• Published 31st Dec 2013
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Re-Looting - Grazy Polomare



Silverspeed is glad that her days of thievery are over. But with a disapproving family, boring job, and remnants of her past haunting her every step, she might just reconsider an early retirement.

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Chapter 4: A Barnyard Bargain

I remember the Summer Sun Celebration, nearly suffocating in the crowds. By the time Celestia did show up, and raised the Sun in a graceful, fluid motion, Dad had put me on his back. I remember just sitting there, captivated like the rest of them, wondering what it’d be like to have that power.

So in a way, watching that big fireball in the sky lighting up the white fields and frozen lake made me wonder how I had managed to wake up so early. Maybe it was the cup of coffee I snuck with me, or maybe it was just pure energy. Either way, I could feel that energy in my gut, pushing me forward, filling me with excitement.

Shoeshine looked just about the same as she had when I’d left her. Tired, frowning, and now holding a cup of coffee in her hoof. “Carrot Top left early to meet with her not-coltfriend so-”

“Wait!” I held the door open with my hoof. “Don’t you remember last night?”

“Last...wait…” Shoeshine’s eyes widened. “That wasn’t a dream?”

“Well-” I didn’t even finish the first sentence before I was yanked inside and suffocated by a hug.

“We’re back in business, baby!” I swear sometimes, she holds back that kindness until she gets what she wants, and then literally kills somepony with it. Thankfully, Shoeshine had the sense to realize she had flung her cup of coffee across the hallway and set me down.

“Well buck me, can you pass me some towels?”

------------------------------

To say Carrot Top liked orange was an understatement. I’m pretty sure even your average foal could figure out the poor carrot-head was obsessed with carrots and the color orange. Everything was orange or yellow. If it wasn’t, there was something on it that dealt with carrots. “Hmmm, so I see your roommate has a nice decorator.”

“I don’t see a problem with it.” Shoeshine pulled out a carrot from the fridge. “Want one?”

“Ummm, just a cup of joe for me.” At the moment, my stomach was feeling really queasy and while my back felt a little better, I still felt a sore in the back of my wing. “So you’ve got a plan?”

“Mhmm.” Shoeshine passed me a steaming hot cup of coffee. “You still take yours black, right?”

I nodded my head, smirking. “You remembered.”

“How can I forget?” Shoeshine chuckled. “You complained all night after that run in Trottingham. Nearly threw a fit when our fence offered you a cup of tea.”

“Heh, he was too uptight for my taste.” I chuckled, re-living that night in my head. “If I recall correctly, you were flirting with that banker.”

“Hardly.” Shoeshine moved to the couch, sprawling on her back and forcing me to sit on the carpeted floor. “He told me he was rich.”

“Isn’t that true love for you?” I took a sip, taking a moment to enjoy the strong aroma that came with freshly-ground coffee beans. In a way, between this and just talking with Shoeshine, I’d almost forgotten that I had a new life now.

I had almost forgotten that there was a time where I wasn’t making powdered coffee or sharing town gossip with a few pegasi I’d met on the weather team. That there was even a time where Shoeshine was actually cordial and not an uptight snob.

In a way, I could tell by her smile that she was thinking the same thing.

“So what’s the plan?” I asked.

“It’s a surprise.” That should have triggered an alarm in my head. I needed to know the plan ahead of time before I stepped into it.

“Come on, Spotless.” I nudged her. “You know I don’t like surprises.”

Shoeshine stood up. “Yeah, well I need to trust you first.”

That felt like a slap to the face. Shoeshine’s smile vanished and the same accusing stare came back.

“Really?” I rose to my hooves. “You think I’m trying to pull a sting on you?”

“Of course not.” Shoeshine replied indignantly. “But you weren’t exactly eager to start over either.”

While I did have to give her that, being called a snitch wasn’t exactly a heartwarming welcome. “So I guess that means I’m no better than a guard, huh?”

“Oh stop acting like some pariah. I just need to know for sure that you’re going to stick with me and not run off like some scared little filly.” Shoeshine smiled. “Think of this as a sort of probation. You meet me tonight behind Quills & Sofas and I’ll know you mean it.”

“I do mean it.” This was embarrassing. To think I almost fell for it only made me want to hit her more. “I’ll be there, but when I do, I want a full layout before we go in.”

Shoeshine nodded, her smug smile still plastered on her face. “Great! Bring an appropriate change of clothes and...maybe a bow as well.”

“A bow?” Sure, most places kept a guard or two in case of a diamond dog raid, but I highly doubted anypony would be at a store on Hearth's Warming Eve of all days.

“Yes, just the bow. We don’t need any arrows.” Well, I suppose until Shoeshine deemed me a loyal thug for her scheme, I was going to be kept in the dark.

“This plan better work.” I said, finishing my cup. “Or I swear rehabilitation isn’t going to be growing carrots in Ponyville.”

“Or shriveling up in the house of a corrupt businesspony.” Shoeshine smiled. “Speaking of which, wish your family a Merry Hearth’s Warming Eve from yours truly.”

-----------------------------------------

“Silverspeed! Does this dress show off my flank?” Silver Spoon rotated around the mirror, trying to tie the bow behind her back.

“Hang on, let me get that.” I walked over to her, and tightened the knot. In a way, the teal color matched her perfectly. “Also, it’s not like there’s going to be any colts there.”

“What?” Silver Spoon raised an eyebrow. “Is it wrong to look nice?”

Clearly, I would need to give her that talk one day. Mother might kill me, but I always say the sooner the better. Besides, it’d be better to hear it from me than Madame Cerberus in the next room.

“Don’t tell me you’re going in that.” Speak of the monster, and she’ll appear right over your shoulder. “You look like a dog.”

“Well, I actually thought I could rock the punk-star hairdo for a bit.” To be fair, I only combed it a bit.

“If you want to start being my daughter, you’re going to get that hair straightened out.” Mother turned to the hallway, ringing a bell for the butler to come in. “Hayrold? Can you please fix this?”

Of course Mother didn’t consider me a Ms. or a ‘daughter’. No, I was about the same as a leaky faucet. Just something for the butler to fix.

“Come, Ms. Silverspeed.” Hay replied in that old, dignified accent of his. “We mustn’t keep Mr. Rich’s carriage waiting.”

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised to find myself more attached to Hayrold than my own family. He’d always seemed to be in the family, and not once had I ever seen him shout. In fact, I was pretty sure I’d never seen his eyes either, since it was almost always covered up by those bushy eyebrows. But, I suppose he must have some eyesight, since he’d managed to hold this household in pristine shape with two brats running around.

“I don’t understand how you put up with her.” I muttered as he began to tie my hair back. “There’s probably a plethora of families in Canterlot or even Manehattan that would pay top dollar and probably treat you better.”

Hayrold simply chuckled. “Yes, but they aren’t Silvers I’m afraid.”

“Maybe that’s my point.” I felt the grip tighten over my hair for just a second.

“Sorry, my hooves aren’t the same as they were before.” Hayrold apologized, his voice just as calm and reassuring as always. Still, I decided to table the conversation.

--------------------

“My, what lovely daughters, Silver Bells!” Filthy Rich ushered us into his manor. Unlike ours, which felt more like it was made of marble and metal, the Rich Manor had a more earthy feel to it.

I suppose it went back to Stinkin’ Rich’s origins as a pioneer, setting up shop in a rural part of Ponyville with just a small wooden stand and Zap Apple Jam. Still, you could tell that those humble beginnings were pretty much stifled under the large painted portraits.

“Diamond!” Silver Spoon ran over to her friend. I never understood why Diamond Tiara had a well...tiara for a cutie mark. Silver Spoon told me once that it stood for leadership, but honestly the only thing I felt Diamond was leading was Spoonie herself.

Of course, Diamond Tiara’s stoic gaze instantly dissolved and the two were running around like the pair of school fillies they were. It made me smile a bit. Seeing Spoons and Diamond run up the stairs meant that they could be whatever they wanted to be.

I, on the other hoof, would have to play with the adults.

“Why Silverspeed!” Spoiled Rich, Filthy’s wife, called out. “You look absolutely elegant tonight. Looks like Silver Bells can teach an old dog new tricks!”

As much as I wanted to punch her face in, I knew Mother would clip my wings. So, instead I did what all rich snobs do. Accept the comment with a blush. “Oh, Mother can be very influential, you know.”

“I would sure love that kind of discipline on the school board.” Spoiled looked to my Mother, who simply smiled. “You know there’s an open position for the treasurer.”

“I’m afraid the company demands too much of my time, Spoiled.” Mother answered, although even I could hear the cold remark behind those words. “I’m sure you can fill the vacancy with somepony else.”

“Yes, well you know how my wife is.” Filthy chuckled. “Although I must say, you are looking quite divine tonight, Silverspeed.”

I did have to admit, that while the comments - fake or not - were being given, Hayrold had an artist’s touch. He’d manage to straighten out my mane into a nice updo and even added a silver band to add a little sparkle. “I’m just happy to spend a nice Hearth’s Warming Eve with Mother’s friends.”

“Speaking of which,” Spoiled Rich led us to the parlor. “How have you adjusted to Ponyville?”

I must have froze, because I’ve never seen Spoiled more excited in my life. Funny thing about the wealthy class is that anything interesting usually dealt with misfortune. Ironic, right? “Well you know, I’m still at the post office. But things are going good.”

“Oh, I see.” I nearly cringed at how fake her words were. It was like listening to a puppeteer at work. “I suppose not everypony is meant to run a company. But still, I’d figure your mother-”

“I’d rather have my daughters earn their positions, Ms. Rich.” Mother replied cooly. For a moment, everypony was silent. Even Spoiled, who couldn’t keep her mouth shut if her life depended on it, turned a bright red and nodded.

“I didn’t mean any offense, Silver Bells, I was just...surprised is all. I’m sure all of us understand how hard work pays off.” Speak for yourself, lady. Hard work doesn’t earn you bits. Playing smart, on the other hoof, does.

“I’m sure you do.” Silver Bells smiled. I was grateful that she’d save me from being embarrassed, but at the same time, Mother was just speaking for herself. She didn’t care about me. She didn’t care about Spoons. And if she had any room in that pitiful heart of hers, she saved it for her stupid company.

----------------------------------

It was tradition that the Ponyville schoolhouse threw on the Hearth's Warming Eve play. I remembered quite distinctly having to play an angry pegasus. I’d pouted the whole way through, and while some might call it good acting, it was really just a tantrum.

I didn’t come in with high expectations, or whatever expectations you had for a bunch of school fillies in cardboard cutouts. But even I had to do a double take at the costumes. They looked like direct imports from Bridleway.

Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara managed to sit in the corner, using me as their barrier between their parents. They were probably snickering at the losers that got dragged into this play, but honestly what could you expect from a pair of bullies?

On the other hoof, I could see Derpy closer to the front with Sparkler, the two silently cheering on Dinky as she hobbled over in her Chancellor Puddinghead costume. I don’t even think Mother was there for my play. Not that I really cared since the teacher had to drag me off the stage for throwing a tantrum.

I found myself actually laughing at a few of the lines, and even Mother, who should have been biologically incapable of having fun, managed to smirk at a few of the more clever taunts from Princess Platinum.

Watching this play always made me wonder why you’d form a new kingdom based on a few ponies nearly freezing to death. And how in the end, it was supposed to make everypony feel the sense of love and warmth that came with discovering the magic of friendship. I suppose all it takes is a malicious snow spirit to wake the masses up and settle petty differences. Although I doubt they could freeze Mother’s heart, considering how cold it already was.

--------------------------

“Hi Silverspeed!” Derpy waved at me, her wings nestling Dinky between her and Sparkle.

“That was great!” I smiled at Dinky. “You’re quite the actress, you know that?”

“Awwww t’anks Si’verspeed!” Dinky grinned. It was hard to believe she was the same age as Silver Spoon. Derpy said she had a slight speech impediment, although what exactly I wasn’t so sure.

“Wow, I need to visit your stylist.” Sparkler stared at my mane. Wonder if it was for her or maybe somepony special.

“Sorry, Hayrold isn’t for sale.” I laughed. Although I could probably sneak him out. Maybe even make a lot of bits with a black market barber. “You guys open your presents yet?”

“Nah, Sparks won’t let me.” Dinky pouted.

“You know Ma has a tradition to open them up tomorrow.” Sparkler rubbed her sister’s head. “After the fruitcake of course.”

“Does that also mean muffins?” Dinky asked wide-eyed.

“You betcha sis’!” Sparkler chuckled. “Hey did you hear, Silver? I got my letter from Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns! Guess who's attending this year!”

“What? I knew I was standing next to a certified genius!” Honestly, I wasn’t even making an understatement. Breaking into a bank vault would be easier than passing those entrance exams, and the difficulty only increases with older unicorns like Sparkler.

“Mhmm, you’re looking at the new Starswirl the Beardless!” Sparkler chuckled. “You should have seen Ma when I broke the news! She couldn’t even speak!”

“I better see some postcards in my mailbag then.” I hoofbumped her before I turned to Derpy, leaving the girls to mingle with their fans. “I saw you cheering in the front.”

“Oh did you?” Derpy turned a bright red. “I mean, I was pretty loud. And that poor usher looked annoyed and…”

“Come on, it’s your daughter.” I patted her on the back. “That usher was way too uptight even for me!”

That got a giggle out of her. “You know, you should go caroling with me and the girls tomorrow! If you know...you’re not busy…”

“Are you kidding? I’d love to!” I wanted to kiss her hooves now. I’d trade my bow for a good excuse to leave Mother and her stupid Hearth's Warming Brunch.

“That’s great! I always say the more the merrier!” Derpy grinned.

“Oh and congratulations!” I shook her hoof. “You must be really proud for Sparkler!”

“You heard?” Derpy sounded a little soft, which immediately rang alarm bells in my head. Derpy doesn’t talk soft, not unless she’s worried.

“Hey, this isn’t a time to feel down.” I put a wing on her. “You should be celebrating.”

“I know, and I did.” Derpy sighed. “Well...but you know...”

She’d fallen silent but I already knew what she was thinking. Derpy had come from a pretty rich family, and from what I could tell, her brother almost always looked out for her. But then again, she’d raised two foals by herself and paid for a whole house on a mailmare’s salary. If she did have any money from her folks, it was probably drained. And I doubted she was one to ask for more.

“Hey, ummm, if there’s anything you need, you know you can ask me.” I offered a wing to her.

“Oh speaking of which!” Derpy pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, apparently forgetting the entire thing. “I know it’s not in time with Hearth’s Warming Eve and all but I figured you could still get the doll at a 25% discount!”

Wow, leave it to Derpy to make you feel like a million bits. Even now, she was still looking out for me, despite the fact she had a ton of financial trouble herself. I might not have a lot of friends, but I wouldn’t trade Derpy for all the friends in the world. “Aww thanks Derpy! Happy Hearth's Warming Eve!”

“Happy Hearth’s Warming Eve!” The family chirped in unison.

As I turned to leave, Dinky’s squeaky voice caught me. “Wait! Si’ver!”

“Yes?” I turned around.

“Your friend wanted me to give you this!” Dinky passed me a small note. “She said it was a surprise! I like surprises!”

With the holiday spirit all around town, I’d nearly forgotten about Shoeshine. Taking the note, I found that it was only a reminder to meet at Quills & Sofa. “Thanks, Dinky.”

-----------------------------------------

Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara were locked away in their room upstairs and Spoiled Rich had dozed off on the couch, leaving me, Mother, and Filthy by ourselves to tend the fireplace.

“So have the costumes always been this good?” I asked Filthy Rich.

“Mhmm.” Filthy grinned. “Rarity donates them every year now. I can see why she’s the Element of Generosity.”

“Wow, I can’t believe she just...gives that all away.” I leaned back in the sofa.

“You know, I always admired that in her.” Filthy Rich chuckled. “It’s a darn shame Diamond and Sweetie Belle aren’t close. It’d be nice to see how the young ones run their businesses, you know?”

It’s ironic that such a wise stallion could be given a name like Filthy Rich. Most ponies would stubbornly stick to the old ways, or whatever tradition had proved right. Filthy was always ready to take risks. In a way, he was kind of like me. Perhaps with a bit more legal leeway, but just the same. And maybe also a bit of an airhead, but that’s just my two bits.

Mother had already left, probably to fetch another bottle from the cellar. That was one thing about earth ponies I never understood. I was still teetering on my third or fifth glass of wine and they were already breaking in the hard liquor.

“It’s really great to have you back, Silverspeed.” Filthy stated rather softly. “I know your Mother already tells you that but I figured I ought to let you know. It’s good for Silver Spoon to have an older role model.”

“Wasn’t Mother enough?” I asked sarcastically, before covering my mouth.

Filthy didn’t seem to notice, or he simply ignored me. “You know sometimes I wish me and Spoiled had an older daughter. Somepony to watch out for Diamond.”

“I don’t know, I think Diamond’s pretty head strong.” I chuckled.

“Yeah, I suppose so, but still.” He turned to look at me. “I worry about her at school.”

Honestly, I wanted to tell Filthy right then and there that his little princess was fine and that if anything, he should be more worried about the unfortunate victims that dealt with her on a daily basis. “I’m sure Mother’s the same with Silver Spoon.”

“Hmm, suppose so.” Filthy nodded. “Still, I guess I’m just worried about her future. What kind of legacy I’m going to leave her.”

“I dunno, Barnyard Bargains is a pretty big inheritance.” Most fillies would probably be happy getting a comfy job or working as a farmer.

“Hmmm, Barnyard Bargains ain’t the same as it use to be.” Filthy sighed. “Too much red tape. Too many agendas. The board in Canterlot sent me a letter today asking if they could change the name to Equestria Bargains. Something about quality and marketing.”

Wow, and while I thought Filthy’s role as the owner would settle any disputes, I’d forgotten that he has to listen to a board of investors as well. Furthermore, what’s worse is that he sounded like he was actually considering it. I couldn’t imagine what kind of turmoil you’d have to be in to actually re-name your own company, or rather how little control you actually had in the first place.

“I dunno, I think most ponies want that rural, home-on-the-range product you always manage to make,” I said to reassure him.

“Granny Smith doesn’t think so.” Filthy Rich took a swig from his cup. “And I agree with her. It’s like we’re becoming something that we’re not.”

“Isn’t change a good thing though?”

“Only when you feel like you’re not forcing yourself to wear a mask everyday.” It almost sounded like Filthy was speaking from experience. And in a way, I wished it was that easy. Sometimes, wearing masks saved you from the awful truth. Sometimes, masks liberated ponies because nopony needed to know who they were.

“Guess we all wear masks one way or the other.” What was with everypony being my personal therapist today? And why on Equestria was I getting the shrink and Shoeshine was off gallivanting with her carrot fetish? Not that she has one, but you can never be too sure with that mare.

“I know your Mother hasn’t trusted you yet with her company but you’d be surprised how much of her I see in you sometimes.” Now I knew Filthy had to be drunk. I wasn’t nearly as heartless as her and I would never treat any of my family, not even Silver Spoon, like a stranger off the street.

“We lose sight of ourselves with all this money.” Filthy finished his glass. “We lose sight of how to lead for our fillies and colts. That’s why I think you’d make a good role model for Silver. Your Mother is too old for Silver Spoon. But sisters tell each other things they’d never tell their mothers. You remember that and you’ll see.”

I think I already am, Filthy. I think I already am.

-----------------------------

Sneaking out of the mansion wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d imagined. The windows weren’t locked and Filthy wasn’t the kind of guy to employ an army of security guards at the gate. So all I really did was fly out.

I’d nearly fallen the first time, mostly because my left wing started to burn. But other than one close call, I’d made it to my house. It took me a while to find the old gym clothes I’d used before.

Slipping on the black hooded sweatshirt, I found a set of socks and an old ski mask in the attic. Not exactly a ninja suit, but I wasn’t robbing a diamond factory. No, I was just robbing from a family friend on Hearth's Warming Eve. Isn’t that the best way to show your holiday spirit?

Contrary to what I’d told Mother, I kept quite a few bows in an old tool shed in the next house. Nopony used it, and most of these bows were trophies for me. Most of them came from guards, but a few had belonged to a couple of mercenaries. High quality materials, and say what you will about mercs. They treat their weapons better than they treat their mothers.

I ended up sliding the brown Diamond Dog short bow over my chest before flying off to Quills & Sofas. Unsurprisingly, Shoeshine was already waiting, a pair of nightvision goggles in her hooves. And I thought I came overprepared.

“Well well, looks like you really did mean it.” She smiled. “Did you enjoy the play?”

“It’s gotten better.” My eyes noticed a small black duffle bag. “Are those the tools?”

“Tools of our trade.” Shoeshine slouched it over her back. “Hey, if we get there early, think we can snag some Carrot Crumbles?” You know, there has to be a medical report somewhere that states eating too many carrots is bad for you.

“You remember your promise to me?” I pulled out my bow. “I help you, you get me my doll.”

“Yes, yes, cause you’ve been such a good little filly for Celestia.” Shoeshine chuckled. “Come on, we can cross through the woods. Filthy always makes sure to plow the snow so we won’t have to worry about any hoofprints.

We made our way to a stand of trees behind the big red barn, taking cover. A dim yellow spotlight seemed to be the only illumination save for the moon. I could make out a storage cart that was parked by the warehouse doors.

“Alright, let’s see these blueprints.” I pulled up my ski mask.

“Of course,” Shoeshine shuffled through her bag, pulling out a crumpled piece of paper.

“What the hay is that?” I asked, pointing at a scribbled drawing of somepony’s house.

“Umm, the blueprints?” Shoeshine sounded like she was talking to a foal. Honestly, I was pretty sure a foal could draw better than that.

“This isn’t a blueprint! It’s not even a drawing!” My voice rose.

“Shh!” Shoeshine slapped me across the head. “You wanna get caught? I had to make a drawing from scratch.”

“What about the documents?” I asked. “You couldn’t get some blueprints or maybe a key?”

“Well...I mean…”She twiddled her hooves. “I may have...sort of...borrowed them from a guy who knows a guy and I may or may not have slept with a guy that knew those guys through a-”

“You mean to tell me you haven’t even seen the safe?”

“I know there is a safe...within the building…”

“Oh Starswirl’s Beard,” I facehoofed myself. We were going in blind, but what’s worse is that I was about to follow her into it.

“Give me a break,” she admonished. “I was prepared for this scenario, which is why I brought these!” Digging through the bag, she pulled out a couple of violet...lolipops by the look of it.

“Is that candy?” I asked. As if Shoeshine wasn’t enough of a filly with that map, she brought candy for our time in jail together.

“You idiot, these are sleep arrows, sleep-ows?”

Now I was confused. Sleep-ows were usually black market-quality goods, and they also looked more like an arrow and less like a candy-colored plunger. “Where did you get this?”

“Oh, a local zebra here makes all kinds of potions.” Shoeshine scoffed. “Just webbed together a little story about insomnia and she made me a baker’s dozen!”

“And then you made them into a glorified water balloon?” I sighed. “Do you even know how to make a sleeping potion into a vaporous gas bomb?”

“Have a little faith, okay? I followed a recipe at the library.” So now the library was in on this? I wondered if Shoeshine had also checked out Burglary for Dummies.

“I’m beginning to understand why you were so secretive in the first place.” I stood up. “A pair of teenage colts could have pulled a better plan with half the resources.”

“Hey! You can’t back out now!” Shoeshine grabbed me. “Besides, you wanted this doll! There’s no other way you’re going to get it!”

“Yeah but I think going to jail isn’t exactly a great present either.” I retorted. “You don’t even know if the door is-”

Suddenly, I heard a clang and immediately jumped inside the bush, peering through the branches to see a uniformed guard standing outside the corner. It looked like he was enjoying a cup of something, or maybe he just wanted to stargaze.

I don’t know exactly what happened. My hoof just grabbed the lollipop, nocked it, tugged the string back to my snout and then let it fly. The thing whistled through the air before hitting the guard square in the chest, where it exploded in a fine glittery cloud.

The guard jumped back a bit, reaching for his radio before stumbling face forward into the snow.

“Wow…” Shoeshine murmured. “I made a perfect-”

“Shut up.” I crept forward, slinging the bow behind my back. “I’m going for his keys.”

I wasn’t expecting much, but I wasn’t taking any chance that a second guard might show up. Grabbing the ring of keys, I passed them to Shoeshine. “I’m getting this doll.”

“Nothing like a determined big sister,” Shoeshine chuckled. “So if that chatty secretary was right, the safe should be...here on the second floor.

The side offices looked more like your typical hallway, with most of the doors either locked or closed. Shoeshine took the lead, referencing that stupid drawing of hers every now and then.

Twice she’d led us into a bathroom, and I swear I lost count of how many times she tried to lockpick a janitor’s closet.

“Today would be nice.” I hissed.

“Shut up.” Shoeshine played with the bobby pin. “They make this look so easy in the arcade...just a little.”

With a click, the door opened and I could see what was probably the office of Mr. Filthy himself. A nice big armchair with a full view of the Ponyville market below. I could see a variety of photos of Filthy and his family, and even a few of Silver Spoon. Wow, I’d be surprised if Mother even kept a picture of me in her bedroom.

“See, what did I tell you?” Shoeshine pointed to a large, iron black box. “Lock-and-Dial safe.”

“Great, how long do you think it’s going to take you to crack it?” I asked.

“Well coming from an experienced cat burglar such as myself ummm…” She began to play with the knob, before pulling out a small manual from her dufflebag. “Was it right first or left?”

Well, at least I was right about checking out Burglary for Dummies. “Maybe you should check his desk and see if the password is 123.”

“Hardy har har.” Shoeshine planted her ear near the metal door. “I think I got through it.”

“We’re wasting time.” I muttered. Thankfully, we hadn’t run into anypony else, but that guard could wake up any second now and every creak and crack from the building was putting me on edge. “Where’s the doll?”

“First floor, check the bright yellow box in Receiving, Isle 5.” Shoeshine muttered. “Now please leave me alone. I need to concentrate.”

Typical. Shoeshine never lost her mean streak. To be fair, I would have helped her but my mind was still trying to recollect any tricks on breaking a safe. To be honest, we were out of practice and I was scared we were going to make a rookie mistake.

Heading back downstairs, I found a small door that led to the warehouse. Surprisingly, it was ajar. Grabbing my bow, I loaded another arrow in.

I expected to see another guard, but instead I found well...Filthy himself hovering over a shipment of...Iron-Will-Sing-Along Dolls?

How about a carol! Tis the season to get jolly fa la la la la la LA TAKE THAT!” The electronic voice echoed through the warehouse.

“What the hay?” I muttered under my breath. Filthy playing with filly toys? To be fair, everypony had a secret or two but stumbling on a pony you knew while trespassing was just well...embarrassing.

Worse yet, I couldn’t just sneak past him when he was literally digging through the dolls I needed.

I suppose I’m thankful that my career never really crossed paths with a pony I liked. I also guess it helped that I didn’t like too many ponies. But seeing Filthy here was making me sweat. If he caught me…

“Sorry, Tiara’s Dad,” I whispered apologetigcally, before letting the arrow fly.

The poor entrepreneur let out a shriek of surprise before toppling over and into the box of toys. For a second, I froze, waiting for the sound of hoofsteps to come.

“Alright, Karma, please don’t grill me for this.” I leaned over, trying to find a box that wasn’t bent or destroyed.

That was when I heard it. A shout and then a dull thud followed by some hoofsteps. I grabbed my bow, pulling the string back and waiting patiently.

Suddenly a black blur toppled over the door and I let the arrow fly. A cloud of blue dust evaporated into the air, settling right over a suddenly very drowsy Shoeshine.

Well it appeared Karma was going to grill me. “Of buckwheats and pancakes.”

I rushed over to Shoeshine, pulling her up. My so-called expert’s tongue was sticking out and her eyes were lazily looking at me. “Wow, what a rush, huh?”

“You bucking idiot, what happened?” I asked.

“Nut’in.” Shoeshine nodded. “Just you know...a couple of guards might be coming our way…”

“Fantastic” I dropped her body on the floor, ignoring the mumbling from Filthy as I dug through the toys and grabbed a random box that felt flawless. I couldn’t check for quality, but it was either that or jail.

Flipping Shoeshine’s body over, I opened up her bag to find two large burlap sacks and a few envelopes. Throwing the doll in, I zipped up the bag and carefully leaned Shoeshine against my wing.

“Agh!” I screamed, falling over. My wing felt like it had just come off. I couldn’t walk, let alone fly. Worst yet, the sounds of hoofsteps were getting closer.

I pulled out an arrow, even though I knew they’d probably knock me out before I could take a shot.

What a way to end a Hearth's Warming Eve.

I was an idiot. An idiot for thinking that this plan would work. An idiot for thinking I could just get back into this life. An idiot for thinking I could fix things by going back to the past.

I heard a mumble from behind me and saw Filthy cuddling next to one of the Iron Will plushies. “You’re a great role model…” he mumbled.

Sure he was probably talking about the doll, but somehow the pain in my wing vanished. After all, how could I come this far and fail now? Right when Silver Spoon had trusted me, when Filthy Rich’s company needed me. Even Shoeshine, as bad as she was, trusted me with her idiotic plan.

And I couldn’t let them down now.

---------------------
“Alright.” I kept Shoeshine leaning against my right wing. “Try to keep up and don’t say a word.”

Shoeshine just nodded under the mask. “Mhmm...sleepy time for Shoey!”

“Yeah, if we get out of this, we can sleepytime all day.” I muttered, slipping on the night goggles as I crept out into the hallway.

Sure enough, two security guards and even a lanky royal guard stood in front of me, their flashlights and spears drawn.

“We’ve got you red-hoofed!” The royal guard stepped forward. “Stop in the name of the law.”

Well I misjudged security by a bit. Hopefully, I didn’t misjudge my plan.

“What say you in your defense?” He walked forward.

“I have a bomb!” I screamed, pulling out a blue orb.

“What?” The guard stepped back, while the two rent-a-cops dropped their flashlights and headed for the door. “You’re insane!”

“You wanna bet?” I cackled. “I’ll blow this whole barn to kingdom come!”

“Wh-why?” The Royal Guard stuttered. “What kind of lunatic blows up a department store?”

“The kind that didn’t get her Zap Apple Jam return exchange!” I howled back. To be fair, Barnyard Bargains had a terrible Return-Exchange system and I’d lost a pair of slippers through their shipping service.

“Let’s calm down alright?” The guard asked steadily. “Nopony has to get hurt.”

“It’s too late. I’ve already clicked the detonator.” I threw the bomb right at the trio, causing them to jump and shield their eyes from the inevitable explosion.

So when they got a magic puff instead of a fiery boom, their faces were less than amused.

The Royal Guard was trying to balance himself on his spear. “You petty…thief…”

“And a Merry Hearth's Warming Eve!” I smiled, limping my way through the snoring sentinels as I triumphantly marched my way out of the office.

-------------------------------------------------

Shoeshine barely managed to stay on my side, and to be honest the snow had gotten deeper. Still, I wasn’t dumb enough to run back to Carrot’s house. Thankfully, Filthy’s store was just on the outskirts of the market, so that meant a road that was recently plowed. And just like that, any courageous guards willing to follow me would find themselves following a dead end.

Thankfully, it appeared that I’d encountered the last of the backup, which meant all I had to do was drag Shoeshine back to her place and call it a night.

Of course, in a perfect world, I would have two functional wings instead of one. But considering the odds I’d just faced, I think I was lucky enough to be walking in the first place.

“Hey, did we do it?” Shoeshine slurred. “I was about to warn you but you shot me!”

“Consider that payback for treating me like a foal.” I replied curtly, although I couldn’t help but grin at how loopy she was.

“Ya’ know, I was going to like...tell you Archer.”

“Mhmmm.”

“I really like you…” She tried to move to my ear. “Like...a lot.”

“Are you sure this was a sleeping potion?” Honestly, I felt like she was more drunk than tired.

“I dunnooo, I just told her I needed to…” Shoeshine’s voice trailed off, and once again she was snoring like a manticore.

Carrot Top’s house was buzzing with activity. Normally, I’d be concerned, but taking off our ski masks, I knocked twice on the door.

“Huh’ who’s this?” Carrot Top was leaning lazily against the wall, a mug of cider in her hoof. “Oh Silverspeed! Speedy, where’s my Shoeshine?”

“Sorry, had one too many.” I lobbed Shoeshine in, keeping the duffle bag strapped over my shoulder. “Tell her to meet me at my house in the morning, okay?”

I doubted Carrot Top would remember, but there was always a chance, and I figured it was better to say it now than regret it later.

-----------

I’d been forced to climb my way in through the kitchen window, before throwing Spoonie’s present at the gift pile before rummaging through the fridge for some cider and an ice-pack.

My wing had numbed out by now, but I’d feel it again tomorrow. I might even have to call in sick. Wouldn’t that be a great vacation?

As I climbed back into bed, I could make out the sun rising over the hills. It was funny how I’d seen two sunrises in a row. In a way, I suppose it was the sign of a new year. A new union.

A new life.

“Merry Hearth’s Warming Eve.” I chuckled.

Author's Note:

Yep, that's right. Shoeshine and Silverspeed are back!

Special thanks to Admiral Biscuit for proof-reading!