Operation Crimson

by Stereo_Sub

Chapter 1: Chapter 1: The Night Shift

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The sun gently tickled its way through the last of the puffy, peach-colored clouds, basking the verdant field in a perfect golden nova of warmth and serenity. Nurse Redheart sighed contentedly as she felt the rays caress her white coat, counting the creamy floating cottonballs as they made their slow, plodding way across the azure canvas of the heavens. She lay in the meadow, eyes shut, letting the wind softly rustle its way through her unkempt pink mane. She was tranquil, relaxed, perfectly attuned to the eddies and flows of nature. She was calm. She was untroubled. She was-


“Paging Nurse Redheart, you are needed on Floor Two. Repeat, Nurse Redheart, you are needed on Floor Two,” a voice chirped from above.

Redheart groaned softly at the P.A. announcement, head held between her hooves. This was the fourth time she had been called off her break in as many days, and the nurse wasn't sure how much more she'd be able to take. Those precious thirty minutes had been the only thing keeping her sane over the past few weeks, and now even they were about to be snapped away. She forced herself to her hooves and stretched, savoring what would most likely be the last peaceful moment of her day. The announcement came again, in that same relentlessly cheery tone:

“Nurse Redheart, you are needed on Floor Two-”

“Oh hush, I’m coming,” Redheart grumbled to no one in particular as she grabbed her nurse’s hat and saddlebags off a nearby table. Easy to be cheerful when your job is to sit behind a desk all day. She shot one last, longing glance at the comfortable, overstuffed chairs of the break room. What I wouldn’t give for another ten minutes... she shook her head. No point in moping, Redheart. With a sigh, she turned, opened the door, and stepped out into the hive of activity that was Ponyville General’s main ward.

Redheart hurried through the hustle and bustle of the hospital, hoping fervently she would only be needed for a minor task or two. I wonder if I’ll have time for another cup of coffee... yeah, coffee sounds great right about now. A big mugful, with cream and sugar and maybe a shot of chocolate or-

“Afternoon, Redheart.”

The nurse pony started. Preoccupied with her dreams of caffeinated bliss, she had managed to walk all the way up the stairs to the second floor without noticing. She shook her head briefly, and responded, “Oh! ‘noon, Caduceus. You needed me?”

Doctor Caduceus was the lead medical practitioner at PVG. A slate-gray stallion with a pale blue mane, he was generally softspoken, but projected an aura of confidence about him that said more than words ever could. His cutie mark matched his namesake, a winged rod with two ribbons intertwined around it.

Caduceus chuckled. “Forgive me for interrupting what I’m sure was a wonderful daydream, but yes. I do need you. As you know, Nurses Tenderheart and Belle Blossom are currently away on administrative business, and Nurse Vanilla is busy managing the upper floor. That leaves just you and me to take care of this ward, and I’m needed down in R&D,” he said, motioning to the cart he had been pushing, which was filled with vials of a fluorescent blue liquid. “I sincerely apologize for this, but I’m going to need you to take double rounds for the rest of the night shift.”

Redheart’s jaw dropped. “Double rounds?! Doctor, I’ve been putting in overtime hours this entire week! I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in even longer than that. I’ve been called off my break to get a patient another glass of water, for Celestia’s sake! And now, after I come to work four hours early, you expect me to pull the entire night by myself? Honestly, if I wasn’t doing this for the good of ponykind, I’d-”

“Redheart.” Caduceus spoke softly, but his voice carried a hint of steel underneath it. “Please. You know that if there was any alternative I would have already taken it. I am aware that this is an extraordinary amount of work to impose upon anypony. I am also aware of, and appreciate, your contributions to the smooth operation of Ponyville General. I know this seems unfair. But I am asking, no, I am imploring you to please consider the well-being of the ponies in this ward. If you don’t look after them, who will? It is hospital policy to always provide a caring and friendly environment for our patients, and how will we do that if there is nopony around to care?”

“But I-...” Redheart sighed, her brief irritation fading. “No, you’re right. I’m sorry, doctor. I shouldn’t have snapped at you. I guess the stress is getting to me more than I realize.”

“Perfectly understandable,” Caduceus said with a smile. “Now then, you go get another cup of coffee, and I’ll get these samples down to the lab before Cura starts flipping tables. Again.”

Redheart grinned at that. R&D Head Pony Radi Cura was known for two things: her extremely sharp mind and equally vicious temper. She had been known to destroy expensive lab equipment for giving her results she disliked, among various other acts of terror. Caduceus was the only pony who could calm her down, and even then it was usually temporary. “Oh, and be sure to double-check the locks on the windows before you shut the place down for the night. We don’t want any drafts now that winter’s setting in.”

“Will do, Doctor. See you tomorrow?”

“Bright and early, as usual.” Caduceus winked at her before trotting off towards R&D, leaving Redheart standing in the middle of the ward. She sighed quietly to herself, feeling the weight of the night’s responsibilities settle on her shoulders. Better get started on the rounds, she thought, then remembered what Caduceus had told her.

But first, some coffee. I’m gonna need it.

It was going to be a long shift.


Redheart stumbled back into the break room, utterly exhausted. It had been a long shift. Between caring for the patients, filling out ward paperwork, and remembering to lock all of the hospital’s many windows, it was a wonder she was awake at all. Ludicrous amounts of coffee had helped, but even caffeine, that wonder drug, could only do so much. Her eyes were dark and rimmed with deep circles, and her mane had come undone from its tight bun at some point, leaving it a frizzy pink mess. The nurse pony could care less. Right now, the only thing she was interested in was sleep. Flicking off the lights to the room with her tail, Redheart navigated over to her favorite overstuffed couch and curled up on it, letting her weariness overcome her.

Ahhh. This is... amazing, she thought dreamily. I hope the Doc doesn’t get mad at me for crashing here again. He better not, since this whole load of horseapples was his idea in the first place. That reminds me. Did I lock that top window near the ward entrance? Whatever. I’ll get it... in the morning...

Two minutes later, she was sound asleep.


Redheart awoke with a start. Something had jolted her out of the incredible dream she had been having, and she was annoyed, to say the least. She glanced around irritation, eager to get back to sleep. I swear, if that Screwball mare is loose again...

Redheart froze, her ears pricking up. She could hear the low murmur of voices. They sounded close.

Who the hay would be here at this hour?

Redheart slung her nurse’s saddlebags over her torso and got up from the couch, all thoughts of sleep forgotten. She pressed her ear against the crack in the door, straining to hear what the voices were saying.

“The Boss said it would be here.” The first voice Redheart heard was low, with a heavy Appleloosa drawl.

“He meant at this hospital, not right here. Idiot.” This next voice was smooth, with a hint of a Manehatten accent.

“Well, how the hell is we ‘sposed to find it then?” Redheart began to suspect the owner of Voice One was not the ripest apple in the bunch.

“I dunno, maybe look for something science-y. A lab or something.” The third voice sounded odd, with an accent she couldn’t quite place.

“Finally, somepony doing the thinking that isn’t me. Didn’t we pass somethin’ that looked like a lab a little while ago?” said Voice Two.

“Uh, yep, but it had a big damn metal door on it, in case ya’ll didn’t notice. Ain’t no way we’re gettin’ in there, not without some kinda bomb.”

Voice Two chuckled evilly. “Don’t you worry about that. We’ll get in all right. No hunk of metal’s gonna stop me from getting my hands on those samples.”

Redheart suppressed a gasp. Thieves! She had heard tales of skullduggery between rival hospitals before, but she never would have dreamed of it happening in Ponyville!

“Now, just let me get that spell seal-”

That was all the incentive Redheart needed. She pulled her ear away from the door, then turned, dropped low, and bucked it with all her might.


She jumped out into the darkened hallway, the sound of the door still ringing in her ears. In front of her were three young-looking stallions, barely more than colts. All three of their cutie marks looked like they had been branded over, replaced with an odd-looking symbol: A circle with three lines intersecting it, and a smaller one rising perpendicular to the center. Redheart frowned. What kind of hospital has cutie mark brandings?

“Well lookie here,” said the stallion standing closest.He was a dark blue earth pony, and was looking at her with a contemptuous smirk. “Little Ms. Nurse Mare thinks she can just jump in and spoil our fun.” Redheart realized this was Voice Two. That oily Manehatten undertone was unmistakable.

“I don’t take kindly to my fun being spoiled. Do I, boys?” The other two stallions sniggered. She replied, keeping her voice even.

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Visiting hours end at six o’clock every day. You’re free to come back tomorrow if there’s anything you need.”

Two’s smirk got wider. “Oh, but I don’t think we’re quite ready to leave just yet, are we? Not without what we came here for.”

“I’m asking you to leave again, politely. If you refuse to comply, I will be forced to contact the necessary authorities,” said Redheart, still keeping her easy tone.

Two’s eyes narrowed and his smirk disappeared. He took a threatening step forward, his muzzle nearly touching hers.

“Now look, you little bitch. Here’s what’s going to happen,” Two spat. His voice had lost all of the oiliness it had had previously, leaving only anger in its place. “You go crawl back to wherever the hell you came from, and stay there ‘till we leave, and I won’t have Stab here cut your hooves off and feed ‘em to you.” He motioned to the pony behind him, a brown unicorn who was levitating a wicked-looking serrated knife. Redheart guessed he was the third voice she had heard from behind the door.

“So, whaddaya say? We got a deal?”

Redheart sighed, then shifted her weight onto her hindquarters, letting her left forehoof hover just above the floor. She kept her eyes locked on Two, daring him to blink.

“Please don’t make me do this. I would really prefer not to hurt you.”

The stallion burst out laughing. “You? Hurt US? You’re a bucking NURSE, for ‘Tia’s sake! I bet you couldn’t kill a parasprite if it was biting up your-”

Redheart’s hoof had come out of nowhere, flickering out like a hydra’s tongue. Two reeled back in shock and pain, clutching his jaw. When looked up, there was pure hatred in his tear-filled eyes.

“Kill. Her. Make it slow.”

Stab smiled menacingly, spinning the knife back and forth in the air. He was flanked by a very large rust-colored earth pony who looked just as murderous. The larger pony laughed.

“Heh heh heh. You got it, boss. Nice an’ slow.”

Yup, that was Voice One all right, ‘Ploosa drawl and all.

Redheart dropped lower to the ground, distributing her weight on every hoof but her front left. The motion alone caused her two would-be killers to falter, unsure if she was about to make a move. She grinned inwardly. Amateurs. If these colts had been real hit-ponies, she would have been dead before her first sentence.

“Listen,” she said, still keeping her tone even. “There are fourteen ways to combat a unicorn assailant wielding an edged weapon from this stance. Five of them will knock you unconscious, three will severely injure you, four others will ensure you never use your horn again, and the remaining two will kill you instantly. All of them involve me confiscating said weapon and using it against you, and all of them are extremely painful. Now, I am going to ask you to leave one more time. If you refuse, I will assume no responsibility for your subsequent injuries. Fatal or otherwise.

Stab hesitated for a moment, his knife floating lower in the air. There was a long, tense silence. After what seemed like an eternity, he dropped his gaze and shuffled backwards towards the other two stallions.

Redheart nodded, apparently satisfied. “Good. I’m glad we came to an agreement without any unnecessary bloodshed. Now if you would all make your way to that door over there-”

Stab charged.

Redheart had been anticipating it. She felt old instincts flooding back into her, skills she had hoped to never use again. With the blood humming in her ears, she rolled low, dodging the first swing of the knife.

Stab swung again, the cruel edge of the blade landing right where her heart would have been a millisecond earlier. His third slash nearly connected with her head, and would have lopped it clean off if she hadn’t ducked, nipped the knife neatly from the air with her teeth, and thrown it.

Stab had about a half a second to react before the knife’s handle met his skull with a sickening THUNK. He fell limp, knocked unconscious.

One down, two to go, Redheart thought, before turning to see Voice Two, now fully recovered, poised to buck her in the face. She jumped to the side, letting his hooves meet empty air. Two stumbled, swearing. Redheart didn’t give him a chance to recover, hitting him a hard buck of her own. He gasped as the wind was knocked out of him and fell to the floor, wheezing and clutching his chest. Before Redheart could deliver the knockout blow, however, she was sent flying across the hallway by a huge, rust-colored hoof.


The nurse pony smacked against a row of hospital carts, her body shooting with pain and spots bursting in her eyes. Voice One, stupid as he was, apparently had a hell of a foreleg.

Ow. All right, new strategy: don’t ignore the big dumb one.

Redheart got shakily to her hooves, blinking the spots away. The bigger pony was closing fast, and she wasn’t sure she would be able to take another hit like that.

Voice One reached her, smiling evilly.

She blocked his first blow with her forelegs, feeling the impact vibrate through her entire body. It hurt. A lot. I need to end this fast. Her opponent apparently had the same idea. He roared, rearing up for a skull-shattering front buck.

“I’ll crush you!”

That was the opening Redheart had been waiting for. She hopped close, landing neatly in front of Voice One’s vulnerable chest, and struck out hard with her left hoof.


The giant pony fell backwards, moaning faintly. Redheart had jabbed him three times in rapid succession, each strike targeting the soft tissue between his ribs. She had missed once, judging by the sound of that last hit, and the shock had knocked him out. Redheart wasn’t too concerned. Ribs fixed themselves eventually. Skulls didn’t.

A wheeze from the floor behind her interrupted her thoughts, and she remembered that one member of the ill-fated thieving party was still conscious.

Redheart grabbed the knife off the limp form of Stab and tucked it into her saddlebags. No point in giving her captive a potential weapon. She then walked over to the still-winded Voice Two and straddled him, keeping one hoof raised. Redheart had no qualms about injuring her would-be killer, but she needed answers.

“I’m going to ask you some questions now. If you don’t answer, correctly, the first time, I’ll hit you where it hurts. Understand?”

Two smirked despite his perilous situation. “Oh, I understand all right. You straddlin’ me like that. Never woulda thought you would be the type-”


“GAAAH!” Two screamed, rolling over and clutching between his hind legs. He continued the display for several minutes, finally segueing into the occasional whimper. When he had sufficiently recovered, Redheart continued her interrogation.

“Let’s try that again. Do. You. Understand?”


“Good. Now, first question. Who sent you?”

“I don’t know his name. Never seen him, either. Always talks through one of his middlemares. Hay, most of the time we don’t even get to see them. Letter shows up, we do the job. We come back, there’s a bag fulla bits sitting inside our door. No idea how he knows, but he does.”

Redheart frowned. Speaking through intermediaries, withholding information, and using uncertainty and fear as tools. Classic mob tactics. This might not have been a hospital raid after all. “Sounds like your boss knows what he’s doing. But that doesn’t change the question. I need an identifier. A nickname, a callsign. Something.

“Uh... wait. I remember. One of his middlemares called him somethin’ once when she thought we weren’t listening. It was some kinda gem, I think. Opal? No, it was... Garnet! Yeah, that’s it. Garnet! Can you let me go now?”

Redheart ignored his plea and continued. “Garnet. Got it. Next question. What samples were you after, and why did Garnet want them?”

“We didn’t get too much info on them, either. The letter said they’d be green, in a cart, and somewhere in this hospital. That’s all I know. Honest. As for what the boss wanted with ‘em, hell, your guess is as good as mine. I’m just hired muscle. They tell me what I need to know for the job, and that’s it.”

Redheart nodded. She had been expecting as much. “Okay. Last question. How would I contact one of Garnet’s middlemares?”

“You don’t. If the boss wants something, they’ll come to you. If he doesn’t, and you’re smart, you’ll stay as far away from him as possible. Trust me. He does bad things to ponies who start stickin’ their noses where they don’t belong.”

“I’m pretty sure you’ve realized by now that I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. You are going to tell me how to get in contact with Garnet, or I will break something vital.”

Two considered this for several moments before replying. “All right, tell ya what. You let me up, and I’ll try an’ set you up with a job. It’ll be somethin’ low level, probably just carrying a message or some... supplies. Easy stuff. I’m warning you, though. Once you’re in, you’re not gettin’ out. Deal?”

The nurse pony thought about it. I hate doing this, but it might be the only way to find out what the hay’s going on. Besides, I can always hit him and ditch him if he gets to be too much trouble. “Deal. But if you pull anything stupid, I’ll knock you out faster than you can blink.”

“Sure, whatever. Can you let me up now?”

Redheart stepped away. Two got to his hooves slowly, flexing and stretching his aching back and chest.

“Damn, I hurt. Where’d a mare like you get a hoof like that, anyway?”

“Shut up and walk.”

“What about my boys? We just gonna leave ‘em there?” He gestured over to the two unconscious stallions.

Crud, forgot about them. Celestia, I am out of practice. “Good point. Grab that tubing over there and tie them up.”

Two grudgingly complied, not wanting anything else fractured, broken, or otherwise damaged. Meanwhile, Redheart looked around, trying to find anything she could use to write a note. There. An old lab report sheet, with a pen. Perfect. Grabbing the tool in her mouth, she quickly started scribbling a message to Caduceus. She had no doubt he would be furious with her for leaving like this (of course, Caduceus’ “furious” was any other pony’s “mildly irritated”), but Redheart figured he would at least want to know what had happened. Nothing too specific, though. No point in making him worry. She was already doing enough of that for the both of them.

A couple minutes later, Stab and the giant earth pony were trussed up tighter than a hay bale on stacking day. Redheart finished her note, signing with her usual initial. She placed it on top of the two unconscious ponies and stepped back to admire her handiwork.

Attempted break-in last night. 3 stallions, possible mob affiliates. Two of them here, one escaped. Nothing stolen. Don’t worry, I’m fine. Taking next week off for mental recovery.
Tell Vanilla she can have my coffee stash.

It wasn’t entirely a lie, just stretching the truth a bit. It probably wouldn’t fool Caduceus, either, but at least she had made an effort. Redheart was sure that the doctor would be able to deal with two immobile, unarmed colts. Hay, he would probably clean them up and heal them before they were carted off to Canterlot Correctional.

Well, that was it, then. Time to go out and single-hoofedly infiltrate what was probably a gigantic criminal empire. Nothing to it, Redheart.

“All right,” she said, turning to Two. “Let’s get moving.”

He rolled his eyes. “Just so ya know, I still think you’re dumber than a turnip sack to be messin’ with the boss like this.”

“Considering I’ve met turnip sacks smarter than you, I take that as a complement.”

“Oh, and she’s a comedian, too! You’re a real interestin’ mare, ya know that, sugar?”

“Shut up and walk.”

Next Chapter: Chapter 2: "Easy Stuff" Estimated time remaining: 1 Hour, 15 Minutes
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