InventorAnon (Anon x Tempest Shadow)

Oct 13th, 2017
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  1. Trip is !g1QOdsQIjQ
  3. >Be anon.
  4. >You've been in ponyland for about 8 months now.
  5. >You're pretty well adjusted to the weird shit that goes on.
  6. >You've got your own place on the path to everfree forest.
  7. >You've got a humble little house with a huge shed and shit piled everywhere in the back yard.
  8. >It's mostly reclaimed materials you keep intending to us for a stack of projects that has never shrunk once.
  10. >Such is the life in the life of someone trying to recreate modern comforts.
  12. >Today was a day for one of the endless projects in your mind.
  13. >You were making some rough welding electrodes.
  14. >Rough being the operating term, there.
  15. >This shit would not sell at all back home.
  17. >But still, you're finished with your first batch of electrodes, and it's time to test it.
  18. >So, you stick one of the thick things in each clamp, hooked up to a crystal battery and voltage regulator.
  19. >Yes, you're cheating by using crystals.
  20. >Shut up.
  21. >You throw down your mask and approach the crucible.
  22. >It's got some chunks of iron ore and a small steel fragment are in there.
  23. >You close the lid and stick the electrodes in the holes in the sides.
  24. >Aww yeah. You know that sound. That's the sound of electricity fucking shit up.
  25. >You are ANON! Arc welder SUPRE-
  26. >"Hey anon."
  28. >You pull out, and set your stuff down on a slab of rock.
  29. "What's up?"
  30. >You turn around. It's twiggles.
  31. >"Not much. I was hoping you could help me."
  32. >You shrug.
  33. >Usually when she says that it's something that eats up a lot of time, but whatever.
  34. >You need a reason to talk to people anyways.
  35. "Friendship problem?"
  36. >"Friendship problem."
  37. >Ah, yes. When Twilight needs help with friends she likes to come to you.
  38. >For some reason.
  39. "So what's the problem today? Another depressed stallion?"
  40. >You haven't seen Thunderlane since two weeks ago, but he's apparently doing much better
  41. >"Nothing like that. You remember that mare I told you about? Commander Tempest?"
  42. >How could you not?
  43. "Yep."
  44. >"Well, she's staying in Ponyville for the time being, and I'm helping her make some friends."
  45. >wut
  46. "Another villian to the collection, right?"
  47. >You finally take off your stuff and dump it inside the shed you're next to.
  48. >She scoffs
  49. >"You know that's not why i help them."
  50. "Oh I know." you tussle her hair and walk into your house with her in tow. "It'll only take-"
  51. >"-one insincere reformation to do me in, I know." She pauses. "That's why I think you really need to meet her."
  52. "What, because I'm paranoid sometimes?"
  53. >"Because she is too."
  54. >...ooooooohh.
  55. >Okay, actually, you don't know if that was supposed to be very meaningful.
  56. >You're no philosopher
  57. >"Anyways, Pinkie is hosting her party tomorrow night and we're just a bit scared that not many ponies will want to come"
  58. "Sure, I'll come."
  59. >You grab a beer from your fridge
  60. "She much of a drinker?"
  61. >"No. She's a pretty sober pony."
  62. "Damn."
  63. >You were hoping to find a good reason to share that mead you've been making.
  64. >Maybe you'll just bring it anyways.
  65. "She like, want, or need anything in particular? I think i have some spare things around here i could give her"
  66. >"She could use a job if you know of any around. She doesn't seem to like vanity much."
  67. "I'll keep that in mind."
  68. >"Thanks anon. She'd really like to meet someone as different as her."
  69. "Sure thing Twiggles."
  70. >You taste your beer.
  71. >Eww.
  72. >Fuck, you must not have bottled it right.
  73. >You dump the bad beer and put the bottle and cap over near the dish pile.
  74. >"Anyways, she's staying at my place until she can afford someplace. Drop by if you want to meet her before the party."
  75. "Maybe. I'm trying to get Clockwork to help me out with a ratchet system tonight. I'll keep it in mind, though."
  76. >She gives you a quick hug and starts trotting towards the door.
  77. >"Thanks again anon."
  78. >She goes out and leaves you again
  79. >You stare at the dishes, along with other piles of crap around the house that need to be taken care of.
  80. >You fucking hoarder
  81. >Oh well. Best clean up at least some of it before more surprise guests.
  83. ---
  85. >It's later.
  86. >Significantly later.
  87. >And you've cleaned off your design table and prepared it for Clockwork
  88. >But, he was supposed to be here an hour ago.
  89. >It wasn't like he didn't know the time.
  90. >He probably just forgot.
  91. >...or he had a family surprise again.
  92. >His kids are always dicking around where they shouldn't be.
  93. >Oh well. You chalk it up to him being busy tonight.
  94. >What to do then?
  95. >You could make Shadow the Pony a nice gift.
  96. >what would a practical pony like?
  97. >...
  98. >Oh, you know! Mercenaries LOVE knives!
  99. >You go out your back door and run towards the back, where piles of things were pushed away from a cold furnace.
  100. >Yep, there it is.
  101. >Not sharp, though.
  102. >And where's that harness?
  103. >Shit, you may not have made it yet.
  104. >Okay, time to finish it up.
  105. >Okay, you found the harness.
  106. >And your sharpener.
  107. >You couldn't find that GOOD oil, though, so you settled for that other bottle of shit that always stains your fingers.
  108. >Oh well.
  109. >You can only hope they don't mind the smell.
  111. ---
  113. >You kick in the door to the Twiggle's castle.
  114. "Heeere's Nonny!"
  115. >You love doing that.
  116. >Spike, though, does not.
  117. >"Stop doing that!"
  118. >He throws a book at you, which you barely catch.
  119. "Nah man. I couldn't break those damn doors if I tried. It's much more fun to enter violently."
  120. >"I'm still telling Twilight."
  121. "Sure think Mr. Assistant. Hey, is that new pony here?"
  122. >"Uh.." he thinks for a second. "You mean Fizzlepop?"
  123. >Who the fuck is Fizzlepop?
  124. "No, Tempest Shadow.
  125. >You toss the book in your hand onto a nearby table.
  126. >"Yeah, her real name is Fizzlepop."
  127. >Oh.
  128. >Well.... that's disappointing.
  129. >Must not have liked her birthname or something.
  130. >"Anyways, you just missed her. Glimmer is taking her to the spa.
  131. >The spa.
  132. >The center of all evil.
  133. >Where they remove the dirt and oil from your body!
  134. >A dirty body is the proof of all effort, damnit!
  135. "Well crap. I made her a welcoming gift and now I have to either wait around here or go to the spa and find her."
  136. >"Or... you know, I could just give it to her when she gets back."
  137. >You just had a brilliant idea ALL on your OWN!
  138. >Just give it to spike! He can give it to her later!
  139. >Perfect
  140. "Sweet. It would be great if you could do that, Spike."
  141. >You walk over and hand him the harness and knife.
  142. >"If you can stop slamming the door that is."
  143. "No promises."
  144. >He groaned.
  145. "Hey, I still get you gems pretty regularly. Don't complain too badly.”
  146. >"No promises." He mocks your tone.
  147. "Thanks man."
  148. >Well, shit.
  149. >Now you're not sure what to do.
  150. >You could check up on Clockwork, but nah.
  151. >...
  152. >It really is too late to go start another project today.
  153. >And no one has ordered any hand-made products from you either.
  154. >Maybe you should just go grab some dinner, go home, and read a book.
  155. >Yeah, you need to touch up on your carpentry.
  156. >Those cabinets in the shed are never going to build themselves.
  158. >Where to eat, though?
  159. >Dammit, where's dash when you need her? She always knows where to get good grub.
  160. >Or, well, at least she knows the closest place.
  161. >Fuck it.
  162. >Pizza it is.
  164. >"Anon!"
  166. >Or not
  167. >Sorry stomach, you know what this means.
  168. >Traitor.
  169. >You'll live.
  171. >You whip around to find none other than Clockwork at your heel.
  172. >He had bags under his eyes and kids were sprinting circles around him. All four of them.
  173. >"Sorry i missed our meeting time.”
  174. "It's cool."
  175. >He smiles apologetically
  176. >"I fell asleep. Wives are all away on a trip to canterlot."
  177. "Ah. just you for the weekend?"
  178. >"Yep. All me."
  179. "Fun stuff."
  180. >You don't think you could handle kids.
  181. "I was about to go get some pizza. You wanna join?"
  182. >"Oh, I couldn't. Trying to eat more vegetables these days, you know how it is."
  183. >You shrug.
  184. >"Would you be free Monday? I think I can come over then."
  185. "Sure."
  186. >"Oh, thank you. I promise I won't be late this time. How about three?
  187. "Three's good."
  188. >"Oh good."
  189. >You look him over for a bit.
  190. "You look tired."
  191. >"Dead tired."
  192. >You smirk.
  193. "I should let you go then. You don't need to waste time talking to me."
  194. >"I... thanks. See you Monday."
  195. "See you."
  197. >You walk your separate ways.
  198. >Poor bastard.
  199. >Where were you?
  200. >Right.
  201. >Pizza.
  203. >You stroll on down town until you get to Pan's Pizza Parlor.
  204. >Awwww yis.
  205. >Wait what the fuck?
  206. >There's ponies EVERYWHERE.
  207. >It's never been this busy before.
  208. >So many of them are crammed in seats where they're available.
  209. >And a bunch more are crowded around a table on the sides.
  211. >You lean down to one of the onlookers as you approach.
  212. >Carrot-top you think.
  213. "What's going on?"
  214. >She whips her head.
  215. >"Oh, hey Anon. Some mare challanged Pinkie to an eating contest."
  216. >That poor dumb bastard.
  217. >Every time someone challanges Pinkie, she's always won.
  218. >Weird, though. She normally works Saturday night
  219. >You peak over as far as you can but you can't see Pinkie at all. Just Berry Punch at the other end.
  220. "How far are they in?"
  221. >"A full large cheese-lover's and 3 root beers each. They're deciding what to get next."
  222. >Nice.
  223. >Ponk won't be able to move tomorrow though. At least for a while.
  224. "Any bets?"
  225. >"Doughboy threatened to toss us out if we bet. Said it's bad for the kids."
  226. "Ha! Okay, well. Good to see you Carrot."
  227. >"You too, 'non."
  229. >She turns back to the show and you shuffle your way to the front, where a busy mare named Cashe is taking care of a small line of ponies.
  230. >Ponk always leads such an interesting life.
  231. >How she gets into half the things she does is beyond you.
  233. >It's finally your turn.
  234. >"Hey Anon. What can i do for you?"
  235. "A small Spice Supreme and a tankard of root beer, please."
  236. >You start counting bits as she punches away on the register
  237. >"14 bits, please."
  238. >You give them to her.
  239. "There you go."
  240. >You lean down on the counter as she finishes
  241. "So are you going to the party tomorrow?"
  242. >"Pinkie's party? For what's her name?"
  243. "Yep."
  244. >"As catering, yeah."
  245. "That sucks."
  246. >She shrugs.
  247. >"If it's not too busy I can dip off and go anyways. Perks of an uncle being your boss."
  248. >Nice.
  249. "How is the old guy, anyways?"
  251. >"Great, actually! Thanks for asking. He got a new dog. Named him cricket!"
  252. >"Ahem."
  253. >you look behind you to see an impatient line behind you
  254. >Whoops.
  255. "Well, it's good to hear from you."
  256. >"You too."
  258. >You scurry off to the corner, waiting around the pick up counter where you grabbed your oversized drink and look towards the contest again.
  259. >Berry was still going strong, chowing down on fried salad-stuff.
  260. >Huh. Maybe she did have a chance.
  261. >Maybe.
  263. ----
  264. >Ah, the comforts of home
  265. >nothing feels as good as sitting in a recliner you made, in your underwear, when you know damn well that noone else's ass has ever touched this seat
  266. >you crack open your pizza-box
  267. >You take one of those delicious slices, covered in nothing but the best cheese, sauces and spices
  268. >Just as you put that first slice up to your mouth
  269. >DING DONG
  270. "damnit" you mutter. "Come in"
  272. >In walks Applejack.
  273. >You set your slice and box down.
  274. >This girl has never before come to your home except in need of something.
  275. >You can't say she doesn't like you, though. You're pretty sure she's just that busy and she has priorities other than you.
  277. "What can I do you for, AJ?"
  278. >"Hey hun. One of our carts broke an axle. Think you can come repair it sometime soon?"
  279. >You smirk.
  280. "Whittler giving you the runaround again?"
  281. >she kicks the carpet
  282. >"Has been lately. Says too many ponies comin' to her. Wouldn't be able to come out for weeks."
  283. >You're not complaining. It's extra money for you.
  284. >You hop up and find your schedule on the table at the other side of the room and start going it over.
  285. >Tomorrow seems pretty good, actually. You just have to check on your bees at some point then go to the party.
  286. "Is tomorrow fine to come check it out? I don't think I'll be able to get it done in one day, but we can get what you want squared away.
  287. >"Sure thang. Any time past dawn is great."
  288. "Alright." You write it down, just in case you forget. "See you then."
  290. >She leaves.
  291. >Finally.
  292. >Time to eat.
  294. - - -
  295. >It's now tomorrow.
  296. >You wake up to the bird flying into your window again.
  297. >Goddammit.
  298. >You bet Fluttershy had something to do with this.
  300. >You get up and stretch your body and shit.
  301. >Pop your bones and shit.
  302. >Then shower and shit.
  303. >Reverse order, of course.
  304. >Actually, nix the shower. You'll do that when you get back.
  305. >After getting all done, you look around for that mp3 player you have.
  306. >It's somewhere around here, you know it.
  307. >There!
  308. >It's one of the only things that came with you to this place. You sure as hell aren't going to lose it to clutter.
  309. >Aw yeah.
  310. >You throw on your running shorts and grab your key, then walk out the front door.
  312. >You lock the door, then put on your ear-buds.
  313. >You start off with a song that will help get your heart pumping.
  315. >Now, you run.
  317. >You start off towards town, just taking the usual route leading to the town square.
  318. >As your body settles into the familiar pattern, you begin to let go, losing yourself in the comforting isolation.
  319. >Dawn is just breaking, and it seems no ponies are up yet.
  320. >Just you, the breeze, the grass, the music.
  321. >You'd take off your shoes for this if you didn't know there were rocks everywhere.
  322. >God this feels good.
  324. >You can feel that thump-thump-thump get stronger as you close in on the fountain.
  325. >Your greasy heart is getting the exercise it needs.
  326. >Especially after last night.
  328. >You reach the fountain and slow down.
  329. >On hotter days you spray yourself with water here, but today is pretty cool, so there's no need.
  330. >You lap around it, lazily looking around as you do.
  331. >A pony catches your eye.
  332. >Way down one of the roads branching from this intersection, you think it's a mare.
  333. >She has a magenta color, or something close to it.
  334. >She's pretty tall, too.
  336. >Huh.
  337. >You thought you were the only one that ran this early, but now you guess not.
  338. >Oh well. It's not like you own the place.
  340. >You continue on back home. That double-beat pounding in your chest keeps growing. By now it's stretching through your arteries, and you feel the pulse echo through your body.
  341. >You sail down the nearly-straight path again, trying to lose yourself in your playlist again.
  342. >A song comes to its end as you approach home again.
  344. >”I win!”
  345. >A blue blur passes you right as you get to your property.
  347. “Huh?”
  348. >You take off your ear-buds and stop, looking down at Rainbow.
  350. >”I win!” She repeats.
  351. “Nope. You lost the race to the fountain.”
  352. >She hops in the air.
  353. >”Hey, you can't just-”
  354. “Yes I can.”
  355. >You ruffle her hair.
  357. >”Oh fine.”
  358. >She whips behind you for a second and comes back riding a small cloud.
  359. >”So what're you doing up so early?”
  360. ”I run on Sunday. You forgot?”
  361. >”Uhm...” She looks at you quizzically.
  362. “You stopped after the first time because you were bitching that I was so slow.”
  363. >”...oh, yeah!” She smiles, then realizes what she said. “I- I mean, no! I just decided you need some time to practice and get faster.”
  364. “Uh huh.”
  365. >You walk past here and go towards your door.
  366. “So what's up?”
  368. >”Twilight wanted me to tell you that you should really go to a party tonight that Pinkie's having.”
  369. “Yeah, she came and told me yesterday.”
  370. >”What! Why'd she ask me to if she was just going to tell you anyways?”
  371. >You shrug.
  372. “When did she ask you to tell me?”
  373. >”Uh...a while ago.”
  374. >You snicker to yourself, leaning on the door.
  375. “I think you were late on the uptake, Skittles.”
  377. >She shrugs it off. “Whatever. So are you coming or not?”
  378. “Yeah, I'm coming. Don't think I've forgotten about you guys.”
  379. >”Aaaand are you bringing some of that new mead you're making?”
  380. >Sigh. Of course she knows.
  381. “Who told you this time?”
  382. >”Pinkie.”
  383. “I didn't even tell her this time.”
  384. >”Yeah, she just knows.”
  387. “Well,” best not to think too critically about Pinkie. “the mead is a maybe. I found a few bad bottles yesterday. I don't want to pass around bad bottles.”
  389. >”Oh fine.”
  390. >Poor girl.
  391. >She just wants the delicious mead.
  393. “So how are you, anyways?”
  394. >She floats upside down, staying attached to that cloud.
  395. >”Pretty great. Stoked for that party is all. Not much else going on right now. Lotsa boring work today.”
  396. >She flips over and rests her head on her hoof.
  397. >”Have you met Fizzlepop yet?
  398. “Nope. What's she like?”
  399. >”Kinda cool.” She says. “She looks like she always wants to say something but doesn't. She's opening up, though.”
  400. “Sounds nice.”
  401. >”Yep.”
  403. >A bit of silence.
  405. “Well, I got to shower off the nasty on my skin.”
  406. >”Okay. See you at the party tonight.”
  407. “Sure thing, Skittles. Don't be drunk before I get there.”
  408. >”Whatever, dude. Don't be square!”
  409. “No promises.”
  411. >You walk in and close your door.
  412. >You toss your mp3 player on the table and start shedding your clothes.
  414. - - -
  416. >You are now a clean anon.
  417. >Relatively.
  418. >Nothing can clean your soul.
  419. >You tried.
  421. >Anyways, you are now outside, wearing some regular clothes, work gloves, and carrying a bucket and a smoker.
  422. >You approach the white stack of boxes in the very corner of your property.
  423. >The top one is marked with 'FOX' on the top, along with a crude carving of the animal
  424. >Hue.
  425. >You get to work quickly enough, going through each of the slides in each box.
  426. >You make sure not to make the same mistakes you did the first time you did this.
  427. >Oh god, the images of all those grubs.
  428. >It was as bad as 'Nam.
  432. >That's the first one down.
  433. >You set the boxes up again and the let them get back to their collecting.
  434. >At least the queen was healthy today.
  435. >She looked like she wasn't doing great last you checked, but it must not have been serious.
  436. >Which is always good.
  438. >You still have one more hive to take care of, though.
  439. >You carry the overweight bucket into your house and put the lid on, then set it down in your pantry, under a supply of empty jars.
  440. >You take the empty bucket and lid, close the doors and head out again.
  441. >You grab your smoker again and hop the fence, then head parallel to the edge of the forest.
  443. >Ah, there she is.
  444. >That fucker.
  446. >You approach Fluttershy's place at a jog.
  447. >Fluttershy is out front with the birds.
  448. >Singing a song or something.
  449. >She spots you as you get close, and turns to attend you.
  450. >”Oh, good morning Anon!”
  451. “Morning, Flutters.” You say. “Doing well today?”
  452. >”Great! Thanks.” She turns to the house. “Discord! Could you bring me my honeypot please?”
  454. >Discord, covered in the perfect camouflage, rolls off the roof and lands next to Fluttershy.
  455. >”H-huh?”
  457. ”So THAT'S how he sleeps.”
  458. >”Only once in a blue moon.”
  459. >He snaps and you catch a small honeypot on top of your bucket.
  460. >”Thanks Discord.”
  461. >”Oh, what are slaves for.”
  462. >He floats off around the house.
  463. >You can never tell how that guy is really feeling.
  464. >Maybe that's just his nature.
  466. >Whatever.
  467. “I'll leave it inside for you when I'm done.”
  468. >Yep. She guards the hive from ponies and she gets a cut. That's the deal.
  469. >”Alright. I'll be around if you need me.”
  470. >She goes back to the birds.
  472. >You go around to the side of the house to find your hive, but there is a guardian.
  473. >A BIG
  474. >BLACK
  475. >BEAR
  476. >And it has fallen asleep next to your hive.
  477. >Dammit, Papi, not again.
  478. >You set the containers down and start shaking the bear.
  482. “Come on, Papi. Today started so good, don't make me sad!”
  483. >The bear wakes up and panics.
  484. >Papi runs straight into the dirt wall the house is built on, then scrambles and runs in a random direction.
  485. >Poor Papi. He does this every time.
  486. >Better than attacking you, though.
  488. >You work away on this hive as fast as you did the last.
  489. >And, holy shit.
  490. >'XOF' here has made too much honey.
  491. >And, more importantly, too much hive.
  492. >Some of these slides aren't coming out very easily.
  493. >You end up getting everything done, but you lost some chunks to the ground.
  494. >A lot of those are chunks that were growing where they weren't supposed to, but yeah.
  495. >Still feels like a waste.
  497. >Get that honey, bees, or ants will come.
  498. >You don't want ants, do you?
  499. >That's what you thought.
  501. >”Doing well, Anon?”
  502. >A tiny Discord is now laying across your head.
  503. “Doing great, actually.”
  504. >You break off a piece and toss it up.
  505. >”Oh, thanks!”
  506. >A few seconds later, he spits a small swarm of bees out, and they buzz around your head for a bit.
  507. >”I think I felt a crunch in that one.”
  508. “How are you, though?”
  509. >”OOOH just bored again.”
  510. “What a shame.”
  511. >”Oh, like you don't care.” He pauses. “I know for a FACT that I'M your favorite villain.”
  512. “Careful. 'Best villain' are fighting words around here. Never know who might take up that challenge.”
  513. >”No one that can win it, that's for sure.”
  514. “Speaking of, are you going to that party tonight?”
  515. >”Party?” He grabs your face with his tiny paws. “What party?”
  516. “Pinkie's holding a party tonight. Fizzlepop is supposed to be there.”
  517. >”Who's Fizzlepop?!?”
  518. “The newest member to the 'I was talked out of my lifestyle by Twiggles and company' club.”
  520. >He screeches. “I have to go!”
  522. >He pops out of existence.
  523. >Huh. You wonder what that was about.
  526. >Oh well.
  527. >You take that honey home and stow in away.
  529. >With item #1 checked off your list, you grab a scroll, a pencil and some some measuring tools.
  530. >You don't have a tool-belt yet. It's somewhere down your list. Somewhere past actually finishing your tool set.
  531. >Anyways, you grab everything relevant and make your way out. Today is a busy day, and you'd rather start earlier than later.
  533. >You go out the door and head down the street, jogging your way towards Sweet Apple Acres.
  534. >The sun has risen quite a bit now.
  535. >And ponies are coming out of their houses and going about their day.
  536. >Well, some of them. It is Sunday after all.
  538. >Soon enough you make it to the property and you hop the fence.
  539. >AJ still hates that you do that, but it's significantly faster when you don't run around to the gate.
  540. >You get to the house, and see three fillies playing around the front.
  541. “Morning girls.”
  543. >”Hi Anon.”
  544. >”Hey mister.”
  545. >”Mornin'.”
  547. >You pass them and get to the door. You knock and wait for the answer.
  548. >”Come on in!” You hear a call from the back.
  549. >You make it in and close the door behind you.
  550. >You go in further, spot Applejack at the sink, then walk right over.
  551. >”Mornin', Sugarcube. You just missed breakfast.”
  552. “That's fine. I'm sure Applebloom didn't want to share anyways.”
  553. >She scoffs, putting up a dish before drying her hooves. “Somethin' like that. The cart's out in the barn. I'll be there in just a second.”
  554. “Alright. I'll be waiting.”
  556. >You go out the door again, then head towards the barn.
  557. >AJ seems like she doesn't want to talk much today. Is it almost time to harvest again?
  558. >It might be zap-apple season. You're pretty sure Dash told you to be more careful around then. She never mentioned why, though.
  560. >Anyways, you walk into the open barn and peer at the cart.
  561. >Yep. It's borked.
  562. >There's a hole in the back and the axle is broken and frayed in the middle.
  566. >You know she only asked about the axle, so they probably planned on fixing the bed themselves.
  568. >You climb under it and began measuring the parts. You take account of where the nails and other bits are located.
  569. >It doesn't seem like too much of an issue, really.
  570. >The way the wheels and cart are attached you just have to pop them off and put in a new one.
  571. >Easy stuff.
  572. >You make sure to write down everything you need.
  574. >Applejack popped her head around the barn door and walked in.
  575. >”Sorry if I seemed short with you, hun. The cart is just buggin' me real bad.”
  576. >You shrug. You can't blame her, really.
  577. “Looks like a boulder fell through it.”
  578. >”A safe, but yeah.”
  579. >You look up.
  580. >Huh. Was there always a loft up there?
  582. “You just need the axle, though?”
  583. >”Yissir. Got spare boards for that, but not one axle.”
  584. “Alright.” You crunch a few numbers real quick. “I think it'll end up at about seventy bits in total. Tuesday morning ought to be the latest time I get it done. This all fine with you?
  585. >She nods.
  586. >”Soonest time as you can manage, thanks. If you could make a spare I'd pay for that one, too.”
  587. “I'll see what I can do.”
  589. >You hop up and follow her out of the barn.
  590. >”Thanks, hun.”
  591. “Hey, it's nothing. I'll get it to you as soon as I ca- Woah!”
  593. >You barely dodge a ball aimed right at your head.
  594. “Check your targets, kids!”
  595. >”Sorry Anon!”
  596. >Scootaloo runs past without giving a glance.
  597. >Friggin' kids.
  599. “Welp, see you at the party tonight.”
  600. >”See ya. Don't overwork yourself. It's the weekend after all.”
  601. >Real funny.
  602. “No promises.”
  604. >Time to go home and play with some wood.
  610. >You are no longer Anon.
  611. >Just kidding. You're Anon.
  612. >Why would you be anyone else?
  613. >Only a fucking poser would be anyone else.
  615. >Anyways, you're a frustrated Anon.
  616. >Your lathe is sputtering on and off, making the speed erratic.
  617. >It wouldn't matter if it didn't fuck up the process, but it does.
  618. >You only just started, so nothing bad happened.
  619. >But you still don't like tools breaking down randomly.
  620. >You go for the most obvious thing and check the power source; yes, it's a crystal.
  621. >You kick open the box and see the purple crystal pulsing erratically.
  623. >Purple? That shit was brand new! It should be a bright white!
  624. >Well, at least it's just the power.
  625. >You yank it out and go inside real quick. You toss it in a dead crystal pile and pull a fresh one from a different pile.
  626. >This shit is kinda expensive. You should probably ask if these things are known to leak power, just in case.
  627. >You take it outside and throw that shit in.
  628. >Goodasnew.papyrus
  630. >You flip on the lathe again and the belt turns around.
  631. >Much better. It's going at a nice, consistent speed.
  632. >You should invest in some kind of more renewable energy source, though. Soon enough you're going to get swamped in electrical needs, especially if you ever want to build a laser-cutter.
  633. >That plan is way down the line, though. Like, WAY down there.
  634. >Well, whatever. You'll just have to make sure you're using your power more effectively.
  636. >You flip on the lathe and get to work, grinding away at the small cut of tree.
  637. >With a bin at the bottom saving all those woods shavings.
  638. >Makes good tinder, yo.
  640. – – –
  642. >”Anon! You coming?!”
  643. “Huh?”
  644. >You were just about done piloting the holes in the ends of the axle.
  645. >By hand.
  646. >But you guess that you're just going to have to give it up for tonight.
  650. >You shut everything down and turn to the visitors, who were standing in the waning sunlight.
  651. >It's Pinkie and Dash.
  652. “I'll meet you at the front.” You call, going through your house instead.
  653. >You move through quick, and decide to load up a few six-packs of that mead.
  654. >You're wanting to start the batch over anyways. You may as well get as many bottles ready to pack up again as you can.
  655. >With a pack in each hand, you pop out the front and lock the door on your way out.
  657. >”Ready for the fun, Anon?” Rainbow pipes up.
  658. >”Yeah!” Ponk jumps on you. “Vinyl's here tonight and everything!”
  659. “Oh, cool. Haven't seen her in like, what, three months?”
  660. >”Sounds about right.”
  661. >You walk alongside the two, heading towards the party.
  662. “So why'd you come get me?”
  663. >”We didn't want you to miss the party, silly!” Pinkie says.
  664. >”Yeah, Twilight bugged us. Said she was scared you'd forget.”
  665. “Twiggle's seems pretty adamant that I attend this party tonight.”
  666. >”Yeah.” Ponk says. “She's real worried that no one wants to make friends with Fizzy!”
  667. >”Pfft. She'll have a way easier time than Discord did. Twilight's just worked up over nothing again.”
  668. “Hopefully. The town was pretty hospitable what I got here. A regular unicorn ought to fit right in compared to me.”
  669. >”Yeah. Fizzy will be fine! And tomorrow, so will Twilight.”
  671. >Ponk jumps up and hangs onto your back.
  672. >”So how are you Anon?!”
  673. “Happy to have some work.” You say. “Did you win that contest yesterday?”
  674. >”Yep!”
  675. “You win anything from it?”
  676. >”Not paying the bill.”
  677. >Rainbow snorts. “Poor Berry will be going sober for a few days for that.”
  678. >”Yeah, but don't worry. She's sleeping through it with a food coma.”
  679. “At least she isn't going hungry.”
  680. >”That's for sure!”
  684. >You three are approaching Sugarcube Corner.
  685. >It doesn't look very packed, but looks can be deceiving.
  686. >You all go in and break up into whatever you want.
  687. >Pinkie goes and checks on the DJ.
  688. >Dash goes for the drinks immediately.
  689. >You, on the other hand, scan around for Twiggles. You spot her sitting next to a kind of blank-faced unicorn, talking.
  691. >That must be the new girl.
  693. >You make a beeline for them.
  694. “Hey Sparkle.”
  695. >You sit your ass right down on one end of their couch. Fizzlepop is on the other end and Twilight is in between.
  696. >”Anon, you're here!” She tapped her hooves together excitedly, then turned to the other one. “Fizzlepop, this is Anon. Anon, Fizzlepop.” She smiles
  697. >This mare is up to something, based on that smile.
  698. >Whatever.
  699. >You stick the packs of mead on the coffee table and put a hand towards her.
  700. >She gives out her hoof and you give a solid shake.
  701. “Good to meet you.”
  702. >”Likewise.”
  703. >She keeps a pretty reserved face.
  707. >She seems nice enough.
  708. “So, what're you ladies up to?”
  709. >”Brainstorming on jobs.”
  710. >Ah. The wonderful thing YOU had to do when you got here.
  711. >You're still mostly an odd-job crafting guy, but you sometimes find a regular, if short, job.
  712. >You crack open one of your mead bottles and give it a quick taste-test.
  713. >Yep. It's mead.
  714. “Have you thought about joining the Guard already?”
  715. >”For a bit.” Fizzlepop says.
  716. >Twilight explains. “They won't take any former enemies on in the ranks.”
  717. >Right. You kinda feel dumb asking that one.
  718. “No mercenary jobs around either, huh?”
  719. >”Nope.” Fizzlepop stares into her drink. “And any of the exciting jobs close to it are being taken up by the Storm Legion members that decided to stay.”
  720. >Huh. If a bunch had chosen to stay you maybe should have seem some by now.
  721. >If Twilight was retelling things honestly before, some of them seemed pretty cool once the invasion blew over.
  722. “Well, I’m fresh out of easy ideas.” You take a swig of mead, then set it down again. “Anyone want a drink of dubious quality?”
  723. >They both look at you with a raised eyebrow.
  724. >”Not today, Anon. Thanks though.”
  725. >Fizzy just stares for a small moment, then hops up and grabs her cup. “I'll be back.”
  726. >She leaves towards the refreshments.
  727. >Just as she does, Rainbow makes her way towards you.
  729. >You turn to Twilight.
  730. “I haven't heard of anyone freaking out about her yet.”
  731. >”Good. They have no reason to freak out over her.”
  732. >You shrug.
  733. “Have they ever really needed one?”
  734. >”You're not helping.”
  738. “Hey Twi.” RD cuts in. She puts an ice bucket down and you begin loading it with the bottles.
  739. >”Hey Rainbow.”
  740. >”BT doesn't seem too happy.” She grabs one of your bottles and cracks it open on the bucket.
  741. >”She doesn't like parties a whole lot. She's really only here because Pinkie insisted she have some fun.”
  742. >”Well if she's not having fun, doesn't that kinda miss the point?”
  743. >”It's also a good opportunity to get ponies to introduce themselves to her.”
  744. >”Yeah, I guess.”
  746. >You kick your feet up on the table and lean back, taking a nice swig.
  747. >You let the girls talk on, and you close your eyes for a moment.
  748. >Man, these couches are comfy.
  749. >You need to figure out what these are stuffed with, because you want to make your couch this fucking comfy.
  750. >Kinda reminds you of the time you and your brother once made a mattress for dad by hand.
  752. >”Right Anon?”
  753. >The dumb smile drops from your face a little, and you open up your eyes, looking at Twiggles.
  754. “Hmm?”
  755. >Oh shit, TwizzlerSoda is back.
  756. >”I said the ponies around here will warm up real quick.”
  757. >Oh.
  758. “Yeah. They will, as long as you don't screw it up the way I did.”
  759. >RD chortles through her mead, getting it over herself. “H- hey! You did that on purpose.”
  760. “Did not.”
  761. >”Ugh.” She grabs a napkin and starts wiping herself down.
  762. >Fizzlepop is now laying down again, and rests her head on her hoof. “What did you do to screw it up?”
  764. >You chuckle.
  765. >Where to begin?
  766. “In short: When I arrived here, I thought I was high as a kite. I broke into a house so I could hide and wait it out. I got chased through the town, and for a good chunk of it I was yelling all the obscenities I could think of and throwing things at the ponies chasing me. This continued until AppleJack pushed a cart in my way and I knocked myself by slamming my head against the wood.”
  767. >You can barely see it, but you swear one side of her lips are curled ever so slightly.
  771. >”You thought you were high?”
  772. “High as could be.” You down the last of this bottle, then set it and the cap back in the case. “Never saw a talking pony before. Nor had I ever seen a pony that wasn't white, black, brown, or somewhere in between.”
  773. >Fizzlepop looks incredulously at you, then flicks her eyes to Twilight, then to you.
  774. >”So, you had seen ponies, but not talking ponies?”
  775. “Correct.”
  776. >You crack open your next bottle, giving it a taste.
  777. >Ew. There's another bad one.
  778. >You dump the contents into the ice bucket.
  779. “Where I come from, ponies exist, just not the way they do here. Back home they're just animals.”
  780. >Twiggles assures her. “He let Luna go through a few of his memories with him. She saw for herself what he saw. She swears it's every bit as weird as it sounds.”
  781. >Fizzlepop nods slowly, probably not taking the story at face value.
  783. “I'm sure it sounds insane.” You grab another mead and try again. “There are lots of things here we don't have back home.”
  784. >She nods. “I've been around a good portion of the world. Every place I went to I thought something very close to that.”
  785. >Silly pony, you don't know just how much of a divide there is.
  786. “Well thanks. You'll have to share some stories sometime.”
  787. >”Oh, no.” She rolls her eyes a bit. “The kind of stories I have aren't really that interesting.”
  788. >You shake your head.
  789. “I understand if you don't want to, but I'm a sucker for any kind of military stories. I made a few friends that worked as lifetime mercenaries back home.”
  791. >She looks you over for a bit, studying you with judgmental eye.
  792. >Her eyes may be lidded but they are very alert.
  793. >Then, she offers a small smile.
  794. >”I guess I could tell a few sometime.”
  795. >You nod.
  796. “It's a date then.”
  799. >Suddenly, Discord pops into existence, hovering over the table.
  800. >He twists and turns until he gets his face right into Fizzlepop's
  801. >”Aaahhh, FrizzleBritches, there you are!”
  802. >”Fizzlepop. And, who-”
  803. >”I'm a friend of Twilight's! Didn't she tell you about me? Twilight, I'm appalled. You waiting THIS long to introduce me to your new best friend here!”
  804. >”I'm not sure-”
  805. >”Now now, NozzledSoda. In spite of Twilight's efforts I DID hear about you and came to give you a gift!”
  806. >He pulls from behind her head a wad of straps attached to something. In the blink of an eye he unravels it and puts it on Fizzlepop.
  807. >You swear she loses her breath a second when he yanks it tight on there.
  808. >He then floats behind her, looking at you.
  809. >”I got you TWO knives. And mine are magenta! They match your coat and everything!”
  810. >He looks at you condescendingly.
  811. >”So much better than leather, black and steel, wouldn't you agree, Anon?”
  813. >What the fuck is he up to?
  814. >And why is he trying to show up your gift?
  816. >Fizzle just pokes at one of the knives, and it promptly falls to the ground.
  817. >”Don't tell me you forgot, Anon!” He pleas, slowly floating into the wall.
  819. >launch calendar.exe
  820. >loading...
  821. >running...
  822. >> Enter date: Today
  823. >> October 3rd , year of our lord -inf
  825. >Fuck.
  826. >It's the 3rd!
  827. >Fuck fuck fuck you aren't prepared.
  828. >What's tonight's theme?
  829. >Right!
  830. >Useless drama!
  832. >You put down your mead and reverse-vault over the couch you were just sitting on.
  833. >You point a finger at him.
  834. “Give me five minutes asshole I'll be right back!”
  835. >You sprint like Usain Bolt is patient zero and go home.
  838. - - -
  839. >You are now Twiggles.
  840. >And Anon just ran the fuck out of there.
  841. >You turn to Discord.
  842. “What's going on, Discord?”
  844. >”Twilight Twilight Twilight. Don't you remember? Anon and I have ourselves some fun at precisely every 3rd opportunity.”
  845. “Huh?”
  846. >Uh...
  847. >Right! Okay.
  848. >It's the 3rd already?
  849. “Okay.”
  850. >You turn to Fizzlepop.
  852. >She's poking at the 'gift' Discord put on her, if it could even be called that.
  853. >At every touch, it falls apart.
  854. >First she pokes the knives, and they fall off and shatter.
  855. >Then the straps, which promptly break.
  856. >With it off, she stares at it for a small moment, then looks up to you.
  857. “Sorry. Discord is pretty invasive at times.”
  858. >”I see.” She looks up to Discord, then grabs one of his horns and yanks him down to eye level, surprising him. “Listen here, Milkdud. I already don't like you. But that won't be a problem as long as you don't get in my face again. Understand?”
  859. >”Milkdud?”
  860. >She pushes him away. “And don't touch me, either.”
  862. >This.... it could be worse. They're just off to a bad hoof is all.
  864. >”Now hold on.”
  865. >Discord stands on the table and peers down at her.
  866. >”I don't know what who you think you are but if you think I'm about to let some pony named 'Fizzlecan' trot all over me you have-”
  867. >”Fizzlepop.” She cuts in. “And don't think that just because you're Twilight's friend doesn't mean I won't fight back if you cross me.”
  869. >Nope.
  870. >You snap up and try to get between them.
  871. “Now, let's not get too antsy. I know not everypony gets along but maybe we can take a deep breaths and just relax a bit.”
  873. >They stare at eachother. You can practically see the lighting jumping between them.
  874. >Oh Celestia, what are you going to do?
  876. >Discord tries to speak.
  877. >”Discord! My name is Incognito Montoya! You killed my honor! Prepare to dance!”
  879. >Yes! Anon, thank you! You have no idea what you just diffused!
  880. >He's standing over near the door, getting everyone's attention, and...
  881. >... is he wearing a suit?
  884. >Anon pulls Discord off and he tells the DJ to flip the lights.
  885. >Now the small dance floor is clearing enough room for them to show off.
  886. >The music clicks over and a new track begins.
  889. >The only move you recognize is the moon-walk, translated to the human body of course.
  890. >The rest are all pretty foreign, but look good.
  891. “Never took him for much of a dancer.”
  893. >You look towards Rainbow.
  894. >That damned pegasus is balancing a bottle on her nose!
  895. >Did she even notice anything?!
  896. >Sigh...
  897. >Fizzlepop is back to staring around the place again.
  899. >This may be a lot tougher than you initially thought...
  901. - - -
  902. >You are Anon again.
  903. >And it is now later.
  904. >With the monthly 1-hour sacrifice out of the way, and with Discord leading a conga-line somewhere outside, there is relative peace in the place.
  905. >It's a bit of a double-edged sword, though.
  906. >You sure love having fun with the guy, but dammit. He just sucks up so much of your time when he decides to have some fun with you.
  907. >You've got tons of other shit to do.
  909. >Plus, these ponies really don't party the way you used to party back on earth.
  910. >Oh, let's face it. They don't know a thing about partying 'hard'.
  911. >Sure, they have all the alcohols you had back home, and at the same strength, too.
  912. >But they don't have the rest of it.
  913. >Maybe you could...
  914. >No, stop. You don't need anything else. These ponies? They've got something else. There's more substance to their parties. There's more...
  915. >They're more real, if that somehow makes sense.
  917. >...which is why you're buying yet another shot from a mini-bartender.
  918. >You should really solve your addictions. Trading one for another will do nothing for you.
  919. “Dammit.”
  920. >This is why you tend to decline going to parties since you got here. Too much idle time. A busy body means a clear mind and all that.
  921. “Thanks.”
  922. >You tip the poor mare and down your shot, leaving the glass right there for her.
  924. >You look over to Twiggles and company. AJ and Rarity joined at some point, but Flutters is nowhere to be found. And Pinkie is off doing God-knows-what.
  925. >What's the ex doing talking up a storm with Fizzlepop?
  926. >Oh, whatever. You're still friends, right?
  928. >You approach, the group.
  929. >Weird. You can't really hear them.
  930. >As you get closer, an odd sensation passes over your body, and suddenly you can hear them.
  931. >Twiggles' horn is very lit, you just realize.
  932. >Well, that's one way to tune out the music.
  937. >”-and we got into soooooo much trouble! A guard was chewing me out for an hour before my parents could even see me!”
  938. >You take a seat next to RD on the far end of the couch, listening to Lyra go on about some story.
  939. >You lean down and grab one of your bottles.
  940. >Turns out it's the last one.
  941. >You crack it open and give it a taste.
  942. >And it's bad.
  944. >You dump the bottle into the mostly-melted Ice.
  945. >You put the bottle up and lean back. For just a second, you see Twilight look at you worriedly, before she goes to look at Lyra instead.
  946. >She keeping a special eye on you tonight?
  947. >You can only wonder what for.
  949. >You turn to RD, and give the girl a light push.
  950. “Hey. I miss anything important?”
  951. >She slaps you with a wing.
  952. >”Yeah, you missed a few bad drinks.”
  953. >You were warned, Dash.
  954. “So how many bad bottles did you toss?”
  955. >”Oh, like three, between me and AJ.” She subtly points a hoof towards the bartender. “But you're not the only one who's hit and miss with the drinks.”
  956. >You raise an eyebrow.
  957. >She seemed pretty good earlier.
  958. “What, she put too much ice in your beer?”
  959. >She snorts. “Funny, my guy. No, she just doesn't know how to make a Pony Colada. Or much else.”
  960. >You shrug, and give a smug smile.
  961. “I don't know how to help you, Dash. I don't drink stallions' drinks.”
  962. >She crosses her forelegs.
  963. >”That's not a stallion's drink!”
  964. >Pfft.
  965. “Whatever you say, flygirl.”
  967. >You chillax for a bit.
  968. >Not much else to do but listen to the others talk.
  969. >More than three people is too many for everyone to get a word in anyways.
  973. >”Alright everypony!” Pinkie pops in and announces. “The party's over!”
  974. >You look to the clock, then back to Pinkie. You try to talk, but Twilight beats you to the punch.
  975. >”Already? It's only eight!”
  976. >”I know that, silly filly!” She snorts. “The party was just so ponies could have an excuse to come meet Fizzlepop!”
  977. >She taps Twiggle's horn, cutting off that spell she was holding.
  978. >”Ow.” She rubs her horn. “Pinkie Pie-”
  979. >”See? It's Sunday night! Ponies have work tomorrow! Who wants to go to work all tired and stuff?”
  980. >She points her hoof around.
  982. >Wow. It is dead. There's only a few ponies left, including the DJ and bartender. Mrs. Cake is in the back setting chairs on tables.
  983. >Poor Fizzlepop didn't get a very long party. And she spent most of it sitting and talking on a couch.
  984. >Not that you'd complain, if it was you. There are too many parties here for them to last very long each time.
  986. >”Besides, I got you a gift, Fizzlepop!”
  987. >Pinkie hugs the life out of the mare and then presents a present.
  988. >She takes it slowly, putting her hoof on Pinkie's shoulder.
  989. >”You didn't need to, Pinkie.”
  990. >She snorts. “Of course I didn't! But I wanted to.” Ponk hugs her. “You don't have to open it now. Surprises are exciting, anyways!”
  991. >She hops over them all and lands in between Fizzlepop and Twiggles, then clops her hooves together. “So, what do you girls want to do now?”
  993. >Free shrugs all around.
  994. >Rainbow pipes up, though. “Is anypony else hungry?”
  995. >Mixed results.
  996. “Yeah, I could go for a bite.”
  997. >You avoided the pizza because you had some last night, but that meant you only had a few snacks.
  998. >The rest of the food here was sugary as fuck or had flowers.
  999. >Neither of which you considered to be on your diet.
  1001. >”I think Green Grill is open.” Twilight pitches in.
  1005. >RD licks her lips. “I haven't been there in forever. Anyone else want to go?”
  1006. >”I need to stay an clean up a bit first.” Pinkie says.
  1007. >”I'll go!” Rarity hops up.
  1008. >”I've got busywork to get to early tomorrow. Sorry.” Applejack says.
  1009. >Fizzlepop just nods.
  1011. >Rainbow turns to you.
  1012. >”You up for some grub?”
  1013. >Hmm.
  1014. >You're not really sure.
  1015. >You've used a good chunk of your bits today. Plus, you already ate out yesterday.
  1016. >It really might be best to call it a night. It's not like you're oozing money out the ears.
  1017. “Nah. I think I'll just go home.”
  1019. >You get up and follow the group outside, after picking up your cases of empty bottles of course, where Pinkie waves you all off and you all break off.
  1020. >You walk towards home alone, smelling that clean, cool air you love so much.
  1021. >You're pretty sure there's leftovers somewhere in your fridge.
  1022. >If not, well, skipping one meal wouldn't kill you.
  1024. >”Anon.”
  1025. >You stop in your tracks and turn back.
  1026. >Oh hey, it's Fizzlepop.
  1027. “What's up?”
  1028. >She stops near you.
  1029. >”I never thanked you for the gift.”
  1031. >She didn't?
  1032. >Oh right, she didn't.
  1033. >You wave your hand.
  1034. “It's fine.”
  1035. >She gives a small smile.
  1036. >Like, a really small smile.
  1037. >You can't tell if she's trying not to smile or something.
  1038. >”It's really nice, actually. I don't know where I'll use it yet, but... thanks.”
  1039. “It's nothing, really. I'm glad you like it.”
  1041. >She looks back, and you look behind her to see Twilight watching you both.
  1042. >She turns back to you.
  1043. >”I better go. Sorry if I seem short.”
  1044. >All ponies are these days.
  1045. “It's cool.” You say. “I'm at my house most of the time If you ever want to swap stories.”
  1046. >”Thanks. You have a good night, Anon.”
  1047. “You too.”
  1049. >You go home.
  1050. >Tonight is a friendly kind of night.
  1054. >Until you get home, that is.
  1055. “What the hell?”
  1057. >The gate on your way-too-short fence is wide open. You're sure as hell you didn't even open it today.
  1058. >You walk on through, taking careful notice of every detail you can.
  1059. >Nothing seems amiss at first, but you begin to notice that some of your things have been moved.
  1060. >Not missing, just moved. Like someone was looking for something they couldn't find.
  1061. >You trail through the stacks of materials and tools all around, hoping to find a hint or clue as to who trespassed, or at least what they were trying to get.
  1062. >You stop right where you find one of your lanterns. This one is one of those crystal lanterns that are super bright and let you easily work through a project over night.
  1063. >This kind and regular oil lanterns are nearly indistinguishable from the outside. The compartment inside is what lets you tell them apart at a glance.
  1064. >So how could you tell it was your crystal lantern without examining it closely?
  1065. >Well, because the compartment is popped open and the crystal is only half-way seated.
  1067. >Well fuck.
  1068. >Once is a coincidence, twice is a pattern.
  1069. >Someone is going through your shit.
  1071. >You close the gate and lock it, then walk around the yard.
  1072. >You pick up every crystal you have and take them into the house with you, making sure everything is locked and sorted away.
  1073. >You are upset. This is not something you've had happen before. From Equestrians, that is.
  1074. >Looks like some other projects are going to have to wait. The next thing you need to make is larger shed to house your valuables.
  1076. >....and Twilight calls you paranoid for having locks on everything......
  1078. - - -
  1080. >Sleep does not come easy.
  1081. >In fact, it might have been a lie to say you slept at all.
  1082. >You can't tell, though. You don't have a phone here to constantly check the time passing.
  1083. >You just have a regular old clock, which requires you to turn on a light to see.
  1084. >And for a decent amount of time, you weren't willing to turn it on.
  1085. >Apparently, though, the molestation of your things has you pretty wired. The alcohol you had normally helps you sleep.
  1086. >However, you suddenly decide that there comes a point in a man's life where he must decide to either try harder to sleep or stop trying entirely.
  1087. >You get up. If your body won't let you sleep well, then you may as well reap the benefits of tonight's case of insomnia.
  1089. >You flick on the light a shuffle around your room. You put on some decent shorts and your shoes.
  1090. >You go towards your back door and grab a few charged crystals, then make your way out back.
  1091. >You use the soft glow of a crystal to find that lantern, then you plop it in and turn it on.
  1092. >The bright light blinds you for a moment.
  1093. >You lower it and let your eyes adjust again.
  1095. >You walk around your back yard until you get to that axle you were working on.
  1096. >It still has the hand drill stuck on it. You set your lantern down where you have decent light and grab the drill.
  1097. >You drill away, paying careful attention to make sure it doesn't slip out of the hole you're making.
  1099. >Soon enough, another hole is done.
  1100. >You begin working on the next one. You continue on until you hear flapping in the wind.
  1101. >You look over at the fence, towards the town, and see slitted eyes staring back at you.
  1102. >Oh boy, here we go.
  1104. >”Hey there, handsome.”
  1105. >It's this mare again.
  1106. >You can't seem to get rid of this mare.
  1107. >You don't even know her name. She always comes up wearing that magic armor that hides her face and coat and crap.
  1108. >And the most you could do about it is report it to the barracks.
  1109. >Nothing gets done about her.
  1113. “If you're going to stare all night I hope you brought bits. I don't dance for free.”
  1114. >”But I heard you do! I know you know how to have some fun at a party.”
  1115. >You keep working away at the axle. Ponies be damned. You WILL have this complete!
  1116. “Don't you have a patrol or something to go do?”
  1117. >”Oh, my eyes are patrolling alright.”
  1118. “Anywhere but here, please.”
  1119. >”Oh, you know you like it.”
  1120. “No, I don't.”
  1121. >You really don't. Fucking cops, man. Always shoving their noses in your business.
  1122. >”But you're like the only guy that's ever up at this time of night!”
  1123. >She throws her hooves over your fence, and does this hopping motion like she's trying to adjust her armor or something.
  1124. >”Come on, nothing ever happens at night! I just wanna talk!”
  1125. “We can talk about you leaving me alone.”
  1126. >”Hmph.” She huffs. “You can play hard to get all you want. I know you like to party hard and feel good.”
  1127. >She wriggles her eyebrows.
  1129. >The bitch isn't going anywhere for a while, so you decide to play the silent game until you get done with your work.
  1130. >It goes mostly smooth, and you finish the spare after a while, too, but then an idea hit you.
  1132. “Hey.”
  1133. >She piques interest, realizing you are talking to her.
  1134. >”Yeah?”
  1135. >This may solve both problems.
  1136. “Since you're not going to stop stalking me for a while, could you at least look into trying to find who's stealing my property? I might reward you, if you figure it out for me.”
  1137. >She puffs up her chest and pounds it.
  1138. >”For such a handsome guy, I can perform ANY task.”
  1139. >Stalker.
  1140. “Great. Someone's been stealing my crystals from my yard.”
  1145. >She exaggerates a gasp.
  1146. >”Don't worry, Anon. I can help!”
  1147. >Wow. No shit. A fucking cop can help with enforcing the law. Who would have thought?
  1148. >”Now, do you have a description?”
  1149. “No.”
  1150. >”Anyone you'd suspect off the top of your head?”
  1151. “No.”
  1152. >”At what time did this take place?”
  1153. “Most recently was during the party sometime.”
  1154. >”And they only steal crystals?”
  1155. “Yep. They put empty ones back in place of the one they steal.”
  1156. >She stares at you for a brief moment.
  1157. >”They put back the empty ones?”
  1158. “Yep.” You nod. “I'm guessing they thought I'd just assume it ran out from use.”
  1159. >She pauses a moment, then smiles. “Alrighty then. I'll be back later. I've got to pass this by the precinct.”
  1160. >She bursts into the air and carries her armored ass out of view.
  1162. “Oh thank God.”
  1163. >The sweet sound of silence permeates the air.
  1164. >It's nothing but you and the crickets now.
  1165. >Now you can work in peace.
  1166. “Now I can.... wait...”
  1168. >You already finished the axles.
  1169. >Fuck. What are you supposed to do now?
  1170. >You're not really tired yet.
  1171. >Well, yes you are, but not sleepy tired. More like exhausted.
  1172. >...
  1173. >You shut everything down and go back into your house.
  1174. >You decide to go read one of your mechanical design books until you pass out on your bed.
  1175. >If nothing else, you want to be sure you know what you're doing before you begin your biggest project yet.
  1176. >Hopefully you can start it soon. You ought to, now that your welding tools are done.
  1177. >Still, you're a bit paranoid that steel in the shed isn't-
  1178. >...
  1179. >And you pass from the woken world, like a light turning off.
  1183. - - -
  1185. >Luna has blessed you with a lack of dreams, and you wake up without recalling a thing.
  1186. >You consider it pretty good sleep if there's no technicolor bump in the night.
  1187. >The day gets hectic when you dream about all the stuff you're about to do and have to suffer going through it a second time, swearing up and down you already did it.
  1189. >Anyways, you go through your wakeup process and get ready to leave.
  1190. >You pop out the back door and find those axles. You hoist them up on your back and-
  1191. >Is that snoring you hear?
  1192. >You look to the side fence to see that damn guard standing there again.
  1193. >She's standing on her hooves, but her head and wings are relaxed and unfurled.
  1194. >She snores again.
  1195. >Did she come back, only to fall asleep waiting there?
  1196. >Your stalker is getting lazy.
  1197. >Should you wake her up, though?
  1198. >Sure, you don't like her much, but she probably would rather go home than sleep leaning on a fence.
  1200. >You walk over with the axles and gently bop her on the helmet with a fist.
  1201. >She jolts and backs up, trying to figure out what's going on.
  1202. “Hey, just so you know, it's the A.M.”
  1203. >”Huh?” She looks around, bleary-eyed. “Wassat?”
  1204. >You point to the east, and she looks.
  1205. >”Oh. Nice sunrise.”
  1206. >It takes her a second, and it clicks in her head.
  1207. >”Sunrise!”
  1208. >She immediately hops into the air, having some difficulty at first.
  1209. >”The Lieutenant is going to kill me! Oh crap oh crap oh crap!”
  1210. >And she books it out of there, not minding you in the slightest.
  1212. >You chuckle and walk through your gate, after grabbing a bag of your tools, then lock the gate.
  1213. >Silly guardsmare, falling asleep on the job.
  1214. >Better than trying to hit on you more.
  1215. >Whatever.
  1217. >You carry the axles in a back-rack position and move on towards Sweet Apple Acres.
  1221. >The trip is fairly short. You manage to get there after just a twenty-minute walk or so.
  1222. >You peel up the path leading to the barn, noticing that Big Mac is already up and feeding Winona.
  1223. “Morning, Mac.”
  1224. >He gives a wave, then pets Winona a bit.
  1225. “Is the cart still in the barn?”
  1226. >”Eeyup.”
  1227. >Cool.
  1228. “Is it alright if I just jump in and get to working on the axle?”
  1229. >”Eeyup.”
  1230. >Nice. They probably appreciate you getting right to it.
  1231. “Alright. Thanks, Mac. I'll come get someone when I'm done.”
  1232. >”Eeyup.”
  1234. >You stroll into the barn to find the cart is tilted up onto the front, and the broken axle is removed already. The wheels are detached and setting next to the broken axle.
  1235. >You set one axle to the side of the barn, and hoist the other up and slide it into place.
  1236. >It sets in easily enough.
  1237. >You grab one of the wheels and put it on, lining it up with the holes in the axle.
  1238. >You rummage through your bag of tools and grab your trusty drill, along with a couple heads.
  1239. >You figure out which head fits and toss the rest back.
  1240. >You work around, making sure each of the screws fit before tightening them.
  1241. >It's a perfect fit. With the first one down, you grab the next one and set it up.
  1242. >It doesn't seem to be quite the perfect fit on this end. You screw them down anyways.
  1243. >Nothing snaps or breaks, so you call it good and push your tools aside.
  1245. >You grab the axle and pull down the cart, setting it right.
  1246. >You roll it out, watching the wheels to make sure they actually turn as they are supposed to.
  1247. >Nothing seems amiss, so you roll it back in its spot and grab your stuff.
  1248. >A job well done.
  1249. >You bail out of the barn and head up to the front door.
  1250. >You knock on the door and wait.
  1252. >”Come on in!”
  1253. >You walk in and head towards the kitchen.
  1254. >Old ma'am Smith is cooking up something good, based on that smell.
  1255. >”Anon!” Applejack hops up and comes to you. “You're early!”
  1256. “I figured you'd rather have that cart fixed up sooner than later.”
  1259. >”That I would.” She points to the table. “Would you like a bite? We just started. Don't wantchya to work on an empty stomach.”
  1260. >You hold up a hand.
  1261. “Thanks, but I'm not hungry. And, I've already finished putting the axle on.”
  1262. >”Already?” She pauses. “Gee willy. How long ago did you get here?”
  1263. >You shrug.
  1264. “Maybe fifteen minutes ago?” You point to the barn. “I can show you right now if you want. I only rolled it a few feet, but it seemed to work fine.”
  1265. >”No, I trust you. Just, uh, let me go get the checkbook.”
  1266. >She trots towards the stairs and heads up.
  1268. >”That mare isn't making you get up this early just for her, is she?”
  1269. >Smith grabs your attention from the stovetop.
  1270. >”I don't want you thinking we're the kinda ponies to make demands.”
  1271. >You just smile.
  1272. “No, ma'am. I just get up this early normally.”
  1273. >”Well, good on you. So many ponies don't know the value of knowing what the sunrise looks like.” She holds up a plate. “You want some skillet toast?”
  1274. “Thanks for the offer, but I'm good.”
  1275. >”Well any time you want you come have a bite here. I promise my cooking hasn't gone bad!... yet.”
  1277. >Applejack makes it back, tossing a big book onto the counter. She hops up and start filling out a check with a pen.
  1278. >”How much was it again?”
  1279. “70 for the first one. We never talked about the price of the spare. Does 125 sound fair?”
  1280. >She mulls it over for a bit.
  1281. >”Sounds good to me.”
  1282. >She writes out the check and hands it to you.
  1283. >”Thanks for the help, Anon.”
  1284. “It's nothing.” You say, moving towards the door. “Just let me know if it breaks too early or something. I'll do it over again. I don't want to be known for making shoddy parts.”
  1285. >”Will do, hun. Thanks.”
  1287. >You head out and down towards the town.
  1288. >Welp. Today's payday, somewhat. What are you going to spend it on?
  1290. - - -
  1292. >After you go to the bank, you decide to just grab groceries and go home.
  1293. >You're not exactly a bottomless pit of cash, and that fridge isn't going to restock itself.
  1294. >Such is the life.
  1295. >When you get home, however, you see someone waiting at your door.
  1296. >She's sitting down on the little concrete step just in front of your door, staring into the ground. She has a big bag
  1297. “Fizzlepop?”
  1298. >She snaps up and looks at you, suddenly wearing that tiny smile of hers.
  1299. >“Anon.”
  1300. >She moves out of your way as you get to your door.
  1301. >You move in and she follows.
  1302. “For what do I owe the pleasure?”
  1303. >You go to the kitchen and set down your bags. You start stuffing away items as you talk.
  1304. >”I was talking to Twilight about you and she told me you might know how to dye metal.”
  1305. >You toss shit in on the high shelves. Lots of rabbit-food.
  1306. >Speaking of, you need to set up some traps again. You've been out of meat for a while now.
  1307. “I'm sure I have some dye recipes around here somewhere. It's been a while since I've done it. What is it exactly you're wanting me to dye?”
  1308. >”My old armor.” She says. “I'm trying to get it to camouflage well into the forest.”
  1309. >Ah. That'll be more complicated than a simple dip in a vat.
  1310. “Alright. Do you happen to have the pattern you want drawn already?”
  1311. >”I do.”
  1312. >She whips out a sheet of paper and gives it to you. You stop stocking the fridge long enough to get a good look at it before you set it down on the counter and finish up.
  1313. >It's just a standard woodland camo. Nothing special about it.
  1314. “Alright. Doesn't seem too complicated.”
  1315. >You finish up and fold your bags, tossing them aside.
  1316. “I'll have to do a bit of shopping around before I can get you an accurate estimate, though.”
  1317. >She pulls a metal plate out from her bag, and begins piling them on an empty spot.
  1318. >”What would a rougher estimate be, then?”
  1320. >You shrug, leaning over the counter now. You count the plates. Yep. It's armor.
  1321. “Couldn't possibly be more than fifty bits.”
  1323. >She pauses, and her eyes dart for a split second.
  1324. >You know that look.
  1325. >She doesn't have the money, does she?
  1326. >”Do you... do deferred payment?”
  1328. >Hue hue hue.
  1329. >Well. You were tits up at the start of this ride yourself, weren't you?
  1330. >Took a while to get down decent work. You just had to ask a few more favors than you liked at the beginning.
  1331. >You paid them back, but you still didn't like the notion of owing anyone.
  1332. “I normally take payment on completion unless it's a big job.”
  1333. >She looks at her bag, obviously trying to think of something.
  1334. “Tell you what, though. You can blow shit up with that horn of yours, right?”
  1335. >She nods.
  1336. “I've got a cart out back. How about you go find me a tree in the forest and break it into pieces then just load up a cart full and bring it back.”
  1337. >”Just one cart full?”
  1338. “Yep. One cart full, and we're even. Doesn't need to be clean cut pieces, either. Just break it down enough that I can toss it into my furnace.”
  1339. >She takes a look out back and spots your metal cart. She smiles, and moves to go out the back.
  1340. >”Easy. I'll have it done in an hour.”
  1341. >She seems eager to be done with it. You're not that ugly, are you?
  1342. “Don't hurt yourself blowing it up. I don't want you to lose that pretty face of yours.”
  1344. >You're not sure she heard that last part. She moved out pretty quick.
  1345. >Oh well. She's a smart mare. Not like she needs you to tell her how to do her job.
  1347. >Speaking of jobs. You now have a new one. You're pretty thankful they seem to be lining up one after another like this recently. Usually you're either swamped or dry on work.
  1351. >Now. What to get first? Twilight always has access to the chemicals you need, being a sciencey princess. But she doesn't like you using her discounts.
  1352. >Wait, who was it you got it from last time?
  1353. >...
  1354. >Oh yeah, it was one of the mares in the Civil Construction Crew.
  1355. >What was her name again?
  1356. >Cold Calc.
  1357. >Yeah, she's got the stuff. She's the go-to paper pusher for any industrial supplies. For Ponyville at least.
  1358. >You best go and get the stuff then. Fizzlepop didn't even ask for an ETA on this, so you can only assume it's ASAP.
  1359. >Shouldn't take too long, though. It's just some chemical dipping and waiting.
  1361. >You quickly take stock of what ingredients you do have, then check out back to make sure Fizzlepop doesn't need anything.
  1362. >She's already off with the cart, so you grab a bag of bits and get out of the house.
  1363. >You high-tail it down the road, looking for that small warehouse near the city hall.
  1365. >You get there after a short walk.
  1366. >It's a fairly well-built building, It's taller with more modern concrete and steel structure than any building around.
  1367. >It hosts a large wooden sign, so it doesn't look totally soulless. And some drawings in the windows make it look more welcoming.
  1368. >You walk into the front and immediately catch two mares on chairs fencing with dowel rods.
  1369. >They freeze as you walk in, then toss everything aside and lean up at the front register.
  1370. >”Welcome!” They both say, smiling.
  1371. “Hey, is Cold Calc here?”
  1372. >”Nope.” One says.
  1373. >”She's on vacation.” Says the other.
  1374. >”We can help you with whatever you need.”
  1375. >You shrug internally.
  1376. “Are you mares in stock of any sulfuric acid?”
  1378. >”Uh.”
  1379. >They look at eachother.
  1382. >”Let me check the back.”
  1383. >The first one hops off her chair and goes to the back, where an open doorway leads to the warehouse.
  1384. >The second one just looks you over.
  1385. >”So, what strength do you need it?”
  1386. “As pure as you are willing to sell me.”
  1387. >She looks you over hesitantly.
  1388. >”Have you bought acids before?”
  1389. >Pfft. Of course you have.
  1390. “Yeah. Last time I got 98% concentrate by volume.”
  1391. >”Okay.”
  1392. >She goes through some papers, slapping one on the counter, but she doesn't push it to you.
  1393. “I promise I'm not trying to take over the world with a canister of acid.” You say jokingly.
  1394. >She snorts. “Cute.”
  1395. >The first mare pops back up carrying a insulated can in one hoof.
  1396. >”The only concentration we have in stock is 14M.”
  1397. “Perfect.”
  1398. >The second mare pushes that paper to you. It's one of those 'fault-forms' as they call it here.
  1399. “I already filled one of these out. It's under 'Anonymous'.”
  1400. >”Oh.”
  1401. >She glides over a series of files behind the counter, looking for the file.
  1402. >The first mare leans over the counter and smiles at you.
  1403. >”So, what's a guy like you need high grade stuff like this for?”
  1404. “Anodizing metal.”
  1405. >”Oh.”
  1406. >She seems genuinely surprised by your answer.
  1407. “Yeah, I just buy the high concentrate so I don't have to waste so much space storing the stuff.”
  1408. >She taps on the counter. “Yeah, I know how that goes. So many tools, and so many of them just sit there for so long. “
  1409. >She slides down into her seat, slumping over.
  1410. >”All I can hope is that after accumulating all these tools I'll have found a purpose for them. For me. That it wasn't just all- AH”
  1411. >The second mare kicks the first, rolling her all the way into the other room.
  1412. >”Ignore her. Anyways, I found your file. The total is twelve bits per bottle.”
  1413. >You toss the bits on the counter and she swipes them up.
  1414. “Just the one is fine.”
  1415. >”Thank you sir!”
  1416. “Have fun with the sword fights.”
  1418. >You take your stuff and leave, leaving the mares to their desk duty.
  1419. >Time to get to work.
  1420. - - -
  1422. >You are Fizzlepop Berrytwist, AKA: Tempest Shadow
  1423. >And you are a very content mare.
  1424. >Not happy, just content.
  1425. >After all of your practice, trying to make good use of the only thing you can do with your horn.
  1426. >After all those years training your body. Honing it. Sharpening your skills. Training yourself to be faster and stronger than anyone you've ever met, and hopefully, anyone you'll ever meet...
  1427. >Who knew you'd make such a great lumberjack?
  1429. “Hah!”
  1430. >You give another aerial kick, sending a chunk of singed wood down into the metal cart.
  1431. >It bounces once, then settles on the growing pile.
  1432. >You land, then back up and line up for another burst of magic.
  1434. >It feels great to be out here.
  1435. >Growing up, the Everfree was a nightmare story to tell to children.
  1436. >But now, having lived to adulthood, it has this eerie familiarity to it. This kind of pathological comfort that you can't quite describe.
  1437. >A danger to anyone without either the knowledge or the strength to take it on.
  1438. >To those that to have one or both, it's just a lonely place is all.
  1439. >You are alone.
  1440. >But so is everything else that lives here. In this place.
  1441. >You're all alone.
  1442. >Together.
  1444. >You fire the shot and follow the trajectory. You jump and twist, hitting a large chunk right into the cart.
  1445. >You land, checking it out.
  1446. “Hmm.”
  1447. >That one seems a bit big.
  1448. >Come to think of it, several pieces don't look like they'd fit in a furnace.
  1449. >Well, you don't know what kind of furnace he's got.
  1450. >Maybe it's one of those huge furnaces that could fit ponies inside.
  1451. >Yeah, no. You didn't see any industrial furnaces back there.
  1452. >And your magic isn't precise enough to break these down right here.
  1453. >More would probably be wasted from charring.
  1456. >Yeah. You'll just find if he has an axe or something when you get back. You can take care of those larger chunks that way.
  1457. >Much simpler. Trying to use magic just complicates things anyways.
  1458. >You could keep eachother company that way.
  1459. >Maybe you'll figure out if he really meant that comment on your face.
  1460. >...
  1461. >Yeah, you heard him just as you left.
  1462. >When you heard it you ran off with a huff, extra eager to get done with the deal.
  1463. >Then, it crossed your mind that he may not have meant it to degrade you.
  1464. >Twilight DID mention that he has some very crude jokes. Much more crude than ponies would manage to think up.
  1465. >He did curse at Discord.
  1466. >Pretty casually, at that.
  1467. >No, no. That comment wasn't because he's being crude.
  1469. >You shake your head.
  1470. >You're reading too much into it and you know it.
  1471. >He likely didn't mean anything by it.
  1472. >...
  1473. >Twilight's still wanting you to try and make a friend around here, though.
  1474. >Just one.
  1475. >That's all she's asking of you.
  1476. >She promises you'll want more, just after that first real friend.
  1477. >And she keeps saying that he's an easy friend to make. You just have to set down and get to know eachother.
  1478. >And you DID promise a story sometime...
  1479. >Maybe after he's done with your armor, you'll ask him to 'hang out' some time.
  1480. >Can't mix business with pleasure after all.
  1481. >Yeah, just sit around and talk.
  1482. >No party noise. No loud racket. Just talking.
  1483. >Yeah. You'd like that...
  1485. - - -
  1486. >You're Anonymous again.
  1487. >And you're preparing some vats for the metal pieces.
  1488. >Well, really they're already prepared.
  1489. >What you're really doing is smearing this crap called 'paint clay' all over the metal pieces in the patterns you need.
  1490. >It's some crap ponies use to paint without getting it all in the wrong places. It's like clay, but it doesn't mix water, or anything, really.
  1491. >Perfect for what you need right now.
  1493. >This whole process is going to be a lot of waiting around and keeping an eye on it.
  1494. >You can do other shit, but you can't just wander off and leave it.
  1495. >An exposed container of strong acid ain't safe, yo.
  1497. “And done.”
  1498. >The circuit is now on and slowly raising itself, as per your design. You can already see tiny tiny bubbles forming in the acid-water mixture.
  1499. >And none too soon. Out of the corner of your eye you can spot Fizzlepop dragging your cart back.
  1500. >She gleefully pulls it up to your fence and parks it just inside the gate.
  1501. >Well, gleefully might not be the right word. She's still got that stoic gaze, but she has a real pep in her step.
  1503. >She kicks the gate shut and struts up to you.
  1504. >”Anon, do you happen to have an axe?”
  1505. “Yeah, I do. But I don't have a good place to use it if you're splitting wood.”
  1506. >You look over at the cart.
  1507. >Shit. That's a lot of wood. It's easily piled up twice as high as the height of the cart's interior.
  1508. >”I'm sure I can make due.”
  1509. >You shrug.
  1510. “Nah. You've more than held up to your end.”
  1511. >”Anon, I insist. A mare lives up to her word.”
  1512. “But you already did.” You point at the cart. “You brought like a cart and a half back. That's a lot more than I was asking.”
  1515. >She looks over, then back to you.
  1516. >”I suppose I did bring back some extra.”
  1517. >She slowly walks around you, never breaking eye contact.
  1518. >”How about you, then?”
  1519. “The process is going.” You point to the container. “It'll take a couple hours since I can only do one color at a time.”
  1520. >”Well, I'm glad to have found someone that values starting things sooner than later.”
  1521. “Thanks, I guess.” You pause. “Mostly that's just because I'm not backlogged, though.”
  1522. >She sits down on her haunches, moving her eyes between you and the acid bath every once in a while.
  1523. >”Are jobs dwindling, then?”
  1524. >You shake your head.
  1525. “No. They usually come in phases of all at once or none at all. I'm just hitting a lull is all.”
  1526. >”That's good.”
  1527. “How about you, though? Have you managed to find anywhere worth working?”
  1528. >She sighs, and lays down, resting her head on her hoof.
  1529. >”'Worth' working? Not really.” She pauses. “I'm not prepared to sell my soul and work at a hayburger joint quite yet.”
  1530. >You chortle, and sit down.
  1531. “Yeah, some places aren't meant for normal people.”
  1532. >She sighs.
  1533. >”But I can't suck on the Twilight's teats forever.” She looks to you. “How did you get started after your... 'introduction'... to the town?”
  1534. “I held up a sign saying 'will do odd jobs' until someone gave me an odd job. I asked really nicely for them to mention me, and the rumor mill took care of the rest.”
  1535. >”Really?” She looks at you quizzically. “That simple?”
  1536. “Well, I'm sure ponies had more sympathy once they heard I was homeless. Twiggles practically imprisoned me in her castle, telling me up and down that there are ponies that would help me if I so much as ask.” You adopt a mock, witch-like tone. “No good town would let a stallion sleep in an alley with a ragged blanket! How dare they let you cozy up to a brick wall every night.”
  1539. >She offers a smile.
  1540. >”I guess there is hope for me after all.”
  1541. “You've got no idea, sister. These ponies take forgive and forget to a whole new level.”
  1543. >She looks off for a moment. She didn't seem to have anything to ask next. Her eyes are slowly moving about, as if with nothing to focus on.
  1544. >You decide to let her have that moment to think before you interrupt it.
  1545. “So, you're needing your armor made into camouflage.” You grab her attention. “Does that mean you found anything?”
  1546. >”Well, it's not a stable job. I snagged a bounty on stealing back a statue from a small dragon.”
  1547. “Sounds dangerous.”
  1548. >”She couldn't be very big.” She explains. “She had to drag the statue away. Couldn't even lift it on her back or anything.”
  1549. “Fire doesn't really care about size, does it?”
  1550. >She snorts.
  1551. >”It's what the camouflage is for. I'll just sit back and wait until she goes to steal something else. Walk up, take statue, walk away. Third easiest payday of my life.”
  1552. >She makes it sound so easy.
  1553. >Well, shit. Maybe it is for her.
  1554. >You're not sure you could sit still for hours at a time just staring at a dragon.
  1555. “I'm sure the denizens of Ponyville will appreciate you pushing away any dragon problems. Maybe she'll have a horde of gold you can take too.”
  1556. >”I'm not counting on that.” She waves her hoof. “Maybe some trinkets, but a dragon grows with her hoard. Small dragon, small hoard.”
  1557. “Well, it's something. I'm sure Rarity will pay up if you find her any nice gems. She's always looking out of good ones.”
  1558. >”That actually crossed my mind. I do need to pay her back for taking care of my suit.”
  1559. “You convinced her to dye your suit camo?”
  1560. >”I didn't need to. She seemed eager to do it, actually.”
  1561. “Color me surprised.”
  1562. >You look over the vat, making sure everything is going according to recipe.
  1565. >She doesn't say anything for a small while, and you don't either. It wasn't an awkward silence. It was more relaxing than anything. Just two people sitting together.
  1566. >Time passes fairly quickly. You go over small conversations about the town and ponies and such. You ask her what she knew about the airships she was always on. She asks you some things about humans in general, then seemingly remembers your conversation yesterday.
  1568. >”So, Anon.” She takes the reigns on the conversation. “What about those mercenaries you mentioned yesterday?”
  1569. “What about them?” You ask.
  1570. >Hmm. That probably didn't sound the way you intended.
  1571. “Where do you want me to start, I mean.”
  1572. >”Well, what were they like? I want to know what comes to your mind when you think of the word 'mercenary'.”
  1573. >Jesus. Where to begin?
  1574. “Well, these guys were my next-door neighbors, so I probably didn't see everything they had to offer. They were a misfit trio of hardasses. Zero tolerance for bullshit and no respect for anyone that didn't earn it.”
  1575. >”So, a family of mercenaries?”
  1576. “Nah. They were just buddies bunking together. They bought a house together so they don't always have to worry about squatters while they leave on deployment. Anyways, these guys moved into our neighborhood when I was real young. They looked real intimidating to my brother and I so we didn't talk to them at all for a while. When I eventually did talk to them, they were just as scary as we always thought they were.”
  1577. >”What made them so intimidating to you?” She crosses her hooves.
  1578. “Well, a lot of it was probably that I was still a young teen. But they sure did master that soulless stare soldiers can get.”
  1579. >You look over the last vat of dye, making sure her armor is finishing up properly.
  1582. “When I first talked to them is when I got to see the real them, though. There was a cop staking out the neighborhood at the time, and I noticed that they'd linger on our street in an unmarked car. I got the courage to let some of the neighbors know, them included.”
  1583. >”Why would everyone want to know about police staking out?”
  1584. “Everyone that lived around me was dirty with something.”
  1585. >”Everyone?”
  1586. “Well, most at least. Lots of rumors about who did what, but nothing anyone could prove. It's sort of why people tend not to move away from where we lived. It was crappy, but there was a mutual understanding of keeping your trap shut.”
  1587. >”So why did you live there?”
  1588. “Dad never told us. Can't trust a kid with a secret after all. I figured it was money laundering, but it's anyone's guess really.”
  1590. >She hums.
  1591. >”So what were they there for, then?”
  1592. “Drugs, theft, executions. Anything you could name, I'm sure.” You pause. “Two guys stayed in their own company for pretty much as long as I could remember, but the third guy kept jumping jobs between lots of merc groups. And, I mean the kind of groups that no one liked to mention in the papers. They told me stories of shit other mercs did, but I never asked them what they themselves did as far as war-crime material goes. I never needed to. There's not a doubt in my mine of the stuff they've done.”
  1593. >”That... surely that's not how all mercenaries are in... 'America'.”
  1594. “Maybe not. Actually, I'd say most likely not. But they're the only ones I've met until now.”
  1595. >”Well, I hope I don't shatter your expectations too much. My stories don't sound so...” She hesitates. “... exciting.”
  1597. >You turn off the heater under the dye, slowly letting it cool.
  1598. “All the edgy, gruesome stuff isn't the exciting part, I'd say. Sure, they draw interest, but a lot of it's just filler.” You grab a pair of tongs and point at her. “It's the hows and whys that really make a good story.”
  1600. >You start taking out the armor pieces slowly, laying them on a towel to dry. You pretend not to notice the odd way she's looking at you.
  1601. “So what are mercenaries like outside of Equestria? You meet a lot of others?”
  1602. >She shakes her head. “Not many other mercenaries when I passed through anywhere. Most of the Stormking's troops were loyal volunteers. I had to go pretty far out of my way to prove I was worth having.”
  1603. “He didn't want you at first?”
  1604. >”Any new personnel can be a hidden liability. He wanted proof that I wasn't exaggerating on how far I'd go to help him if it meant getting my horn back. He asked me to combat some of his troop until knockout as a test.”
  1605. “How many did you take down?”
  1606. >”All of the ones he sent at me. At least a dozen at once.”
  1607. >Holy shit.
  1608. >Twilight told you how big those things are.
  1609. “That's pretty kickass.”
  1611. >She looks away for a second, then back to you.
  1612. >”It's nothing. I had been training myself much of my life, and they probably hadn't. Anyways, after that he took me more seriously. He wanted more proof, though. He asked me to take a ship to Salt Basin. It's a secluded city-state far past the badlands. He wanted me to take over the leadership and wait for backup to arrive.”
  1613. >You look at her incredulously.
  1614. “He just gave you a ship and told you to get at it?”
  1615. >”He did. He wanted results, and was willing to take risks.”
  1616. “So he gave you a suicide mission and figured if you live, you're in.”
  1617. >”Like I said, he wanted proof. I captured the leaders and had the city on lockdown before the backup could even arrive. The Stormking was so impressed he took me on as his first-contact for every new territory. He paid handsomely in stormbucks and promised my horn back if I could get him everything he wanted, up to and including the power of the princesses.”
  1618. “That sounds like a really tall order to get your horn back.”
  1620. >She stares at the ground, not letting that hard look on her face leave.
  1621. >”It was the price I was willing to pay.”
  1623. >You dry off the armor by hand now, and begin taking off the clay.
  1624. >Since she's bring quiet, you grab her attention by waving the first complete plate in front of her.
  1625. “How do you think?”
  1626. >She takes a deep breath, then gives that tiny smile of hers.
  1627. >”I think green is definitely my color.”
  1628. “I'm glad you like it.”
  1629. >She puts it in her bag as you finish up the other plates.
  1631. >A few minutes later you have everything done and give it all to her.
  1632. >You begin cleaning up everything, and she packs up her stuff.
  1633. >”Anon, thanks for keeping me company. Would you like to... 'hang out', sometime?”
  1634. “Sure.” You say nonchalantly. “I'm almost always right here. Feel free to drop by anytime.”
  1635. >”Thanks.”
  1637. >She walks away, taking her things with her.
  1638. >”I'll be sure to have money to pay you next time.”
  1639. “It's all good.” You call out.
  1640. >And like that, she's gone.
  1642. >Welp. Nothing to do now but wait for Clockwork.
  1645. - - -
  1647. >You are Fizzlepop, and you are walking right back into the castle after fetching all your things.
  1648. >Twilight pops her head out through a doorway.
  1649. >”Fizzlepop! There you are.” She trots up to you. “I think I found a job for you.”
  1650. “That's great.” You walk in and she follows you to your temporary room.
  1651. >”Bulk Biceps is looking to train another trainer at the town gym, so he can work less hours over the spring. I asked him if he'd be willing to take you-”
  1652. >She does a little dance on her hoof-tips.
  1653. >Cute.
  1654. >”-and he said yes! He said he'll pay you to learn everything!”
  1655. “Thanks, Twilght. I'll go talk to him later today.”
  1656. >”No problem!”
  1657. >She looks at your bags.
  1658. >”So how's the color change coming along?”
  1659. “It's all done. I sat by Anon and made sure he did it right.”
  1660. >She waves her hoof.
  1661. >”Anon's all over the place with skill. If he says he knows how to do it, he does.”
  1662. “If you say so. He sure does have a lot of junk in his yard.”
  1663. >”Maybe, but he has his reasons.”
  1664. “Mhm.”
  1665. >You go into your room, dumping the bag on the bed.
  1666. >”So what did you talk about?”
  1667. “Hmm?”
  1668. >”Well, surely you didn't just start at eachother as he worked. Come on, tell me about it!”
  1669. “Not a whole lot. I asked him about his species, he asked me about areas outside of Equestria. We talked about ourselves a bit.”
  1670. >She smiles.
  1671. >”Sounds like someone made a friend!”
  1672. >Now that's funny.
  1673. “I'm sure it's not that quick and simple.”
  1674. >She leans on you.
  1675. >”You say that now, but at this rate you'll be rolling in more friends than you'll know what to do with.”
  1676. >She walks towards the door.
  1677. >”I'd know!”
  1679. >Of course she'd know. She's the princess of friendship.
  1680. >But it couldn't possibly be THAT simple.
  1681. >...
  1682. >Could it?
  1685. - - -
  1686. >You are Anon, again.
  1687. >And insomnia is kicking your ass, for some reason.
  1688. >It's late at night, and you've already surpassed the phase of sleepiness where you drag yourself through everything.
  1689. >Now you're on that phase where you're obviously tired, but the only place you can see or feel it is in the bags under your eyes.
  1690. >All other body parts are acting as if nothing is wrong.
  1691. >So, you decided to make the most of the free time you have now.
  1693. >The new project you're on now is some alarmed fence-wire.
  1694. >All you're really doing is nigger-rigging some wires so that if the top wire breaks contact it'll signal a chime back inside your house.
  1695. >A shitty alarm that is only useful if you're already home, but it may be worth it if you can find whoever was stealing your crystals.
  1697. >”Anon!”
  1698. >God damn it.
  1699. >There she is again.
  1700. >She walks up and leans on your fence with a shit-eating grin.
  1701. >”Guess who convinced the lieutenant to let me protect you all night until the big bad thief is caught?”
  1702. >She points to herself with her wing.
  1703. >”This mare did, that's who.”
  1704. >Wut
  1705. >No. You won't accept that. You will NOT have a fucking cop standing guard at your yard all damn night.
  1706. >She even fell asleep last time!
  1708. “That's not necessary.”
  1709. >”Except it totally is.”
  1710. “No, it's not. I'm out here right now. Go drink at the bar or something.”
  1711. >”A good, honorable mare does not drink on the job.” She smiles. “I need to be my best!”
  1712. “Well then go sleep or something.”
  1713. >”I can't sleep on the job, either.”
  1714. “Well go do something. You already know I don't like you being here.”
  1715. >”And you never once mentioned the reason why!”
  1716. “I don't need a reason. The wanting is its own reason.”
  1717. >”No it's not.”
  1720. “Yes, it is.”
  1721. >”Give me a better reason.”
  1722. “I like my privacy, and I don't like anyone whose real name I don't know.”
  1723. >She looks a little disheartened.
  1724. >”Y- you don't remember my name?”
  1725. “You never told it to me.”
  1726. >She pouts.
  1727. >”I was at your welcoming party! Pinkie introduced us!”
  1728. >Oh, well...
  1729. >This is awkward.
  1730. “I got super wasted that night. I still don't remember shit.”
  1731. >She stares at you for a long moment.
  1732. >A LONG moment. Like she's trying to work out some huge math problem in her head.
  1733. >You snap your finger in front of her eyes.
  1734. >She doesn't even bli-
  1736. >”I challenge you to a fight!”
  1737. “What?”
  1738. >You stare at her, completely confused at the outburst.
  1739. >”You heard me. A fight! Wrestling! Saturday, six P.M., town square, the whole town watching!”
  1741. >Is... is she on meds right now? What brought this on?
  1742. >...
  1743. >Fuck it. You're being given an opportunity to beat up a cutsie cop.
  1744. >But will Twilight be happy about it?
  1745. >She'll probably be giving you the biggest earful about how this isn't what friends do to each other.
  1746. >Then again, this mare isn't your friend.
  1748. “If I win, you leave me alone at night from now on.”
  1749. >Hue hue hue. Perfect plan to get some freedom from stalker mare.
  1750. >”Fine. If I win, you go on a date with me.”
  1751. >Okay, now you're REALLY confused.
  1752. >She's fighting you to date you?
  1753. >Are you some kind of prize to be won?
  1754. >Is this normal?
  1755. >Actually, this probably isn't normal.
  1756. >You really shouldn't expect normal, anyways.
  1760. “Deal.”
  1761. >”See you Saturday, handsome.”
  1763. >She walks off proudly, like she's already won.
  1764. >This mare must be up to something. More than usual, you mean.
  1765. >Eh, whatever. Ponies have been weird since day 0 of your trip here.
  1766. >This must just be another one of those things that'll pass in, like, a week.
  1768. >You look around at your work.
  1769. >Let's see.... you don't have any jobs lined up right now.
  1770. >Oh, you could finish up that couch of yours.
  1771. >Well, not really. You have nothing to stuff any cushions, but you can get damn close to finished.
  1772. >Then after that, well... you'll see.
  1774. - - -
  1776. >You are Twilight, an your are a bit upset.
  1777. >It's nearing noon, and there are rumors circulating about Anon starting a fighting tournament against everypony in the town barracks.
  1778. >Surely they weren't true.
  1779. >SURELY Anon would not be starting fights with guards to prove some kind of political point.
  1780. >Again.
  1781. >He was just drunk last time! Just had too much to drink and didn't know what he was even fighting about.
  1782. >You hope.
  1783. >For now, you suppress the theories and worries in your mind and focus on the task at hoof: Asking him yourself.
  1784. >Well, you and Rainbow, at any rate.
  1786. “Anon! I know you're in there! Please let us in?”
  1787. >Rainbow is just floating next to you. She, unfortunately, doesn't carry the same worries that you do.
  1788. “Rainbow, is Anon avoiding me for some reason?”
  1789. >She shrugs.
  1790. >”If he is, he never mentioned it to me.”
  1791. >Dammit. Why does this stallion never tell-
  1792. >No, no. You've gone over this before. He's not a stallion.
  1793. >He's a man.
  1794. >He's a man that doesn't always like to answer or respect ponies, but he has his reasons.
  1795. >Even if you kinda hate those reasons sometimes.
  1799. >You magick up a key shape and shove it into the lock on the door. You twist it a bit, moving the pins until it clicks.
  1800. >You open the door, and RD looks at you with a frown.
  1801. >”He's not going to be happy you did that.”
  1802. “He told me I could visit any time I wanted.”
  1803. >You walk in with her in tow.
  1804. “I'm just helping myself to his invitation.”
  1805. >”Whatever you say, Twi.”
  1807. >Wow, this place is a mess.
  1808. >There's so much clutter everywhere!
  1809. >Not that you're surprised. It's been like this every time you come in here.
  1810. >You still feel compulsion to clean it up.
  1811. >Actually, it seems to have some kind of grouping to the items he's hoarding.
  1812. >Has he been organizing?
  1813. >It's a start, to say the least.
  1815. >You follow the noise of some kind of engine.
  1816. >Snaking through the items, you reach the back of the house where Anon is laying under a fan.
  1817. >He's dead asleep. The fan is venting air outside and another one is on the other side of the room, venting air in.
  1818. >Next to him is that tool he was working on the other day, but in front of him was some kind mesh of thick metal bars hanging from chains attached to the wood frame of the house.
  1819. >On the wall is a hoof-drawn blueprint outlining some finished product that the metal framework is a part of.
  1820. >Engineering design is such a beautiful thing.
  1822. >You poke anon in the leg.
  1823. >Nothing happens.
  1824. >You poke him again-
  1825. “Ah!”
  1826. >In an instant, his leg strikes against yours and he rolls over, reaching for his waist, trying to grab something that isn't there.
  1827. >He cocks back his leg before he stops, staring at you.
  1828. >”Huh?”
  1829. >He blinks a few times, obviously trying to gather his surroundings.
  1830. >”What are you doing in my house?”
  1831. >Rainbow snickers.
  1832. >”Told you.”
  1833. >You glare at Rainbow, then look at him.
  1834. “Anon, there's some rumors going around about you and I got worried.”
  1838. >”I didn't start it, I swear.”
  1839. >He slurs it together, sitting up as he does.
  1840. “Oh really?”
  1841. >”It was the guard bat. She did it.”
  1842. >He quickly sobers up.
  1843. >”She challenged me. I accepted.”
  1844. >Good gods, it's worse than you thought!
  1845. >Anon has infected mares with his secret lust for violence!
  1846. >Rainbow cuts in.
  1847. >”Is this the same mare you fought at your welcome party?”
  1848. >Anon throws his hand.
  1849. >”What? I fought someone at my party?”
  1850. “Yes!”
  1851. >You surprise them both with your volume.
  1852. “Why do you think I've been telling you to stop drinking? You're not you when you're drunk.”
  1853. >At first he cracks a smile, then wipes it off and looks away.
  1854. >”Sorry, Twi... I wasn't aware I was going and starting fights.”
  1855. >”Well, not really. That was just ONE time.” Rainbow crosses her hooves.
  1856. >Dammit Rainbow. This isn't the time to defend his habits!
  1857. >But, wait-
  1858. “Did no one tell you about it?”
  1859. >He shakes his head.”
  1860. >”Nope. First time I've heard of it. Why did we fight?”
  1861. >”She wants to bang you.”
  1862. “Rainbow!”
  1863. >They both ignore you.
  1864. >Anon starts again. “So you talked to her afterwards? Was she okay?”
  1865. >”She was pretty bruised, but she went head over hooves for you after you choked her out. Wouldn't stop talking about how hot it was.”
  1866. >He stares at Rainbow for a moment. It's hard to read those small eyes of his, but you can imagine he's cycling through at least a few emotions right now.
  1867. >”Well that's a shame. Cause if I win again, she's not coming near my house any more.”
  1868. “And why is that?”
  1869. >”Cause she made it a bet. She wins, she gets a date with me. I win, she doesn't show up at my house any more.”
  1870. >You plant your hoof on your face.
  1871. >This guy!
  1872. “Anon, you can't solve the problem by beating up ponies.”
  1873. >Rainbow, meanwhile, is laughing her head off.
  1874. >”Okay, one: Apparently, yes I can. She challenged me. Two: This is literally the simplest way to solve the problem.”
  1879. “'Simple' doesn't mean 'best', Anon. And it's not just about that! You have a duty to the community to not just-”
  1880. >”Oh lighten up, Twilight.” Rainbow cuts in. “Let Anon fight. It'll be just fine. The mare won't even have her feelings hurt. Probably.... most likely.”
  1881. >Both you and Anon look to her. Then each other, then to her again.
  1882. “What makes you so sure?”
  1883. >”Cause she's a bat-pony. Duh.”
  1884. >You stare at her, still waiting for a real answer.
  1885. “And that means....”
  1886. >”You and I must have had waaaaaaaaaay different history classes.”
  1887. >She floats up next to and leans on you.
  1888. >”A loooooooooooooooong time ago, when bat-ponies were by themselves, they were maliga- mnago-..... they didn't do herds. It was one mare, one stallion, and TONS of foals. Not like the rest of us normal ponies, right? Anways, whoever could fight through the other mares got to pick their mate. Usually they had to fight the family sisters of the stallion, but some stallions fought for themselves.”
  1889. >She flies up to Anon, poking him in the chest.
  1890. >”Call it a hunch, but I think she's got her eyes on you. Want her gone? Kick her to the curb, in EVERY sense.”
  1891. >What? But, that doesn't... that's not...
  1892. >You shake your head.
  1893. >”Thank God.”
  1894. >No! It's still not right. But, if she's right, and they agreed to some rules at least...
  1895. “Fine. But I'm keeping a close eye on this whole thing. I don't want you two to endanger any townsfolk.”
  1896. >Rainbow pumps her hoof and Anon gives you a thumbs-up.
  1897. >”I won't break too many things. I promise.”
  1898. >'Things' don't worry you.
  1899. “Not everything grows back, Anon.” You point at him. “Which is why I'm going to be the one setting up the rules.”
  1900. >Yeah. If he wants to do this, he needs to do it your way. That way nopony gets any more hurt than necessary.
  1904. >But first, you need to go grab that mare and explain to her that she's in the same situation.
  1905. >”Thanks, Twiggles. I'll be sure to hide my magic runes really, really well.”
  1906. >You snort, making your way towards the front door again.
  1907. “I just don't want to see you hurt, Anon.”
  1908. >”I”ll be fine, Twilight. Go worry about something else.”
  1909. >You get outside with RD next to you.
  1910. >You swear, sometimes that stall- … man doesn't know what he's doing.
  1911. >If you didn't know any better, you'd say he actually enjoys violence.
  1912. >And it sets such a bad example to the kids!
  1913. >But, you do know better. It's not a habit of his to be violent, even when he's drunk.
  1914. >Actually, drinking seems to keep him mellow.
  1915. >Regardless, you can't let this slide. He really does need to start acting like the bigger man.
  1916. >...
  1917. >Actually, you can solve this yourself.
  1918. >In fact, you should have done this when he first mentioned that mare, probably.
  1920. “Later, Dash.”
  1921. >You cock your wings and thrust into the air, towards the barracks.
  1923. - - -
  1924. >You are Anon, and it is now the following Sunday.
  1925. >You are still mildly upset that Twilight shut down the fight, but on the flip side, the mare is staying good to her word and stays away.
  1926. >You can't tell why she -Twilight that is- has this sudden compulsion to keep you out of trouble.
  1927. >The best you can surmise is that she's falling back on treating you like a 'stallion' for some reason.
  1928. >You know you've had long cultural talks with her. It must be that old habits die hard.
  1929. >Nothing else seems to make sense.
  1931. >Anyways, it is now early October, and business is picking up.
  1932. >Lots of ponies are paying good money for you to set up decorations, repaint them and other similar tasks.
  1933. >But nothing really lasts into the evening, so you're here trying to convince Nurse Redheart and her herd stallion, Dr. Skinner, of an improved design for prosthetic limbs.
  1935. >”Anon, I'm not questioning your ability as a mechanic to produce this, but there's still some ethical questions we'd have to consider. Am I really doing my ponies a good service if I'm giving them a prosthetic that's so much less durable than the ones we currently offer? And one that will take several years to pay off?”
  1936. “Skinner, I understand your concerns. However, I should point out that this design is still more durable then a natural pony leg. And you shouldn't be the one to worry about the price. This design isn't going to replace the current standard. I'm trying to open up the options a bit for those that can afford it.”
  1937. >At this point, Redheart chimes in.
  1938. >”But keeping every part from rusting away would take a lot of runescaping. All those runes might suck a pony dry of mana.”
  1939. “Is that how runes work? I thought they only took it from ambient sources.”
  1940. >”It's the standard for medically-necessary runes. It guarantees a constant source of mana.”
  1941. “Oh, cool.”
  1944. >You point over the drawings again.
  1945. “But It would only need those on a couple of critical parts. The rest are easily replaceable and would only need to be swapped out every few years, if even that.”
  1946. >”Monopolizing medical parts for a procedure is still a concern of mine. The Board of Medical Ethics will never accept you being the only seller for these devices.”
  1947. “Which is why I'm prepared to distribute copies of the blueprints. I don't intend to restrict this to the highest paying customer alone. I'm only going to ask for some royalties when done professionally.”
  1948. >”You haven't even patented it, have you?”
  1949. >The paperwork is already done, you just need the money to finalize it.
  1950. >You kick back, relaxing in your chair as he pushes your paper back to you.
  1951. “Nope.”
  1952. >”You should really do that.”
  1953. >He looks at his watch, shaking his head.
  1954. >”Sorry, Anon, but we've got to run. We'll have to talk about this another time.”
  1955. >He hops up and grabs his bag before Redheart takes it instead.
  1956. >”I got it, honey.” She kisses him.
  1957. “Well, if you happen to find a pony willing to be a guinea pig, I can make that first one free. Proof of concept and everything.”
  1958. >”I'll keep that in mind, Anon. You have a good night.”
  1959. >They walk out, and Redheart waves right as they get out.
  1960. >”Thanks for the ethanol!”
  1961. “No problem.” You give a thumbs up.
  1963. >”Oh, hello.” She says.
  1964. >You raise an eyebrow.
  1965. >Was someone waiting outside?
  1966. >They leave but the door fails to close and soon enough, Fizzlepop's head shows in the doorway.
  1967. >You get up and start moving papers around, mostly just putting everything away.
  1968. “Come on in, Miss Fizz.”
  1971. >She walks right in, closing the door on her way, and confidently claims a seat on your 50% cushioned couch.
  1972. >It's refurbished. The other cushion had spiders.
  1973. >Lots of spiders.
  1975. >”Anon, I'd like to hire you.”
  1976. >You kinda like how straight-forward she is.
  1977. “What for?”
  1978. >”I recently took possession of a downed airship. I need some help renovating it.”
  1979. >Oh shit, that's cool.
  1980. >You've never seen an airship up close before.
  1981. “Sure thing. What kind of renovating?”
  1982. >”Carpentry, furnishing and the like. Maybe fixing the engines, but not until the rest is complete.”
  1983. >Shit man, this sounds right up your alley.
  1984. “Sure thing. When do you want me to come by?”
  1985. >She pokes you, pulling your attention with those eyes of hers.
  1986. >”I need you for a couple of weeks. Maybe more.”
  1987. >Oh shit. She must have a lot of work for you.
  1988. “That's a long time, to be frank.”
  1989. >”I'm not hiring a lot of people. I prefer it's slow enough that I can pay attention to how everything is progressing. It'll just be you and three others, if you're willing.”
  1990. >Okay, so you're not alone on this project.
  1991. “I don't think I can work that much on credit.”
  1992. >”Payment won't be a problem. One hundred and fifty bits per day, every day before you leave. I'm paying for materials.”
  1993. >Fucking NICE.
  1994. “I'll take it.”
  1995. >She gives a small smirk.
  1996. >”I'm glad to hear that.”
  1997. >She hops up and goes towards the door again.
  1998. >”I set up some signs pointing the way at the point of the Everfree closest to Fluttershy's place. Work starts at nine, ends at seven, with an hour and a half break for lunch.”
  1999. >She stops in the doorway, looking back at you.
  2000. >”And, Anon?” She stares at you with those half-lidded eyes of hers. Well, you could only see one, but still. “Don't keep me waiting.”
  2002. >...
  2003. >Did she just swish her tail at you?
  2004. >Maybe that's just part of the dominating presence she has.
  2007. - - -
  2009. >Monday morning.
  2010. >Most people hate it, but you know how to appreciate a good job prospect.
  2011. >Not to mention security of income.
  2013. >Anyways, you are now standing in front of a damaged airship.
  2014. >'Damaged' is no misnomer. There are several holes and scorched spots all over the hull. The spots where sails look like they're supposed to be are barren, several air sacks are popped and deflated, and a lot of the paint is scraped and scratched off.
  2015. >Tons of boxes and containers are strewn about the far side.
  2016. >You can't help but feel there's a lot more to this scene than you're seeing.
  2018. “She's beautiful.”
  2019. >You set your cart down and start separating your tools, making sure you have everything.
  2020. >”Not yet, she's not.”
  2021. >Fizzlepop struts slowly in front of you and four mares. The others have carts full of large, portable tools for all sorts of work.
  2022. >”Today we're just going to focus on deconstruction. Anything with more burns than on the paint goes to the burn pile over there.”
  2023. >She points off to her left, towards a huge pile of ash.
  2024. >”Anything that's damaged but can be partially reclaimed goes to the pile over there.”
  2025. >And now she points to her right.
  2026. >”Any metal bits go in the box behind me-”
  2027. >She kicks a wood back with her back hoof.
  2028. >”-and try to reuse them if you can. If there's anything you're unsure of, come ask me first. If there's a locked door, it's meant to be locked. Otherwise, the whole thing is open game. Any questions?”
  2029. >Shakes all around.
  2030. >”Good.” She points to the two biggest mares. “I want you two to help me with a broken support, first. After that, you'll join with the others.”
  2032. >Everyone broke up into their separate paths and began working away.
  2033. >You started off in the back end, and pulled your tools along with you.
  2034. >You grabbed a ladder and your drill and began unscrewing boards.
  2035. >You collect the screws in your pocket and toss the boards aside.
  2036. >You'll deal with sorting shit later.
  2040. >Underneath the wood layer is apparently a base metal layer.
  2041. >Also, there's these metal rivet-looking bars that are sticking out from the metal layer.
  2042. >You can only imagine what they're used for.
  2043. >Probably for securing more cargo or something.
  2045. - - -
  2047. >Work goes quickly enough.
  2048. >Much quicker for you, since you're the only one with power-tools.
  2049. >And when you start working your way towards the other workers, one started flirting with you.
  2050. >By that you mean cat-calling about your sweaty body.
  2051. >Then you started name-calling.
  2052. >Then everyone started name-calling.
  2053. >Except Fizzy.
  2054. >She just watched with disdain.
  2055. >But the rest were having tons of fun being able to yell and curse at eachother, like they were children breaking some huge rule for the first time.
  2056. >It was fun.
  2058. >You are putting up your stuff for the day, having helped the others in salvaging most of the damaged parts of the ship.
  2059. >Only some interior parts are remaining.
  2061. >”Anon.”
  2062. >Fizzlepop catches your attention.
  2063. >”I want you to do something for me.”
  2064. “Sure thing, boss.”
  2065. >She raises an eyebrow, then tosses you a bag.
  2066. >You open it to see a folded paper and some bits.
  2067. “You already paid m-”
  2068. >”I need you to gather some materials before tomorrow's work. The bits will pay for it. Keep any extra bits.”
  2069. >She pokes you in the leg.
  2070. >”But I want a reciept.”
  2071. “Sure thing.”
  2072. >Bit of a weird request. If she already knows what she needs, but whatever.
  2074. >She walks into the ship, flicking on a light and closing a couple of doors.
  2075. >This is going to be an interesting couple of weeks.
  2076. >Very interesting.
  2080. >Day 2 of working under Fizzlepop.
  2081. >The whole pep-talk and everything at the start goes about the same. She outlines the objective for the others, then pulls you aside and puts you in the cabin with your supplies.
  2082. >Along with a bunch of other supplies that she clearly bought or found herself.
  2083. >And the first thing she wants you to build is...
  2084. “An alchemy table?”
  2085. >She nods.
  2086. “Wouldn't you rather I make the bed first?”
  2087. >She eyes the really, REALLY worn mattress in the corner.
  2088. >”It can wait. I need this to synthesize some potions.”
  2089. >You toss the list aside and, start gathering the first things you need: wood and screws.
  2090. >Honestly, those are about the first two things you ever need. For almost anything you build here.
  2091. “Has anyone introduced you to Zecora?”
  2092. >”Yes, and I don't want to constantly harass her with my needs.”
  2093. >That's what she s- no, wait- that's what he said.
  2094. >Anyways, that's a fair point.
  2095. >”Need anything else?”
  2096. “Nope.”
  2097. >”Alright, I'll be in and out throughout the day. Make sure to keep it to the dimensions written down.”
  2098. “Sure thing.”
  2099. >You sit down and give your drill a squeeze.
  2101. >She leaves you, and you're now alone.
  2102. >In her nearly barren room.
  2103. >The only things that aren't a pile of material right now are a candle, the pile of books, a big chest with tons of locks on it, and, arguably, the mattress.
  2104. >You're only kinda curious what's in the chest.
  2105. >It's probably money.
  2106. >Did it come free with the ship?
  2107. >Probably.
  2108. >Like most of the junk in yard.
  2109. >You'd think the crew would have taken at least the money when they left.
  2110. >Hell, you'd think the crew would stick around if the ship goes down.
  2111. >This shit isn't that old at all. Would they really just abandon it here?
  2112. >Surely not.
  2115. >Time passes, and you're on another piece of furniture. Yet another cabinet.
  2116. >You already assembled the table and the other cabinet, but Fizzlepop never mentioned WHERE she wanted them, so they're assembled, but set aside until she decides to show up again.
  2117. >Which is right about now.
  2119. >”And how are things coming along?”
  2120. >You whip your head around and give a thumbs up.
  2121. “Doing great, boss. I don't know where you want these things yet. Just finishing up another one.”
  2122. >She raises an eyebrow.
  2123. >”Awfully fast work.”
  2124. “Thanks.”
  2125. >You emphasize with a squeeze of your drill.
  2126. “As far as I know, I'm the only one here with a powered drill. It's a huge time saver.”
  2127. >She gives a slight nod.
  2128. >”Inventive.” She pauses, walking over to you. “I like finishing things ahead of schedule.”
  2129. “Don't we all?”
  2130. >You finish screwing in the first set of brackets.
  2131. >You wish you had finished making some pilots that would fit your drill, though. You'd have done it even faster.
  2133. >You continue on, going along blueprint just to make sure you're not screwing it up.
  2134. >She watches you work the whole time, but you don't mind it.
  2135. >It's her ship now, right? She's right to be concerned if someone's making her furniture wrong.
  2136. >But the silence is killing you a bit.
  2137. >It's like she's judging you over something.
  2138. >Well, she is, but it's the way she's doing it that bothers you.
  2139. “So are you going to tell me where you want these things or not?”
  2140. >Her eyes flicker to yours, then she grabs a marker and marches to the side of the room.
  2141. >She marks a line on the support against the wall.
  2142. >”That marks the bottom. Make sure it's flush against it.”
  2143. “Sure thing. Help hold it up, will you?”
  2144. >She stares at you.
  2145. >Bitch, how are you supposed hold that shit up without help?
  2148. >You lean down and grab one end.
  2149. “I like finishing things ahead of schedule.”
  2150. >You mock her voice.
  2151. “Come on. Like, sixty seconds tops.”
  2152. >She focuses on you and tightens her jaw, like she just got out of her thoughts.
  2153. >She wordlessly heaves the other end and helps you carry it to the spot.
  2154. “Thank you.”
  2155. >You quickly screw in a few, then tighten them down. You motion to her.
  2156. “You're good.”
  2157. >She drops down, then heads towards the door.
  2158. >”You seem to have things handled. Lunch break starts in an hour.”
  2159. “I don't have a watch.”
  2160. >”Look above the bed, smart one.”
  2161. >You look above to see there is indeed a clock above, and facing, the bed.
  2162. “Why the hell does it just face straight down at the bed?”
  2163. >No answer. She's already gone.
  2165. >She seemed pretty eager to keep it short with you.
  2166. >You don't smell bad, do you?
  2167. >You give your pits a quick sniff.
  2168. >No. Well, not more than normal.
  2169. >Not like you smother yourself in strawberries every morning.
  2170. >Whatever. She must have her head stuck on something. Something to focus on.
  2171. >Like you. You have furniture to finish.
  2172. >So? You get back to it.
  2174. - - -
  2176. >You are Fizzlepop, and you are indignant to the sight before you.
  2177. >You have the late shift at the gym tonight.
  2178. >Well, one of the late shifts.
  2179. >The other is a somewhat lazy clerk who spends most of her time reading, and occasionally cleaning something. Oh, and the girl at the salad-bar near the front.
  2180. >You were hired on to eventually be a trainer, but you can't do that until they get you a license.
  2181. >For now, you're a glorified motivational speaker and helper.
  2182. >And right now, you're trying to motivate a sad sack of f...
  2183. >No, you can do better.
  2184. >You're trying to help a mare who wants to cut the fat and get back into 'the game' as she calls it.
  2185. >It's a childish name for it, which matches the child that must be hidden somewhere beneath the suffocating layers of blubber on the form before you.
  2188. “Stop crying.”
  2189. >She doesn't.
  2190. >[spoiler]You aren't very good with kids. Especially adult ones.[/spoiler]
  2191. >”B-b-but it hurts so much!” She wheezes quietly.
  2192. >You nod.
  2193. “I know it does, but you can't let something like pain get in the way of what you want.”
  2194. >She doesn't say anything. She stares at the ground trying to clear up the waterworks.
  2195. >You stare for a moment.
  2196. >Were you like this once?
  2197. >Whining and crying over something so small?
  2198. “Look, nopony wants to hear this, but this really is the best way to get better.”
  2199. >You point to a big poster of a well-toned mare. It's one of those ones that name all the muscles, but doesn't cut away to the muscle.
  2200. “That body right there is real. You can get it for yourself. But it doesn't come easy, for anypony. That body is testament to years of taking care of yourself. Do you want that for yourself?”
  2201. >Her tears are drying up, and she nods harder than a stormtrooper at the wheel.
  2202. >You point to the treadmill.
  2203. “Then you're going to have to prove it. Wherever you stop, wherever you give up, you will end up with the body you're earned. No more, no less.”
  2204. >She looks at you, then to her legs. They hurt. They must, carrying that weight. Her heart must hurt, too.
  2205. >But real progress always hurts.
  2206. >She walks up to the treadmill and tentatively gets on. She raises her hoof to the start button, but stops.
  2207. >She looks up at the poster, then to you.
  2208. >You offer her a smile.
  2209. >A sincere smile.
  2210. >You can only encourage her choice. It's a hard one, from her perspective at least.
  2211. >But you still see doubt in her eyes.
  2212. >She stares at the button.
  2213. >For a small while, actually.
  2214. >... come on, mare. You can do better.
  2215. > [spoiler]I believe in you.[/spoiler]
  2216. >You get an idea.
  2217. >You put a hoof on her flank.
  2218. “Wait.”
  2219. >She stares at you as you walk off.
  2220. >You go the nearest point of the indoor track and grab some back-plates.
  2221. >You go back to her with a pep in your step.
  2222. >She just looks confused, and a little scared.
  2223. >You jump onto the treadmill next to her.
  2227. “I'll jog alongside you with these weights on my back. They weigh a lot, but I won't stop until you do, I promise.”
  2228. >She gives a smile and presses the button.
  2229. >You press yours and match to her speed.
  2230. >A slow jog with no incline.
  2231. >You'd be here forever doing it by yourself, even with the weights.
  2232. >But, with present company... well, you should at least try to be optimistic, right?
  2233. >You'll go with fifteen minutes.
  2234. - - -
  2235. “You did good, Doughy.”
  2236. >The poor mare is tits-up on the floor.
  2237. >Desperately nursing on a water bottle she's already refilled three times.
  2238. >And you're almost certain she's sweat it out already.
  2239. >Adrenaline is one heck of a drug.
  2240. “Do you need help?”
  2241. >She looks to the side, reaching for a towel that's just out of reach.
  2242. >You kick it to her, and she starts rubbing down.
  2243. “Alright. If you need some help with anything, I'll be at the front for a while.”
  2244. >She nods, then assumes starfish position.
  2246. >You stroll on up past the front desk and into the little cafe, where the floor goes from thin carpet to tile.
  2247. >You take a seat next to Princess Purple, who dove face first into a fruit salad about a minute ago and hasn't come up for air since.
  2248. “I hope you'll introduce me to your new marefriend here.”
  2249. >She bolts up with a look of confusion and interest, cheeks full of food.
  2250. >You point to her mouth.
  2251. “You have her all over your muzzle, now.”
  2252. >It clicks and she blushes furiously, wiping everything away with a napkin.
  2253. >”Not funny.”
  2254. >She cracks a giggle anyways, then pokes you in the ribs.
  2255. >”So what's got you in a good mood?”
  2256. >You shrug.
  2257. “I slept really well last night.”
  2260. >”That's great!”
  2261. >She pauses.
  2262. >”But, umm... I noticed you didn't take up my offer to give you some bedding.”
  2263. “Oh, I did. I just didn't want to take the nice one in the guest room.”
  2264. >”Wait, then which one did you take?”
  2265. “The spare one in the basement.”
  2266. >Her smile drops.
  2267. >”I-... Fizzlepop, let me give you one of the better ones.”
  2268. “No, it's fine. Spike made sure it was clean.”
  2269. >You're not sure why one mare ought to horde that much bleach.
  2270. >Or why there was pricing written up on the board above it, along with notes like 'how to get it there'.
  2271. >Some silly princess spell or something, you're sure.
  2273. >She stares at you.
  2274. >”It's really not. Please. I can get you some quality of life things if you'll just let me.”
  2275. “It's fine, Twilight.” You rib her. “I got very lucky and have plenty of money now. I'll get what I need. Promise.”
  2276. >”If you promise.” She says. “I just want to make sure you're not sleeping on a dirt pile because you think you're a burden or something.”
  2277. “I'm not. I know you want to help, but I shouldn't take it unless I actually need it.”
  2278. >She give you that kind of worried smile she does.
  2279. >”Okay. I'll stop bugging you about that I guess. How, uh... how'd you get the-”
  2280. >She pauses.
  2281. >”How's Anonymous?”
  2282. >You shrug.
  2283. “He's good. Very quick worker. I'm happy he doesn't drink on the job.”
  2284. >”He doesn-? I mean, yup. He doesn't. He's keen on that, as far as I know.”
  2286. >You snort, looking over at Cookie to make sure she's doing fine.
  2287. >The girl is now on her side instead of her back.
  2288. >At this rate, she'll be ready to go by closing time.
  2290. >”So?”
  2291. >Twilight grabs your attention again.
  2292. “So what?”
  2293. >”So, anything else about him?”
  2294. >You shrug, and she frowns a little.
  2297. >”So you don't know his hobbies, or what he does for fun?”
  2298. “No. I haven't sat down and interviewed him.”
  2299. >”That's not what I...”
  2300. >She throws her hooves on the table and leans closer.
  2301. >”Okay. You two talked about some of your past. Why not try to find something in common? Like bowling.”
  2302. “Bowling?”
  2303. >You stare at her incredulously.
  2304. >She throws her hooves around.
  2305. >”It doesn't have to be bowling! Whatever it is you want. Favorite song, holiday, whatever you want. The thing is that friends have to make bonds. Talking is a great starting point for making bonds.”
  2306. >Hmm.
  2307. >Okay. That makes sense.
  2308. >You did like listening to him talk about himself.
  2309. “Okay. I'll do that.”
  2310. >She smiles.
  2311. “Once the renovations are done.”
  2312. >And the smile evaporates.
  2313. >”Why's that?”
  2314. >You roll your eyes.
  2315. “I can't mix business with pleasure, Twilight. He's on my payroll right now.”
  2316. >She flickers her eyes for a bit.
  2317. >”Well, can you maybe just try when you both aren't working, then? Pretty please?”
  2318. >She does that thing with her eyes, where they get all big and mesmerizing.
  2319. >You still haven't figured out how other ponies do that trick.
  2320. >It normally doesn't work on you, but, well. It's Twilight.
  2321. >She's your friend, right?
  2322. >She hasn't led you astray so far.
  2323. >What's the worst that could happen?
  2324. >Knock on wood.
  2325. “I guess I can try.”
  2326. >”Eeee!”
  2327. >She pulls you into a one-sided hug, and you can't help but smile a little. You feel a little fuzzy, even, but you'll never admit it.
  2328. >She hasn't broken a single promise yet.
  2329. >The more cynical side of you is silently ticking the days until she does, but you hope that day doesn't come.
  2330. “Okay.”
  2331. >You push away the short, eager mare and hop off the seat.
  2332. “I've got to get to work, so I'll see you later.”
  2333. >”Alright. You have a good night at work.”
  2334. “You too.”
  2336. >And a good night it was.
  2339. - - -
  2340. >Day 3 of renovations.
  2341. >You are still Fizzlepop, fully refreshed from a solid 4 hours of sleep.
  2342. >That wasn't sarcasm. It actually was restful.
  2343. >Because Twilight had, at some point, forced her way into your room and dumped all the comfiest pillows and the fluffiest blanket ever onto your bed.
  2344. >You're thankful that she's thinking about you, but this just ticks another box on the list of things you'll have to pay her back for.
  2345. >You feel the need to march straight back with all but one and maybe the blanket and give them back, but even you know it's bad form to deny a gift from a friend.
  2346. >But you have no idea what you could need so many pillows for. You can't possibly use them all yourself.
  2348. >It's something you'll have to figure out yourself later.
  2349. >For now, everyone has shovels, including you.
  2350. >The mayor approved the motion to extend utilities out to where the ship is, but with the stipulation that you have to pay for it out of pocket.
  2351. >Which makes sense. It's not annexed by Ponyville, even if it's under Twilight's domain. Not to mention how unlikely it is for the Everfree to start being developed any time soon.
  2352. >So today you have an engineer from Equestrian Utilities helping line everything out.
  2353. >She's just here to extend the power lines, though.
  2354. >The water-pump you have isn't going to be part of the public supply. That thing is going to tap straight into the reservoir below.
  2355. >And that's pretty much today's goal. Just those two. Shouldn't be too difficult with a team of perfectly competent engineers.
  2357. >SNAP
  2358. >”Screwhorn, it broke again.”
  2359. >A pony complains.
  2360. >You and her unicorn companion stare at her, then the unicorn uses her magic to break a nearby stick and attach the shovel head on.
  2361. >The mare happily goes back to sticking it way too deep into the ground.
  2363. >Well, 83% competence is still decent, right?
  2366. >You should check on the other two.
  2367. >They've been left alone for a good amount of time.
  2368. >Anon's not the type to waste time, but the mare with him is.
  2369. >You're worried she'll fuck around and drag the project on all day.
  2370. >Damn Hammertime. She's a thorn in your side if you aren't breathing down her neck.
  2371. >Also... maybe now would be a good time to ask if he wants to hang out.
  2372. >Later, of course. You can't actively hang out and work at the same time.
  2374. “Are you okay to handle them for a bit?”
  2375. >The mare from EU rolls her eyes.
  2376. >”I work with them all the time. I can handle yelling at them.” The gruff mare says.
  2377. “Good. I need to check around.”
  2378. >”Take as long as you want. Have to make sure this is done my way anyways, until it hits the meter.”
  2380. >You hop along the little trail towards the downed ship again, shovel on your back.
  2381. >Just a quick jog for a few minutes and you can already see the ship again.
  2382. >And you can hear yelling.
  2383. >Lots of yelling.
  2384. >And profanity.
  2385. >Anon sure does have a colorful use of vocabulary when he feels like it.
  2386. >It's a little refreshing how little he restricts his language, actually.
  2387. >Makes it easier to get a read on him.
  2389. “What's going on here?”
  2390. >The only pony that isn't you moves her head to look at you, and Anon pops his head out from the hole he's standing in, holding on to a large pipe.
  2391. >”What?! Hey, boss!”
  2392. >He's still using an extra loud voice.
  2393. “Why are you yelling at me?”
  2394. >”What?!”
  2395. >The other mare leans down and yells into his ear.
  2396. >”She said 'Why are you yelling at me'!”
  2397. >”Because some asshat used the pipe as drums next to my ear!”
  2398. >”I was just trying to get your attention!”
  2399. >”What?! I can't hear you over my newfound Tinnitus!”
  2400. >”You mean Tetanus?!”
  2401. >”That's from rust!”
  2402. >”I don't know medicine!”
  2403. >”Obviously, numb-nuts!”
  2406. “How's it coming along?”
  2407. >Your voice doesn't boom, but it is loud enough to pull them from their conversation.
  2408. >”Going good, boss.” The mare says. “Just about to hit the reservoir. Any minute now.”
  2409. >You study the mare's smile.
  2410. “Any problems?”
  2411. >”Nope.” Anon says, volume at normal.
  2412. >Was he screwing around? He was screwing around. He's screwing with you.
  2413. >They seem to be getting their end of today's job done, though, given the partially assembled parts around.
  2414. >Maybe right now wouldn't be the best time to ask.
  2415. >He might get distracted.
  2417. >He's fine. They're fine. What were you so worried about?
  2419. “Well, alright.”
  2420. >You walk your ass out of there.
  2421. “Let me know if anything happens!” You call back.
  2423. >They're fine. They know what they're doing.
  2425. - - -
  2427. >Be an attentive anon with perfectly fine hearing.
  2428. >Out of one ear, at least.
  2429. >But BOTH eyes work.
  2430. >And they're trained on Fizzlepop as she moves out back to the others.
  2431. “Hey, I'm not the only one noticing that, am I?”
  2432. >Hammertime, bless her easily distracted heart, is already banging on parts again.
  2433. >She looks at you.
  2434. >”Notice what?”
  2435. >You point at Fizzlepop.
  2436. “Her ass sways like a fucking pendulum. You can't tell me you don't see it.”
  2437. >She looks over and gasps.
  2438. >”It does!”
  2439. >She looks over at you.
  2440. >”Do you think she likes me?!”
  2442. >You stare at her wordlessly.
  2443. >Should you say yes?
  2444. >It would be pretty funny to watch her hit on Fizzlepop.
  2445. >On the other hand, she'll likely be upset and it will probably bite you in the ass later.
  2446. >Hmm.
  2447. >Probably not worth it.
  2448. >She IS paying you right now, after all.
  2449. >At least wait until after the checks go through to piss her off.
  2451. “Nah. I think she was just stretching or something.”
  2452. >”Oh. Okay.”
  2453. >She shrugs it off.
  2454. >Then goes back to banging pipes together.
  2455. >'making sure they're fit to use' she explained earlier.
  2456. >You still don't buy it.
  2458. >You go back to breaking up a hole down into the earth.
  2459. >Time to dig, you guess.
  2462. - - -
  2464. >It's now the middle of lunchtime.
  2465. >You're still Anon.
  2466. >And you're deep into this delicious MLT.
  2467. >It's like BLT, but since bacon isn't a thing to ponies, they just put lots of mayo on it.
  2468. >You scrape off globs of it most of the time.
  2470. >”Hey, Anon.”
  2471. >Damnit. Every time.
  2472. >Not once have you sat down at this place and NOT had someone approach you.
  2473. >At this point, you think it's some kind of running joke.
  2474. >Cause no one seems to care if they spot you at other restaurants.
  2476. >You almost turn around to see who it is, but she's already passed you.
  2477. >It's Fizzlepop. What's she up to now?
  2478. >You thought she'd be off drawing up tomorrow's plans for work or something.
  2479. >Her head seems pretty deep in fixing up that ship of hers.
  2480. >[spoiler]You kinda wish you just found a ship. Shit would be fucking cash.[/spoiler]
  2482. “What's up?”
  2483. >She takes a seat.
  2484. >She didn't even ask. She just took it!
  2485. >”I was hoping I could ask something.”
  2486. “Sure. Whatchya need?”
  2488. >She opens her mouth, but doesn't speak.
  2489. >She lets it hang for a moment, then shuts it.
  2490. >She stares through you.
  2491. >Oh shit. Did she have a stroke?
  2492. “You okay?”
  2493. >She brings herself out of it.
  2494. >”Would you like to go bowling after work tonight?”
  2496. >Now it's your turn to stare.
  2497. >This wasn't something you were expecting today.
  2498. >But it's ponyland. This is a really mild surprise.
  2499. >Do you have anything going on tonight?
  2500. >Hmm...
  2501. >Nope. All free.
  2502. >Just means less time for that motorcycle.
  2503. >But you should chillax. Bowling sounds nice, too.
  2505. “Sure. Like, a date?”
  2506. >Shit. You haven't even thought about trying to get back into the get yet.
  2507. >The last breakup was just so emotional.
  2508. >On Lyra's end, mostly. But still.
  2509. >She cracks up laughing.
  2510. >”No. That's funny. I meant as friends. You know. Hanging out?”
  2511. “Okay. Cool. Who else is coming?”
  2512. >You're pretty sure RD likes bowling. Wait, wasn't Pinkie on a team once?
  2513. >She shrugs.
  2514. >”I haven't figured out everyone I want to invite, yet.”
  2518. “Ah.”
  2519. >You can only guess you're the first, then.
  2520. “So what time's the shindig?”
  2521. >”How about seven?”
  2522. >Plenty of time to eat and dick around after work.
  2523. >You give a thumbs up.
  2524. “Sounds good.”
  2525. >She gets up and walks behind out of view.
  2526. >”I'm glad you're up for it. I'll see you back at work. Today shouldn't take too much longer.”
  2528. >You whip around and watch her walk away.
  2529. >She's doing it again.
  2530. >Okay. Now you're getting mixed signals.
  2531. >She's doing it again. Yet, she just told you you're just friends.
  2532. >Is she acting like a regular woman to get to you?
  2533. >How would she even know what they...
  2534. >...
  2535. >Twilight.
  2536. >She's been besties with Twilight for a bit now.
  2537. >They must have talked at some point.
  2538. >Oh.
  2539. >OH.
  2540. >That must have been why Twilight was so adamant to get you come to the party!
  2541. >That rascal is trying to get you two together!
  2543. >You gotta set this straight.
  2544. >For one, you like your mares extra marely.
  2545. >For two, you like her much more when she's straightforward.
  2546. >Really. She just has to ask.
  2548. >Okay. Just have to clear this up with Twilight.
  2550. - - -
  2552. >BANG
  2553. “Twilight!!”
  2554. >”AAHH!”
  2555. >”Dammit, Anon! Stop DOING that!”
  2557. >Twilight and Glim-Glam the commie are staring at you.
  2558. “Twilight, I thought you said you'd stop cursing in front of Trixie?”
  2559. “...”
  2560. “Where is she, anyways? I only ever see her with Glimmy these days.”
  2561. >”Up here.”
  2562. >You look up to see and angry Trixie attached to the ceiling.
  2563. >”And Trixie is not so impressionable, you dolt!”
  2564. >You still don't know how her legs get jump her up that high.
  2565. “How's it hangin', Trix?”
  2567. >She's fine. Something's making her a bit upset, though. You can only wonder what it is.
  2569. >”Anyways.” Twilight cuts in. “Anon, you tend to only do that when you need something.”
  2572. >All lies. You just happen to have something in mind when you come here.
  2573. >You just don't have the heart to tell her you don't actually like the cold, crystal design of everything.
  2575. “I was hoping to talk with you about Fizzlepop.”
  2576. >”Oh!”
  2577. >Twilight brightens up, but Glimmy is keeping an eye on Trixie.
  2578. >”Sure thing. Is it something quick, or should I schedule something?”
  2579. >Odd. She usually doesn't have to have your time scheduled in. Must be a busy week.
  2580. “Quick. Five minutes tops. But it's just between you and me.”
  2581. >”Okay.” She looks between the other two. “Girls, I'll be out in just a second.”
  2582. >”We'll be here, Twilight.” Glimmer says.
  2584. >You follow Twilight further in and into the closest room.
  2585. >She closes the door behind you and throws a spell on it.
  2586. >”Okay, Anon. What's this about?”
  2587. “Are you trying to set up Fizzlepop and I?”
  2588. >”What?” She looks you over, very confused. “No. What makes you think I am?”
  2589. “Every time she walks away from me, I swear she swings her ass to get my attention.”
  2590. >Twilight blushes a bit, then rests her hoof on her face.
  2591. >”Anon,” she sighs. “you think I'm trying to get you two together because she's walking weird?”
  2592. >You lean down.
  2593. “Ass swinging is a baiting tactic the submissive sex uses to attract the dominant. You're the only person I've talked in depth about gender roles and stuff.”
  2594. >”So you're accusing me of, what, talking about my friends? Because I'm guilty as charged on that. Though, I don't think I really talked about that stuff to her.”
  2595. >Shit. You didn't think that part through.
  2596. >Maybe she wasn't meticulously planning relationships behind others' backs.
  2599. >”And I definitely didn't notice her ass swinging, Anon. Unlike some people, I look ponies in the eyes.” She raises some smug eyebrows. “That being said, Anon. She hasn't been to Equestria since she was a little filly. She has at least half a lifetime adjusting the people outside this nation. She's bound to do some weird things. Things she got used to out there.”
  2600. >She rests a hoof on your shoulder.
  2601. >”And don't tell anyone, but I suggested she try to befriend you because I thought you could best sympathize with pretty much being an outsider.”
  2602. >Shit now you feel a little bad.
  2603. >It skipped your mind that she's not exactly a local in any sense of the word.
  2604. >A foreigner in her own homeland.
  2605. >And you've been focused on one little oddity.
  2606. >Well, you're going to help.
  2607. >You're not sure HOW, but you will.
  2608. >Ponies accepted your sorry ass and took you in. It's only right to pass the buck.
  2609. “Alright, Twilight. Thanks. I'll make sure to pay that more mind.”
  2610. >”No, thank you, Anon. So many problems are avoided when pon- people just talk.”
  2611. >She gives you a quick, friendly hug.
  2612. “It makes my life a lot easier.”
  2613. >Speaking of....
  2614. >You pause, breaking the hug.
  2615. “Also, I'm still upset about the fight.”
  2616. >”Oh, don't start that.”
  2617. >She smirks and opens the door, and you follow.
  2618. “Fighting is a very good way to resolve issues, Twilight.”
  2619. >”No it's not! It sets such a bad example! Think of the kids!”
  2620. “I am! They can learn the limits of their bodies together!”
  2621. >”No, Anon. That's not right. Fighting is for when you need it only!”
  2622. “Wrestling is a thing here!”
  2623. >”Wrestling isn't fighting!”
  2624. “It totally is! It's just a certain style is all!”
  2625. >”It is not!”
  2626. “Fighting is important and can resolve issues quickly and efficiently!”
  2629. >”Trixie would like to interject into your fighting.”
  2630. >You both look up at Trixie, who is still on the ceiling.
  2631. >”Twilight... Trixie is stuck.”
  2632. >”Where'd Glimmer go?”
  2633. >”Glimmer went to find the mattress in case Trixie falls unexpectedly.” She has some uncertainty in her voice. ”Trixie suspects Glimmer cannot find the mattress. She is taking too long.”
  2634. >”You're right. Fizzlepop has it.”
  2635. >”Trxie is upset at this.”
  2636. >”Don't worry. I'll find the counterspell.”
  2637. >She hops up into the air and books it to the library.
  2639. >Trixie stares at you, frowning.
  2640. >Which, from this angle, looks like a smile.
  2641. >A very nice smile.
  2642. >”Trixie is upset with you.”
  2643. “Trixie is invited to bowling tonight with Anon and Fizzlepop.”
  2644. >”Trixie must decline. Tonight Trixie is performing for children at Sugarcube Corner. Also, Trixie doesn't like you mimicking her mannerisms.”
  2645. “Okay. You have fun tonight, then.”
  2646. >You strut to the door and go right outside, but stop after you close it.
  2647. >You take a good moment standing there, looking around at the beautiful town.
  2648. >After you feel the proper amount of time has passed, you turn around and line up your foot against the door.
  2650. >BANG
  2651. >”AAAHHH!”
  2652. >You hear that familiar sound of magic as Trixie lands right on the ground.
  2653. >Ha! It worked!
  2654. >She recovers and stares at you with furious eyes.
  2655. “You're welcome! Have a good one!”
  2657. >It all turns to mumbling through the door once you close it.
  2658. >She might be stuck on the ground now, since she didn't chase you down, but that's much safer than the ceiling.
  2659. >You're such a helpful person.
  2662. - - -
  2664. >You walk into the loud sound of ponies cheering and pins flying.
  2665. >You scan the room for any signs of that unicorn.
  2666. >She's half a head taller than everyone else, so it's not that hard.
  2667. >Almost as if she detected you, her eyes snap to yours, and she gives you that half-lidded stare she likes to do.
  2668. >But then she gives a small wave.
  2669. >You wave back, then make your way to the front desk.
  2670. >You pay up your price and walk on over to the group.
  2671. >'the group' consists of only Fizzlepop and this really THICC mare.
  2672. “So who else is coming?”
  2673. >You ask as you approach.
  2674. >”This is it.”
  2675. >Huh.
  2676. >You expected more.
  2677. >Ms. THICC sits down after a gutter-ball and nurses on a jug of water.
  2678. >”Cookie, this is Anon.”
  2679. >She waves at you, but breaks eye contact quickly.
  2680. >”Anon, Cookie. I'm her personal motivator.”
  2681. >You kick your shoes off and pop your toes, making Cookie cringe.
  2682. “Hi.” You look to Fizzy. “Motivator? Not trainer?”
  2683. >”Not until I'm licensed.”
  2684. >Right.
  2685. “Figured you'd take off the job until the flying boat is done.”
  2686. >She tilts her head.
  2687. >”It keeps me interacting with others.”
  2688. >Good, good.
  2689. >Let the friendship flow through you.
  2690. “Glad to hear. I like you when you're talking.”
  2691. >”Thanks... I think.”
  2692. >She saunters on over and puts her ball down.
  2693. >Oh, she's one of THOSE ponies.
  2694. >Refusing to roll it like a MAN.
  2696. >She faces towards you, lining up her body with the lane.
  2697. “Didn't take you for a cheater, Fizzy.”
  2698. >Her head turns straight to you.
  2699. >”Excuse me?”
  2700. “Come on.” You wave your hand around. “Most ponies have the courtesy of at least trying to roll with a swing.”
  2703. >She says absolutely nothing as she eyes you up.
  2704. >Then, she smirks.
  2705. >Viciously.
  2706. >She stares you down as she leans her back legs against the floor, flush to the ball.
  2707. >Then, she squeezes her legs and launches the ball up, catching it on her back like it was nothing.
  2709. >Okay. What the fuck.
  2710. >How did she do that?
  2712. >She then rolls it forward, then back, then pushes it up with a half jump and bucks it straight down the lane.
  2713. >All without taking her eyes off of you.
  2714. >The buzzer goes off, showing a strike.
  2715. >She walks back, and cookie is clopping her hooves.
  2716. >”Great shot!”
  2717. >”Thanks.”
  2718. >Fizzy looks to you.
  2719. >”You can pick up your jaw any time now.”
  2720. “How did you do that?”
  2721. >”Years of training. Spacial awareness is important in fights, after all.”
  2722. >She grabs another ball, then pauses.
  2723. >”How about you take a shot? It's on practice mode, anyways.”
  2724. >Fuck yeah. You're not going to lose to some hussy!
  2725. “Watch and learn, shortstack.”
  2726. >”Shortstack?” She raises an eyebrow.
  2728. >You grab a ball and line up for the shot. You step forward and swing with a hard twist, bring in the ball from a wide angle.
  2729. >The buzzer goes off, signaling another strike.
  2730. “Still got it.”
  2731. >You whip around to see Cookie clopping her hooves in approval.
  2732. >Fizzlepop smiles at you.
  2733. >”And here I thought you had nothing but stories.” She says. “What's the story behind this?”
  2734. “Leaders of nations and companies strike deals over golf.”
  2735. >You eye cookie for a second.
  2736. >You should probably not allude to anything dubious.
  2737. “Others, like me, strike deals over bowling. Plus, I just love bowling.”
  2738. >You hand Cookie her ball, and she takes it.
  2739. “Practice as much as you want. We'll start when you're done.”
  2740. >”Okay!”
  2741. >She waddles off and starts practicing.
  2742. >You sit down next to Fizzy.
  2743. “You're pretty good.”
  2744. >”Thanks.”
  2745. “So how about a wager?”
  2746. >She raises that eyebrow high enough to be at risk of an Arabic kamikaze run.
  2748. “I win, I get to play a match of twenty questions.”
  2749. >She narrows her eyes a bit.
  2750. >”And if I win?”
  2751. “What do you want?”
  2752. >She scans up and down for a bit.
  2753. >”I'm not much a waging mare, but... ten questions.” She pauses. “and.... lunch is on you tomorrow. I'm bringing Twilight as well.”
  2754. >Shit that is such an unfair proposition. There's no way in hell-
  2755. “Deal.”
  2756. >-or not.
  2757. >The word just rolled out of your mouth, like impulse.
  2758. >”Good. A free lunch is the best kind.”
  2759. >Oh well. You got this.
  2760. >But first...
  2761. “Step right on up folks! Fizzle pop here thinks she can beat me!” You call out to no one in particular.
  2762. >She gives you an odd look, but doesn't say anything.
  2764. >Let the games begin.
  2766. - - -
  2767. >”You're going to have a hard time coming back from that spare. Roses are my favorite, by the way.” She gives a low chuckle.
  2768. >You take a seat and she passes you by.
  2769. >You watch on as she waits for the pins to set back up.
  2770. >Then she rolls the ball down her neck and back, kicking it with pride in her eyes.
  2771. >Aaaaaaaand 7-10 split.
  2772. >You snicker, and her smile drops.
  2773. “Try not to run your mouth TOO much, Fizzy. All the shit coming out of it is gonna stink up the place.”
  2774. >”OOOOHHH” The crowd behind you calls out.
  2776. >This small-town fever sure does get to these ponies sometimes.
  2778. - - -
  2779. “It's a real shame you're gonna lose this bet, Fizzy.”
  2780. >She kicks another strike, putting her ahead.
  2781. >”I don't make bets, Anon. I make certain. Certain that I'm kicking your butt to the curb.”
  2782. >The crowd OOOHHH's again, with more excitement than before.
  2783. >She saunters over and brushes by Cookie, then takes a seat.
  2785. >Cookie takes her place up there and takes a roll.
  2786. >It only hits three pins.
  2787. >”Yaay!”
  2788. >The crowd, already in the mood, goes ahead and clops hooves for her.
  2789. >You just give a thumbs up, and you're pretty sure Fizzy is giving a smile.
  2791. - - -
  2792. “Don't act so smug yet, Fizzy.”
  2793. >She doesn't stop that half-lidded stare.
  2794. >There's no way she doesn't know what she's doing.
  2796. >You roll the ball and nail the final strike, putting you up to 233.
  2797. >The only way Fizzy can win is if she hits all three of her strikes.
  2798. >Or, like, two strikes and an eight.
  2799. >The point is, it's really close.
  2800. >You've already shot your frame, so it's up to her to either win or lose.
  2802. >You brush her on the way to your seat.
  2803. >She takes position and the crowd goes quiet, gearing up for the final stretch.
  2804. >BANG
  2805. >She blasts the pins with the ball, scattering all of them in the pit in the back.
  2806. >You'd be sweating nervously if you had actually put anything important on the line.
  2808. >She waits for the pins to set again, then walks back and grabs the ball.
  2809. >She looks for your reaction.
  2810. >You don't give much of one except for a thumbs up.
  2811. >She rolls the ball off her back again, then bucks it with both hooves this time.
  2812. >Aaaaand strike!
  2813. >You've resigned your fate as tomorrow's lunch supplier.
  2815. >Actually, you just had a thought.
  2816. >Do ponies play baseball like this too?
  2817. >Surely not.
  2818. >What would happen if they missed?
  2819. >Would a doctor just have to be on-site?
  2821. >You shake your head and pay attention.
  2822. >She's already lined up for her last shot.
  2823. >The everyone in the crowd is holding their breath.
  2824. >And Fizzy is... she standing on her back hooves?
  2825. >She's moving over and rolls the ball like you would.
  2826. >Okay, now she's just showing off.
  2828. >The crowd goes nuts, though. And as the ball rolls onward it nails the foremost pins, then drives through the middle.
  2829. >All but one of the pins fall.
  2831. >She begins coming back but freezes at the sight of the ponies jumping around in excitement at how she just won the game.
  2832. >She gives you a worried look, but all you do is give her the sign for the number three.
  2833. >She glances to the crowd, getting closer in their excitement, some of them looking ready to burst.
  2834. >She looks back to you.
  2835. >Two.
  2836. >Now the weight is setting in, she sees all the little ponies finish up little dances and bets and begin focusing on her.
  2837. >One.
  2838. >She has a slightly pleading, confused look in her eye. The others might not be able to see it, but you sure can.
  2839. >The ponies are upon her now.
  2840. >Zero.
  2842. >”Go Tempest!”
  2843. >”Fizzlepop, you da best!”
  2844. >”How are you so strong?!”
  2845. >”How'd you get so good?!”
  2847. >The crowd tosses her around for a bit before she manages to get her voice.
  2848. >”Please put me down.”
  2849. >In an instant, they all comply, and she lands on her hooves.
  2850. >You swear, ponies are cats or something.
  2851. >She looks down to a little filly, tussles her hair, then walks on by.
  2852. >”You just have to practice your kicks is all.”
  2854. >You chuckle and start grabbing your things.
  2855. >”H-how do we practice like you?!” The little filly asks excitedly.
  2856. >”Well, I kick trees in the forest. Put some paint on your hooves so you know where you're kicking. It'll help your form.”
  2857. >The children run amok, squeeing over their new role model.
  2858. >Why do kids have to have those squeaky voices? So annoying.
  2860. >You shuffle your way through the ponies, who are already dispersing.
  2861. >You get to Fizzlepop.
  2862. “Enjoying your new place as celebrity of the week?”
  2863. >She waves off the last of the group.
  2864. >”You did that on purpose.”
  2865. “That I did.”
  2866. >You give her a pat on the head, which she doesn't take too kindly to.
  2867. “Figured you'd like to see them cheering you on.”
  2868. >”Hmm.” She huffs slightly. “Well... thanks.”
  2869. >She looks at you with that smile, then over your shoulder.
  2870. >”Say, where'd Cookie go?”
  2873. >You look around with her.
  2874. >Holy shit. Cookie's a ninja or something.
  2875. >There's no way a mare that big should be able to just disappear like that.
  2876. “Dunno. Guess she went with the crowd or something.”
  2877. >After a moment more of looking, you both shrug and grab your things.
  2879. >You both walk out, passing by the ponies now talking up a storm.
  2880. >Since 'moving' to Ponyville, you've found it's rather easy to gather everyone with just a few words.
  2881. >Maybe it's because you're the only human, so ponies will easily lend you an ear.
  2882. >Or, it's because in this place everyone is always looking forward to that next social gathering.
  2883. >Whichever works for you.
  2885. >”So, what was it you were wanting to ask?”
  2886. “Hmm?”
  2887. >You both stop, and she's looking up at you.
  2888. >”I figure something's on your mind, if you were betting over questions.”
  2889. “Heh, I just like a good competition every once in a while.” You pause. “But I have something, actually.”
  2890. >She just raises her eyebrow, expecting you to continue.
  2891. “Why do you sway your ass when you walk?”
  2893. >She stares at you with a look that can only be described as stoic bewilderment.
  2894. >”What?”
  2895. “You swing your ass from side to side as you walk. I don't know if you've always done it, but you've been doing it recently. And you do that bedroom-eyes stare all the time, too. What's up with that?”
  2896. >She rests her head on her forehoof and takes a deep breath, like she doesn't know what to say.
  2897. >”Okay... I taught myself to do it about the time I joined the Stormking.”
  2899. >Now it's your turn to stare at her. You have less stoicism, of course.
  2901. >”Stormtroopers are kinda the opposite of ponies. Lots of males, very few females. Females have to keep making more kids to keep up population, and only an alpha gets a say in who does and doesn't get any. So, anyone that can give them even the smallest chance of, er... 'romance', is the one they want to follow. I just acted appealing to them and they followed every order. Often to the very letter.”
  2902. >No way.
  2903. >You crack a smile.
  2905. “Seriously? Your control over your troops was determined by how horny you could get the soldiers?”
  2906. >You start snickering, and you don't give her time to answer.
  2907. “Is that why your armor only has plates in just the right places?”
  2908. >You lean over and hold onto your knees, laughing louder.
  2909. “A-and good soldiers got to see the tail swish, too, r-right?”
  2910. >You gasp a bit.
  2911. “Did anyone g-get spec-cial treat...!”
  2912. >You look up and she's not there.
  2913. >She's about fifteen feet away, and walking farther.
  2915. >Oh shit.
  2916. >You fucked up.
  2918. >You cut the crap and run up next to her.
  2919. “W-wait. I'm sorry. I didn't-”
  2920. >”It's fine. I know I'm weird.”
  2921. “Well, no shit Sherlock. I don't give a fuck if you're weird.”
  2922. >She stops in her tracks, and you stop with her.
  2923. “Look. I'm sorry. I didn't think you'd be upset if I found it funny. But, come on. You're telling me that the whole time you've been leading around a small army of betas by the tips of their dicks.”
  2924. >For just the briefest moment, you see her lip twitch, like she is suppressing a smile.
  2925. >”I suppose I have.”
  2926. >You lean down and give her a quick hug.
  2927. “I don't think less of you, I promise. I just didn't expect a reason like that.”
  2929. >She eyes you up and down carefully, then sighs.
  2930. >”Well, if you say so.”
  2931. “I do. I really do.”
  2932. >She doesn't say anything. She just studies your face.
  2933. “Okay, I'll make it up to you. You can ask whatever you want, no restrictions. One hundred percent honesty.”
  2934. >She looks you up and nods.
  2936. >”Fine. I expect that on all ten questions. Tomorrow.”
  2937. >She begins walking away, staring at you.
  2938. >She gives a swish of her tail, whipping it at you once.
  2939. >Okay, that would have been hot if it weren't for the fact that ponies don't normally wear clothes.
  2941. >Still, you carry on towards home.
  2942. >You can't believe after all this time in Equestria, you somehow still find completely ridiculous things like this.
  2943. >Still, props to her. She did what she had to, you guess.
  2945. >You make it all the way home, chuckling every once in a while at the absurdity of it all.
  2946. >Wait, pone roles are fucked.
  2947. >She had a harem of cocks at her beck and call.
  2948. >She's gonna be the envy of every mare if THAT ever gets out.
  2950. >Your smiles drops when you get to the house.
  2951. >The gate is open again.
  2952. >You move on through, trying to find what's amiss this time.
  2953. >You work your way to the shed, to find your padlock beaten and scratched.
  2955. >Okay. Now you're getting pissed.
  2956. >This bullshit has got to stop now.
  2957. >You shut the gate and march your unhappy ass inside.
  2958. >There's going to be little sleep for you tonight.
  2959. >Not until something more... worthwhile, can be set up in your absence.
  2961. “There ain't no rest for the wicked~” You begin singing.
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