• Published 10th Feb 2018
  • 1,899 Views, 170 Comments

Watch! Watch! - horizon

A crime wave is gripping the sleepy town of Apple-Morepone. Then "Rainbow" Dash of the City Watch meets a batpony (adopted) named Carrot. The town will never be the same. (An homage to the City Watch of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels!)

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4. In Which Royal Luggage Lock Codes Are Briefly Relevant

"I think she's actually serious about this," Bongua said, leaning back in her chair and staring at the hunched-over form of the blue pegasus.

Dash licked her lips, wiped some sweat from her forehead, and flipped another page.

"I dare say you're right," Carrot said. "She hasn't moved from the Captain's copy of the Celestial Code since we got back to Headquarters."

Lyra nuzzled into Bongua's neck, leaving a trail of little nips that caused Bongua to giggle. "How come you're—ooh—not reading your own copy?" Bongua asked, caressing Lyra's head with a hoof. "Shouldn't you be helping?"

Carrot tapped her head. "It's all up here." She stood and began to pace, frowning. "Besides, the law is entirely clear. I've analyzed what it says from every possible angle, and I'm still afraid there's just no bending it."

Lyra lifted her head from Bongua for a moment. "Then analyze what it doesn't say."

Carrot opened her mouth to respond. Then Lyra wandered in from outside and walked by, rolling her eyes at her duplicate. "Sheesh, Reginald, get a room."

Bongua blushed. "Sorry."

Walking Lyra stopped mid-stride. She slowly turned her head.

Nibbling Lyra blinked, then pulled back. "Reginald?"

Bongua disappeared in a flash of fire, leaving Reginald behind. "Sally?"

Nibbling Lyra similarly decloaked. "Wait," a flustered-looking Sally said. "If you're here, then who was Lyra boinking in the bushes?"

"NOT THINKING ABOUT THAT VERY HARD NOW," Lyra shouted, face beet red as she scooted away.

"Sally," Carrot gently interrupted, "what was that you said? About what the law doesn't say?"

Sally scooted away from Reginald and licked her hoof like a cat caught falling off a counter. "Well. You're looking at what the law permits. But the law doesn't permit what you want to do. So you have to look at what the law doesn't prohibit."

"I didn't think of it that way," Carrot said slowly.

"That's cause you're thinking like a lawmare. Only newbies do that. You work as a lawmare long enough, you start to think like a criminal."

"That's rather scary," Carrot said. "It implies Dobby's been here the longest of any of us."

"Not no more," Dobby muttered as he shuffled by, tossing his badge on Bongua's desk.

The rest of them blinked. Then stared at the gradually receding pony-like pile. Then down at the badge.

Carrot was the first to react, hustling to catch up with him and walking out with him into the night. "Mister Dobbin," she said. "Let's not be hasty. What's this about?"

He didn't answer for a while, and Carrot began to wonder if perhaps some new layer of grime had caked closed what passed for his ears. Then he said, softly, "I heard whats you said about dreams."

"I don't understand," Carrot said gently.

Dobby walked over to where the edge of the moonlight brushed up against the shadows of the surrounding trees, and sat down. Carrot sat alongside him.

"Never had no dreams," he said. "Picked this job off the ground cause I were bored. Kept finding fings falling off the backs of wagons cors I had nothin' better to do." He shifted to bring his flank into the moonlight, showing off an image of a hand grabbing a coin. "It always came natural. But I never thunk about it too hard."

Carrot blinked, certain her eyes were playing tricks on her. "Dobby. How is that even a pony Mark."

"It weren't. I stole it." He hesitated. "I can says that, right? On account of it weren't really illegal since it weren't a fing."

"Yes," Carrot said, inspiration slowly dawning. "You stole something which wasn't a thing, so it wasn't illegal."

"And now I gots dreams," Dobby said. "I wants to do legit non-fing stealing. But I wants to do it big. The biggest."

"Dobby," Carrot said, "what can you steal?"

"Anyfing," Dobby said modestly.

Carrot rested a hoof on his shoulder, trying not to think too much about what she was touching. "Listen to me, Dobby. Your dream is beautiful, and not actually illegal—presumably because sane ponies don't bother to ban the impossible. And you should chase that dream at a full gallop with…however many hooves you actually have. Which is why I tell you: I believe I have a proposition that will help both of us achieve our dreams."

He cocked his head.

"While the Captain is processing your resignation," she said, "how would you like one last job?"

It was late night at Criminal Mastermind's basement when three strange equines strolled up to the door: a Mysterious Gold Pony With A Carrot Mark, a Mysterious Blue Pegasus With A Rainbow Mane, and a Hulking White Figure.

Caballeron yawned, stood up straight, then squinted. "Mees Carrot? Mees Dash? Meester Biceps?"

"Yeeeeeaaaaaaahhhh," Hulking White Figure said.

"My apologees," Caballeron said. "You're right, that's reedeeculous. I just thought you looked fameeliar."

"Well, that's certainly not because we're Watchmares who were recently the victims of voluntary identity theft," Mysterious Rainbow-Haired Mare announced loudly.

Caballeron squinted. Then shrugged. "Well, your storee checks out. I know all the ponees in the Watch. I don't know you. What ees eet you want?"

"We've heard you let in untrustworthy ponies for henchpony interviews," Mysterious Carrot-Marked Pony said.

"Alright. Have you got your Untrustwortheeness Certeefications?"

"What?" Rainbow-Mane stage-whispered to Carrot-Mark. "They do that?"

Caballeron shrugged. "Well, if you're untrustworthee, I certainlee can't take your own word for eet."

Carrot-Mark pondered.

"So that's a no, then?" Caballeron said.

"Mister Caballeron," Carrot-Mark said, stepping forward. "we're all strangers. Didn't your mother ever tell you not to talk to strangers?"

"Well," Caballeron admitted, "yes."

"Why is that?"

"Beecause you can't trust…oh." Caballeron bowed and opened the door. "Well played, meestery mare."

When the Watchmares entered the dark and ominous basement [6], the cult's blasphemous ritual was quickly approaching its accursed, loathsome conclusion.

[6] And retrieved their identities from where Dobby had dropped them through the open hopper window.

"Motion to proceed to voice vote on the final amendments of the motion to adjourn," a hooded figure droned.

"Seconded," another said.

"All in favor."

"Aye," the cultists chanted in dark supplication.

Then Criminal Mastermind—a lavender unicorn with a streak of light blue running through her tall, swooshy purple hair—threw back her hood and stepped forward. "My fellow Societarians. I have something to say."

"Debate was closed," a hooded figure droned. "This is out of order."

A devilish grin spread across Mastermind's muzzle. Her horn shimmered, and a copy of Rodebert's Rules of Order floated above her.

Then, slowly, lasciviously, she tore it in half.

As one, the cultists threw their heads back, stomped their hooves, and let out an ecstatic ululation.

"Dang, Carrot, that's pretty hardcore," Dash whispered. "…Carrot?" She glanced around, then down at the fainted figure at her hooves. "Uh-oh."

"Yeeeeeaaahhh," Bulk whispered, gently slapping Carrot's face.

"My sisters," Mastermind shouted above the noise, "tonight I speak to you on the eve of our triumph. From our humble beginnings in disliking zoning regulations, you have remained faithful to our nefarious cause."

"Yeah!" A cultist shouted. "Why is it always the sidewalk-walkers who benefit, never the hedge-owners!"

"This has been bigger than our hedges for a while now, Barry." Mastermind cackled and rubbed her hooves together. "We have learned that laws in general are sometimes inconvenient!"

"Keep it together, Carrot," Dash whispered, hugging the pale, trembling mare.

"And now our moment of triumph is soon at hoof!"

The crowd drew in a breath.

"For what are heroes and their friendship lessons but yet another law?" Mastermind shouted. "Tomorrow morning we shall transcend even that! For we shall visit the Canterlot Castle throne room during Open Court Session, loudly interrupt it, and be defeated by Celestia herself!"

Wild cheers erupted.

"She might even be inconvenienced!"

The cheering redoubled.

"And nopony will learn anything from it!"

Carrot breathed into a paper bag, sweat stippling her brow, as the cultists gyrated and ululated with wild abandon.

"Yeeeeaaaaahhhhhh," Bulk muttered, looking grim.

"You're right," Dash whispered. "Ominous looming and gently phrased requests aren't gonna be up to the job here." She smiled and patted his shoulder. "But don't worry. We got this."

"Miss Rainbow," Carrot whispered, her voice faint, "you're right. But I'm not sure I like how."

Worry briefly flitted across Dash's face. "…What are you saying, Carrot?"

Carrot stood up on shaky hooves. "I think we can solve this…but not as Watchmares, or even Guardsmares. This is a moment for a hero." Carrot's voice seized for a moment. "And even though w-we're n-not. Wwwh. We're not legally allowed to field-promote ourselves—" Carrot swallowed through a suddenly dry throat and closed her eyes—"we're all that Apple-Morepone has, and I believe that's worth something." Her voice firmed, and she straightened up, staring forward in quiet determination. "I believe that we do have this, yes. Because I believe in us, and I believe in the power of our friendship."

"YEEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHH!" Bulk roared, resting a supportive wing on her back and stomping the floor.

The room went quiet.

As one, the hooded heads turned to them.

Carrot licked her lips. Smiled shakily. Rolled up her sleeves [7], and stepped forward—

[7] This was exactly the purpose—per CC 85,858 S. 2 p. 11, "Uniforms, comma, Dramatic Embellishments"—for which sleeves had been added to Guard armor in the first place.

—only to run into Dash's outstretched hoof.

"Hey," Dash said with a confident grin. "Did I, or did I not, say we got this? I listened to you when you talked about dreams, Carrot. You helped me realize, for the first time in my life, I can make a difference—no matter what I am. And then you motivated me to read a book, for the first and last time in my life." She strutted in front of her partners, wings flaring out. "You know what I learned from it? We don't need to be heroes here. We got this." Her grin widened. "As Watchmares."

Mastermind stalked forward, nose to nose with Dash. "What," she said, "is going on here?"

"My name is Corporal Rainbow Dash of the Apple-Morepone City Watch," Dash said. "I'm here to do my job. Which is to say—" she pulled out her notebook—"properly documenting your evil misdeeds, so that in five to seven months they'll go on your permanent record."

Mastermind raised an eyebrow. "So you're not here to stop us from confronting Celestia tomorrow?"

"Pfft, no," Dash said. "Do you know how much paperwork that would involve?"

"Dash what are you doing," Carrot hissed.

Dash ignored her, turning to the crowd and raising her voice. "I'll just put you all down for six counts of Nefarious Scheming, okay? I can write you in as 'Crowd Member', or you can swing by the office next week to give me names if you want credit. As for you." She turned to face Mastermind, crayon poised. "Archvillainy, Comma, Nonspecific seems like a good start. Rabble Rousing, Ruffian Hiring, Conspiracy Comma Non-Human-Related…which ones do you want ponies whispering about? The newspapers eat our reports up—you can't buy publicity this good."

Mastermind stared, unamused. "We have an attack to plan. Stop wasting my time."

"Ooh, Obstruction of Justice, that's a good one too. Say, did you happen to break CC 12,345 before we arrived?"

Carrot raised one eyebrow. "Royal Luggage, comma, Lock Codes?"

Dash whirled on her. "Excuse me, Carrot‽" she thundered. "Did I just hear somepony comment on the revised code she hasn't read yet? Or are you going to let the officer demonstrating proper incident documentation to new recruits do the talking?"

And she gave Carrot a slow wink.

Carrot stifled a grin, standing up a little straighter and saluting. She still didn't know the plan, but now she knew her part in it.

"Sorry, Corporal, ma'am," Carrot shouted back. "To my eternal shame, I am not familiar with the new CC 12,345, if you could refresh my memory, Corporal, ma'am!"

"Celestial Bothering, comma, Aggravated?" Dash shouted. "Eternal shame is right! How are you not familiar with the law the Princess is the most desperately obsessed with keeping unbroken?"

The eyes of every pony in the room widened.

Mastermind grabbed Dash by the shoulders, staring into her eyes. "Tell me more," she hissed.

"Calm down, ma'am," Dash said, brushing Mastermind's hooves away and turning back toward Carrot. "You're definitely going to need to memorize Sections 2 through 28, where the criminal moves to a remote desert and sets up their own town that's just like ours but better in every way, and then never talks to anyone in Equestria again. I guess it really burns her flanks when somepony beats her at her own game and then doesn't even bother to rub it in her face." She tapped a hoof to her chin, then slowly looked back at Mastermind. "But clearly, since you're still here, you haven't gotten that far yet. Really, I was asking more about Sec. 1 p. 2, where you change your name to something evocative of the night sky to show how much you hate solar rule."

"Star—Starlight!" Mastermind blurted. "Starlight Glimmer! Yes! The name change petition, uh, is in the mail! Tell me more about the desert!"

"Oooh," Dash said, scribbling rapidly as she broke into a fiendish grin. "She's going to hate that. What about p. 4, where you come up with a villain motivation that nopony in their right mind would believe?"

"My friend got his Cutie Mark before I did! Tell me more about the desert!"

Carrot watched—a beatific smile plastered across her muzzle, a lone tear trickling down her cheek—as Dash continued to cite regulation after regulation. Oh, and also save the town or something.

It was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.

Long after the meeting was supposed to have ended—and long after the red-eye train to Canterlot had left, empty—the three Watchmares stepped out into the morning sun, waving goodbye to Starlight Glimmer's cultists as they galloped eastward into oblivion.

"Miss Rainbow," Carrot said, "I could kiss you."

Dash grinned and leaned in. "Yeah," she said, "I'm kissable like that."

"But not on duty," Carrot said. "CC 8,422, S. 14 p. 1."

Dash paused. Then backed away, cheeks reddening, coughing into a hoof. "Of course."

"Still, that was glorious! I can't believe you found such an obscure and specific law, and figured out how to apply it in the exact way it was meant to be used!" Carrot started tearing up again. "You've learned so well from my example."

"…Yeah. About that."

Carrot tilted her head inquisitively.

"You know the most important thing I learned from reading through the entire Equestrian legal code?"


A smirk slowly spread across Dash's face.

"That there's no law," she said, "against lying to villains about what's in it."

Carrot stared. Then blinked rapidly.

Dash stared back.

Then they both broke into uproarious laughter, leaning against each other and clinging as if they'd never let go.


Author's Note:

At publication time, this story was an entry into Aragon's Comedy Contest — and to be a valid entry, it had to be complete and under 12,000 words. The story which ends here was my contest submission.

However, now that the contest is over, I've added an epilogue to end it the way I always meant to end it. Read on! :twilightsmile:

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