Chapter 6: Trouble Back Home
The news hit Inkblot like a slap to the face. Of course, his mind first jumped to the thought that the HPIRT took him away. But why would they do it? Did they think that Hearth was him? How could they make that mistake? And either way, he thought all they were going to do was wipe the pony's memories. Not steal him away from his home. He still had to at least try to get a grip on what was going on.
"Sir, do you know where this pony could be?" the guard said, snapping the dazed pony back into reality.
"No. Not at all." Inkblot was completely honest in his answer. He had absolutely no idea where the humans were taking Hearth, but he intended to find out soon. "But be sure to let me know if any news comes up."
With that, the two guards nodded in almost perfect unison and walked away to check out the next room. Inkblot, still standing in the doorway, had to continue taking in what was going on. Not just the news about Hearth, but also his new cutie mark.
He started with his cutie mark. It was simple, like most cutie marks. It was a blue, stone bridge that was similar to the one that Trixie destroyed, but with significant differences. The most obvious one was the fact that it was blue. A more subtle difference was that it looked like it was almost holographic as if it were being projected onto his flank. Inkblot just didn't know what in the hay his cutie mark meant.
The unicorn shut the door, figuring that he should probably get something done while he was deep in thought. It was Sunday, which meant he had to head home, which meant he had to pack. Then again, he never really unpacked, so all he really had to was turn in his key. The pale colt put on his saddlebags as he left room 152, locking it on his way out.
A bridge. What could a bridge mean? Well, what did bridges do? They were mainly made for connecting two things. Did it mean he was a connection between the ponies and the HPIRT? That would make sense because it seemed like it would belong in the futuristic laptop. Was his purpose to be the bridge between his world and their world? If it was, then who were they to mess around with his fate? Was he invincible? Of course not. They were relentless. At least Hopkins was. If his grudge against him was that strong, which by now it had to be, Hearth was lucky to be alive.
By this point, Inkblot was at the front desk, turning in his key. "Thank you for your hospitality. Tell Hearth I said thanks of he ever turns up," he said to the mare at the desk.
"Thank you for staying at H-Hearth Hotel," she said with a shaken stutter. As the black-maned pony walked away, he thought of how she was probably friends with Hearth. She was scared because she had no idea what happened to him. Inkblot knew, but had a feeling that if she knew what was really going on, she wouldn't feel much better.
Following that train of thought as he left the hotel, Inkblot wondered why they took Hearth instead of him. Hopkins, aka ID 4672, sent out a description of Inkblot that wasn't even close to describing his hotel-owning friend. So it had to be somepony who didn't know his name and gave Hearth's name because apparently thought his name was Hearth. But who was the spy?
He went through the eventful day before. First thing he did was wake up and meet Hearth, who was straight out for obvious reasons. After he went into the city with him (he thought as he left Canterlot, ironically enough), he went to the Comfy Stable for breakfast. Maybe the waitress was a spy? Of course! That made perfect sense because Inkblot showed her Hearth's ID. Then she must have reported Hearth's name to the HPIRT. Well, now he knew who the spy was, and with his information, he left a mental note saying that he should avoid the Comfy Stable.
On to his last pressing order of business. How will he explain his cutie mark? It was big news, and Headline and Snapshot would definitely be talking about it. Of course, they couldn't know about the humans, so the bridge on his flank had to represent something else. Inkblot had to think up something as soon as possible, because, as effective as they were, his last minute alibis were also downright terrible.
After only a couple minutes of throwing out countless stupid ideas, he rehearsed his final draft of the story to himself. "This cutie mark? Oh yeah, I got it while I was in Canterlot. Just sorta woke up and had it. My guess is it came after I had a talk with this one citypony named Hearth. And I could actually understand all of his fancier speak. I fit in with the fancy crowd of Canterlot. And I also fit in here in Ponyville. So I figure I'm like a bridge between Ponyville life and Canterlot life." It could pass, and most importantly, it wouldn't arouse any suspiscions regarding the HPIRT.
After his rehearsal, he looked ahead to see a river blocking the path. Over the river was a new bridge. This one was much more polished than the old one, without the moss and dirt, but it was still a stone bridge, just like the one before it. He crossed it, thinking once again how Trixie had saved him from Hopkins, and how her knowing made her lose her memory.
And so, Inkblot continued down the mountain on hoof, making his way back home to Ponyville.
It seemed that nothing had changed in the small town of Ponyville. The streets were still quiet, with five ponies on the road at most. The quiet houses were nothing compared to the huge buildings Inkblot saw in Canterlot. Overall, the town was still quiet and unmoving, unlike the bustling busy city of Canterlot. Inkblot always liked that better, since he could always expect what was to happen next. Except for the occasional event that shook the whole town. Perhaps that's why he loved it. It was probably why the humans loved it too. Those events could be entertaining.
On the road, the black and white pony saw a familiar face. It was the neighsayer. The purple one that embarrassed Trixie in front of the entire town. While Inkblot kept any of his disdain to himself, the librarian was open and approached him in a friendly manner.
"Oh! Hello!" she said with a smile on her face. "You're the pony who wanted the lightning spell, right?"
"Oh yeah! That's me!" he responded. With all of the HPIRT business, Inkblot had completely forgotten about the borrowed library book. "I'll return the book soon. I managed to read up what I needed."
"Did you impress you pegasus friend?"
The colt was confused for a moment. He refreshed his memory to whatever fabrication he constructed back when the two met. Oh yeah. He wanted to learn the lightning spell so that he could prove that unicorns were cooler. "Yeah. He was impressed, but you know how pegasi are. He still thought pegasi were better."
The mare laughed. "Yeah. I have a friend just like that. She's really arrogant like that. And she's a pegasus."
Inkblot laughed along. For being a neighsayer, she wasn't really that bad. She was very friendly. The colt figured that he should be friendly back. "So, I realized that I never actually got your name a couple days back."
"Twilight Sparkle," the purple unicorn said with a friendly smile. "And yours?"
Suddenly, Twilight's face shifted to one of recognition. "Oh, you write the column in the Ponyville Post, right?"
"Well, that's one person who reads my stuff," he answered with a laugh.
Twilight returned with a laugh. "You're too hard on yourself. A lot of ponies around here read your articles. Oh, and you're Headline's son, right?"
He nodded. "I assume you know him. Does he talk about me often?" he asked with a chuckle.
"Oh, I've only met him once or twice. I just know you two are related because of what happened yesterday. Sorry about that, by the way. Is everything going alright?" she added sympathetically.
Inkblot started to panic. "What happened? I just got back in town from Canterlot. Is...is my dad dead?"
"Oh no! Not that, thank Celestia. The news was huge around town, though. Probably the worst news of the week, not counting the Ursa attack. Your house was robbed." There was a pause. "If you need someone to talk to, I-"
Before Twilight Sparkle could say anything else, the pale pony dashed away, expecting the worst back at his home.
On the outside, Inkblot's home looked exactly the same. If his house was robbed, it wasn't broken into by force. No broken windows and no holes in the wall.
When Inkblot opened the door, it was revealed that the inside had changed quite a bit. Where there were pictures hanging on the wall of Inkblot as a foal and Headline as a younger colt, there were now only the nails that held them up. Further in the house, it was obvious that the kitchen table, sofas, and a majority of the other furniture was missing as well.
"Hello Inkblot." The unicorn jumped, surprised by the voice behind him. It was Headline.
"Dad! Are you OK?" he figured was the first thing to ask.
"Yeah, I'm just fine. Don't you worry. It's the house that's a little shaken up," the gruff old stallion said as he looked around the nearly empty room.
"So what exactly happened? Did he just waltz right in and take our stuff?"
Despite the context, Headline gave a hearty laugh. "Yep. That's pretty much what happened. I messed up and didn't lock the doors. In the middle of the night while I was asleep, he apparently came in and took the furniture. Woke up this mornin' and the house looked like this."
"How about the printing press?" Inkblot asked frantically.
"Untouched. The thief didn't have the sense to go to the basement. We can still run the Post. I know how much you love writing your column."
Inkblot smiled, thinking optimistically. "Well that's good!"
Suddenly, the older pony's expression shifted to one of sorrow. "Actually, we might not be running it much longer."
The words themselves made Inkblot jump. "What?" he asked even more frantically. "Why not?"
Headline sighed. He was usually bright and optimistic, so breaking bad news was always difficult. "Everything costs money, Inkblot. We were just robbed of all of our furniture, and we need to get it back somehow. Royal Guard doesn't deal with common thieves. It's gone and the only way to get it back is to buy more."
The younger unicorn, now melancholy at what this meant, finished for his father. "And the easiest way to get money is to sell the press."
Headline patted his son on the back. "I know it's not easy to take, and I'm lookin' for other ways. I love makin' the Ponyville Post as much as you do, and givin' it up is hard for me too."
"I can live without furniture for a while."
"That was my plan. Make do until we get back up on our feet," Headline said, going into the kitchen.
"If we get back on our-"
"WHEN we get back on our feet," the bearded pony interrupted with his optimistic reassurance. It was strong, as if to say that the possibility of them going down was nonexistent. This elicited a pause which would have been silence if Headline wasn't pulling bread out of the fridge. "I got a new toaster today. Was about to test it out on some bermuda sandwiches. Want one?"
Inkblot took a second to respond. He was busy plotting to himself. "Of course I'd love one. Just gimme a minute. Need to finish something up upstairs." Without another word, he dashed up the stairs.
Fortunately for the unicorn, his room was untouched. The burgular wasn't dumb enough to go upstairs where Headline was asleep. His room was familiar territory where he could concentrate further than other places he had used the laptop.
Inkblot powered up the laptop and opened CamSystem, operating it more masterfully than the last time he had operated it. "Come on. It's gotta be around here somewhere," he said to himself as he opened the GeneralPonyville cameras. There they were. The 73 cameras that covered the streets of his town. He browsed through the camera screens, searching for one that showed the front of his home.
After a couple of scrolls, he saw Camera GeneralPonville33. It had a view down the street outside of about 6 houses. One of the houses was Inkblot's. There was a perfect view of his front door. "Perfect."
Now he just needed to find a recording from that camera from the night before. Inkblot figured that a complex system like this would be able to do that. There it was at the top. "Records". He moved the cursot over to the button labeled "Records" and clicked on it.
Suddenly, a box opened up on the screen. It said "Enter password:". Oh no! A password? How was he going to get a password? He was hoping to get the recording of the robbery and catch the foe red-hoofed. But now he had to know some password in order to get the recordings.
Let down by his first failed plan, he started to formulate another. In the middle of his plan, he smelled the aroma of toasting bermuda. He knew that his favorite meal was about to be delivered. This thought was suppressed by the sight of smoke on the computer screen. It was coming out of his house. Needless to say, this caused the pensive pony to rush downstairs.
The hallways were lightly fogged by smoke while the kitchen was completely flooded with smoke. Inkblot panicked. Last time he saw smoke, it was when the HPIRT took Trixie's memory. His newly created paranoia caused him to fear the worst.
"Dad! Are you alright?!" He heard the window open. Was Hopkins trying to sneak in or something? Inkblot's mind was racing, and hearing a thud from outside the house definitely didn't help. "Dad!" he called again.
"I'm alright, Inkblot," Headline responded calmly, but still with a raised voice.
"Dad! Are you feeling okay?" he yelled as the smoke cleared.
His dad coughed a couple times, letting the smoke leave the kitchen. "Yeah. I'm just fine."
"Oh, that new toaster kinda scorched our sandwiches. Dumb toaster. I never liked it anyway" Headline used his magic to pull the two burnt crisps that used to resemble bermuda sandwiches out of the toaster, which had been thrown out the window.
After giving a sigh of relief. inkblot shrugged his shoulders. "Meh, I always liked that burnt taste." With that, he took a bite of one of the shriveled up black things and immediately gagged. He quickly spat it out in the sink. "Okay, maybe not that much."
His father laughed loudly, but it was followed by another cough since the smoke hadn't completely cleared out yet. "Oh boy, this smoke isn't helpin' me out. By the way, did you manage to write that article while you were out in Canterlot?"
Suddenly, a lightbulb went off in Inkblot's head. His plan was complete and ready for execution. Step one of his plan: Fib to his dad. "Uh. I got most of it done. About half maybe. In fact, I was finishing up upstairs."
His father gave a scoff. "I'm sure you were. Just give it to me by the end of the day so I can print it tonight. Snapshot beat you to the deadline and she's not even getting paid!"
Inkblot played along with Headline's joke as he headed upstairs. "So when should I expect my salary?" he asked with a laugh since he didn't get paid either.
The second he got to his room, he summoned a scroll and quill and got straight to work.
I just got back in from Canterlot today, and I was hoping to find some news for the column. And, oh boy did I find some news. A day into my ventures in the big city (fantastic place, by the way), I came across a certain pony who at first sounded absolutely insane. It seemed he had conjured up a wild conspiracy theory. I was all ears, hoping for a well-done work of fiction.
He had told me of this alternate universe where humans live. They come down Equestria (specifically Ponyville) to record our everyday lives and broadcast them for the entertainment of our world. I was skeptic at first, but then I thought of how eventful our lives can be. For instance, we had the Ursa Minor attack only a few days ago. And what about when not one, but two stampedes threatened our town all in the same week? Maybe our lives could be entertaining.
Anyway, this pony talked about how these humans planted invisible cameras all over the town, which record us from almost every angle. He said there are hundreds spread around Ponyville alone. The idea intrigued me, but of course, this was so outrageous I felt like I had to prove him wrong with logic. I asked why I hadn't seen him. His response frightened me. He said that I might have. According to him, these people (he called them the HPIRT) had memory erasing chemicals that they apply on ponies who see them. It's an easy thing to do since unicorns (an other ponies, but especially unicorns) can suffer from memory loss by excessive magic or illness.
I still wasn't quite convinced. I parted with him, but as I left, this crazy pony said that he knew this thing for too long and that their memory erasers didn't go back as far, so they had to kill him instead. He had already admitted himself to the humans, but he wanted to go out with a bang, so he told me to tell everypony I knew. Still, I was skeptic.
The next day, I woke up to discover that Hearth, the owner of the hotel at which I was staying, had gone missing. I approached the insane pony once again who, clearly, was not dead. He assumed that they took the wrong pony.
I'm still unsure about the truth of this. I just figured you should know since, according to my anonymous source, we are what the HPIRT are watching. Maybe I just want to appease some crazy pony who told me to tell everypony I knew. Either way, is this a conspiracy, or is something going on in Ponyville?
Inkblot immediately took the scroll and looked over it for spelling errors. Finding none, he headed downstairs and handed it to his father, who had recovered from the smoke bomb earlier. "Done. Ready for tomorrow's paper."
Without a word, Headline picked it up and skimme over it. Most of the time he was wearing a look of confusion. "A conspiracy? Didn't think you were into that kinda stuff."
"I know it sounds strange, but can you post it? Please! I just want to tell people this," Inkblot nearly begged.
"Well...I dunno...It does seem rather shaky... Oh wait. It's your column. You do what you want," he said with a big hearty laugh to respond to his son's look of anxiety. "To the press?"
Inkblot smiled and nodded. "To the press."