Haunted Wasteland

by forbloodysummer

Chapter 1: S

Load Full Story Next Chapter

Fluttershy is missing! She was last seen at her cottage, being visited by a siren-turned-pony named Sonata Dusk, who showed up in Ponyville a few months ago, and the place hasn’t quite been the same since. Fluttershy isn’t the most confident or independent of ponies, and the Elements of Harmony are useless as a defence without her. More than anything, though, she’s my friend. Can I count on you personally to help with this, Captain Spitfire?

The scroll had appeared in the air in front of her, falling at her hooves on the grass at Wonderbolts HQ. She’d let the squad stand at ease while she read it, taking a few seconds to decipher the hasty scrawls on the page. It was less formal than any other set of orders she’d ever received, even during the Tirek incident, but Princess Twilight’s signature looked genuine, if rushed, and the dragonfire delivery method was authentication in itself.

“Soarin,” she commanded, “I’m urgently needed elsewhere. You have the Academy until I get back. Don’t let Fleet burn the place down.” Right then. Off to Ponyville I go.


“I’ve never actually been in one of these rooms before,” Spitfire said as way of announcing her presence as she stepped into the dim, cramped observation room. Princess Twilight, standing at the window which dominated the only important wall, looked over and breathed a sigh of partial relief. The room’s other occupant, a unicorn mare who appeared almost the same shade as the princess – though it was hard to tell in the gloom – gave a polite smile, but she also glanced up at the clock beside the door. Noticing the sweat on each of their brows and the nervous tightness around their eyes, Spitfire caught the door with a back hoof before it swung completely closed, turning to duck her muzzle through it and catch sight disappearing back down the corridor of the stallion who’d escorted her to the room upon her arrival. “And could we get a round of tea for everypony, please?” Spitfire called out to him, “I think we might be in here a while.”

She returned her attention to the observation room and the two ponies within, pushing the door closed behind her before the stallion outside could form more of a protest than indignant splutters. As if she didn’t have the rank as captain to demand a tea run from anyone but the princess herself. Not that she was there to pull rank or demand pampering, obviously, but there was a job that needed doing, and caffeine got jobs done.

“Princess,” Spitfire said, deciding to incline her head respectfully, both out of how she knew that particular member of the royalty felt about salutes, and a hunch that what the princess was really looking to her for in that situation was an expert adviser, rather than a subordinate lackey.

“Spitfire,” came the relieved answer, and the choice of address by name rather than rank confirmed she’d read the princess correctly. When Twilight closed the distance between them and threw herself into a hug, though, Spitfire realised she hadn’t gone nearly far enough in her estimation. She quickly covered her surprise and awkwardness being hugged by somepony she’d only met a few times, and tried to balance the tenseness of it between tender, supportive and dependable. It also reminded her of how her body ached from the fast flight there, and she realised as she felt a cold bead of sweat drip down from under her feathers that she couldn’t exactly have smelled good either.

Spitfire dipped her eyes to the floor, not knowing if she should close them or not, and uncomfortably aware that the other purple mare was watching them. What I would give for my trusty sunglasses right now...

Princess Twilight pulled away after a few moments and shook herself, nodding her head briefly as if to pull herself together, and then held out a hoof to indicate her companion.

“This is Starlight Glimmer, she’s my friendship student and she lives with Spike and I.” Starlight gave a wave, her lips pressed together into a perfunctory smile, and trotted over, though the room was so small that doing so only took a couple of hoofsteps. Spitfire gave an acknowledging nod in return, though of course not as deep as the one the princess had received. “Starlight Glimmer, Captain Spitfire,” Twilight completed the introductions with a wave of her hoof between them.

Spitfire returned the tight-lipped expression, less of a smile and more a reassurance that they’d find a way to make things ok again, and each of them looked between the other two.

“So, what do we know?” Spitfire asked, turning towards the large window that was obviously one-way glass. Beyond, a featureless room about twice the size of theirs contained a powder-blue earth pony sat on a simple chair behind a plain desk. She had a mane of darker shades of blue pulled back into a high ponytail and a cutie mark of a musical note over a heart, and she smiled absently while waiting in the interrogation room alone.

“Rainbow Dash flew by Fluttershy’s cottage this morning,” Twilight said while Spitfire continued to observe the suspect, who was humming to herself, “but she was nowhere to be found.” Spitfire glanced over her shoulder at Twilight, who cut her off before she could raise a questioning eyebrow. “No sign of struggle.”

Not that Fluttershy had struck Spitfire as one to put up much of a fight, but nor did the earth pony beyond the glass.

“Rainbow flew back to town, asked around, and found that nopony had seen Fluttershy at all in the last three days.”

“It took three days for anypony to notice?!” Spitfire blurted out, wide-eyed. Only years of honing lightning fast flight reflexes saved her from her outrage carrying into her voice, filtering it at the last instant to mere surprise. If Spitfire were shocked by such a thing, then for the Princess of Friendship it might well have been a personal insult, and she could probably do without the reminder.

“It’s not unlike her,” the princess sighed, looking down and away, and Spitfire realised she’d turned herself away from the window to give Twilight her full attention. “If nopony saw Pinkie Pie for a day, alarm bells would be ringing,” the princess continued, as the other mare – Starlight – reached out and put a hoof on her shoulder. “But Fluttershy’s quite the introvert, and some days other ponies can be a bit much for her, especially in crowds. So it’s not uncommon for her to go a day or two without leaving her cottage.”

The look Twilight gave her was almost pleading. Good going, Spitfire. Ok, time to try to drain some of the emotion back out of it, bring it back to professionalism, let the princess find shelter in her rational side.

Subtly softening her usual demeanour with some soothing tones, Spitfire asked, “And where was she last seen?”

Probably sensing that Twilight still needed a moment, Starlight spoke up, keeping her voice neutral. “Lyra and Bon Bon saw her and Sonata” – Starlight rolled her head on her neck to point to the pony through the window – “leaving the morning market together three days ago, heading in the direction of her cottage.”

So she hadn’t been alarmed by Sonata’s presence, at least, or had left with her under duress but hidden it well. Spitfire couldn’t really picture Fluttershy concealing her fear convincingly enough for others not to notice, and so suspected the amiability of Fluttershy heading off from market with Sonata had been genuine. And just how amiable had the two of them been?

“And when you say leaving together...?” she prompted.

That did the trick with Princess Twilight, who forgot all guilt and anxiety in favour of disbelief. “Oh, goodness, I certainly don’t think so,” she frantically shook her head, mane swaying chaotically as she did so.

There was a small chance, Spitfire supposed, that Fluttershy had been hiding the truth from Twilight and the others, because the princess was very quick to deny it, and regularly needing a day or two alone at home to recover from the stress of dealing with ponies sounded like an ideal cover story for meeting a secret lover.

But again, Spitfire was standing opposite the Princess of Friendship. If anypony knew her friends well enough to be trusted in such matters, it was likely to be her. The suggestion had snapped Twilight straight out of her funk, though, and perhaps pushing it one further was likely to secure the ground gained.

“I dunno,” Spitfire mused, “she could do a lot worse.”

Starlight, still standing behind the princess, gave Sonata a considering look, and then made a ‘you have a point’ face. Her muzzle soon scrunched up into a light frown, though. “Sonata’s not exactly single,” she said, leaning back against the far wall.

“And everypony in Ponyville knows it,” Twilight added before Spitfire’s thoughts got much further than how that didn’t necessarily rule anything out.

“She’d have to be really stupid to meet with Fluttershy so publicly,” Starlight said, pushing herself up and crossing the room to stand beside Spitfire, facing the one-way glass, “if they had that kind of relationship.”

Princess Twilight also moved to stand next to Spitfire, who turned, so the three of them stood in a row watching Sonata, hoping for some clue they could gain from observation while they spoke.

“And is she?” Spitfire asked. “Really stupid, I mean.”

Sonata had taken to leaning back on the rear legs of her chair, balancing there with a particularly vacant expression and humming louder than before as the three ponies behind the glass looked on unseen.

“Fair point,” Starlight conceded.

Could the pony in front of them really be responsible for foalnapping an Element of Harmony? The ultimate defence of Equestria brought down by somepony who looked like she hardly knew what day it was? Not that Fluttershy was known for being tough or anything, from what Dash had said, but the Elements together had taken down far more threatening creatures, whatever a siren-turned-pony might be and wherever she came from.

“And where is Dash, by the way?” Spitfire said, still not taking her eyes off Sonata. “I have some idea how close she and Fluttershy were; I’m surprised she’s not here trying to tear limbs off to get answers.” That’s what Spitfire would be doing if Soarin were missing, her childhood friendship with him sounding a lot like how Rainbow had described her bond with Fluttershy.

Starlight grunted. “She’s in the hospital, under heavy sedation, for exactly that reason.”

Bet she took that well. The way Starlight had twitched when Dash was mentioned suddenly made a lot more sense, as Spitfire imagined the struggle they must have had. It was a small wonder Starlight and the princess weren’t sporting bruises.

“The sirens have a reputation for ruthlessness,” Twilight said, clutching at herself with a forehoof and tugging her mane, “and may have Fluttershy as a hostage. Rainbow losing her temper with one of them would be, uh, risky, however justified.”

Rainbow hardly seemed the sort who might hit a defenceless pony in custody, but she was certainly protective of her friends, especially Fluttershy. And if pushed in the right way, then possibly...? If she did snap, it wasn’t like anypony would be able to stop her before she did anything she might later regret; Spitfire knew firsthoof how fast Dash was.

So they’d put one of their best assets out of action themselves. Whoever the enemy was, and whatever they wanted, it sounded like ponies were doing their work for them.

“Right,” Spitfire said, drawing a line under musings that were getting them nowhere, “shall we go talk to the suspect?” They needed answers, and Sonata was the one pony who might be able to provide them.

As Spitfire turned towards the door, Twilight fidgeted where she stood and asked “Don’t you want to let her s-sweat for a bit longer?”

Spitfire looked back over her shoulder to answer, saying, “I’m sweatier than she is, Princess.” She grimaced at the thought of how long she’d been standing so close to royalty that their shoulders had almost touched, when she still stank from her fast flight there. “I’m not sure she has the presence of mind to be nervous about her situation.” She cast a final glance back at Sonata, who looked to be personifying ignorance as bliss.

“How do you want to play this?” Starlight raised her voice, still standing at the window as Spitfire headed for the door.

Do they think I’ve done this before? She’d mentioned never having been in an observation room before, which she’d have thought carried that implication with it. She didn’t know the first thing about interrogating ponies or interviewing suspects. Hopefully it wasn’t too different to breaking in new recruits. All she really knew was that, for all her time watching Sonata and discussing her with Starlight and the princess, not much progress had been made, and the tea still hadn’t arrived.

“No idea,” Spitfire called without looking back. “But I can’t stand standing here doing nothing, so let’s just start simple and see how it goes.”

Next Chapter: o Estimated time remaining: 2 Hours, 2 Minutes
Return to Story Description


Login with