Mission: Implausible

by JohnPerry

Chapter 4: I Left My Part(ner) in San Franciscolt

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“Wubs, we’ve been compromised!” Octavia whispered urgently into her communicator device. It had been several long minutes since she had spotted the mysterious orange mare who was accompanying Con Mane. There was no doubt about it, this ‘Golden Harvest’ was definitely the same mare who had been following them since they arrived in San Franciscolt. The cellist had to wait until the band finished their song, quickly muttering her warning to Vinyl before the band started on their next song. She couldn’t leave the room during the song without drawing unwanted attention, and she already had the attention of Golden Harvest, if her occasional glances in Octavia’s direction were any indication.

Vinyl wasn’t responding and the situation was looking increasingly dire. Octavia, realizing there was no sense in staying discreet if her enemy knew her secret, kept her gaze on Con Mane and Golden Harvest. At one point, the orange mare turned to her companion and gestured towards the band. A moment later, Octavia and Con Mane locked eyes, neither willing to avert their gaze. It was only for a few seconds, but in that brief moment the cellist could see him scrutinizing her, looking for the mare that had slipped out of his grasp the other night. The satisfied grin he wore as he turned away told Octavia he had found her.

Luckily, fortune would have the song they were playing end at that very moment. Octavia hurriedly put down her cello. “Excuse me, I just have to use the little filly’s room,” she said apologetically to the nearest band member before quickly and quietly making her way out of the room. She exited the ballroom and passed through the entrance hall, where more guests were standing around and chatting. She darted for a hallway that led around the grand staircase and to the back of the mansion, rounding a corner and checking for anypony before pressing the button on her device.

“Wubs, can you hear me?” she muttered urgently. “We’re in danger here, Con Mane knows who we are! Wubs!” There was still no answer from Vinyl. Taking another look around, she spotted a window at the end of the hall. Octavia quietly slid it open, clambering outside and checking for anypony watching. She could hear the sounds of guests conversing on the patio around the back of the mansion, but at the moment nopony could see her. The cellist rose up on her hind legs, crouching for a moment before leaping for an overhanging eave, grasping the edge with her forehooves and pulling herself up onto a small section of roof. She clambered over to a second-story window, peering through it before lifting it and sliding inside.

She found herself in an upstairs hallway which was as elegantly decorated as the rest of the house, with expertly crafted tables holding flower pots or ming vases, beautifully framed paintings adorning the walls and a luxurious carpet covering the floor. There was also nopony else in sight. Octavia crept along, quietly thanking the plush carpet underhoof for muffling the sounds of her hoofsteps.

Unfortunately, said carpet was also responsible for muffling the sound of the small, silvery ball-shaped canister that suddenly bounded across the floor towards Octavia. The agent spotted it just in time to get a faceful of a pale green gas that quickly emitted from the canister. The grey mare coughed violently but to no avail; she had inhaled some of the gas and was already feeling woozy from its effects, stumbling slightly as the room began to swim around her.

“Mu-hu-hoh-hoh-hoh!” A distinctly nasal laugh reached Octavia’s ears. She was still struggling with the effects of the gas and was standing with her forelegs far apart, looking down at the ground and trying hard not to be sick while still remaining conscious. A pair of talons and a pair of lion paws appeared in front of her, making her look up into the face of a mustached griffon wearing a long black cloak and wide-brimmed hat. The griffon twirled his mustache in one clawed finger as he looked down at the agent.

“Allow me to introduce myself, madame,” he offered, grinning wickedly. “I am Gustave LeGrand, ze most dastardly baker in all of Equestria! And I ‘ave capzured your little sneaky friend! Mu-hu-hoh-hoh-hoh!” he laughed again, raising his claws in the air above his head.

“I do believe that we caught her together,” cut in the refined yet pleasant voice of an elderly female. A voice which did not at all match the image of a donkey dressed all in black, much like how Octavia had been clothed the other night. “Mulia Mild, dearie,” the donkey introduced herself to the confused cellist. She looked over to see that Mulia was dragging a bound and unconscious Vinyl Scratch behind her, leaving the white mare on the floor for Gustave to fly into the air and grasp her in his talons. Octavia tried to cry out at the sight of her friend but found herself succumbing to her exhaustion.

“Lovely to meet you, though I do wish it had been under happier circumstances.” Mulia chuckled as she strode past Octavia, opening the window the mare had just come in through. Gustave spread his wings and flew out through the open window, carrying Vinyl with her. The donkey nimbly leapt out after them, defying her age by rapidly spinning in mid-air before swiftly plunging out of sight, only to reappear a second later on the rooftop of an adjacent building. Their silhouettes against the night sky were the last things Octavia saw before she lost conscious.

“Miss, are you alright?”

Octavia could just barely make out the voice through the fog in her head. She reached out with her hooves, feeling them rub against plush carpet. Her eyes snapped open as she remembered where she was and she rose to her hooves, only to stumble when her legs proved too slow to react properly. A steady hoof grasped her by the shoulder, and Octavia looked up to see the band leader smiling gently at her.

“I believe you may have gotten lost on your way to the restroom,” the stallion offered, helping the cellist to her hooves. “Though I’m uncertain how you wound up on the floor.”

“I...um...yes, I must have gotten lost,” Octavia stammered, looking around at the hallway. The band leader went on about some hysterical pony calling him up the stairs to tell him one of his band members was ill, but the agent wasn’t listening. Her thoughts were consumed by Vinyl’s kidnapping and the creeping panic of her realization that she had no idea where she was or how to get her back.

“I...” Octavia turned back to the band leader, her professionalism slowly coming back. “I’m sorry, I must have passed out. I haven’t had a proper meal tonight, you see. I am truly sorry I missed the rest of the party.”

“Oh, think nothing of it!” The band leader dismissed her statement with a wave of his forehooves. “Your music was absolutely delightful! I’d be happy to compensate you for tonight’s performance.”

“In that case, just send my paycheck to Lyra,” Octavia instructed, already starting to walk down the hall, away from the stallion. “She’s a good friend of mine. Forgive me, but I really must be off!” she called out before the band leader could say anything, turning the corner and quickly making her way down the stairs back to the ballroom.

The party had ended by this point, if the complete absence of anypony in the house was any indication. Octavia darted out the front door, looking around frantically for any sign of her friend or anypony else, but this proved an entirely fruitless endeavor. Biting her lip, she trudged back inside and entered the ballroom. Even the other musicians had already left, leaving Octavia’s cello alone on the stage set above the ballroom floor. The cellist was just about to place her instrument back in its case when she spotted a note lying at the bottom of her cello case. She picked it up, undoing the bowtie around her neck as she read it, lest she pass out from her frantic breathing as the grim reality of the situation began to dawn on her.

Darling, I am so glad you were able to join us tonight. I trust you enjoyed meeting my colleagues upstairs!

If you want to see your friend again, you will meet me tomorrow evening for dinner at the Silver Spoon restaurant. Come alone, and tell nopony! We’ll be watching.


The Silver Spoon must have been one of the fanciest restaurants in the city, if the long line of private carriages depositing wealthy ponies at the front door was any indication. Everything about the restaurant screamed grandeur and opulence, from the crisp uniforms of the wait staff to the curly writing on the sign to the elegant, lavish decor within. Octavia was unsurprised to see that her name was listed in the reservation book. A waiter promptly led her through the main dining hall, which was arranged around an enormous fountain that flowed with champagne instead of water, and out onto a candlelit balcony in the back that had a spectacular view down Cob Hill to the lights of downtown. It would have been an incredibly romantic setting if the cellist didn’t feel like strangling the stallion who sat at the table at the furthest end of the balcony, smiling smugly at the grey mare approaching him.

“Ah, Ms. Octavia,” Con Mane greeted her, smirking. “Come, have a seat! Waiter, bring us two milkshakes! Use only your finest ice cream and just a touch of champagne. Tonight just got very interesting,” he added, looking directly at the cellist as she took her seat opposite Con Mane. The waiter nodded and trotted off, leaving the two alone.

“You know, it normally takes months to get a reservation here,” the stallion commented, gesturing at the dining hall. “Fortunately, I have connections in this town. Indeed, you’re one of a very fortunate few who gets to sit at this table.”

“I’m honored, Mr. Mane,” Octavia scowled. “Now perhaps we could discuss why you wanted to meet me here?”

“I do tire of all the formality,” Con Mane said, grinning slyly at the mare sitting across from him. “I know! Why don’t we give each other pet names? I can call you ‘Octy’ and you can call me ‘Connie.’”

“Keep it up and your name will be Floor Residue, because that’s all I’ll leave behind,” Octavia growled.

Con Mane looked unphased, idly straightening his bowtie. “You know, it really ruins the joke when you explain it.”

“Who said anything about a joke?” the cellist shot back.

“I called you here because I wish to get to know you better,” the stallion continued as the waiter reappeared with the two milkshakes, gently placing them on the table. “After all, you’ve taken such an interest in me, it’s only proper that I return the favor.” The waiter left and Con Mane raised his glass to the mare sitting opposite him, flashing her a toothy smile.

“I’ve taken an interest in your activities, if that’s what you mean,” Octavia said sternly, her eye twitching violently as she leaned forward and began to whisper. “Specifically the kidnapping of my friend. Where is she?

“Oh, there will be plenty of time to discuss business tonight, dear,” Con Mane stated airily. “So tell me, Ms. Octavia. Do you have a lover? A handsome stallion to call your own?”

“Why? Are you looking for one?” the cellist snapped.

The stallion glared at her over the rim of his glass. “Funny. I’m always on the lookout for fine mares, Ms. Octavia. And I tend to find what I’m looking for.”

He swept his hoof towards the skyline laid out before them. “Look around you. I control this city, Ms. Octavia. The city officials do whatever I tell them. At the store, the public pays whatever price I demand of them. And if I don’t like somepony, I can make them disappear. The mayor may be the official leader of San Franciscolt, but I am its emperor.”

“My, don’t sell yourself short,” Octavia huffed.

“Oh, I assure you it isn’t,” Con Mane replied, winking at the grey mare. She sat silently for a moment before groaning and putting a hoof to her forehead.

“I can’t believe I trotted into that one,” she grumbled.

“So as you can see, Ms. Octavia,” the stallion continued, twirling the straw in his drink, “you’ve ventured into my territory. My city. And while you’re here, you will do as I say.”

“I have no intention of doing so. You call yourself this city’s ruler? You are a glorified pastry chef. And a disgrace to Her Majesty’s government,” Octavia retorted.

“And you’re a fool, you know,” Con Mane said in a level tone. “An utterly expendable fool in the eyes of the higher-ups in Canterlot. Why do you think I left? They don’t care what happens to us. They pretend we don’t even exist. If you fail, you have no recourse. If you die, you are forgotten to everypony and every trace of what you worked for will be swept away.”

“You speak as if I don’t already know this.”

“Then why help ponies you will never even meet? For a vague notion that you’re doing the right thing?” Con Mane asked incredulously.

“That’s correct. If I wanted to be hailed for my service to Equestria, I would never have become a secret agent,” Octavia said firmly.

“How very honorable of you.” The stallion chuckled. “Now listen, this is what is going to happen: tomorrow morning you are going to leave for Canterlot. You are going to request an audience with your employers and tell them you couldn’t find any evidence of a cartel. Then you are going to come back to San Franciscolt. We will be watching you every step of the way. Do this properly and Vinyl Scratch will remain safe.”

“How do I know she is safe now?” Octavia growled, shaking with anger.

“You’ll just have to take my word for it,” Con Mane said simply.

Octavia snorted but otherwise remained silent, considering her options. Finally, she sighed. “Very well. If that’s my only choice, I shall do as you wish.”

“Well, of course it’s not your only choice,” the stallion remarked. “If you want to see your friend tonight, there’s another option.”

“Wait, really?” Octavia started, looking up in surprise. “What is it?”

“Well, it involves you, me, and a bed,” he replied, waggling his eyebrows while taking a long slurp from his milkshake. The grey mare merely glared back for a moment as he cocked an eyebrow at his glass. “Strange...usually when I slurp a milkshake, every mare within ten meters of me giggles bashfully.”

Octavia groaned and placed her head face-down on the table. This was going to be a long evening.

The next morning found Octavia doing something she normally found repugnant: running from a fight. But despite the lengthy dinner last night, she had extracted no leads from Con Mane other than painfully obvious invitations to his apartment; at one point he even suggested that she tail him there ‘in secret’ after dinner. At last, Octavia was given a carriage ride back to her hotel. With nothing to go on and fear for Vinyl consuming her every thought, she saw no option other than to follow Mane’s instructions.

The cellist trudged towards the ferry terminal with her cello case tied atop her back, hating herself for going through with this. She had never failed an assignment before; oh, sometimes she and Vinyl had run into trouble along the way, but things always managed to work out in the end. But Con Mane had found her weakness in kidnapping Vinyl. Without the DJ by her side, Octavia found herself truly stuck and with nopony to turn to for help. Approaching Lyra and Bon Bon would only endanger them at this point and she couldn’t speak to anypony within the government. Con Mane had spoken the truth: if she failed, there was no recourse. Octavia had always known this truth, but never had to face it like this. She sighed, imagining her friend scolding her for giving in to Mane’s demands, but there seemed to be no other way.

She glanced up at a shop window, looking at the reflection of her tired, exhausted face. She hadn’t managed to get a wink of sleep the night before, as her mind went through every possible option it could think of. However, she suddenly felt alert at something else she spotted in the reflection: across the street, looking directly at her, was Golden Harvest.

Octavia turned and kept walking down the street towards the bay, taking a discreet glance back at the pony following her. The orange mare was wearing shades and a sun hat this time, but there was still no mistaking her. The grey mare plodded along quietly, looking for a place to execute a plan that was quickly forming in her mind. She spotted just such a place about half a block ahead of her.

The cellist ducked into a small, cramped coffee shop that seemed to be populated entirely by Bleatniks; hipster sheep who were generally slouched over tables and reading or writing, many of them wearing dark shades, berets or goatees. The sounds of jazz music filled the cafe as Octavia darted to a hallway in the back of the room, setting down her cello case before entering the small restroom. There, she waited with the door almost closed, her eyes peering through the crack in the doorway.

She didn’t have long to wait, as she soon spotted the orange mare walk past. Golden Harvest’s hooves wandered past the door where Octavia was standing. A second later she heard them stop as the orange mare reached the end of the hallway and turn around. The grey mare held her breath, listening as the sound of Golden Harvest’s hoofsteps grew louder.

Then it was the moment to strike. In a flurry of motion, she flung the door open and grabbed the astonished Golden Harvest by the neck, yanking her inside the restroom before slamming the door behind her, swiftly locking the door bolt before wrestling the orange mare to the ground. Despite their furious tussle, the music coming from the room outside prevented anypony from hearing them. Golden Harvest put up a good fight, but Octavia was able to shove her against the sink, forcing her head into the basin and locking it in place under the faucet.

“I am not one to be trifled with right now,” Octavia growled. “I swear to Celestia, if you value your safety you will answer my question: Where is Vinyl?

“Please, you don’t understand!” Golden Harvest pleaded, struggling to lift her head out of the sink, but the grey mare’s grip was too strong. “I’m on your side in this battle! I’m here to help you!”

“Likely story,” Octavia snarled. “Now tell me where my friend is, or you will regret it.”

“She’s in a warehouse!” Golden Harvest squealed frantically, struggling against her captor. “In Hayview in the southern part of town, where the cartel stores most of their flour! Please, let me go and I’ll tell you everything!” The fear in her voice was clear, and Octavia found her grip loosening. The orange mare managed to wrench herself free of the cellist’s grasp and dropped on the floor. She sat in the corner under the sink, panting heavily as Octavia calmly looked down at her.

“You’ve been following us since we first got here,” the grey mare said quietly, looking down at Golden Harvest. “How did Con Mane know who we are?”

“He didn’t,” the orange breathed, sounding relieved that Octavia wasn’t threatening her any more. “I did. You and I are here for the same reason: to bring down this cartel.”

“Are you trying to tell me that my employers sent you as well?” Octavia asked, raising an eyebrow. “That sounds awfully unlikely.”

“Not at all,” Golden Harvest answered. “Do you think that the Equestrian government would be the only ones interested in breaking a cartel? There are other players at work here.

“I am here on behalf of a rival baking company, one based outside San Franciscolt. They’ve been trying to get in on this market for a long time now, but the cartel has prevented it. Trains carrying any rival’s flour or sugar have mysteriously malfunctioned with no clear culprit, all made to look like accidents. Their applications for business permits have been rejected by the city government here. It’s obvious that the cartel is responsible, but there’s just no solid proof. So I was hired and sent here to infiltrate the cartel. And given Con Mane’s... friendliness, it hasn’t been too difficult.”

“That still doesn’t answer my question,” Octavia cut in. “How did you know about us?”

“My employers have very close ties with some of the highest figures in the Canterlot government,” Golden Harvest explained. “With some work, we can have access to the files of all their agents. When we heard you were coming, we thought it best to monitor your progress.”

The cellist stood in astonished silence for a moment. “Who are you? And what’s more, who exactly do you work for?”

“I can’t tell you who I work for, but I can give you my name.” The orange mare stood up, now eye level with Octavia. “My acquaintances and enemies call me Golden Harvest, but my friends call me Carrot Top.”

“So which name shall I refer to you by?”

The orange mare smiled. “We share a common enemy. In this line of work, that’s the closest thing to a friend you need.”

“No,” Octavia huffed. “The closest thing to a friend I need is an actual friend. One who shares my motivations for upholding justice in Equestria, rather than being driven by personal gain.”

“Be that as it may, you still need my help,” the orange mare retorted. “Con Mane trusts me completely and gives me full access to the cartel. In a couple of hours, he expects me to report that you left the city on the last Canterlot-bound train. We can free your friend and take down this organization in one swift blow. All I need is your trust,” she finished, offering a forehoof to Octavia.

The cellist considered it for a moment before raising her own forehoof, shaking the orange mare’s. “Very well then, Carrot Top.”

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