After interminable darkness, light shone through Rarity's eyelids. She wanted to get off the dusty floor, but her muscles ached and a buzz tingled across her brain. She huddled, unmoving, eyes tightly shut against the light, wondering if somepony drugged the cider. But the night at the fashion show felt so unreal, already dissolving into haze in her mind. Just a dream, then. A beautiful dream of a friend halfway across the world.
Another nose touched hers affectionately. Opal? Wincing and moaning, she opened her eyes. A filthy rat gazed back. She recoiled, shouting, “Not the dress!” But when she hit the wall she realized she wasn't wearing one. That was the dream. But....where am I? On shaking legs, she hurried out of the graffiti-covered room and down a hallway strewn with yellow newspapers and piles of crumbling sheetrock.
Good thing crime's been plummeting. Still, best not dawdle.
She stepped into the night, relieved to still be in Manehattan. But she'd never been to this run-down, lifeless part of town before. She oriented herself towards the downtown spires and hoofed it, keeping her eyes peeled for a taxi. This place needs a fashion show. Get some life back into its cheeks.
Grunts of pain drew her eye. In an alley, dark figures kicked another pony sprawled on the ground. Just my luck, running into the sliver of crime left in the city. She spotted one of those new police phone booths, ran into it, and slammed the lever down.
A nasal voice came from the speaker. “Manehattan Crime Control Center. IPID, please.”
“Individual Pony ID. Whadda you, from out of town? You need to give your IPID everytime you use the phones.”
Into the receiver, Rarity said, “I-I don't have one.”
The policepony became suspicious. “How'd you get into the city without being issued temporary travel documents?”
“I live here.”
“Not without an IPID you don't. Look, we can tell which booth you're calling from. If this is some kind of crank call, we'll track you down.”
Thinking quickly, Rarity said, “It is. This is a crank call and, um, uh, you're....awfully cranky today, aren't you? Ha ha! Go, um, soak your head!” Rarity cringed, wondering if that was even an insult.
“That's it, I'm dispatching a pegasus patrol."
“You won't catch me,” Rarity shouted.
She slammed the receiver down and ran away, hoping the pegasus patrol would come soon. Her heart ached for that poor pony being beaten up, but she couldn't take on all those ruffians. Best leave it to the professionals. But before long, her thoughts turned to the ID numbers the policepony mentioned. She tried to recall anything in the news about it, but her buzzing head felt stuck halfway between sleep and wakefulness. Everything still seemed distant and hazy, like a dream. The street was oppressively empty, soaked in neon lights and sickly yellow streetlamp lights. Everywhere she saw buildings falling apart, out-of-business signs on storefronts, garbage spilling onto streets. The night was alive with distant screams of anger and agony. Once, right in front of her, two thieves hurled a bench into a music store window and made off with dozens of records. What was happening to her city?
When she could travel no more, a hotel's buzzing sign tempted her. She went to the counter, next to two security guards in windbreaker jackets, and said to the desk pony, “I'd like a room."
He pulled a ledger over. “Can I getcha IPID?”
Rarity hazarded a safe, neutral, “Pardon?”
He raised his head and looked around, expecting hidden ponies were watching and listening. “As I'm sure you're aware, all legal transactions require an IPID. We are fully in compliant with police regulations, yessum. No number, no room.”
The security ponies watched Rarity keenly. Her skin crawled and her coat stood on end. Best to get out, she decided.
“Right. I misheard you is all.” She remembered she had no saddlebag, and thus no money. Smiling weakly, she crept backward. “Come to think of it, I don't have enough for your wonderful rooms anyway. So....I'll be off, then.”
She turned and fled. Purely by chance, a familiar yellow taxi carriage rolled down the street. Running at full gallop, she hollered until it slowed, then hopped up onto the cab and slumped against the backboard.
“Thank goodness,” she said. “Take me to Rarefaction Tower, please.”
The stallion with the checkered yellow peaked cap gave her a scornful eye. “One: never heard of it. Two: I need your IPID. Three: how you gonna pay?”
“I'll pay you when we arrive, and I'll pay double if you don't ask me for my ID number.”
“Nuh uh. I already had two ponies do a runner on me tonight!”
“Look.” Rarity gave him fluttery eyes. “I'm sure you know who I am. I'm Rarity, owner of Rarefaction Fashions, and I'm down here and I don't know why and--”
“If your sob story should mean something to me, it don't. Get out of my cab before I get you out of it myself.”
What's going on? Rarity thought as she reluctantly climbed out. Everypony in this part of town is so....ungenerous!
Mercifully, she made it to familiar territory. But familiar was relative, as she knew when she saw her skyscraper. The stylized neon sign on the roof was gone. It looked so plain now, so alien. How long had she been asleep? Had the stress of losing her company given her amnesia or something?
The other unfamiliar thing was the police checkpoint blocking the road. Ponies in riot gear waved her towards steel barricades. Her instincts screamed at her to bolt, but she didn't want to draw suspicion. Pegasi stood on the rooftops, watching her like hawks, ready to follow her. She trudged past a sign next to the blockade. 'The MCCC thanks citizens for their cooperation. Please have your IPID ready. Failure to present IPID is grounds for indefinite detention.'
“Good evening,” said the pony in charge. “Have your card?”
She didn't want to risk detention by admitting she didn't have one. If the policepony earlier asked for it over the phone, she could obviously just give the number. Simple. She hoped.
“No, but I have it memorized: one-six-seven-two....three.”
“And, uh, the last digit?”
Rarity chuckling nervously. “Silly me. Uh, nine.”
Over his shoulder, he called, “Get on the wire to HQ, have them run #167239.”
A pony went into a phone booth and dailed police central. Overhead, the night grew overcast. The clouds' underbelly caught the downtown lights and glowed golden. As they waited for word, the officers relaxed. But their eyes lingered on her, surely wondering what she was doing in this part of town with such a well-coiffed mane.
Wait, I haven't checked.
She reached up and felt it. Tangles, split ends, dry hair. Not pretty. She smiled nervously to the head policepony, who offered a reserved one. Then a pony emerged from the booth. Sudden rain pattered heavily on the ground, like cannon fire. He gave a note to the captain.
“Your name is Brushfire? A pegasus?”
“Uh, I had a magic operation. Like an alicorn transformation, but, um, into a unicorn.”
“Well, be that as it may, I'm still going to have to ask you your security question, Mrs. Brushfire. What room number did you stay in during your honeymoon?”
Cold hooves wrapped around Rarity's insides and squeezed. She couldn't think, couldn't breathe, couldn't move. The ponies in riot gear tensed up and inched closer.
“I don't know,” she wailed. “I'm not Brushfire!”
“Unlawfully passing yourself off as another pony is a crime,” he said sternly.
“But I-I have amnesia,” Rarity said. She wasn't sure, but a good enough excuse. “I woke up in a strange part of town, and I don't know what's going on!”
“Sure,” the policepony said. “Never heard that excuse before. Take her into custody.”
A pony discarded his rain-soaked newspaper. As they wrestled Rarity away, she strained her eyes to see the date. Oddly, it was the same day she supposed it was. She hadn't missed time at all. Then the lead article caught her eye. She tore free and dived for it. The photograph was bleary and wet, but the pony in it, addressing reporters, was clearly recognizable. Even if the police uniform wasn't. 'DIRECTOR SPARKLE ANNOUNCES TOUGH NEW MEASURES TO CURB CRIME BEFORE NEW YEAR', read the headline. 'Pundits question if her appointment by Celestia is a dry run for governing Equestria, and what her utter failure means for our future'.
“Let's go,” a policepony said, hustling her into a waiting paddy wagon.
As the steel doors slammed shut, she wailed, “What's going on?!”