• Published 12th Apr 2013
  • 6,734 Views, 557 Comments

Millie - totallynotabrony

In the underworld of Equestria, one mysterious pony is fearfully whispered about. Only Vinyl and Octavia know why he left a trail of destruction through the criminal ranks. Now he's back, and, well...not a he anymore.

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Chapter 3

I hurried down the street in the direction of the train station. I didn’t know how long I had been asleep, but the sun had set. The night air felt chilly. I glanced at the dark sky. Was that a few flakes of snow?

The clock over the front door of the station indicated that it was a few minutes after seven in the evening. I’d checked the newspaper machine near the bench where I’d awoken, discovering that it was still the same day. That meant about nine hours had passed since I’d boarded the train—time that had just vanished. I didn’t remember anything, and I was pretty sure that the process of moving my sleeping body from the train back to the bench in Manehattan would probably have woken me up. Could I have been drugged?

I stepped up to the ticket kiosk and addressed the pony standing there. “Pardon me, when was the last train from Canterlot?”

“That would have been five p.m. ma’am.” He smiled helpfully.

I disregarded the ma’am. “When did that train leave Canterlot?”

“One o’clock. It’s a four hour trip between the two cities.”

I thought for a moment, trying not to draw parallels to algebra class. “So the train that left Manehattan at ten a.m. would have arrived in Canterlot at two?”

The ticket vendor nodded. That meant I couldn’t have ridden all the way to Canterlot and gotten on the train back. Either I disembarked early somewhere along the way, or maybe I had just magically appeared back in Manehattan. I never liked magic. It doesn’t play by rules that I’m comfortable with.

I asked another question. “How many trains are there to Canterlot each day?”

“Three. The six o’clock departure has already left, but there are still plenty tickets available for the one at ten p.m.”

I leaned towards the pony urgently. “Was a passenger named Vinyl Scratch on the six o’clock train?”

The vendor consulted a record book for a moment. “No, but she does have a ticket for the later train. Would you like to buy one, too?”

“Later. I’ll be back.” I had to find Vinyl and explain what had happened. Maybe if I was traveling with her, weird things wouldn’t happen to me. Also, I was going to do my best to never sleep again.

I didn’t know where Vinyl might be hanging out. Tracking her across the whole city would be impossible. Still, I knew where she would be at ten p.m. I had a little less than three hours to kill. I felt bad about having to ask her to buy me another ticket.

With nothing better to do, I left the station and headed for The Metronome. I figured Octavia would be happy to see me. As I approached the club, I noticed that it looked a little better at night, the darkness concealing some of the flaws on the exterior.

I opened the door and stepped inside. The interior seemed more stylish and inviting than I had seen that morning. Maybe it was the customers populating the place or the stage lights turned up to shine on a sparse band that played a few low, subtle tunes.

Octavia was sitting at a table with another mare, a leggy white unicorn who had a pale pink mane. The two of them seemed to be intently discussing something.

I saw Iridium coming my way. I caught his eye and tipped my head towards Octavia. He glanced at the table where she sat with her guest and gave me a curt nod. If there was any animosity in his expression, I got the feeling it was directed at the unicorn.

Going over to the table, I got a better look at the mare. Even with my limited knowledge of pony characteristics, I was still able to tell that she was a looker—and she knew it, too. It was more of the way she carried herself than anything.

I stood by the table quietly. Octavia glanced up, surprised to see me again but also happy to seize an opportunity. “Give me a moment, Fleur.”

Octavia got up and pulled me away from the table. Fleur glanced at me curiously. When we were out of earshot, Octavia asked, “What are you doing here? I thought you’d gone.”

“Yeah, about that…” I told her the story, ending with my plans to hopefully find Vinyl at the train station. From her expression, I could tell that this was the kind of thing Octavia really didn’t need to deal with right now.

“I’ll stay out of your way,” I promised. “I just needed a place to get out of the cold for a while.”

She gave me a caring smile. “Glad to help. Let me finish up with my business partner, and then we can talk.”

“Business partner?”

Octavia put on an annoyed look. “Fleur de Lis, a reasonably well known figure in the fashion industry. She owns forty percent of The Metronome.”

I nodded. “I’ll let you get back to your conversation. Thanks again, Octavia.”

Wandering towards the stage, I took a seat at an unoccupied table. The musicians were nothing special. Blinking in surprise, I saw that none of them even had music-related cutie marks. Hmm, they must just be filler, then. Perhaps there would be a real act later. Not that I minded. The quiet unassuming music was good for thinking, and I had a lot of that to do.

The problem with trying to puzzle out my situation was that I simply didn’t have any information to go on. The first time I’d arrived in Equestria it had been an accident. The note I’d received after finding myself returned to the bench seemed to imply that somepony was actively screwing with me this time.

But who? Any enemies I might have made probably just wanted me dead. I wished I could remember the ponies involved with sending me home the first time. Maybe they’d wiped my memory on purpose, so they could do this to me now? Have I mentioned that I hate magic?

Iridium appeared just then with a plate of salad and a mug of cider. He said, “Complements of Ms. Octavia.”

Conveniently, I was hungry. I thanked him and asked that he pass my gratitude to Octavia as well. Iridium nodded politely and departed.

The salad was mostly chopped vegetables; more filling than something lettuce-based. The cider was better than anything apple growers on Earth could ever hope to produce. I was finished with both in a matter of minutes.

I felt a little bad about making Iridium go to the trouble of serving me if I couldn’t tip him. Picking up my plate and mug, I went over to the bar. Iridium accepted the dishes gracefully, not protesting that he could have gotten them. As quickly and completely as I had finished everything, he didn’t need to ask if I liked the taste. Really, his simple, courteous demeanor and habit of just letting me be had really scored him points in my book.

Something soft but very assertive momentarily bumped against my backside, pushing me forward against the bar.

“Watch it!” I glanced at the speaker, a griffon who stared at me unkindly. Her eagle eyes tracked my face as she walked up to the bar.

My eyes remained locked with hers. “I was standing still. You watch it.”

Ordinarily, I probably wouldn’t have allowed myself the satisfaction of a retort, but after the day I had experienced, it just kind of slipped out. My mouth is kind of untrustworthy sometimes.

The griffon blinked as if she hadn’t expected such an attitude from a pink pony half her size. Her expression changed, hardening again. “Who do you think you are?”

I opened my mouth. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to say, and in situations like this I usually said something stupid. Iridium saved me, however. He leaned forward and addressed the griffon and I. “Ladies, I can see that you don’t agree on something, but we have plenty of space here at The Metronome. Perhaps you’d like to spend some time on opposite sides of the room?”

The griffon turned and marched away without another word. I shot Iridium a look. “Don’t call me a lady.”

His eyebrows went up slightly, but he nodded in understanding. I moved away to find another table. There was a dog-eared copy of the Manehattan Downtown newspaper on it. I picked it up and glanced through the pages.

It was rather refreshing to find a paper that still took itself seriously. Back home, the internet had largely rendered printed news obsolete, but Equestria hadn’t experienced that. I skimmed through a few pages, but soon found myself drawn to the crime section. It seemed that there were a lot of similar crimes to Earth—drugs, domestic violence—however traffic violations were nonexistent.

I had gotten slightly wrapped up in the newspaper, and didn’t notice Octavia sitting beside me until she peeped over the top of the pages.

“Oh, sorry.” I folded the paper and put it down.

Octavia gave me a friendly smile, and I could see some stress from her earlier meeting evaporating. “Sorry about that. Sometimes Fleur can be…demanding.”

“You still have majority ownership though, right?”

Octavia shrugged. “It was a hard-fought deal. I wasn’t able to come up with enough funding to purchase the club outright. The agreement is that Fleur can hold fashion shows here whenever she wants. That turns out to be about twice per month, so I suppose it isn’t too bad for my business.”

“So did you sell everything you owned in Canterlot?” I asked, thinking about what Vinyl had told me.

“That’s right. I felt like a fresh start could do me some good.”

I knew Octavia had been rather unlucky in the landlord business, and also used to have a criminal for a coltfriend. I could understand how getting out of town could do a pony some good. At the same time, there was something else on my mind. Against my better judgment, I decided to ask. “What about Vinyl? It was a weird coincidence that I ran into her. She didn’t seem to like coming here, though. Did something happen between you two?”

Octavia sighed. “I think Ms. Scratch means well, but I found it rather difficult to help her when I still owned the apartment building.”

My eyebrows went up. “I didn’t think she meant to be a burden to anypony.”

“It was…stressful,” Octavia decided. “I wasn’t sure I could continue. Also, Ms. Scratch wouldn’t always have somepony to lean on.”

I considered Vinyl a friend, but it felt like I was conspiring against her as I leaned forward and lowered my voice. “Are you saying she was too needy? I know breaking an addiction can’t be easy.”

Octavia opened her mouth, but decided against saying whatever was on her mind. Awkward silence reigned for a moment, and I let the matter drop. We sat there while the amateur band continued to play softly. Glancing at the newspaper, I picked it up again and gestured to the front page. “Anything interesting going on in Manehattan?”

“Not that I’ve noticed,” replied Octavia. “I saw you were reading the crime pages. It’s about the same as we had in Canterlot. Well, before you showed up, anyway.”

“I didn’t mean to take down the top three figures in the Canterlot drug trade, it just kind of happened.”

Octavia laughed. I wasn’t trying to be funny; that anecdote was pretty much how things had turned out. The bad guys thought I was a badass, hired me, and I led the cops straight to them. All of that happened on accident when I was trying to figure out how to go home. Well, maybe that’s oversimplifying things, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

“I noticed most of the crime figures are ponies instead of other species,” I said, indicating the paper. “Are the demographics a little different here than Canterlot?”

“I suppose. Fewer griffons in the city.” Octavia shrugged.

“What about her?” I nodded at the griffon across the room who was sitting sullenly and alone.

Octavia glanced in that direction. “That’s Gilda; she’s a regular.”

“She’s kind of unpleasant,” I observed.

Octavia’s eyebrows went up. “Oh, did you meet her? I admit, she seems very territorial. She doesn’t like anypony who’s new.”

“What, is this club like her nest?” I joked. “I guess jazz really is for everypony.”

“Indeed.” Octavia gave me a smile and started to get up. “Well, the band is only contracted until nine. I was going to finish up the evening myself.”

I nodded. “Nice to see you again.”

“You too. Have a nice evening.” Octavia walked away, collecting her cello and shooing the other ponies off the stage. I noticed a change in the crowd as she took a position front and center. This was what most of them had come to hear.

As the kind of guy who listens to things like Yellow Submarine, string jazz is not my favorite genre. I will admit that Octavia was rather interesting to observe. She knew her instrument and music without looking. Her eyes had closed before the bow touched the strings, and I didn’t see them open again while she played.

It was a shame that I couldn’t give her a more profound goodbye, but I had a train to catch. Exiting the club into the cold, I turned once more for the station. I could have waited longer, but I needed to be sure that I would catch Vinyl.

Sure enough, I did see her enter the station at about nine thirty. I trotted over and intercepted her. She was more than surprised. “Whoa, Millie! Why aren’t you in Canterlot?”

I showed her the ominous note that I had been passed and briefly explained my apparent kidnapping. Vinyl’s brows furrowed as she listened. “But…why? This didn’t happen to you last time.”

“I know. I don’t have a clue what’s different now. I still want to go to Canterlot and try to fix this.” My face stretched into an embarrassed grimace. “Um, can I have another train ticket?”

Vinyl stared at me. Her lip twitched and she cracked up laughing. “Aw dude, you look so cute when you’re like that.”

My face immediately hardened in what I hoped was a more manly expression. “Fine. No more cute for you.”

Still chuckling, Vinyl led me to the ticket counter and gave the teller some money. I wondered slightly how much she’d made from the recent show. I felt bad about taking it, but some small part of my mind wondered if she would do something irresponsible with disposable income.

Stuffing away that insensitive thought, I followed Vinyl to the train and we found seats aboard. I felt nervous, as the first time I’d been deposed from the train had occurred in broad daylight so what did that mean for the late night? Still, it was comforting to have a friend beside me.

The train whistle blew to signify five minutes until departure. Vinyl asked, “So what did you do today while waiting for the next train?”

“I went to The Metronome. Octavia was glad to see me.”

I’m not sure if Vinyl heard some unintentional inflection in my tone, or if it was the mention of Octavia’s name that provoked a reaction. She looked uncomfortable. “That’s nice.”

I debated how to reply. Saying the wrong thing before we even left the station would turn this into a long trip. Still, if I had breached an uncomfortable subject with Octavia I should probably give Vinyl the same treatment in the interest of fairness.

A direct approach was not as nice, but would get me the answers I was looking for. Not that Vinyl owed me, but I figured I had earned some trust.

I asked, “Did something happen between you two?”

Vinyl sat for a moment, putting together her reply. “I didn’t know who I could rely on. After my overdose and everything else that happened, Octavia was really the only pony I knew who could help. And then she left.”

I looked at her, concerned. “What did you do?”

“I... said some things I probably shouldn’t have.” Vinyl ducked her head slightly, but added, “And I still think she deserved it.”

Spotting an opening to do some good, I said, “Maybe the two of you can patch things up. I mean, you’re both okay now, right?”

Vinyl glanced at me. “Our paths don’t cross anymore. What does it matter?”

I didn’t like to see my friends fighting, and was about to tell her that when the door at the end of the train car slid open and a grey stallion poked his head in.

Vinyl was distracted. “Huh? What’s a Lunar Guard doing here?”

“Who?” I glanced at the pony, noticing unusual tufts on his ears. He looked me in the eye for a moment and I suddenly realized that his pupils were slitted like a cat’s. I spotted what was perhaps the strangest feature, however, when he stepped fully into the car. He had wings, but instead of feathered they were bare skin and batlike.

The traveling cloak he wore had slits in the side for his wings. The garment made him look even spookier than he already did. The stallion closed the door and took a moment to glance around the car. Then, his stare went back to my face and he started to walk towards me.