"Where are we going, mommy?" asked a young mare. She had just gone to see a play with her parents, and though she didn't understand most of it, as it mostly consisted of ponies sing words the young mare could not comprehend (her mother called it an "opera"), she still had fun.
"We're going back to the farm, sweetie. Say, honey, I thought that was a wonderful show. What did you think, dear?" asked the young mare's mother. Her husband's face scrunched up in a look of obvious displeasure.
"Ah still don't understand what's so good 'bout these fancy Canterlotian plays. Didn't make a lick o' sense to me. Well, that doesn't matter, as long as our little girl had fun. Did you have fun, Applejack?" The young mare nodded gleefully and went to hug her father's leg, which drew a loving smile from him.
"Well, then I had fun too. Now, it is real late, so you need to go right to bed, ya hear me? And I don't wanna here nothin' 'bout yer big brother gettin to stay up-"
The young mare's mother let out a scream, prompting her husband to look up. A lone figure was standing in the shadows, but its horn was lit up a bright purple; the light coming off of it revealed the figure was male. His face was masked by the darkness, though the young mare thought she could make out the man's fur as light gray.
"Um...do you need something, sir?" asked the young mare's mother.
The man walked from the shadows. His fur was indeed gray, and his eyes were a light blue, focused intently on the young mare's parents. The young mare couldn't get a look at his cutie mark, as she was mostly distracted by the man's eerie, wide grin. His gaze switched from the whole group to her mother alone; specifically, the pearl necklace she wore.
The Necklace was her first anniversary gift; the young mare's father had gone all the way to Los Pegasus to get it, and it cost well over two thousand bits. Money was not a problem to the Apples, due to their business in Ponyville being one of the most successful in Equestria, but the labor of finding it and the love that came with it was absolutely priceless; it was by far the most prized possession of the young mare's mother.
"What a pretty necklace," began the man, tilting his head to look at it from different angles. "It glints in the light. Surely, it'll fetch a pretty price. I'll only say this once; give me the necklace now, and I'll let you walk away with your kid," he remarked.
"Now, hold a second, sir. That necklace is important to both of us, and I absolutely will not letcha have it," interjected the young mare's father. The man's smile quickly turned to an angry grimace.
"Well, if you ain't gonna give it to me, then I'll just take it!" he exclaimed, reaching his hand for the necklace. The young mare's father quickly reached to interject, and what happened next would shock the world for years to come.
The man's spell, which he had been charging ever since the group had come across him, fired off. The spell, just barely visible, tore through the young mare's father, who had jumped in front of his wife; as a result, the spell's momentum carried through the stallion and hit his wife as well, who cried out with a piercing shriek. They both fell to the ground with a sickening thud, and the holes the spell had created upon the young mare's father and were still smoking, blood slowly dripping from their now lifeless bodies. Their faces were frozen in a state of fear.
The young mare and the mugger wore the same expression. After fully comprehending what had just transpired, the young mare looked up at her parent's assailant, tears streaming down her confused and horrified face.
The mugger looked upon what had just done, and looked into the filly's face; he quickly ran away as fast as he could in the opposite direction, his heavy footsteps echoing in the dark and lonesome city.
The young mare, who's name was Applejack, screamed long into the night.
"Miss Applejack? Are you feeling okay?"
Applejack jolted in an upright position, and quickly looked around. She was in her room at Apple Manor, lying down on her reclining chair, the fireplace was going, giving the room a nice, warm glow to it, and her legal guardian, Mosley Orange, was standing directly across from her, with his pitch black suit's dust particles clearly visible due to the glinting light of the fire. His face looked worried, which was unusual for a stallion who usually had a monotone countenance.
"You've been laying there for the past half an hour," he continued. Applejack let out a brief sigh and slowly made her way off the chair.
"Yes, Mosely, I'm okay. What time is it?" asked Applejack.
Mosely Orange, Applejack's Uncle, was appointed her legal guardian after the death of Applejack's parents. Mosely grew up in Canterlot, and as a result, Applejack completely lost any hint of southern trace from her father, instead picking up an authentic Canterlot accent as she grew up under his care. Her brother, Big Mac, elected to take care of her sister, Applebloom, under the guide of their Grandmother Smith back at the farm; since she recently died, her brother has been taking care of her sister full time. Because of this, she sounded nothing like her siblings, all who still carried her father's heavy southern accent.
In their will, her parents left Applejack the company, as opposed to their eldest son Big Mac, as they saw something in her that Applejack still didn't understand. Despite this, her brother, who attended Canterlot's School for Gifted Ponies with a degree in technology, still ran the business operations of Apple Enterprises, under Applejack's blessing. However, Applejack lived alone, in the manor she built specifically designed to house just two; Mosely and herself. Big Mac and Apple Bloom still lived back on the farm where it all began, though Applejack made sure to frequently visit them.
"It's 10:30 in the morning, miss. You agreed to meet your brother at Sweet Apple Acres today, for what he described as a "rodent problem". Also, you invited Miss Twilight over to walk you down, and you accepted, so she should be here at any-" the doorbell promptly rang through the manor.
"-moment. I'll get that, miss," said Mosely as he rushed down stairs. Applejack slowly followed him, and was looming behind him when he opened the door for one of her greatest friends.
Twilight Sparkle was probably the nicest, sweetest pony Applejack knew. She wasn't always that way, however; incredibly, she was Princess Celestia's protégé, and came down to Ponyville from Canterlot to help plan the Summer Sun Celebration that had been taking place that year. Naturally, as she was an integral part of the celebration, Applejack had invited Twilight to her famed party the night before at Sweet Apple Acres, and there introduced her to her friends Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash; the group had been close for years to come. Twilight was one of few who knew her extravagant persona as one of the world's most recognizable billionaires was nothing more than a sham.
"Hi, Applejack! Are you ready to go?" asked Twilight, a warm smile on her face. Applejack grinned back.
"Yeah, just give me a second," replied Applejack. She ran upstairs and grabbed a black coat for the cold, along with her signature Stetson hat that she always wore in public. As she put it on, she grimaced at the memory today's date brought to surface.
Applejack made her way out the door, her uncle and assistant straightening up her hat as she passed through the door frame. Twilight wore a purple scarf that Applejack could easily tell was a product of Rarity's boutique; it was the only clothing she wore, after all. They walked in silence for a great deal of time before Twilight quizzically looked over in Applejack's direction.
"AJ? Is everything alright?" she asked. Applejack stared down for a little while longer before answering.
"It's the anniversary of my parents' death today," replied Applejack, a somber tone in her voice. Twilight silently gasped before looking away.
"I'm so sorry, Applejack. I can only imagine what you went through that night. You know that if you ever need our help or support you can come to us. You've been so strong about it your whole life, and you know we're all proud of you for what you've become," Twilight remarked. A silence hung in the air for what seemed like forever before Applejack answered.
"I know. Thank you, Twilight. You're more important to me than you'll ever know," answered Applejack. She had been staring at the ground for so long that when she looked up, she was stunned.
Ponyville had been getting bad, and it seems as if it got worse every time Applejack stepped outside. The sidewalk the pair had been walking on was cracked and splintered, and in some parts it seemed to disappear completely. Many homeless ponies of all ages and sizes were sitting on the corners and in the alleyways, with their only sources of warmth in the current winter makeshift fires that never seemed to be enough.
Celestia, is this what it's come to? This town was in bad shape enough when my parents were killed, but this...this is unacceptable. I've been doing all I can to help this city, but something on a much greater scale has to be done about the scum who terrorize this great town. The Police haven't been doing anything to help, either, even with the bits that are going to them, thought Applejack.
"It's bad, isn't it?" stated Twilight. "The crime rate around here is so high that the funds that would go towards fixing these kinds of things are going directly to the Ponyville Police Department; and unbelievably, it still isn't enough, even with the extra money you've been donating to the PPD over the past couple of years."
"I don't think my money is gonna help solve this, Twi," began Applejack. "It wasn't even this bad when my parents were murdered. Can you imagine the crimes that are going on now? Criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot; they need something to be afraid of. Right now, Twilight, they know they can't lose. What are we supposed to do about that?" Twilight chuckled.
"You know, AJ, your dad was running for mayor before...the incident. Maybe you could do the same? You seem to have some good ideas," Twilight suggested. Applejack let out a short chuckle, the first in a very long time.
"Preposterous. I'd be too dark and brooding to get anything done," joked Applejack.
The mares both laughed and began small talk about recent events and how the others in the group were fairing. Before they knew it, the glamorous farmland that was Sweet Apple Acres came into view.
The apples were looking as good as usual, their color a deeper red than the barn that she grew up in, which had faced major renovations thanks to the efforts of her and her brother. There were countless workers out in the fields, as Applejack made sure that the poor of Ponyville could easily get a job there to support themselves and their families; in fact, Sweet Apple Acres employed the most ponies out of any company every year. While this was an expensive business model, their effort certainly made up for it, and it made Applejack feel good knowing she was helping many ponies and their families in Ponyville.
As they walked into the field, Applejack could spot her brother, Big Mac, supervising the work the ponies were doing. Many of the various machines the ponies were using to farm out in the field were of his own design, due to his technological skill, and he was always giving ponies a hand if they needed him. To Applejack, her brother was one of the few good people left in the world.
"Howdy, y'all!" exclaimed Big Mac when he spotted the two mares walking towards them. He shouted an order to one of the workers nearby before walking over to meet them half way.
"You said you had a rodent problem?" Applejack asked.
"Sure as Tartarus I do! Those damn Vampire Fruit Bats are eatin' all the apples 'gain! I was hoping y'all could help me flush 'em out," explained Big Mac. Twilight, however, had that look on her face that Applejack knew meant that her and her brother were about to get lectured.
"Silly Big Mac, bats aren't rodents! They're actually apart of their own order, Chiroptera, the only mammals with the ability to fly consistently-"
"Oh, I ain't got time for ya fancy Canterlot talk!" exclaimed Big Mac. After saying this, Big Mac turned to his sister with a grin on his face.
"Though, I must say, you're more Canterlot than she is, and you weren't even born there!"
The group shared a laugh before heading out to the backwoods of the property. Vampire Fruit Bats typically stayed away from ponies, though, if aggravated, they could bite; this results in a short period of time where the bitten subject shares the bat's passion for fruit. Big Mac has stated that it's happened to a few of the workers who strayed too far off the property, and her friend Fluttershy once remarked that it's happened to her many times, due to her position as an animal caretaker.
As they walked to the area of the infestation, Applejack took a look around at all the workers on the farm. They were working diligently, but they were laughing, smiling, joking, and comfortable in the environment as well, something Applejack was extremely grateful to see.
My parents would be proud to see what we've been doing with the company. Why can't all of Ponyville look as good as this? thought Applejack.
Once they arrived at the area of infestation, her brother set down a strange looking device on the soil. It was small and rectangular, with a red light beaming from the center; Applejack assumed this was one of her brother's new innovations, as she never used anything like it when dealing with the bats back when she was a kid.
"Alrighty, fellers, you know I'm not a man of many words so I'm gonna say this once. This device here is an innovation of my own design, and one I'm most proud of. This is a sonar device that will bring all the bats in these trees down to its location once it's activated. At that point, I want Applejack to round 'em up with her lasso and for Twilight to grab 'em all with magic and move 'em to a new location. All clear?" asked Big Mac. Twilight raised her hoof.
"Just one question. Why does Applejack need to use her lasso? I can just grab them all with magic and move them without it," Twilight asked. Big Mac smiled and turned towards his younger sister.
"I ain't gonna let her outta anything just 'cause she's a fancy billionaire. She's gonna do it to stay in practice. Ready?"
"Ready!" chorused both Twilight and Applejack, the latter rolling her eyes.
Big Mac leaned down and hit a small button on the device, causing the red light on it to begin blinking rapidly. While she couldn't hear anything coming from it, she could begin to make out the rustling sounds from all the Apple trees in the area. The rustling became louder, and louder, until the trees violently shook and a screaming flood of black took to the skies.
The bats clumsily flew in the air, and Applejack stared in awe. Against the waning sky of the day, the bats looked terrifying, like they were meant to dwell in the night. It was almost hard to follow them in the mass pack they flew in, and in that moment Applejack truly understood that they belonged with the night.
Ponyville needs one who preys in the night. They need a symbol that will represent hope for a new day, but that will horrify those who stoop to the life of crime. They will become prey. I will prey on them. Justice for not only me, but for all those the criminal body that thrives in this town have ruined. I will be the plague of bats over Ponyville, and thrive on the shadows as they do. I will be vengeance. I will be the Night. I will be...
"Applejack! Now!" shouted her brother, which made Applejack realize she had been staring at the group of bats around the sonar device. Whipping out her lasso, Applejack threw the ring of rope around the bats, rounding them into a tighter and tighter group, just like how she'd do it when she was younger. Twilight, who had been previously taking time to charge up the spell, fired it off, getting a complete magical hold over the bats and allowing Applejack to loosen her grip. Twilight carried the bats far outside the complex before letting them go, stumbling back and clutching her head as she did so.
"Ugh...that's gonna be bad in the morning," she moaned.
"Woohoo! Thanks a plenty for helpin' out, Twilight. And as for you, little sis, you haven't lost your touch," said Big Mac. Applejack sheepishly smiled and gave a little chuckle.
"Well, it's getting a little late, I should be heading back; Spike will be waiting for me. The girls want us to all meet up at Sugarcube Corner on Saturday. Would you be up for that?" asked Twilight.
"Of course, I'll be there. See you, Twlight!" said Applejack, waving her hoof goodbye. Twilight returned the gesture, and when she was fully out of sight, Applejack turned back to her brother.
"This is some impressive technology you've been building, brother. Where do you make it?" asked Applejack. Her brother raised an eyebrow.
"Well, the farm stuff is all made here. The big shed that you see a little to the right of the barn is actually my lab, where I make everythang ya see here. Apple Enterprises also had a short stint with the Equestrian Millitary and Guard, but that deal fell through, so I keep all the tech made for that down in the basement 'cause I ain't got nowhere else to put it. Why do ya ask?" said Big Mac. Applejack mischievously grinned, adding upon her brother's confusion.
"Can we check on that military gear? I'd like to see some of your finer creations, big brother."