be private eyes, with all the ups and downs it has. You get to access information, but you’ll be more exposed to the wrath of those you piss off.”
“As if there was an actual difference.” Rose huffed.
“You’ve got a point there.” Badge gurgled. “That’s the way it goes… if you want answers, I’m giving you a head start, but everything has its risks.”
“Fair enough… would we have to report to you?”
“Only if I explicitly ask for it.”
“Which you wouldn’t, right?”
“Not in the first place.” Badge shrugged. “I have the feeling that you work better when you’re left alone, but remember that I’ve got eyes on me… they might want me to explain what we’re up to.”
“I understand… you cover me, I cover you.” I walked up and down the room. “I assume that the law would be a bit more… understanding towards us, right?”
“As long as you don’t go kill-crazy in the middle of the Strip, the NPPD will pay you very little attention. I will take care of that personally.”
“That’s good to hear.” I nodded. It wasn’t a bad deal, after all… we would have a bit of a leeway as far as the law was concerned, and we would have access to classified information that should help us progress. “What do you say, Rose?”
“It sounds good to me, Farsight. At least, I can’t see any large flaws… assuming that the NPPD will respect the agreement.”
Her tone had become darker and I noticed Lavender’s traits appearing in her way of behaving. It looked like the two personalities living in her had started understanding each other and cooperating. Lavender’s implied aggressiveness was perfect to make such a remark. Badge couldn’t hide a sudden shiver either.
“Well, in that case…” I smiled broadly and gave Badge a hoofshake. “You’ve got yourself two new investigators.”
“Good!” Badge cheered. “Very good! I’m sure you’ll get what you want.”
“That’s what we’ll try to do.” I nodded. “Still, I was expecting you to let us know of the current state of things, before we go searching under every damn stone in town just to find out stuff that you could have told us directly.”
“State of things… OK. I guess that what you need to know is a bit of history. It should give you a global idea of who the major players are.”
“I’m guessing Full House has something to do.”
“You would be guessing right. Let me step a bit back, though.” Brass Badge coughed, cleared his throat and began speaking as if he was narrating a long story. “Some years ago, when I was promoted to Captain, the town was controlled by the Ferratura Family. There might have been other families, other gangs, but as far as I can remember, only the Ferraturas had real power.
Their base was, and keeps being, the Clops Casino. I’m not going to judge what they do inside, but if you sum up the profits they get from selling drinks, gambling and prostitution, you will understand why they are so important. Still, while I worked my way up the ladder, the Ferratura Family was in charge of most businesses in town, or at least it earned some protection money from them.”
“Isn’t that blackmail or something?” Rose asked.
“It is, but that’s the way things go.” Badge shrugged. “As I said, the Ferraturas were in control over all of town, directly or indirectly. However, they held a tight grip with a silk glove, and that was all thanks to good old Novalis, or ‘Nonno’, as they now call him.”
“The patriarch of the Ferratura Family. A very good buck, if you ask me, crooked as he is. Even if his business was shady, he understood that things had to be done honorably in order to get respect from the rest of the world, since respect is the only thing that keeps you on top.”
Respect is the only thing that keeps you on top… That wasn’t the first time that I heard that concept. Metronome had told me something similar regarding Dee, back when I was just a newcomer in Freedom Field. It seemed that things worked similarly in New Pegasus.
“Novalis was kind with the poor, welcoming with the foreign, friendly with the newcomers such as me; and unwavering with his enemies, or so they said. I never saw anypony confront Novalis openly, to be honest.”
“A regime of terror?”
“No, not at all. Seeing Novalis walking up and down the Strip with his best suit on, without any kind of escort, was the usual daily routine. Everypony knew that Novalis was the town protector, and he showed it generously, usually without asking for anything in return. However, he got old and weary, and he gave the control of the Family to his two sons: Verrazano and Delvio.”
“Let me guess, that’s where things went wrong.” I snared.
“Not quite. You know, you couldn’t have two brothers being more different than the two Ferratura bucks. Verrazano is aggressive, ruthless and cruel, with violence and enforcement being his only two resources to get his will done. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Novalis is that butcher’s father, but I guess that he was a spoilt foal, and we’re paying for past mistakes. Delvio, on the other hoof, is a lot more like his father. He’s calm, patient, honest and honorable; not to mention that he is very intelligent and cunning. Actually, I would say he is a lot like you, Farsight. However, he lacks ambition, and he prefers to hide in the shadows and let others be protagonists, even if he is the artifex of the plans.”
“I see. Where does this lead us to?”
“Be patient, will you. When Verrazano took control of the Ferratura business, he tried to establish a more… militaristic domain over New Pegasus, even if he had everything under control. Luckily, Delvio and other advisors were able to convince him that it wasn’t a good idea. Things kept being the same until the Platinum Horseshoe reopened and Full House appeared as a player. Soon enough, the robot units of Full House took over the streets and began “convincing” small venues to pay their protection money to Full House instead of giving it to the Ferraturas. Some assumed that the new boss would be better than the old boss and switched sides voluntarily, and the Casino and its joint venues began attracting population that used to spend its caps on the Clops.”
“And that made Verrazano very angry.” I grinned.
“Exactly. Verrazano was eager to start an open conflict with Full House, but his father and his brother stopped him from doing it. Besides, the NER had appeared in the scene and it wasn’t a good idea to give the Republic a reason to come and enforce order. Since Verrazano was getting a bit too aggressive, old buck Novalis and Delvio used Verrazano’s young son Sandmound as a way to keep him on a short leash.”
“Novalis established Sandmound as the official heir to the Family, leaping over both Verrazano and Delvio. While he was getting ready to undertake his duties, Verrazano would be in charge, if and only if he kept things smooth and calm. However, some time after that, somepony killed Sandmound in the street, and chaos broke loose. Verrazano accused Full House of ordering the murder, Full House implied that Verrazano had something to do with it… and the NPPD got caught in the middle. In all this time of investigation, I haven’t been able to question neither Verrazano nor Full House, I haven’t managed to find worthy evidence or witnesses… The case is a bloody dead end.”
“We might be able to help you with it.” I smiled.
“I’m sure that you’ve got many hypotheses about who the murderer was, or who ordered it; but you can’t move forward because you can’t get any valuable leads. Well, we don’t have to do things exactly by the book, so we might be able to obtain the confessions you need in a more… unorthodox way.”
“That’s not going to work, Farsight.” Badge shook his head in denial. “If I show up with such evidence in trial, it will be a matter of time until somepony gets it denied because of its origin.”
“Now, now, think about the possibilities.” I lectured Badge. “What is your worry? Not being able to catch the culprit and put him into jail? I hardly see how that can be a problem.”
“Explain yourself, Farsight.”
“Let’s suppose that the murderer is a nopony, a mugger or something similar. In that case, both Full House and the Ferraturas would be delighted to have him sentenced, so I don’t think any lawyer would work too hard dismantling the evidence.”
“You’re assuming that the justice system in New Pegasus is corrupt.”
“You don’t?” I looked at him with true puzzling in my face.
“Well, so far, I haven’t had any suspicion.”
“In that case, I suppose that you’ve never faced a case of such broad political implications; which baffles me, really. You’ve come from Stable 188, like me, and you know how things went down there! When politics are involved, justice is anything but blind!”
“True…” Badge sighed. “I guess that was my idealism speaking.”
“I understand how you feel.” Rose intervened. “But I fear Farsight’s right this time.”
“Look, Badge. I’m not saying I like things as they are, but I do think we should get as much profit as possible from the situation. Once this is all sorted out, you can keep doing fair justice.”
“Oh well. I’ll have to live with that.” Badge grunted.
“Good. Let’s now assume that Full House is behind all this. In that case, I think we should go to the Ferraturas with the information.”
“No! That would spark a war!” Rose roared.
“Would it?” I smiled. “I don’t think so. If the Ferraturas, particularly Delvio, are cunning enough they’ll use whatever we give them as evidence; and as long as they’re being the ones bringing that into public light I doubt any judge will dare to disregard it.”
“But what if Verrazano attacks Full House?”
“In that case we ‘encourage’ Delvio to put Verrazano aside and stop the hostilities. Case closed.”
“Would that work?”
“It’s just a hunch, but if we play our cards properly, I don’t see why it shouldn’t. It might be a bit rough and wastelandish, but nopony is perfect.”
“I think you have… greater plans in mind.” Badge mumbled.
“Who, me?” I winced. “No, no, none at all. I’m just making assumptions and following my logic. I don’t know this city enough to make any plan, not to the extent we’re talking about at least.”
“Have it your way…” Badge seemed to suspect me. “What if the attack was ordered by the Ferraturas?”
“I’m not discarding the possibility, but it sounds rather improbable, don’t you think?”
“You would be surprised of the odd things I have seen in my life.”
“Fair enough, one must have an open mind.” I nodded. “In that case, I’d go to Full House. He doesn’t seem like the aggressive kind, does he?”
“He’s a mystery, Farsight. I can’t predict how he would react to such a situation.”
“Oh well, that’s too bad. Still, according to what you’ve seen, he hasn’t been too violent when ‘convincing’ others to join his ranks, has he?”
“The NPPD has never had to go after him, if that’s what you ask.”
“That’s a start, at least; and believe me, once the information is in the hooves of either the Ferraturas or Full House, it won’t matter where it came from. You will have done your job and you’ll get a pat on the back. Isn’t that what you want, after all?”
“More or less, yes.”
“In that case, the only thing I need from you is to let us work in peace, without the NPPD bothering us for every step we take. You can carry on doing things ‘the right way’ and we’ll see where we get to.”
“I can’t guarantee you full immunity, but my bucks will cut you some slack. Don’t go causing a full-scale chaos, though, or both you and I will be in trouble.”
“Rest easy, we’ll be careful.” I grinned with malice.
Badge sighed and got back on his hooves, and began moving towards the door. I walked beside him, and I noticed that he was internally fighting his feelings. He wanted to get the case closed, but he felt unsure about the methods I proposed. However, he had to be aware of the lack of results of doing things ‘by the book’. I opened the door to let him out, and when he was about to leave our apartment, he turned around and looked at me in the eyes.
“You’re not the same buck that left the Stable.” His face was stern, even a bit fearsome. “The Wasteland has changed you… I can’t say if for better or worse. I’m still willing to give you some trust, since we two come from the same place and have been through the same issues… don’t make me regret this. Please.”
“Badge, please, don’t worry. I want answers, you want answers, but the main difference is that you have much more to lose if you break the rules. I’m willing to take the fall if I cock this up, so calm down.”
“OK, fine.” Badge sighed. “You know the way to the station, should you need to check our archives. See you later, Farsight. Rose.”
“Bye, Captain!” Rose waved from behind.
Badge left the apartment, and I closed the door behind him. We had some tricks up our sleeves now, and I had the feeling that we would start making progress in finding who had ordered the attack on Freedom Field. About the Ferratura murder case, well, answers had to be out there. One just needed to know how to find them.
*** *** ***
After Badge left us on our own again, I had walked into the small kitchen and had begun working on a homemade stew. Somehow, cooking had become my hobby in New Pegasus. I found it surprisingly rewarding and fun, and besides, the lack of action and work in the last times had made me crave for other ways to spend my time. A couple of hours later, the whole flat smelled of cooked molerat meat and vegetables, and I turned the cooker off and moved the pot onto the table, just to let it cool down before eating it.
“Are you totally sure about this, Farsight?” Rose asked.
“About what?” I moved the pot to the table and began sorting out the plates.
“About us taking part in the Ferratura murder investigation. Isn’t that a bit way over our heads?”
“Only time will tell,” I shrugged “but I’ve got the feeling that it can’t be that much of a problem. Besides, it’s not like we’ve literally promised him we would get the case solved. We told him we would help, that’s all. Let’s not forget that our main worry now is to find out who the responsible for the attack on Freedom Field is. Whatever we can find out related to the murder case will be good, but it’s not prioritary.”
I served the stew and tried it. Not bad, for a beginner like me.
“Prioritary or not, I don’t feel comfortable getting into such deep waters.”
“I thought you were the optimist in this group, Rose.” I smiled and took a sip. “Haven’t we been through harder times?”
“Hm… I have to agree with you there. Neighorleans was no easy feat.” Rose sighed and concentrated on her plate.
“There you go. Speaking of which, what happened to that sprite that followed you?”
“Who, Bonafyre? I don’t know. It didn’t follow us through the teleporter.”
Rose picked the last piece of meat and ate it whole, while her face showed that she was liking it quite a lot.
“Did you do this, Farsight?” she muttered. “It’s not bad at all!”
“Thank you.” I bowed.
“Come on!” Rose chuckled. “By the way, were you honest to Badge?”
“Honest in which sense?”
“Don’t you have any plan in mind, Farsight? You really don’t?”
“Why does nopony believe me?” I laughed at her question. “Seriously, I’m being honest for once and all of you think I’m hiding something! I guess this is what I deserve for being such a schemer.” I shook my head in pretended dismay, causing Rose to chuckle. “No, seriously now, I have nothing in mind… for now. My only plan is to find what we came here to find. Once we have our answers, I’ll think about which steps to take.”
“What will you do if Full House or the Ferraturas were the ones ordering the attack?”
“I don’t know. Of course, I’ll try to find a way to have our vengeance; but I have no idea about what or how I will do it.”
I finished with my meal and began cleaning the plates and pots, while Rose seemed worried about our future. It was understandable, and maybe I was being a bit too trusting, but we had to carry on. I owed that to Stuka, and I wouldn’t be able to live in peace while I had that unfinished business in my mind.
“What are we supposed to do now?” Rose asked.
I took my time to meditate about our next steps. It was obvious that we would have to ‘hunt’ our information, so to speak, since doing things by the book hadn’t worked for Badge and his crew. However, we couldn’t act like loose cannons or we would attract attention. We needed to be very careful and very resolved to get positive results; and for that, we needed to know our potential enemies.
“We are going to split up.” I felt eager to start, and so I made clear with my voice. “Rose, I need you to take a look around the Platinum Horseshoe, to confirm whether the chip we found is Full House’s or not. In the meantime, I will dive in the NPPD archives for information.”
“I’m a filly… don’t you think they won’t let me in?”
“Maybe, but I suppose there will be places that you will be able to get into… I don’t know, perhaps you can get in a restaurant or someplace similar, where gamblers from the Casino go to. Try to get a glimpse on the chips the ponies use over there, then get out and come find me. Be as inconspicuous as possible, that is the only thing you really need to be careful about.”
“Understood, Farsight.” Rose nodded. “I’ll be like a shadow in the night!”
“I hope you manage to do that. Let’s get moving!”
*** *** ***
The memories of my first time in the NPPD Station hadn’t been too pleasant, to be honest. I had been scared to death, puzzled, half broken and if that weren’t enough, I had been dragged there by two robot ponies and interrogated by a trigger-happy foal. This time I was walking in as a free citizen with nothing to fear, but to be honest, the place kept being plain ugly. The fact that it looked like a massive concrete block wouldn’t help either.
Inside, though, the building had been shown more love and care, even if things kept reeking of fanatic predominance of function over form. The walls had been painted in white and blue, the colours of the corps, but without any sign of taste, just a dull white overall with a blue line at flank height. Doors and furniture were made out of actual wood, but every single item followed the same pattern of straight lines and conventional shapes. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the rationalist design, and I did think that objects had to be designed to fill a function; but there were ways of making an item functional and good looking.
The muffled sound of a radio filled the air in the lobby; the twangs and picks of a guitar and the broken voice of one of those Wasteland singers that had become increasingly popular over the months; while a lone young buck stood guard in the entrance checkpoint. At first I didn’t notice it, but in a second look, the face of the cop rang a bell in my mind.
“Goodness me, if it isn’t Standoff.” I grimaced, remembering how he had treated me in my last visit.
“Who the…?” Standoff snapped off his distraction, and looked at me. “Wait a minute. You!”
“Yes, me.” I looked at his puzzled face while he tried to figure out who I was. “Do you remember?”
“You’re that buck!” Nice remark. I was ‘that buck’.
“Come on, boy. You’re almost there.” I snickered.
“You’re the Stable outcast we deported some months ago!”
Finally. I thought we were going to be there all day.
“Bingo!” I pranced. “Now, if you could just remember my name, it would be all peachy.”
“Hey, watch what you say.” Standoff squinted. “I don’t get along with smartypants bucks.”
“I noticed that the last time we met.” I didn’t hide my irony.
“So, what are you here for?” he grunted. “Round two?”
“Please, what do you think I am, Officer Standoff!” I whined theatrically. “I’m a civilized, law-abiding pony who is here to serve the NPPD.”
“And how do you intend to do that?”
“Has your Captain told you about some private investigators that would give the police a hoof in the Ferratura case, among others?”
“Yes, he has - wait a minute. YOU are the private eye?”
“Why, yes, I am. If you don’t trust me, you can go ask Captain Brass Badge.” I winked. “Does that bother you?”
“As long as you don’t play with my patience…” he grumbled.
“Good, I knew we could get along.” I smiled. “Now, where do you folks keep the archive? I need to dig in some files.”
“Wait, do you have permission?” Standoff barked. He didn’t seem to have understood the concept of getting along as colleagues.
“Hey, it’s perfectly fine if you don’t believe me.” I shrugged. “Ask the Captain about it.”
“On second thought… last door on the left. Don’t mess things up too much, or I will have to go put everything into place back again.”
“Don’t you worry.” I nodded. “I’ll be very careful.”
I left Standoff grumbling something I couldn’t understand as I trotted down the hallway to the archives. The relationship between the two police stallions was a curious one indeed. Standoff seemed to fear or despise Brass Badge up to a point of not confirming my words, just to avoid having to confront him; but at the same time he was overtly aggressive towards the Captain, at least when he wasn’t present.
Somehow, that reminded me of what Badge had told us regarding the Ferratura family. Novalis’ way of maintaining control had been that of speaking softly and carrying a big stick, one could say. His model of dominance had been based upon the cooperation with his subjects, being friendly and helpful, aiding those in need and protecting those who were weak; while charging a reasonable price and having a certain militarized force to deter enemies from attacking his empire. His son Delvio seemed to favor that way of acting, and that was, apparently, what Sandmound would have done.
Verrazano, on the other hoof, favored a much more aggressive approach to city domination. He wanted to boost his armed forces and to bring the fight to Full House’s turf, while coercing the smaller businesses for their protection money. The impetuous Ferratura chieftain had switched to the way of speaking harshly and waving the big stick from one side to the other. However, as in the case of Badge and Standoff, what that ended up causing was a will from the subjects to break free.
The lesson that could be obtained from those cases was simple. Power must be handled softly. Hold on to it too strongly and it will slip through your grasp. With that idea in my mind, I walked into the archive room, a large storage hall stacked with shelves that held boxes full of paperwork and evidence.
“For being such a developed city, they could have scrounged up a terminal to keep track of everything…” I grunted, and began an arduous search through the files. I had little hope of finding any leads pointing towards the attack on Freedom Field, so I focused on the Ferratura Murder. Even if that wasn’t what I really wanted to solve, it seemed like a nice can-opener, as it was something that had shaken the foundations of New Pegasus and had sparked rivalries. Every player had something to win or to lose from the murder.
It didn’t take me much to find the desired boxes, as it was a case that was still open and therefore, it was easy to retrieve. To be such an important case, I found the box to be surprisingly lightweight. Even if there had been little evidence, I expected more material to be gathered in there. I could understand why the police hadn’t been able to make many advances, but then again, it was all a matter of focus.
According to the file, Sandmound Ferratura had been found dead on a small side street, at a reasonable distance from the Strip. First question, what had driven Sandmound into a place so far from unwanted eyes? Had it been a mare? Had he been coerced or drugged? One young and intelligent buck, such as the dead heir was, wouldn’t willingly walk into a dark alley unless there was something that motivated him to do so.
Secondly, the cause of death had been two gunshots to the back of the head, fired at almost point-blank range. Whoever the killer was, it had been able to get really close to the victim. That didn’t sound like a standard mugging… maybe an attempted robbery gone wrong? A frustrated kidnapping? Another fact to be taken into account was that somepony had taken great care in eliminating every possible evidence from the crime scene. For me, that ruled out the possibility that the murder had been a matter of chance or opportunism. That assassination had been thoroughly planned.
Assuming there was a plan behind Sandmound’s death, my mind began to consider the possible players who might have orchestrated it. According to Brass Badge, there were two main suspects, plus a third less probable but still not discardable one. I needed to consider what each one had to win or to lose with the murder, to be able to build consistent theories to play with. If I wanted to get in the game, I needed to have proper cards.
First things first, the most obvious culprit was Full House. Not that he would have done it by himself, of course, but he could have been the mastermind. Sandmound’s death would leave the Ferratura Family without a proper heir and in total disarray, as Verrazano and Delvio’s differences in character would cause them to clash and argue for each and every decision to be taken. One couldn’t forget the role that Novalis would have to play in the current situation, as the great Don of the Family was still capable of taking relevant choices, namely the one of designating a heir. Would primogeniture be the criterion, giving Verrazano the control, or would Novalis prefer a more diplomatic successor and nominate Delvio?
In return, Full House would appear as the most obvious suspect, to all keen eyes. Therefore, even if innocent, many voices among the population of New Pegasus would consider him to blame for Sandmound’s death, and the Ferraturas could use that vox populi to justify a revenge. Was Full House interested in incurring such risks?
Secondly, one could think on blaming Verrazano Ferratura. Even if it sounded outrageous that a pony could order his own son’s assassination, there were obvious benefits for him. To begin with, Sandmound had been designated heir by his own father, bypassing him in the succession line of the Family. By taking Sandmound out of the picture, old buck Novalis would have to reconsider his decision and establish a new heir. Of course, that left the possibility of Delvio being the chosen one, but who said that Verrazano couldn’t have him killed? Besides, the death of Sandmound would give Verrazano a proper casus belli against Full House, and a chance to regain control over New Pegasus by force.
However, Verrazano was putting himself in a risky position if he was, indeed, the mind behind the assassination. The murder of one’s son would not go unpunished even in the most uncivilized of places, and New Pegasus looked like a place where appearances were of great importance. If Verrazano’s implication was discovered, he would surely lose any chance to become the new Capo of the Family… and he would most probably get shot.
Then, there was Delvio as a possible suspect. It was true that he had less to win from the assassination, but if he managed to pull it off properly and put the blame on his brother, he would be prompted to the top spot as heir to the control of the family empire. Still, that didn’t seem to fit with his character, but I wouldn’t discard all his way of acting to be a façade to hide a very dangerous individual.
Delvio had less to lose, since he was a far less probable suspect for any investigator; but if he was proven to be the pony behind the murder, he would be in a situation similar to that of Verrazano’s. All things considered, though, Delvio would have more chances of getting away with it because of his cautious and non-ambitious appearance.
Last but not least, there was another possibility I had initially discarded, but that I realized I needed to keep under consideration. What if Novalis himself had ordered his grandson’s murder? It was quite more far fetched, but Novalis could be wanting to put the blame on Full House so that his violent son Verrazano would start a war… just to intervene and stop it, thus showing that he wasn’t too old to rule. It was very convoluted, but it wasn’t impossible; therefore, I couldn’t throw it away.
“Here you are!” Rose’s voice almost made me jump. I hadn’t noticed her coming.
“Don’t sneak up on me like that, for Luna’s sake!” I sighed, my heart still beating like crazy.
“Sorry, Farsight.” Rose giggled and blushed. “It’s taken me a while to find you. Besides, the officer at the gate wasn’t too helpful.”
“Who, a young buck?”
“Yes, rather young.”
“Then you’ve met my friend Standoff.” I shook my head in disgust. “What a dick.”
“I totally agree.” Rose nodded. “Any luck?”
“Nothing on the attack on Freedom Field.” I shrugged. “Not that I expected to find anything useful.”
“What about the murder case?”
“Well, there are some files on the matter. Sandmound was killed on a gutter, far from the Strip, by means of two point-blank shots to the back of his head.”
“That’s what it looks like.”
“Any ideas on who might have done it?”
“I would discard a normal mugger or things like that. The attack was orchestrated.”
“So, we’re talking about top-level players here.”
“Once again, that seems to be the most probable explanation. Nothing is final, though.” I sighed. “I don’t think we’ll ever have anything final in this case. How was your day?”
“Not that bad, after all.” Rose smiled sincerely. “I managed to see how the Platinum Horseshoe chips look like, and they are like the one you found.”
“So, Full House was involved in the attack!” I grunted.
“At least, the pony you killed had been in the Horseshoe. That’s what we can assure.”
“True…” I mumbled. “You know what, Rose? I think it’s time we begin to ask questions.”
*** *** ***
With no haste, but without hesitation, we began our search for a valid candidate for questioning. We had to be careful, for our actions would without a doubt stir up the situation in New Pegasus. Until then, we had stayed under the radar, moving along like two nameless citizens among the crowds. However, as soon as we obtained our answers, the situation would become far more unstable for us. We weren’t going to be clean and tidy after all, so we had to do things so that the first shot was a good one.
Rose and I scattered and began scouting the Platinum Horseshoe and its surroundings, looking for somepony who might have access to such a level of information. Of course, that excluded the croupiers and bartenders, low level employees who would never be aware of those strategic decisions, provided that Full House was a serious and responsible entrepreneur, which from the looks of things, he actually was.
Goons were out of the question as well. Even if a henchpony of a certain level would have to know about the handlings of his superiors, the problem in this particular case was that all the security enforcers were robots, and therefore, invalid for questioning. We needed to find a flesh-and-bone pony who could provide us of the answers we needed.
I realized that I had to be extremely careful when conducting this investigation of ours. Until now, we had been playing in a minor league, so to speak, as the mobsters in Freedom Field didn’t have the level of power and influence that the ones in New Pegasus showed. Even if Dee was the most powerful leader in the neighboring township, she didn’t have as much strength in terms of weaponry and ponypower as the two contending factions in the city of the Casinos.
Still, I began to perceive an opportunity in all that situation. New Pegasus was on the verge of a conflict. Full House was constantly taking over Ferratura underlings and defying their past position as the leaders of the city, while Verrazano Ferratura was striving to enact his revenge on the ground of the murder of his own son. Nopony knew who the responsible was, but a small push in the right direction with Sandmound involved would get the war machine running. Who knows who might profit from it.
“That face…” Rose’s voice made me jump, startled. “You’re plotting stuff once again.”
“Rose, please.” I sighed. “Don’t sneak on me!”
“You always fall for that one.” Rose giggled.
“Well, stop doing it!” I grumbled. “One of these days, you’ll give me a stroke.”
“Come on, Farsight, don’t go drama queen on me.” Rose smiled… or was it Lavender? Sometimes it was hard to tell who I was speaking to. “You WERE plotting something, right?”
“I’m beginning to see a possibility, Rose. Still, it’s far from being factible.”
“Oh no, you want to take over the world once again.”
“More or less.” I grinned. “I think we could profit of a bit of chaos in New Pegasus, by being in the right place at the right time.”
“Tell me one thing, Farsight. Why are you doing this?”
“Doing what? Finding the answers we need?”
“No. Why are you putting your life on the line once again?” Rose looked at me with clear worry in her eyes, and I felt suddenly uncomfortable. Was she showing new feelings towards me? The kind of feelings a filly shouldn’t have towards me, that is?
“Think of it, Rose.” I tried to keep calm and disregard those thoughts. “We’re living a borrowed life in New Pegasus. Our citizenship was issued by the NER, and even if they’ve withheld their treaties, I can’t fully trust them. I don’t know when or if they’ll turn their backs on us, or if they’ll require more services from us. Harpsong clearly saw us as useful tools, but tools nonetheless, and Stonetree hates me directly. Also, there’s the monetary matter.”
“Monetary? Farsight, we’ve got a stash of gold!”
“Yes, we do, but if somepony finds out, we’ll be as good as dead. As soon as we can secure a stream of income, we won’t draw any suspicions on us. Don’t you see that we must look odd, walking along and spending without thinking twice, even if we have no jobs?”
“True…” Rose nodded thoughtfully.
“Also, let’s not forget that Nadyr has a stake on that gold too, and now that he’s a happily married stallion, his wife will also have something to say about it.”
“If that is a problem, why don’t you look for a regular job instead of plotting the fall of New Pegasus?”
“Well, that’s my forte, after all.” I sighed. “It’s what I do best.”
“I can’t argue with you on that.” Rose shook her head. “And I know I won’t be able to stop you from carrying on with your plan. Just be careful.”
“I don’t pretend to die, Rose. Now, why are you here? Found anything?”
“Maybe. I’ve got my eyes put on a certain buck over there.” Rose looked over her shoulder, pointing me in the direction of the roulette tables.
My companion’s target was a middle-aged stallion, pale red coat with copper mane, combed backwards and carefully gelled. He was wearing a sharp yet worn beige suit, a shirt and a matching tie, and he walked from one side to the other of the table area with the expertise of a pony that had been doing the same job for a long time.
“Big red one?” I asked.
“The very one.” Rose replied. “He’s not a gambler, he hasn’t played a single chip since we got into the Casino; but he keeps moving to and fro, keeping his eyes on the tables, and more importantly, on the gamblers. Besides, he’s wearing a small badge that says that he works in here.”
“Fine, but is he our buck?”
“He’s not an ordinary croupier, that’s for sure. Whoever he is, he must be somepony important in the Casino. I haven’t seen any other of his kind around here, so I think he’ll be our best bet.”
“Then, it’s time to go double or nothing.” I smiled. “How are we going to get him out of the Casino?”
“I’ve seen him ogling at some beautiful mares.” Rose smiled cunningly. Once again, I had the feeling that Lavender had put herself in charge. “I think I’ll be able to lure him out of the Casino. Where should I take him to?”
“Our place would be fine, as long as we don’t have to clean blood from every single wall.” I shook my head in denial. “What if it doesn’t work?”
“In that case, we’ll have to think again.” Rose/Lavender shrugged. “But to be honest, I believe I’ll get things done.”
“Go ahead, I’ll be close.”
Rose (or Lavender, I couldn’t tell who) walked towards the red buck, while I took a detour through the Baccarat tables, keeping both of them in my sights. My companion had adopted a very different behaviour, swinging seductively from one side to the other, while she apparently whistled a tune. I saw that our target noticed her and looked puzzled and pleased at the same time, so things appeared to go according to Rose’s plan. I hurried up to a vantage position from which I could overhear the conversation they were starting.
“My, who do we have here?” The buck’s voice was mellifluous, almost as sticky as his mane looked. “You must be a newcomer.”
“What makes you think that, handsome?” Rose’s tone was soft and warm as the dusk breeze in the Wasteland.
“Something so beautiful couldn’t have gone unnoticed by me.” He smiled. Disgusting.
“You seem to be very confident about what you know and don’t know.”
“I have knowledge of many things going on in this city, miss…”
“Lavender.” My companion waved her eyelashes up and down. “But you can call me whatever you want, honey.”
“You sure are straightforward, Lavender. I’m Rocky Shade, Chief of Security in the Platinum Horseshoe, but tonight you can call me Rocky.”
“Fine, Rocky…” Rose (or Lavender, if I took her word for granted) took a step towards the red buck. “You’re right on one thing. I am fairly straightforward; when I see something I like, I go for it with no brakes. This time, I like you, and I want you to be mine tonight.”
Rose’s tone had been tremendously seductive and well measured. I didn’t know how she had managed to pull off such a trick, but I admit I felt worryingly aroused by her words, even if I knew they weren’t directed to me. Rocky had to feel so too, because he coughed suddenly and tried to look calm and in control, although I had the feeling that he was having a tough time.
“Really?” Rocky smiled nervously. “Well, I had never been in such a…”
“Rocky, I don’t have much patience, so make your choice. Come with me and I will give you the night of your life… or stick to your job and forget about me. Is it clear?”
“Very clear, Lavender.” Rocky tried to appear confident. “Lead the way.”
“Follow me, handsome.” Rose winked and walked out of the Casino, with Rocky following her closely.
I tried to be inconspicuous while I made my way through the streets of New Pegasus, doing a real effort not to lose Rose and Rocky before they got to our apartment building. I had little idea of what she intended to do once they got to our place, but I didn’t want to leave her alone with that slimy buck. If something was to happen to Rose, I wouldn’t be able to bear it.
A couple of minutes later I was climbing the stairs to our apartment, keeping a safe distance from Rose and Rocky. I had seen them enter the building some seconds ago, and I was trying to be as fast as possible while keeping out of their line of sight. However, I had heard the main door of my flat open and close again, so the time for being careful was over, and it was the time to run.
I darted into the apartment with the rifle ready for any inconvenience, and I found to my surprise that good old Rocky was tied up to my bed with his pants on his hooves. Whatever fun he intended to obtain that night had flown off the window, and Rose was looking at him with a cunning smile. On a second thought, it had to be Lavender.
“Welcome home, Farsight!” She smiled in a way that made me shiver. “You arrive not a second too late!”
“Who is this?” Rocky yelled in anger. “What do you want from me?”
“Now, now, mister Shade.” I left my worries aside and began getting into character, as Nadyr would have said. “We just want some information from you.”
“Information?” Rocky roared. “Who do you think you are?”
“Me?” I laughed, but Lavender interrupted me suddenly.
“Please, let me handle this.” She winked, and turned to Rocky. “Rocky, please, don’t make me do this harder than what it has to be.”
Her tone had returned to be gentle and caring, as if Rose had assumed control once again. Was she actually shifting between her two personalities to play with his mind? If she was, that was most impressive, I had to admit it. I felt a rush of pride for her, for her strength of will and for her cunning. She had grown a lot from the day we first met, and that gave me a sense of success.
“Harder?” Rocky roared and struggled to free himself. “Are you crazy? As soon as Full House finds about this…!”
“Calm down, Rocky, please.” Rose whispered. “We’ll record the audio, so that you rest assured that we won’t abuse you.”
I nodded and activated the recording function on my PipBuck. I stood close to Rose and Rocky, so that the sound would be clearly stored in my hoofheld device, and I got ready to watch what my companion was planning for our unfortunate guest.
“That’s ridiculous! You won’t get a word out of me!” Rocky stood strong.
“Please, Rocky, be reasonable.” Rose said in a soothing voice. “We only need a bit of cooperation. Do it, and I will give you what I promised…”
She used her magic to gently caress him on his exposed belly and undercarriage, making his ‘fifth hoof’ shake and grow. Rocky shook and smiled for a moment, but then his grin disappeared and his expression became stern and disgruntled once again. Swing and miss, Rose.
“No way. My loyalty to Full House can’t be bought by a filly slut.”
“Oh, it can’t?” Rose’s tone became harder, probably when Lavender took control. “Are you telling me you want to do it rough?”
Suddenly, her horn glowed bright red and her grip tightened on his lower end, making him wail in pain in a way that made me gulp. Lavender showed a considerable amount of resources when it came to causing pain. Rocky was sweating profusely as my companion walked close to his face, her horn still glowing with the pressure spell.
“Now, now, Rocky, dear… How do you intend to fuck me if I squeeze your thing dry… or I break it like a twig?” Lavender said darkly. “I was hoping you could make me a real mare… and the only thing I needed was you to tell me a little secret.”
“Ugh… please… let… me… go!” Rocky cried.
“Lavender, don’t lose your mind.” I warned her, as I saw she was getting fired up. “We need him to speak.”
Lavender broke the spell and Rocky sighed while his squeezed member fell to one side.
“You see what I’m capable of doing when I’m angry…” Rose was once again in control of the filly’s body, and spoke in a soothing voice. “I prefer to do things differently, but if you insist on being so stubborn, I will have no other choice.”
“But… I can’t…” Rocky mumbled, tears falling from his eyes. “I swore loyalty to Full House… and if I cross him…”
“Then WHAT?” Lavender roared once again, and Rocky’s hindlegs bent in an impossible angle with a blood-freezing crack.
“EEEEYAAAAH!” Rocky screamed in despair as the burning pain of his freshly destroyed knees spread through his body.
“Lavender…” I mumbled. “Don’t make a mess of this. We need him able to speak.”
“Fine…” Lavender stepped back and let Rose handle things again. Her horn glowed in a healing aura that took Rocky’s pain away. “Rocky, be reasonable. I can be very good or very bad, it all depends on your cooperation.”
“My cooperation…” Rocky gasped. “What do you want?”
“Six weeks ago, a group of ponies attacked the leaders of Freedom Field. We found a chip of the Full House group among the attackers. Was your boss behind the operation?” I asked calmly but without a hint of mercy.
“N-no… I can’t say a word. If I do… Full House will have me killed.” Rocky whined.
“If you don’t, I will.” Lavender grunted and applied pressure on Rocky’s broken knees.
“YARRRGH!” Rocky gurgled.
“Mister Shade, I won’t do anything more to hold my companion back.” I said coldly. “It’s your choice now. Speak or face the consequences.”
“B-but I can’t… ARRRRGH!!” Lavender had broken Rocky’s front knees in a swift move.
“Mister Shade, our patience is running out.”
“Fine, fine!” Rocky yelled. “We’re the ones who ordered it! Full House knew all about the operation, and he was the one that paid the assassins! It was his idea all along! I was only the mediator, Full House is the one to blame! Now please, let me go!”
“Finish this charade, Lavender.” I ordered.
Rocky’s neck snapped and he fell dead, tears and saliva still dripping off his face. It was a disgusting sight, and I quickly began to untie him; while thinking what to do with the corpse. I knew that this would happen, and after the treatment Lavender had given to poor Rocky we couldn’t just let him walk away. Not that he could, actually.
“I hope this was good for something.” Rose said while tidying up the bed.
“We got the answers we wanted.” I lifted Rocky’s body, which was heavier than expected, and dropped it on the wooden floor of the apartment. “Besides, that final line is pure gold.”
“The one blaming Full House?” Rose looked puzzled. “Why?”
“Because he frames him of hiring assassins. Who knows what we can do with that information.” I grinned maliciously.
“You’re always one step ahead, aren’t you?”
“I try to.” I lifted Rocky’s body once again and tried to carry it on my back. It was too heavy to drag it around just by force, so I would have to use my magic to compensate. “Remind me not to piss you off.”
“You mean Lavender, right?”
“Sure.” I grunted. “Don’t mess with Lavender. By the way, how did you manage to switch so quickly?”
“We’ve decided to cooperate. I think that both of us have the same goals, although we have different approaches towards them.”
“The same goals? Which ones?” I never expected that answer.
“I think the two of us strive to make the world a better place… a bit more just.”
“And you do so by being kind and righteous, while Lavender does so by… destroying those who propagate injustice?” It was a deep way of thinking, and it left me puzzled. I had always regarded Lavender as a bloodthirsty monster, and it was strange to see her turned into an avatar of fairness.
“More or less.” Rose shrugged. “I’ve realized that sometimes you must be a bit evil for the greater good. Having that other voice in my head was a tough ordeal, but she’s changed… the same as I have.”
“I must admit you have baffled me, Rose.” I couldn’t find a way to order my thoughts. “I feared that Lavender would take over you.”
“Me too.” Rose nodded. “I had to be very careful, but we’ve both adapted to our situation. I think it’s for the best, right?”
“Absolutely.” I smiled in relief.
“So, what are we going to do with him?” Rose asked.
“We can’t leave any trace behind, so I think we should dump him in the Wasteland.”
“Good idea.” Rose nodded. “Mind if I take a shower first? I’ve had my share of sweating too, and I’m starting to smell bad.”
“Sure. Go ahead.” I nodded and focused on thinking how to carry Rocky in a way that wouldn’t bring any suspicion upon us. Maybe a carpet would be of good use in this case…
“What the hell?” Rose yelled, making me break concentration and drop Rocky’s weight on me. I stumbled to the floor and let go a grunt of pain.
“What’s wrong, Rose?”
“Look!” Rose came running towards me, fully naked.
“What is it?” I freed myself from Rocky’s corpse and got back on my hooves. Rose was acting nervously and pranced from one side to the other.
“Look at my flank! It’s there!”
“At your flank? What are you talking about?”
“My Cutie Mark! It has appeared!!” Rose was floating in a bubble of glee. In my case, the arrival of my Cutie Mark had been a rather dull and forgettable moment, as the rest of my life in the Stable, but I could understand that, under normal circumstances, it had to be a significant moment in a pony’s life.
I looked at Rose’s flank, and noticed what she had been talking about. Where there was nothing more than pink fur, a clear symbol had appeared: a rose and a strand of lavender, coiled around a pair of scales. Rose and Lavender, working together for justice. It was a certain demonstration that it symbolized a pony’s greatest talent.
I smiled and I felt tears roll from my eyes. It was her achievement, but I felt it as mine… the filly I had saved from death in the Wasteland, that I had driven into the Stable, that I had ‘possessed’ with the evil being… that very filly had endured, had learnt, had grown up and had mastered her own destiny. Even after all the hardships she had been through, most of them because of me, she had become stronger and wiser. I hugged her and began crying, like I had never cried before.
“Rose… congratulations…” I sobbed, after a while.
“Thank you, Farsight!” she hugged me back with a big smile on her face. “We made this… together.”
“No, you made it.” I held back the tears. “I put you through a ton of perils, and you got out by yourself.”
“Farsight, shut up.” Her tone was soothing yet firm, like a mother’s voice. “You gave me my life when you killed those raiders. I will forever be in debt with you. That’s final.”
“Now stop crying and get a hold of yourself, for Luna’s sake!” Rose gave me a soft slap and smiled. “We have work to do! The world isn’t going to bow down to you just because, right?”
“True, so true.” I smiled and rubbed the tears from my face. “Let’s move!”
Note: Perk Added
E Pluribus Unum: Your guidance has helped Rose and Lavender join forces. You gain 10% speech when facing mares.