The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and fillies are playing with hearty giggles in the park that day as you sit by the park bench. A heavy sigh escapes your lips as you go through another day of boredom. Your arm falls from your side and brushes something under the park bench.
“Huh?” You ask as you lift up the abandoned briefcase.
“Greetings, Special Agent Sweetie Drops. Your Mission, should you choose to accept it--”
You promptly drop the talking briefcase with a cry of dismay. Fuck man, you knew that random animals could talk, even if only the ones you don’t eat for some reason, but now you’re telling me that random objects speak in this crazy world too?! You did not take enough prozac for this shit today. But as soon as your fears subside, you note that the thing sounds staticky. Okay, this is a recorded message, not a magical sentient male briefcase. And you’re a pussy. But what else is new.
You sit quietly with the thing in your lap as it continues its strange speech.
“--there is a labyrinth of tunnels under Canterlot that our intelligence says spans all the way to Ponyville, where you are stationed. You are charged to find the entrance and follow the tunnels to the center of the maze, and find what it is the princesses have hidden there. We suspect it is of grave importance to public security. Enclosed are maps and documents mapping the tunnels. Remove them quickly, before the briefcase self-destructs. Godspeed, agent.”
Wait, did it just say “self-destruct?’
Your ass kicks into gear as you leap to your feet and sprint over to a nearby mare pulling an ice-cream cart.
“What can I get you, sir?”
“NoTimeToExplain” you screech like the unholy rebirth of some flying dinosaur as you ram the suitcase into the cart. “GETDOWN!”
You leap the ground alongside the ice-cream mare as the suitcase explodes, showering the area in a hail of 31 flavours of ice-cream, much to the delight of every filly and colt around. Then your trembling ass gets a kick to the side as a mare who sounds like a pack a day smoker scowls at you.
“Have you seen a briefcase around here?” She croaks.
“Uh, yes.” You reply hesitantly as a flake of mint-choc lands on your nose, “Now it wasn’t my fault, so please… be cool about it.”
The mare’s stare hardens, “Was that a pun?”
“Do you… want it to be a pun?”
She lets out an exasperated sigh.
“Just tell me what you did.”
You falter for words as you look into the mare’s face trying to recognize her past her dark sunglasses and low-pulled hat.
“W-well, you see, it started talking, and at first I thought ‘woah I wonder if I ate the wrong cookie at breakfast, that smelly hippie pony does get her batches mixed up sometimes’ but then I was just listening, and it said something about a labyrinth, and a mission, and then it said ‘self-destruct’ and…”
Her frown deepens with every word you speak.
“Please,” she says in a voice shaking with rage as you scramble up off the ground, “Tell me you at least got the papers out. Just tell me that.”
As if on cue, a small piece of strawberry flecked paper which says “confiden-” and nothing more flutters out of the sky to land gently on the mare’s nose. She begins to shake all over with what can only be seething anger.
“Sooo…” you say as you begin to back away. “Iiiii’m just gonna… head out. So. I’ll… see you around?”
You start to turn, when a sudden bark from the other pony stops you.
“Was that a pun?”
You’re not sure if she flashes you an angry smile or is just baring her teeth at you, but either way you decide to resign yourself to whatever stupid ride the land of Equestria has for you today.
“What did it say?”
“There’s a David Bowie under the city.”
“A what?” She barks.
Her angry tone causes you to leap up and throw your hands in surrender.
“Labyrinth. A Labyrinth,” you squeal back as your knees knock to the beat of ‘Under Pressure’, “Under the city there’s some tunnel network that goes all the way to Canterlot.”
There’s a moment of silence between the two of you. All around the childish glee-filled laughter sets an ominous tone for your fate.
“Oh, well, there’s something the Princesses have at the centre or something. You’ve gotta find it or whatever.”
The mare walks up and town, mumbling to herself, everytime you try to put your arms down she glares at you. Then after a minute or so, she gives an exasperated sigh then glares once more for good measure.
“You’re coming with me.”
“Because,” she snaps, “you at least heard the instructions at least, so you know too much. You’ll have to be deputized as an agent.”
“No buts,” she goes on, “You are now agent…?”
“What an appropriate cover name,” she says with an appreciative nod. “Welcome to the team, Agent. I am special agent Sweetie Drops, and you’ll be working with me for S.M.I.L.E. from now on.”
With that, she raises a hoof and, dramatically slowly, she removes her dark glasses. You blink at her as she stares back with those cold, hard teal-blue eyes. Wait a damn minute…
“HUSH!” she says, looking around furtively and reaching up to clap a hoof over your whore mouth. “There may be spies about! Only use my cover name. Sweetie Drops, you got that?”
You desperately nod, anything to get her to let go of you. Ponies hooves are big enough that they cover both your nose and mouth, and you’re quickly beginning to feel a little blue around the gills now. Still, she holds you.
“Now, I think I know where our search will start,” she whispers as you slap uselessly at her hoof over your mouth. “I’ve done some research, and there’s a big cellar door out behind the crystal castle. It just makes sense that it would be there, connecting the two major cities. Once we’re there, I’ll do my best to navigate us safely through. Since… you know, you destroyed all our intel.”
You’d apologize, but you’re too busy trying to pry her hoof off your face. Fucking bitch has a grip like a vice, impressive for a limb without fingers.
Just as you feel the tingle, light-headedness, and slight boner of oxygen deprivation, she at last releases you and stands back with a nod.
“Are you ready?”
You’d like to blame the big ol’ hoof in your face but it’s more just because of what a warbling wimp you are that your reply comes out more of a “Yuuramphmm”
Special Agent Sweetie Drops stares at you again. You can sense her rolling her eyes behind those midnight black shades.
“Here, you’ll need these.”
She hands you a pair of your own glasses and a false moustache.
“You get the hat after your probationary period.”
“Of course,” you softly reply back before being literally dragged off.
“It should be around here somewhere,” Grumbles Special Agent Sweetie Drops as she lets you go and searches around. “Look for the secret entrance.”
You get to your feet and dust yourself off before joining the search. Nothing really stands out in what you’d call a clear secret entrance. Usually for these things people just accident onto hitting the lever or things like that.
“Find anything--Get your fat ass off the wall and get to searching.”
You leap to attention and salute before the first step you take is you falling into a pitfall. Bon Bon tracks you down by the sound of you softly crying.
“Yeah? I think,” you answer while wiping away a tear.
A quick rappel down and you are joined by Bon Bon in what looks like a cave. The flimsy sticks around you must have been holding up the fake grass your foot found.
“So, what now?”
“Well,” she says thoughtfully, “I was hoping we’d just use the cellar door down here, but you seem to have saved us a few steps. The princesses must have really scrimped on the renovations, there’s some serious water damage down here.”
“I MEAN,” you almost shout, and there’s a sound of your voice bouncing off the walls like a bad stadium speaker system. “WHAT IS OUR NEXT STEP!”
“Not so loud,” she hisses reproachfully. “You really are bad at this. What made you think you could be an agent in the first place.”
“I DIDN’T SIGN UP TO BE AN AGENT!”
“Not with that attitude, now hush.”
You shut your mouth and glare at this slave-driver of a new boss as she paces the small enclosure you find yourselves in. The walls look crudely sculpted, almost recently, and there appears to be a tunnel running away from you two off to what you’d guess is the north. Special Agent Sweetie Drops pulls out a compass and flashlight from… you know what? You don’t need to know where she got those, and you decide it’s best not to think about it right now.
“Hmmm,” she says. “Well, Canterlot is to the north of here, so this tunnel seems to be pointing us in the right direction. If we estimate that this secret item is at the center of the maze, we should just head towards the midpoint between the two cities. Easy peasy!”
Your seemingly immaculate savantish sense of direction aside, you have serious doubts about this plan.
“This is a labyrinth though,” you say haltingly. “With like… dead ends and shit. And it’s probably miles even to the center.”
“Then we best start walking now! Follow me, and stick close. Don’t get lost.”
Without waiting for a response, she starts walking down the tunnel.
“H-hey!” you call, and sprint to catch up with her, feeling the bruises from your short fall already complaining.
Getting lost underground is… not a pleasant idea, to say the least, and it’s hard to see down here. You keep close to her hind quarters, but it doesn’t feel enough. You have to find a way to keep tabs on your guide here.
“Deputy agent Anon?”
“Are you holding onto the end of my tail?”
“So… We don’t get separated?”
Her head snaps back to scowl deeply at you but says no more and instead continues walking onward. At every crossroad and turn she checks her compass before deciding, leading your deeper and deeper into the land of the Goblin King.
“You know, I know a way to cheat these things.”
“Really?” she asks in a tone that suggests she didn’t even hear you and gave a stock-standard reply.
“Yeah, you take a left every time and eventually you have to arrive at the end.”
“Yes. But we don’t want to get to the end. We need to get to the--”
You walk into the back on Bon Bon and then look up to see a door up ahead guarded by a muscular diamond dog with a red coat. One you think you might have seen once before.
“Huh, I think that’s Clifford?”
“Hang on, I can’t--I know him. I thought I was meant to be some secret agent. I’d only blow our cover. Y-You go on ahead without me, I’ll guard the entrance.”
“You’re in disguise.”
“I’m the only human in this world, how could he not?”
“You’re in disguise,” she repeats before clutching onto you and bodily dragging you again.
“W-wait! We need to get him away from the door first!” you say in a quick, fevered whisper.
She thankfully stops before continuing to chip away at those road rashes rapidly forming on your legs. She glares at you, then nods briefly.
“Fine. Fine,” she says. “If you can think of a way to distract him, we’ll both go in. If he notices us, our disguises will save the day. Sound fair?”
It does not, but it’s better than the inevitable fist-fight with a big red dog that would come otherwise. You set to scratching your chin, trying to figure out a way to make this work. You’re not used to thinking in caves. I mean, you could throw a rock, but there don’t seem to be any rocks. All the walls are so smooth and echoey. The tunnels branch off to the left and right, all looping in towards this central chamber. The only way you’d be able to find your way around in here without Bon Bon, or Sweetie Drops, or whatever is if you were a bat.
“Hey,” you whisper. “Are there any bats in these caves?”
“No, your nostrils are clear of detritus.”
“That’s… that wasn’t a pun, I was being literal.”
“Oh. Maybe? Who knows, what does that matter.”
A slow, sneaky grin spreads across your face as you tiptoe over to one of the branching tunnels that you HOPE goes around to the center as well.
“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” you quietly shriek into the darkness.
Sure enough, it echoes down the tunnel, and you hear a scooby-doo like “aruh?” from where the diamond dog is standing. You glance over your shoulder to find your companion standing there, staring at you like you are the weird kid in class who is insisting on eating paste as a meal.
“What the fuck are you doing, Anon,” she says flatly.
“Language!” you whisper, obviously offended.
“I’m a special agent. We swear. Man the fuck up. Now, what are you doing?”
“I’m a bat!”
“I mean, I’m imitating a bat! You know, to distract him.”
“But,” she says, massaging the bridge of her nose. “If there are bats down here usually, it wouldn’t be that distracting. You have to do something else.”
You think about that a moment. She’s absolutely right, you need to be more distracting. You clear your throat softly, then cup a hand to the side of your lips, take a deep breath, and open your mouth.
“I COME FROM A LAND DOWN UNDEEEER!”
“I take it back.”
“WHERE BEER DOES FLOW AND MEN CHUNDERRRRR!”
“CAN’T YOU HEAR, CAN’T YOU HEAR THE THUNDEEEER?!”
“YA BETTER RUN, YA BETTER TAKE COVERRRRR!”
Special Agent Sweetie Drops tries to hiss at you again but you grab her and leap on top of her and try to imitate a rock.
“SH! Rocks don’t talk.”
Off in the distance you can hear the noise of faint scampering getting louder. Then just as the stamping feet sound like they are right beside you, they start getting fainter once again. You hold still for a moment before getting up and pointing to the now unguarded door.
“What was that?” The scorn in her voice could burn a man who wasn’t riding the high of being right.
“It’s the song of my people.”
“That. Was. Awful.”
“Don’t be racist. It’s culture.”
Bon Bon immediately begins to loudly stamp her hooves as she walks up to the door and rears up to kick it open. The sound of the slam rings out, causing you to wince a little, and the echo carries back and forth through the cave. But nothing seems to happen. When you take a breath of relief you notice that Bon Bon is already deeper in the cave.
“Wait up,” you bellow as you hasten your step into a scared shitless skip.
A part of you still wants to just go home but a bigger part of you feels like you’ve got a bit of a knack for this secret agent stuff. That’s definitely it. And not because you haven’t got a flashlight and aren’t about to go wandering around in the dark for any ol’ booty infiltrator monster to strike at your supple body. You’ve got a promise with Jay-Zeezy to keep.
As you catch up, you can hear parts of Bon Bon’s mumbling though it’s mostly broken so you can barely guess at what she is talking about.
“Stupid. Spaghetti spewing. Don’t know why I bother. Could just dump it there. Still here?” Special Agent Sweetie Drops growls as you approach.
“Woah, what’s wrong with you?”
“Me? What is wrong with me? What is wrong with you!”
“Well, my mother always told me that, when I was very young, she left the stroller behind the car exhaust once and ever since then--”
“That’s not what I meant!” she snaps. “Why are you like this? What are you so weird, and random and confident and… and…”
“And why does it WORK?!”
You stop and blink at her. She stands still, breathing heavily.
“I’ve been an agent for years,” she says coldly. “And I still have trouble with infiltration, so I go with brute force, and it always bites me in the ass. But you, you scream some dumb fucking song, and you just magically get past a guard. How??”
You can hear genuine hurt in her voice, and a part of you actually hurts for her. You know what it’s like to try hard only to fuck everything up. I mean, hell, has she ever seen you on a date? The first five minutes of the last one and you were explaining to your date how rice looks like maggots. She didn’t come back from the bathroom. And sure, you seem to be pretty good at this whole spy nonsense, but you never meant to step on her toes. Hooves. Whatever.
I mean, she did drag you into this, but it’s her job. And you did pick up a talking briefcase, and you did blow up an ice cream cart, and you did just do an astounding rendition of a Men at Work song. You can see why she’d be pissed.
“Hey,” you say gently, and walk to stand beside her without touching her. “I got lucky. It rarely happens, and I’m pretty sure if you weren’t here I’d have gotten lost in the tunnels and died of a heart attack long ago. You’re a great agent, and I’m only getting lucky because you’re giving me a chance.”
“...is that a pun?”
“N-no… unless…. No, er, not the time. What I mean is that you’re better than me. So don’t worry about it.”
She sighs heavily.
“I know. I know. It’s just… I haven’t had a deputy in a long time. I’m used to working alone I guess. But… the company is sort of nice. Even if you’re a terrible singer.”
“Excuse me, I was melodious.”
“More like malodorous.”
“Just… come on. Lead the way Special Agent Sweetie Drops.”
Even in the low light, you can see she’s smiling a little, as she continues down the tunnel in front of you.
As you follow after her, a little skip in your step, you place your hands in your pocket and remember placing something there earlier this morning.
“Hey, Bon Bon.”
You just smile and hand her the vegemite sandwich.
“I do hate you.”
“Me too, buddy.”
Even with the disgust in her voice, she breaks off half and takes a bite. But with the flashlight in one hoof and a sandwich in the other, she is forced to start walking on her hind hooves. Something you didn’t realize ponies could do. Well, she can. But it’s kind of funny looking. Like a little penguin waddle as she keeps balance on her back legs. Part of you wishes she was wearing a complete suit to go with the penguin look.
You follow her deeper into the cave, everything starts getting hotter as you go on. You wipe the sweat on your face and unknowingly push the mustache over one of your eyebrows.
“Woah! Look at that!”
“I… Why are you making penguin noises?”
“Oh. Something,” you clear your throat, “Caught in my--Anyway, what is it?”
She points ahead at the vast gorge stretching out before you with various paths, stairways, and caves that dot everywhere.
“Weird. It’s like relativity,” you say.
“You know, by M.C. Escher?”
“Yes, I know. I just wasn’t expecting you to know that.”
“I gots me an education. Also, how would you guys have M.C. Escher?”
“What do you think the MC stands for?”
You were feeling a little cocky bragging about how well-cultured you are before her question knocked the wind out of you. You pause for a moment to think on it before you very carefully reply with, “Master of Ceremonies?”
“Miniature Caspian?” Bon Bon mocks.
“No. I made that up. Stop poking holes in the story.”
“Ugh, fine,” you grumble. “But… what do we even do here?”
“We could try defying gravity,” she says with a shrug.
“Nah, I can’t hit those soprano notes.”
“Nothing. But yeah, I can’t see a way out of this either,” you admit. “If you were a unicorn, I could see this working but…”
She glares at you sharply, and you shy away from how jagged her gaze feels.
“Oh, what, so Unicorns are better than earth ponies? Is that it?”
“...I mean, objectively…”
“Don’t answer that,” she says gruffly. “Just… come on. Boost me up or something towards that tunnel.”
She points towards an opening at the top of a backwards upside-down staircase that looks just low enough to reach. You follow her and then hoist her up into your arm and over your head. She’s… surprisingly light for a small horse, and easy to handle. No more bothersome than a sack of oranges, and probably far less likely to get moldy, by your reckoning.
Shakily, she gets to her hooves and reaches up to the opening. She is barely able to scramble inside, then she walks out of your view a little, the light of the flashlight fading. You make a small “eep” noise, as you feel the darkness closing in around you like some foul beast.
“Er… don’t go too far,” you squeak out. “Y-you know. So you don’t get lonely.”
You hear a scoff from the tunnel.
“Are you afraid of the dark, Agent?” she says in a scornful echo.
“N-no. Just afraid of… a lack of light. I need light. To see. And… tan.”
“Anon, you’re a pale sack of shit.”
“Just shut up and come back, okay?”
You hear the sound of an exasperated sigh, and then the light grows a little and rops drops down in front of you. The smug, smiling face of Bon Bon peers down at you over the edge.
“I had to get it tied to something,” she calls down. “Just climb up, I think we’re getting close.”
Remembering all those failed attempts at the rope climb in gym class, you clumsily make your way up the rope behind her and stand up in your new, unfamiliar surroundings.
You’re both in a small room. A small empty room. Bon Bon begins breathlessly blaming the bumbling bipedal.
“YOU! YOUR FAULT!”
She gets out her compass and walks around, checking it wildly. Frantically almost.
“NO! This… This is definitely the centre.”
Then you notice the wall as the flashlight circles around with Bon Bon.
“Oh, what could it possibly be now? Are you going to don a gorilla suit or use your magical powers to find a mummy laying wait to kill the unsuspecting idiots that stumble into this room?” She practically screams.
“Congratulations,” you read aloud.
A guttural growl rises from her throat into a hearty shout as she pounces onto you, likely ready to beat you with the flashlight.
“No! Really, look.”
You point at the wall for Special Agent Sweetie Drops to see someone had written in paint ‘CONGRATULATIONS” on it.
“I… uh, what. I don’t… I don’t get it. Do you?” Bon Bon babbles.
She climbs off you to stare open mouth in puzzlement at the wall. You get to your feet and dust yourself off then stand next to her.
“If I had to make a guess… Maybe the real mission was the friendship we made along the way?”
She turns to you with a mechanical slowness.
“That’s stupid,” she says flatly. “Don’t be stupid.”
“That’s… Actually really hurtful,” you reply with hand over heart.
She rolls her eyes aggressively and, ignoring your ever important feelings, goes to the wall to touch it.
“That… that can’t just be it,” she mutters. “Friendship? The answer is just… friendship? That’s all? B-but the mission. The… the important task I was set on. It doesn’t make sense!”
“Well, I dunno either. I was getting a little philosophical about it. It could be friendship, and maybe a bit of tolerance too. You have been a bit of a slave driver,” you tell her as you offer her a chip from the pack you pulled from your back pocket, “They’re a little bit crushed, but still good.”
Bon Bon goes stock still. Her ears perk up on top of her head, and her eyes widen.
“Crushed… that’s it!” she suddenly shouts. “Crushing!”
“B-bon Bon, I’m not into that sort of thing. Maybe… if we talk about it first and if you really want to try it...”
“No, you horny idiot, I mean the wall! We’re supposed to crush down the wall!”
“Oh, then stand back. I’m like twice your size so I’ve gotta be twice as strong,” you state with your chest puffed out for maximum manliness posing.
Then you square your shoulders, lock your neck tight, and charge at the wall full sprint before falling back onto your ass screaming. Your shoulder was instantly dislocated and you might have also given yourself whiplash too. Bon Bon just stands over you, her eyes looking down but her head isn’t. And the glare in her eyes couldn’t be saying anything other than “pathetic” to you.
“...I’m a horse.” she says exhaustedly. “I have hooves, and I can kick hard enough to crush your damn skull.”
“I told you, not into that,” you wheeze.
“Just… relocate your shoulder and stay down, let me take care of this, okay?”
“You sure? I feel a little lame after that.”
Bon Bon pauses mid-kick.
“Was that a pun?”
“Yes,” you croak.
“Stop horsing around,” she groans.
“Nice one,” you barely reply in between all the frequent gasping for much needed air.
Bon Bon’s hooves collide into the wall and tear it with a paper-y rip as the both of you realise it wasn’t even rock. The wall was just painted paper mache. Bon Bon goes into a bit of a berserker fury and tears at it until she makes a hole big enough to get inside. You drag yourself over, curious as to what is inside when suddenly.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me.”
“Look,” Bon Bon returns holding onto a little blanket that seems to be for a small child. The print is of a happy cartoon sun wearing the standard sunglasses but doing things like shooting finger guns like he is the Fonz, or mid break-dance.
“Oh, that is embarrassing,” you splutter, “Who do you think? Celestia, right?”
“Cause of the suns? Yeah, I guess, but…” she takes one last look at it before throwing it into your face, “That’s it. There is a big chest in there and that is the only thing inside.”
“Huh, you know what?” You ask as you hold the blanket up for a closer look.
“It’s dawned on me.”
You can feel Bon Bon rolling her eyes.
“I might need the horse-pital.”
“OH MY GOD,” Bon Bon cries out. “Don’t you understand? We went all this way, we went through all of this, and you just make jokes! This super special mission? It was all for nothing! Our intelligence was wrong, and you… you just don’t seem to care at all! I should have left you for dead in the cave!”
“Oh shut up, I’m just angry.”
“No, I mean, ouch, this seriously hurts, we need to get out of here so I can get some medical care.”
Bon Bon sighs, obviously crestfallen. Through your pain that has caused you to become even more of an idiot than usual, you can see how down she is about all of this. And it makes sense. She’s come all this way, and for what, a little blanket? Did she gain nothing from this?
“Hey, Bon Bon.”
“Come over here.”
“I swear to god, if you make more jokes--”
“No just come here.”
She sighs and trots over to you, but before she can ask what you want, you put your good arm around her and give her a tight short hug. She goes rigid in surprise, but doesn’t pull away or protest. You hold her for just a moment, then let her go, and she steps back away from you, studying you suspiciously.
“What was that for,” she asks, sounding concerned.
You shrug your one good shoulder.
“You were a good agent. You did what you were told, you instructed me in your ways and you got us in here… mostly alive and unharmed. You did a good job. And I wanted to… thank you. For everything.”
You’re not quite sure, but it looks like she blushes.
“Oh. Uh. You’re welcome,” she mutters. “Here… let me help you up.”
You wave her off as you stumble to your feet and sway there for a moment, before hobbling right and left to make sure you can.
“I’ll be okay. Just… be more gentle with me next time, okay?”
“Next time?” she scoffs. “After a mission like this, where we got everything wrong, and the final prize at the end was just a kid’s security blanket, you’d really want to do more of this.”
“Hey, beats doing nothing. I guess. Maybe. Sometimes,” you say as you begin to stumble away from her back the way you came. “Besides, the intelligence wasn’t entirely wrong.”
There’s a pause behind you.
“Yeah,” you say, trying to keep the smile from your voice. “The mission briefing did say that this was a matter of security.”
There is a long silence as you continue to walk away, and then, with all the anger of a thousand suns:
“WAS THAT A FUCKING PUN?”