by bahatumay

First published

Lyra has a secret, and it's one she's excited to share. Bon Bon has a secret, but she wishes hers would stay hidden in the past. That second one doesn't happen.

Lyra has a secret. She can't wait to tell Bon Bon! 

Bon Bon has a secret. Bon Bon has many secrets, actually. She'd like it if all her secrets remained hidden in the past.

But secrets have a nasty way of coming back when you least expect them.

After an unknown stallion visits the sweetshop, Bon Bon’s secrets come flooding back, and Lyra is swept along for the ride. She's in for the adventure of her life!

Blast from the Past

View Online

Bon Bon hummed quietly to herself as she slid the pan of chocolate off the stovetop. Stirring gently and making sure to scrape the bottom as she did, she slowly poured the chocolate into the molds. With practiced motions and precision, she didn't spill a drop as she moved from one mold to the next.

When she’d finished, she gently placed the pan back on the warming pad and reached for the rapidly-cooling chocolate. They’d solidified just enough that she could pop them out of the molds and combine the two halves, and with a little fresh chocolate for some glue, she pressed the two halves together. She continued this process until she had completed the entire black chess army. She took a step back to compare it to the set of white pieces she'd completed earlier, and she couldn’t help but admire her work.

“Perfect,” she whispered with a proud little nod.

On the square cake she had obtained earlier from Sugarcube Corner, she placed the pieces in their correct places on the chessboard that had been frosted on top. She twisted it so the white corner was on the right, set the queen on her color; and soon, the setup was complete. She nodded, satisfied, and then reached for a pastry bag. She filled it with red icing, and with the pair of kitchen shears she always kept nearby, snipped off a corner. With deft, practiced movements, she wrote ‘Congratulations on the win!’ in her beautiful, curly writing, and added a heart for emphasis.

She couldn’t help but smirk. It had taken them approximately ten years, but the Ponyville Chess Club had finally managed to have a member win a tournament. Sure, it had been Twist who had won the deciding match, and Bon Bon had been very certain that it had been the result of an accident or two on both sides (‘blunder’ had been the term whispered); but win they had, and so celebrate they would.

And Bon Bon did like a good celebration.

The doorbell jingled as the door opened. Bon Bon nodded once more in satisfaction with her work before turning back to the unfamiliar stallion. “Good afternoon!” she greeted him. “Can I help you?”

His eyes brightened as he saw her. “Yes, you can. I'm looking for a mare named Sweetie Drops.”

Bon Bon’s eyes may have widened a tiny bit; but she remained perfectly calm. She kept a straight face as the lie easily slid off her lips. “Sweetie Drops, hmm?” She tapped her chin. “Never heard of her. Closest thing I've got are gumdrops and maybe semi-sweet chocolate chips, if you're interested?”

He smirked and neared the counter. “For some reason I doubt that.”

Bon Bon shifted her weight slightly. Her eyes flicked rapidly around her familiar kitchen, checking out the window to see if he’d come alone, picking out any possible weapons she could use, all while making sure to not look away for too long and making sure to blink freely. “This is a candy shop. Of course I have gumdrops,” she said disarmingly. “All flavors. Did you have a specific one in mind? The sour apple is particularly good, but I'm also partial to the lemon.”

He paused and raised an eyebrow.

“Ohhh,” Bon Bon said innocently. “That's what you meant. My bad! Well, I’m sure I've never heard that name before. Did you try asking for her at town hall?”

He shifted his weight, too, and he retrieved something from his saddlebag. Bon Bon's eyes widened as she thought she recognized it. She hadn’t seen one of those in-

And then the bell rang again. Lyra pranced in with a wide smile on her face, and when she saw the unfamiliar stallion, she stopped and maintained a respectful distance, clearly waiting for him to purchase his items and leave. The way she was smiling and dancing in place, though, made it clear that she wasn't going to wait long. Was that nervousness or excitement on her face?

Bon Bon's heart rate spiked. The addition of a third party in this standoff would skew things in his favor and out of hers… and definitely out of Lyra's.

Her premonition came true; he dropped the feather and drew a knife. He grabbed Lyra around the neck and held the knife against her throat. “Alright, Sweetie Drops,” he spat. “We can do this the easy way, or the hard way.”

Bon Bon bared her teeth. She slid a hoof over, reaching for something hidden out of view.

Lyra froze. Her breath caught in her throat. This was not how she’d imagined this going at all!

He looked up, realizing for the first time that she was a unicorn. Unicorns had both an advantage and disadvantage with their horns; while they could be used as dangerous weapons, they were a good target for compliance. He reached up to hit it…

But there was a squelching sound, and suddenly he froze. His eyes widened and his pupils shrank to pinpricks, and he brought a hoof to his chest as if he had trouble breathing; but no breath came. His mouth moved wordlessly. Then, with a sickening thud, he fell to the ground.

Behind him stood Bon Bon, her body still halfway across the counter she’d just lunged across, breathing hard and through gritted teeth.

And in her hoof, she held a long, bloody pair of kitchen shears.

Bon Bon dropped the shears as quickly as if they had burned her. Her breath came in more raggedly, and she glanced up at Lyra.

Lyra stared, dumbstruck and horrified. Bon Bon gave her a shaky smile, but it didn't help; her eyes flicked back and forth between Bon Bon and the stallion's body.

“Bon Bon…” Lyra finally breathed.

“Yes, Lyra?”

“You just stabbed a pony in the back, Bon Bon.”

Bon Bon glanced down at the shears on the ground, at the splatters of blood around them, and then back up at Lyra. “Yes, Lyra. Yes, I did.”

“Bon Bon, that kills ponies,” Lyra whispered.

“It does.” Bon Bon cracked a wry smile. “Noiselessly, I might add. A pony literally can’t scream when you puncture their diaphragm. I'm a little surprised I managed to get it first try with scissors, actually,” she admitted sheepishly.

“How do you even know how to do that?”

“It was part of my secret agent training,” Bon Bon explained. “When you’re a monster hunter, sometimes you’re hunting monsters to protect ponies, and sometimes you’re hunting ponies to protect the monsters.”

“Wait. You were really a secret agent?”

Bon Bon nodded.

“I thought you were joking about that!” Lyra squeaked.

“No! It was my secret identity! Emphasis on secret! It's not like I'm going to walk up one morning and say, 'hey, good morning, Lyra, my best friend, I made you pancakes, by the way, I wasn't joking about the whole Sweetie Drops, Agent of SEMHA thing'!”

“I didn't think you'd actually kill somepony!”

“He was trying to kill me!” Bon Bon defended herself. She pointed at the feather he'd dropped. “That's a chimera feather! If you dip it in goat’s blood and stick somepony with it, it's as good as a death sentence. There's no known cure. You wither from the inside out and you're dead within the week.”

Lyra looked down at the feather and shuffled backwards away from it, now fearful of something she would have otherwise ignored. “How do you know that?” she breathed.

Bon Bon wrapped her hooves in thick oven mitts and tossed the offending item in her smallest oven, then turned the heat on as high as it would go. “Because I’ve seen it happen,” she answered, not looking at Lyra. “And believe you me, it’s not pretty.” As it heated, she turned around and headed upstairs.

“Where are you going?” Lyra asked.

“I’m going to grab my stuff, then to Aidunno.”

“You don't know?”

“Aidunno,” Bon Bon repeated a bit more slowly. “It's like our headquarters. Or, it used to be. One of them, anyway. I don't know if anypony will be there, or even if it still exists; but it's safe, and it’s the only place I can think of that you'd be able to get into too without special training. Unless you're secretly some kind of cragodile hunter?”

Her joke fell flat. “I'm coming too?” Lyra whimpered.

“If he doesn't report back to whomever sent him, they'll send more,” Bon Bon said firmly, meeting Lyra's eyes for the first time. “You'll be safest with me.”

“O- ok.” Lyra glanced down at the body, and realized that she had a point… as well as a problem. “So, what should we…?”

“Oh, yeah. There's room in one of the freezers. Let me just grab a bag.”

“You're just going to leave him in the freezer?” Lyra squeaked.

“Well, I don’t have time to bury him, I'm not going to take him with me, and if I leave him out, he’s gonna start to stink!” Bon Bon grinned. “And grab the vinegar, would you? You know where that is, right? I’ll get the rags.”

Lyra could only watch as Bon Bon headed off to get her supplies, and all she could do was stare.

How well did she know her bestest friend, after all?

Going Underground

View Online

Lyra looked around as Bon Bon trotted purposefully forward. When they’d boarded the train, Bon Bon had chosen a seat in the rear corner that let her see both ends of the car, and she had put on her sunglasses and had sat at attention, looking around with her ears pricked up the entire ride until the train had stopped.

Now, they were trotting through Las Pegasus, and Lyra was feeling awkward and out of place. It wasn't that she didn't like crowds; after all, she was originally from the big city of Canterlot. It was just this kind of crowd seemed so different. She was out of her element, and it definitely showed.

“Don’t look around,” Bon Bon hissed. “Head straight, eyes ahead. Ears up. You know where you're going and you've got someplace important to go. If you look confident-”

“Hey, darling!” A seedy-looking thin stallion leaned out at Lyra. “You’ve got the body of a dancer~! I'm offering you three hundred bits a night! Whadaya say, hot flanks?”

Lyra stammered and blushed; she hadn’t been talked at like that ever before, not even at school. “Well, I-”

Bon Bon pushed her way in between the two. “And if you look confident, you’ll probably avoid creeps like that,” Bon Bon finished.

“Creep?” The stallion gasped. “I am a legitimate businessman offering opportunities for underprivileged-”

Bon Bon nudged him in the ribs with her knee, as if she were checking to see if a friend had gotten a bad joke. Lyra would swear that that was all she had done.

But the stallion suddenly stopped short, choking, unable to breathe. He collapsed to the ground, writhing in pain and trying to gasp for air.

And suddenly, Bon Bon was all friendly. She looped his foreleg around her neck. “You ok? Here!” She helped him over to the sidewalk and waved over one of the bouncers. “I think he has a kidney stone or something,” she said. “Pain in the lower back, came outta nowhere! Or maybe it was something he ate, I don’t know. I'm no doctor.”

The bouncer stallion hesitated. He was not a doctor, either. Intimidation? Not a problem. Kicking ponies out? Any day of the week. Medical care? Definitely not his cutie mark. Overwhelmed at his new responsibility, he looked around and waved his partner over, hoping she knew something. She came over, but the look on her face showed she was clearly out of her depths as well. She looked around, as if hoping somepony with a medical cutie mark would appear nearby.

And while this was happening, the mare with the three candies cutie mark vanished into the crowd.

Lyra looked around. The casino was bright and loud, just like all the others they'd passed, and Bon Bon had apparently chosen it at random. She wasn't sure what made this place different. They were all very loud, very noisy, and very crowded. Young mares in slinky dresses and tight saddles carried trays of drinks to ponies playing cards. A few rows away, a mare won a jackpot at a slot machine, and her shrieks of excitement nearly drowned out the metallic clangs of her winnings dropping noisily into the tray below.

Lyra dodged a distracted stallion and darted forward to come next to Bon Bon again. “What did you do to him?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Bon Bon said innocently. “He’ll be fine. He, uh, may be peeing blood for a while, but he’ll be fine.” She paused. “Eventually,” she amended with a weak attempt at sympathy. She made her way through the crowd, walked into an empty elevator, and waited for the door to shut.

“Do you have a penthouse here or something?” Lyra asked with a nervous giggle.

“Or something,” Bon Bon answered cryptically. She held down the door close button, even though the doors were already closed. Then she reached up with her other hoof, closed her eyes as if to recall something she had long since forgotten, and began to press a few other buttons in a specific order. She grimaced as she hit the wrong button, and she had to release the door close button and try again.

Midway through her second attempt, the doors opened, and two very drunken mares tried to stumble in. Lyra squinted. They were clearly friendly with one another, something that the smell of alcohol that rolled off their bodies in waves surely enhanced.

“Hey, can you, like, push the floor fifteen button?”

“We’re meeting somepony.”

“Somepony important.”

“Somepony with a really, really big-”

“Now’s really not the time,” Bon Bon said, clearly irritated. “Wait for the next one, would you?”

The mare closest to her took this as an invitation. She leaned in close to her. “Are you sure?” she asked, violating all of her personal space. “Because you’re kinda hot, too.”

“Really?” Bon Bon asked, blinking sultrily.

“Yeah, really. We could totally bring you up. If you wanted to.”

“I bet he'd be just fine with that.”

“Yeah. You wanna join us?”

And then Lyra stared in abject, horrified fascination as Bon Bon reached up and grabbed her head… and started kissing her. Really kissing her. Sloppily, messily, and with much more tongue than strictly necessary. The mare closed her eyes and returned the kiss… if you could call slobbering all over her face a kiss.

Bon Bon reached up and hit the door open button with her rear hoof, and pulled back. “Oh, hey, here’s your floor!” she said, bumping them out of the door with her hips. “Wait for me! I need to get a drink first!”

“We will!” The mares waved goodbye, swaying and leaning precariously on each other as the door shut again.

Bon Bon quickly placed her hooves back on the buttons and punched the code in as quickly as she could. The elevator began to descend, and she straightened up and spat, and roughly wiped her mouth off. “Ugh,” she grumbled, spitting distastefully. “Whoever they’re seeing is a cheap loser. Can’t even spring for the good stuff.”

Lyra, feeling very uncomfortable with what she had just seen, elected to remain silent.

The floor counter dial dropped backwards from three (the ground floor) to two, then one… then went even further backwards, disappearing from sight. Lyra froze. “Bon Bon?” she said shakily.

“It’s supposed to do that,” Bon Bon said, not really paying attention.

Finally, the elevator stopped, and the door slid open to reveal… an empty basement made of cinderblocks. Burnt scraps of paper littered the floor, broken chairs were scattered around haphazardly, and a splintered desk sat crumbled and dusty in a corner.

“They did destroy everything,” Lyra whispered, recalling that fateful conversation as she looked around at the room.

“Probably not,” Bon Bon said as she left the elevator. “They probably repurposed some of the equipment as a new agency or wrote it off as ‘destroyed and disposed of’. Maybe it ‘got lost in transit’ and there’s still some shreds of SEMHA left. I'm hoping, anyway.” She reached the far wall, then turned around to face her tail towards the wall and grinned. “Only one way to find out,” she said, raising a hind hoof and hitting a random block.

But apparently it wasn’t random; it echoed oddly, and a rope dropped from some hidden place in the ceiling. Bon Bon motioned Lyra forward so she was standing next to her, and Lyra looked up.

“Going up?” She tried to crack a joke.

“Not quite.” Bon Bon pulled the rope, and it retracted. The creaking sound of spring-assisted gears came from the other side of the wall. The bottom section retracted, revealing a passageway just tall enough for a crouching pony. Bon Bon squeezed and wriggled her way inside. She grunted as she managed to pull her flanks through.

Lyra followed, hoping the blush on her cheeks wasn’t noticeable.

Bon Bon reached for something on the wall and lifted a flashlight, but it gave a very dim glow when she turned it on. She tapped it sharply against her hoof, trying a little percussive maintenance to get it to work.

Something cracked inside it, and what little light there was went out.

She tossed it irritably down and turned back to Lyra. “Can I borrow your horn?”

Lyra cracked a smile and cast a lighting spell. The short platform in front of her-

“Eep!” Lyra jumped as the little door shut behind her, nearly trapping her tail in the process.

Bon Bon cracked a smile. “There’s a reason my tail was short when we first met,” she said comfortingly.

“I like it long,” Lyra said, her heart still racing. “Looks nice.”

“Thanks,” Bon Bon said with a smile. “Just keep watching your tail. There are pinch points on the railing.”

“Railing?” Lyra pulsed her magic harder, and her light glowed brighter. The platform fell away to reveal a long, winding, grated staircase, with a rusty, cracked metal bannister that looked as though it had seen better days.

Lyra gulped. She’d never been good with heights. She reached out and placed a hoof on Bon Bon’s flank. Bon Bon looked back and understood instantly. She gave her a comforting nod, and slowly began to walk down the stairs, her iron horseshoes clinking against the metal, and Lyra followed close behind.

The stairway was dark and their hoofsteps were echoey, and water dripped from sources unknown above their heads. They were far away from any of the noise and bustle of the casino above. Lyra held protectively onto Bon Bon, and soon they arrived at a rusted door. The faded, peeling sign read 'maintenance tunnel, authorized ponies only'.

Lyra squeezed Bon Bon's flank. “I'm guessing we're authorized?” she said, trying again to crack a joke in the damp darkness.

“I used to be,” Bon Bon answered, reaching up for her sunglasses. “Let's find out if I still am.” She twisted the frame apart, revealing that one of the earpieces was actually an oddly-shaped key. Not even looking at the keyhole, she counted a few spaces over and stuck the key into an inconspicuous gash in the door. With a ‘click’, the door slid open a couple inches, and Bon Bon slowly pushed her way inside, remaining low. “Follow me, but stay low,” she warned.

Lyra ducked her head and followed.

Their progress was halted at two steps as the barrel of a blowgun suddenly emerged from the wall. Lyra shrieked and dove behind Bon Bon’s tail.

“Whoa! Whoa!” Bon Bon held a foreleg across her face protectively. “Zulu! Alpha! Cookie! Hotel! Echo!”

“Rodeo Lima Echo,” came the reply, and the barrel retracted.

Lyra’s heart was pounding in her chest. She looked over at Bon Bon, who seemed more annoyed than anything else.
“I recognize that voice… Misty Evening!” she called as she rounded the corner.

Lyra followed, and stopped. She was in a large room, bigger than she’d expected from the old door. It appeared to be a boardroom of some kind. In the middle was a long table, but it only had a few chairs around it. It was angled and slightly off center in the room, as if somepony had tried to move it before giving up and leaving it where it was. A few electronic consoles were against the wall, some with circle screens for soundwave readings, others with little bulbs, still others with lights on scissor arms and magnifying lenses. Pictures of ponies were all along the wall, all with notes written underneath. Some pictures were crossed out, some were circled, one had a mustache drawn on in green marker, and most were faded and peeling off the wall.

She jumped as a light pink pegasus in a small wheelchair pushed herself back into sight. Lyra couldn’t suppress a gasp; her hind legs looked as though they had been mangled by a bear and hadn’t healed right, and her right wing was little more than a little stub. “Sweetie Drops,” she responded, a wide smile on her face. “Good to see you again.”

Bon Bon walked over. “How did I know you’d be here?”

Misty exhaled and gestured limply at her wheelchair. “Because there’s no ramp out of this place. I literally couldn’t leave, Sweetie Drops. I’ve been here for ten years, living off rats and what scraps I could get from the casino.”

Lyra’s jaw dropped.

There was a brief pause, and then Misty burst out in laughter. “Oh, the look on your face!” she guffawed.

Bon Bon rolled her eyes. “That wasn't funny the first time,” she grumbled. “Lyra, there’s a ramp that folds down.” She tapped a mess of twisted metal by the staircase, and Lyra could see that it would unfold into something that would vaguely resemble a docking plate for the wheelchair.

Lyra scowled.

Misty chuckled. “Oh, I’m sorry. You know I can’t resist playing it on a new pony. Gotta have some fun in a wheelchair, right?”

“She’s not just a new pony; she’s my best friend,” Bon Bon said, descending the steps, “so play nice.”

Misty threw her hooves up. “Never any fun with Sweetie Drops around,” she grumbled. “Just like it always was.” She looked over at Lyra. “Is she still by-the-book follow-the-rules uptight?”

“She’s… mellowed out a bit,” Lyra said helpfully.

“How long have you really been down here?” Bon Bon asked.

Misty Evening threw her hooves up. “And right back down to business, I see,” she said. “No, ‘hey, Misty, how’s work going in the civilian sector?’ or ‘Hey, Misty, try my new chocolates! They're delicious!’ or even ‘Hey, Misty, do your back legs still ache and can I get you some painkillers?’”

Bon Bon exhaled, but decided to humor her. “Hey, Misty, do you need painkillers?” she asked flatly.

Misty brightened and clapped her hooves together. “Yes, please!” she said. “Extract of the blue flowers of Upper Zanzebra would be best.”

“Aren’t those really illegal?” Lyra asked quietly.

“Class one restricted,” Bon Bon confirmed. “But they’re Equestria’s most effective painkillers if delivered to the body slowly by IM. It’s when you try to put it in straight through a vein that you have a problem with those little floaty side-effects.”
Misty Evening placed her hooves together and smiled.

“You’re not making me go get some before we talk,” Bon Bon said flatly.

Lyra looked back up the stairs and winced. She’d probably rather stay here than risk that climb.

The two ex-SEMHA agents stared at each other in a battle of wills… but Misty was the first to crack. “No,” she admitted, dropping her eyes. “Not with this mess going on. But if you find any, ple- he- hease!” She looked up and whimpered pitifully. “It just never stops! And I took my whole stash with me when I left here the first time and I didn't bring any with me this time!”

Bon Bon sighed. “Fine, I’ll knock some off a two-bit dealer on a corner somewhere for you. First, though, talk to me. How long have you been down here?”

“A couple of days,” Misty said. “Somepony came into my apartment and tried to smother me with a pillow. Probably didn’t expect a cripple to put up much of a fight.”

“What happened to him?” Lyra had to ask.

“Her, actually,” Misty said with a wide smile. “She died of acute steel poisoning.” She tapped her wheelchair, and something popped up from an innocuous piece of the frame. She pulled it out to reveal a long, curved dagger. At Lyra’s stunned expression, she giggled and winked.

Lyra leaned down to Bon Bon’s ear. “Bon Bon, you have very strange friends,” she whispered.

“Tell me about it,” Bon Bon whispered back. She turned back to Misty. “Who else is around?”

“I don’t know,” Misty said, returning her knife to its sheath and turning back to the dashboard of lights. Lyra noticed that all of them were off. “I mean, I’ve been monitoring the security system, but it’s pretty old and everything running on magic capacitors has run out of juice by now. But if I'm right—and I'm afraid I am—none of the other safehouses have had any activity in a long time.”

“And that’s… bad?” Lyra guessed.

“I'd say so. On our team, M and S are the last alphabetically, aside from Vanilla Swirl. We've been attacked. My best guess, somepony’s systematically hunting down the old team and crossing them off.”

Bon Bon grimaced.

Misty exhaled slowly and finished. “And it looks like you and me might be the only ones left.”


View Online

A dead silence reigned in the little hideout.

“That’s… bad,” Lyra said.

“It’s certainly not good,” Misty agreed, with just a hint of sarcasm.

“Nilla's tough, though,” Bon Bon mused. “She would win in a fair fight.”

Fair fight,” Misty emphasized. “She’s still limping from our last encounter with the bugbear.”

“Right,” Bon Bon muttered. “Nearly forgot about that.”

“You’re in a wheelchair,” Lyra observed.

“I’ve been in a wheelchair for years. I’ve trained with it, I’m used to being in it,” Misty said with a shrug. “Vanilla, not so much. The bugbear incident was the last thing she did before SEMHA got permanently grounded.”

“She probably went right back to her parents’ ice cream shop, put an apron on, and never looked back,” Bon Bon agreed quietly.

Lyra looked around, desperate for a change in the conversation. “How does this place still have power?”

“We leech off the casino,” Misty answered, clearly happy to change the subject. “We chose this place because casinos are loud, noisy, and use a ton of power. Nopony would even notice what we use, let alone any agents walking in. Sweetie Drops there once walked in dragging an unconscious body behind her and nopony on the floors even looked twice at her. And if anything ever happened to the casino, we have backup generators in the back.” She jerked her head back to the corner. “They've got magic reactions going on inside; slowed to a safe level, of course.”

Lyra looked over and brightened. “Ooh, I know about these!” She hesitated, lifting a forehoof and rocking backwards. “They’re pretty dangerous, though, aren’t they?”

“Only if used incorrectly,” Misty said firmly.

“Kindof like SEMHA agents,” Bon Bon added brightly. “But if we’re friends-” here, she nudged Lyra, “then they’re the best ones to have on your side.”

“As long as those boron safety cores are inside, those generators are perfectly safe,” Misty finished. “But don't put a boron safety core in Sweetie Drops. It would be very painful…” She paused, and then a little smirk flitted across her face. “-for you,” she finished.

Bon Bon wrapped a foreleg around Lyra's shoulders and pulled her in close. “Pay no attention to the loony pegasus in the metal chair,” she said, playfully brushing her mane out of her face. “I'm your bestest friend, and I won't let anypony or anything hurt you.”

Lyra returned the gesture by brushing a hoof gently across Bon Bon's barrel. “Thanks, Bon Bon,” she said sincerely. “You're the best.”

“Ugh, you're going to give me the sugar sickness,” Misty complained, wheeling herself out of the way. “How about you get all cuddly-cuddly later and we try to figure out who's behind this now?”

Bon Bon stepped forward, away from Lyra. “Right. We know they're organized, and they have access to information regular ponies don't, so they're rich, well-connected, or both. Who fits that and wants us dead?”

“Who didn't want us dead?” Misty snorted. “We stepped on a ton of tails.” She smiled wistfully. “Good times.”

Bon Bon gave her a flat look.

“Are we thinking vamponies?” Misty asked, pretending to get back on track.

“I doubt it. That'd be a lot of favors to cash in. I'm thinking crime ring.”

“The Golden Claw,” Misty suggested. “Went up to nobles. They were pretty upset when we shut down their Phoenix feather trading operation.”

“We burned their headquarters to the ground,” Bon Bon pointed out.

“Oh, yeah. One of the best fires we've ever set, I remember now. Made it look like a complete accident. Sparky even did that thing with the wires, fire marshal bought it completely. Uh… The Black Manes?”

“Minor sap dealers, no way they'd have the resources to unseal or obtain any of our records.”

“Point. Uh… The Hoof Clan?”

“Now you’re just insulting me,” Bon Bon scowled. “Two-bit mobsters at best. If the royal guard would actually get off their flanks, they’d be yesterday’s news.”

Misty tapped her hoof. “The Mangled Marks?” she suggested, clearly grasping for straws.

“Please. Those pill-pushing pansies?” Bon Bon scoffed. “On a good day they can't tell their manes from their tails.”

“I don't know any of these names,” Lyra whispered, looking back and forth between the two former agents.

Misty smiled wryly. “Oh. Right. Civvie. Uh…” She looked over and pointed at a different area. “There're some books over there you might like to read instead.”

Lyra walked over to the bookshelf, lit her horn, and pulled up the first book she found. She read the title aloud. “‘Resisting Torture’ by Mistress Clamps?”

“Ooh, that’s a good one,” Misty said. “Lots of good stuff on breathing exercises and concentration techniques when somepony’s plucking out your feathers.”



Bon Bon pointed to Lyra. Specifically, she pointed to Lyra's still-lit horn.

“Oh! Right. There’s a chapter on breaking magic restriction rings; could you read it and tell me if it works? I’ve been curious, but…” She gestured wryly at her bare forehead.

Lyra nodded shakily and opened the book. She wasn't sure what to expect, but found there to be plenty of pictures (did the mare really need to be wearing such a tight bridle to demonstrate those breathing techniques?) and the instructions were simple to follow. She nodded and focused her magic, practicing the simple starting technique. She went back over to the table to read, thankful for the distraction.

Bon Bon kept thinking aloud. “Maybe the threat is griffon?”

Misty nodded thoughtfully. “That's possible. Lots of splinter groups, do anything for anypony for enough bits. Ponies were sent after us, which could be because they're cheaper than other griffs. And it’s probably not minotaur because they usually work exclusively with goats.”

“So, griffons. They don’t usually do groups; mostly just long enough to get paid and screech for bits. We had three groups calling themselves the Talons of the West, remember that?”

“Yeah. Made it pretty interesting when we tried to track down their leader. Remember the ones at the warehouse?”

Bon Bon nodded. “You shanked him as he was walking by, remember that?”

“Oh, can’t forget,” Misty chuckled wistfully. “Tried to hide himself among the common gangsters. Silk vests are always a… dead giveaway.” She snickered at her own pun.

“That one vest cost more than I made in a year,” Bon Bon agreed. “Felt good seeing you do that, really.”

“Hey, girls?” Lyra interrupted.


Lyra raised a hoof and pointed at one of the dashboards, where a light was flashing urgently and something was rattling quietly, something that might have at one time been an alarm. “What does that little red light mean?”

Misty cursed under her breath and slid over to the board, confirming what she’d already suspected. She pulled a small lever, and Lyra recognized the sound of the blow dart launcher emerging. “It means we’ve got company. Something or somepony breached the outer door.”

“Vanilla Swirl?” Lyra looked up hopefully.

Everypony's ears pinned as a loud creaking sound wrenched through the air, almost as if the door were being forced open, and then a colossal clanging as it dropped to the ground.

“Probably not,” Misty said, hitting a button. They could hear the spring-loaded dart fly, and a pony choked out a breath as the dart found its target.

“Not a chance,” Bon Bon muttered, eyes glancing around for something. “She couldn’t have forced the door, didn’t give the password, and she would have known to duck.”

“And that’s far too many hoofsteps for one pony,” Misty murmured, sliding over back towards the dashboard. “I’ll see what else we’ve got.”

“Stay calm,” Bon Bon said, looking at Lyra. “We've got self defense-”

“Air cartridges are dead,” Misty warned, pushing a button repeatedly that seemed to have no effect.

Had self defense mechanisms,” Bon Bon corrected. She scowled. “Didn't you check those?”

“They are up in the ceiling!” Misty hissed, pointing upwards.

Bon Bon exhaled. “Plan F?”

“Plan F,” Misty said, drawing her dagger.

“What’s Plan F?” Lyra asked, her voice nearly a squeak.

“Hit them with sharp things until they stop moving,” Misty said brightly.

“Get back into the lounge and stay down,” Bon Bon warned Lyra. “This is going to be messy.”

“I can help,” Lyra protested weakly.

“Get. Back,” Bon Bon repeated.

Lyra nodded and headed further back. Darkness blanketed behind her as Misty turned off the lights. The front end of the hideout seemed to be all business, but back here it seemed to be more chill; the hard chairs gave way to couches, carpet, and even a pool table.

Her ears pricked up at the sound of conflict. Loud crashes and crunches and what sounded like bones breaking. She winced and scurried under the pool table. Maybe back here was just fine, after all.

The sounds of fighting continued, escalating to screams now, and Lyra buried her head in her hooves. This had not been on today’s plans! She didn’t want any part of this. How was this happening to her? All she’d wanted to do was-

Somepony came in, and Lyra held her breath.

“Lyra?” the stranger called.

“Misty?” Lyra poked her head out. “What’s happening-?”

Bon Bon tumbled in, blood splattered across her fur.

Lyra gasped and scrambled out from under the table. “Bon Bon?!”

“It's fine, it's not mine. Help me move this.” Bon Bon pointed at the pool table.

Lyra lit her horn and helped Bon Bon slide the table over as a barrier.

“There’s so many of them! What is this, a task force?” Misty asked.

“Nah, a task force has smoke grenades,” Bon Bon answered, picking up one of the cue sticks. “Misty? Why don’t we have smoke grenades?”

“We did.”

Bon Bon snapped the stick in two with her teeth and hefted the thicker side, casting a critical eye over the splintered edge. “Well, where are they?”

Misty paused. “I think the EBI requisitioned them after the shutdown.”

“The EBI doesn’t need smoke grenades!” Bon Bon hissed.

“Tell them that!”

“If my clearance still worked, I would!”

Lyra could tell that this wasn’t actual fighting; it was coping. They were scared. And that meant Lyra was scared, too. “Why aren’t they attacking?” she whispered.

“It’s not good, whatever it is,” Bon Bon said. “Hey, Lyra, levitate over part of that mirror, could you?”

Lyra looked around and spotted a broken mirror that looked like it had fallen off the wall a while ago. She lit her horn and pulled a shard over, and tilted it so they could see from their cover.

She didn’t like what she saw.

A tall stallion stood there on a table, standing above a small group of ponies decked out in black tactical uniforms. “Sweetie Drops!” he called.

“Who?” Bon Bon called back.

“Sweetie Drops,” the stallion repeated, his face curling in a bit of a snarl.

“Sorry, don't know her. She owe you money?”

“No; but she’s worth a lot to me dead or alive.”

“Oh, so you’re a bounty hunter,” Bon Bon returned.

“For the right price. And you're worth quite a lot, Sweetie Drops.”

“Aw, you sweet talker,” Bon Bon said, scuffing the edge of the broken pool cue with the edge of her hoof. “I bet you say that to all the mares.”

Bon Bon’s sarcasm prompted a little giggle from Lyra.

“I'm giving you a chance to surrender peacefully.”

Bon Bon gestured with her head, and Misty started wheeling herself backwards. She motioned for Lyra to follow before speaking again. “What, did my first response not give you an answer?”

“You're out of weapons and outnumbered. My client prefers you be alive, but you dead still gets us a pretty bit.”

Seeing that Misty and Lyra were out of the room, Bon Bon started scooting backwards as well. “Please. I could kill you with a teacup if I wanted to. Anything can be a weapon. Like this!”

She straightened up and rammed the pool cue into the pony who had jumped in a surprise attack. His own momentum and her quick motion doubled the force of the impact. She kicked him off, sliding his still wheezing body off the stick. The second pony took the blunt half upside his head, and stumbled to the ground. Bon Bon twirled the stick. “Is that all you got?”

“Get her!”

Bon Bon took a hop, skip, and a step backwards. The ponies rushed her…

And then a seafoam green bolt of magic hit the ceiling, and collapsed it. Rubble rained down, causing a major distraction.

Bon Bon took full advantage of this and whacked two more ponies with her cue stick before driving it into a third pony’s eye and running back to where the others were.

“Nice job, Lyra!” Misty cheered.

“Yeah. Nice shot. Start running!” Bon Bon shouted, running past them.

They chased after her, going deeper into the hideout, Lyra’s heart beating furiously.

Definitely not how she’d expected today to go.

Occupational Hazards

View Online

Lyra started running, trying to catch up to Bon Bon. Misty pumped her wheels, keeping up easily, showing that she had indeed trained her body even while wheelchair-bound.

They ran through the hideout, hearing the noises of the other ponies looking for them growing louder. As she ran, Lyra caught sight of a couple old, abandoned sandwiches on plates.

“Sorry about the mess. Never got the chance to clean up,” Misty said with a grin.

“Even now you’re cracking jokes,” Bon Bon grumbled as she kicked one back.

“Don’t you ever speak normally?” Misty retorted. “You're always groaning and grumbling. And complaining! Right, Lyra?”

Lyra panted, unable to answer.

Bon Bon shook her head and kept running.

A pony burst from the next hallway. Without even breaking stride, Bon Bon tackled him, and knocked him out with a quick blow to the head from her hoof before rolling up and continuing running.

The noises grew louder. Shouts started to solidify into recognizable words.

“They're flooding this place,” Misty warned.

“I know. We must have a ton of bits on our heads.” She grinned. “So maybe it’s not griffons after us, after all.”

“Whoever it is, this is the end of the line,” Misty said.

“Says you.”

Misty chuckled wryly. “Oh, shut up. I won't make it and we all know it. But there is one thing I could do.”

Bon Bon nearly stumbled. “You wouldn’t,” she gasped, her expression unsure for the first time.

“I would,” Misty insisted. “Go!”

Bon Bon hesitated.

“Go!” Misty repeated. “I’m not getting out of this alive! You and I both know I can’t make it up those stairs in time. Figure out who killed our team and make them pay! You can't do that if you're dead!”

Bon Bon nodded tightly, then turned to Lyra. “Come on,” she said, turning down another hallway.

“What?” Lyra skidded to a stop, looking at the two former agents going different ways.

“We're getting out of here.”

“But Misty-”

“We're leaving!” Bon Bon darted back, grabbed her foreleg, and dragged her away.

Lyra looked back to see Misty wheeling like a mad mare the opposite direction,

They went around through other rooms, tearing past destroyed chairs and tables and running over books and spread pages. Knowledge and history lost to time disappeared behind them. She could hear the other ponies looking for them, calling out.

“Bon Bon?”

“Stay down and keep running!”

Misty wheeled her way down the hallway. She knew her mission, and she would not fail. Lyra and Bon Bon depended on her.

Her wheelchair squeaked under the strain she was putting on it. She kept her ears pricked, knowing that this noise would inevitably give her away.

Sure enough, a mercenary poked his head in, followed by another. He gleefully reached for her, attempting to tackle her out of her chair.

In one move, she hit the brakes on her opposite side with one hoof, pulled the hidden blade out of her wheelchair with her other hoof, and eviscerated him, just barely dodging his falling body. The second pony looked back to call for backup, and she threw the blade. It embedded itself in her throat, making her drop instantly, choking on her own blood.

Thrilled at her success but now painfully aware that she was unarmed, Misty Evening continued down the hallway as quickly as she could.

Behind her, another paused. He saw the bodies and simply followed the trail.

It wasn’t long before he found her. The glint of her wheelchair shone out in the darkness. He smirked and started running after her.

Hearing him running behind her, Misty waited, and then quickly dug her right hoof into the wheel, sending her careening around a corner (and heating up her horseshoe something awful). But she was going somewhere special, and wasn't about to be stopped.

“Where are they?” the leader demanded. “She’s just one agent! The unicorn isn’t even on the list and the other is a cripple!” He cut off the nearest mercenary’s attempted explanation. “I don’t want apologies; I want results!” Determined to get those results (and the payoff) himself, he moved down the hallway, weapon raised. He raced through the underground base.

And then a flash of movement caught his eye. He turned and saw the wheelchair disappear. He smirked and gave chase. “Come back here!” he ordered.

Deciding to do the exact opposite of that, Misty pumped harder.

Misty was good at moving in her wheelchair, but she was no match for a trained hunter. He launched himself in the air and tackled her, sending wheelchair and former occupant spinning on the ground.

Down but not out, Misty army-crawled across the floor, dragging her mangled legs behind her by her elbows.

He stopped her by stomping on her tail, pinning it in place and making her cry out. Now that she was trapped, he dropped on her, forcing the air from her lungs. He smirked as he straddled her and leaned down, whispering in her ear. “Not so smart, are you? Where's Sweetie Drops?”

“Eat horseapples,” Misty Evening groaned, painfully stretching out her forelegs.

He was about to help ‘jog her memory’, but then he noticed that out of her hooves had rolled four long, thick white tubes. They looked oddly familiar.

Wait. He squinted. He did know what they were. Those were boron safety rods. Like the kind used to control magical generator reactions. They were pretty powerful; one medium-length rod could control a pretty massive generator. And while these weren't very big, she did have four of them, which meant…

A triumphant, devious smile crossed her face even as a look of horror crossed his.

He didn't even have time to scream before the chain reaction went critical.

An explosion rocked the whole casino, and especially the rusty metal staircase. Lyra shrieked and grabbed onto Bon Bon tightly as they swayed a good two meters to each side.

“Come on!” Bon Bon said, pulling Lyra along. “We’ve gotta get out of here!”

“But Misty…?”

“She’s dead,” Bon Bon said flatly. “Along with all the ponies that went down there.”

“What?” Lyra gasped.

“They went boom, Lyra!” Bon Bon shouted. “Occupational hazard of trying to kill an agent of SEMHA!”

Lyra nearly stumbled. “What do we do now?”

“Now, we keep moving. Keep running. We’re going new places.”

“Like what?”

“Places that we didn’t use as SEMHA. Somepony knew about this place, so I have to assume somepony knows everything. We can't go anywhere I know or talk with any of my contacts. We’re literally flying blind, Lyra. But I am not ending up dead, and neither are you. Come on.”

Lyra’s tail flicked nervously. She swallowed back tears as she quickly followed Bon Bon up the stairs. This was most definitely not how she’d expected today to go.

Crazy Train

View Online

Lyra nodded her thanks as the waitress slid her plate in front of her. She looked down at her food. Though she usually loved waffles, this plate looked somehow unappetizing. Her stomach was tied up in knots, and she couldn’t remember the last time she felt so stressed.

Bon Bon, in contrast, had no such reservations; she lifted her fork and tore into her eggs and toast. Crumbs flew from the corners of her mouth as she ate ravenously. A few minutes later, she looked up at Lyra and pointed with her fork, swallowing and asking, “You gonna finish that?”

Lyra shook her head and slid her plate over. Bon Bon dug her fork in and kept eating.

“How can you be hungry at a time like this?” Lyra wondered.

“Because, right now we have a nice window of opportunity,” Bon Bon said around a mouthful of waffle. “Currently, the pony (or member of some other species) who tried to kill me, probably thinks I'm dead. Since I'm not dead, I have a temporary advantage until they realize that I am not, in fact, dead. Therefore, I have time to center myself, and think about who is trying to kill me, and how they're going to strike next; before my opponent has the chance to come to grips with the fact that I am not dead, and thus create a new plan accordingly. So, eating now as a free action before they have a chance to strike again? Good idea.” She paused, and then winced as she realized that she was currently eating Lyra’s food. “Are you sure you don't want at least a quarter of the waffle?” she offered sheepishly.

Lyra took it and began eating it, the motions slow and mechanical. Strange and tasteless as it was, having a little bit of food seemed to help. If anything, it was a bit distracting.

Bon Bon tensed. That, too, was distracting. And unnerving. What did she see that Lyra didn’t?

Lyra got her answer in the shape of three ponies showing up. The first one, a stallion, leaned in. “Sweetie Drops?”

“Nope, sorry. She owe you money or something?” Bon Bon returned pleasantly.

“Funny. You’re coming with us. Don't even think about making a scene.”

“I don’t think so,” Bon Bon said smugly, with her voice still just barely over a whisper. “Not with this little tasty treat.” She slid the last pancake forward.

He raised an eyebrow. “A pancake?”

“Oh, this ain’t a pancake, sweetheart.” Bon Bon grinned. “Looks like one, but isn't. We in the business call this the Special Order. Touchy little piece of equipment. Keep it away from open flame, or-”

And then she suddenly reached up and slammed his face into the pancake. He cried out and stumbled backwards, now with butter in his eyes and syrup on his muzzle.

“And that’s for never paying foal support, you dirty cheater!” Bon Bon shouted, loud enough that everypony in the cafe turned to look. “Come on, Harpsy. We're leaving.” She abruptly stood up, grabbed Lyra’s hoof, and strode out, not looking back.

Lyra found herself dragged along, the other two ponies who had been menacing them now unsure of themselves. Most ponies were staring, now; any semblance of cover or secrecy was completely blown.

As soon as they were out the door and out of sight of the window, Bon Bon dropped her hoof. “Run,” she whispered, and took off.

Lyra needed no second invitation. She galloped along beside her, tearing down the street.

Bon Bon ran fast, but she also ran crazy. She ducked around ponies and turned sharply down different streets almost at random, backtracking, forcing Lyra to think fast to keep up.

Lyra knew that earth ponies typically had plenty of stamina, but this was ridiculous. Her throat burned and she was breathing hard; and Bon Bon didn’t even seem to be breaking a sweat.

Just when she thought she’d fall behind completely, Bon Bon pulled her over to a nearby alleyway and behind a dumpster. Lyra was panting, exhausted and feeling lightheaded; and Bon Bon was not. Bon Bon was confident, calm, in control; and so strong…

“Ok, I think we lost them,” Bon Bon murmured. “But don’t let your guard down too quickly.”

“More mercenaries?” Lyra panted.

“Nah. Those were dumb muscle. Whoever wants me dead is expanding the search. Hope you didn't mind that little hoof hold to get us out of there.”

Oh, no,” Lyra said quickly. “Didn't mind at all. But…”

“But?” Bon Bon prompted.

Lyra swallowed. “Who could be sending so many ponies after us?”

“Right now, I think it's a bunch of ponies after us,” Bon Bon admitted. “At first I thought it was just a hit, but now I think someone put a bounty out on me; and you’re probably on it now, too. Mercenaries, bounty hunters, desperate ponies in need of a bit; there’s probably a crooked Royal Guard or two in on this. We can’t trust anypony.”

“So what do we do?” Lyra asked fearfully.

“Heh. Only thing I know how to do.” Bon Bon smirked. “Adapt and survive.”

Lyra bit her lower lip. She'd been hoping for something candy-related; but survival wasn't too bad, either.

Lyra picked up her front left hoof out the small puddle of water. “Uh, Bon Bon?”

“Yes, Lyra?”

“What are we doing?”

“Waiting for the train to Westhoof,” Bon Bon answered.

“But…” Lyra dodged around a squealing little filly who was obviously focused more on chasing her friend than watching where she was going. “In the middle of a foals’ play area?”

“It's wide and flat enough that we'll see anypony who could be trying to sneak up on us. Besides, there're lots of foals, lots of parents, and lots of witnesses.” She smirked. “Worst place ever for a covert operation.”

Lyra chuckled uneasily. “I'm not quite used to this… paranoia.” That seemed the right word. And to think, this morning all she’d wanted to do was-

“It's called ‘staying alive’, Lyra; and don't you fret, it's my job to worry about that.” She checked her watch. “And now it's my job to get us to the station.” She turned and narrowed her eyes. “Stay close.”

Lyra nodded and followed Bon Bon through the water.

Thankfully, though Bon Bon’s ears were pricked the entire time, no other threats materialized; and soon they were on the train. Bon Bon assumed her previous position, back to the wall, ears pricked, eyes flicking back and forth. Her sunglasses had been lost under the casino, and though she looked relaxed, Lyra realized now just how alert and actively paying attention she actually was.

She tried to emulate Bon Bon, ears up and watching, but she realized just how poorly she was doing so when she jumped as another pony entered the car, pulling a carry-on bag with her. She sat down and didn't look at Bon Bon.

Bon Bon uncrossed her forelegs.

Another pony entered. He, too, didn't look at Bon Bon.

This scene repeated itself a few more times. Soon, there were five new ponies in the car. Lyra cracked a smile. “Popular car,” she said.

There was no response from anypony. She ducked her head.

Then Bon Bon spoke. “You know, we don't have to do this,” she said pleasantly. “Westhoof is lovely this time of year, I hear. You'd do just as well going and seeing the beaches. I would highly recommend it.”

Lyra squinted. Why would she-?

She got her answer when the nearest mare spun around and swung a golf club at Bon Bon. Bon Bon had already ducked, though, and drove a retaliatory hoof into her chest. She recoiled in pain, dropping the golf club; but before Bon Bon could do much else, the other occupants of the car swarmed her. One pony leapt off the bench in front of her to tackle her; but Bon Bon sidestepped and rolled out of the way, letting him slam against the ground. She couldn't hit him while he was down, though; she had another pony rearing up ready to slam her hooves into Bon Bon's unprotected stomach mid-roll. She lashed out with her hind hooves, nailing her attacker in the stomach instead. Rolling to her hooves, she kicked the golf club back up into her mouth and smashed it into the next nearest pony’s head.

Lyra stared, slackjawed. Bon Bon was amazing.

One pony slowly got up and decided to take a swing at Lyra, apparently for no other reason than that she was there (or maybe he was just that disoriented that he confused her seafoam fur with Bon Bon's cream fur). Lyra’s heart stopped. This was how she died! She never even got a chance to-

Thankfully, Bon Bon was there; she delivered a beautiful buck to his chin, snapping his head back and nearly flipping him completely. “Come on!” She grabbed Lyra's hoof and ran.

They tore through the train car behind them, knocking over every tray and plate and unfortunate pony in their way, leaving behind scattered choruses of “my word!” and “well, I never!”

Finally, they burst out of the rear door… and ran out of train. Lyra squealed and pressed herself back against the door.
Bon Bon peeked around her and looked through the window, then turned to Lyra. “Can you levitate yourself?”


“Can you levitate yourself?!”

“No?” Lyra squeaked.

Bon Bon scowled. She looked back into the train once more, and then seemingly made some mental calculations. She put the golf club in her mouth. “Get up.”


“On the roof of the car!” She ducked under Lyra's belly and lifted, making Lyra squeak in surprise before finally realizing what she wanted her to do. Her hooves scrabbled for grip against both Bon Bon’s back and the metal train car, but with the earth pony’s help, she finally managed to get herself up onto the roof. Her mane and tail blew in the wind. She grimaced as she attempted to remain steady on her hooves. She’d never been on top of a train before, and she wasn't sure she liked it. This really was an adventure.

She reached down to pull Bon Bon up, but she needn't have bothered; Bon Bon launched herself upwards, landing easily on her hooves. She spun around, taking the golf club out of her mouth and holding it at the ready.

And not a moment too soon; the door burst open and one of the ponies from inside burst out, looking wildly to the side, looking for Bon Bon.

Bon Bon reached down with the golf club and tapped him on the shoulder. He looked over just in time to take the return swing to the jaw. He stumbled and tripped, falling off the edge of the platform and hitting the ground with a sickening crunch.

Lyra flinched. Bon Bon didn’t even react, except to stay low in a defensive stance, ears pricked even as the wind blew at her mane and tail.

A second pony burst out of the doorway, and, not seeing Bon Bon, quickly spun around. Somehow, he managed to dodge her first swing, and catch the return. There was a quick tug of war, but Bon Bon also had to make sure she didn’t fall off the roof of the train car. She struggled valiantly, but it slipped from her grip.

“Ha!” he crowed, pulling it back to where it was comfortable in his hooves.

But Bon Bon had grabbed the decorative railing and swung down; and before the shout had completely left his mouth she had quite literally kicked him off the train with her rear hooves.

She pulled herself back up and gave Lyra a winning smile.

Lyra heard the pony’s pained grunts fading into the distance and didn’t know what to think anymore.

We Scream for Ice Cream

View Online

The train arrived in Westhoof on time, with two ponies on the roof of the last car and most of the passengers unaware of what had just transpired.

As the train slowed to a stop, Bon Bon jumped down from the roof and held up a hoof for Lyra to get herself down. Lyra eventually managed to get off.

As they hopped down onto the platform, a train worker approached. “May I see your tickets?” he asked, probably because he’d said it so many times that he wasn’t sure what else to say in this situation.

Lyra froze; but Bon Bon reached inside her mane and retrieved them. She held them out for inspection.

The inspector was forced to concede that the tickets were valid. Knowing something was up but unable to find anything technically wrong with this arrangement, and they certainly weren’t on the roof now, he exhaled through his teeth, gave them back, and walked off.

Lyra blinked. “I thought we were going to get arrested for sure!” she whispered.

“Better hope not,” Bon Bon murmured darkly, already moving purposefully through the station. “Like I said, there’s probably at least one crooked royal guard hunting us.”

Westhoof was not a particularly large city; it was probably similar in size to Ponyville. Like Ponyville, there were birds flying in the tallest trees, and squirrels climbing those trees paused to look. Bon Bon moved quickly but steadily, and Lyra followed along.

A little shop appeared, decorated with a beautiful white roof and larger than life sprinkles around the edge. The walls had on a pattern, making it look like an enormous waffle cone. Lyra cracked a small smile. This was cute.

Bon Bon didn’t seem to share her amusement, though. She approached slowly and pushed the door open.

It remained firmly shut.

“Shouldn’t that…?” Lyra started.

“Yep,” Bon Bon said grimly. As a business owner herself, her doors were never closed during the day. “Something’s wrong. We gotta get in there.”

Lyra looked around, as if expecting to see a key somewhere. “So how are we-?”

She got her answer when Bon Bon simply spun around and kicked the door in. Lyra gasped, but Bon Bon was already inside. Lyra took a furtive look around and quickly followed.

Something smelled off in here, but Lyra wasn’t sure what it was. Other than the strange smell, it was exactly like most shops in small towns, with the storefront on the first floor and the living area upstairs. Bon Bon headed straight there; but at the bottom stair, held up a foreleg and halted Lyra. Her eyes narrowed; but whatever she’d thought would happen, didn’t. She made a small motion that Lyra interpreted as ‘stay close and stay quiet’, and she did just that.

Nothing happened at the top of the stairs, either; but the smell seemed to get a bit more acrid. Bon Bon went first, ears pricked. Lyra followed closely.

She regretted this decision when Bon Bon pushed open the bathroom door. She inhaled sharply. “Lyra, don’t-”

But it was too late. Lyra had seen. She recoiled as if burned and slumped to the floor, burying her face in her hooves.

Bon Bon pulled the bathroom door shut and crouched next to her. She pulled her close, letting Lyra rest her head on her chest.

“She's dead,” Lyra whimpered, unable to banish the image from her mind no matter how hard she clenched her eyes. “She’s… she’s dead.”

“She is, Lyra,” Bon Bon said quietly, stroking her mane comfortingly. “But we can’t stay focused on that too long.”

“How could you say that?” Lyra sobbed.

“She was my friend!” Bon Bon snapped, steel entering her voice for the first time, shocking Lyra into stopping. “She saved my life more times than I can count, and I saved hers exactly twice. And if I couldn’t be here in time to save her, the least I can do is avenge her.”

Lyra blinked. Her heart pounded in her chest. Bon Bon seemed so… powerful.

Bon Bon stood up and looked around, apparently unaware of Lyra’s internal musings. “Now. Let’s see if the dead can help us.”

“How?” Lyra asked. “Do we look for clues, or…?”

“I was thinking more along the lines of supplies,” Bon Bon said, kneeling down to look under the bed. She pulled out a small knife, a book that could only have been a trashy romance paperback, and a dust bunny; all of which were quickly discarded. She grunted in defeat and stood up to look elsewhere.

“I thought they took all the good secret agent stuff when they shut SEMHA down?” Lyra asked.

Bon Bon slowly spun in a circle, eyes darting, looking around the room. “Yeah, they did. We who were there when SEMHA was disbanded couldn't take anything with us but our personal effects.” She shook her watch tellingly and then cracked a smile. “But Nilla was medically discharged two days before SEMHA was shuttered, so she would have brought her retirement package with her. Now, where would she hide it?”

Lyra got up. “What are we looking for?”

“Something out of place,” Bon Bon answered, rearing up and peeking inside the vent. “I’ll know it if I see it.”

The search in the bedroom proved futile, and the two mares headed back downstairs. Something smelled off down here, too; though it was definitely ‘off’ in a different way.

Bon Bon sniffed. “I know that smell,” she murmured, picking up one of the nearby dishcloths. She got it wet at the sink, and then draped it over her muzzle. “Lyra?” She pointed to the large freezer door. “Open that for me, could you? And stand back.”

Lyra stood back and lit her horn, pulling open the door to the ice cream freezer.

Vanilla Swirl must have been killed some time previously; the ice inside had long since melted. Giant tubs of ice cream had melted and then popped, leaking out their contents everywhere. Lyra recoiled, both from the sight and the smell.

Bon Bon strode right in, her makeshift mask apparently keeping most of the vile smells out. She kicked over a few tubs and looked in the very back.

Lyra, of course, watched from a very safe distance away.

Bon Bon searched for a while longer, and then found the only one that wasn’t leaking. She made a pleased grunt and popped the top off, and then reached inside.

The lack of ice cream mess might have had something to do with the fact that there wasn’t actually ice cream in that tub. Bon Bon pulled out a few manuals, a few grenades, a couple tubes, a rope with a hook on it, and a few other things Lyra didn’t recognize. Whatever they were, though, Bon Bon seemed to be very pleased with the discovery. At the bottom was a pair of saddlebags, and she pulled them out and quickly started loading them up.

And then Lyra froze as something cold tickled her throat. Bon Bon looked up and froze as well, her hooves still reaching the bottom of the tub.

“You’re faster than I was expecting,” the mare said pleasantly, as if she weren’t holding a blade to Lyra’s throat. “Not quite fast enough, though. Hooves where I can see them, please.”

Bon Bon grit her teeth, realizing they’d been caught again.

Lyra gulped. She was probably supposed to be keeping watch. “Sorry,” she whispered.

And then a devious, apologetic smile flickered across Bon Bon’s face. “Me, too.” As she stood up, she flung her hooves into the air; and as she did so, she lobbed something she had taken out of the barrel high into the air. It was oblong, and-

Wait. Why was Bon Bon crouching and covering her ears?

Lyra got her answer soon enough when the world exploded with a flash of blinding light and a colossal bang. Her ears rang, she was blinded, and she sank to the ground, covering her head.

Something grabbed Lyra’s hoof, and she screamed. At least, she thought she did; she couldn’t hear herself through the ringing in her ears. She forced open one eye and saw Bon Bon, shouting words that Lyra couldn’t hear. But her intention was perfectly clear; and once again, Lyra found herself half running, half being dragged behind her best friend.

Sailing Away

View Online

“Excuse me, darling.”

The shopkeeper looked over at the low, sultry voice. There stood an earth pony mare with a two-toned mane, eyes half-lidded, a coy smile on her face. Her tail flicked.

Lyra couldn't hear very well from how far away she was, but Bon Bon’s body language was clear; and when she came back, she was holding two pretzels when she had definitely only had the bits for one.

“You’re pretty good at that whole flirting thing,” Lyra said uncertainly.

Bon Bon grunted distractedly as she passed her friend a pretzel. “Top of my class,” she said nonchalantly. “Once I convinced a border patrol minotaur to look the other way as we moved a nest of cockatrices out of the way of a railroad just by giving him a peek at my goods.”

Lyra flushed slightly and kept her eyes on her pretzel. “Is that what they’re calling it these da-?”

“Literally,” Bon Bon growled, cutting her off. “My next option was going to be to knock him out, probably by garrote, because minotaurs have super thick skulls.”


Bon Bon put the pretzel in her mouth. In one move, she’d grabbed onto the setting knob on her watch and pulled it out, revealing that it was actually the tip of a long, thin wire. Before Lyra could even blink, Bon Bon was behind her, that wire now wrapped tightly around her neck.

“Squeeze, and down they go,” Bon Bon said pleasantly. “If they resist, you might end up slicing a few important arteries. So that’s not a wise course of action.”

Lyra made a panicked squeak. Bon Bon chuckled lightly and retracted the wire.

“How do you know so much about pony anatomy, anyway?” Lyra had to ask.

Bon Bon shrugged and took another bite of her pretzel. “Not all monsters are bugbears and timberwolves. Sometimes you're fighting revenants, impervious to pain until you slowly—and it's gotta be slowly—pull the enchanted nail from their neck. Sometimes it's ehowolves, and you're carrying silver blades and wearing spiked shoulder pads. Those work well against the -blixes, too. Vamponies. All pony-shaped and more dangerous than their monstrous counterparts.”

Lyra couldn't speak. “You know a lot,” she finally said.

“I do,” Bon Bon agreed.

They walked a bit longer.

Bon Bon sighed as she tossed the empty napkin into a trash can. “Sometimes I think I know too much,” she admitted. “We have a saying. She who fights with monsters must take care that she herself does not become the monster.”

“You’re not a monster,” Lyra said, wrapping her foreleg around Bon Bon’s shoulders. “You’re my best friend.”

Bon Bon exhaled. “Thanks,” she said, accepting the touch. “I’m sorry you’re in this mess, though.”

“Yeah,” Lyra said quietly, looking down at her half-eaten pretzel, “me too.”

There was a lengthy pause.

“Where are we going now?” Lyra finally asked. “It’s getting kinda late.”

“I had an idea. It’s… a risk, but it’s something crazy. Someplace nopony will think to look for us, so we should be safe,” Bon Bon answered. She looked up. “We’re going to Canterlot,” she explained.

“Oh, I lived in Canterlot,” Lyra said.

“I remember,” Bon Bon said. “Let’s get moving.”

“Wait. On hoof?” Lyra looked up. It wasn’t that far away, but that was a lot of walking.

“We’ll have to. I don’t know how many more train fights I have in me, I like room to maneuver. We can’t go by hot air balloon or take a taxi, too open from pegasi.” Bon Bon pursed her lips. “Let’s go find a crowd to get lost in.”

Lyra let out a shaky sigh of relief as the lake around Canterlot came into view. Bon Bon had taken main roads with plenty of traffic, but had backtracked and ducked into shops and paused to ‘window shop’ (really, looking at the reflections of ponies walking behind them) that their trip seemed to have doubled in length. She had definitely not imagined this happening when she walked into Bon Bon’s shop early this morning. The pretzel was long since gone, and her stomach was grumbling, and even Bon Bon looked like she was flagging slightly.

But Canterlot shone brightly in the setting sun, and there was a brief moment of peace. They’d finally made it to the lake entrance.

This moment quickly evaporated as Bon Bon pulled Lyra aside. “I'm not feeling so good about this bridge,” she murmured, jerking her head towards it. “Too many guards. We'll have to find another way across.”

Lyra nodded. Now that Bon Bon said it, she realized she was right; she'd been out here before when she was a student and had not seen this many royal guards at one time.

As Bon Bon tried haggling with the nearest boatkeeper for passage (an older mare that looked like she would not be falling for her seductive act), Lyra looked over the river, not really focusing on anything in particular. How had this all gone so wrong?

"Need help going across?"

Lyra looked over to see a younger colt, lounging on the side of the docks. Seaweed strands hung in his long mane, which he lifted out of the way with his hoof to see her better. He grinned. “It's cheap.”

Lyra smiled. “We'd kinda need ‘free’ at this point,” she admitted wryly.

“That's just fine!” He sat up. “I'm bored, anyway. Need something to do. Might as well help!”

Lyra turned to go get Bon Bon, excited that their luck had turned around.

She had already seen; and had decided that the best way to thank the colt for his kind offer was to launch herself at him. He stumbled under her attack, collapsing to his knees into a protective ball.

"Not today, kelpie!" she hissed.

"Bon Bon!” Lyra gasped. “What are you doing to that colt?"

"Colt, nothing. Lyra, say hello to the common kelpie."

"A seapony?" Lyra stammered.

Bon Bon chuckled mirthlessly as she spun and held him down. "Seaponies are friendly and like rivers and oceans and singing. Kelpies like lakes and drowning ponies in them." She emphasized this with a none-too-friendly cuff on his head.

"You know I'm a kelpie?" the colt grunted as he struggled to free himself. He seemed quite strong for his size; Bon Bon had to keep rapidly readjusting her weight to stay on top, spinning on top, constantly bumping his hips with hers to knock him off balance. "Then you know what happens when I touch the water?" He torqued his body and, now laying flat, reached out for the water.

But apparently, that was exactly what Bon Bon had wanted. Now that he was elongated, she could use her larger size and weight against him; he couldn't get the traction to push off the ground with enough strength to lift them both. Her hips pinned him down and then she reached for her watch.

The strand was out and taut across his neck in the blink of an eye. "And I also know what happens when silver breaks your skin," Bon Bon returned. "There's silver strands woven in this steel cable, and I know the iron in it won't feel too good, either. Keep struggling, I dare you."

Wisely, the kelpie decided to stop. He did seem to hum angrily, though, as if he were full of bees.

“You were right about one thing, though. We do need help across. And, lucky you, you’re going to help us.”

“As if!”

“Wrong answer.” She tightened her grip.

“Alright! I'll take you across!”

Bon Bon leaned back and tightened it further. “Safely,” she insisted. “Swear on your honor.”

“On me honor!”

“Full sentences, now.”

“I swear on me honor to see you safely to the other shore!” he choked.

This was enough for her; she got up and let the wire retract back into the body of the watch. “Well, then, let's get going!” she said brightly.

The trip across was fairly uneventful. The kelpie sulked in the back of the boat, nudging the rudder with an elbow as needed. Lyra shuffled uncomfortably as the boat gently rocked on its journey, and Bon Bon just kept watch, ears pricked.

Finally, the boat ran aground against the opposite shore. Lyra turned to give the kelpie a friendly smile, but his expression didn’t change. Uncomfortably, she climbed out of the boat and landed solidly on the sandy beach. Bon Bon hesitated briefly, then followed. Her hooves hit the sand.

There was a blur of motion behind her. Lyra didn't even have time to squeak before there came a sickening crunch. She looked behind her, and saw the young kelpie, laying on the ground, dazed, surrounded by the seaweed that had been quite literally knocked out of his mane, and with a very distinct red hoofprint mark, seemingly burned onto his face.

"Iron horseshoes," Bon Bon said with a smirk as she trotted forward. "Only ever get the best."

"Was he...?"

"Yep. Promised to see us safely to land, didn't say anything about not trying to drown us again after he did. Typical young kelpie stuff. Older ones know to word it better; the good ones can make it so that they technically only have to take you halfway across. You can guess what happens then."

Lyra looked over her shoulder and almost felt sorry for him.

And then he scowled, revealing murderous, sharpened teeth; and her sympathy quickly fled.

"Come on," Bon Bon murmured, eyes flicking around. "We're not out of danger yet."

"From him?" Lyra squeaked.

"From anypony."

And with that comforting thought, they made their way up the Canterlot streets.

Back on the other side of the bank, the kelpie sat by the edge of the water, irritably rubbing his face, which was still throbbing with a dull, achy pain. Stupid iron. Stupid ponies. Stupid everything.

What made it worse was his pride wouldn't let him tell anykelpie else that a pony had outsmarted him, so all he could do was simmer angrily and pretend the wetness by his eyes was seaspray. He was a good kelpie, really! He was a mighty defender of these waters. He was!

“Hey, you.”

He looked up.

A large pony stood there, looking down her nose at him. “I saw you with them. The cream earth pony and the green unicorn. You took them across the lake.”

The little colt brightened. "Oh, yeah! I remember them. Friends of your’n?”

“Something like that.”

He jumped off the deck and started trotting towards his boat. “I can take you across the lake. I only charge half what everypony else does, even if they're closed.”

Cold steel was suddenly pressed against his neck. “It'll be free, and you’ll tell me anything and everything you overheard them say.”

The colt nodded slowly. “Every word. On me honor,” he said.

La Maison de Fleur

View Online

The sun was setting over Canterlot when a small metal hook flew up, looped itself around the metal fire escape, and cinched itself tight. With a few subdued grunts of effort, a cream-colored earth pony pulled herself up and over the railing. After waiting a few moments, she pulled on the rope, hauling up a seafoam-green unicorn.

Once she was safely aboard, Bon Bon reached into her saddlebag, pulled out something that she stuck on the window, and then slid it open.

Lyra grimaced as she followed Bon Bon inside. “I really hope you’re good friends with this pony?” she started.

“We've crossed paths a few times, usually on good terms,” Bon Bon murmured. “She’s currently known as Fleur de Lis.”

Lyra squeaked. She knew that name! Everypony knew that name! “We broke into Fleur de Lis’s house?!”

“Yep,” Bon Bon said simply, fumbling for a light switch.

Lyra looked around. “Why would we do that?” she squeaked. “She’s a supermodel, she’s probably got all kinds of security-”

“Yes,” Bon Bon said, finding the switch. “But she’s also one of Canterlot’s-”

She found the light switch, and flicked it on. Lyra shrieked and tripped backwards, falling on her hindquarters, as she saw the pony in question standing not two paces in front of her.

“-resident vamponies,” Bon Bon finished coolly.

Now exposed, Fleur straightened up and inclined her head. “I see my fame precedes me,” she said in her gentle accent, wearing a playful but somewhat predatory smile on her lips. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”

“Infamy, more like,” Bon Bon corrected under her breath. She nodded tightly. “We need your help.”

“Help?” Fleur asked, arching an eyebrow. “The stories are true. You are a bold one.” A little smile perked up one side of her lips. “I’m listening.”

“We’re being chased and need a place to stay, at least for the night.”

Fleur's eyes widened dramatically. “Dear me, am I hearing this right? Is Sweetie Drops, famous agent of SEMHA, asking me for help?”

Lyra glanced over. Apparently, Bon Bon’s fame preceded her, too.

Bon Bon's eyes narrowed and she scowled at nothing in particular. “Yes,” she hissed through gritted teeth.

Fleur’s eyes widened briefly, but her expression quickly returned neutral. “This is a fascinating turn of events,” she murmured.

Lyra's eyes flicked back and forth, not liking this dynamic at all.

A little smile poked at her lips. “You'll owe me a favor,” Fleur said pleasantly.

Bon Bon nodded tightly. “I’m well aware,” she replied.

There was a brief pause.

Fleur brightened and smiled, though Lyra noticed she didn't show her teeth. “Well, then, welcome to La Maison de Fleur! If you're to be my guests tonight, I suppose it would only be right to feed you.” Fleur trotted over to the kitchen. “How does a light salad sound?”

Lyra's stomach growled at the mention of food, even if she was a bit confused. “You can eat?” she asked. “I thought… I mean…”

Fleur chuckled as she lit her horn, pulling over plates and utensils. “Vamponies do eat, you know.” She gestured with her metal fork. “Please, take a seat.” She turned back to the kitchen. “Like ponies, our bodies need nutrients and proteins other than what blood can provide. I’m especially fond of hay fries, but I can never eat them in public.” She tossed her mane and lifted her muzzle high. “My image, you know.”

“But she is lactose intolerant,” Bon Bon whispered as she clambered onto the barstool. “All vamponies are.”

Lyra grimaced, and her tail flicked uncomfortably. That did sound unpleasant. She found her eyes drawn to Fleur's hindquarters, knowing some of the effects (and remembering that awful sleepover where Lemon Hearts had forgotten her pills; nopony had slept well that night and Lemon had almost become Twilight's unwilling test subject for flatus-containing corks).

To her horror, Fleur noticed her looking. She looked back over her shoulder and posed elegantly, wearing that little smile (which did not reveal her teeth) she was known for. Lyra smiled back shakily, not wanting to anger her by either looking away or staring too closely.

Fleur posed again, tall and elegant, looking over her other shoulder coyly.

And then she changed poses once more.

Lyra blushed and quickly averted her eyes. This really was a nice bar, probably marble. And tails were not supposed to be carried that high in public!

Fleur chuckled lightly behind her as she kept chopping. Lyra looked around, admiring the kitchen. As she kept looking, she noticed that all the tools on the wall and on the counters were metal, none were wooden. She found herself remembering some of the novels she’d read and wondered how many of those ‘weaknesses’ were real.

Apparently, Fleur de Lis had been a chef in a previous life; it wasn’t long before Fleur slid a plate in front of them. It was a lovely salad, with fresh tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, and for a dressing-

“Is that garlic?” Lyra asked, her previous thought process derailing.

“Lemon garlic,” Fleur nodded.

“Miss de Lis is one of our older vamponies,” Bon Bon explained as she doused her salad in the dressing. “Garlic doesn’t really affect her anymore. It’s mostly the new ones just getting used to their new, ultra-sensitive sense of smell that it works on.” With a small smirk, she reached into her saddlebag, and pulled out a small foil packet.

Fleur’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly as she tore it open. “Still as pragmatic as ever, I see.”

Bon Bon shrugged as she emptied the entire packet of crushed red pepper onto her salad. “Well, since the last mark on your file is you draining a SEMHA agent nearly into a coma, you'll excuse me if I don't let my guard down completely.”

It was almost like she was taunting her. Lyra didn’t think this was wise, especially since they were here asking for help.

But Fleur de Lis seemed unoffended. She tutted and shook her head. “If you’d read my file, you’d know I’ve been a good little vampony, aside from that little incident. I haven't fed to death in over a century. Besides, that was years ago.” Fleur sighed dramatically. “Then again, I suppose it's only fair,” she conceded, twirling her fork. “Though in my defense, he did find it necessary to attempt to take a picture under my tail, and without permission, at that. I just found myself so… riled.”

Bon Bon snorted. Lyra had to concede that she wouldn’t like somepony looking under her tail without permission, either. But there was-

Her ears tinged red and she quickly shoveled a bite of salad into her mouth. Her eyes brightened. It was delicious.

Fleur chuckled demurely. “Good, isn't it, little one?”

Lyra nodded.

Bon Bon offered Lyra another packet of red pepper, but Lyra, not being a fan of spicy, shook her head. Bon Bon pursed her lips, but didn't push it.

“And I certainly don't go around hunting like I used to. I’ve only been with one partner for the last few years. I make sure to take… good care of him.”

Lyra blushed at those implications.

Fleur noticed and laughed at this, a true laugh this time. “Oh, my precious unicorn, vamponies aren’t that much different than normal ponies, aside from our stunning good looks and our longevity. We enjoy the more…” She sighed deeply. “-carnal pleasures of life, too.”

“What she does is she’s learned to control her desire to feed,” Bon Bon corrected quietly. “Keeps her fed and off the SEMHA radar. It’s a win-win.”

“Just a little bit of blood at a time,” Fleur confirmed as she lifted another forkful of salad. “Fancy Pants doesn’t even notice. It makes it so much sweeter every time I do.”

Lyra looked down. She quickly decided she would not like to be on the receiving end of that.

Their salads soon were finished, so Fleur stood up and began washing the dishes. Lyra and Bon Bon retired to the sitting room, and Bon Bon checked on her equipment saddlebags. Her lips pursed. Apparently, she didn't like what she saw.

“Running low?” Lyra asked.

Bon Bon shrugged. “Yes and no,” she said. “Plenty of salt, couple more pepper packets, couple firesticks, a few silver blades, a flashbang, and a dragon whistler; but not a lot else against normal ponies or anything else who isn't silver sensitive, and I still don't know who or what is chasing us.”

Lyra looked up. “Maybe we could bring Fleur as a bodyguard,” she joked.

Fleur looked back at Lyra, cracking a smile. “Tempting; but I have prior commitments. Fancy Pants is hosting a dinner party I simply must attend tomorrow, and I can't have… blood on my hooves.” She smiled at her pun. “You understand.” And she ran her tongue along the front of her teeth, revealing-

“Ha!” Lyra pointed. “You do have fangs!”

In the blink of an eye, Fleur darted over to stand not even a pace in front of Lyra. She was fast, faster than she appeared. She smiled widely, teeth apart, showing them off. They glinted in the light. “Of course,” she said softly. “Tiny, and sharp. And very effective. Nopony even feels a thing.”

Lyra leaned back in an attempt to put some distance between them, but found herself up against the coffee table.

The fact that Fleur licked her lips didn’t put her at ease. “I do love unicorns. I find their blood especially delectable. And you, little one… you smell wonderful. I don’t suppose you’d be interested in a… generous donation?”

Bon Bon stepped in front of Lyra, going nose to nose with Fleur. “No deal,” she growled.

Fleur exhaled. “Spoilsport,” she said, pushing out her lower lip to extreme proportions and pouting.

“She’s gonna bite you instead!” Lyra whispered.

“She knows the capsaicin in my bloodstream will make my blood unpalatable,” Bon Bon whispered back.

Fleur pursed her lips. “Oh, Special Agent Sweetie Drops, where is your legendary trust of us poor monsters?”

“There's only one unicorn here I trust, Fleur, and it's not you, miss ‘I-don't-go-around-hunting’.”

Fleur chuckled lightly and turned around. “Very well. Since my house is yours tonight, I'll make up the guest room.” She audibly smiled. “And feel free to shower.” Her voice grew slightly strained; apparently her sense of smell was still plenty sensitive. “Please.”

Bon Bon showered first. Lyra found herself wishing the shower were large enough for two ponies.

Especially since Bon Bon wouldn't leave Lyra alone until she had given her the remaining flashbang grenade, showed her how to use it, and instructed her in no uncertain terms to pull the pin the instant Fleur did anything sketchy.

Thus it was that the two unicorns sat in the living room, Fleur in a chair and Lyra on the couch, with Lyra holding a grenade awkwardly on her lap.

Lyra gestured weakly at it. “I'm… sorry about all this,” she said.

Fleur shook her head. “Don't be. Sweetie Drops may have a rock's sense of humor, and be about as approachable as a cactus; but she's honorable, and nothing if not fair. Everypony knows that.” She smiled again. “Besides, she’s right. All things considered, I am a dangerous predator.” She lowered her head and looked up through hooded eyes, and let a small smile flicker across her lips.

Lyra nodded hesitantly. It was scary, but at the same time a bit of a thrill.

Fleur smiled comfortingly. “New world, isn't it, little one?”

Lyra bit her lower lip. “Well…”

Fleur nodded. “It was like that for me, first discovering my new abilities and weaknesses—waking up so thirsty I thought I would die, crying in pain from the awful smells in the pantry, walking outside in the middle of the night—realizing that there was a whole new world that I had no idea existed that was hiding in plain sight. Realizing that vamponies are not the only monsters that are real. Realizing there are ponies who train to hunt us, hurt us.” She cracked a wry smile. “Realizing the guardspony I had always hated in the market was actually an ehowolf.” She sighed wistfully. “Ah, good times.”

Lyra considered this, wondering how much of what those novels said was actually real. “So, do vamponies and ehowolves, uh, really not like each other?”

Fleur shrugged. “We are both magical creatures, and our magic happens to be incompatible. The effect is almost, poisonous, I think is the right word. We bite them, it takes forever to heal; they scratch us, it takes forever to heal. Have you ever seen an ehowolf bite? It is not pretty. Our relationship is mostly ‘you stay on your side, and we'll stay on ours’.” She looked off and pursed her lips. “Though I have never met an ehowolf who isn't a complete brute, make of that what you will.”

Lyra’s undying curiosity got the better of her. “So if you were to fight an ehowolf, would you win?”

Fleur smiled, revealing her teeth once more. “Like that is even a question, little one. But one good scratch on my face is all it would take to reduce me from a full frontal model to a flank-and-socks model, and, well, you see what a tragedy that would be.” She lifted her head up, posing again.

She certainly was a pretty pony, Lyra had to admit. “Have you always been a model?”

Fleur snorted, her eyes narrowing. “I was a scullery maid, banished to the kitchens because the mistress of the house did not like the way I caught the eye of the master of the house.” She snorted. “Miserable old bat. I drained her dry.”

Lyra shuddered.

Thankfully, Bon Bon chose this moment to enter, still wearing a towel on her mane. “So, glad to see you’ve both survived.”

Fleur blinked demurely.

Bon Bon rolled her eyes and motioned Lyra to the bathroom.

In the bathroom, Lyra whistled. She had never seen so many beauty products, and had no idea what half these bottles were, and of the ones she did recognize, there were so many duplicates or slight scent changes. Heavenly Citrus as opposed to Tropical Citrus; Strawberry, Melon, and Strawberry Melon, Strawberry Kiwi, Strawberry Banana; actually, whoever the strawberry salespony was, he was certainly good at his job.

She glanced up in the mirror, having sensed a change. Was the lighting a bit off? She squinted at the mirror, trying to see if she could figure out what was wrong. She couldn’t, and looked down at the shampoo bottle again. But something was still niggling at her, something wasn’t right.

Just as she was about to chalk it up to Bon Bon’s paranoia rubbing off on her, she looked over and gasped.

Fleur was standing beside her. She was not showing up in the mirror!

“Try the lavender, little one,” she whispered, slowly backing out of the bathroom. “It's my favorite.”

Lyra closed the door in front of her and reached for the strawberry kiwi scent instead.

Lyra sighed as she trotted back to the room. She was freshly bathed, her mane and coat were clean, and she felt wonderful. “I want to keep this towel,” she purred. “So soft.”

“Yeah, she can buy good stuff,” Bon Bon said, tossing one of the blankets over the couch. “Little perk of being alive for a century and a half. Which is why most vamponies deal in favors and promises, not bits. You can have the bed.” She trotted over and slid a nearby dresser against the door as a barricade; then overturned a table (Lyra suddenly noticed that it had been cleared of all its contents) over the window, blocking it. Anypony trying to come in would have to break the window above the table, cutting themselves; or probably knocking over the table in the process of trying to open it. Efficient.
Lyra squinted as something occurred to her. “Bon Bon?”

Bon Bon spread a trail of salt in a semicircle around the window. “I'm not leaving you in a room alone tonight, and I’m not sleeping without a little security.” She climbed onto the couch, flipped her pillow over to get to the cool side (Lyra could see that she had a knife hidden underneath it), and then suddenly realized just how much control she’d taken of the situation. She winced. “Hope you're not too, uh, uncomfortable with me here,” she offered hesitantly.

“No, I… no, not at all.” Lyra climbed into bed. She sighed in exultation and her eyes drifted shut. “Oh, this is nice.” Her eyes opened. “Uh, I mean…”

“You’re fine,” Bon Bon said with a smile. “I chose the couch and it’s plenty comfortable, too.”

“Thanks,” Lyra said quietly. “Good night, Bon Bon.”

“Good night, Lyra.”

Vampony Attack!

View Online

Lyra awoke early the next morning to the smell of something frying. Her eyes slowly drifted open.

The first thing she noticed was that Bon Bon was already up. She had apparently decided to make the most of her morning already; she was doing sit-ups. Many sit-ups. Without stopping. Lyra couldn’t help but watch the muscles ripple under her best friend’s fur. Her tongue subconsciously slipped out.

Suddenly, there came a knock on the door. Lyra jumped. Bon Bon looked over and grinned. “Good morning, Lyra.”

Lyra quickly wiped her face, hoping desperately Bon Bon hadn’t noticed her staring. Hopefully she thought the knock had startled her awake. “Yeah, g- good morning.”

Bon Bon trotted over to the door, slid the dresser back, and opened the door. “Morning, Fleur.”

“Good morning!” Fleur returned cheerfully. She held up a plate with her magic. “I made breakfast!”

Bon Bon nodded. “Thanks.” She looked over. “Lyra, you ready to get up?”

Lyra nodded, too. She suddenly realized she was pretty hungry. There had been a lot of running yesterday that she had not been planning on doing, and her body was starting to notice—and complain.

As they walked over to the kitchen, Bon Bon paused, up against the corner of the wall looking into the living room. “These windows are really open,” she said, a hint of suspicion in her voice.

“I know!” Fleur said cheerfully. “It is such a lovely morning.”

“No, ‘it burns’?” Lyra asked curiously.

“Again, older vampony,” Bon Bon said, glaring suspiciously at the window. “She's gotten used to the light.”

“True; though I do appreciate it when sunglasses come back in fashion every few decades,” Fleur said, dishing out a couple plates. “Please, have a seat.”

Breakfast was delicious, and Lyra quickly found herself adding more to her plate. She was now convinced that Fleur had graduated up from scullery maid very quickly.

Maybe it had happened after she'd killed that mare? Nothing would be holding her back then.

Now more than slightly uncomfortable with that train of thought, she looked down at her breakfast and picked up another bite.

Fleur tittered. “Sweetie Drops, it is not like it is going to run away,” she said.

Lyra glanced over to see Bon Bon eating quickly again, just like she had at the diner.

Bon Bon grunted noncommittally and shoveled another bite into her mouth.

“And so fast, it is almost like you are not enjoying it,” she pouted, her lower lip jutting out cutely.

Bon Bon rolled her eyes. “Well, if you're fishing for a compliment, then...” But her voice trailed off. With her fork halfway to her mouth, her ears pricked, and then she suddenly launched herself at Lyra, tackling her. “Get down!”

Before Lyra could articulate a response to being so thrown, and even before she hit the ground, an explosion rocked the house. Fleur cried out in pain and hit the ground, her own silverware flying and clattering to the ground a split second later.
Bon Bon lay still. So still. Lyra couldn't move beneath her. Her heart was seized by a cold grip. Was she…?

Two ponies entered. “I think we got her,” the first one said.

The second one nudged Fleur with the top of his hoof. “We got Fleur de Lis, too. That won't bite us in the flank,” he said sarcastically.

“Collateral damage,” the first said dismissively. “That's why we used the silver grenade, remember?” He turned to Bon Bon. “We got the one we were paid to. She's one model. She won't be missed.”

Bon Bon snorted, as if amused. But before anything further than weapons could be leveled, a new voice broke in.

“Now, to that, I do take offense.”

They looked over and at the same time, Bon Bon lashed out with her hind legs, and both jumped from the dual threat of a ‘dead’ pony come back to life and a very angry Fleur de Lis behind him.

One managed to avoid Bon Bon's kick, but the first was not as lucky. Fleur de Lis punched him. Her strength was much greater than that of the average pony; her impact very nearly caved in his skull and he dropped, dead before he hit the ground.

Bon Bon was on her hooves and swinging. She hit the second pony hard enough to knock a couple weapons loose, and at least two knives hit the floor. Not even bothering to try and fight back against the two mares, he tore out the door and disappeared down the hall.

Lyra looked at Bon Bon, and then at Fleur. “Are you ok?” she asked.

“I'm good,” Bon Bon scowled, wiping brusquely at the blood trickling down her face.

“Older vampony,” Fleur groaned through gritted teeth, borrowing Bon Bon's phrase. “Silver burns like a fire, but a cold bath and a little time, and I shall be fine.” She straightened up and took a few calming breaths, slowing her breathing down from the frenzied panting. Now that the immediate danger had passed, Fleur looked down. She grimaced and glanced up at Bon Bon. “Oopsie?” she tried.

Bon Bon exhaled and massaged her face with her hoof. “Let me see your hoof,” she sighed.

Lyra watched in apprehensive fascination as Bon Bon examined Fleur’s hoof, and then the apartment. She looked around, looking critically at everything in her apartment from the chair legs to the pepper grinder, and finally settled on the bottom of the leg of the small side table. “You were startled, grabbed the first thing you could with magic, and threw this table at him. It just happened to hit him just right, he didn't move again. That’s all you know-”

“And I was so frightened that it is all a blur; and I’m so sorry, officer, but that’s all I can remember, I couldn't even say how many there were,” Fleur finished dolefully. Apparently, this hadn't been her first time telling a story like this. She sighed and lifted the table with her magic, unceremoniously dumping its contents all over the floor, letting them smash to help sell the illusion. She winced. “If SEMHA were still active, I would ask compensation for those perfumes.”

Bon Bon smirked. “If SEMHA were still active, I wouldn’t be here—and I wouldn't owe you a favor. Lyra, I think it’s time we left before the royal guard shows up.”

Fleur nodded. “I'll start washing the dishes,” she said. “‘Nervous habit’, you know.”

It would also hide how many ponies had been there. Lyra slowly nodded and followed Bon Bon out.

“But if you ever want to visit again, you are welcome to,” Fleur called. “Especially your unicorn friend!”

“Go choke on a toothpick!”

A Long Time Coming

View Online

“Where are we going now?” Lyra asked.

“Away,” Bon Bon said cryptically, looking through the map.

Lyra glanced around the convenience store. “Where is away?” she asked.

“I don't know,” Bon Bon whispered. “I'm really running out of options here.”

This didn't sound like her. Lyra stepped beside her, pressing their shoulders together. “Bon Bon, are you doing alright?”

“Not really. I'm scared, ok?” Bon Bon hissed. “I don't know where we're going, I don't know who's chasing us, I don't know how they keep finding us, I don't know how they knew Fleur is a vampony, I don't know where they got a silver grenade, and this all seems like a really bad dream that I can't wake up from. And I feel even worse that I dragged my best friend into this mess! I-” Her voice trailed off. “I didn't want this,” she said quietly. “This, stuff like this, is why I never told you or anypony about my past as an agent. I didn't want it coming up again. I'd thought this was all behind me.”

“It's ok,” Lyra said comfortingly. “I trust you. You haven't lead us wrong yet.”

Bon Bon took a breath. “Thanks. I needed to hear that.” She exhaled slowly and put the map back. “You really are my best friend,” she said. “And I think I have an idea.”

Lyra followed behind her. And as long as things were being said… Lyra swallowed. She had to. “Bon Bon, I…”

“Wait.” Bon Bon had spotted something. She looked around, and then trotted over to a nearby post. “No way,” she whispered.

Lyra read over her shoulder. Her eyes widened. “Agent reactivation?”

Bon Bon looked around and pressed her hoof against the seal. “True orders from the princess glow with her cutie mark if you touch it and channel a little magic into it,” she explained.

“Because only she knows the spell?”

“Because only she has enough magical ability to weave it so it doesn't bleed magic everywhere and decay over time.”

This sounded vaguely familiar to Lyra from her school days. “What does this mean?”

“It means whoever is chasing me knows me really, really well.” Her voice grew tighter as no such glow appeared. “It also means it's time to run.” She turned to do so and as she did, Lyra squeaked as a dart embedded itself into the wooden post, missing Bon Bon by inches.

Bon Bon grabbed her hoof. “Run!” she cried.

They tore down the street, Bon Bon ahead once again. Lyra panted as she ran.

And then Bon Bon slowed down. Lyra squeaked in surprise as Bon Bon grabbed her tail and yanked her to a stop. A pony came from out of nowhere, just narrowly missing her.

Bon Bon gasped, and her eyes narrowed. “I know this guy,” she said through gritted teeth. “He’s an ehowolf. Run!”

Lyra needed no second invitation. She turned and ran.

Bon Bon hated the idea of splitting up. Monster hunting was always more efficient with at least two sets of eyes. Furthermore, ponies had historically begun as a prey species, and there was definitely strength in numbers.

But she hated the idea of Lyra seeing what was about to happen even more.

Especially since this had been a long time coming.

She circled as he did, being very careful to not cross herself up. “Hey, Twinkle.”

“It's Roan,” he corrected angrily.

“I'm sure,” Bon Bon said airily. “You know, I vaguely remember telling you that if our paths ever crossed again, I'd kill you.”

“Brave words from somepony all alone, Special Agent Sweetie Drops.” He sneered her title, as if implying she didn't deserve it.

Bon Bon smirked. “Looks like you're alone, too, Twinkle. What, your third-grade class not running with you anymore? Realizing what a terrible ‘alpha wolf’ you were?” Her voice grew harder. “Not down with watching one of their friends be eaten because he wanted out of your little ‘pack’?”

He smiled, not rising to the bait. “It's a wolf thing. You wouldn't understand. That green mare, she a friend of yours?”

Best friend. And you're lucky you missed; if you'd touched her at all, your death would've been nice and slow. I would have stuck you in a box and marinated you in wolfsbane.”

Twinkle growled, his mask cracking ever so slightly.

“Ooh, wolfy.” She slid her saddlebags onto the ground and rolled her neck out. “Show me what you've got.”

He growled and pawed at the ground. Bon Bon reared up in her own challenge.

Twinkle charged, mouth open in an angry snarl.

At the last second, Bon Bon grabbed the strap of Nilla’s saddlebag and swung it like a throwing hammer. Her timing was impeccable, and the heavy bag slammed into the side of his head. The impact knocked him off kilter, but his momentum still carried him forward, allowing Bon Bon to twist and deliver a sharp jab to his exposed ribs.

Twinkle cried out in pain. He stumbled, regained his footing, and circled, this time suspiciously.

Never breaking eye contact, Bon Bon reached down, flipped the bag open, and retrieved a silver knife. She flipped it around her hoof and grinned.

Twinkle snarled. He charged forward, and Bon Bon turned and ran, scooping up her saddlebags and fleeing. He barked a laugh and ran harder.

Bon Bon fled into in alleyway, tucked between two buildings—and out of sight of the public eye.

In any fight, the longer it went on, the more likely it was that you would make a mistake. Mistakes got you killed. Therefore, your best bet was ending the fight before you had a chance to make any.

Or, alternatively, let your opponent make the mistakes first, then capitalize on them.

And sometimes, you had to help cause those mistakes.

Twinkle blindly rounded the corner to the left and ran shoulder-first into the dumpster that Bon Bon had shoved into the path. Jarred from the sudden impact, he stumbled to the side, and Bon Bon jumped from her hiding place on the right of the alley. She slammed the butt of the knife into the side of his head, rocking him back and leaving a red mark on the side of his cheek.

And then she flipped it around and drove it into his chest.

The silver worked instantly. He stiffened and choked out his last breath.

“Awoo,” Bon Bon whispered, a quiet mockery of an ehowolf howl. She twisted the knife one last time, watching the light fade from his eyes, then pulled it out and kicked his body away. It fell behind the dumpster.

She looked around, scanning. She knew Twinkle—and where he usually preyed. She'd bet her cutie mark he hadn't come here al-

There! A small group of foals, staring wide-eyed at her, hiding in the back of the alleyway. She took the tiniest step forward, and three of them ran. The smallest pressed himself against the wall, as if trying to hide or maybe force himself through the brick. Or maybe he was hoping he was blending in, but his periwinkle blue coat stood out against the rusty red bricks behind him.

Bon Bon neared and crouched down a respectful distance away, so as to not spook him. “Kinda freaky, isn’t it?” she started, her voice low. “This whole hidden world that most ponies don't know about.”

The colt nodded, trying to gauge how much of a threat she was to him, and clearly still trying to comprehend how this mare could go from deadly to friendly so quickly.

“How’d you get mixed up in this?”

He stammered an answer. “He said… he said I was, uh…”

“-destined for greatness?” Bon Bon supplied.

He nodded.

“But you needed to give up your equinity in order to reach your full potential?”

He nodded again.

“And did he tell you about alphas and obedience?”

He nodded again, clearly a little surprised that she knew about all of that.

Bon Bon nodded regretfully. “That's flawed research. That's not how timberwolves or ehowolves are supposed to work, and believe me, most ehowolves don’t think that way. Your pack is supposed to be like a family. But if it makes a difference, you're not the first one he's spun that lie to. There isn't a way to undo your bite, but you can balance your wolf half and pony half. There's a group that meets Wednesday nights in the Canterlot library, in the basement. It's during Bingo night, so don't let that stop you. Find the pony wearing a scarf with bones on it, tell them ‘I’m a new pup who came to bark at the moon’. They'll teach you everything from how to control your transformation so it doesn’t hurt as bad to how to help treat wolfsbane injuries.” She cracked a wry smile. “But don't worry. They make it sound like it's a terrible thing, but I've never actually seen an ehowolf step in it.” She looked over her shoulder and saw a pony looking at her and quickly look away. She gave the colt a weak grin. “Aaand I gotta go. Bye!” And with that, Bon Bon ran out of the alleyway. She lowered her shoulder as she rounded the corner. “Excuse me!” she said, knocking over the pony’s coffee into his chest. She really hoped he'd actually been hunting her, otherwise that would have been pretty awkward.

She darted down the street, scanning desperately for Lyra. She could hear hoofsteps behind her getting faster; she was being chased again.