The West Is Not Enough

by JohnPerry

Chapter 2: Crazy Train

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Vinyl relaxed in her train seat as the desert scenery of the west sped past the window. Octavia sat across from her, sitting upright in her seat and reading a newspaper, occasionally glancing across the compartment at the DJ’s choice of headgear: a brown Stetson, now resting over Vinyl’s face as she lay across her seat. It wasn’t so much the hat itself that kept drawing the cellist’s gaze, it was the simple fact that it looked so out of place on her spiky blue mane.

“I never took you for the cowpony look,” Octavia remarked.

Vinyl didn’t move. “I wear a Stetson now. Stetsons are cool.”

“Of course they are,” the cellist replied, idly turning a page of her newspaper.

The DJ pressed a hoof to the rim of her hat, pushing it up so that Octavia could see her grinning face. Vinyl hadn’t even fully taken off her goggles, instead letting them rest on her forehead beneath her hat. The combination of fashion styles was bizarre, to say the least. “Well, if we’re going as a country band, we might as well commit to it.”

“Committing to it is one thing, but real cowponies don’t wear Stetsons indoors. There’s no reason to.”

“Sure they do! Besides, what would you know about country musicians?” Vinyl added mockingly.

“I could ask you the same thing,” Octavia retorted.

Vinyl was about to reply when the door of their compartment slid open and Sharp Eye stepped in, grinning broadly and wearing a white stetson and matching vest, which was studded with turquoise gems. “Howdy, y’all!” she drawled.

Both agents were silent for a moment, taking in the young mare’s outfit. They glanced at each other, raising their eyebrows before a goofy smile appeared on their faces simultaneously. Within seconds they fell into peals of laughter.

AH-ha-ha-ha-ha-hah!” Vinyl howled, kicking her rear legs in the air as she clutched her chest with her forehooves. “You can’t be serious! BWAH-HA-HA-HA!

“What?” Sharp Eye asked, looking hurt.

Octavia, naturally, was the first to recover. She held a hoof over her mouth to hide her smile. “Um...it’s just that...you may be laying it on just a little too thick.”

“Wait wait wait,” Vinyl sputtered through her laughter, “just say ‘y’all’ again. One more time, pretty please?”

“Oh, forget it,” Sharp Eye muttered, tearing off her vest and throwing it on the seat. She yanked off her Stetson and tossed it on top of the vest, but Octavia picked it up and handed it back.

“Actually, the hat was a nice touch. It offers a nice contrast to your brown coat,” the cellist offered. “But I’d leave the vest. And try to work on the accent.” Across from her, Vinyl snickered.

“Well, I came in here because Watt Sun is setting up our instruments in the mail car,” Sharp Eye explained. “He thinks we should practice before we get to O.K.”

“I’m game,” the DJ answered, springing up to her hooves. “I need to stretch my hooves anyway.” She led the other two mares out of the compartment and down the hallway of the train carriage, heading towards the front of the train.

Octavia looked around as they stepped outside into the space between the two train cars. The scenery of No Mare’s Land was stark and barren; a vast expanse of sand, scrub, and cacti that stretched out to a range of blue mountains far off in the distance. The sheer scale of the landscape astounded her. It was hard to believe that O.K. was still so far away when they were already beyond the boundaries of Equestria. She was beginning to appreciate why nopony had been able to catch these bandits yet.

The three Pinkietons continued making their way to the mail car, stepping inside the windowless carriage to find Watt Sun. He was standing in a space between the crates of letters and packages, just big enough for a few ponies to stand and play their instruments, which were already sitting out.

“Ah, you’re here!” the stallion exclaimed, looking over at them. “I must confess I don’t know much about country music. Here, which songs do you think we should practice on?” he asked, holding out a binder filled with music sheets.

“I think one of the concepts behind country music is to just let it flow from within and let your emotions guide you,” Octavia replied. “To play off-the-cuff, as it were.”

Vinyl picked up her guitar and began strumming, belting out a rather off-key tune in a mangled country accent of her own. “Oh Octavia, now don’t you cry for me! ‘Cause I come from Fillydelphia with a guitar on my knee!

“On second thought, perhaps we should learn some of the basics,” the cellist muttered, taking the book from Watt Sun and flipping it open. She scanned a few pages before settling on a song. “Here, this looks suitable. And Cob Wills should prove a popular choice.” She pulled out three copies of a music sheet and hoofed them out. Sharp Eye took her banjo while Octavia readied her violin.

Vinyl began tapping her hoof. “And a one, two, three, four—”

Suddenly there was a thunderous boom and the train rocked violently, throwing everypony off their hooves and bringing an abrupt end to their song. Several crates of mail shifted or toppled over, spilling their contents on the floor. Somehow, the train managed to continue rolling down the tracks.

Sharp Eye adjusted her hat as she scrambled to her hooves. “What in tarnation was that?!

“Still laying it on too thick,” Vinyl muttered from underneath her own Stetson.

Octavia and Watt Sun leapt to their hooves and raced for the door, flinging it open to look outside. They stood at the end of the train car, looking around frantically.

The cellist frowned. “I can’t see any—”

DOWN!” Watt Sun yelled, shoving Octavia to the floor. The grey mare caught the briefest glimpse of a dark, ball-shaped object sailing through the air towards the side of their carriage before it struck, exploding on impact. The two ponies covered their heads with their hooves as debris rained down on them and the carriage was suddenly exposed to the outside. There was a sudden blast of wind, whipping any loose envelopes into the air and sending them flying out of the train.

The two cautiously looked up to see a group of bandana-clad ponies galloping alongside the train, their saddlebags bulging with more of the strange black exploding balls. A few even clutched hoof cannons between their teeth, though the train was moving too fast for them to accurately use them.

As the two agents watched, a huge, jet black stallion at the lead of the pack suddenly starting shouting at the other bandits, “That’s them! The Pinkietons, like Messy said!” To their alarm, Octavia and Watt Sun saw that the black stallion was staring right at them. The cellist locked eyes with his fiery red gaze for a moment before he reached back into his saddlebag, using his teeth to pull out another of his bombs. Octavia and Watt Sun had no chance to dodge before the black stallion flung the bomb straight at them.

But the bomb never reached its target, as a lasso suddenly appeared in front of the two agents, wrapping around the bomb and yanking it off its path and over the side of the train, where it burst harmlessly on the ground. The two Pinkietons looked up to see Quiet Earp standing on top of the train car behind theirs, holding a rope between his teeth. The sheriff waved down at them.

“Try to knock the bombs away before they hit you!” he hollered over the roar of the train’s engine. “And for the love of Celestia, don’t let them on the train!”

“On it!” Vinyl yelled, suddenly racing past Octavia and Watt Sun and clambering up the ladder to the top of what remained of the roof of the mail carriage. By her side, her guitar were hovering in the pale blue aura of her magic.

Sharp Eye stepped up next to Octavia, gaping down at the vicious-looking bandit leader. “Is that Black Bronc?”

“Don’t worry about that!” the cellist shouted back, grabbing her bow sword out of a nearby case. “Tell the engineer to get this train up to full speed! Now!” Sharp Eye nodded and dashed off towards the front of the train.

On the roof, Vinyl had switched her guitar to weapon mode and was now standing atop the train carriage, glaring down at the bandits. She snapped her goggles on before she started strumming her guitar. The strings began to glow with the same pale blue light of her horn, which grew brighter with each note played.

The sound of her guitar became apparent even over the thunderous noise of the train engine. “Hey lookie, boys!” Black Bronc hollered. “Sounds like somepony wants a-whompin’! What say we give ‘er one!” There were a few whoops and hollers from the crowd of bandits before a couple of them pulled out bombs and flung them at Vinyl.

It was at that moment that Vinyl smacked the strings of her guitar, causing a burst of energy to reverberate out as a huge wave of sound that was powerful enough to knock Vinyl back a few steps. It also had the effect of halting the bombs in mid-air before pushing them back to the ground, straight into the path of Black Bronc and his gang.

The black stallion barely had time to roll out of the way of the oncoming objects. His gang, however, was not as fortunate, as the two bombs landed directly in front of them, blowing a few bandits into the air and shrouding the rest in sand and smoke. When the cloud dispersed, all that remained was a heap of ponies lying in a crater that quickly vanished into the distance as the train sped past.

YEAH!” Vinyl hollered, pumping a hoof in the air. “That’s what you get for messing with DJ PON-3!

Vinyl, get down!” Octavia yelled frantically. The DJ didn’t hesitate or question her order, immediately flopping down on her chest and lying flat on the roof of the train. She immediately felt the woosh of something sail over her head and heard the piercing screech of a eagle fill her ears. In front of her, Quiet Earp vanished into the space between cars, dodging whatever was coming their way.

Vinyl glanced up to see a griffon sail over the train, arcing high up into the air where she was then joined by several other griffons. They remained hovering in mid-air for a moment before diving for the train, each of them swinging something over their heads.

The DJ rose to her hooves, squinting her eyes as she tried to figure out what they were swinging. It looked like a length of rope, but at this distance she couldn’t tell. She quickly grabbed the guitar and began powering up her magic again before one of the griffons flung their object at Vinyl. The DJ saw only a blur of something whipping through the air before her forelegs suddenly snapped together and she toppled over, barely managing to avoid dropping her weapon over the side of the train.

Vinyl looked down to see her forelegs tangled up in several different cords, all tied together and weighed down with steel balls at the end. She was struggling to untangle herself when she heard the sound of something heavy land next to her.

The agent looked up fearfully to see a particularly vicious-looking griffon leering down at her. Her feathers were ruffled, her fur was matted, scars covered her body, and her talons and curved beak were a filthy yellow at their sharp points. The griffon folded her massive wings against her body and stepped closer to Vinyl, her talons digging into the roof of the train car.

The griffon stared down at Vinyl, regarding the pony with the cold eyes of an eagle. There was no emotion in her face, just the icy stare of her unsettling gaze.

Vinyl swallowed before speaking in a defiant tone. “I take it you’re Gretchen, huh?”

Gretchen suddenly lashed out a claw, grasping Vinyl’s neck in her talons and lifting her forcefully in the air. The agent sputtered, her rear legs flailing and her forehooves struggling against the griffon’s iron grip as Gretchen lifted her toward her face, silently examining her.

“Yes, I’m the one you call Gretchen,” the griffon answered. Her voice was surprisingly quiet and calm, a far cry from her imposing and unkempt appearance. “Now don’t struggle, hooved one. For that is the path to pain.”

The realization dawned on Vinyl that while Gretchen was keeping a tight grip around her neck, she had allowed her enough room to breath. The pony willed herself to relax, still holding onto the griffon’s talons around her neck as her rear legs dangled limply over the roof. She glanced down at the guitar lying on the train car.

“No magic, now,” Gretchen muttered softly. “If I see that horn of yours glow...” she trailed off, teasing the sharp end of her talons against Vinyl’s skin. The pony gulped, remaining stationary in the griffon’s hold.

“The weak are not welcome here,” Gretchen stated. “These skies are ours. Return to your sinful land or be hunted down as prey.”

“What the buck are you talking about?!” Vinyl sputtered.

“I am this land’s salvation. So long as I remain, this realm will remain pure. As it was written in the scripture of old, ‘And the clawed and fanged shall rule the earth, and the beaked shall inherit the skies.’ Go back to your false prophets of the heavens and leave these skies to the griffons.”

Great. A wannabe preacher with claws, Vinyl thought to herself. “Huh. You don’t seem to have a problem working with ponies, though,” she stated aloud.

“Messy Manes has granted me the skies of No Mare’s Land, free of any pegasi influence, in exchange for my assistance in driving the hooved sinful out,” Gretchen explained. “Now leave.

Vinyl flashed the griffon a smile. “Sorry. No can do.”

Suddenly, a dart with a pink string tied on the end whistled through the air and embedded itself in Gretchen’s neck. The griffon bellowed in pain, dropping Vinyl on the train roof as she backed up, holding a claw to her neck. Behind her, Watt Sun and Octavia were standing at the end of the train car, the cellist holding her bow sword while the stallion lowered a kazoo from his mouth.

Vinyl grabbed her guitar and backed away from the griffon, who, after a moment of flailing around, inhaled deeply and calmly reached a claw up to her neck, easily plucking the dart out. She examined it for a moment before casually flicking it over the side of the train.

Watt Sun was aghast as Gretchen turned around to face him. “That dart had enough tranquilizer to knock out a manticore!” he exclaimed. “How are you still standing?!”

“Foolish heathen,” the griffon muttered. “I am clad in the armor of a righteous cause. Your mere poisons have no effect on me.”

Guys, get down!” Vinyl yelled, pointing at something behind Watt Sun and Octavia. They turned to see the other griffons flying at them, swinging their rope devices over their heads before flinging them at the Pinkietons. Watt Sun dove for the hole into the mail car, but Octavia raised her sword in front of her, remaining in place even as the griffons’ weapons sailed through the air towards her.

Then, with the perfect timing only an expert swordfighter could pull off, Octavia swung her sword, slicing through one, then two, then three of the rope devices in a matter of seconds. The severed threads of the cords and the steel balls holding them down littered the roof of the train car as Octavia whirled around to face an oncoming Gretchen.

The griffon swiped with her claws just as Octavia swung her sword. They met in mid-air between the two, with the sword caught in the grasp of the griffon’s talons. The pony failed to hide her surprise; she had felt the blade sink into the flesh of Gretchen’s palm and could see blood trickle out of her clenched fist, but the expression on the griffon’s face remained as passive as ever. Gretchen took advantage of Octavia’s surprise to lash out with her other fist, striking the pony square in the chest and sending her flying back.

Octavia tumbled down through the hole, narrowly missing Watt Sun and Quiet Earp as she fell. Her sword clattered on the floor beside her while Gretchen stepped towards the hole, staring in at the three ponies below. The griffon lifted her claw, casually examining the deep cut on her palm before licking some of her own blood off. The two Pinkietons flinched at the sight, while Quiet Earp narrowed his eyes.

“No mere mortal can wound me,” Gretchen said, her eyes glinting with triumph. “She who sheds her own blood can not have it shed by others.”

Then eat heavy metal!” Vinyl screamed. Gretchen wheeled around to find herself staring into the pulsing light of the unicorn’s charged guitar. She quickly spread her wings and leapt off the train to take flight, but Vinyl proved too fast. With a slam on the guitar’s strings, a reverberating wave of blue energy struck her head-on, blasting the griffon high into the air. She was helpless before Vinyl’s power, sent tumbling into the sky.

At some point the griffon recovered in mid-air and righted herself, but by this point the train had sped away, leaving her far behind. The other griffons flew off after their leader, leaving the train to continue making its way through the desert.

Vinyl hopped down into the mail car besides the other Pinkietons and Quiet Earp, breathing hard and looking stunned.

“You alright there, miss?” the sheriff asked.

“What the buck was that?!” Vinyl exclaimed, rounding on Quiet. “How the heck was that griffon so strong?”

The sheriff looked unfazed. “Gretchen is a very strange one. She’s inflicted all kinds of torture on herself. She’s cut herself, starved herself, been stabbed, poisoned, frozen, burnt... you name it, she’s lived through it. She’ll tell you it’s ‘cause she’s some sort of saviour, and all ‘em griffons who follow her say she performs miracles.”

“And do you believe that?” Octavia asked, looking visibly shaken.

“Buck no,” Quiet scoffed. “I think she can just take the pain is all.” His expression darkened. “But she can still take it, which makes her a problem.”

“What I want to know,” Watt Sun began, “is how they knew we were Pinkietons. Did any of you tell anypony about our disguise?” Each of the Pinkietons shook their heads before they all glanced at the sheriff.

“Don’t look at me!” Quiet retorted. “I ain’t fool enough to spill a secret like that!”

“Then how did they know?” Sharp Eye asked.

“It doesn’t really matter now,” Vinyl muttered. “What matters is getting them before they get us.”

Their train arrived in O.K. a few hours later. The town was larger than the Pinkietons had been expecting, sprawling out on both sides of the railroad tracks within a dry, sloping valley that sat at the foot of a steep, craggy mountain range. Even from miles away, the Pinkietons could make out the roads and rail line that led up to the gold mine in the mountain.

At first, the town itself looked much like any other western settlement. The rudimentary train platform faced the town’s dusty main street, which ran parallel to the train tracks and was lined with one or two-story simple wooden buildings, many with false fronts or covered porches. At the corner of the nearest intersection was the only brick structure in town: the hotel, which at three stories towered over its neighbors. The other buildings on the main street were a mix of saloons, salt licks, trading posts, grocers, banks, and shops.

But there was something that set O.K. apart from other western pony towns, and to see it all anypony had to do was turn around and look across the train tracks. On the side that the train platform and the main street were on, the gently sloping hill was dotted with wooden houses with sloping roofs and tidy porches typical of pony houses, arranged in scattered groupings of structures that left a lot of space for gardening between them. But the other side of the train tracks was populated by short, flat-roofed adobe structures that were packed tightly together around a small communal area that was occupied by dozens of mules. The structures here were more rudimentary, looking like they had been hewn from the ground. There were only a few solitary additions here or there, like a tin roof or wooden shutters, that hinted at more contemporary materials.

Even more striking were the cloud structures that sat above a nearby hill overlooking the mule district. Each cloud house was distinct and with plenty of space separating it from its neighbors, but they were still concentrated in the sky above the hill. As the Pinkietons watched, several griffons flew over the train tracks, between the cloud houses and the main street.

“Your settlement seems quite... segregated,” Octavia remarked to Quiet Earp.

The sheriff nodded. “Folks here like to keep to their kin,” he explained. “The mules were the first to settle—well, strictly speakin’, the buffalo were the first here, but they live out in the hills past town.” He gestured at a range of scrubby hills that sat opposite the tall mountain overlooking the town. “Then the mules showed up and built their little town there. This was before the railroad was built, you see, which is why it looks so different. Then ponies starting comin’ and none of ‘em were too keen to live in ‘em mud houses, so they built their own town on the other side of the tracks. And then the griffons were just left to wherever they wouldn’t block anyone’s sunlight. The only place where any of ‘em hafta interact is Main Street.”

“My my, Sheriff. You sound like yer going to start preaching ‘bout unity an’ harmony an’ all that bollocks,” called out a voice in a clipped Trottingham accent. The Pinkietons looked up to see a male griffon hovering over them, grinning at Quiet Earp. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say yer getting sentimental.”

“Doc, you opportunistic bastard,” Quiet grunted, but he was wearing a smile. “How the hay are you?”

The griffon landed beside him. “Well, I was hoping you’d show up with more than... this,” he muttered, casting his gaze over the four Pinkietons. “My name’s Summer Holiday, but the locals here jus’ call me ‘Doc.’”

“Doc’s an ol’ friend and the town practitioner,” the sheriff elaborated. “If it weren’t for him, the griffons woulda been outta my hooves.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Doc,” Watt Sun replied, taking off his bowler hat. “We’re with the Pinkieton Detective Agency, and—”

Detectives?!” the griffon bellowed, startling Watt Sun. “We don’t need no stinking detectives! We need warriors! Soldiers!” He quickly rounded on the sheriff. “Quiet, you arse! I thought you were gonna get the Royal Guard!”

“I told you, they can’t fight here,” Quiet replied cooly. “I met with Blueblood personally and he said—”

“I don’t care what that blithering twat says!” Doc yelled. “The only reason he spoke to you at all was ‘cause you and I reminded him how bad it would look for him if he didn’t start looking out for his gold mine!”

“Well, if you want an army so bad, I don’t see you going to the griffon kingdom to ask for one,” the sheriff retorted with a humph.

Doc crossed his arms and glared at Quiet. “I hope yer joking. I’m wanted back in the old country. I didn’t take a pony name and move all the way out here fer the fun of it.”

“If I may interrupt,” Octavia said forcefully, pushing her way between the two and facing the griffon, “I believe you’ll find us to be more than capable of handling these bandits. Each of us has ample combat experience and suitable armaments.” Behind her, Vinyl, Watt Sun, and Sharp Eye each nodded.

Doc snorted. “I’ll believe that when I see it.”

“Believe it, boy,” the sheriff drawled. “You shoulda seen them take on Black Bronc! And they did a number on your ol’ friend Gretchen,” he added, smiling slyly.

Doc glared back. “Don’t you dare mention that witch’s name in front of me.”

A heavy silence hung in the air, which was only broken by Quiet Earp. He turned to the Pinkietons. “Err... let’s get you to your lodgings. You’re stayin’ in the hotel.” He started leading them towards the brick building that dominated the block. It was easily the finest building in town, with rows of curtained glass windows set between red brick. The ground floor had arched windows that looked in on a fine restaurant. Compared to the dusty street and buildings that surrounded it, the hotel looked positively glamorous.

The inside was rather bare-bones as far as furnishings were concerned, nothing at all like the elegant hotels of Canterlot or Manehattan. But the lobby was clean and pleasant, with a cozy fireplace and a few simple chairs. A door on one side led to a bar and the restaurant, while a receptionist sat behind a desk in front of a staircase that led upstairs.

The sheriff dealt with the matter of securing a room for each of the Pinkietons. Within moments he was leading them upstairs to their rooms.

“Keep a watchful eye. Doc and I can only do so much to keep the bandits out, so you gotta stay on your guard,” he warned. “If I were you, I’d keep a night watch.”

“And where can we find you?” Octavia inquired.

“Downstairs, so long as I’m not doing something,” the sheriff answered. “The bar is my office.”

“Sounds like my kind of gig,” Vinyl said with a laugh. “I think I’ll join you.” She made to follow Quiet downstairs before Octavia caught her with a forehoof.

“Vinyl, don’t you think we should get settled into our rooms first?”

Vinyl stopped in her tracks. “Oh, right.” Using her magic, she took her key and opened the door to her room. They got a brief glimpse of a quaintly furnished room before the unicorn flung her saddlebag and guitar case onto the bed before slamming the door shut.

“There we go. Now let’s get that drink.” Vinyl spun around and headed down the hall. Octavia slapped her forehead with a hoof while Watt Sun and Sharp Eye glanced uneasily at each other.

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