You Only Live Twice

by JohnPerry

Chapter 1: Prologue

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TONIGHT!” bellowed a handsome stallion with a finely combed black mane and wearing glasses. The audience sitting in the studio with him giggled in response to the stallion’s unexpected outburst. Stage hands and radio technicians monitored instruments to make sure the show was recording as expected.

The stallion on stage continued, “Is there a culture of secrecy in Canterlot? Well, the fillies here don’t seem to mind opening up to me!” he exclaimed, throwing his forelegs wide towards the audience. They responded with much giggling and shrieks of delight before the stallion went on. “THEN: I profile the rising sport of ball bouncing! It’s all the fun of bouncing an object repeatedly off your skull, with only half the associated brain trauma! And my guest tonight is DJ-Pon3! She-” He had to stop for a moment as the audience roared with applause. “She is going to bring down the house! Then, time permitting, she’ll play some music for us.” The audience followed up with more laughter as the stallion continued. “Historians now suspect that Star Swirl the Bearded had a lover! ‘Cause nothing turns a mare on like a guy who refuses to shave. THIS IS THE COLTBERT REPORT!”

The audience cheered with delight as Coltbert sat back in his chair, drinking in his audience’s applause as the theme song for his radio show played. The chants of ‘Ste-phen! Ste-phen! Ste-phen!’ thundered through the studio as lights danced across the stage. Coltbert flashed a broad smile at the audience, letting the chanting continue on for a moment before speaking again.

“Thank you, fillies and gentlecolts! Aw, you're too kind!" He paused for a moment as the thunderous applause continued, giving a bashful grin. "Welcome to the Report, in here and out there listening at home! Nation: tonight we are recording in front of a live audience here at the Royal City Music Hall in Canterlot!” The crowd roared in applause again at the mention of their hometown, a rare treat given that Coltbert usually broadcasted his shows from Manehattan. “Canterlot, of course, so-named for the obscenely long distances you have to walk to get anywhere in this town,” he added, pausing for the laughter that followed. “Tonight we are very excited to have DJ-Pon3; she will be out with us shortly, but let’s jump right into the big story from this week!

“Folks, unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve heard about the secret service scandal that has rocked Canterlot this week. And if you have been living under a rock, chances are you’re on the run from that secret service. Anyway, this all started when several employees of the royal government were kidnapped from their homes. Now, since then the ponies have been found and we’ve been told they are all safe and sound, but in the course of the investigation into their disappearance, local police found evidence that each of these ponies were involved in secret missions for the royal government. Basically, they would spy on anyone the royal government deemed a potential threat, sometimes breaking the law in order to do so. It’s kind of like playing Battlecloud, only you get to look at the other player’s board and the weather pony is paying you to break into the seagull’s house,” he remarked, eliciting more laughter from his fans.

“And from there, the scandal has only grown, folks. As the investigation went on, it came to light that there was an entire agency of spies in the royal government, working with Princess Celestia’s knowledge. Now for some reason, many ponies have objected to the idea of a group of trained spies working outside the law and with no oversight save for the whims of the crown. Personally, I don’t mind. My fans stalk me all the time; this just makes it official.” Said fans whooped loudly before Coltbert went on.

“One of these worry-whinnies is friend of the show, Ponyville mayor and Gray for Mane© spokespony Mayor Mare.” He paused as the audience laughed knowingly at his remark. “She had this to say. Jim?” He gestured at one of the ponies off-stage, who began playing an audio recording of the mayor. Judging from the murmur of ponies in the background and the occasional sound of a camera flashbulb going off, it sounded like it had been taped at a press conference.

“I am rather bothered by this news that the Canterlot government has agents who don’t follow the rule of law. It upsets the long-valued balance between the power of the crown and that of the local governments. Now I trust Princess Celestia, but she’s not the only member of the Canterlot government. This seems to me like a dramatic overreach of executive powers.”

“WRONG, MAYOR MARE!” Coltbert bellowed after the tape ended, which caused some of his audience members to giggle. “This isn’t an overreach of executive powers! It’s a reach-around of executive powers! A...” He had to pause for a second and suppress a chuckle as his audience cackled with laughter. “...a loving embrace, if you will, that you usually don’t see coming.

“Now Princess Celestia has refused to comment on this matter, but fortunately the nobility have stepped in to defend the agency. Like my old blue-bro, Prince Blueblood!” The audience giggled, knowing full well that Coltbert made fun of the prince on a weekly basis. “P.B. and I are good friends. We used to be on the same rowing team! Well technically, I was on the rowing team. He owned the rowing team.

“Anyway, in a statement the prince said, and I quote: ‘Frankly, I am relieved to hear of this agency. With all the threats to Equestria, all these ruffians and scoundrels, it is good to know we have ponies bringing the war to their doorstep,’” Coltbert read off a notecard. “And Blueblood knows war, folks. After all, he had to fight off cake!” he added to much laughter and applause. “Some scars of war go unseen. Especially after you have them cleaned off your tuxedo.

“Nation, I think this agency is a great idea! But if the mayors are worried about oversight of this agency, then the answer is obvious: give the mayors their own secret agents who work outside the law!” The crowd laughed uproariously before Coltbert elaborated. “The mayors’ spies can spy on the royal spies to make sure they don’t misbehave. Of course, we’ll need some sort of oversight for the mayors’ spies, so the royal spies will have to spy on them in turn.

“And why stop there, folks? What better way to promote governmental oversight than to make sure every single aspect of the public sector is spied on? What kinds of business deals is your mayor cutting? How much does your tax collector make? What kind of music does Princess Cadence like?! The public has a right to know!” he bellowed, receiving cheers from the audience.

“Then, once they’re all spying on each other and mistrust rules every action in our government, we can set out to achieve the ultimate dream: letting the free hoof of the market decide! Pinkieton Detective Agency? Ball’s in your court! We’ll be right back!” he announced as the audience applauded and the show took a break for commercials.

You're listening to:

“Fillies and gentlecolts...DJ-Pon3!” Coltbert announced, sweeping a forehoof towards one side of the stage. There, a white mare with a spiky blue mane and stylish purple-tinted glasses was standing behind a turntable and a set of giant loudspeakers. At the mention of the DJ, the audience roared with applause as she put on a pair of earphones and lifted her forehooves towards the audience.

Heeeeelloooo, Equestria!” she hollered, much to the delight of her fans in the studio. “DJ-Pon3 is IN THE HOUSE!” She twirled a record over her hoof for a second before smacking it down on the turntable and cranking up the bass. The heavy beat of techno music filled the studio as the audience cheered loudly and strobe lights flickered across the stage. The beat grew louder and became faster and more intense, approaching the climax when the rhythm would abruptly shift. The audience waited with baited breath for the bass to drop...

...But it never did. The intro beat continued repeating for a moment as the DJ staggered backwards from her equipment. The audience watched on in confusion, wondering what was happening before a few of them noticed a long, thin arrow protruding out of the DJ’s chest. The audience didn’t seem to know how to react, with some of them exchanging confused glances, a few gasping in shock and others who thought it was just part of the show. The DJ crumpled to the ground, falling on her back. A moment later there were shrieks of horror in the studio as the white skin of the DJ suddenly melted away, revealing the black, pitted shell of a hideous creature. It seemed to be part-pony and part-insect, with fangs, a spiked horn protruding from its forehead and shining blue eyes.

The changeling struggled to lift a hoof to her chest, wrenching the arrow out of her exoskeleton. Her eyes narrowed as she examined the tip, which was covered in some sort of toxin. She could feel her muscles relax even as her mind remained alert. She struggled not to panic as her body went numb and she found herself incapable of even lifting her legs.

A dark shape suddenly swept towards her. The changeling looked up to see a pony leaping down from the catwalk above the stage, landing gracefully on the ground beside her. She was clad in dark clothing to hide her features and wielded a long blade in one hoof, which the pony quickly held to the changeling’s neck. With the other forehoof, the pony pulled down her mask to reveal the face of a gray-coated mare with violet eyes. She regarded the changeling coldly before leaning over and whispering harshly:

Where is Vinyl Scratch?

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