• Published 7th Dec 2018
  • 189 Views, 5 Comments

Detective Pony Comics Presents (Vol. 2) - Coyote de La Mancha



Batmane returns, joined by Sparrow, to face Feline Fatale... and a secret that may destroy them all. (Or, you know, not.)

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Chapter One: The Austere Academic

The full moon had only begun to rise ominously through the trees that night, like the blind eye of a cyclopean god. And beneath its lunar gaze, a force of darkness and despair had returned after a lengthy absence. For a time, the grove and its denizens had known peace. But now, They had returned. And with them, inevitably came chaos, desolation, and woe.

Nocturnal birds flew carefully if they dared, wary that they might attract the attention of the Dark Trinity which haunted these woods. Birds of daylight, glad for the excuse, fled to their respective nests and feigned an early sleep. The voices of the Three were melodic, their countenances beguiling. But where they went, inevitably, havoc and desolation followed. And as they intoned their solemn rituals within their sanctum of light and shadow, creatures of the night withdrew on membranous wings, and even those who claimed rule over these imperiled lands hid their heads in slumber.

* * * *

“…and so, with summer camp’s activities safely resolved,” Sweetie Belle read, “it is hereby moved that we can safely add rappelling, bungee jumping, improvised break fall maneuvers, insect collecting, insect sting ointment preparation, whittling, emergency stitching, tracking, trail finding, waiting for emergency rescue, campfire setting, firefighting, and long-distance sprinting to the list of things in which none of us have cutie marks. Is there a second?”

“Second,” Apple Bloom sighed.

“Point of order,” said Skootaloo, raising her hoof, “I think it requires at least two hundred meters to be a long-distance sprint. We made it maybe a hundred.”

Apple Bloom shook her head. “We made it twice that much, easy. ‘Specially if’n ya count us runnin’ aroun’ the prickle bushes.”

“Oh, yeah,” considered Skootaloo. “Never thought Gloriosa would just charge through that stuff to get at us…”

“…or that she’d get that second wind towards the end,” finished Sweetie Belle, nodding. “Yeah. So, okay, it has been moved and seconded. Any further points of order?”

The other two foals shook their heads.

“All in favor?”

“Aye,” said Skootaloo.

“Yeah,” said Apple Bloom.

“The ayes have it. Let the record thus show therefore,” said Sweetie Belle, marking x’s through various drawings, “that these activities are now added to the list of Not Cutie Marks. Let them therefore be added to the Walls of Fruitless Endeavors.”

There followed several minutes of taping pictures to the club house walls, broken occasionally by giggling struggles with particularly stubborn strands of tape.

“Any further business, before we call an end to tonight’s business?” Sweetie Belle yawned. It wasn’t that late, but camp had been exhausting and the trip back had been long. Bed was distinctly calling.

“Um, yeah, one,” sighed Apple Bloom. “I suggest we try cannin’ apples next.”

Sweetie Belle an Skootaloo looked at one another.

“Seconded,” said Skootaloo, as casually as she could.

“Carried,” intoned Sweetie Belle in a loud voice, banging her little gavel. “So be it. I hereby call this meeting of the Cutie Mark Crusaders to a close.”

Then, without another word, the three of them split up. Leaving the door closed, each one slipped out a different window with the grace of a liquid lizard. Exchanging hoof signals with practiced ease, they first established that no one was listening at the windows or the door, nor under the stairs. Then, they all but vanished into the lengthening shadows.

Silent as the dying words of a professional mime with laryngitis drowning in a bathtub of purest vibranium filled with lime gelatin, they moved to secure the area of their domain. With the precision of a clockwork pianist playing Chopsticks, they searched the tree house’s branches, roots, and the surrounding area outside. Under the door’s stairway, inside the podium, and even under their chairs, just in case. They were, despite their tender age, very, very thorough. A changeling disguised as a teacup would not have escaped their notice. The shards of various teacups which had seemed suspect across the previous months lay in silent witness to this, forgotten beneath the stronghold of these mistresses of shadows.

After several minutes of such care, they returned to their meeting room. Apple Bloom now stood at the podium, the other two sitting in a newfound solemnity. The lights were out, the door was barred. The windows were shuttered.

After a moment, the door opened for the barest of moments. Another teacup, smashed beyond repair, joined its unfortunate brethren in the porcelain graveyard beneath the stairs.

Then the door slammed closed again, locked and barred from within.

The way was sealed.

“I hereby call to order,” Apple Bloom whispered softly into the darkness, “this meeting of the Caped an’ Masked Crusaders. Till this secret gathering end, let none enter, and none leave.”

“So be it,” intoned the other two, their whispers joining as one.

“That being said,” added Sweetie Belle in the same whisper, “can we get this done? I’m falling asleep on my hooves.”

“Yeah, won’t take but a tic,” whispered Apple Bloom. “I jus’ found out afore tonight’s meetin’ that Applejack’s got plans for us tomarra mornin’. Dunno what they are yet, but figger then we’ll have our regular chores, on top.”

Sweetie Belle jerked her head up from where it had been drooping, while Skootaloo’s ears visibly perked up. “And…?” Skootaloo whispered.

“An’ tonight’s my turn as Sparrow!” Apple Bloom answered in a hoarse whisper. “If’n I’m too tired from tonight, Applejack may figger somethin’s up…!”

“I’ll go!” Skootaloo cried.

“Sssshhhhhhhhhhh!” hissed the other two, even louder.

“Sorry,” Skootaloo whispered. “But anyway, I’ll go.”

“You sure?” Sweetie Belle whisper-teased with a knowing smile. “I could just drink some cola, and—”

“No!”

“SSSSHHHHHHHHHHH!”

“I mean… no,” Skootaloo whispered. “You’re tired. I got this.”

“But you covered for me last time I couldn’t go,” Sweetie Belle pointed out, still smiling sleepily. “And for Apple Bloom the time before that, when she had to make up that history test.”

Apple Bloom chimed in, “An’ the time afore that, you covered for—”

“That’s okay,” Skootaloo interrupted, remembering this time to whisper. “I don’t mind, honest.”

Sweetie Belle peered at her. “Well, if you’re sure…”

Skootaloo rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I’m sure.”

“Well, okay then,” nodded Apple Bloom in a whisper. “With that resolved, I hereby move for an end to this here meetin’.”

“Agreed,” came the whispered chorus.

“So be it,” whispered Apple Bloom. “This circle is open, this meeting dissolved into the night from which it came. Let none speak of that which has transpired here in shadow with those who walk in day, lest they lose forever their right to the darkness.”

“C’mon, Sweets,” said Skootaloo in a normal voice, “I’ll walk you home. It’s on my way anyway.”

While the two of them headed for the road to Ponyville, Apple Bloom made her own way to the Apple ranch house. She found herself yawning a little, as well. Just home from camp, and right back to early mornings and early nights. Shoot, even without whatever Applejack was planning, it was just as well that Skootaloo was willing to cover for her tonight.

Then she chuckled a little to herself. Not that there was ever much doubt…


LATER, IN THE MANECAVE…


“I should point out that Sparrow will only today have returned home, suh,” Pennyworth pointed out. “She may therefore be too exhausted to attend your usual, er, nocturnal routines.”

“Your heart is in the right place, old friend,” Batmane replied in his usual gruff voice. “But I know she’ll be here.”

A small bow. “As you say, suh. Still,” he added thoughtfully, “it might be best if Miss Sparrow were to remain home tonight. After delivering the bat-photographs, of course.”

But Batmane shook his cowled head. “No, Pennyworth. I know you don’t completely approve of their involvement. But once they discovered my secret, I knew we were kindred spirits. And, so did they.”

Batmane stopped, turning majestically to face the ceiling. He seemed to be imagining his aunt’s moon and stars beyond as he said, “The night calls.” Placing a gloved hoof over his heart, he concluded, “And the bat-soul must answer.”

Pennyworth cocked an eyebrow. “And, should Miss Sparrow have better things to do this particular night?”

Batmane’s smile was enigmatic as he faced his old friend. “There is nothing better.”

The sound of small, high-speed wheels announced Sparrow’s arrival even as she raced into the room.

“Hey! Sorry if I’m late, there was a—” She stopped, seeing Batmane’s expression darken.

Career criminals had been known to change careers completely, merely at the sight of that frown. Professional safe-crackers had taken up accounting, pickpockets had taken up square-dance announcing. Even crooked politicians had confessed their crimes at the very sight of those narrowed eyes and downcast mouth, afterwards becoming house painters and jazz musicians.

(Of course, as Batmane had made clear to Sparrow at the time, almost all politicians could be counted on to be selfless and honest servants of their constituents. The dishonest ones were the exceptions.)

The CMC, however, were largely immune to his glower, one of the many things Batmane appreciated about them. That being said, Skootaloo knew that, unlike Fluttershy’s Stare, Batmane’s glower was not a supernatural power to be called upon when circumstances were dire.

It was, rather, a sign that Batmane was peeved.

And a peeved Batmane was never a good sign.

“I, um… I brought the bat-photos…” She offered uncertainly, holding them out to him.

Pennyworth glanced between them, and then made his way gracefully towards the door. “If you’ll excuse me, I have some dusting to do upstairs.” He paused by Skootaloo just long enough to accept the photographs, placing a gentle hoof on her withers as he did so.

“Good luck, child,” he whispered sincerely.

And then he was gone.

Skootaloo watched him go. She felt like a shipwrecked pirate, watching the ocean’s only buoy paddle away under its own power. Then, slowly, as a condemned mare turns to the gallows, she turned back to Batmane.

“I, um, just got home,” she pointed out in a quiet voice. “I haven’t had time to get into trouble yet.”

Silence.

She blinked, feeling even more uncertain, her voice even quieter.

“Have I?”

Finally, Batmane spoke. “I thought we’d have time to discuss this before we went on patrol again,” he growled. “You weren’t scheduled to be Sparrow until the night after tomorrow.”

“I know, but Apple Bloom was really tired, and her sister…” Her voice trailed off then, as she saw what he was holding out to her.

Her last report card.

“How…” she stammered. “How did you…”

His featureless eyes narrowed as he gazed down upon her.

“I am the night.”

She sighed in defeat, accepting the damning evidence from his gloved hoof. “Right,” she said sadly. “I know you are.”


ALMOST IMMEDIATELY, IN THE MANECAVE…


“Skootaloo, we made a deal!”

Skootaloo wiggled uncomfortably where she sat. “I know…”

“I said you could be Sparrow on several conditions,” Batmane went on, in a voice that was somehow both a snarl and an almost parental plea. “One of them was keeping your grades up. An education is the most valuable thing a young pony could ever be offered.”

“Yeah…”

“A good student’s studies come before any extra-curricular activities, and that includes crime fighting,” he growled.

“The thing is, though…”

“When the CMCs first approached me, you all had straight A’s,” he went on.

“Well, you see…”

Batmane gestured to the card beside her. “In the time you were Sparrow while school was still in session, your year’s grades went from A’s to straight B’s!”

“But—”

“B’s.” He shook his head. “My god.”

“Okay! I get it!”

The silence between them grew as the gravity of the moment truly sank into her mind.

“I’m…” She gulped. “Am I…” She closed her eyes, and managed in a tiny voice, “…fired?”

She heard him sigh, felt his hoof rest gently on her withers.

“No, Skootaloo,” the Dark Detective said. “You’re not fired.”

She looked up at him, huge eyes tear-filled and pitiable. “I’m not?”

The CMCs had their own gaze weapon, which they sometimes used to their own advantage. And, much like Batmane’s glower, it was devastatingly effective. Batmane’s immunity to it, however, was not one of their fondest aspects of his personality.

“No.” He took her hooves in his own, pulled her up to a standing position again. “But you are on bat-scholastic probation,” he went on.

She looked down again. “Oh,” she sighed.

“As soon as school starts, no more extra shifts,” he lectured. “I’ll patrol alone before I allow damage to your scholastic career.

“But,” he went on, “I expect your grades to be back up by your next report card.”

He put his hoof under her chin, gently moved her to face him again.

“Once you’ve got straight A’s again, you’re off probation,” he said. “Agreed?”

For an answer, Skootaloo jumped into his arms, hugging him fiercely. Then, with a grin, she ran over to the smaller wardrobe of the Manecave, and started suiting up for the night’s work. As she donned the dark red costume, her mane’s color began to deepen, her coat shifted to a shadowy green color, her eyes became blank and unfathomable. On her flank, a curved, lightning bolt-like “S” materialized.

There were three identical-looking Sparrow suits in the bat-wardrobe, each with thestral-like wings, black with yellow inner membranes. And like Batmane’s suits, each had been enchanted by one of the world’s most brilliant metaphysical minds in accordance with its wearer’s individual strengths and needs.

Apple Bloom’s suit, for example, was slightly heavier than the other two, allowing greater physical protection and for her to strike with greater force. It also harnessed her physical strength into its wings, allowing her to make controlled glides. Experience even allowed the filly to catch updrafts, arcing upwards through the nighttime air.

Sweetie Belle’s suit, on the other hand, hid her horn in much the same way as Batmane’s suit did. It also harnessed her magic to allow her a limited form of telekinetic flight, steering with its thought-responsive wings. She could also use her own magic to activate the suit’s Invisibility and Inaudibility spells, becoming almost as difficult to detect as Batmane himself.

But as Skootaloo donned her Sparrow attire, she slid her wings into those of the suit with practiced ease and narrowly contained excitement. Whereas the suit was enchanted for speed, and contained a set of concealed roller wheels in the hooves, the spell she loved the most was in the wing sleeves themselves. For they responded perfectly to her own wings’ motions, amplifying her own wings’ strength.

Allowing her to truly fly.

Of course, what she didn’t know was that the wings also had a secondary set of enchantments. Enchantments designed to indirectly strengthen her wings through her use of the suit’s prosthetics, like a kind of physical therapy. Helping to catalyze their growth, and hopefully allowing her to one day fly on her own.

Batmane had never told Sparrow of the additional magics he had woven into her suit. Their results were far from a guarantee, after all. But he did allow himself a slight smile as she finished sealing her suit, and, whinnying for joy, began doing ecstatic loop-the-loops in the air.

Am I fired, he thought.

As if he would ever take the skies away from her.

Just then, there was an alarm-like noise behind a nearby door. It sounded like a building’s alarm, only smaller, almost like a toy.

Without hesitation, Batmane flung open the door. It had an orange sign on it, no doubt clearly labeling the room’s true purpose. Beyond that portal, Sparrow knew, was the secret project Batmane had been working on for so long. But the sign had a black cloth hanging over it, making the room’s secrets completely and utterly impenetrable.

After a single glance, The Shadow Sleuth spun back to Sparrow, his galvanic energy returned in spades as he pulled the door closed again. She landed in front of the bat-wardrobe immediately, quickly and expertly donning her bat-utility belt.

“The Canterlot Museum!” he cried. “Quick, Sparrow, there’s not a moment to lose!”

The Dynamic Duo burst into action like flood of genius torrenting through a hole in the dam of a colony of brain beavers.

“To the Batcarriage!”


MEANWHILE, IN THE CANTERLOT MUSEUM…


The shadowy form slipped through the shadows like a shadowy slippy thing written by someone who was running out of metaphors.

The skylight lock was a complex mechanism, its keyhole on the inside. The glass and steel were carefully warded against transmutation or breakage. The intruder’s horn glowed a gentle blue, imperceptible from any distance while highlighting the surrounding stonework in the most tasteful fashion possible to any who might be close up.

Then, a single sewing needle, thin as a paramour’s hopes, detached itself from the intruder’s costume. It floated into the air even as the glass doors strained outward slightly, the space between them now just enough to allow the Size 10 Sharp to slip through.

Like many high-end security devices, the lock had more than thirty tumblers. Each one was made from diamond, warded against magical tampering and enchanted with both durability and alarm spells. The mechanism itself was stiff and almost impossible to break. Yet, with the grace of a serpent performing open-heart surgery on an injured swan, the needle moved with perfect precision. It used its leverage exquisitely to move each tumbler, its mistress uncannily sensing the exact position of each tiny gem as they slowly fell into line.

Finally, the lock opened with an almost inaudible click!, the intruder replaced her needle with her mind as she pulled the twin doors open.

The curtain cord was a deep crimson silk, thirty feet long, nearly invisible in the darkness and all but impossible to break. She shimmied down it with the grace of a ribbon floating through a summer sky, landing soundlessly on the polished floor.

From her monogrammed saddlebag the interloper produced an atomizer of Chanel Chance Eau de Toilette. She sprayed it into the air, the mist instantly revealing the beams of mystic light used by still more alarms and traps. They crisscrossed each other like a stick puzzle through the air, leaving almost no clear way through.

Almost.

Placing a length of luxuriously thick silk on the highly polished floor, the thief lay herself along it. Then, she moved herself across the floor with her hooves as if making a snow angel, carefully threading her arms between the beams of lights as needed. In some cases the beams were quite close to the floor, and she only made it through thanks to perfect breath control.

At last, she was in the center of the display room. Above her, in its crystal case atop a pedestal of gold and onyx, was the treasure she sought.

The Pink Panther Diamond. Worth a queen’s ransom, which was exactly what she intended to demand for its return.

Well, once she was ready to give it up, anyway.

But for now, the jewel gleamed, beckoning to her. Or, at least it would have, if there had been enough light to see it properly and if she hadn’t been beneath its display case. Smiling the self-satisfied smile of the wily criminal mind, the burglar steeled herself for the last part of her criminal plan…


WHAT’S THIS?


IS THE FATE OF THE PINK PANTHER DIAMOND SEALED??


DID THE MUSEUM’S ALARM MARK FELINE FATALE MAKING A FATAL BLUNDER, OR WILL THE QUEEN OF THIEVES ESCAPE WITH A QUEEN’S RANSOM???


DO THE DYNAMIC DUO DARE DISTRACT THE DASTARDLY DAMSEL OF DIABOLICAL DEEDS DURING HER DEFRAUDALENT DANCE OF DEFALCATION????


AND WHAT ABOUT… NAOMI?????


FIND OUT NEXT TIME, BAT BELIEVERS!


SAME BAT-TIME!!


SAME BAT-CHANNEL!!!