ARC II - CONTACT
"I woke up just here. I remember those rock formations."
Rainy Days pointed, resisting the urge to rub at the bandages still wrapped around his head. Though the doctor had said they were just a precaution, Lacy had been oddly protective of him, and had insisted they stayed on. Well, not so odd, when he thought about it. Two tumbles in the canyon in less than a week would make any pony worry about their spouse. "Don't remember much else. I figured I'd been gone a few hours at most, so I hurried home in case Lacy was worried."
The investigator hummed. She was nondescript, in a sort of distinctive way that didn't seem to make any sense. Her features weren't particularly plain; in fact, her coat was a positively garish shade of green, and she stood at an impressive height, even discounting her oversized horn, but for some reason she was the sort of pony who could vanish in a crowd without any effort.
She tapped a hoof against her chin, before smoothing down the dark grey vest that marked her as a special investigator of the Equestrian Domestic Security Office. It was difficult for Rainy to get a read on the mare, but then again he was never very good at reading ponies. Still, he couldn't shake the feeling she only ever gave away those thoughts and emotions that she wanted you to notice.
Her gaze wandered around the canyon's red rock, jumping from crag to hollow before settling on the ridge line near the top of the eastern cliff face. A shattered fence post could be seen, poking over the edge like an old bone.
"What's up there?"
Rainy frowned. "Just an old cabin. Not been used in years. I think it was somepony's holiday home." He shifted from hoof to hoof, glancing at the floor. "Look, miss, I know things look..."
He tailed off. The mare had already moved ahead, scaling the narrow path that lead up to the broken fence post. He scrambled to follow her.
Nothing. She didn't even deign to look at him as the crested the ridge and the cabin came into view, and he couldn't help feeling he might have somehow insulted her. But it was hard to tell, since she seemed cold to everypony in town. So, swallowing, he tried again.
Again, that got no reply, but he threw caution to the wind and pressed on, even though she seemed more engrossed in the cabin, and the rocky, dusty ground surrounding it.
"I know this must seem fishy to you. But I really don't think this is called for. I fell. That's all. Twice in three days is a little odd, yeah, but I can't have been in good form the second time. Not really surprising."
She just peered down at the dust, holding her hoof in front of her face and switching her gaze from that, to the ground, and back again.
"Look, all I'm trying to say is that I think you're wasting your time, looking for some conspiracy that doesn't exist."
At least, she acted as though she might actually have heard him. She sat back on her haunches and turned her head to look back at him.
"Mr Days, very little is ever as simple as it first appears. Granted, ponies in my trade can often see conspiracy where there is none, so I see your point. But sometimes, you have but to scratch the surface..."
She stepped up to the door and gave it a hard push, revealing the dust-covered interior. "...and conspiracy reveals itself, as plain as day."
Rainy put his head through the doorway, looking at the scuff marks and irregular shapes carved into the thick coat that had lain itself on the floorboards. Something had been in here. Recently. The investigator stepped past him, gaze caught by something in the rafters. With a cat's light tread, she crept up underneath it, stooped to examine the floorboards, and hummed to herself as she traced a circle in the dust with a hoof. Then, with a cautious movement, she beckoned Rainy over.
He moved with far less grace to her side, peering down at the spot she hard marked. Most of the dust had been wiped away by something, leaving her mark hard to see, and it had been done before they had arrived. But that wasn't the interesting part. No, the interesting part was that clump of hair snagged against a splinter.
With a tug from her magic, the mare pulled it free and held it up to the light. It was a tangle of thick, dark blue hairs that had to have come from a pony's mane. A very distinctive shade of blue, in fact. As the investigator glanced at him, asking, "Does this look familiar?" he was already touching the crown of his head. There was a patch that felt thinner than the rest, where hairs had been roughly pulled away.
If she felt anything from the revelation, the investigator revealed nothing. Rainy, on the other hoof, felt as though he had gone weightless. A cold sweat broke out on his brow, and his stomach started rolling.
The mare looked up again, motioning for Rainy to follow. Despite a sudden screaming in his mind to stop, his head turned upward without even any conscious thought.
A few strands of something dark green and sticky hung from a beam. A few pieces clicked together in Rainy's mind, and though he couldn't say exactly what had happened here, he had a much better idea than he wanted to.
The mare, on the other hand, did know. That much was plain from the look on her face, and it was obvious that she didn't care who saw it.
"Rainy Days, rest assured, we have something very big on our hooves."
MULTIPLE SUSPECTS TRACKING
LAST LOCATION - DODGE JUNCTION
CURRENT LOCATION AND OBJECTIVE - UNKNOWN
CAPTURE PRIORITY - HIGH