Chapter 15: Woke Up This Morning
“Hey there, good morning to all of you that have tuned in to this, your station, for your daily dose of energy! I am Mister New Pegasus and you’re listening to, obviously, New Pegasus Radio, bringing you the best music in the Wasteland, as well as regular news reports on the City of New Pegasus and the Neighvada Territory! You’ve been enjoying the best swinging tones of the Platinum Blues Band, live from the concert hall at the Platinum Horseshoe!
Speaking of which, dear listeners, I think we should feel proud of ourselves as a city, don’t you think? We can’t deny that the world is a harsh place, and that the Neighvada Territory, even if under the keen eye of the NER, is far from being a land where ponies live in communion and happiness. However, inside the walls we have every single thing we need to live in comfort, and after many years of careful work and effort, we’re now starting to develop a cultural offer capable of comparing itself with that of other past, more civilized times. Isn’t that something worth of our pride?
Now, patriotic speeches aside, let’s go with the news! First of all, we need to set our attention on our neighboring city of Freedom Field, where the local authorities and the NER delegation officially signed the treaty of Constitution of the Free City of Freedom Field, according to both their local rule and the Republican laws. The new mayor, Dee Cleff, formerly a well-known mob leader, spoke about the glorious fate of the township, about her plans as mayor to consolidate a path of growth and bright future for her people, and emplaced both the NER and the New Pegasus City Board to work together in order to make Neighvada a better place.
The response of the City Board was made by means of an official statement given to the press, where the Council Members welcomed Cleff’s proposal and demanded she focused on establishing a working security enforcement in Freedom Field, so that the former problems derived from the drugs market could be driven out of town. Now that both parties have laid their cards upon the table, it’s time to see who will perform the next move and who will wait.
On to matters of Neighvada and the rest of the known world! The Republic seems to be on the move once again, mares and gentlecolts! Now that the situation in Freedom Field and New Pegasus has reached a certain level of stability, it looks like the armies that the NER had deployed in Neighvada have begun a long march East, across Hoofer Dam and towards the unknown lands of Coltorado. What lies beyond the sands is a mystery, and we wish the troopers good luck and a quick and healthy trip back home! As for what concerns local safety, the NER has guaranteed that a sufficient number of troops will stay in the Territory to ensure that things keep working as planned.
In local news, the time for the NPPD is running dangerously low on the Ferratura Murder Case. With no apparent new evidence or witnesses, it all points towards an early closure of the case with no culprits or explanations. Verrazano Ferratura has been seen entering the Police Station followed by his bodyguards, with an expression of true anger in his face. From here we sincerely hope that nopony has taken any rash decisions and that nopony has been hurt.
And that makes all that we had to tell you, folks! Stay tuned for further news updates, but for now, enjoy the best music between the Divide and Hoofer Dam! I now leave you with Swinging Voice, the new crooner that’s filling concert halls all over town! Some say it’s his blue eyes, some say it’s his fantastic voice (his name says it, after all), but the truth is that getting a ticket for his shows is a real ordeal! For those of you who didn’t manage to get yours, here’s ‘Send Me To The Moon’! Remember, this is New Pegasus Radio, and I’m your host, Mister New Pegasus, speaking directly to your souls…”
The sun had just disappeared behind the thick cloud cover that turned the sky into a grey stone ceiling, its last rays pouring over the Wasteland like flaming arrows, when we returned from getting rid of the disgraced late Rocky Shade, former Chief of Security of the Platinum Horseshoe; and I was feeling quite burnt out by the activity of the last few hours. I guess that six weeks of inactivity had made my body unprepared for a sudden burst of physical effort.
We had hidden the deceased buck in a rolled carpet I had carried on my back without magic, just to avoid attracting unwanted attention. In case somepony should ask, we were heading for the caravan outpost in Nobuck to try and sell the piece of furniture. It was an odd reason, but the Wasteland was the home of the oddities; two ponies wanting to sell a carpet in the middle of the night wasn’t the worst there was to see. Still, while in New Pegasus, we stuck to the side streets to avoid being seen.
Once out in the open Wastes, we could be a bit less careful and concentrate on moving quickly. We headed North, towards a salt flat I had located in the map of Neighvada. I chose that location because the white soil would act as a light concentrator, dehydrating the corpse of Rocky much faster than how it would in the open desert. Also, once we got there, Rose cut the body of the dead buck with a kitchen knife we had picked up at home, bleeding it dry out on the open. With a bit of luck, the scent of blood would attract predators.
With our job of taking out the trash done, we returned to the city. The carpet and the knife were conveniently forgotten in a ruined building a couple of hours away from the gates, and we entered Freedom Field without any evidence of what we had been doing outside; and by the time we got there, our former home was bubbling with activity. Many things had changed since we had become citizens of New Pegasus, and most of them made me feel satisfied of my job.
Under the rule of Dee Cleff, the city was undergoing a thorough cleaning process. Groups of labourer ponies built scaffoldings around the inhabited buildings, in order to scrape the dirt off the walls and give them a new layer of paint; others were working on those blocks that had been abandoned for a long time, checking for possible structural damages and repairing doors and windows; while some others patched up the cracked tarmac of the streets.
Apart from that, many new shops and venues had opened in the formerly empty premises of the main street. Convenience and grocery stores, cafés or even apparel sellers had appeared where there was nothing apart from dust and broken storefronts. What was more important for me, though, was the fact that many of the new locations had been established by former Wastelanders that had begun migrating into Freedom Field. The newly obtained stability was attracting population into town and making the economy boom.
“See this?” I said to Rose. “This is what we have achieved.”
I couldn’t hide the pride in my voice. I knew that many ponies had collaborated to get that result, but I thought that I had been the instigator of such change. It wasn’t that far fetched, after all.
“Hey, congratulations.” Rose smiled, with a hint of irony on her face. “Just don’t let it get over your head.”
“Hell, Rose. Cut me some slack!” I laughed at her reply. “Don’t you think we had something to do in all this?”
“Yes, no doubt, but don’t get too cocky, Farsight. It’s cool that you feel proud about having helped, but you’re not the only one who did… and some folks are less tolerant towards proud ponies.”
“Where would I be without you, Rose?” I snickered.
We both laughed at the situation and walked on. I had to admit that Rose had been right in giving me the heads up. So far, my cold and rational mind had been what had helped us survive and carry our plans forward, and pride without control was one of the easiest ways to send all our previous achievements down the drain.
When walking close to Trader Plaza, something caught my attention. An old building that had always been abandoned, with all windows and doors shut by wooden planks and bricks, had been thoroughly repaired and repainted, and now makeshift banners with the colors and the emblems of the four gangs of Freedom Field hung from masts in the top floor. A large billboard let me know that we were staring at the newly opened Town Hall.
“Seen that?” I patted Rose on the back.
“That.” I pointed towards the Town Hall. “It wasn’t there before.”
“You’re right!” Rose gasped in awe. “It’s amazing!”
“I would hardly call it amazing.” I shrugged. “I have to admit, though, that they’ve done a fine job restoring the building.”
“Come on, Farsight!” Rose bumped me. “You are being a little unfair, you know?”
“Unfair? Seriously?” I grimaced.
“Well, it seems like since you became a New Pegasus citizen you’ve turned into a bit of a snob.” Rose spoke with calm dignity. “I hope you haven’t forgotten that this keeps being the Wasteland, and that getting proper materials is a complex job.”
“I know that.” I responded calmly. “I also know that NER caravans come and go without trouble now, so the biggest problem the builders will have to face is paying for the bricks and glass the Republic brings from beyond the Divide.”
“You always need to say the last word, don’t you?” Rose grunted.
I paid no attention to the last remark the filly had done and walked calmly into the Town Hall lobby. As expected, there was no sign of grandeur inside the building, as it had been reconverted out of an old housing block, and the common spaces were not meant to be used in such an official way. Still, whoever had worked in the restoration had done a fine job adjusting the lighting, polishing the floors and painting the walls in soothing colours.
A young buck stood behind the entrance counter, working on a small terminal that hummed softly in the silence of the room. As soon as he noticed us both entering, he lifted his head from the screen and composed a professional smile. It was surprising to see a stallion behind an entrance counter, but in all fairness, I had to admit that there was no good reason to restrict those jobs to mares only.
“Good morning!” The receptionist greeted us kindly. “What can I do for you?”
“I wanted to speak to the Mayor, please.” I replied with a smile on my face.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“No, I’m afraid I don’t.”
“In that case…”
“I know, she will be busy.” I let go a soft laugh. “Please, I insist. Maybe if you let her know that Farsight is wanting to speak to her…”
Mentioning my name made the receptionist react. He didn’t immediately let us in, but he began to type something in the computer. A moment later, the terminal beeped and the buck smiled, turning back to us.
“Of course, mister Farsight. Mayor Cleff will be with you in a moment. Please follow me.”
The young stallion got out from behind the counter and climbed the stairs towards the upper floors, guiding us to Dee’s office, which was located in the uppermost level of the Town Hall. It must have been a small penthouse apartment like Stuka’s, but all the walls had been torn down to leave room for a magnificent open space, decorated with taste and elegance. Shelves with books, both old and new, covered two of the walls, while the one behind Dee’s large desk consisted of a large glass door leading to a large terrace that overlooked Trader Plaza.
Dee and Nadyr were waiting for us outside, chatting calmly while having a nice cup of coffee. As soon as we got there, they waved and told us to join them, which we did gladly. After all we had been through, some rest would be appreciated.
“Morning, you two!” Dee smiled and greeted us in a motherly voice.
“Morning, Dee.” I whistled in admiration. “Nice place you’ve set up here. I must admit I’m amazed.”
“Hey!” Rose laughed. “You’ve just said you didn’t find it amazing!”
“Yes, yes, you’re right.” I lowered my head in pretended shame. “Every pony makes mistakes, however, only the wise ones make amends.”
“Whatever…” Rose huffed.
“So good to see you, bro.” Nadyr gave me a tight hug. He looked good, fulfilled. “It looks like New Pegasus is treating you well.”
“It is, indeed.” I smiled and freed myself from his embrace. “But it looks like Dee is treating you even better!”
Both Dee and Nadyr laughed softly and looked at each other with a happy, even lovey face.
“I’ll admit it. She’s one hell of a mare.”
“Thank you, my moon and stars.” Dee gave the half-zebra a quick, gentle kiss. “You know, Farsight, when all this marriage charade started, I assumed this would be a burden I would have to carry on me for the good of the city. It turns out that I was wrong.”
“Oh please, stop it!” Nadyr giggled.
“I mean it, Naddy. You’re the best buck I’ve ever met, and you’ll be a great father.”
“Father?” I gasped. “Does that mean…?”
“Yes, bro!” Nadyr laughed. “I’m going to be a papa soon!”
“Congratulations!” This time I was the one to hug Nadyr. After all we had been through, I had developed a sense of responsibility for my companion, more so considering that I had been the one pushing him to marry Dee.
“Yay!” Rose squeed. “Is it going to be a filly or a foal?”
“We still don’t know.” Dee smiled gently. “Nor do we care, really.”
“Exactly.” Nadyr said with determination. “Does it even make a difference, though?”
“Not really.” I smiled.
“Well, enough of my pregnancy, folks!” Dee swiftly changed subject with her usual calm dominance. “What about you two shiny Citizens? Any news?”
“I think you should show it to them.” I nodded.
“Show us what?” Dee seemed puzzled.
Rose giggled and moved her clothes so that one of her flanks was on clear sight, showing her newly-acquired Cutie Mark to our two friends, who showed - or even overacted a tiny bit - their amazement at Rose’s new feat.
“Rose! Congratulations!” Dee embraced Rose tightly, while Nadyr gave her a friendly pat on the head.
“Good job, missy. I knew you were about to discover your forte.”
“Thank you!” Rose was on the verge of crying out of joy.
“What does it symbolize?” Dee asked.
“Justice.” Rose replied proudly. “My two halves working together towards it.”
“Yes, the rose and the lavender… me and Lavender.”
“Wait a minute. Wasn’t Lavender the psycho?” Nadyr stuttered.
“Yes, but it’s under control.” Rose giggled. “But who are you calling psycho?” Lavender’s voice suddenly appeared.
“Whoa!” Nadyr jumped back, startled. Lavender laughed honestly, and so did we all. Just a little joke.
“Take it easy, Nadyr.” Lavender smiled. “I was just making a guest appearance. You have nothing to fear from me. Now, if you don’t need anything more…” She blinked, and her voice changed. “Don’t blame her, she’s like that.” Rose was back on the saddle.
“Congratulations, nonetheless.” Dee smiled kindly.
“Thank you!” Rose smiled in return, being utterly adorable.
I walked to the railing at the far end of the terrace and took a look down at Trader Plaza. From that privileged point of view one could see all the ponies come and go, the stands crammed one against the other, the caravans coming and leaving… one could see the city live and one could assume the Plaza was its beating heart, pulsating with activity. I did notice the presence of another building close to the marketplace which had been renewed, and where a NER flag was waving in the morning wind.
“The NER has an embassy here?” I asked.
“Not really an embassy.” Dee came close and sneered. “Just a lower delegation, subordinate to that of New Pegasus. A bunch of good-for-nothing pencil pushers, really.”
“You don’t seem too happy.”
“Well, it’s not that I had many expectations when I signed the treaty…” Dee sighed in dismay. “But at least I supposed the NER would act as a mediator with New Pegasus.”
“Really? Is there a conflict?” It was a surprising revelation. I hadn’t noticed anything from the other side of the wall.
“I would hardly call it a conflict.” Dee raised a brow. “It’s more of a growing nuisance, really. Still, I wish the NER would do something about it.”
“What is it? Maybe I can help you from the inside.”
“Thanks, Farsight. I appreciate it.” Dee nodded softly. “Since we signed the treaty, we’ve had an increase in New Pegasus citizens moving from one side to the other of the barrier. Most of them are nice folks, they spend their caps in our shops, some of them have even made investments in real estate and business opportunities, but we’ve had some unwanted individuals coming along as well.”
“Unwanted as in…?”
“Unwanted as in goons, Farsight. When you see groups of four or five heavily armed stallions in suits with a winged horse shoe pin on their lapelles, acting smug and violent; you don’t really need to ask what they’re up to.”
A winged horse shoe… could that be the Ferratura emblem?
“I get it.” I nodded in understanding. “What kind of problems have they been causing?”
“They’re coercing the shop owners. From what I’ve heard, they’re telling them that all of us leaders, that is me, Ampera, Saddle and Mixer…”
“Yes, Mixer, the potions expert. Don’t you know him?”
“Rotten and with a funny accent? Yes, I do.” I smiled at the thought of the Trottingham ghoul I had met so long ago. “I just supposed that the Followers would have disbanded after Goldie’s death.”
“They’re not the Followers anymore. They now call themselves the Healers’ Guild.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“I agree. All that messianic bullshit was a bit too much for my head.” Dee grunted. “The thing is, those goons are telling the folks in town that we are too concentrated in our own profits to properly protect them.”
“Protect them from whom?” I smiled maliciously.
“Exactly.” Dee smiled with bad intention. “I fear they’re plotting a takeover and they’re doing recon duty. That’s why I’ve sent several complaints to the NER delegation, but it’s been of no use.”
“I think I know who those goons are representing, and I might be able to help you.”
“Yes, or at least so I hope.” I stretched a bit and shook my head. “Remember the attack on your wedding?”
“How can I forget?” Dee mumbled in anger.
“I recently found out that one of the two mob leaders in New Pegasus, Full House, was the one that gave the order to execute the attack. The rival mob, the Ferraturas, will probably be wanting to make use of that attack to convince the population of Freedom Field that they are the only ones who can keep them effectively safe from House’s mob; since it was clearly demonstrated during the wedding that the local gangs can’t anticipate an attack.”
“Those disgraceful bastards…” Dee clenched her teeth.
“Yes, those are my thoughts exactly. Still, I have an idea on how to avoid them focusing on your territory.”
“And that idea is…”
“Giving them something more important to concentrate in.” I smiled cunningly while looking towards the open Wastes.
“You and your machiavellian plans, Farsight.” Dee grinned. “It’s good to know that you’re on our side.”
“Honestly, Dee, I think that you would be one of the few ponies that would see me coming.”
We both laughed dryly, confirming that we didn’t fully trust each other. Still, we got along good enough to be able to share good moments and to work together.
“Oh well.” Dee had a honest smile on her face. “We’ve always walked down separate paths, even if they are parallel right now. It’s not like that is to change anytime soon.”
“I don’t think we need to talk about it, do we?” I said, thoughtfully.
“Not at all.” Dee nodded. “So, what are you planning to do now?”
“Me?” I laughed dimly. “The same thing I do every day: try to take over the world.”
“Newsflash, Farsight. That’s exactly what you’ve been doing ever since you came to Freedom Field.”
“Fine, fine, have it your way.” I shrugged with a half grin in my face. “I’ll try to get rid of those Ferratura pests for you, alongside other things I have to deal with.”
“Good, in that case, I wish you the best of luck.” Dee took a deep breath and turned around, towards her office. “I’ve got a lot of things to do too, and a Mayor’s job doesn’t wait for me to stop faffing about, as much as I would love to keep enjoying the morning with you.”
“Of course, Dee. It’s better if we get moving as well.” I followed Dee. “Rose!”
“Coming!” she replied. “Bye, Nadyr!”
“Bye, you two!” Nadyr waved goodbye from the other end of the terrace. He was rich, married and he didn’t have to work for a living. That was actual paradise for him.
“See you later, Nadyr!” I turned to Dee once again and gave her a kind hoofshake. “Dee, it’s been a pleasure.”
“Good luck in New Pegasus, Farsight. I think you’ll need it.”
*** *** ***
Back in the Strip, I began to think on how to tackle the next phase of my plan. In a conceptual level, it was pretty simple: two factions were contending for the supremacy over the city, and the situation at the time was that of a cold war with a potential casus belli looming around, that is, the murder of young Sandmound. Speaking figuratively, one could say that the balance in New Pegasus was unstable, and any minimal perturbation would cause that equilibrium to come crashing down.
However, I had to concentrate on the practical issues. I had little doubt that the chip and the recording of Rocky’s confession would give me the edge I needed to convince the Ferratura Family to support my scheme to start a conflict between the two mobs. Still, I couldn’t just pretend them to do the strategic thinking, or they would dump me aside, probably with a bullet to the head, if Verrazano was as aggressive and ruthless as Badge had told me. Therefore, I needed to make myself irreplaceable for them.
Proposing an all-out frontal attack was ridiculous. That had never worked before, and it never would now. I needed to find out something less exposed, and at the same time, more effective to cripple Full House and his activities. There were many options: sabotage, defamatory campaigns, kidnappings… Still, the one that appeared to be more attractive to me was robbery. After all, money was the fuel that powered every single thing in that city, so making him bankrupt was an elegant way to take Full House out of the picture.
Then, once the mysterious owner of the Platinum Horseshoe had been turned into a pauper, I could use my gold reserves to take his place and outlast the Ferratura Family in a war for domination. Don’t get me wrong, though. I knew that I was going way over my head, and that any wrong move could get me killed without hesitation, but if I had been able to use my wits to prosper in Freedom Field and earn my place in New Pegasus, I didn’t see why I wouldn’t be able to climb the ladder to the very top.
To pull off a proper sting on the Horseshoe, though, I needed to know where the main safe was located, which security measures the Casino had, and whether there was a way into the insides of the facility that didn’t imply being seen by half of the city’s population. In a nutshell, I needed a hell of a lot of data, and I had a hunch about where to find them.
The Library kept being a sort of an oddity among the gambling halls and luxury restaurants of the Strip, a hulking red building that struggled to harness the remnants of the culture of the Old World in the vortex of chaos that was the New World. Behind the ornate counter, a golden mare with green mane that I had already met some time ago was sorting a pile of books with a face of evident boredom. When she saw me enter, her expression showed how, out of every single pony in Equestria, she would never have expected me coming back.
“What in Celestia’s name are you doing here?” she asked, visibly disturbed.
“Tracker, please…” I gave her my warmest smile, although she didn’t find it very calming. “It’s been a long story, but what’s past is past, OK?”
“How do you know my name? I don’t remember having told you.”
“You didn’t.” I spoke softly, to try and gain her confidence. “Captain Badge did, when I was taken to the Police Station.”
“I see…” Tracker hesitated. “Well, about that…”
“I told you that it’s a thing of the past now. I don’t hold any kind of grudge against you, I come here because I honestly need your help.”
“Mind telling me your name, so that we’re on equal terms?” Once I told her that I wasn’t there for vengeance, she returned to her usual brusque self.
“Sheesh, where are my manners?” I whined. “My name is Farsight, nice to meet you.”
“Cut it out, Farsight.” She grinned ironically. “Now, would you be so kind to explain me how the hell are you here, in front of me, after I saw you being dragged out by two roboponies?”
“I said it’s a very long story, but in a nutshell, I managed to buy myself a Citizenship Card. With that in my pocket, I’m free to come and go. That’s why I’m with you now.”
“Whatever…” Tracker groaned. “I’m not going to dig any deeper… Somehow, I have the feeling that I wouldn’t like to know the details.”
“I wasn’t going to tell you anyway.”
“Good to know.” Tracker shrugged.
“I see that you two had some unfinished business to settle… but is this going to take much longer?” Rose whined from behind. “I’m hungry, I told you we shouldn’t have skipped breakfast.”
“Wait a minute. Is that yours?” Tracker smiled broadly, with the word ‘irony’ almost written in her face.
“No, it’s not mine.” I frowned. “We met in the Wasteland, and we teamed up. She’s turned out to be a valuable companion.”
“I won’t judge, but it’s a FILLY.”
“Tracker, you’re getting things wrong, I never meant…”
“Watch what you say, ma’am!” Rose interrupted loudly. “I’ve already have my Cutie Mark, so don’t patronize me!”
“Easy now, little one.” Tracker looked at Rose with smug satisfaction. “You’re still a filly, and that’s a fact.”
“Tracker, please,” I spoke coldly, trying to stop the argument from escalating. “I’ve come for a reason, so let’s get down to pressing matters.”
“The sooner we begin, the sooner we’ll finish.” Tracker shrugged. “What are you looking for?”
“I need to know if there is a side entrance to the Platinum Horseshoe, preferably to the lower levels.”
Tracker’s expression changed suddenly, from clear disinterest to unhidden satisfaction.
“Wait a minute. Are you telling me that you want to sneak into Full House’s casino?”
“No, I’m telling you that I want to discover a way to get into it. Anything beyond that is your interpretation.” I softened my expression. “Still, it looks like the idea of breaking into the Horseshoe is something that turns you on.”
“Not in that strict sense, but more or less.” Tracker nodded.
“May I ask why?”
“Look, I don’t get into politics. That’s not my thing, really. However, I can’t stand the way Full House is taking over New Pegasus, with his robots and his attitude of smug superiority. I don’t like the Ferraturas either, but if House carries on acting like he’s the King of the Hill, things are going to get ugly, quickly. I don’t want that to happen, and I can assure you that almost nopony in town does either. The problem lies on the fact that we have nothing to do against any of the two mobs.”
“That being the case, will you help me find a way of crippling him a bit?” I winked.
“Of course!” Tracker left the pile of books and trotted out of her spot, heading towards one of the galleries of the library. “Follow me!”
We kept close to the suddenly friendly librarian while she took us through aisles of books, newspapers and documents; until we got into a small storage room where large cardboard rolls were tidily placed on shelves. She jumped onto a small stool and quickly browsed through a series of containers until she picked one up.
“What is this place exactly, Tracker?” I asked out of sheer curiosity.
“This is a storage room.” The librarian huffed ironically. “The contents of the room are interesting, though. All these rolls store the blueprints of the street and sewer level networks of New Pegasus. They should have been kept in the Town Hall, but some bright mind decided to pile them here.”
“Lucky coincidence.” I whistled.
“Very lucky.” Tracker opened the cardboard tube and unrolled the blueprint on a table. “This should be the one of the Horseshoe… wait a minute!” Tracker cursed.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, while I walked close to the table.
“The blueprint is incomplete! It doesn’t show the internal layout of the Casino!”
“Nopony said it would be easy…” I mumbled, looking at the myriad of lines and dots.
I concentrated on the map of the sewers surrounding the large blank area that was Full House’s stronghold. Many tunnels coiled around our target, but none of them seemed to have a way into it; not even a sewage output we could crawl through. I had to admit that I was starting to get dizzy trying to decode the small annotations and symbols that plagued the large sheet of yellowing paper. Tracker grunted unintelligible words while she moved to one side and the other of the table, tackling the search from different angles; but she didn’t appear to be finding anything either.
“What’s this symbol here?” Rose asked, pointing at a small box on one of the walls of the Casino.
“What?” Tracker snapped out of her concentration. “Let me look… that’s a bloody blast door! I can’t believe I haven’t seen it before!”
“A blast door? That means there is a way in!” I pranced.
“It might be locked from the inside…” Tracker bent over the blueprint. “Nope, it’s got a two-way terminal lock. It can be accessed from the sewers.”
“That’s perfect, it’s just what I need.” I smiled broadly. “Thanks, Tracker.”
“Don’t mention it.” Tracker packed the blueprint in the roll and left it on the shelf. “Give House some hell for me, will you?”
“With pleasure.” I laughed and left the room with Rose following me. It was time to take another step forward.
*** *** ***
The Clops was the largest Casino in New Pegasus, a massive resort that almost doubled the size of the Platinum Horseshoe and that could be seen from almost everywhere in town. The only thing House had done better that the Ferraturas, at least when comparing both building, was having erected a tall spire that towered over all the Strip and gave the Horseshoe a certain sense of dominance above its competitor.
From an aesthetic point of view, however, I preferred the Clops. I found it to be more welcoming and less imposing than its rival; despite the disproportionate size. House had built a monument to a certain vision of progress, a shiny, bright and often cold metal husk that seemed to match well with the robot workforce he employed to keep both his Casino and the town safe. The Ferraturas had stuck to something classic, a mixture of red stone, bright wood and dim lights that transmitted warmth and coziness, although some areas kept being too dark for my taste.
The main gambling hall was a large open space, covered by a stone dome painted with motifs of open skies and pegasi flying around the sun, while archways with fake plants coiled around the columns formed a perimeter in which many of the players took a rest before returning to the tables to burn their caps on rigged games. That place brought back memories of the illusionary Neighorleans casino, where I had played for an invitation against Agent Conneighry. This place, however, was very real.
Apart from the main Casino, the Clops had another plethora of features Rose and I explored carefully before trying our luck with the Ferraturas. A grand auditorium was hosting the daily shows of crooners such as Dino Maretino, who seemed to be quite a celebrity in town; although I had never heard of him. I guess I should have listened to the radio a bit more often. Still, even if not used at the moment we walked into it, I felt awestruck by the dimensions and the intrinsic grandeur it had. The Ferraturas could be ruthless mobsters, but they did have a taste for culture and elegance.
Another wing of the complex hosted a food court with three restaurants offering different cuisines for diverse tastes and pockets, or that was what their advertisement said. I had honestly no idea about how the Ferraturas were managing to obtain the ingredients to offer Appleloosan and Roaman dishes, as well as so-called ‘Wastelander delicacies’; but the place was clean, the service was diligent and, as we quickly found out, the food was above the usual standard. The price was a bit steep, true, but it was nothing we couldn’t handle.
With our late breakfast on the table, Rose felt comfortable and even a bit talkative. We had been over quite a lot lately, so I really wanted to set things straight with her before moving on.
“How do you want to do this, Farsight?” she asked, before I was able to mutter a single word.
“You wanted to speak to the Ferratura leaders, didn’t you?”
“Yes, that’s my plan.”
“Well, that’s my question. How are you planning the conversation?”
“Hm… I don’t know; and I won’t know until we’re face to face. To begin with, I’m not even sure they’ll listen to us, although I think we have powerful reasons for them to give us a chance… Still, it all depends on who we talk to. Verrazano is very aggressive, so I guess I could benefit from that hot blood to have him screaming for vengeance. Delvio, on the other hoof, seems to be a much more patient and reflexive buck. Personally, I think I would get along much better with him, but somehow I fear that he’ll be harder to convince. After all, our evidence is feeble.”
“Not to mention fabricated.” Rose giggled.
“Exactly.” I laughed calmly at her clever remark. “However, that is something we DON’T want them to know.”
“Don’t worry, Farsight. I won’t even hint it.” Rose winked an eye confidently. “Have you considered having to speak to Novalis?”
“Novalis? That would be a serious challenge. If we take Badge’s word for granted, he’s as patient and stern as Delvio, but I suppose he’ll be much more cunning, considering he’s been the leader of the Family for many years. Nopony said it was going to be easy, though.”
“Of course, but I trust you will be able of doing things your way.” Rose smiled in a way that warmed my heart.
“Speaking of trust, Rose…” I wondered about how to pose the question.
“Rose, you’ve been the most honorable and fair pony I’ve met… even your Cutie Mark reflects that. Still, you follow me everywhere I go, and back me up in every plan… although I know my plans are far from being acts of justice.”
“Yes, so what?”
“Well, it baffles me.” I shrugged.
“Why? I owe you my life, for starters. Besides, you’ve been completely selfless when it comes to me, and I know in my heart that everything you do has a legitimate reason.”
“Really? What about the Maretairie ghouls?”
“I know that one was a bit tough for me to swallow…” Rose nodded. “Still, I realized that their life was a countdown to madness, so I believe we did a good thing in the end.”
“What about Goldie? I killed her in cold blood.”
“Her treason cost Stuka her life.” Rose’s tone lowered to Lavender’s pitch. “None of them should have died, but actions have consequences. If it hadn’t been you, Dee would have had her executed. At least, you had a minimum sense of closure.”
I nodded in amazement at Rose’s answers. Not so long ago, she had been a defender of life above all things. The change in behaviour could have been Lavender’s doing?
“Farsight, I don’t know what confuses you so much. It is true that I have been a defender of lost causes before, but I’ve grown up, and with your help, I’ve seen things that have made me think. Sometimes ponies must die, in all fairness. Death is a part of life, especially in the Wastelands, and trying to save everypony’s life is a simplistic approach to a complex world. You knew that, and now I do too.”
“I never expected to hear that from you.” I smiled dimly.
“Hah!” Rose laughed. “Does that mean I’ve outsmarted you?”
“You could say so!” I laughed too, and did a theatrical bow. “The apprentice has beaten the master. Remind me to buy you something to remember this moment.”
“Come on, cut it out!” Rose smiled and waved a hoof disregarding my offer. “I’ve learnt that one must strive to be coherent with her principles in life. So far, you’ve always showed such coherence, and that’s why I follow you and try to learn as much as I can from you, day after day.”
“I guess I should feel honored by that.” I smiled dimly.
“It’s your call.” Rose shrugged. “So, now that we’ve settled this matter… what should we do?”
“We could keep exploring this place. I have the feeling that we haven’t seen even half of it.”
“I’ve overheard that the back end of the building hosts a massive brothel, so unless you feel like going for a quickie, I suggest we avoid doing that.”
“Hm… fair enough.” I nodded. “Now we need to find out how to talk to the big bosses.”
*** *** ***
It took us much less than we expected to become noticed within the Clops. As soon as I told a croupier that I had valuable information that I wanted to share with the Don and his family, two goons in black suits appeared behind us and almost dragged us into a side room. To be honest, they never put a hoof on us, but their behaviour was clearly intimidatory and violent. Clearly, they didn’t trust unknown ponies that walked into the Casino demanding to speak to the big bosses.
The chamber we had been forced into was the complete opposite of those outside. All trace of taste and elegance had gone, and it had been replaced with coarse oppressiveness. The walls were made out of concrete with cracks and stains of moisture appearing here and there; the cold neon lighting painted shaky shadows on the wall; and a steel frame table stood lonely in the middle of the room.
“I don’t like this one bit…” Rose, or more precisely Lavender, grunted. “It looks like a trap to me.”
“I have the same feeling. However, they haven’t taken our weapons away, so I doubt they’ll try anything rough… yet.”
“Please, don’t think so badly of us. We’re not raiders!”
That last voice had come from behind us, where a lila unicorn mare on a blue business suit had entered the small room we were waiting in. Her mane, cut short, formed waves of different blues on top of her head. She was carrying a small folder with her, and her expression was calm and a bit frivolous, as if she was totally aware of being in control of the situation.
“Don’t get me wrong.” I shrugged and smiled, trying to hide my alertness. “I’ve been through my share of ambushes and tight situations, that’s why I was acting like that. I hope that you’ll excuse us for our rudeness.”
“There’s nothing to forgive, sir. I understand your reaction, but I wanted to make things clear from the very beginning.”
“Then it’s all understood!” I faked my most sincere smile, although in the inside, I realized that our situation required extreme caution. “Who do I have the pleasure of speaking to?”
“Oh, my name is of no importance.” The mare waved a hoof, disregarding my question. “I’m just a trusted employee of Don Ferratura and his family. My function here is only to verify whether your proposal is of interest for my bosses before arranging a meeting with them.”
“Fair enough. What is it you require from us?” I still didn’t like her, nor did I like the charade we were playing.
“So far, the only thing we know about you is that you claim to have information that might be of my employers’ interest. I’d appreciate it if you would elaborate a bit, please.”
“I hope you understand that secrecy and confidentiality are vital for us. The data we are carrying would compromise us if they were revealed to the public.”
“Have no fear, sir. You have my word, and the word of the Don, that whatever you tell me will not leave this room.”
“That will have to do.” I shrugged, showing discomfort, but I realized I needed to abide her conditions if I wanted to carry on. “Please listen closely, for I will only say it once. I have a confession regarding the murder of the heir of the Family, Sandmound Ferratura.”
“Do you?” The mare showed surprise, and for once, I thought it was sincere. “Where are you carrying it?”
“It’s been recorded in my PipBuck.”
“Could you play it? Just to verify…”
“Sorry, but that is a no-go.” I shook my head vigorously to emphasize that I wasn’t going to play my only card there. “As I said, this is very delicate information, and I only intend to play it in front of the Don and his trusted ponies.”
“I’m a trusted pony of the Don!” she huffed.
“Don’t get me wrong, ma’am.” I raised a forehoof, asking for patience. “I never meant to imply that you’re not trusted; but my conditions stand and are unalterable: I will only reveal the confession I’m carrying when the Don is listening.”
“This is highly unorthodox.” The mare curled his muzzle graciously.
“I am aware of that.” I glared at her sternly. “However, I am also aware that the situation is highly extraordinary, and I suppose that such a context should allow for some more… uncommon measures.”
“My orders are clear, though. I need to confirm the validity of your material.”
“Ma’am, being a nuisance is not my intention. However, you’re making me act like this.” I frowned. “If you insist on your demands, I will have no other choice than to head to the NPPD with my information. I thought that the Ferratura Family would be grateful to know who the murderer of Sandmound was, but apparently, I was completely mistaken.” I turned around and headed for the door, looking at Rose. “Let’s go.”
Rose nodded and followed me quickly, while the mare seemed to ponder her options. I deliberately took my time to leave the room, as I expected what was about to happen.
“Sir, wait!” The mare called, obviously uncomfortable, but forced by my actions. “It’s OK, I shall take you to the Don.”
“See? I know we could reach an agreement.” I smiled smugly, enjoying my petty victory over her. “Please, lead the way.”
Visibly displeased, the mare exited the room and walked along corridors and halls, taking us to meet the big bosses of the Ferratura Family. If a glorified secretary like the one we had been faced with had been such a tight situation, I felt a sudden vertigo thinking about how we would have to deal with Verrazano and Delvio. That had become a do-or-die situation, and a wrong word could have us suffering a similar fate to poor Rocky Shade.
A few doors crossed later, we entered what apparently was the most private area of the facility, a wing of the complex where the furniture was visibly better, the walls had been paneled with wood and the floor had been covered with thick, comfortable rugs. The noise of the Casino was kept properly muffled with thick walls, and soft music came out of speakers that were positioned every few steps.
The mare brought us to a small antechamber where two suited goons made us leave our guns to their custody. Not that much of a surprise, really, considering that we were about to face some of the most important ponies in New Pegasus; but one couldn’t help feeling a bit helpless and alert when separated from his trusted weapons. Luckily for us, though, we had a weapon they wouldn’t be able to hold back in case things became really ugly: Lavender. I just hoped, for our own good, that we didn’t have to use it.
Once removed of our guns and ammo, the far door of the antechamber opened and we walked into a large room, entirely covered in bright wood and luxurious carpets; up to the point that one could think that the War had never taken place in there. The morning light sipped through the large arched windows located at both sides of the hall, shadowing what stood in the far end.
The door slammed shut behind us, leaving us with no other chance than to walk forward, towards the dark end of the room. As soon as we left the brighter area behind us, our eyes got used to the new environment. Right in front of us, two stallions were standing behind a large table, one relaxing on a couch and the other cautiously searching through a series of papers. Behind them, almost hidden by shadows, other three ponies were watching; but their martial stance and their outfit revealed them as bodyguards. The two in the middle had to be the Ferratura brothers.
The one on the couch was fat and unfit, an ochre-coated mass of muscle and fat whose fiery red mane was balding at the front of his head. Despite his apparent flabbiness, there was something utterly menacing about him, the latent threat of a sudden attack or a treacherous move; as if his aura inspired awe, even if he was wearing an old tracksuit. I assumed he had to be Verrazano, the elder brother, who was constantly trying to start a war with Full House.
The other pony, younger and much skinnier, looked more like a glorified accountant than a mob boss. His coat was grey-green and his mane, cut to middle length in a moment of rash individuality, was golden. He wore a sandstone-colored suit, but the jacket had been left aside and he was only wearing the shirt and trousers, held by suspenders. He was constantly going back and forth through a pile of papers on the table, and seemed far less dangerous than his brother. Still, one couldn’t trust the diplomatic ones… I was one of them, after all.
“Gentlecolts…” I greeted with a courteous bow.
“Who’s this prick?” Verrazano grunted. His voice was deep and rough. “What do you want?”
“My name is Farsight, sir. I have come to you with some relevant informations regarding the murder of your son and nephew, Sandmound.”
“Ah, yes, Farsight…” Delvio spoke with a calm and almost whispering voice, without raising his head from the papers. “Born in Stable 188, cast out around eight months ago. Victim of the Citizenship restriction and exiled to Freedom Field. Began working as a scavenger-trader, then moved up to become agent and advisor of Dee Cleff, current mayor of our neighboring town. Ties with the NER, who vouched for you in your plea for a Citizen Card; which you obtained six weeks ago. As you see, you’ve caused quite an impression.”
Having been tracked so closely was quite unsettling, to be honest, and I realized that Delvio could be as dangerous as his ruthless elder brother. Anyway, it was a matter of time that somepony pulled the psychological warfare trick on me, and the young Ferratura brother was a worthy contender in that field. I was starting to like his style.
“OK, I admit it, I’m impressed.” I let go a subtle laugh. “Do you give all your visitors a background check?”
“Only to those we don’t like at first glance.” Delvio looked at me eye to eye. His gaze denoted a sharp wit, used to being in control of things. “Besides, you haven’t been very discreet when moving around.”
“I’ve tried to keep a low profile.” I shrugged. “Sometimes it’s just impossible, though.”
“I’ll give you that.” Delvio nodded without much interest.
“Delvs, stop it.” Verrazano barked. “OK, my time is precious, so speak up. What the hell are you up to?”
“Verrazano Ferratura, I presume.” I looked at the fat stallion.
“Yes.” He grunted. “Stop playing with my patience.”
“Naturally.” I smiled, trying to be as soothing as possible. “As I told your mare before, I have a confession regarding Sandmound’s murder.”
“Do you?” Verrazano looked at me with mistrust. “The cops haven’t been able to get a single word, how did you manage to do that?”
“Well, let’s say that our methods are… unorthodox.” I raised my hoof and looked at it with a smug attitude. “I might have broken a rule or two in the process.”
“You don’t say.” Verrazano smiled. It looked like a predator’s grin while looking at the prey.
“Who was the unlucky pony?” Delvio looked at me questioningly.
“Mister Rocky Shade.”
“Oh, good old Rocky?” Delvio forced a half grin. “The poor fellow is paranoid, though. How did you manage to get to him?”
“It took some feminine intervention to overcome his defences, but after that, he jumped into the trap head on.”
“They always fall for pussy.” Verrazano sentenced.
“Brother, please.” Delvio sighed. “Where are your manners?”
“I’m a Don, Delvs! I don’t need to worry about manners.”
“Ver, Pappa is still the Don. We’re working on his behalf, so stop acting like a massive cunt.”
“Delvs, if I put my hoof on you…”
“You won’t, and you know it.” Delvio said cuttingly. “Listen, once Pappa is no more, you can do as you wish. You’re the heir now, and I will obey. However, you should listen to me sometimes. Right now, for example, you’re not looking like a serious leader in front of these ponies.”
“Delvio, if I may…” I interrupted kindly. “I understand and support your attitude towards your brother, but trust me, I’ve been confronted to much worse ponies. I won’t be scandalized that easily.”
“There you go, Delvs. Calm down.” Verrazano grinned triumphant.
“Whatever you say, brother.” Delvio raised his brows in dismay. “Farsight, how did you get to Rocky? I mean, was it a shot in the dark or did you have more proof?”
“It is a bit of a long story.” I cleared my throat. “You have mentioned that I was exiled to Freedom Field. Well, that day I came across a police officer called Brass Badge, who had been a Stable outcast as well. I guess that our common origin sparked some fondness in him.”
“Brass Badge. What a useless prick.” Verrazano huffed.
“Brother, please.” Delvio shook his head. “Carry on.”
“As I was saying, I must have left an impression, because some time after I returned to New Pegasus, he came to me offering me a job as a freelance investigator. He wanted somepony who could profit of being unknown to the masses in order to snoop more information. I was given access to the archives, and while browsing through the Sandmound file, I came across this.”
I flinged the chip onto the table, where Delvio grabbed it and began inspecting it thoroughly. His face showed that he hadn’t seen that coming; which meant good news for me. I was starting to break their mistrust.
“A Platinum Horseshoe chip, stained with blood… Where did they find it?”
“I don’t know. To be honest, the chip was hidden in a corner of the box, as if somepony didn’t want it to be found. I have the feeling that the NPPD wants to let this die down slowly. Not that I blame them, though.”
“Neither would I…” Delvio sighed, before Verrazano could mutter a single word. “Still, such incompetence will have to be dealt with, as soon as all this is behind us.”
“Of course, that is yours to decide.” I nodded. “With that evidence, we chose to move outside the boundaries to obtain confirmation on our theory.”
“Your theory?” Verrazano grumbled.
“Basically, we believed that Full House was the one behind the assassination; but we needed proof before blaming anypony.”
“Very thoughtful of you.” Delvio admitted. “So, you said you moved outside the boundaries?”
“Outside the legal limits, yes. We could say that our questioning of Rocky didn’t comply with all basic rights.”
“Whatever!” Verrazano shook and leapt onto his hooves. “Did you get a confession?”
“Most certainly.” I fiddled with my PipBuck and replayed the recording. Rocky’s crying voice echoed in the large hall as the audiolog was broadcast from my hoofheld device.
“Fine, fine! 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!”
“That’s some serious evidence you got there.” Delvio nodded, apparently astounded.
“It’s just what we needed!” Verrazano roared, enraged. “Delvs, we need to strike back at them, they killed my son!”
“It’s my nephew too, Ver. I want revenge as badly as you do, but we can’t lose our minds now.”
“That’s the same thing you’ve been telling me all these months. Now we have the proof we needed! I say we go and turn their Casino into dust!”
“Verrazano, please, listen to me. They WILL fight back, and we can’t afford a full-scale war. We’ve achieved much by being patient, and going berserk now would damage us much more than it would damage them.”
“I agree with Delvio.” I said calmly. “Whatever the reason for the assassination was, they did it because they were expecting a violent reaction from you. We need to think differently.”
“We?” Verrazano mumbled.
“Yes, we. You wouldn’t expect me bringing this information to you without expecting anything in return, would you?”
“Hm, all right.” Delvio nodded. “It’s reasonable. What do you want from us?”
“I have a request and a proposal.” I said coldly. “The request is simple: remove your actions from Freedom Field. My friends over at the other side of the wall have felt very upset by your goons.”
“We’ll consider it.” Delvio noted my demand on the papers. “What about the proposal?”
“I have a plan to cause some damage to Full House, but to make it happen, I will need some support from your forces.”
“What sort of plan?”
“I’ve located an entry point through the sewers to the lower levels of the Platinum Horseshoe. I intend to infiltrate the Casino and look for the main safe… and I plan to plunder it.”
“Have you done this before?”
“Yes, but outside of New Pegasus. That’s why it isn’t in your records… well, that, and because there were no more survivors.”
“You sound convincing enough.” Delvio smiled. “Do you know where the safe is?”
“Sadly, I don’t.” I shook my head. “There are no blueprints of the inside of the Horseshoe.”
“So, you’ll have to improvise, right?”
“Up to a point, every plan implies improvisation.”
“Not bad, not bad.” Delvio chuckled. “You seem to have thought things out properly… what would you need from us?”
“My plan is the following: a first team, with me on the lead, will sneak into the Casino basement via the sewers, and will explore the area until the safe is located and the path is cleared. Then, a second team, with a safecracking expert, will also enter the facility and follow the secure route to the vault. Then, we’ll team up and return with Full House’s money.”
“Why the other safecracking expert?”
“In case something goes wrong.” I shrugged. “Having backup is always good if you’re venturing into unknown territory.”
“That sounds very reasonable.” Delvio nodded. “What do you think, Ver?”
“Give him what he wants, Delvs.” Verrazano had returned to his couch, visibly bored. “The sooner we can strike back at Full House, the better.”
“Heh, my brother can be very rough sometimes.” Delvio shrugged. “OK then, you’ll have your escort at midnight. I wish you luck and success.”
“Thanks.” I bowed, and turned around, followed by Rose.
As we left the room and regained our equipment, I couldn’t help the feeling that things had gone extremely smoothly, considering who I was dealing with. Verrazano had behaved in a way that fell within the expectable, being rough, violent and claiming for revenge as soon as I mentioned Full House’s fabricated implication. Delvio, on the other hoof, showed to be really dangerous and utterly unpredictable. He had run a background check on me, he had been constantly trying to find a weak spot in my reasoning, and most of all, he had shown his teeth, so to speak.
Something in the back of my head warned me against the younger Ferratura. He was smart and cunning, and the overwhelming presence and fame of his elder brother gave him enough cover to act inconspicuously. I had the feeling that his stance had switched suddenly in the middle of the conversation, and that could mean anything. Anyway, I had my eyes and ears open; so I would see him coming.
*** *** ***
“Before you say anything, Farsight, let me tell you that I don’t like this.” Rose looked extremely concerned.
“I know. Delvio is not to be trusted.” I nodded.
“Then why are you so calm?”
“Because I seriously doubt he’s going to betray me… now, at least. The Ferraturas may be many things: mobsters, butchers, scumbags, you name it. What they aren’t, though, is idiots. I am giving them the chance to wipe out a direct competitor and, at the same time, avenge the murder of their kin.”
“But our evidence was false!”
“Sure, but that doesn’t mean they can’t profit from it. I assume the case won’t be going nowhere soon, so there will be no compromising revelations.”
“Put it this way: the case goes cold, and suddenly, the Ferraturas blame Full House of being responsible of Sandmound’s assassination. In consequence, they launch a preemptive attack against House and profit twice from it.”
“One, they would inflict a direct damage to the Horseshoe, either physical or economical. Two, they would pose as vindicators, claiming justice where the police failed to do it.”
“Don’t you think that would backfire at them?”
“I doubt it. No matter how civilized we pretend to be, this is still the Wasteland, and in the end, the population will follow strong leaders that leave no doubt of their determination. The Ferraturas will be sending a very clear message: don’t mess with us, or you’ll face the consequences.”
“Isn’t that the same policy that Verrazano is following?”
“Not at a hundred percent. Verrazano is going down the coercive road, while I am suggesting a fair warning. He attacks the freedom of other ponies, while I leave that freedom untouched. I am just being clear about the implications that the exercise of such liberties would have.”
“Making them responsible for your own actions… that’s wretched.”
“You don’t get to be a mob boss by being all nice and friendly.” I grinned. “Still, I have the feeling that the two brothers won’t be so understanding about the next steps of my plan; that’s why I’m expecting some stabs in my back.”
“What will you do about it?”
“For now, nothing. It’s early to drop the bomb on me. I’ll keep an eye open, just in case.”
“Farsight, you’re being too confident.”
“Listen, if that makes you feel better, don’t come with me to the Horseshoe. Stay on the lookout for any strange movements, follow your gut and try to uncover any plots against us. So far, you’ve proven to be very capable. I trust your instincts.”
“Fine…” Rose sighed. “If you’re so convinced about the success of your plan, I won’t hinder you. However, I don’t have any good feeling about the Ferraturas, especially about Delvio. Take care, alright?”
“I will.” I smiled and gave Rose a pat on the head. “Now let’s split up. I need to get in gear, and I would rather not have you around when the Ferratura goons arrive.”
Rose nodded and galloped away, blending in with the crowds as the distance grew between us. Her words of caution matched the ones in my mind: Delvio was dangerous, and had to be handled with extreme care. Verrazano was a loose bullet, but he lacked the subtlety needed to be a real problem. His brother, on the other hoof, was silent and kept his cards very well hidden from unwanted eyes.
I returned home and switched to my Wasteland gear. I wasn’t going to leave the relative safety of New Pegasus, but since we were going to storm a mob stronghold, it was reasonable to expect resistance. The nagging voice my head kept warning me as I tightened the latches of my leather armor and checked the status of my rifles. Why had Delvio changed his mind so quickly?
Ponies like him (or me) didn’t take a step forward without considering the consequences and implications. With that taken into account, it was hard for such ponies to change their minds, since their points of view were deeply grounded in thick layers of reasoning. The only time such a pony could undergo such a critical relocation of ideas was when confronted to something flawless and undeniable.
However, my plan was almost flawless and undeniable. The Ferratura Family had nothing to lose with such a sting, and claiming vengeance for the murder of a descendant was a reaction everypony in New Pegasus was expecting to happen. Delvio had to have understood the ups and downs of my proposal, and that must have been what had made him jump from his initial disregard to his final approval.
I walked back out of my apartment, ready to meet my escort in a side street close to the Horseshoe. I stood away from the Strip, as I had little doubt that a pony clad in full armour would at least turn some heads around. However, it seemed that my new mates hadn’t thought too much about discretion, as they were calmly having a smoke in the middle of the main avenue.
“Well, what do you know…” I grumbled.
I disregarded my worries and advanced to meet the goons the Ferraturas had assigned me. They were all grizzled stallions, most of them of a certain age, armed to their teeth and showing more than one scar as if they were trophies. At least, I wouldn’t have to worry about them not being combat-ready.
“Good night, folks.” I greeted. “Are you Delvio’s lot?”
“Delvio’s lot?” One of the mercs laughed. “You hear that, friends? Nopony had called us like that!”
“How should I have addressed you, then?” I asked, surprised at their reaction.
“Hey, hey, nevermind!” The merc kept laughing. “There was no bad intention. You must be Farsight, right?”
“Exactly. And you are?”
“Name’s Uno.” The merc pointed at himself, then at his two companions. “These are my brothers Dos and Tres.”
“Uno, Dos and Tres, riiiight.” I knew those names had to be fake. “You know why you’re here, right?”
“We sure do.” Uno nodded.
“In that case, let’s not lose any more time. Follow me.”
I trotted towards one of the ponyholes that led to the sewer tunnel we had to follow. With a little bit of magic, the cover lifted and moved aside, opening a big black hole through which we could descend. That action brought back memories of my departure from the Stable… I had been weak and full of fears; but it was something normal, once seen with perspective. For a moment, I wished that the Overmare and her pathetic clique of Dwellers could see me… but then again, what would it be good for, if I couldn’t ask for retribution?
“Holy Celestia, I hate this place.” Dos mumbled.
“Don’t we all?” Tres replied from behind.
“The smell is terrible…” I admitted. “However, we shouldn’t be very far from the entrance.”
“You’d better be right.” Dos barked. “I am going to need a proper bath after this job.”
“And you’ll have it, Dos, but shut up, for Luna’s sake!” Uno exploded. “We are professionals, and this is not the worst we’ve been through.”
“I don’t think we’ve crawled through many sewers, brother.”
“Who cares about that?” Tres mumbled. “We’re getting paid.”
“Gentlecolts…” I said, stopping dead in front of a terminal. “Here we are.”
We found ourselves standing in front of a large blast door that, even if dimly lit by our flashlights and my PipBuck light, was completely different to the concrete walls of the sewer tunnel. Made out of what seemed to be reinforced steel, its hydraulic mechanism had been decorated with a large rendition of the Full House symbol, letting the bystander know in whose turf one was venturing.
“Not the most subtle of ways, isn’t it?” Uno laughed.
“Nope.” I shook my head. “Now give me a second while I deal with the terminal.”
“It’s all yours.”
I jacked my PipBuck to the small, green-lit computer hanging from the sewer wall; while the three mercenaries grouped and talked to each other in a tone low enough to not be heard by me. The security system of the blast door turned out to be quite difficult to crack, as there were several connections that could open the door while activating the alarm at the same time. Of course, I needed to avoid that, so I had to go through a series of loopholes and auxiliary protocols to stop any deterrence measure from going off.
It was a bit of a struggle, but in the end, I managed to find a way of deactivating the alarm associated to the door, and after that, getting the entrance open was piece of cake. I walked into the unknown, leading the pack of mercenaries through corridors of metal plating and neon lights. Everything in the lower levels of the Horseshoe had that very industrial and mechanic look, but the basement corridors lacked the minimal standards of comfort that had been considered in the casino halls.
“This place is like a giant metal coffin.” Uno whistled.
“Not the kind of place you’d expect in the middle of the Wasteland, right?” I remarked.
“Full House is a complete mystery.” The merc looked to the sides.
“Tell me about it.” I mumbled.
My main concern was to find the safe as quickly as possible. So far, we had moved undetected, but I had no guarantees of how long it would take us to come across a patrolling robopony or a goon checking something out. Trying to keep my nerves under control, I looked over every corner, peeked in each room we passed and had an eye constantly on my E.F.S. while we trotted down the endless corridors.
One of the doors led to a series of catwalks above a large open hall, stuffed with crates and materials. At first, I thought we might have found the vault room, but when I looked down, my jaw dropped in awe. Beneath our hooves, a whole assembly line of robot ponies was working automatically, at full speed. Parts of steel and aluminum were assembled by metallic servo-arms, while other mechanic automatons fabricated the electronic circuitry that would govern the machines.
Full House had an army, and as long as he had a steady flow of materials (which were probably secured by the trade with the NER) he would be able to increase its numbers and withstand a large conflict. Suddenly, the idea of taking Full House out of the picture via a simple robbery seemed much less prone to happen. Even without money, he would be able to resort to military means to complete his objectives, so I thought I would have to warn the Ferraturas about their contender’s hidden ace. That would get them to trust me.
“Alright, bright buck. End of the line.” Uno’s voice came from behind, cold as ice.
I heard their guns cocking and the E.F.S. turned red in warning. With almost no time to think, I dove sideways towards a pile of wooden crates labeled as “parts”, right an instant before a hail of machine gun bullets rained upon the place I was standing on. At the same time, the alarms of the whole complex went off in a whining cacophony. I had been betrayed!
“What the fuck’s this, Uno?” I roared from behind cover, while unholstering my rifle.
BLAM! Missed shot, it went wide.
“It’s nothing personal, Farsight.” Uno had also gotten cover behind a plated railing. “Actually, you seem to be a fair pony; honest and trustable, but you know, we all have our allegiances.”
“You mean you’re obeying to higher orders?” I yelled.
“It’ll be our little secret.” Uno sent another bulletstorm, while Dos and Tres tried to flank me. “After all, you won’t live to tell the story.”
“Don’t bet on it.” I grunted, as I had seen Dos pop out behind a column. I breathed deep, took aim at his head and pulled the trigger.
Dos’s head burst open in a turmoil of blood, bone and brain matter, while his body was hurled backwards because of the impact of the bullet. One down, two to go. I saw Tres flinch for a second, but he quickly dove for cover and disappeared from my line of sight.
“That was my brother!” Uno roared, enraged.
“You wouldn’t expect me to let myself get killed, would you?”
“Really, is that the best you can say?” I laughed.
Uno babbled something incomprehensible and tried to gun me down, while Tres tried the same flanking tactic his deceased brother had used. He was nimbler than Dos, so I had a harder time getting the aim ready. However, I managed to lock onto him.
Tres looped in the air and fell off the catwalk onto a pile of partially assembled robots. Uno wailed in rage once again and sent another series of bullets towards me. His aim was getting worryingly accurate, with some shots whistling away past me with almost no distance to my body.
“You’re good, I’ll give you that.” Uno groaned coldly. “But I fucking swear to Celestia that I will get you killed!”
“Hey, you tried to pull off the same trick twice.” I smiled cunningly. “Did you really expect to get it done the second time?”
“We’ll see who gets the last laugh!”
Uno leapt out of cover and galloped towards me, aware that I needed time to get my aim ready. He was too close for me to fire, so I had to improvise. I summoned a quick pressure spell on him and fired it as fast as possible, sending him to the floor with a sudden smack. The backlash of the spell gave me enough distance to ready my rifle and take aim, while gasping for air.
“Here’s your answer, Uno!” I roared.
The two bullets of my rifle hit the mercenary leader in the head and in the chest, making him leap backward and fall dead, like a broken puppet. I sighed in relief after having sorted the problem out, but apart from the satisfaction I was having, a bubbling feeling of anger grew inside me. Full House had killed the only being I had felt an emotion similar to love, whereas the Ferratura Family had double-crossed me. I would have to find a way of…
I felt a sudden shock down my spine, and my legs weakened. My mind went numb and I couldn’t think properly as the electric current travelled through my body. Just before losing consciousness, I remembered that our fight had set off the alarms of the Casino basement. That had to be Full House’s welcome party, ready to deal with the intruders… or the intruder, properly speaking…
Note: Reputation Change
Full House Group: Suspicious. You have been caught snooping around in their domain, and they will have questions about their disappeared employee…
Ferratura Family: Shunned. Their reasons are unknown, but they have decided that you’re a nuisance for them. Take care.