• Published 28th Jul 2015
  • 1,854 Views, 65 Comments

Firefly: The Long Job - psychicscubadiver



It seemed like a simple series of jobs. Some of them weren't even thefts. Sure the client wanted secrecy, but the payoff was more than worth it. Too bad nothing is ever as easy as it looks in this 'Verse

  • ...
7
 65
 1,854

Chapter Six: From Another Perspective...

Editor: Silentcarto
Proofreader: Coandco
Story Image by: Silentcarto

Disclaimer: I don’t own Firefly or My Little Pony; that is Joss Whedon and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction that portrays MLP characters in a ‘Verse very clearly based on Firefly. Shake well and enjoy.

Duke growled quietly to himself as he exercised. The smell of his sweat filled the room, and it carried with it notes of his anger and frustration. The proper thing to do would be to brew some tea or use some fragrant spices to cover up the smell.

Duke had stopped caring about the ‘proper thing’ years ago.

He heard a Dog approach his door, but ignored them to finish his set. He needed to be strong. He had to be strong. This village depended on him, in spite of its elders. The Dog at his door knocked politely, but it somehow still sounded demanding. Or maybe it just seemed that way because he knew who was doing the knocking.

Duke set down his weights and moved to the door, enjoying the minor aches and pains in his muscles. It was the kind of pain that spoke of a job well done.

<Elder Lass,> he growled. <What are you here to complain about this time?> That also wasn’t the proper way to greet one’s Elders, but he had ignored such things even before he was Alpha. There were few benefits to living in a dying town, but that was one of them.

She sniffed delicately, taking in the smells of his home, but of course she was too polite to say anything about them. <I’m here to talk about the pony.>

That came as no surprise, but Duke nodded and grunted his consent. <You are welcome in my den. Ask for anything I have, and I will not deny you.> He spoke the ancient words without resentment. Elder Lass was an unwelcome guest, but he was not a total barbarian.

<Thank you,> she replied, a quiet note of relief in her voice. Did she think he would have denied her even the most common courtesy? She took a seat on a low-slung chair nearby. Duke remained standing. It was proper to stand before one’s Elders, but Duke stood just a bit too close. Almost looming over her. He had found that many Elders were more… reasonable when he did that.

<So what about my prisoner do you want to discuss?>

Elder Lass sighed. <Precisely that. She is yours by right, but keeping her may doom us all.>

Duke sneered. <Do you fear the ponies walking our mines? They can explore until the stars grow cold without finding us, and even should they somehow grow close I have Dogs following them, alerting me of their movements. They will either return to the surface or grow weary and allow us to capture them.>

<And have you given any thought to what happens after they are captured?> Elder Lass asked acidly.

Duke nodded. <Yes. I am less sure about the others, but the doctor pony will be held for ransom. We will take a picture of her and send it to the pony authorities with our demands. Doctors are not common on this planet. Someone will know who she is and will be willing to pay.>

<And what if they are willing to kill?> Elder Lass snorted disdainfully at the idea. Duke carefully kept his temper in check, but unless she was noseblind, she would have smelled his anger. She continued on without a comment to his evident feelings. <Ponies are like water. Easy to strike, but still capable of dragging you downstream should you reach too far. It’s bad enough we stole from their village. Holding them captive will draw more attention, more anger. They will respond with force.>

<Let them,> Duke growled. <I have Dogs working on a tunnel to Petrapolis. The Alpha there has no love for ponies. She has already agreed to trade any money the ponies give us for basic supplies. Let them try to use force. They will be lost in the mines and easy pickings for more ransom demands.>

Elder Lass didn’t look angry, just disappointed. That was worse than an insult. <So you would have us become Spud MacKeystone’s lackeys. Stealing untold valuables and courting the wrath of the ponies for whatever pitiful scraps she is willing to throw us for our trouble?>

That was a step too far. Duke leaned closer, his jaws only inches from the Elder’s ear, and growled. She was a respected Dog, but he was owed his own share of respect as Alpha! <I want to let this village live!> he barked. <What would you have me do? Let every Dog slowly starve? Chase foolish dreams of an ‘untapped seam’ like Fishbone? Every Dog in this village stayed because this place meant something to them. We will survive no matter what we have to do!> He was almost roaring at that point, when a quiet knock at the door interrupted him.

He glared at the door from across the room. The knocking came again. Duke pretended not to notice the faint, sour scent of Elder Lass’s fear as he looked at her again. <Excuse me.>

The knocker was one of his security Dogs in charge of keeping peace in the village. Or what remained of it, anyway. <What?> he growled. <Elder Lass and I were having a very important meeting.> If he had been interrupted because some Dog was being too noisy and annoying his neighbors again, the black-coated little pup before him would definitely learn his lesson.

<Alpha Duke!> the Dog barked, sloppily throwing out the salute Duke had tried to drill into his subordinates. <Peridota is talking to many Dogs, asking about their relation to her mate. The pony doctor wants to fix Fishbone with parts from another Dog.> The matter-of-fact report petered out there as Duke remained silent and the Dog before him suddenly looked ashamed. <I, uh, thought you would want to know… sir.>

Duke shook himself out of his shock. <You were right. This is important. Thank you for bringing me this message.> The Dog had a second to look entirely pleased with himself before Duke continued. <Now, take me to Peridota. I want to see exactly what this pony has been telling her.> He glanced back into his den and gave an insincere smile. <We’ll need to talk about this issue again later, Elder. Something else demands your Alpha’s attention.>

Elder Lass gave a sigh. <And I’m sure something always will. I will accompany you to investigate this matter.> Duke felt his lips peel back from his teeth in a snarl before he could stop himself. She blinked at him slowly, her expression unchanged. <Surely the wisdom of an Elder would benefit you?>

Duke took a deep breath and released it slowly. She had the best of intentions. It was easy to forget that, given how often she interfered with his decisions. She was not evil, only foolish and misguided. <Very well,> he said, then gestured at the messenger Dog. <Kneel, so the Elder may ride on your back while we make haste.>

<Surely that isn’t– >

<I insist,> Duke told her. <Speed is essential in this matter, so if you are to accompany me this Dog must assist you.>

Elder Lass glared at him, but Duke met the stare easily. He was no pup to be frightened of an old bitch. She broke the stare first and grumbled somewhat, but gamely climbed onto the back of the unfortunate Dog.

Duke checked to be sure that she was seated, before taking off at a pace that was barely in the realm of ‘seemly’. Elder Lass’s steed struggled to keep up with him, and she didn’t seem to be enjoying the ride either. After too long for Duke’s taste, they finally entered the common area.

Peridota was in tense conversation with one of the village Dogs, and there was a small group of nervous Dogs waiting nearby. Duke examined them with a critical eye and sniffed deeply. Hope and fear warred within them, but he could have guessed that much just from their body language. Several Dogs noticed him and the sour smell of fear spread further.

Good, he thought, Dogs should fear their Alpha as much as they love him. There was no love just yet, but once the village began to thrive they would come around. For now, fear was all he needed.

<What are you doing?> he asked Peridota, noting with interest the way that she stood still when other Dogs flinched away.

<Asking other Dogs to let the Pony Doctor examine them. She believes that my husband can be healed with the blood of a healthy Dog if he is similar enough to Fishbone.> She frowned prettily. <I don’t quite understand her, but she seems to think that with our help we can cure our Alpha.>

Duke knew his face darkened because even Peridota wilted away from him. <I am your Alpha,> he growled.

<You are the Alpha because Fishbone is incapable,> Elder Lass said placidly. <If he were to become capable again, you would resume your duties as Beta.>

She… was not wrong.

Duke had to remind himself of that fact. <You fools would trust my prisoner to truly restore Fishbone to his senses? I doubt that the pony could manage it even with her magic. Far more likely that she controls him like a puppet to guarantee her own escape.>

A murmur ran through the crowd at that. No Dog, not even Elder Lass, really understood how Pony magic worked, and the horned ones were especially strange and dangerous. Their fears mirrored the ones he had felt ever since Cliff had let go of the Pony hours ago. If you couldn’t snap their neck the moment their horn lit with magic, how did you know that the spell wasn’t a curse?

Peridota sniffed and glared at the rest of the crowd. She could smell their fear as easily as Duke, but the scent seemed to annoy her. <I will know my own mate. If she seeks to deceive us, then she will receive worse treatment than even our Alpha would dish out.>

Elder Lass gave a low, happy hum at that. Duke snorted and cast an eye at her, but decided that it was not worth pursuing. Fishbone was too far gone for any help, and when the pony doctor failed, they would realize that he was the only hope the village had left. Slowly, the eyes of all the Dogs present drifted to him.

<Let her try,> he declared, getting a surprised woof from Elder Lass in the process. <But I will watch her.> Her fast talking and empty promises would amount to nothing, and soon all of his Dogs would see exactly that.

………

The forest was full of noises, and the cacophony of wilderness soothed Cardinal Song’s fraying nerves. He had always been more comfortable among wild creatures than his own species. Nature is not typically kind, he thought, adjusting his cloak to cover his haunches against the wind, but she is fair. There were miles of Equiformed but untouched woods between Hildenna and the next town to the west. From there he could travel to the nearest city and lose himself with no worry of being found.

The cloak he wore was a slapdash combination of green and brown patches from blankets, pillows, and one of his nicer hats. It looked hideous, but it offered more camouflage than his natural coloring.

He had gotten lucky when he slipped out of his house. There hadn’t even been a gunshot, so he must have caught them during a shift change... or his guard had fallen asleep at her post.

Cardinal didn’t doubt for a second that somebody had been watching him. That pegasus mare had been very convincing on that part.

If I survive this, he promised himself, as he rested in the concealing branches of a sizeable oak tree, it is the last criminal job I am ever involved in. The risk just was not worth the reward.

His wings, unused to flying more than a few miles at a stretch, ached from hours of hard work. But it was a small price to pay to leave his tormentors behind. He might never be able to return home with those madmares after him, but at least he was alive. Cardinal Song gave a silent sigh as he chewed on a block of pressed watercress. His rations would last at least two days, but after that he would need to forage and hope that his stomach was up to the task. He knew enough about the wilderness not to eat anything poisonous, but only real health nuts went for a fully ruminant diet.

The last of his water bottle’s contents had just vanished down his throat when Cardinal Song realized that something was wrong.

He listened but heard nothing. No birds chirped, no insects buzzed, no frogs croaked. Nothing. Even the wind wasn’t rustling the treetops.

The forest was silent.

The hairs on the back of his neck began to prickle, and his heart thudded in his chest. Cardinal Song knew wildlife, but he didn’t understand this. A predator might cause the birds and maybe even the frogs to be quiet, but the insects wouldn’t care. They were too small and numerous to stop making noise for anything large enough to prey on the birds.

Cardinal Song swiftly decided to pack his belongs and fly for his life.

He would get someplace else that didn’t make his instincts scream ‘danger’. He didn’t run -- everypony knew that predators would chase you if you ran. Instead, he trotted as fast as he dared where the ground was clear and soared over streams and bramble patches. He never rose too high, always watching for anything threatening. The forest remained silent as he traveled.

Until a noise, somewhere between a hum and a whistle, began to echo through the forest.

Trees and shrubs vibrated with it as if blowing in the wind, but the sound was subtly different. After several seconds, Cardinal Song suddenly realized there was a melody to it.

Like a flute mixed with a musical bow, it moved and flowed in counterpoint to... something. A third tone that hummed and trilled, almost like…

...a voice.

Two by two, they’ll come for you.

He froze in place and crouched low, but his ears stood straight up as he tried to pick out which direction the sound was coming from.

Two by three, they’re after me.

It came from everywhere. Something was tricky about the acoustics. He continued the way he had been going, further from town, further from home, further from any search parties that pegasus captain might have sent out after him.

Two by four, can’t take no more.

He didn’t seem to be leaving the eerie song behind, but he continued his trotting and partial flying, staying as quiet as possible. The sun was going down. All he needed was a little distance from whatever this was, and he could hole up somewhere. They would never find him in the darkness.

Two by five, get out alive.

The melody was louder now and it seemed to come from everywhere. It sounded more and more like real music, even though there was no source.

Two by six, too late to fix.

Maybe it was getting louder because whatever-it-was was getting closer.

Two by seven, two by seven, two by seven…

Cardinal Song broke into a full gallop, no longer caring now much noise he made. Something was wrong with that voice and that music and he wanted absolutely no part in it.

HeheheHehehehEhehehehe…

Then it stopped.

The music and voice stopped, and the normal sounds of the forest resumed as if they had never left. He paused for a moment to catch his breath and ease his pounding heart.

Was that real?

He had eaten some wild berries with his rations for lunch. He would have sworn that they were harmless, but did they contain some chemical that caused hallucinations? Was he dreaming?

Only the faintest rustle alerted him, and if he hadn’t been a pegasus, he wouldn’t have thought to look up. A bright pink mare waited, balanced on the branches above him. “Surprise!” she shouted, her grin manically wide as she pounced.

Cardinal Song rolled to the side, hardly even noticing as the madmare tore the cloak from his back. She turned the leap into a roll and sprang back to her hooves, tossing his cloak aside. “Gonna get you!” she promised, giggling like a demented school filly. Cardinal Song struggled to lift off, but his roll had dislodged his pack, and his wings were caught under the straps.

He struggled to free himself as she charged. Cardinal flinched away at the last second, and she slammed muzzle first into the tree just behind him. The sight was gruesome. She had been going so fast that her head was entirely pressed against the tree, her muzzle pushed into the back of her skull. Cardinal Song was not squeamish about death, but that was a disturbing way to go.

Only… her body didn’t seem to have gotten the message that she was dead.

One hoof stretched up and grabbed an ear, then it began peeling the face away from the bark. The crushed muzzle popped back out again, as if it were made of rubber, and the mare – or whatever this creature was – shook its head. The mad grin was back and seemed none the worse despite an injury that should have caved its teeth in.

“Pretty sneaky, bro, but it takes more than that to beat me.”

“What are you?”

“I’m-a Pinkie Pie, and I’m-a gonna win!” it declared, rushing forward again.

Cardinal Song didn’t stay to watch. His wings were free of his pack, and he left the weight behind gladly. He flew like he had never flown before in his life. The sound of laughs, hoofbeats, and inexplicable gibberish spurred him to go faster and faster.

The ground disappeared beneath him, and he didn’t even notice until he landed on the other side of the canyon. He glanced back, glad to see that the pink creature couldn’t or wouldn’t follow him across. It glanced down at the stream far below then, across to him and gave an odd little salute.

Cardinal Song rested his weary wings for a minute and began to walk away. He had some respite, at least for a little while. But he couldn’t help looking over his shoulder before disappearing into the brush.

The sun had set and darkness cloaked the forest, multiplying the already thick shadows. The figure of his pursuer was indistinct except for her eyes. They were an intense blue, and they bored into him without blinking. They were so bright that in the last reflected light of day it almost looked like they glowed from within.

Like bright blue neon.

Cardinal Song shuddered, and hurried away. Somehow, he knew that the gaping canyon wasn’t much more than a minor obstacle. He needed to find somewhere hidden and safe before it caught up.

Assuming there was such a thing as ‘safe’ when a monster stalked you.