The Syndicate

by Blarghalt

Chapter 1: The Muscle

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The headline took up almost a quarter of the front page and Fluttershy gasped when she read the bold lettering. She hadn't expected her trip to the mailbox to be so frightening! Oblivious to the world around her, she became absorbed in the paper laid out on her couch as she read the article aloud.

"In a stunning display of banditry and lawlessness, the organized crime ring known only as The Syndicate intercepted and looted an armored wagon carrying priceless artifacts that were to be delivered to the Museum of Pony History in Manehattan. Chief of Police Double Donut has fully admitted his men are baffled as to how The Syndicate knew of the wagon's location and cargo. Luckily, no ponies were harmed in the raid, but it's believed that—"

Fluttershy's reading was cut short when a loud cough sounded right below her. She looked away from the newspaper to see Angel tapping his foot with a steady, familiar tempo.

"Oh, hello Angel."

Angel frowned and pointed at the clock. It was feeding time and he wasn't one to wait for food.

"Sorry. I'll have something ready soon!" Fluttershy said as she went into the kitchen to prepare a salad. She opened the pantry to find nothing but a few cobwebs. She heard taps again and turned around to see her pet behind her with a scowl.

"It looks like we're out of food. I'll have to make a trip to the grocery store."

Angel cupped his face and sighed, but did little else as Fluttershy grabbed her saddle-purse.

"Now you behave yourself while I'm gone."

The rabbit did nothing but cross his arms and roll his eyes at the indignation. His only solace was that he would be mostly alone when Fluttershy left since Discord was off causing some harmless mischief somewhere.

Angel sighed with relief when Fluttershy left the cottage and closed the door behind her. He hopped up to the door and pressed his ear against it. Slowly, the sound of his owner’s trot slowly faded away from the door. When he was satisfied, the rabbit turned around and hopped up onto the couch Fluttershy had been on moments before. The dour rodent snatched up the paper and read the article with intensity.

"—which led investigators to believe that this crime was indeed perpetrated by The Syndicate and not one of the various other mobs within Equestria. In fact, The Syndicate and all others of their ilk must be opposed at every turn if we are to secure a future for ourselves and—"

Angel looked away from the article with a sneer and began to search for the author's name. The pony was apparently brave (or stupid) enough to use their real name and a picture. Soothe Sayer, a bespectacled unicorn pony, stared back at Angel through his slightly snobbish black-and-white photo that adorned the top of his article. The rabbit cracked his paws, then put them in his mouth. A loud whistle filled the room and small birds of every color emerged from their birdhouses.

The rabbit ripped out the portrait of Soothe Sayer and jabbed at it a few times with his paw for emphasis. He then produced a large pencil out of nowhere and scribbled something on the back. When he held it up, one of the hummingbirds snatched it out of his hands and led the other birds into a military formation.

He gave them orders via series of rodent squeaks and foot taps. The birds nodded to each other and flew out the window towards Canterlot. Satisfied, he scooped up the rest of the newspaper and threw it in the fireplace. The paper burned quickly as he snuggled in front of the warmth and dozed off.

Soothe Sayer whistled to himself as he walked home from his job at United Equestrian Press. Sometimes, he couldn’t believe his luck with the gig he had landed. All he had to do was show up to work, write a few angry articles derived from second-hoof sources and cash the easiest paycheck ever, then go home to take a well-deserved bath. Sayer mulled over fanciful thoughts of a new hot tub in his home when a gentle trill flowed out of the dark alleyway he had just stepped in front of.

This wasn’t the bad part of town, he thought to himself. What was that racket?

"Hello?" he asked to the darkness. The noise seemed to respond; it became even louder and sounds of rustling seemed to join it. Soothe Sayer's curiosity got the better of him and he walked down the alley.

"Is anyone there?"

His question was met with sudden, feathery violence. Out of nowhere, dozens of wings and beaks set upon the poor writer. Cloud dusts and pain stars erupted out of the alley as Soothe Sayer tried several times to pull his way out of the melee only to be dragged back in.

Just when he thought that he was a goner, the scratching and flapping stopped. He opened his eyes to expect some giant muscle-bound pegasus ready to deliver the final blow, but instead there laid only a small scrap of paper. Upon closer inspection, it was a photo of himself; the same one he used in the newspaper. He picked it up, turned it over, and went pale in the face.

The Syndicate is a legitimate business. If you don't want a repeat of what just happened, I suggest your articles start reflecting that fact.

— A

"Angel! I'm home!"

Angel's ear twitched as he stirred from his nap. The only thing about Fluttershy that commanded his attention was the large bag of groceries in her possession. He was content to wait until his meal was ready and curled back up.

Right before he nodded off, he saw the birds he had sent on the mission perched in some trees outside, looking at him through the window. The biggest of them nodded with the weight of their deed. Angel replied with a thumbs-up before he returned to his nap.

He was awoken a few minutes later by the sound of something being pushed in front of him. He opened his eyes to see a wonderful carrot salad in front of him with all his favorite toppings. A single, perfectly round cherry sat atop the meal.

"I know it's a little much," said Fluttershy, "but you've been such a good little bunny lately that I think you deserved a treat."

Angel immediately dove into the salad and devoured it with a savageness that would rival any parasprite; bits of vegetables and fruit flew out from both sides of the bowl like the mulch from a demented lawnmower.

Fluttershy giggled. "Aw, you're so cute when you're hungry. You really are a little angel."

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