• Published 22nd Apr 2013
  • 1,673 Views, 210 Comments

Snickersnatch - SpiralWriter

Oddjob awakens to a much different Equestria . . .

  • ...

XIV - A Pub Crawl Away


By: Quisky

Chapter Fourteen:

A Pub Crawl Away

I could imagine that we were quite a . . . curious sight to see walking down the street together. Fortunately, we were among a crowd that couldn't even care less. This was Manehattan after all. Everybody had seen everything a pony could see, so caring for anything out of the ordinary was far below their mindset. And what was ordinary to them? Hell if I knew.

Since I was the tallest of the group, ponies could see me coming and simply change their stride to avoid me. Goldguard at my side was getting bumped into, and it was he who was apologizing, poor bloke. Legion, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. Ponies seemingly wanted to avoid him, and I didn't blame them. Whoever even entered his personal bubble got a "Sorry sir." or "Excuse me."

Didn't know much about Agatha, our temporary companion. She seemed . . . angry and perfectly in her habitat. Whoever she bumped into growled at her or told her to 'Move it!', in which she would do a lion's roar or shove them away. Griffins, go figure how violent they were.

Penny, the little robot that could, was apparently having the time of her life. Her glassy eyes of digital lights would look around in child-like wonder, mouth open into a little smile as she took in all the sights and sounds. "Ooooh!" She would say, gazing up to the towering skyscrapers above that peaked into the clouds. "Aaaahhhh!" Towards billboards and signs and the passing-by taxi carriages that kicked up paths of dirt in their wake. She was . . . honestly enjoying herself, enjoying life, far as I could tell, far more than the bored-eyed and disgruntled crowd around her. Funny when a machine could appreciate something more than a living being could.

After several blocks of walking, getting lost, checking the map, losing said map and having to buy another one (courtesy of Goldguard), we finally came upon the bar Stock Smith's former employees were in. A small hole-in-the-wall kinda building, tucked away between a dirty alley and a dumpster. Man, what a class place.

"The 'Wooden Hoof'?" I read the glowing neon sign over the entrance, some letters flickering between life and death. " . . . Eh. Seems like a place warehouse workers would spend their downtime." I said with a shrug.

"It's a piss-hole." Agatha stated blatantly.

"It looks like fun!" Penny exclaimed with an excited little high-pitched beep.

"I was here once." Goldguard said with a smile. "Went here right before Neigharlem in fact."

I raised an eyebrow in reply. " . . . Really? Don't seem like the bar type, mate."

The armor-clad pony merely shrugged. "I'm not, I was just looking for directions to the train station."

" . . . And you got sent to Neigharlem instead."

"Yep." He nodded he nodded, the motion causing his helmet to make a clank of a sound. "Told me there was one right on the other side of the neighborhood, and well, you know the rest of the story from there."

"No comment." I sighed, approaching the entrance and heading inside, my little posse following right behind. Felt weird to be the first of something, a little outfit of misfits behind me, if you will. A taste of leadership wasn't really something I needed, knowing that I would eventually fuck it up sooner or later. Surprised that thing's have gone this well so far.

The moment we stepped in, a record player came to a scratching halt, the muffle of conversation in the air silencing to turn the gaze of every occupant towards us. From what I already deduced from outside and Agatha's astute comment, the establishment was indeed a piss-hole. Dirty floors, rotten smell, creaky woodwork, and every pony in there giving us the evil eye.

I smiled as kindly as I could and waved awkwardly, heading towards the counter and taking a seat there. Man, deja vu. Felt like I was back in Appleloosa for a minute there. I coughed and turned to the barkeep, catching his attention. "What can I do ya for?" He asked, turning to me with a bored if not wary glare.

"Um, does any of Stock Smith's employees come down here? The warehouse down by the docks." I asked, to which a shuffle of movement could be heard behind me. Every pony present in the bar raised their hoof. "Um. . . . you all work there?" To which a collective nod came.

" . . . Okay. How about three who were recently fired?"

A table in the back nodded to me, and I stepped up towards them, sitting down in an empty seat. The rest of my crew had dispersed out through the bar. Legion stood by the back door, vigilantly gazing over the whole scene, Agatha and Goldy by the counter ordering drinks, and Penny tapping a jukebox to the side out of curiosity.

"Wha'dya want?" One pony asked me after downing a mug of frothy substance. He was earth pony, burly, as were the other two. "Well," I flashed the royal insignia on my gloves, causing their eyes to widen a bit. "I'm here conducting an investigation of sorts. Smith directed me here, said you claimed you saw changelings."

"We did." Another of the burly bunch said. "Working the night-shift, packing crates, moving crates, storing crates." He said.

"We worked crates." Burly McThird added. "Best craters on the whole dock."

"If there's a crate to be crated, we probably crated it." The first one piped in, adding a belch afterwards.

"I-I get it." I interrupted, holding up my hands. "You guys . . . worked with crates. But I'm here about the changelings. What did you see?"

"Well," The all said in unison. "Was out moving cargo from the docks into the warehouse, then we heard some kinda buzzing overhead."

"Thought it was mosquitoes at first."

"Cept I said it wasn't mosquito season."

"Too brisky for 'em yet."

"Then I said I saw a whole crate full of them earlier."

"Then I said, 'Who ships in a buncha mosquitoes in crates?!' Crates aren't meant for that."

"Then I went on about the mosquito farms on the outskirts of the city."

"Then I called him a liar about the farms."

"OKAY!" I nearly shouted, interrupting them once more. "Go on. About. The. Changelings."

"Oh yeah." Burly the second said, scratching his head. "Well, after all of that, we looked up, expecting to see Princess Luna's pretty moon and stars, but instead saw somethin' movin'. Whole buncha shapes, dozen of 'em, all a buzzing and chittering. Had to be changelings. Could see the green on 'em."

"Cept boss told us the morning after it was just some pegasuses, and that we were probably drunk . . ."

"We weren't drunk! We were buzzed. There's a difference y'know."

"So, he fired us. Here we are now." They all shrugged, drinking from their bugs after the story was finished.

I tapped my chin thoughtfully. "Any idea where the changelings were heading? Sense of direction for them?"

"Yeah, headed west." Burly McFirst stated.

"Definitely west." McSecond went on.

"To the forest I think between the Foal Mountains." McThird rumbled out.

"Forest?" I asked.

"Big place."

"Almost as big as the Everfree up near Ponyville."

"Just as creepy too. Tiny little town in it, Hollow Shades. Don't know why anypony would want to move there."

Another pause as I gathered my thoughts. "Thanks mates, you've been a big help." I said, standing up and nodding at them before I turned to see a little bit of a . . . mess. Mess is an understatement, mind you. The floor is flooded with beer from an overturned keg, Goldguard meekly moving away from it with an empty mug he was probably going to fill. Agatha was growling at the barkeep, two ponies unconscious on the floor behind her, looking to about to get into a brawl with him, and Penny had the jukebox playing at full volume, giddily switching between the tracks. I turned to look at Legion with a 'done with this shit' look, and he nodded.

I stepped outside, leaning against the brick wall and hearing the commotion within. In a matter of moments, Legion walked out with the rest trailing behind him like a bunch of pouting children.

"Alright," I clapped my hands to catch their attention, making a dull and heavy thud in the emptiness of the alleyway. "Looks like they went to a little place called . . . Hollow Shades? Goldguard, know where that is?"

He nodded. "Really the only settlement in the area for miles. Rest is swampland."

"Kay." I nodded back before looking directly at Agatha. "And you, I want what you have to say on your employer."

She stared at me angrily with a permanent scowl, but slowly nodded, mouthing the word 'Okay' before coughing. "He met us once, and only once. Looked weird too, didn't expect to actually meet a changeling outside of the Badlands or the Everfree. He paid us bits upfront to take the bot," She pointed at the naively smiling Penny. "And smash it over the side of a canyon wall."

"That sounds like a fun ride." Penny giggled.

". . . After that, we'd get paid another good bag of bits. Easy job, till you came round."

"That it?" I asked, and she merely shrugged.

"I answered your question. Can I go now? Gotta round up my boys so I can get your names out there." She smirked with her arms crossed. "You'll have the entire Company running for ya."

"Hmmm . . . Good point." I said. "Goldy, can we take her under arrest?" I turned and asked him, to which he chuckled and nodded.

"We most certainly can."

"Right then." I turned back to the griffin. "You're under arrest."

She sort of paused, eyes narrowed, beak gritted into a sort of menacing frown.

"You can try to run." I shrugged. "Or fly for that matter. But I got Legion here who could track you down for miles or take you out before you even leave this alley." I bluffed. "Goldguard can call in backup and raid your hideout, and Penny, well, she has two of the wealthiest ponies in Equestria as her makers . . . probably has pull on them."

" . . . You're a piece of shit."

"Thank you." I smiled.

"The moment I get the chance, I'm ripping your throat out with my beak." She threatened, growling a bit, walking right up to me and staring me in the eyes. You could just feel the anger seething off of her in waves of heat.

"Duly noted." I said, pushing her away. "Till then, you're sticking with us. Where's the train station?" I turned to ask Goldy once again. He opened his mouth to speak, but I stopped him momentarily. "And not 'the one at the end of' Neigharlem."