You Only Live Twice

by JohnPerry

Chapter 5: God's Gonna Cut You Down

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“Con Mane’s not here. Repeat: Con Mane is not here.”

The words sent a chill through Melody Maker. She was standing in her office, listening intently to the chatter over the radio. The situation had deteriorated incredibly quickly, yet it seemed that nothing had really happened. She was confused and, knowing who she was up against here, waiting for the other horseshoe to drop.

“Ms. Gofer!” she snapped, pressing the button on her intercom. “Get me a status report on every high-importance location in Canterlot!”

Melody leaned forward in her chair, rubbing her temples with her forehooves. She felt like she was missing something. Changelings were at the racetrack, but Con Mane wasn’t? Where was he? What was his game?

It was at that moment that it occurred to Melody that her secretary hadn’t answered her request.

“Ms. Gofer?” she repeated into her intercom.

“My apologies, Melody,” the secretary answered back. “I was just gathering the information.”

Melody froze. Her assistant had never called her anything but ‘Ms. Maker’ before. After a mere second of hesitation, she pressed the button on her intercom again. “Thank you, Ms. Gofer. I’ll be in my office.”

The mare turned off the intercom, then reached down and opened one of her desk drawers. She took a deep breath to steady her nerves. Yes, she would be in her office. But that didn’t mean she wouldn’t be prepared.

She reached into the drawer and pulled out a rifle, hefting it onto the desk with her forehooves. It was a custom agency design, able to transform a unicorn’s magic into powerful bolts of energy. Melody’s horn glowed as she concentrated her magic into the weapon before crouching behind her desk, bracing the butt of the rifle against her shoulder and aiming it at the door to her office.

She didn’t have to wait long. Her ears twitched as she caught the sound of something scuttling along the hallway outside her office, obviously trying to sneak up on her. Melody narrowed her eyes, focusing on the entrance and taking aim.

The doors burst open with a loud bang as two changelings forced their way through. They both grinned savagely before glancing up and catching a glimpse of the barrel of Melody’s rifle. Their eyes widened as the agent let loose a massive bolt of energy, blasting the two intruders out of her office, along with the remains of her door and a sizeable portion of the wall around the doorway.

Melody glanced over her rifle, taking in the smouldering hole in her office. The two changelings were now unconscious and embedded in the wall on the opposite side of the hallway outside. She charged the rifle with more of her magic as she heard frantic galloping coming down the hall. She took aim once more, waiting for the first sign of movement.

A sudden motion on the edge of the hole drew her fire. Just as she sent another massive blast at the hallway, she saw an object flying through the air towards her. Too late, she realized it was something that had been thrown at her by whoever she was shooting at. Her eyes widened when she saw that the object was a small, silvery canister. Melody tried to dodge, but the canister exploded in mid-air nearby, unleashing a sickly yellow gas that quickly settled around her.

The mare coughed violently, stumbling out of the yellow haze and feeling herself becoming weaker by the second. She felt her weapon slip from her hooves and fall to the ground, where she shortly followed. Melody collapsed on her side, still alert but quickly losing all feeling in her limbs.

She heard the muffled thump of hooves walking across her carpeted floor. A moment later, a pair of well-dressed forehooves walked into her line of sight. She glanced up from the white cuffs and brass buttons of a tuxedo into the handsome face of the stallion who was the current source of her troubles.

“Hello, Constantine,” Melody said calmly.

Con Mane smiled down at her. “Hello, Melody.”

He glanced around the wrecked office. “My apologies about the office, but then again you did most of the damage yourself.” He strode over to the desk, just out of Melody’s line of sight. “I’ll just make myself at home, dear. Do you still keep the hard cider in the desk? You don’t mind if I have a glass, do you? After all, it would be a shame to let it all go to waste.” Melody heard one of her drawers slide open and the clink of a glass and a bottle being levitated in the air. Con Mane walked back in front of her, unscrewing the cap of the bottle and pouring himself a glass of the fine cider. He took a gentle sip, savoring the taste as it washed over his tongue. “Delightful,” he commented, smacking his lips. “I can see why you keep it hidden; Sweet Apple Acres cider is hard to come by.”

“Indeed,” Melody replied, her tone remaining absolutely calm. “But if I may, shouldn’t I be asleep?”

“Different toxin,” Con Mane answered, taking another sip. “I wanted you to be awake for this conversation.”

“I see,” the mare said. “You know, I was surprised to hear of your return. Agents Octavia and Scratch had informed me you died.”

“You think so little of me!” Mane exclaimed, feigning dismay. “That, or you think a little too highly of the abilities of your agents.”

“Why wouldn’t I?” Melody countered. “You’re one of us.”

“I was one of you,” the stallion corrected. “Those days are long behind us.”

“And yet, here you are,” the agent observed. “Would you like to make amends while you’re here?”

“No. I’ve come to say farewell.”

“But of course,” Melody said, sighing heavily. “You always need to have the last word. You haven’t changed in that regard.”

Con Mane chuckled, using his magic to pull up a chair besides Melody. He sat down and leaned back against it, observing the mare closely. “You know, I’ve been looking forward to this.”

“I wish I could say the same,” Melody muttered.

“Oh, come now. You don’t mean that,” Con Mane scoffed.

“I do,” the mare replied, looking up at the stallion with a pained expression. “I have dreaded this moment, because I knew it would mean acknowledging that I lost the stallion I once knew. You’re not the pony I remember, Constantine.”

Con Mane adjusted his bowtie. “The pony you remember was a simple donut maker who was naive enough to put his faith in this agency. I realize my true calling now. I’m much bigger than that lowly baker.”

“No, you’re not.” Melody gave him a sad look. “That ‘simple donut maker’ had so much more to offer to the world. So much love and passion...” she trailed off and closed her eyes. “When did we lose sight of what is important?”

Con Mane glanced down at the series of musical notes that decorated Melody’s flank. “How has your music been coming?”

“It hasn’t,” the mare replied shortly. “I don’t hear it anymore. And I have tried so desperately to find it again, but nothing I do seems to work.” She sighed deeply. “This job has corrupted me, just as I corrupted you.”

“Don’t give yourself too much credit,” the stallion said with a chuckle. “You opened my eyes to what was possible, but it was up to me to fulfill it.”

“‘Fulfill’ it,” Melody scoffed. “Fulfill what, Constantine? We were so much better as regular ponies. A musician and a baker. An artist and a craftspony. Music and food. We had so much to give to the world. And I’m sorry I took that away by introducing you to the agency.”

“I’m not,” Con Mane replied, his tone becoming quiet and serious. “I was a simpleton before I met you. The happiest days of my life were those we spent fighting side-by-side.” He paused, staring down at the glass of cider in his hooves before a grin crept up his face. “But listen to me, waxing nostalgic about our past. I think heartbreak made me go insane.”

Melody’s expression hardened. “You were insane from the moment you joined this agency, Constantine. I just refused to notice it until it was too late.”

“Then that makes two of us. To insanity.” He raised the glass in a mock toast before downing the rest of the cider. “Now then, it has been a pleasure, but I must be on my way soon,” he added, rising out of his seat.

“Try to remember the old you, Constantine,” Melody implored. “There’s a good donut shop in town called Joe’s. You would have loved it.”

“Duly noted,” Con Mane answered, his tone indifferent.

“They make milkshakes as well,” she continued. “There’s one flavor where they mix in hard cider.”

The stallion glanced over at the bottle of cider still sitting on the desk before grinning broadly. “Sounds like a winning combination.”

“I wouldn’t know. I’ve had it so many times it tastes bland to me now. But every time I’m there, I still get one. For old times sake.”

Con Mane levitated something out of the inner pocket of his tuxedo and placed it in the middle of the floor. It took Melody a second to realize it was several sticks of dynamite, wrapped tightly together and wired to a small device with a stopwatch on it. “Any last words?” he asked, arming the bomb.

Melody found herself blinking back tears. “Just that I’m honored to be the only mare - neigh, the only pony - who knew you as you once were.”

The stallion was silent for a moment. His head was lowered and his eyes were closed, as if he was deep in thought. Then he pressed the button on top of the stopwatch and it began ticking. He began trotting towards the hole in the wall, glancing back as he reached it.

“Farewell, Melody.” With that he turned away and began trotting briskly down the hall.

Melody watched the stopwatch. The second hand was ticking rapidly and she knew once it was pointing at the top again it would be over. That gave her less than a minute to figure something out. Her mind worked frantically, desperately trying to get her body to move, but her limbs still felt heavy and limp.

She called upon her magic, feeling the glow of her power wrap around her. But she lacked the strength to pull herself to safety. Melody glanced at the stopwatch, watching as time ran out. She saw only one option left.

Concentrating, she cast a shield spell around her, pouring her energy into it. The stopwatch ticked closer to its end. She closed her eyes tightly, feeding the last of her strength into the shield before everything went white.

She felt herself lifted into the air and blasted backwards, smashing through the stained glass window in her office. Her shield gave out from the impact, and she opened her eyes to find herself falling through the air, watching as an enormous fireball erupted out of the building.

Time slowed down. The glittering shards of the window danced in the air around her as great orange flames leapt above her into the heavens. Suddenly, Melody could see a cozy kitchen, warmed by the morning sun, the ovens baking delicious sweets and the presence of a handsome, tan-colored stallion. Then she was in a dark alleyway, cornered by dangerous thugs but standing beside the stallion she trusted. That same stallion was now lying in her bed as she cared for his wounds. She rested against him, rubbing her hooves across his soft chest. She was falling away from the window, which was now completely engulfed by fire as fragments of the roof and walls were blasted outwards onto the streets below.

The stallion, now well-dressed, was standing on a rooftop, facing her. In her office, she held a note in her trembling hooves as tears fell upon it, staining the writing. Back on the rooftop, she drew a dagger before charging at the stallion. He simply stood there as she came closer, giving her a twisted grin.

Melody continued to fall away from the window, coming closer to the ground. She was sitting in that cozy kitchen again, playing a violin as the stallion smiled warmly at her. She could hear her music again. It wafted through the air, passing through her very soul and lifting her spirits. Such sweet, beautiful music.

Her body hit the water of the pond that sat in the garden beneath her office. In her paralyzed state, she didn’t feel the impact. Melody could still hear the soft, lovely music as the world went black.

The agents of Her Majesty’s Secret Service realized what had happened almost from the moment that they heard a great boom echo across Canterlot and out to the racetrack. Princess Celestia and every winged guard quickly flew off into the city as thick black smoke billowed into the air.

By the time that Octavia, Vinyl, Quite and Shining Armor returned to the city, the headquarters of the agency was a smouldering husk of a building. The combined powers of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, who had also rushed to the scene when she heard the explosion, had quickly put out the fire, but the structure could not be saved. The agents watched as a crowd of onlookers gathered around the perimeter the firefighters and guards had established around the building. Embers and charred pieces of paper fluttered through the air, blown out of the now exposed offices. The smell of burnt metal permeated the air, lingering in the nose and mouth. Ambulances lined the street, treating ponies that had been struck by debris or those that had been rescued from the building.

Octavia and Vinyl watched on with horror as the firefighters retrieved a familiar body out of the garden pond. Melody’s body was pale and limp. The firefighters yelled something and two ponies raced over with a stretcher, gently placing the mare on it before carrying her onto an ambulance cart. The two ponies then hitched themselves to the cart and raced down the street.

“They’re taking her to the hospital,” Vinyl remarked, her tone shaky and fearful. “That means she’s alive, right?”

Octavia didn’t say anything. A moment later they heard yelling coming from behind them. They turned around to see the firefighters racing out of the building as it creaked ominously. Several onlookers screamed as the structure began to topple to the ground. Working quickly, Shining Armor cast a shield around the building, forcing it to collapse harmlessly in on itself. Dust filled the shield bubble as it stood in place, like a huge, filthy fishbowl in the middle of the city. As the dust finally began to settle, Shining Armor gradually uncast his shield, revealing the charred remnants of the building. Twisted beams protruded out of the smouldering pile of stone and rubble.

The agents looked on, still in shock. The headquarters of the most secretive group in all of Equestria was now laid bare for everypony to see. The most heavily guarded place in all of Canterlot, next only to the Royal Palace, was now a smoking ruin. It took great effort on Octavia’s part to hold back her tears.

Next Chapter: House of the Rising Sun Estimated time remaining: 1 Hour, 19 Minutes
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