• Published 20th Jul 2013
  • 3,201 Views, 61 Comments

Bottom Of The Ladder - GeodesicDragon



Sequel to Top Of The Charts. Freshly released from jail, Anon has returned to Ponyville. The townsponies don't want him back — but there is another, far more pressing, issue to contend with.

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Loyalty And Planning

- VINYL'S POV -

Octavia beams from ear to ear as she grabs you in a bone-crushing hug, tears streaming down her face. You return the hug, wincing as she hisses in pain due to you touching the wounds on her back.

"Oh, Vinyl," she says. "The Diamond Dogs grabbed you as well?"

You break away from the hug and shake your head. "Um, not exactly," you reply. "We actually came here to rescue you."

"'We?'" Octavia looks at you blankly, then gasps. "Wait, Anon is here too? Where is he? What's he planning?"

She's panicking, so you gently pat one of her hooves. "We've managed to convince the Dogs that Nonny is a gigantic asshat who wants to enslave everypony in town. He's with them now, having been given a boatload of bits, but I don't know what his plan is." Your eyes narrow in determination. "But believe me, Octy, when I say that we're gonna rescue you and everypony else from this hell."

Octavia is about to reply when a whip cracks the air beside your ear, eliciting a pained cry of shock. You look up to see one of the guards with a less-than-pleased look on his ugly face.

"Get back to work, ya useless vermin!" he shouts. "Or the next one is gonna get you right in yer pretty little faces!"

You quickly turn around and – after forgetting about the dampener on your horn – grab the pickaxe in your mouth. Soon, two more clangs are adding to hundreds of others.

- ANON'S POV -

You have no idea what you are doing.

Tell me something I don't know.

You are sitting at a table in a small room carved into the rock face, the light from a small candle flickering pitifully. In front of you is a large bag of bits, your fee for 'delivering' Vinyl, while all around you stand several boisterous Diamond Dogs.

A couple of them are beating the crap out of each other while nearby spectators place bets, most of them are bragging about what they have done to the slaves during their guard shifts — but it seems as though the majority of them are just plain drunk.

"Oi, human." a large paw on your shoulder makes you jump slightly. "Me an' the boys got a question for you, and we'd really like it if you could give us an answer."

"Ask away," you reply, trying with superhuman effort not to sweat.

The Dog nods. "Right, so... we've bin watchin' that town for ages, right, an' we've seen that you are pretty pally with that pony ya brought us — so why did you suddenly decide to bring 'er here?"

They've been watching Ponyville? That explains how they knew Octavia would be an easy target.

Yes, but it doesn't explain how they are getting past the guards.

If I play my cards right, I could probably find out.

Good plan, Anon — now answer the damn question.

"Well?" the Dog asks impatiently. "Answer the damn question."

You clear your throat. "Sorry, I was just reflecting on how good it felt to betray that stupid mare." You give what you hope is a convincing evil laugh. "She actually thought I loved her."

The Dogs cackle uproariously.

"When I realised that you had captured my other 'friend,' I realised that there was more money in slaves... so I brought Vinyl here under the pretence of rescuing her." You flash them a grin. "And I'm pretty sure you all know the rest."

The Dog who asked the question nods. "Yeah, we do." he holds out a paw. "I'm Slasher, nice to meet ya."

You shake his paw. "Anon."

"I've had a thought," Slasher says. "We'd need to speak to the boss about it, but I think it might work." He rubs his paws together. "I don't see why we can't work together on this whole 'slave' thing."

"Colour me intrigued," you reply. "Let's go and talk to him now, I'm sure he'd be interested in... whatever your idea is."

"Nah." Slasher shakes his head. "We can talk to him later — right now, though, we need ta celebrate makin' a new friend."

With those words, he grabs a nearby barrel of ale and puts it on the table in front of you. Clearly visible on the side is a stamp bearing the name of Berry's Brewery in Ponyville.

Well then, it looks like Ponyville offers much more to these scumbags than just potential slaves.

Indeed. Come on, Anon, let's drink this guy under the table.

Sounds like a plan to me.

You tap the keg and pour yourself a mug of ale, raising it to Slasher. He quickly pours one for himself and taps it with yours.

"To new friends," you say. "Now, let's drink."

***

Several hours later...

The room is spinning, you feel faint, and you can barely keep your eyes open — but it was all worth it, just to make out the blurry image of Slasher slumped over the table. He soon wakes up with a loud belch and groans, holding his head. Catching sight of you, he chuckles weakly and grins.

"Finally," he mutters. "Someone actually beat me at drinking. To tell ya the truth, I was getting bored of winning all the time."

You shrug. "What can I say?" you reply. "I'm a natural."

"Yeah." Slasher nods. "And it shows." He gets on all fours and stretches, eventually getting back on two legs. "Right then, I guess we'd better talk to the boss."

You stand up as well, wordlessly following Slasher out of the room. He leads you down a small stone corridor, which has a few other corridors branching off from it. The one you walk along is lit by torches along the walls and is barely big enough to allow you and Slasher to walk side by side.

Along the way, you hear a commotion coming from down one of the other corridors. Slasher stops and puts a paw to his ear, listening intently to the noise before sighing.

"Another slave is causing a fuss." he turns to face you, putting an arm around you and flashing you an unsettling grin. "Come on, Anon, let's see where your loyalties truly lie."

He walks off, his arm around you making sure that you are dragged along for the ride. Rounding a corner, you see one of the guards standing in front of a cell. Spotting Slasher, the guard quickly offers him a snappy salute and you a curt nod.

"Talk to me, Rex," he says. "What's going on?"

Rex? That is such a dog name.

Quiet, you.

"It's this prisoner, Captain Slasher," Rex replies. "She's refusing to work, by claiming that she can't walk."

Slasher shakes his head. "Why must these ponies lie to us?" he asks. "We give them jobs, a roof over their heads and food, and this is how they repay us?" He turns to you. "Get in there and see to it that her lies become reality."

You blink a couple of times while you process what Slasher has just said — your eyes eventually widening in shock.

Wait... is he asking me to break somepony's leg?

I think so.

Oh, shit.

Slasher takes Rex's weapon from him – a large club – and hands it to you. "Well?" he snaps. "Get on with it!"

Swallowing nervously, you slowly walk into the cell. It's a small, windowless room, with a crude bed in one corner, a bucket in the other — and an all too familiar mare in the middle who is curled up into a ball, her body shaking as she sobs into her forehooves.

Oh, dear God. Of all the ponies it could be, it had to be...

"Bon Bon?"

The sobbing stops as Bon Bon slowly peeks out from behind her hooves, letting out a gasp as she catches sight of you — a gasp that becomes a silent scream when she spots the club.

"Anon?" she whimpers. "I thought you were in jail?"

"I got out." you shrug. "I served five years – for a crime I didn't commit – and now I'm free as a bird — although that hasn't stopped most of the residents in Ponyville from starting a petition to have me exiled to the farthest corner of Equestria."

"And so you choose to spend time with Diamond Dogs." Bon Bon glares at you. "Can you really blame them for wanting you gone?"

You glance back at the cell door. Neither Slasher nor Rex are standing watching you, so you sit down on the floor.

"Believe it or not, but..." you sigh. "I'm actually here to try and rescue you and the other slaves. It was Vinyl's idea, really — in fact, we only got in because I pretended I was a slaver."

"Vinyl's here too?" Bon Bon asks. "And she's a slave too? Anon, what in Tartarus were you thinking?! You're going to get her killed!"

"Don't you think I know that?!" you snarl. "It was a spur of the moment plan, but I'm sure I'll come up with something."

Slasher's harsh voice cuts through the air. "Anon!" he yells. "I don't hear screaming in there! What are you doing?"

"Shit..." you whisper. "Look, Bon Bon, he sent me in here to break one of your legs — but I really don't want to do that. Please, you've gotta stop lying about not being able to walk and work your shift."

Bon Bon shakily stands up. "If I do that, will you get me – and the others – out of this Discord-cursed hellhole?" she queries.

You nod. "I'll do whatever it takes," you reply. "Though I will confess to having an ulterior motive — if I rescue everypony, then the others might forget about having me kicked out of Ponyville."

Bon Bon sighs. "Maybe they will, and maybe they won't," she replies. "But the fact is, you won't know until you try." She quickly nuzzles you. "But I believe in you, Anon."

You gently pat her on the head — just as Slasher and Rex storm in, both of them looking extremely pissed off.

"What the hell is wrong with you, Anon?" Slasher asks. "I send you in here to teach her a lesson, and instead I find you petting her?"

"I managed to convince her that lying wasn't the brightest thing to do," you reply. "Isn't that right, slave?"

"Yes, sir." Bon Bon catches on quite quick. "I'll do whatever is asked of me, and I apologise for my impudence."

You pat her on the head again. "That's a good little mare." you stand up and turn to Slasher and Rex. "By all means, punish her for lying, by taking away her food rations for a day or two, or something but don't physically hurt her — because, after all, broken slaves are no use to anyone."

Slasher taps his chin a few times, but soon nods. "I never thought of it like that," he says. "Good thinking, Anon — you'll go far within our little organisation." He glances at Rex. "Take this insubordinate whelp to the pit and put her to work, and make sure the others know that she isn't to be fed for two days."

Rex nods, taking his club from you before grabbing Bon Bon by the scruff of the neck. As he drags her away, she looks at you mournfully — to which you offer a brief but supportive smile.

"Right, back on track." Slasher's voice forces your attention back to him. "When we talk to the boss about my little idea, I'll mention what you said about punishing the prisoners and see if he likes it."

"I certainly hope so," you say. "After all, injured prisoners take time and resources to heal. Starving them is much better, as they suffer slowly and painfully — but without ugly bruises or broken bones."

Slasher cackles. "I like you, Anon," he says. "All the time we were watching you, we considered you to be a bit soft. But now I see that you are actually as cold and vicious as any of us." You give him a thumbs up, to which Slasher grins and pats you on the back. "Come on, we've gotta go and talk to Overseer Rockpaw."

He walks around the corner and back into the main tunnel, leaving you standing outside Bon Bon's cell.

Way to go, Mr. Voice of Reason.

Shut up. It was either talk to her, or cripple her for life.

Whoa, relax. I'm just saying. You did good, kid. Real good.

I know. And, come to think of it, I think I've got an idea about how we can rescue everypony.

That's great! What is it?

First things first — we need to get Rockpaw to approve our 'no beating of the slaves' policy. The plan I have depends on it.

I'm with you, Anon. Let's make it happen.

"Anon?" Slasher calls. "Are you coming or not?"

"Uh, yeah!" you shout back. "Be right there!"

You rush to catch up with your host, your plan to rescue the slaves already forming in your head.

Author's Note:

HOLY CRAP, PLOT DEVELOPMENT! :pinkiegasp:

What could Anon be planning? Find out... soon!

(Please Note: 'Soon' is measured in Valve Time.)