The West Is Not Enough

by JohnPerry

Chapter 1: Kid With Gun

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The Crystal Empire was the shining gem of Equestria. Of course, it wasn’t actually an “empire” anymore, but everypony was too polite to suggest changing the name, as it was a nice reminder of when the kingdom’s denizens had enjoyed unsurpassed power over the rest of the world and all the social and economic benefits that entailed. These days it acted more like a gated community, with an economy that relied on curious tourists who were interested in the city’s rich culture and the sparkly locals.

Unfortunately, any concentration of tourists with lots of disposable income tends to attract a different kind of pony, as a tour group was now realizing first hoof.

In the bag, hurry up!” yelled a tall, red-coated unicorn stallion levitating a miniature cannon in the face of one of the elderly tourists. He was wearing a vest, a black bandana over his face, and had a cutie mark depicting a lit cherry bomb. The tourist at the end of his weapon smiled nervously as he dropped a gold watch and emptied a small bag of bits into a large burlap sack the robber was also levitating with his magic.

“Oh my, this is exciting!” an elderly mare exclaimed, squinting over the top of her glasses. She turned to face the tour guide, who was shivering with fear. “So this is what it was like when Sombra was in charge?”

“Shut up, lady!” the robber shouted, thrusting the bag in front of the old mare. “Earrings in the bag!”

The mare chortled as she pulled off her jewelry and placed it in the sack. “Alright, I’ll play along. But don’t lose them now, you hear?”

“Oh, don’t worry,” the stallion said menacingly. “I’ll keep a close eye on them.”

“What a nice colt,” the elderly mare commented as the robber made a run for it, his bag jingling with the sound of all the gold bits and jewelry he had taken. The road the tour group had taken was otherwise deserted, allowing him to escape without any hassle.

He weaved between some tall, pinnacle-shaped crystalline structures on the edge of the city before doubling back to throw anypony off the trail. Not that they’d be following him anyway. He grinned as he pulled off his bandana and stowed it in a vest pocket. Nopony in a hundred miles had the guts to take on The Sunprance Kid.

Or so he thought.

A sudden whistling sound caused his ears to perk up. But before he could react, something flashed past his face and his bag was jerked out of his grip. He jumped back in alarm, looking over to see that the sack had a large hole torn in it, spilling its contents onto the grass. Pinning the bag to the ground was a long, thin arrow.

The stallion whirled around, aiming his hoof cannon in front of him before spotting his target standing on a crystal pinnacle, looking down at him from several lengths up. It was a grey-coated mare with long, black hair, standing on her hind legs and holding a musical bow in her forehooves, with another arrow pulled against the string of the bow. Her expression was cold, her eyes narrowed as she aimed the arrow at the robber.

The stallion blinked before flashing the mare a youthful smile. “Well, hello there, ma’am. You’re a sight for sore eyes.”

The mare’s expression didn’t change. “Am I to assume that I am speaking to Loose Cannon, better known as The Sunprance Kid?”

“Present,” the stallion replied, bowing his head in mock courtesy.

“I am placing you under arrest for crimes committed against the citizens of Equestria,” the grey mare declared. “I ask that you surrender and come quietly, or I shall be required to use force.”

“Oh, is that so?” Loose Cannon chuckled. “What are you, a cop?”

“No. I’m a musician.”

“And you think you’re going to stop me with your little bow and arrow?”

The mare pulled back on the arrow a little further. “That’s the idea, yes.”

The stallion laughed. “Look, you seem like a nice mare, so I’ll let you off easy. Go on home and find some other do-gooder thing to do. You don’t want to be tangling with a guy like me.”

“You underestimate me,” the mare muttered.

Loose Cannon gave her a cocky grin. “Miss, you’re staring down the barrel of the most powerful hoof cannon in the world, which can blow your head clean off with one magic bolt. So you’ve got to ask yourself a question: Do you feel luck—”

The rest of his question was lost in an explosion of sound and a bright flash of blue light. Before the stallion could even register what was happening, he was lifted off his hooves and flung through the air, his ears filled with a hideous screeching noise. Loose Cannon was slammed against a nearby crystal formation, which cracked and splintered under the blast before shattering completely, burying the stallion in a pile of rubble.

From behind another crystal structure came a white-coated unicorn mare with a spiky blue mane, wearing a saddlebag and purple shades. She was levitating a hoof cannon of her own beside her, only this one was sleeker, painted chrome and pulsing with blue light. She looked down at the pile of crystal rubble she had created. “Yeesh, what a blowhard.”

Damn it, Vinyl!” the grey mare yelled, barely managing to hold on to the crystalline structure she was standing on, which now sported some ominous cracks. “I thought I told you to be careful with that thing!”

“You ask me to come and honestly expect me not to bring my bass cannon?” Vinyl replied with a grin. “Besides, I don’t know why you’re complaining. I got him for you, Octy.”

Octavia sheathed her bow into a strap slung on her back and clambered down to where Vinyl was standing, giving the DJ a withering look. “I’m complaining because I specifically told you that these crystals are very sensitive to the bass cannon’s power. The last thing we need is to be accused of destroying a historical site.”

“Oh relax, there’s nopony around.” Vinyl began sifting through the pile of rubble, quickly finding one of Loose Cannon’s hooves sticking out between a couple of large crystal fragments. She quickly unearthed the rest of the body to find the stallion unconscious. “Sunprance Kid, I place you under arrest,” she declared, levitating a length of rope out of her saddlebag and tying it around the downed robber. “For the charges of theft, intimidation, armed robbery, and most heinous of all, stealing from the train that was carrying my shipment of Kolt Koala music.”

Octavia sighed. “Vinyl, it was a record. Get over it.” She crouched beside Loose Cannon’s body, reaching into each pocket of his vest before pulling out a thin scroll of parchment. The cellist unfurled it, her eyes narrowing as she read down the page.

“Looks like Melody was right,” she commented, showing Vinyl the writing on the parchment. “We’d better get back to Canterlot.”

“Right,” Vinyl replied with a nod. “...after I’m done with Kiddo here.” The DJ cast her come-to-life spell on the rope, causing it to wrap itself around a nearby crystal pinnacle and pull Loose Cannon up into the air, leaving him hogtied and dangling over the ground. She then pulled a sheet of parchment and a quill out of her saddlebag and scribbled a note. Octavia was able to read the words ‘Courtesy of Your Friendly Neighborhood Pinkieton’ before Vinyl slapped it onto the stallion’s body.

The DJ scratched her chin. “Hmm, it needs a little something more.” Her horn began to glow brightly before she let out a bolt of blue light into the air, which exploded in a firework before leaving a giant neon colored arrow in the sky, pointing directly down at Loose Cannon.

“There we go!” Vinyl said cheerfully. Octavia merely rolled her eyes.

From the outside, the headquarters of the Pinkieton Detective Agency was unassuming; a dull, grey building with a few shops facing the street, one of which was a small business labeled ‘Party Headquarters.’ On the door below this sign was a stylized depiction of an eye above the motto ‘Watching Out For You.’ The few ponies who even noticed it generally assumed it was the office of a fringe political party who had rather creepy tastes in campaign imagery.

But if one was to walk up to the door, knock three times, and wait for the eye on the door to stop examining them, that pony would find an entirely different world inside. At the heart of the building was a cavernous atrium that rose all the way to the roof and was decorated in all manner of festive decorations: colorful balloons, banners, bunting, and streamers were crowded under the ceiling, while the floor held a group of tables that were loaded down with a constant supply of cake, sweets, fruit, and punch. Employees stood around and chatted, filling the hall with sound of pleasant conversation. The public image of the Pinkieton Detective Agency was one of mystery and secrecy, but within the inner sanctum of the organization, every day was a party. Most workplaces could only achieve a pale imitation of fun, meant to cover up the reality of a dull monotony. Here, it was a way of life, a state of normalcy between the grueling missions Pinkieton detectives were assigned.

Several ponies greeted Vinyl and Octavia as they walked through the atrium, heading for a large door on one side of the hall labeled ‘Musician’s Division.’ Musical staves were painted around the doorway, winding down the walls and labeled with the notes for a song, with accompanying lyrics written in curling writing below the lines: ‘Come on everypony, smile, smile, smile...

The two ponies ascended a flight of stairs and entered a long hallway that was filled with the sound of several different instruments mingling in the air: the soothing strains of a violin, the twang of an acoustic guitar, the beat of a drum, the delicate rhythm of a piano, and the pulse of an electronic backbeat. All of them were playing independently of each other yet never intruding upon their fellows.

“You know, maybe I should come here more often,” Vinyl remarked. “Seems like a good place to just relax and practice.”

“Well, next time we need a DJ to investigate a nightclub, we’ll drop you a note,” Octavia replied.

“On second thought, I’ll skip.”

They continued down the hallway to a set of double doors at the end, marked by a gold sign labeled ‘Melody Maker, Conductor.’ They both grasped one of the doors and opened them simultaneously, stepping into a well-appointed secretary’s room. Melody’s assistant, Money Penny, immediately recognized the two agents and nodded. Vinyl and Octavia returned her nod and stepped into the head mare’s office.

Melody’s new office was several sizes smaller than the one she had occupied as the head of the now-defunct Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but it was no less elegant. The furnishings were intended to remind one of Melody’s hometown of Trottingham: plush leather couches, finely crafted chests and desks, and portraits on the walls. A steaming pot of tea and a set of teacups made from fine china occupied one table. It lacked the palatial feel and grandness of her old office, but it was cozy and inviting. Sitting at the desk was the elderly unicorn herself, her mane greying and her light tan skin wrinkled, but looking more healthful than Vinyl and Octavia had ever seen her. She looked up at the two agents and smiled, rising out of her chair while gesturing for them to take a seat on one of the couches.

While Vinyl and Octavia sat down, Melody poked her head out the front door. “Ms. Penny, would you fetch our other visitors for me, please?” She pulled her head back in and closed the door behind her before walking back to the center of the room. The mare sat across from the two agents as she prepared cups of tea for each of them. “Thank you for making your way directly here. I have somepony I want you to meet.”

Octavia nodded, pulling The Sunprance Kid’s scroll out of her bag and holding it out to Melody, who took it with her magic. “You were right about Loose Cannon,” the cellist remarked.

Melody opened the scroll and read aloud:

From one outlaw to another,

You and I are a select breed of pony, one that knows opportunity when we see it. So I hope you won’t disappoint by taking advantage of the chance of a lifetime out here in the sunny west!

Me and a few friends of mine have found a paradise out here in No Mare’s Land. You must have heard about the mines here striking gold. I’m telling you, colt, it’s all true. What you don’t hear as much about is the total lack of police, soldiers, or any of these pesky princess-huggers. None of them have any authority out here. It’s a wild and beautiful country, where one can live in safety and obscurity. A land of absolute freedom and untold riches, just waiting for that entrepreneurial spirit and that special can-do attitude we Equestrians are renowned for.

I want to invite you to this special place. No more robbing old ladies for bits, we’re talking real money here. Go west, young colt!

Yours truly,

Messy Manes

Proud recipient of the Public Enemy #1 spot, four years running

“Messy Manes...” Melody muttered, using her magic to open up a nearby chest drawer and retrieve a binder. She opened it to reveal a copy of a ‘WANTED’ poster with a picture of a pale-colored mare with a vicious-looking sneer. The tip of her horn was just barely visible over a frizzy mane that seemed to stick out at every angle and blanketed the sides of her head, making her look more lion than pony. Below the picture were the words ‘PUBLIC ENEMY #1.’

Melody set aside the poster and read from a dossier. “Messy Manes, born in Fillydelphia. Received military training at Annaponis Academy before joining the Royal Navy. Performed heroically at the Battle of Ironcolts, for which she received numerous accolades. Was expected to receive knighthood for her service, but was denied due to reports of drunkenness and hostile behavior. Believing she had been slighted, she vanished from public sight for a few years before robbing a train near Dodge Junction. Has since committed a string of violent robberies on banks and trains. Is considered armed and dangerous.”

“And now she’s gathering other robbers?” Octavia asked. “Why would she do that?”

“That’s for you to figure out,” Melody answered. The door opened and the three mares looked up to see Money Penny leading two stallions into the room. One was a tan-coated earth pony with a short, cropped mane of black hair and a large, bushy mustache. He wore a Stetson and had a placid expression, coming across as a calm, unassuming stallion. The other, however, was about as different a stallion as it was possible to imagine. He was a white-coated unicorn with a lush, blond mane that perfectly framed a handsome, instantly recognizable face. He wore a tuxedo and a blue bowtie, with a rose sticking out of one pocket. Both Octavia and Vinyl jumped to their hooves at the sight of him.

Melody glanced over at the newcomers, remaining seated on the couch. “Ah, thank you Ms. Penny.” Money Penny nodded and retreated out of the office as Melody gestured at the mustached stallion wearing the Stetson. “Agents, this is Quiet Earp, sheriff of the town of O.K., which sits in No Mare’s Land. He has come to ask for our help.” The sheriff removed his hat and tipped his head in the mare’s direction. “Sheriff, these are Agents Octavia and Scratch, who just returned from their arrest of The Sunprance Kid. Who, as we have just found out, intended to join Messy Manes out west.”

“Ahem,” the well-groomed stallion next to Quiet Earp stated. He didn’t even disguise it with a cough, he merely said the word aloud. Melody rolled her eyes.

“And this, as I’m sure you already know, is Prince Blueblood,” the elderly mare said, jerking her head towards the white stallion. He huffed and turned his nose up towards the ceiling.

“I would expect you to show some courtesy,” Blueblood remarked in a haughty tone. “Especially after I declared my public support for you and Her Majesty’s Secret Service when you got into trouble.”

“Oh yes, your support meant a lot to me,” Melody said airily, not bothering to look up from her cup of tea. “Before your statement, ponies had merely pondered whether we were renegades doing the dirty business of the nobles.”

The remark clearly went over the prince’s head. “Always happy to be of service,” he boasted. “And so I come, with the safety and well-being of my fellow pony in mind, to ask for your help. This poor gentlecolt here,” he added, pointing a hoof at Quiet Earp but stopping short of actually touching him, “has told me of the terrible plight of his village. He and his fellow settlers have been living under the terrifying menace of a group of bloodthirsty thieves! And so he has made the dangerous journey here to ask us for our assistance.”

Vinyl cocked her head at the sheriff. “Why don’t you ask for the Royal Guard’s help?”

Quiet Earp opened his mouth to reply, but Blueblood cut him off. “Sadly, the Royal Guard is unable to help, as the settlement falls outside the boundaries of Equestria. So, turned down by the other royals, he came to me for help. I have brought him to you to ask for your assistance, for the good of our fellow ponies!”

“Yes, and I’m sure this is in no way for the good of the gold mine near O.K. that you have a monetary stake in,” Melody remarked, still not looking up at the prince. He glowered at her, making a noise of disgust.

“Look, we’re all on the same side here,” said Quiet, speaking for the first time. He was soft-spoken, but his voice carried a calm dignity to it, a far cry from the boastful, theatrical tone the stallion standing next to him took. “It don’t matter why we want these bandits caught.”

“How many bandits are we talking here?” Vinyl asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Well shoot, just about every one you can name,” Quiet replied. “Messy Manes is just the worst. In the past few months we’ve had to deal with Bonnie and Clydesdale, Black Bronc, Filly the Kid, Gretchen’s Gang, Pretty Colt Bolt...”

“And with the Sunprance Kid, that checks off just about everypony at the top of the public enemies list,” Melody remarked. “All trying to take advantage of the gold rush.”

“We’re in a real tight bind,” the sheriff explained, his eyes downturned. “Things were already messy before...well, before Messy showed up. But now, trains are gettin’ robbed, stagecoaches are gettin’ attacked, supplies are expensive and everypony is afraid. Some families are just givin’ up and leavin’ No Mare’s Land.”

“If I may, why is it called ‘No Mare’s Land?’” Octavia inquired.

“Cause it don’t belong to nobody. Some ponies laid claim to it ages ago, not realizin’ there were already buffalo livin’ there. That woulda made things complicated enough, but then a bunch of griffons and mules settled in, right around the same time ponies started showing up. Everyone had a rightful claim to the land, so we just had to agree to share it, with no one owning more than what they build, grow, or mine from it.”

“But it is exactly for this reason why the Royal Guard cannot help us,” Blueblood explained. “No Mare’s Land sits outside the jurisdiction of Equestria, so authorizing a military campaign there would require some lengthy legal maneuvering that we simply do not have time for.”

“In that case, you’ve come to the right ponies,” Melody said, smiling at Quiet. “Pinkietons have no jurisdiction. Our skilled agents would be more than happy to assist you. There is, of course, the small matter of our fee.”

“Oh, uh, yes,” the sheriff murmured. “I’m sure the townsfolk could pull somethin’ toget—”

“Oh, Celestia no!” Melody exclaimed. “We wouldn’t dream of asking you to pay! You have quite enough to worry about as it is. No, I’m sure our dear Prince Blueblood will be able to cover the cost.”

“Yes, of course I—Wait, what?!” the prince yelled, his jaw dropping in horror.

“So kind of you, Prince,” the elderly mare remarked, grinning at Blueblood. “You’re always thinking of the safety and well-being of your fellow pony, after all.”

Blueblood gritted his teeth and glared at the mare. “I’m...sure we could negotiate a reasonable price.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to intrude on your busy schedule. Celestia knows we can’t all handle the rigors of being on the cover of Teen Bleat or the Equestria Examiner every week. I’ll just have somepony send you the bill when we’re done.”

“That’s...yes, you do that,” Blueblood said, forcing a grin. “I expect you to keep me abreast of any new details. Good day, all of you.” He gave a short bow and turned away, using his magic to open the door before marching out, muttering under his breath. Octavia and Vinyl distinctly heard the words “...enough on my plate without that Coltbert mocking me every other night...” before the door slammed shut behind him.

Of all the branches of the Pinkieton Detective Agency, the Party Supplies Division was the most costly to maintain and had the largest staff. This would seem odd to an outsider, until they found out that Party Supplies was not just in charge of the decorations and games for the frequent get-togethers the agency put on, but also any tools their agents needed out in the field. With the acquisition of the brightest minds from Her Majesty’s Secret Service and a large funding grant from the royal government, P.S. Division had generated some of the most technologically advanced and festive armaments in the world. Presently, they held the patents to no less than twenty-four inventions, including the PunchLine™, the kazoo dart gun, the custard catapult, and the tommy gum.

It was in the busy laboratories of P.S. Division that Vinyl and Octavia found two senior Pinkietons they knew all too well. One was a charcoal grey stallion with a cutie mark of a lit lightbulb. He was wearing a black bowtie and a bowler hat. Standing next to him was a young mare with a chestnut brown coat and a cutie mark of a magnifying glass. Both of them were engaged in deep conversation, reading a set of documents.

“You two are just inseparable, aren’t you?” Vinyl said with a grin, causing the two ponies to look up. They smiled back, with the mare pulling Vinyl into a hug.

“It’s good to see you again!” she exclaimed. “You too, Octavia!”

“Hey, Sharp Eye,” the DJ greeted, hugging the eager young mare back. “And you too, Watt Sun,” she added, nodding at the stallion. He tipped his bowler hat in her direction.

“Have you been briefed yet?” he asked.

“Just got done,” Vinyl answered. “So what’s the plan?”

“Since it wouldn’t do to have any bandits recognizing us as Pinkietons,” Watt Sun explained, “we’ll be traveling in disguise as a musical band.”

“All right!” Vinyl yelled joyfully.

“More specifically, as a country band!” Sharp Eye added.

The DJ’s face fell. “Oh.”

The four agents walked over to a table with several instrument cases sitting on it. Sharp Eye popped one open to reveal a violin. “Octavia, I thought a fiddle might prove to your liking,” she said, carefully taking out the instrument and holding it out to the cellist.

Octavia stood up on her hind legs and took the violin with her forehooves, propping it against her chin as she tuned it before taking the bow. She inhaled slowly and closed her eyes. Suddenly the bow was flying across the strings, her hoof moving faster than anypony could follow as the sharp, melodic sound filled the room. After displaying her speed, she began drawing her bow across the strings more slowly before tapping the strings with the bow to bring the song to a halt. She opened her eyes again and smiled at Sharp Eye, whose jaw had dropped. “This should do just nicely,” the cellist remarked.

It took Sharp Eye a few seconds to recover as Octavia placed the violin back in its case. “Uh, and for you Vinyl, I have this,” she said, tapping a case for a much larger instrument with a long neck.

“Oh boy, I get to play the banjo,” Vinyl muttered, rolling her eyes.

“Actually, I’m playing the banjo,” Sharp Eye corrected. “I thought you might like this instead.” She opened the case to reveal a gleaming electric guitar, painted a bright, shiny red. Vinyl’s eyes widened considerably and her mouth fell open at the sight of it.

“Okay, now this is more like it,” the DJ said, immediately levitating it out of its case and taking it in her forehooves. She ran her hooves along its polished body, feeling the strings against her hooves and strumming them, even though it made no sound without electricity or her magic powering it. “This is so cool,” she murmured, wearing a huge grin on her face.

“What’s more,” Watt Sun added, “our engineers have constructed it so that it can function as a weapon.” He pointed at a switch that had two settings: ‘NORMAL’ and ‘HEAVY.’ “It utilizes your magic in much the same way as your bass cannon, should you find it necessary.”

Watt Sun didn’t think it was possible for Vinyl’s smile to grow any wider. He was quickly proved wrong.

Next Chapter: Crazy Train Estimated time remaining: 1 Hour, 39 Minutes
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