The streets of Fillydelphia were strangely calm as an equine figure glided through the darkened streets, flitting from shadow to shadow. Occasionally, the yellowish lights of a passing automobile would illuminate the figure in their glow: a magenta-colored mare with light green eyes, draped and hooded in a dark cloak, who would quickly dart to another concealed spot before anypony could recognize her.
That pony was Cheerilee. Plenty of ponies would know her as a schoolteacher at Fillydelphian High School, but none, save a select few, knew her for what she really was. Only that select few knew what she did every night. For a long, long time, she had served the Equestrian Royal Family in covert operations, aimed for the most part at dissolving organized crime cells. She'd had to kill ponies, but it didn't bother her too much. For a part of her, killing was natural. For the other part, she'd convinced herself that it was for the best.
After an hour of jumping between shadows, Cheerilee came up on a small alleyway on the far side of town. She cast a furtive glance to a watch strapped to her fetlock. "And only ten minutes late!" she said a bit too cheerily for the situation. "Not bad... now I just have to convince Iron that--"
"Convince Iron that what?"
Cheerilee winced internally, cursing herself for her lapse in attention. If the hulking shape that stood in front of her had been a hostile, she'd have been in deep manure right now. Not that it was easy to kill her in any sense of the word, but...
The schoolteacher lifted her green eyes to meet the shape's own. Beady black eyes stared over the large snout of a cow. Two curved horns graced its crown, and a large, powerful body perched itself upon the curved legs of a goat.
"Hello, Iron," Cheerilee greeted her partner. The minotaur grunted in return. The two of them had been working together for a month now, ever since Iron had been caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"You're late," he grumbled.
"Tests don't grade themselves."
The minotaur snorted derisively, rolling his beady eyes. "Never mind, I'll have time to discuss this later. Right now, you and I have business to attend to."
"Tell me what you've learned."
The two walked out of the alleyway as casually as a minotaur and a cloaked pony could manage. "I located the mark's base of operations," the minotaur whispered hoarsely. "A townhouse located in lot 514 down Muzzle Avenue, just off of Mane Street." Cheerilee knew that house; her students occasionally professed that it was haunted. "Just up here," her partner informed her.
As the two approached the ramshackle house, Cheerilee took note of the building's sagging roof, collapsing door and window frames, and the many vines crawling up its sides. The building's perimeter was marked off with yellow caution tape and the entire place smelled of decay.
Cheerilee looked up at her partner questioningly. "You're sure that this is the right place?"
"Absolutely." The minotaur took a deep snort. "Can you smell it? Under the decay, there's a distinct smell of... sulfur."
"Great. So the princess's suspicions were correct."
"I believe so," the minotaur replied. He shuffled his hooves. "There is a complication. The building's been condemned. It's being torn down on Wednesday." Iron Chef leaned in close to his partner before continuing in another hoarse whisper. "I think that the mark will likely move his stock before then. This is our only shot at this, Cheerilee. We only have until sunrise."
The mark in question was a rather objectionable unicorn named Salt Peter. Mr. Peter headed an illegal explosives cartel that had been causing quite a bit of a... disturbance... as of late.
Cheerilee glanced at her watch. It read 3:30. "Two and a half hours to complete a job?"
"I'm not so sure about this. Maybe we should let the mark's gang move, then track them down later."
Sheer determination shone in Cheerilee's eyes. "That could take a month, maybe longer. I'm going in."
"How do you plan on doing that?" asked the minotaur with an incredulous tone. "With sunrise in less than two hours, and the mark concealed in a ramshackle building brimming with at least three dozen guards and Celestia-knows-how-many explosives?" He shook his head solemnly. "How does somepony- even somepony like you- overcome odds like that?"
A wide, hollow grin crossed Cheerilee's face, revealing a set of sharp fangs. "I'll improvise."
Deep within the recesses of the condemned building's basement, Cheerilee crouched behind some barrels, hiding herself from sight. The smell of sulfur hung heavily in the damp air. Slowly, she made her way across the room, avoiding the prying eyes of the guards. It was a simple matter to do so after how long she'd been in this business.
The basement had a strange sort of look to it. It was clear that Salt and his accomplices had expanded on it over their time here. Its rough walls bore signs of explosion damage. Apparently, the gang hadn't used conventional excavation methods.
Cheerilee ducked down a rough hallway, taking care not to disturb anything. A mistake at this point would jeopardize the entire mission, and she and Iron would have to wait to get Salt later. Cheerilee was not about to let that happen. As she turned around a bend, she could hear some voices filtering out of a back room.
"I dunno, boss. This new stuff is ridiculously volatile. We'll move it as fast as we can, but—"
A harsh voice cut off the first. "Listen here, Dirt. All I ask is that you get the packages loaded onto the truck before the Celestia-damned construction crew gets here to tear this place down! Is that too much to ask? Because, if it is, I could easily get somepony else to do it for you, if you catch my drift."
The one called Dirt caught his drift and swallowed audibly. "N-n-not necessary, Mr. Peter, sir. The cargo will be loaded before the crew gets here."
"Good." There was a slight pause. "Well, why are you still standing here? Move!" A sound of hooves scamperedly trotting away quickly followed the roughly barked command.
Cheerilee took this moment to peek around the corner towards the source of the voices. A dark brown Earth pony stallion quickly cantered out of a lit doorway into the dim room. This was presumably Dirt. Cheerilee's eyes followed him until he reached the edge of the room, then flitted back to the doorway just in time to see a second stallion step through.
"There you are,” Cheerilee mumbled to herself, stepping back into cover. The stallion had been unmistakable, from his mortar-and-pestle cutie mark to his grizzled grey mane and left eye patch. He looked for all of Equestria like a pony that had been on the receiving end of at least one explosive mishap, maybe even more than one. Cheerilee was sure that that was Salt Peter.
Suddenly, something shuffled behind her. Cheerilee whipped her head around to see a rather surprised unicorn mare, tripped over a crack in the floor. The two ponies stared at each other in surprise for a few seconds before Cheerilee reared up and smashed down on the unicorn's head, knocking her out cold. Somepony was bound to hear that, thought Cheerilee, turning back to the room.
Sure enough, the altercation had not gone unnoticed. "...Hm?" Salt questioned, before barking "Fan out! We aren't alone! There's an intruder here and I want them found!"
Perfect, thought Cheerilee as her cover was blown. She quickly evaluated her options. Option one was to continue with the mission at a faster pace and try to complete it without getting caught. Option two was to back out, get to safety, and get the mark at a later day. Option three... option three was to go all-out attack mode, incapacitate anything that got in her way, and get the mark.
Option three was to improvise.
She went with option three.
Cheerilee rushed out from hiding, ducking behind a row of barrels, raising a shout from one of Salt's guards. She spun around, angling herself away from the barrels, and bucked, sending one of them flying across the room. There was a scream, then an explosion. Shards of metal, wood, and concrete flew in every direction. Cheerilee wasted no time in leaping over the other barrels and into the fray. Any ponies that hadn't already been decommissioned by the blast were quickly incapacitated by her hooves and fangs. It didn't take long for her to cut a swathe through the disoriented crowd. She burst out just in time to see Salt duck into the back room.
Cheerilee kicked off into a quick gallop. She'd just burst through the door after him when a magically thrown knife stabbed into her right side, just between her ribs, slicing into one of her lungs. The impact was enough to bring her to a skidding stop. Wrapping it in a red glow, Salt slowly pulled the knife out of the schoolteacher with a sickening squelch.
"Like it?" he asked with a snide smile, turning the emerald-gilded blade around slowly in his ethereal grasp. "It's of the finest griffin make. I only use it for special business..." The knife rotated back to Cheerilee, "like taking care of would-be assassins like you." Keeping the knife angled towards her, Salt advanced on Cheerilee. "So, who sent you? Mayor Gruff? The Princesses?" The knife made its way to rest on Cheerilee's forehead, just between her eyes. "Tell me now, and I'll end your suffering for you."
Cheerilee cast her eyes downwards, and mumbled something inaudibly. Salt blinked. "What was that?"
"I said, 'Nothing can end my suffering.'" Cheerilee looked up at Salt, grinning. "But thanks for offering."
That was when Salt noticed her fangs. Giving a startled yell, he took a step back and swung the blade madly to no avail. Cheerilee rushed forwards, colliding with Salt and lashing out with her fangs. Both she and the crime lord tumbled backwards, colliding with the desk in the back of the room. A small glass vial filled with a clear liquid flew off the desk and into the air. Salt's eye widened as it watched the vial tumble towards the ground. He just had time to let out a strangled "No!" as the vampony sank her fangs into his neck, attempting to strangle him.
The vial hit the ground, and, as nitroglycerin tends to do when jostled, proceeded to explode into a million pieces.
Outside, from a nearby rooftop, Iron Chef watched as the entire house lit up like the Summer Sun festival.
The duo sat in the living room of Cheerilee's apartment. Iron Chef drank a mug of his own concoction, "Iron Milk", and Cheerilee drank from a small cup filled with a red liquid.
There was a prolonged silence before Iron Chef spoke up. "If I'd known that your version of 'improvisation' involved blowing the place up, I would've tried harder to change your mind."
Cheerilee chuckled, the action sending a slight stab of pain down her side. "That was the blip in an otherwise well-executed plan."
Iron Chef reluctantly agreed. "I suppose. I'm not the one who will have to deal with the questions of concerned fillies and colts tomorrow, after all."
That's true. "Well, at least we got him, huh?"
Again, Iron Chef nodded.
Celestia's sun started to peek over the horizon, and Iron Chef stretched. "Well, I should head home now. I have to prepare today's stock for my shop." The minotaur ran a small drink shop on the west side of town, specializing in stuff like his “Iron Milk" protein shakes. He put down his empty mug. "You're sure you're fine? You took quite a beating there."
"I'm fine," Cheerilee assured him, again ignoring the stab of pain that rippled down her side. "It takes more than that to put me down."
"If you say so," Iron said as he made his way out the door. "Goodbye, Cheerilee."
"Goodbye, Iron." As the door closed behind the minotaur, Cheerilee got up and walked over to a mirror. It was no wonder that Iron had been concerned; she looked terrible. Bits of shattered wood and concrete were tangled in her disheveled mane, parts of her coat were burnt and frayed, and her eyes were dark and clouded. The point where the knife had entered her lung gave another sharp pang. Strange, she mused, gingerly poking her side with a hoof. Usually, wounds like this heal up almost immediately. It's been almost an hour since I got this one, and it still feels like there's a knife digging into me... She grunted. It's probably nothing, she reassured herself, massaging her side. Now, let's get cleaned up. I have a class to teach.
Read this blog post:
Steal These Stories
And these stories:
The Adventures of Vampire Cheerilee
The Night Shift
Special thanks to TotallyNotABrony.
Automobiles are explained in the next chapter. Bear with me.