A Dangerous Job - Part 3Thankless, dressed in his black bodysuit, slipped quietly through the shadows of Ponyville's back alleys. He was careful to avoid the open streets whenever he could, because the squares of light dotting the pavement told him that there were still ponies awake in their houses. He knew he couldn't afford to be caught sneaking around in the dark - that would surely mean spending the night in jail, along with a hefty fine for possessing dangerous weapons, at the very least.A Dangerous Job - Part 3 by liammw8
He snuck down an alley, his back pressed against the stone wall of a house. He ducked behind a stack of wooden crates and looked back in the direction he had come from. He didn't hear or see anything, so he darted to the other side of the alley and continued down it. He soon came to the place where the alley met the street, and after looking both ways he darted across the road and into the relative safety of another house's shadow. Suddenly, Thankless heard a creak. He froze, and looked in
Thankless, dressed in his black bodysuit, slipped quietly through the shadows of Ponyville's back alleys. He was careful to avoid the open streets whenever he could, because the squares of light dotting the pavement told him that there were still ponies awake in their houses. He knew he couldn't afford to be caught sneaking around in the dark - that would surely mean spending the night in jail, along with a hefty fine for possessing dangerous weapons, at the very least.
He snuck down an alley, his back pressed against the stone wall of a house. He ducked behind a stack of wooden crates and looked back in the direction he had come from. He didn't hear or see anything, so he darted to the other side of the alley and continued down it. He soon came to the place where the alley met the street, and after looking both ways he darted across the road and into the relative safety of another house's shadow. Suddenly, Thankless heard a creak. He froze, and looked into the street where he saw the shadow of a window opening. A pony's head appeared in the shadow and looked around. Thankless held his breath. He had been as quiet as a church mouse crossing that street. Maybe he had been seen. But no, the pony's head withdrew to the interior and closed the window. Thankless wasted no time, he crept into another alleyway and crouched behind a barrel.
He sighed, half with relief and half with frustration. He stared at the cobbled wall opposite to him and thought hard. Find Flash Freeze, the twisted Alicorn had said. A Unicorn with an icicle for a cutie mark, she said. Now that he thought about it, that wasn't much of a description to go by. Thankless had never even seen Flash Freeze in person, he had only just heard stories about him and the numerous times him and his friends had defended Ponyville and Equestria from her enemies. And they must have been quite some adventures, if Thankless had to be evacuated with the whole town more than once, and if Flash Freeze had been given a statue of himself.
But Thankless still loved to hear every word of those tales. They filled him with a sense of pride to be living in the same town as such a hero, but at the same time they made him feel empty inside. Flash Freeze's mighty deeds were made of the stuff Thankless could only dream of. It wasn't like he enjoyed comparing himself with other ponies, he knew it was a silly thing to do, but deep down he wished he could fight and work magic and be as strong and brave just like Flash freeze and all of his friends. But that was something that would never come to pass. Thankless was just a simple, honest and hard-working Earth Pony, living in a rented basement, making his way as a labourer. It wasn't even skilled work, he was just an extra set of hooves to help out anypony who needed it. It was good work, there was no doubt about that. It was just that Thankless often felt there was something he was missing out on. He figured he was envious of the adventurous young Unicorn and all the excitement he got to have.
A noise suddenly snapped Thankless out of his apathy. He peeked out from the alley and saw that the noise had come from Sugar Cube Corner, just down the street. Two young-looking Unicorns had just come out of the building and were heading down the street, away from Thankless' hiding place. But the stallion didn't hide himself again. They were Unicorns, and he needed to check whether they were, or were not, the ones he was looking for. Thankless came out from the alley and silently began to follow. His hooves made almost no sound as he tiptoed along the sidewalk - it was a skill he was very proud of, besides him being a very quiet stallion, he had learned how to do it from one of his books. An adventure story, if he remembered correctly. He stayed close to the buildings and kept just enough distance between him and the Unicorns to remain unnoticed. His eyes has long since adjusted to the darkness and he could make out their appearance. One of the Unicorns was a young mare, her coat, her long mane and tail were all various shades of green. Her cutie mark looked like a bramble vine, and she grasped a staff of some kind in her foreleg. She wasn't the one he was looking for.
Her companion, however, aroused much more interest. He was a young stallion, and his horn curved slightly upwards. His coat, and his scruffy long mane and tail were made up of brilliant blues. His cutie mark resembled a large blue jewel, and a round shield was strapped to his left foreleg. Thankless suddenly realized that he looked very familiar, just as if the Earth Pony had seen the Unicorn somewhere before, and he struggled to think of where and when it could have been. Then he remembered - the brass statue he had been polishing almost a week ago. The young Unicorn stallion in front of him looked just like that statue. Everything was a perfect match from head to tail, right down to his cutie mark. That could only mean one thing -
Thankless almost jumped out of his skin. He was so focused on the task at hoof that was not prepared to hear the twisted Alicorn's voice again. He dove into a wooden barrel and huddled inside to compose himself after his shock.
"What are you waiting for?" the voice in his head asked, "Kill him."
Thankless didn't move. He was too afraid he had been seen. A few seconds passed, but nothing happened. He glanced upwards, but all he saw through the opening was the clear night sky. No-one had come to investigate. The stallion breathed a sigh of relief. He peeked over the rim of the barrel and saw the two Unicorns, not far away and talking with one another. They weren't walking anymore. He huddled inside his barrel again and took several deep breaths in an attempt to calm his nerves.
"You are wasting time. Kill him!"
Thankless slowly and deliberately reached to his waist and drew the knife from its sheath - he had to curl his hoof to his forearm to grasp the weapon - and for the first time examined it closely. The knife had a simple and functional design, no engravings or anything fancy like that. The blade was about six inches long, single-edged and curved, and the yellowish metal gleamed dully. This knife certainly wasn't anything you'd find in somepony's kitchen. Thankless' front hooves began to shake at the thought of what he was about to do with it. He imagined himself, holding the knife dripping with blood, with a pony that looked half his age laying dead on the ground in front of him. He would be responsible for taking the life of one of Equestria's greatest heroes. This Unicorn didn't deserve such a fate. He deserved a bright and prosperous future and have stories and songs written about him, to have his name remembered forever in history and the chance to start a family.
"Kill him! Now!"
A chill set in around Thankless' kidneys at the dark creature's command. He knew what would happen if he obeyed - he would be a murderer, a fugitive cut off from normal civilized life. He would have to run away from Ponyville to escape the law. But sooner or later he would be hunted down like a Diamond Dog and dragged to Canterlot in chains to be tried, convicted and sentenced. The Earth Pony tried to think of the worst penalty. Life imprisonment with no parole. Forced to drink poison. The firing squad. The gallows. Beheading. He wondered what it would feel like to die and how much it would hurt.
"What is wrong with you!?" the creature screamed, "Kill Flash Freeze!"
"No, I can't do it!" Thankless quietly grunted, huddled in his barrel like a terrified foal.
"Be warned, Thankless. I have been patient with you until now," came the dark Alicorn's reply, "I'm tired of your hesitation and your incompetence. You represent a poor investment. I shall tell you again, kill Flash Freeze."
The Earth Pony gripped his chest in a futile effort to stop his body from shaking. He was too afraid to even move.
"This is your last chance, you miserable excuse for a stallion. Kill Flash Freeze, and maybe I'll forgive you."
Thankless plucked up just enough courage to peek out of his barrel and at his target once again. Flash Freeze was standing in the middle of the street, watching his mare friend walk away.
"Those who disobey me, die! Kill Flash Freeze! I command you!"
Now Thankless climbed out of the barrel and set his hooves on the pavement, gripping the knife at the ready. Stifling his heavy breathing, he slowly and silently advanced on the young Unicorn. He had already thought about the consequences if he obeyed the creature's order, but if he didn't, there was no telling what she might do to him. He began to realize that he just might be dead no matter what he did. He paused. Flash Freeze was only a few feet away, still with his back to Thankless. The Earth Pony examined his target a bit more, and decided that he still had a chance of escape after stabbing the Unicorn. Just a few more steps and the job would be done. He would just sneak up, stab him, and run away before anypony knew what was happening. A simple plan, and simple was just the way Thankless liked to do things. He took another step. This was it. Thankless raised the knife, and...
Flash Freeze suddenly jerked his head to one side, as if something had caught his attention. Thankless froze in surprise, and made a big mistake: he gasped. In the silence of the night it sounded as loud as a firecracker. Thankless' mind went completely blank in panic and confusion. Flash Freeze spun around and kicked Thankless square in the chest. He went sprawling backwards on the pavement. Dazed and surprised, he tried to get up but he felt like his lungs had exploded. He broke into a coughing fit, and his eyes began to water. Every gasp was almost too painful to bear. After several minutes, Thankless' coughing finally subsided enough for him to wipe his eyes and look up. He saw Flash Freeze standing over him. Remembering that he had just tried to stab this Unicorn in the back, Thankless tried to roll out of his way, but Flash Freeze bent down and got hold of Thankless' mask with his teeth and it was torn from the Earth Pony's head, along with a chunk of his mane.
"Yeow!" Thankless rubbed the sore spot on his head, "Careful!"
"Who sent you?" Flash Freeze asked, raising an eyebrow.
Thankless got to his hooves. "S' nothin' personal mate, I gotta job to do." He reared up on his hind legs and reached for his... dagger. Horse feathers! thought Thankless. He had dropped his dagger when Flash Freeze had kicked him. Now what?
"Use your sword, stupid." The Alicorn's voice rang in his head again. Thankless checked, and saw that he did still have his sword. He drew it. It wasn't very long, but very straight and narrow. He rushed forward and took a swing at the Unicorn's neck. Flash Freeze simply raised his shield. Thankless' sword clanged into it. The impact sent a painful jolt down his arm, and he accidentally dropped his sword. Recovering from his mistake, Thankless threw a punch. Flash Freeze expertly dodged out of the way, and with little effort, pushed Thankless over. The Earth Pony lost his balance and fell face-down.
Thankless growled. He hadn't imagined he would down so easily, and he was getting angry. He turned onto his back and all of a sudden, his frustration quickly faded. Flash Freeze was standing with the edge of his shield just inches from Thankless' throat. He was pinned!
"Who sent you?" asked Flash Freeze again, "Why are you trying to kill me?"
"I-I-I..." Thankless stammered.
"You foal! Be quiet!"
Thankless' head began to pulse as he tried to blot out the Alicorn's screams. He wasn't very good at listening to two voices at once - it gave him headaches.
"You have a choice. You can talk to me, or would you rather go to jail?" Flash Freeze glared down at the helpless Earth Pony.
"I can't, she'll kill me!" Thankless protested.
"What do you mean 'she?'" Flash Freeze tilted his head in interest.
"Don't you dare betray me!"