Gun With Occasional Pony Chapter 6
In Which a Conman is Consulted, a Watson is Wanted, and a Trip is Taken.
The FiM District was certainly... something.
It was much like the /co/mpound, only less crowded. It had originally taken shape as a refuge during the ban wars, except back then it had been a massive, opulent city, built from rebellion and inhabited by the lost. However, since the end of the wars the population had slowly diminished, leaving many buildings empty and boarded up. Most large contributors had secondary offices in the better districts. The only others who cared to stay were the stubborn kind. The kind that said, if the mods didn't want them, screw that; they could make their own way. It was slow but, to a hoofull of ponies, it was home.
Unlike the /co/mpound there were few Anons running around, most every pony had a name and a story, but I only wanted to hear one of them.
The district bordered the /co/ast before pouring into the /b/ay and, eventually, the outer OC. It was a mostly respectable, if empty, area in all places but one; Fic Lane, which was itself located on a small street near Arttown. Through here nearly every fapfic, crack slash and lesbian-soaked piece of literature to ever be put to paper passed at one point or another. I tried to avoid it when I could these days. I'd had an office down here a long time ago, back when I was in the business and the business was good. Then again, I'd had offices in lots of places back then.
In this place, the secrete whispers that were once held in the shadows had turned into big business. It thrived and lit up the skyline. Even after the author's death I could still see Raging semi's house of fapfics in the distance. The tacky-green neon glowed like the lights in a terminal ward, as if to say 'Don't go here for, once you do, there's no going back.'
But let's hold up on that thought; if I keep this up, I might go and say something profound.
My hooves made an odd clicking noise as I walked down the street. A few ponies milling about turned their heads in my direction, but no one said hello. I could sense that something had changed here. They knew the old man wasn't coming back home and they knew something bad was going down. Hell, they probably knew more than I did.
I looked around trying to get my bearings. He had to be here somewhere, I just knew it, he hardly strayed far from this part of town. I walked through the streets, turning down various offers from unsavory-looking pegasi. I could see a couple respectable businesses had lasted since things turned. Their owners looked out at me hopefully and I would have loved nothing more than to stop and look around, but I couldn't for two reasons: One, I was on a mission and, Two, I didn't have any money.
I finally came across the blue earth pony standing in an alley. He was talking to green unicorn with a pink mane about something or other. Making a deal, I'm sure.
I walked over. "Hello, Pacce."
The unicorn took one look at me, and ran. I like to think it was because I looked threatening, but from the looks of him he would've run from damn near anything that wasn't his drug of choice.
Pacce quickly hid whatever he was doing and turned to me with a salespony-kind of smile. 'Squeakers!" he said plasticly. "Haven't seen you around these parts in a while. How's life treating you?"
Pacce was a strange one. He was perfectly normal by most standards, except he had a magical mustache taped to the end of his snout. If you looked away and looked back it would always be something different. At the moment he was sporting a handlebar.
Pacce had carved out a niche in the Fim District as the guy who could get things. If you wanted it, he had it. Magical items? Easy. Black market episodes? Child's play. Naughty fics? Hell, he got 10% off everything coming and going through this sector of town. He'd somehow managed to attain mod status in this part of the OC, which was no small feat.There were various rumors surrounding how he'd gained the position. Knowing him, there was no telling if they were true or not. Having such power made him even better at getting things. It was rumored he'd had an editor's eyes on sale once. Some said that, with those, you could see the world in a whole new way.
But right now I liked my view fine. The thing I needed was information.
"I'm well, Pacce." I said. "But I must say I'm not here on vacation."
"Are you sure?" he asked raising an eyebrow. "The weather is lovely this time of year."
"No Pacce, I'm here on business."
That got his attention. "Oh, so you need something." His salespony's smile grew wider. "Well I thought I'd never see the day. What is it you want? I've got a sweet deal on socks. They're the hot thing right now, very hard to find in stoc-"
"I need information, Pacce." I cut him off.
"Oh, well that changes things," he said with mock graveness. "With information, it depends."
"Depends on what?" I asked, though I knew full well what the answer was.
His smile returned in full force "What's in it for me?"
I clicked my tongue. "You see, that's the interesting part..." I said, taking a few strides past him into the alley. "...because I have it on good authority that telling me what I want to know could help you out."
"And how's that, Squeaks?"
"Well..." I said, looking back. His mustache was now a pair of mutton chops, hold the gravy. "...the evidence so far suggests that somepony in the OC is taking out fapfic authors and ship writers. I believe that puts you in danger, doesn't it?"
"What are you talking about?" he asked, affronted. "I've never touched the stuff in my life!" A filly could have told me he was lying through his teeth.
"Oh, is that right?" I pressed, adjusting my hat a little. "Well, if I know my history and I think I do you were pretty active in the ship writer's community a while back."
"I have no idea what you're talking about. The only fic I ever wrote was 'Junior Speedsters Forever'. To critical acclaim, I might add," he bragged while puffing out his chest.
"Oh, you think so, do you?" I asked, looking him dead in the eyes.
"Well, what about those Lyra and Bon-Bon fics?" I asked, pressing forwards.
"Oh, those weren't all that bad."
"Even the part with th-"
"A moment's relapse!" He interrupted. "A one time thing."
I raised an eyebrow and drew closer. "What about that one with Gilda and Dash?"
"A drunk pony's musing, that's all it is!"
I pressed my nose against his. "The 'Equestrians in Undergarments' scandal!?"
"T-that was hardly a ship fic."
"You had Rainbow Dash stealing panties!" I yelled.
"Well..." His eyes darted around wildly. "It's not like anyone read it!"
I pushed forwards a bit more, knocking him off his hooves. "It was during the friend-off," I growled through clenched teeth ."It took them days to put out the fires from the riot."
He started sweating at the memory. "Well...I can hardly be blamed for the actions of others!"
"You were selling torches in the street!!"
"Fine..." He sighed. "I admit it, some might consider me a writer of...less than appropriate literature if you look at it that way... But I'm a businesspony, Squeaks! I simply go where the money is!"
"Yeah," I scoffed, "I suppose you do, don't you?" I backed off. "But since you admit it, that puts you in the line of fire. Will you help me?"
"Squeaks, you're twisting my arm here!" he whined. "I can't part with this kind of valuable information for nothing!"
"I haven't even told you what it is I wanted to ask about!"
"Well, yeah..." That smile snaked its way back onto his face. "...but apparently, you want the answer really badly. That, my friend, makes it valuable."
I scowled at him. I'd thought as much. Ever the 'Businesspony', he couldn't part with anything without compensation, even if his own neck was on the line. I didn't want to do it, but I reached into Maxie's Saddlebag, and pulled out a request tab. I'd hoped to save them for when I was in a pinch, but it looked like I didn't have any other choice.
I set it on the ground, holding it down with a hoof. I wanted to make sure it stayed there 'till I got the information I wanted.
Pacce's eyes glittered in the darkness when he saw it. I could hear him drooling as he whispered, "Is that..."
"It is." I finished. "Good for one drawing from Maxie. Imagine it Pacce; you could get anything you want... within limits of course. Perhaps a picture of Gilda? I know how much you like her..."
The blue pony licked his lips. He stared down at the tab under my hoof hungrily, I could see his brain already working on what he could get with it. "Well, Squeak, you drive a hard bargain," he lied, "but I believe I can help you. What'dya need?"
Now I was on the right track. "I need you to look at this." I took the letter out from the Saddlebag's side pocket and held it up. "There's a symbol at the bottom. I need to know where it's from." I said quietly.
He leaned in close, his mustache now a curlly-cue, and squinted at the paper. "Hmmm, I haven't seen this around these parts since the last ban war,"
"So you recognize it?" I asked.
He nodded. "Oh definitely, most definitely... What you have there is a piece of paper from across the water."
I considered this for a moment. "You mean towards the Outer OC?"
Pacce nodded again, stealing a glance at the request tab as he spoke. "Ponychan Plains, to be precises. Not just anywhere either. This paper's from one place in particular."
This was looking promising. "And where's that?"
Pacce was practically trying to will the tab out from under my hoof with his mind at this point. He stared, fixated on it.
"Pacce!" I yelled. "Concentrate! You'll get this, as soon as you tell me where the paper is from." I tapped my hoof for emphasis.
He snapped out of it at that. "Okay, I'll tell you this, but you're lucky I don't charge you extra." That smile of his split his face, almost reaching his ears. The kind of smile that tells you the person behind it sees you as a very large wallet that needs emptying. "It's from the S.F building."
The name rung a bell. "The S.F Building?"
"If you don't know, then that information will cost you more. Now, I believe it's time you pay the piper, Squeaks."
I grunted. "Fine." I took my hoof of the tab. It was gone faster than my eyes could track. Pacce smiled wider than ever. "Thank you. Happy to do business as always."
I turned to leave. "I bet you are," I called over my shoulder. "Don't spend it all in one place."
At that, I walked out of the alley. I could hear Pacce's maniacal laughter fading away. There was no doubt in my mind that he was off to Maxie's office to cash in that tab. I smiled; despite his smarmy nature, the two were actually good friends. It'd probably never crossed his mind that he probably didn't even need the tab. He could have just asked.
But then, that's not how a salespony thinks.
I walked until, trying to find a cab to hail. They were a rarity on this side of the OC, but eventually I found one, a blue and rainbow-colored number. I handed the cabbie exact change, as always, and made my way back home.
So, Ponychan Plains. That's what Pacce had told me. That meant that this case was bigger than I'd realized. The Plains were a settlement near the Outer OC that had formed across from the /B/ay as a result of the ban wars being particularly heavy on that side. It was the opposite of the Fim District in that, after the wars had ended, the ponies stayed. It was one of the more populated areas of the OC, as well as one of the strangest. The /Co/mpound had formed from the ideas of the anonymous, who eventually came up with names or identities depending on what they did. Ponychan Plains had formed from those who'd been born with names, the kind of ponies who didn't often have trades or jobs and were instead there for the sake of being there. Depending on who you asked, it was either the most loving place in The OC, or a madhouse of insanity and hugging. As for me? The jury was still out on that one.
The cab came to a stop at the front of my building. I hadn't been back in so long it looked like a five star hotel to my tired eyes. I climbed wearily up the steps and trudged my way to my office. I needed to collect my thoughts.
I was surprised to find a pony with a beard and a brown robe waiting on the steps.
"Squek!" he yelled, rushing over. "I've been waiting on you for hours. Where have you been. What's the point in being a detective if you're not even going to keep to your own hours, huh!?"
I sighed; I didn't have time for this.
It was C.J., short for Commander Jesus. He was the local crazy pony. Every town has one I'm sure, that guy who gets drunk a lot and starts shouting about how Gummy is a secret agent for Beelzebub. In anycase, this wasn't the first time this had happened and I'm sorry to say he was one of my best customers. Just last week he had hired me to find out who was plotting to steal his teeth. I'd told him it was one of the pigeons who hung out near the park. He'd stopped sleeping there, payed me, and moved on. Don't ask me where he got the money, but a pony's gotta eat.
"What is it C.J.?" I asked. All I really wanted to do was sleep at this point, but I decided to humor him, if only for a few minutes. I figured I might even get some money for my trouble.
"Squek!" he yelled again. C.J never got my name right. "There's something goin' down man. Some real bad shit. You feel me?"
"Yes, I feel you," I replied flatly. "What's going 'down'?"
"Somethin' big man, somethin' real big. I can feel it in my whiskers." He pointed to his matted beard, his eyes shifting wildly. "They're in on it, they're all in on it. They ain't got no choice, you see?!"
I rubbed a hoof against my face, trying to stifle a yawn. "Who, C.J., who's in on it?"
"They are!" he screamed. "They all are, every stinking one of them! I knew it! I just knew it! I knew they would betray us! I've heard the whispers... So many whispers!!!"
I needed him to get to the point. "What have the whispers been saying?"
"They hide in plain sight, Squek, they hide in plain sight! They take them, and they fall! We'll fall! We'll all fall!!"
I took a step back, wary of his crazier-than-normal ravings. For him to seem crazy in relation to his regular crackpot-routine was no small feat. "Who are 'they'!?" I asked in growing exasperation and anxiety.
"The ones you never notice, the ones outside the spotlight. Notice, Squek! Notice!" He flailed around for a moment before rushing off down the stairs screaming about the 'The one who eats cake.'
I stared after him for a while, trying to work out what he'd meant. I'd heard his inane ramblings more times than I cared to admit, but this time seemed different. He seemed more irate, more afraid. I had a strange feeling it was related to the case. Things seemed to be getting worse, and now the Plains were involved. I needed to get to the bottom of this.
I looked forlornly at my office door. There was a bed in there, and it was beckoning to me like a misspelled word to an editor. Hell, at the moment I'd have taken a couch, but I had a feeling in my gut, a feeling that I needed to get this case solved fast. There was no time to be sleeping on the job now.
It broke my heart to turn away from my office, head back down the stairs and call a cab. I knew where I needed to go, and I knew that if whatever was causing all this was to be found there, it would be dangerous.
I needed to take a trip to the Plains, and for that I'd need a ticket. But first, I needed someone to watch my back.
I headed back out on to the streets, and caught a cab to Sly's place.