#OiE Rolz Collation

PonyStrangler Dec 9th, 2017 1,058 Never
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  1. *****
  2. ZHUN
  3. Continued from:
  5. >"I hear...faint laughter. I'm not mad though. It's just those bat ponies going about. Maybe it's for me thinking I can defuse this anyway..."
  7. >"Mess Hall...or her own room. Is that considered trespassing?"
  8. >First location to search: Mess Hall
  9. >After thinking, Zhun sees that pony limping out
  10. >"Well, she was on point with the time..."
  11. >Strange how they strive to keep accuracy on their promises
  12. >Another quirk of the ponies
  13. >Well, those that care
  14. >...
  15. >So slow
  16. >Too slow
  17. >People with broken ribs can be considered sprinting with the rate this one is moving with an injury
  18. >Zhun's head snap to his right at the trio's arguing
  19. >"More foreign languages...wonder what they're thinking..."
  20. >Zhun's attention goes to Naliyna and maybe the stranger's guards with her
  21. >And how Nal looks, she's fuming or worried
  22. >Most likely the first though
  23. >After watching her and the stranger for a while, Zhun gets up and makes his way towards the Mess Hall
  24. >Upon entering, he looks around to see if the Librarian is here
  26.     As @Zhun watches Naliyna reach the eerie pony, the trio of mercenaries, clad in the ubiquitous black armor of their profession following her, faint danger warnings begin ringing in the back of his mind. Turning away from the fountain and strolling north, the background sense of alarm ceases halfway to the mess hall. Clustered in front of the mess hall's main door, several clustered batponies from the Night and Lunar Guard turn their attention his way, the group breaking apart and scurrying off, each leaving a trail of snickers in their wake. Entering the mess, there were few notables inside, chiefly Allys sprawled out on her preferred couch in the northeast corner, Indurian apparently passed out at the minibar, a suspicious barrel with a crank next to the split-oval cooking station being tended to by a tired looking Pella, a quartet of of Arcane Blades in the middle of a group meeting, yet Dancing Eyes was nowhere to be seen.
  28.      Zhun strolls into the Mess Hall, careful not to bump into any pony. {Don't know those colors for the guards. Maybe some faction within Canterlot.} Although he does find it odd that @Indurian is still passed out at that bar. {Can't hold his liquor? The concussion probably doesn't help as well.} After looking around the Mess Hall for a minute he discerns she isn't there. He goes out of the Mess Hall and searches around the outside. {What's next? 'Headed towards the direction of the Mess Hall...maybe somewhere beyond.} Zhun heads towards the Pony Barracks but then changes his mind. {Seems...much to just intrude like that...even though we need that information about that one pony. And Naliyna seems busy, moreso with those ponies now.} Zhun then heads towards the Command Center muttering Mandarin in frustration and enters, trying to see if Dancing was there.
  29. [ 1d6 = 2 ] [ 1d6 = 5 ] <B.Perception
  31.     Passing by a lone, somehow still awake Day Guard still in illusion-clone appearance, the earth pony pauses to nod @Zhun, then continues her stumbling towards the mess hall, presumably for something to quell sweet cravings. Ducking into the Command Center's open door, Vanil was oddly absent from the map room, with no others in sight. The sound of the master radio in the back room was plain to hear, as well as Lonestar and Emerald bickering at each other, the first complaining about a lack of transmitter coverage, the second annoyed at the first for no apparent reason.
  33.     Zhun answers a simple "Ni hao." to the lone Day Guard, though he questions why one is up late as it is. Though, he does find parallels in the fact he is up this late. As he enters the building, he notices Vanil's absence. Usually on his rare trips here, he notes the presumably young pony and his position as a forward scout. His absence though may hint he is on mission. And like his other visits, he hears the familiar voice of the DJ's, going at it again. Brings back memories of the radio stations back home. But still no Librarian. Time for Plan B. Zhun exits and heads out for the Pony Barracks. Maybe he'll find some answers there. He enters, scanning for her. He then asks one of the ponies, if there is any in the den area, if they seen the Librarian run in.
  34. [ 1d6 = 4 ] [ 1d6 = 6 ] <Basic Perception
  36.     Failing to return the curious phrase from @Zhun with coherency, the mare faceplants herself into the southern door, sliding off it with a welcoming sigh. Upon entering the Pony Barracks, he finds it similarly as empty as the Mess Hall, and to his disgust does not find Denra in his usual spot. Instead, he recognizes two pegasi and unicorn, all mares and some of the resident marefriends to a questionable number of humans, having a small tea party on the north side of the den. Waving him in, the unicorn's face contorts in abject disgust, muttering that she had neither seen, nor wanted to meet, Dancing Eyes. Recieving a rude hoof to her mouth, one of the pegasi suggests to check the underground lab as she had seen Mercy, Bren, and Dancing come up from there several times usually smelling of alcohol, rolling her eyes at the last bit of information.
  38.     (Hmm, where's that one pony off to now?). Zhun is slightly amused though at the tea party that the small group is having in the den. (Man, tea sounds good about now). After he asks, Zhun isn't surprised at the visible disgust of her mention. "Her reputation seems to follow before her." Zhun however is surprised at a mention of an underground lab. She must be mentioning that one underground part of the Library. He bows his head towards the party in thanks. "Thank you. I must be going now." Afterwards, he leaves the Pony Barracks and leaves for the Library once again. Upon entering though, he finds the stairwell leading downward into the lab and descends into Spiral's former place. He slowly descends, looking down and into the room, looking for the Librarian for answers.
  39. [ 1d6 = 2 ] [ 1d6 = 6 ] <Basic Perception
  41.     Lifting a foreleg, the unicorn mare offers @Zhun a clearly unimpressed smile while puffing her chest out indignantly. "With the proper exceptions of Broken Hoof, in my experience psions are trouble. Honorable prisoner or not." The unicorn's head dips respectfully at Zhun to return the bow, although the pegasi offer waves from their opposing wings, returning to their cooling tea and chatting anew between each other.
  42.     Striking south from the barracks and passing by the pagoda, which now felt as if some great, ever malicious monstrosity which was better left unseen was inhabiting it, his entrance into the Library was greeted by quiet, melodious singing in Crystal pony from the play room, becoming little more than background noise as he winds the spiraling staircase down.
  43.     Entering the former lab, Zhun's eyes immediately water, the sharp tang of high proof alcohols assault his nostrils, the mixtures and scents unrecognizable from lack of ventilation. Virtually untouched as it had been for months, the open room was little changed, excepting a large distillery set up in the center on the right hand side, complete with a massive bronze tank behind it, uncountable bottle crates neatly were stacked on the walls. Spying ochre from behind the water tank, the familiar figure of Bren plods around it, pausing to turn her head towards the entrance.
  44.     Matching eyes for several moments until recognition dawns, the crew boss' left foreleg lifts, a welcoming grin creasing her rugged face as she beckons Zhun in her direction. "Ey there, didn' see ya, was busy workin' th'still! Come on in an' 'ave a look aroun' if'n ya like, or if'n ya want somethin', jes' ask!"
  46.     As Zhun descends, the wave of alcoholic air hits him full force. Stinging eyes causing them to water and have Zhun wipe them until it acclimates and inhalation almost makes him cough on the air. His eyes snap to the foreign and obvious distillery. (So many this where we get our stock from?). He then toughens to the environment as he spots that ochre pony. (Bren? The Engineer? It almost feels stereotypical, considering her accent is like American cowboy.)
  47.     Zhun waves over to her, with a little smile. "Hello Bren..." He feels a fresh wave of stinging air hit him, causing tears, wiping them away and trying not to rub too hard to prevent pink eye. "This place almost needs a fan or something. Then again, I don't know how many humans visit here. But I do have one question. Have you seen Dancing Eyes lately? I kind of need to ask her some questions."
  49. Unfazed by the alcoholed-laden air, both of Bren's ears roll merrily in greeting @Zhun. "How ya doin'? Ain't seen ya roun' much af'er all th'work.. 'less somepony else killed ya." Snickering heartily at the innuendo, the ochre unicorn tips her head up at the ceiling, a frown creasing her lips as she nods. "Ah'gree, but Ah cain't figger out what them blocks is made of. Tried ta pry one out an' got shocked. Hurt like crazy fer a bit. Spiral done somethin' ta this place, makes it hard ta modify anythang. Ah'll prob'ly jes' hafta make somethin' in th'meanwhile." Head twisting about to eye the lab quickly, Bren issues a quiet, questioning mutter to herself. "Thas funny, usually she's in 'ere taste testin' ev'rythang while readin'.. Ah ain't seen'er fer 'bout 'alf an hour now, but-" Pausing, a front hoof lifts, the crew boss rubbing her chin slowly as her face tightens in a scowl. "Hol' up.. Ah 'member she said she was headin' off ta do some in-ter-o-gay-shuns in th'Enclave. Ah dunno what thet's about, but Ah don' like it if she ain't bein' watched closer'n' a mango in fronna'a hungry batpony. Yer prob'ly fin'er there now."
  51. "The Enclave? Isn't that just a warehouse? Well, it's a lead. Although, why is it that she needs to be watched? Is it the psion thing?" Takes a seat waiting for Bren's answer. "As for not seeing me that much, well, I must not be the only one that thinks we are understaffed in field operatives, so I might as well go in. It's already more exciting than just staying in my room playing my guzheng." Afterwards, Zhun stands up and begins to head off. "I'll see you around Bren. Thanks for the help." Zhun ascends the stairs, and heads off to the Pagoda. (Time to make a trip.)
  53.     "Not 'xactly a warehouse. More laike storage fer all the'danjerous shit picked up." Setting her hoof down and squinting her eyes, Bren lets out a dubious sigh, seating herself on the floor after @Zhun."Well, they's not laike us unicorns. Where we gotta learn 'ow ta focus on creatin', usin', an' extendin' spells in th'real world, they kin force they will on th'world jes' by thinkin' it. Got more control of their own minds than we do. Psions is always earth ponies, which makes 'em double dangerous. Bigges' problem wit'em's they read minds like Ah read blueprints, which ain't half a'what they's can do. Weakest ones kin lift four times they own weight without feelin' it fer a while, so they's kin snap a leg 'er neck if'n they so much as see it. Not only thet, some'a 'em kin phase 'tween realities 'n' use it laike unicorns kin teleport, they's do it faster though. Be real careful 'roun' any of 'em."
  54.     Head tilting upwards @Zhun, Bren's ears wiggle curiously, her lips setting in a thin, amused line. "So thet's what thet funny soun' is Ah keep 'earin'.. well, Ah've seen as much. Ya'll humans ain'got th'numbers ta do a whole lot, 'n'thet's a big danger in itself. 'opefully Nal starts lettin' some recruits in soon." Nodding quickly, the ochre mare lifts a hoof in farewell to Zhun, chuckling in a faux-tired tone. "Yer welcome, but uh, come down 'ere any time ya need'a drink, this stuff's stackin' up faster'n we kin drink it. Well, at leas' since Nal keeps deliverin' them water trappin' gems."
  55.     Passing by the play room, the door opened wide, @Zhun is treated to the heart stopping scene of three pegasi, one unicorn, and a Crystal filly piled together in the center of a pony sized, yet overly tall and much too fluffy looking white futon, one that was both oddly familiar and difficult to place. The upper half of a mid-thirties Crystal pony comes into view momentarily, both exhaustion and anger written across her face, then fades from view as the lanterns inside dim.
  56.     Making way back to the pagoda, Zhun is once more assaulted by the complex aura of unnatural danger, heightening the closer he came towards it. Entering, the standard black half-armor only worn by mercenaries was seen to his immediate right, the owner, a dark chartreuse batpony, definitely a mare judging by the rounded snout armor, her six thin, needle-like claws aggresively splayed outwards and slowly flexing. Likewise, a similarly armored Crystal pony, this one a mixture of light chartreuse colors, stood guard facing the north, her head was turned towards Naliyna's tent stall, glaring lances at it. Between the two, a rather neutral chartreuse unicorn could be seen ducked over the central couch, muttering in her own language, the pagoda itself becoming oppressive as if something was close to snapping.
  58.     Zhun's heart sank, but in a good way as he say those little pony kids stacked up on each other. (Like puppies...but maybe more adorable.) As he gets shut off by the mare inside, he continues walking and heads towards the Pagoda.
  59.     As he approaches, his heart sank in a fearful way. (That familiar presence.) At least he got a good look at the guards. One bat, one Crystal, both armored but colored differently. And their VIP in the middle, talking seemingly to herself. Zhun gets that gut feeling about something happening, the fear almost reaching a climax. Zhun fights through it however, and goes to a bench opposite of the stall, waving a hand in greetings to the occupants inside.
  61.     Returning an indifferent stare to @Zhun, the batpony mercenary's nostrils flare, sniffing in his direction suspiciously, then towards the previously unseen masked human sitting behind Naliyna's stall. Apparently satisfied at something, the insect-eater's helmet tips back, a rapid series of kee's rings around the pagoda, the return answer from the unicorn, at first a soft affirmative of sorts, becomes an increasingly irritated harangue in French. Or rather, Prench, if his language guide was correct.
  62.     Interrupting the two by a sarcastic remark in Crystal pony, Zhun begins to experience a slow increase of unease as the three converse in their virtually opposing languages. The dim awareness of something unholy reaches an unwelcome point inside the pagoda, the earth pony abruptly speaking up, her calm, collected tone silencing the three as Zhun's skin chills, cold knives of fear running up his spine in response.
  63. [ 1d6 = 5 ] <Fear 1
  65.     Zhun listens on to the group, even though it is all foreign to him. And in three different kinds of foreign as well. Though what bothers Zhun is that creeping feeling of dread. Zhun fights against it but he gets reminded of that other guy that tried, and he looked like he was going to break and faint. (It has to be unnatural fear. Some sort of aura? Magic? And how is it not affecting that one in there?). He wants to stop and stay in fear of a confrontation but this heavy aura is getting to him. He gets up and heads for the stone. They're going to hold anything they say anyway because of his presence and he doesn't want to have his heart run itself into the ground. He fights through the cold fear, and puts in the sequence for the Enclaves.
  67.     Giggling merrily at the mercenaries sighing in unison, the earth mare's pale blue nose turns in @Zhun's direction. Leather hood tilting sideways as he gets up, a small, acknowledging nod is seen before a dull silver tunnel forms, tugging Zhun from the pagoda and it's unkind atmosphere. Briefly experiencing the urge to vomit inside four dimensional space, the sensation passes before it could happen.
  68.     Arriving on an unimpressive, cracked dull purple stone, a tall domed ceiling stretches out before Zhun, the surface covered in tiny glowing lights dimly illuminating the uncomfortably large underground space. Rows upon rows of ornate furniture, only a few of which looked to be human sized, took up the center of the dome's interior, a burnt strawberry colored unicorn strolling through the organized lines, stopping to check small white papers on each. North of the myriad sofas and cushions fit for nobility were several tall stacks of heavy looking metal boxes, an alarming number of the top ones perched in precarious manners, the mess closed off via wooden poles with danger tape.
  69.     Upon hearing brisk hoof taps Zhun's attention is called to a rather pretty Crystal mare, everything below her nose hidden by an archaic, though still new looking fluffy white robe. Dusky silver nose visibly twitching on approach, the mare halts at a friendly eight feet away, an unabashedly merry, youthful voice chiming out. "Greetings human, I am Amerose, temporary Lorekeeper for Razorback. How may I help you?"
  71.     Zhun instinctively braces for the plunge as the vortex takes him. (Never going to get used to that.). When he drops out into the cavernous facility, he looks up and around, taking in the sights. (Our personal storage area, and with a caretaker.) Seeing him being approached, he lets his guard down, feeling relieved he doesn't have to deal with that entourage and that unusual prescence they seem to emit.
  72.     Relaxing, he takes a look at said pony. (Looks like the attire of some librarian. What a cheery voice though.). "Hello, my name's Zhun. I just want to know if you have seen the Librarian, uhh, Dancing Eyes recently. She ran off somewhere in a hurry and I was too late to see what actually happened to her. Also good to keep an eye out on her."
  74.     Offering what was either a deep nod or a small bow, Amerose turns her head towards what Zhun's directional sense told him was north, half-grumbling as she speaks. "Her? A librarian? What could she even.." Head shaking slowly several times, the white robed mare hums briefly, hood pulling back onto her neck, a two-toned green and blue mane coifffed into a loose bun between her ears, two pale blue eyes peering up at Zhun with a trace of discontent. "Unfortunately, yes, I have seen her. Right now she is, I quote, 'exhaustively interrogating' two ponies' and 'mildly questioning another'. I do not fully understand why this is even being allowed, except that matters are a bit complicated regarding their being here. Regardless, if you want I will show you to her."
  76.     Zhun raised his eyebrows in surprise as she haven't heard of Dancing Eye's position of Librarian since he thought everyone affiliated would know of he current occupation. "Well, her reputation seems to precede her..." (Deja vu.). "Something a matter with her...questioning ponies? And if I may ask, why are there two ponies in for interrogation? If it's not need-to-know basis stuff." Zhun idly looks around the vast interior, gawking at the amount of storage in there. "Yes, I kind of need to see her."
  78.     Making an idle motion of stamping on something, Amerose's front shoulders lift in a classical 'of course' pony shrug. "Her reputation is well deserved. Most of all, Dancing Eyes is a wanted criminal and murderess, although the particulars of the second part I know little of, the vast majority of my time is spent in books." Ears flattening and eyes rotating southwards, the Lorekeeper's tone drops several degrees to a cool, possibly offended level. "There are many matters wrong. As for why, both of them are Ruling Council members of Stalliongrad, two of the fifteen Councilierge themselves, taken as prisoners of conflict. Come with me and I will explain on the way."
  79.     Turning to the south with muted clicks, Lorekeeper Amerose sets off at a lazy pace towards a set of carved stone buildings with a large white banner overhead, numerous tables in front stacked high with stuff @Zhun could not make out. "To put it lightly, Razorback is neither a military organization nor a town, which means it does not have the right of law to operate a jail much less interrogate a prisoner of war. However, Razorback can legally operate a brig for it's own members, but for prisoners they must be hoofed over to a relevant faction's military, or in the case a city like Manehattan, it's guard force. If it were known that interrogations were occurring here many faction members would be most displeased, to state the least, including a number of Lunar forces. Rule of law is not always accepted amongst the many sides of the Lunar faction, but it is respected nonetheless. To prevent complications to Razorback's already convoluted and complicated dealings this I have taken the liberty of assigning the two Starborn here whom Dancing Eyes fears, partially to ensure that no physical harm or permanent anguish is caused, and partially to ensure that they catch what she does not. You have likely seen Crystal ponies such as myself in your time here, but those of my kind whom are Lunar adherents.."
  80.     Trailing off for several moments, Amerose stops, turning her head back to give Zhun an unsettled expression before continuing on again. "They tend to be nearly as stubborn as earth ponies, ignore laws almost as often as pegasi, are somewhat less unruly under duress than unicorns, and are often as unforgiving as a spurned batponies. That is not to say their abilities are superior, only that they tend to be more middle-of-the-road than said other ponies in most comparisons. To put it simply, Lunar-aligned Crystal ponies tend to develop certain peculiarities of mind that would normally be considered highly distrustful. You could say they have a darker, more ignoble bent than Wardens would under most circumstances."
  82.  "Books? Reminds me of home." Zhun catches himself when she drops to a uncomfortable cold tone. (Touchy subject?). He listens carefully, thinking it to be clues to this whole debacle. (Councilierge. Hostile faction to us but we have a tendency to turn some. This doesn't look like some turncoats though.). "How did we get two members of the Council? Must have been an undertaking." As Amerose speaks about Razorback's status, he starts to think on it as well. "To me, it seems to be some sort of mix. Reminds me of foreign bases back home." He starts to look confused, mostly at the operatives that captured the two. "Wait, they were captured without knowing this? Seems to be a large mistake, especially considering interrogations." (This is like a tinderbox waiting to erupt.) Zhun continues to listen on, sometimes looking around him at the base's procurements. "Oh yeah, our Lunar allies. Haven't really noticed any Crystal ones though. And reading about the manners of the variants of ponies, I guess there's something with the Lunar group that makes them like that. Training maybe." Zhun resets his focus on Dancing Eyes though. He idly adjusts his heavy rig, subtly regreting his choice of attire.
  84.     Flashing a comforting smile back at @Zhun, Amerose continues onwards passing the first section of overloaded tables, very little of which he could recognize. "Then you will fit right in with any unicorn I can think of. I must warn you to never say 'want to compare notes' with one however, unless you like spending hours doing just that." Pausing to inspect a pair of red spheres on the edge of a table, each the size of a basketball, the Lorekeeper's ears wiggle in an unknown, to Zhun, motion. "As I heard it, one of the more irritable High-Generals of the Tower Guard and Princess Luna have been collaborating for some time. Both wanted to remove some of the Councilierge's worst members, but they could not agree on how since whomever either would have sent would likely have been found out, yet, humans are essentially blank slates to an earth pony. It is possible to 'copy' a pony's mind into one, although there is something about your species that only allows this to be safe a short time. What little I know is that a small team was sent in under the guise of several ranking ponies. They returned with a hooffull of slaves, a few relics, and two Councilierge. An impressive undertaking, to be polite."
  85.     Head turning to give a subdued nod, Amerose lifts a hoof, leaving a small white circle glowing in the air, each fading after several moments. "You are correct. A tiny nation bordered by-" Making several much larger circles around the previous one. "A number of larger nations, each with their own specific laws, must at the least pay heed to the most common laws between them. Should said tiny nation not do so, then much anger would be turned against it. As for how those two were captured I am uncertain of the details. Most of my time is spent seeking information on what relics of the past now lie here."
  86.     Continuing on her path between two of the white marked carved stone buildings, the white robed mare giggles, the sound merrily ringing off the walls. "Training is a partial one, yes, but there is another, much clearer answer: Crystal ponies take on the emotions of those they directly spend time with. It should be noted then that meeting three of the Starborn's rarest members, those being Crystal ponies, means you should be prepared to endure the most critical of inspections outside of the Imperial Wardens, the Honor Guard, and even the Tower Guard, though I must state their actual standards are lower than even the Night Guard."
  88.     "Now that's where there's too much work." When Amerose pauses at the tables, Zhun takes a look at the red orbs. (Weird decorations...) " Funny how we're 'blank slates'. Another quirk I guess. But that team did get the job done, and with a couple more things to bring back." (Wonder if the more recent arrivals were those slaves. Also, ooh magic.). Zhun's eyes follower her hooves as the seemingly trace the air. "Common courtesy right? Except with vastly high punishments if the courtesy isn't given. Maybe the Fortress needs some law schooling huh." (Most of the base seems too aloof for this though. Maybe the high-ranking?). "So you're like a curator?" Zhun smiles after her giggling at his statement. "Impressionable then. That's a weird thing with their inspections though. I recall the Starborn being the "special forces" for Luna?" Zhun's chit chat while walking between buildings in this unknown area, Zhun had a thought. "So, how do you think this whole interrogation deal going to end? We release them to the Starborn?"
  90.     "Then please try not to make a habit of reading around unicorns, some have a tendency to be far more curious than they should be, especially on matters of biology." Sniffing in mock indignance at the hinted-to innuendo, Amerose halts at the dead end, glancing from side to side at the lower walls of the buildings on either side, then down at the floor. "I do not know enough to state what blank slate means, but as for the items procured they are, historically speaking, quite interesting to my order. Yet it will take perhaps a decade to sift through and identify precisely what was brought back from the Royal Guardian Armory, perhaps a fifth of which lies open for Razorback's use or further examination."
  91.     Briskly tapping a front hoof in a quick rythym, the Crystal mare nods once, one ear flicking back @Zhun. "That is entirely correct. Suffice to say Razorback is under Princess Luna's rule and the Lunar faction's open laws. Hodch, the purple unicorn whom you have likely seen doing little other than sitting, smoking, and reading, has been going through a great deal of pain to find what those laws are. Since Dancing Eyes is neither a member of Razorback nor Lunar allied, she technically does not have any rights, yet as she is a citizen of Stalliongrad and is interrogating two citizens of Stalliongrad, the issue is a legal gray area."
  92.     Turning her head back, @Zhun is given a cheerful smile. "Curator, armorer, weaponsmith, among other professions. Lorekeepers such as myself must know metallurgy, Crystal Engineering, and alchemy, as well as have an inquisitive mind, to best preserve, restore, or understand the relics and artifacts that come into our hooves. I must say that the sheer amount contained here will keep me busy for years to come." Pressing a hoof agaisnt the wall for several moments, Amerose takes a step back as it to fall apart, revealing a well lit, narrow hallway carved through stone. "Correct again. The Starborn serve as Luna's hoof-picked elites, though many of them do not actually hold the rank of elite. Most are chosen for having exceptional knowledge in one or more areas of study, others have well rounded capabilities with a complementary nature, and a few have truly special skills. To be honest, the Wardens of the Crystal Empire and the Tower Guard of Stalliongrad, along with two other military forces, are composed of truly elite individuals. The Starborn are simply the most adaptive in modern times, yet nowhere near the most efficient."
  93.     Gesturing forwards, the white-robed mare sets to a comfortable human walking pace, her hooves clicking down the tunnel rather quietly. "One of them will not be, no. I did not hear her name, but she is a mare from Canterlot whom does not appear to be involved with Stalliongrad. It is likely she will be released after questioning. The two Councilierge I am unsure of. The High-Generals of the Tower Guard would be most interested in 'acquiring' both of them, though I do not know if there is any consensus yet on what will be done."
  95.     Ah yes, the ponies and their affinity for 'biological curiousity'. Zhun shifts uneasily at the hint. "Sorry, it means something unreadable or new." (Some of these things are for us? Like, open for grabs? Why isn't everything gone? Maybe some limit to what one can take.) Zhun nods as he listens about the Fortress being under Lunar control, which seems to be a deduction as to the majority of Lunar Guard on base as well as hearing about two high ranking operators being aligned to them. "We still have other friends right? I notice some other guards on base. Also, yes, Hodch. Heard of him a little but not much." Again Zhun starts thinking about thse relics and artifacts of the pony's past. But it is cut short by the wall collapsing, making Zhun a touch frustrated but composed. (This is starting to get convoluted for a hidden place.) "So anyone with a great amount of thinking and knowledge for her to pick out of the rest. Huh, neat." Again, Zhun shifts uncomfortable but at the context of the one pony not being a part of Stalliongrad being involved in interrogations. "That sounds like a mistake but at least she treated...ok I guess? For the others, are they going to be prisoners after this and the Lunar and Tower Guards trying to see who can keep them?"
  97.     Knocking a hoof against the tunnel walls, the sound heavily muffled and failing to travel far, Amerose continues onwards, snorting in dry amusement. "No, not all of them are friends per se. It is safer to state that their goals align with the continued survival of Razorback, or, at the very least, their sovereign's wishes. The Day, Royal, and Honor Guards here are.. special, to put a light hoof on the matter. Despite their military backgrounds and the pony proclivity for teamwork, they are first and foremost specialists, their skills as individuals more valuable than their ability to work in a team. Secondly they are, to a point, shunned for their unique abilities. As I have had no contact with them, I do not know what those abilities are, nor am I much concerned. As for why there are no Wardens I could not rightly tell you, though it may have something to do with a small incident that occurred in the Empire. Vanguard Roust of the Hive is of sufficiently high rank that she may immediately call upon a rather large number of Changelings to arrive at a single request, which is more than enough to deter most smaller forces from attacking. The few Tartarus Isle mercenaries in the Fortress appear to be rather lazy in their duties, but I can assure you that were hoof-picked by Queen Shanis solely for having exceptionally friendly demeanors towards humans, though that does not explain why a few of them tend to be stoned so often. On the Citadel I heard a rumor that Princess Luna herself ordered the Starborn do not involve themselves with Razorback, partly to prevent questions about spying from being raised, partly to allay concerns that Razorback is an auxiliary military force under her direct command. This does not fully explain why those three are active members, but I am not one for bridle gossip."
  98.     Stopped at a flickering, half-visible wall, the Lorekeeper snickers at her pun, head swiveling back around to nod @Zhun. "That is a most correct assertion, though, there are a large number of Starborn whom are set to retire soon, whether from age or injury. I am fairly certain that Hodch or Twisted Wing will tap some of them to work as trainers for Razorback. Well-seasoned instructors are difficult to acquire these days, so one could say they are more valuable than loose dragon scales." Tapping the front edge of hoof into the wall, it slides apart to reveal a rectangular room carved out from the same stone, numerous small jail cells apparent beyond the gray mare as she waves Zhun in first, pushing the doors closed once he enters. "Bringing the mare from Canterlot here here was no a mistake. Quite the contrary in fact: she has offered a decent amount of information as to the Canterlot royalty's connections with Stalliongrad and even suggested several opportunities to strike at them."
  99.     Quieting at two female voices from the left, Amerose nods in the direction of a mature, heavily built sapphire colored earth pony seated on a low chair across from a smaller, much more friendly looking white earth mare, the two in the middle of a discussion. "As for the other two.. Razorback would wise to play the true mercenary card: see whom pays the most, and accept only that offer."
  101.     "So friends for use? Better than having no support from them but still worrying with that view." Zhun silently listens, nodding as Amerose explains the Guards and other allies of convenience. Though some things jut out at him. "I...haven't read much on Changelings, only that they feed on...feelings? That and their name kind of hints at their thing. Those mercs from that place haven't heard of much although I heard about their strength. And with Luna, I mean, we kind of are a secondary base for them but we just have other ponies with us. That and that we're supposed to be independent. That's what I've thought at least." Zhun looks over at the hopefully empty jail cells, their prescence still the same as they are at home. Oppressing. Zhun chuckles to himself though, with his mistake of the Canterlot pony. "So she's a, uhhhh, mole for us? I'm guessing now she's getting paid for this or is this charity." Zhun looks over at the two ponies and waves a hello to them. "Yeah, that does make more sense. And it would tell other about our independence as a company."
  103.     "More or less, yes. The Lunar faction members whom are on rotation at the Fortress were, I believe, also hoof-picked by Princess Luna. Even though it is difficult to find a Guardpony whom would not place their life in front of a minotaur's fist for another they feel deserves it, the Night and Lunar Guards I have met do seem a bit more protective than usual, so perhaps much the Solar faction there feel much the same."
  104.     Remaining where she was and speaking quietly so as not to attract attention to herself or @Zhun, Amerose's nose wiggles curiously, squinting at the pair. "I have had little to do with Changelings, a problem I wish to correct shortly. Their history is a bit convoluted; they are the survivors of a pony species whom were saved by Queen Chrysalis from what she stated was a highly aggressive and lethal insectoid virus, or perhaps something else, which could have wiped them out before she arrived. I am not ponifally clear on the matter of how they 'feed' on emotions, the sensation is difficult to describe, but it is neither harmful nor damaging from all accounts. Tartarus Isle's inhabitants are perhaps a bit too typical of mercenaries on the outside; they drink, smoke, and cavort freely, yet the moment action presents itself they drop the act. However, Razorback is, technically speaking, a protectorate of Princess Luna. It would be unwise for her to assert authority over humans, but if circumstances dictate otherwise then she may make legal requests."
  105.     Eyeing the cells, twelve in all, only the two at the opposite sides of the room were in use, solid iridescent white walls preventing the occupants from being seen, and most likely heard.
  106.     Catching notice of Zhun's movement, the larger earth mare's eyes rotate, bodily turning sideways to get a better look at Zhun. Realizing that the blue earth pony was Dancing Eyes, only somehow out of her coat of rings, the primal lifts a hoof in return, followed by the other mare's head swivels about, eyebrows raised questioningly as Amerose giggles, motioning towards the pair. "I believe she cut herself off from Stalliongrad willingly, and as for acting like a spy, whom knows? Ponies do enjoy a good story of independence, especially if they play a part in it. Now then, do you know Dancing Eyes ponifally or shall I introduce the two of you?"
  108.     Zhun, for a moment, has that sense of duty as she talked about the Guard's loyalty. It reminded him of his past life. Seeing her stop, Zhun adjusts his rig again as they finally stop walking. (Oh we're here. Oh that's...) Zhun tries to look composed but he still feels surprised. He had never seen Dancing Eyes ever out of that coat, nor did he think she could take it off. "Well, those Changlings do seem interesting. Maybe a bit reclusive since I only seen Roust. What a past though. A virus? Huh." Zhun tries to lower his voice a bit to not disturb Dancing Eyes and the other pony from their questions. (We did sort of just barged in. Might as well save face.) "Well, those sound like mercs to me." Zhun starts to look around the room he is in, still listening to Amerose but he also tries to get an inkling of what Dancing Eyes and the other pony is talking about. "Yeah, that would be weird for us if she started being a mayor to us." As the pair over there shifts attention to us, Zhun begins to feel a little embarrased about interrupting them. "Well, there's options. And that would be a story. I...heard of her and only seen her a couple times but pretty much left her alone unless I needed a book."
  110. "Indeed interesting, but that is a matter for a later date, preferably with somepony whom knows more than I do." Reaching out to gently tap @Zhun on his left knee, Amerose offers him a charming smile, then nods towards the primal psion and the white mare resuming their conversation, too quiet to make out at the moment. "Despite the feelings of Razorback's many ponies, Dancing Eyes is most unique in her position. When an earth pony makes a vow or swears an oath, they will defend it's completion unto death, thus even disgruntled as she may be at times her word is worth her life, to defy it would be unconscionable. A primal mare such as her, however, will persist long beyond such a trifling detail as their physical demise. Come." Gently nudging Zhun on the shoulder with a light, unseen force, the Lorekeeper strides towards the pair, pausing to dip her head to each, afterwards seating herself next to Dancing Eyes. The three murmur quiet greetings to each other, Dancing tilting her head and giving Zhun a curious up and down glance, then gestures for him to come closer, the middle aged, calm mature voice moderately friendly in tone, though turns annoyed quite abruptly. "Come in and have a seat. If you're here to help out with interrogations neither is going well, I can't make sense of anything that cunt says."
  112.     "I guess so." Zhun looks down to Amerose and grins as well, feeling more comfortable. "Well, at least they can keep their word. And to think it's such a thing with Earth ponies."
  113.     Zhun goes along with the invisible, presumably magic, force. When he reaches the two, he bows his head to them. He silently waits for them, somewhat nervously, as he gets inspected. He then comes closer and then takes a seat next to them. "Thank you." Zhun's expression then turns intrigued when he hears about her troubles with interrogations. Or understanding. (Aren't I hear to talk about what happened in the Library?). "Well, I sort of can help but I'm here to discuss something with you though, if there is time. So what's so confusing?"
  115.     Returning the bow with short one of her own, as much as she was able to, Dancing Eyes slides her overly large flanks over to make room for @Zhun, forelegs crossing over her barrel with an irritated sigh. "Doubt you could help me human, I could spend the next fifty years ripping every thought straight from her head and never get anything more than stupid shit or insanity. Can't even figure out how she's still breathing, dumb bitchmare Enchained herself with several drugs."
  116.     The mare on the opposite side of the table politely taps the surface, speaking up with a semi-bored, mid-30's Canterlotlian tone. "Miss Eyes here can't make sense of the unicorn prisoner's mind. I've shared how they usually think though it seems Enchains scramble one's thoughts, much like breaking an ornate statue into tiny pieces. Trying to fit everything together may seem possible, but it isn't."
  117.     Lifting her head to give a rueful glare towards the far left cell, the primal huffs once, loudly, then turns to give Zhun a questioning frown. "Forget it, I'll find somepony that can.. you said you wanted to discuss something?"
  119.     Zhun sits next to the psion and places his PKM onto the chair, barrel facing no one of course. "Yeah, can't do the mind reading thing. Are you saying she's high forever?" Zhun tries to remember about Enchains, only that it's like a powerful enchantment but with severe mental side effects. He then turns his attention across the table to the prisoner, putting his elbows on his knees to listen closer. (Yep, seems like another pony's expertise is needed...) Zhun stops himself for a moment, wondering about his thoughts being read. It's dismissed since he is in good company.
  120.     "Uh yes. It's about what happened in the Library. I was wondering who that one pony that was assaulted and now angry at humans was. I saw you run and I went to see what's up. All I see was one of us trying to also get away from her but asking for forgiveness. And maybe punishment. I asked to see if she can pin what happened to him but...there was this unease surrounding her that I had to get away from. Basically, I'm asking for your side of that."
  122.     Rolling a hoof around against her barrel with enough force to make @Zhun cringe, Dancing Eyes makes a curt nod in his direction, visibly suppressing an angry snap. "Worse. Imagine getting stoned, high, and fucked up on every single drug you can think of, without dying, suffering from addiction or withdrawal, then multiply that by the next two hundred to two thousand years. Enchains that don't use a solid item don't make a pony immortal, they only extend their lifespan by half again or once more depending on the net arcane polarity, which is something a unicorn can figure out for me."
  123.     Nominally aware of somepony else reading him, that pony being Amerose deliberately trying to examine the emotions of all those in the room, Zhun is treated to a dumbfounded stare from the sapphire mare, her jaw opening partially before speaking with a confused tone. "Do.. did.. who? What? What human assaulted a pony when I was in the Library? Last I was there was hours ago, when did this happen?" Straining to make some sense of Zhun's information, Dancing Eyes cocks her head at him, her entire face scrunched to a comical degree, both Amerose and the white mare glancing at each other for some kind of answer. The scene, he realizes, would be funny if it weren't so awkward. Or tense.
  124.     "The only ponies I remember in the Library were the three Wardens taking care of those six fillies and that colt, Bren going down to check the still, Hodch and Denra arguing about something in Canterlot, and the.." Pausing to tilt her head the other way, the primal's ears flatten, the left side of her face tightening. "Some white pony, maybe Mercy? I know it was a pegasus but I can't even remember the name."
  126.     Zhun cringes at that thought of Enchaining. " All those effects at the same time? Can't deal with that." (Enchains can increase life span? Interesting.)
  127.     Zhun puts on a confused face as well as she explains how she was not there. (Could've sworn...). Zhun halts his mind again, getting paranoid about this. He knew he saw here. Even if she was covered in her chainmail, the silhouette was the same and he's certain about that too. She's a big mare. Zhun also had to surpress a smile, since that scrunch, but it was easy since he made the situation weird. "Well, I know how weird this is, and can feel it, but that incident was a few hours ago. Plus she wasn't assaulted by him, just yelling at him about punishments and how this was going to get told to her superiors or something. The human left, I tried to turn her but she just threatened us until her group came and picked her up. I even saw her talking to Naliyna and that fear aura...thing got me and some unlucky human helping her. Then I left for here."
  128.     Zhun takes a breather and collects his thoughts. (Oh I fucking hate this.). "I'm only looking for consistency because this might ruin Razorback with Canterlot even more. Can you tell me what you did before you got here?"
  130.     Staring a hole through the table, or at least making a good impression of doing so, Dancing is motionless until @Zhun ceases speaking. "I was in the library, west side under the south window, reading through the volumes on Old Canterlot. That white pegasus came in across from a cardboard box, one of the big ones used to ship asparagus, had an Empire logo on. She was reading until Thrill came in, they started talking. After that I.. was in the pagoda coming here."
  131.     Left hoof raising and rubbing the side of her face, the large mare scowls, Amerose carefully leaning away from her, ears twitching with a hint of concern. "I do NOT remember anything about another human causing problem or a pony with an aura of fear because I'd remember THAT without a problem. Last time I saw Naliyna was right at dusk in the mess hall, and I damned sure don't remember seeing you. How and when did I get from the fucking Library to the pagoda? Did I eat one of Roust's mushrooms or something? ..did Mercy spike my drink?"
  132.     The Canterlot mare kitty-corner from Zhun raises an eyebrow in his direction, clopping her front hooves together to get his attention. "You stated, 'a pony with an aura of fear'. Was she a young earth pony mare, ash blue nose and coat, three Mareguards in standard Equestrian mercenary armor accompanying her, black leather overcoat, never shows her face?" Placing both hooves on the table and pushing herself back, the white earth mare lifts her front shoulders dismissively. "I wouldn't have thought she'd ever travel to Razroback, but if that's her description I suggest dropping the matter entirely."
  134.     (White pegasus? She surely isn't white and if it was Mercy...hey I actually got to see her!) Zhun's heart rate increases in worry as he sees Dancing Eyes get frustrated. He knows about what happens when she is mad. "Ok ok ok...then it must have been some other mare. And with the drugs flowing around apparently, I wouldn't know."
  135.     Zhun quickly turns his attention to the unknown mare as she clops her hooves. "Yes, she looked like that. And maybe an Earth pony because I didn't get to see any other signs of other species. Only her nose." Zhun gets a little excited as he feels he's onto something. "Oh, do you know her? Does she have some sort of reputation?"
  137.     Paying no attention to blue trails of something leaking from Dancing's eyes nor the grinding of her hooves on the table, the Canterlot mare's head tips sideways, giving @Zhun a remarkably accurate impression of a lazy cat. "I know of her, yes, and once had an unfortunate run in with her at night. Face first that is. Her Mareguards are difficult to say the least, their tempers are notoriously high strung and they are difficult to persuade. If I didn't know any better I'd be suspicious of their weapons, but I'm sure they have honorable reasons to protect her so thoroughly." Reaching across the table to thump her hoof into the primal's nose, effectively diverting the impending implosion and causing her to recoil as she resets, visibly unconcerned by any future consequences. "Her mother was a Baronness of Canterlot Underground, a researcher looking into cures for various illnesses, mostly Equestrian. She wasn't a pony to make an enemy of, the Underground is particularly influential. Almost every quality-of-life innovation or invention has come through their projects, quite a number of which have origins in Old Canterlot."
  138.     The white earth pony offers an unconvincingly innocent smile to Amerose next to her, the Lorekeeper currently petrified in terror, frowning at Zhun immediately afterwards. "The enchantments that you felt are Eldritch in nature, but around her Mareguards the effects are enhanced threefold. A few of the rumors I've heard state they're defensive, only taking effect when struck. I don't know her name, nopony does since she rarely talks for long, but what I can tell you this: under that archaic speech and her now-deceased human friend's overcoat is a lonely, troubled young mare, one that, if I were you, I would be careful around."
  140.     Zhun is starting to feel uncomfortable now since Dancing Eyes now has stuff leaking out of her eyes. Something magic. Probably psionics. Instead he shifts focus to the prisoner. "Well, her guards seem to fit that description. If only I knew what they were saying." (The good ol' language barrier.)
  141.     Zhun's stress lessens however as he watches the prisoner reach over and boop Dancing Eyes. (She's...brave.). It was amusing to see the Primal scrunch up again. "The Canterlot Underground? Basically a think tank? The way you described her, she seems alright." Zhun shifts his eyes over to Amerose, who still looks concerned. Or fearful. "Oh, only when they're struck." (If only they haven't been. Now who could've dealt it...). "Wait, deceased human friend? Someone outside of Razorback?" (Now it's just getting tragic...)
  143.     "Batpony is difficult to understand without extensive instruction, unicorn and ancient unicorn have numerous shared bywords that creates a rather secret third language, Crystal pony is particularly disliked in Canterlot, and ancient earth pony is virtually unknown except in Stalliongrad. A rather obscure layer of safety protocols, I suppose. By the way, I am Duchess Pearl Lake of Canterlot's Gold District, pleased to make your acquaintance."
  144.     Nodding in a short motion, the white earth mare's eyes level on Zhun with a graceful smile, ears then flicking thoughtfully at the question. "Hm.. If a think tank could be comprised of four thousand some odd ponies, most of whom are unicorns, most of whom again have at least two degrees in their relative fields, around two hundred of whom are nobility, have access to all records brought or salvaged from Old Canterlot and the various Dynasty eras, have unlimited patience and time, share nearly all of their resources between each other, and receives the vast majority of graduates, projects, and reports from the Canterlot College of Magic, then perhaps, yes. Canterlot Underground is a faction of it's own quartered directly beneath Canterlot, and, food wise, between the various Atriums they are self-sufficient. It is hard to accurately describe what their organization truly is due to the events of the past twenty-five years."
  145.     Amerose returns Zhun's look with a confused one of her own as the primal seemed to still be rebooting, the Duchess leaning back to sigh. "Indeed. A human male of numerous names, many talents, and a close friend to the Baronness, though following her death a little over two years ago he developed a fatherly nature towards her daughter; they became inseperable. Now however I dare say it would be wise to avoid her at all costs, one can never know what rage infects her mind."
  147.     Zhun nods while the prisoner explains the perplexities of the languages spoken between those he observed back at the pagoda. And it pretty much confirms that it is a language barrier used for a level of safety. "Oh! Sorry for not asking in the first place. The questioning was a bit much I guess." (Although, friendly for a prisoner. Do ponies have a certain way to hold them?)
  148.     Zhun suddenly feels more at ease with Pearl's presence. Zhun soon became intrigued by the description of the Canterlot Underground. (Wow. Back home, this would be communist paradise. Oh how it wasn't.) "It all sounds private to me if they are that self-sufficient." Zhun looks back to Dancing, quickly dismisiing her as she's still in that state. "Is there humans independant of Razorback? I don't know much about human affairs outside of the outfit. Although, is it rage out of sadness? Maybe a way to cope?"
  149.     Zhun shifts in his seat; even starting to fidgit with his ballistic mask in his hands. "If only that pony and I could talk without those circumstances." Contemplating heading back to the base, Zhun straps the mask and have it lay around his neck. "So, is there some way to contact them? I feel...troubled about what happened now since I know a bit more about her. Although, I'll stay away from her, maybe until she returns much more friendly."
  152. *****
  154. Continued from:
  156. >Pareidolia glances at Mercy's appearing form briefly before directing his gaze back to the top of the Tower.
  157. >Patches...
  158. >Looks like one of the foals rescued from Stalliongrad.
  159. >Under Mercy's care?
  160. >Unusual.
  161. >He blinks a few times as he glimpses her belly and wingfolds. His eyes widen slightly as she phases out of existence entirely before reappearing on the ground in front of him seemingly unharmed.
  162. >Some sort of combination float and invisibility enchantment.
  163. >Appears to be highly effective and augmented by Krinza.
  164. >He turns his head to follow Patches once as she trots around him.
  165. >Pieces?
  166. >He turns his head to look at Mercy as she smiles briefly.
  167. "Gozkan mist-foam? From the undead minotaur on Khahlani? The white powder that comprised the...widowed minotaur's armor is capable of these effects?"
  168. >He scrutinizes the floating white ribbon above Patches' head whenever it passes between him and Mercy as the filly trots around him.
  169. >Looking down, he regards Patches with an evaluating gaze from behind his mask.
  170. "I'm impressed at the work you took to turn it into this form, but why would you go through the effort? This material seems like something you would benefit more from."
  172.         Nodding in affirmation at each of the first three questions, Mercy turns a distant frown past @Pareidolia. "There have been.. at least two minotaurs.. I recall that were given.. the same powder to coat.. the inside of their ar.. mors to remind them.. of their duties, preventing.. from killing oneself by.. leaping from great heights. is sad but.. I have no rights to.. speak on the mat.. ter." Keeping her merry trotting confined to a relatively large circle around Pareidolia, the indigo batfilly remains on alert nonetheless, shooting curious stares upwards.
  173.     Wings patting her sides firmly, the Spirit Walker's ears flick backwards, white eyes shifting in a pattern that seemed to be a roll. "I have the right.. to pass into the.. Overdark when I wish.. to, and my hoofboots.. slow my fall. I have.. no reason to keep.. it, but I could not.. leave it to decay."
  174.     Hopping to a halt in front of Pareidolia, Patches lifts her left wing up, carefully grasping the band using the flat sides of her sharp wingclaws, then proffers it upwards, her tongue sticking out inquisitively. "Try it on, it's a lot of fun!"
  176.      Pareidolia eyes the proffered white band briefly before accepting it from Patches with a nod at Mercy. “Then the additional equipment is appreciated.” He slowly rubs the material between his gloved fingers before placing the band over his helmet. “Fun?” He says with a slightly confused tone at Patches. (The material used for duty bound minotaurs? Duty bound in blood sport? For those Pegasi? There is at least one more active...)
  178.     Mercy simply lifts her wings in a half-apologetic, half-welcomed motion @Pareidolia, an amused note making it's way into her scratchy voice. "It will serve.. well. Should need to re.. size for concealment.. heat in furnace, shape.. cool in water."
  179.     Shooting her best scrunch up, Foggy tilts her head as far as possible to the right, leaving him to wonder how, precisely, she wasn't falling over, and making a fishface back at Mercy, whom comically responds in kind. "You don't know what fun is? That means I need to show you how, unlike SOMEpony!"
  180.     Apparently activated by simple placement, the band emits the same white glow as before, then a minorly unsettling sensation of vertigo takes place. Realizing he was now floating nearly a foot off the ground, the vertigo dissipates quickly with no after effects.
  181.     "Now that you too can fly-" Taking a step forwards, Patches fluffs her wings out in as gallant a pose as possible, emitting a mock-triumphant cackle. "Come with me if you wish to understand the most secretly secret mysteries of mango!"
  183.      Pareidolia tilts forward at the sudden sensation of floating, holding his arms up slightly to maintain his balance. He glances upwards, noting the white glow shining through the periphery of his mask lenses. (Will need to resize it to fit under my helmet.) Turning to look at Patches, he gives her a deadpan stare, holding it just long enough to lend a sense of disbelief. He removes the band and folds it into his vest pocket as he responds to Patches. “I have work to do. I don't have time to spend on that right now. Find me when I am not occupied.” {Carefree foals. High risk group for cultural transfer. The sooner they are transferred off site the better.}
  184.     He nods at Mercy as he walks back towards the Pagoda to find Naliyna. “Thank you for the gift.” (Standard separation protocol leaves operatives in a state of constant readiness if access to Command is prevented. However, situation and survival factors are also noted in this situation. In all of the Organization's history, the Guidance Protocol has never been enacted before. Finer details of management to be determined...}
  186.     Tossing @Pareidolia a pair of angrily squinted eyes and sticking her tongue out, Patches prances past him to leap onto the tower's exterior. As the batfilly begins running up while muttering loudly, Mercy's ears flatten at the decidedly unfriendly batpony kee's. The white pegasus turns a grating scowl upwards, a sharp edge accompanying her raspy tone. "Next time do not.. spurn her like.. that. It is difficult.. enough for her to.. socialize with me. Do.. not make my job.. any harder." Tossing her wing in an equally annoyed 'leave' motion, Mercy seats herself, head hanging down to let out a stressed sigh.
  187.     Heading towards the pagoda, the first pony noticed was, of course, a fuchsia blur streaking south followed by a trio of difficult to spot figures, though Pareidolia's attention was immedately drawn further south towards a the lone figure of an equally difficult to spot pony could be seen, a vaporous aura radiating a sense of sinister, threatening intent virtually blacking out the library from view.
  189.     Pareidolia silently continues towards the Pagoda, pausing his internal monologue to consider Mercy's words. {...At least one part of the protocol is clear. The less inclined they are to interact with transmission vector humans the better. Preferable conclusion would involve transfer from Razorback entirely with minimal delay to a more suitable social environment.} He slows his pace as he tracks Naliyna speeding southward and upon noting the pony she seemed to be rushing towards, pauses. {The very first pony encountered with actual malicious intent in plain view. Nostalgic. Reminded of Earth.}
  190.     He returns to his original step, reaching the Pagoda and looking over Naliyna's table in an attempt to find any hints of where or how to start while waiting for her to return. {Highly possible cultural transmission occurred in an unregulated and volatile interaction. Probable explanation for uncharacteristic pony demeanor, more similar to a human's. Another poignant reminder of why those foals need to have limited human interaction and immediate transfer offsite.}
  191.     Finding Naliyna's lack of organization too difficult to sort through without her, he seats himself at her table and tries to stick with the more clear cut files that need work. He also unslings his F2000 and sets it down on the floor next to him, glancing at the visibly angered pony towards the library. {Will most likely be leaving shortly. Best not to antagonize with visibly armed, human weapons.}
  193.     Rifling through the chaotically ordered, yet fairly neat, stacks of papers, @Pareidolia is left in bewilderment at the sheer number of receipts, pay slips, paid accounts, and monetary exchange sheets clustered around Naliyna's table, it's complete lack of being sorted by date or even locale a headache inducing nightmare. Forced to ignore the financial documents, such as it was, a much smaller stack of sale notifications appeared to be the smallest, yet was no less puzzling: the top most sheet held the date of 25,998, the current Tallus year, though many of the rest were anywhere from ten and six-hundred years old.
  194.     Fairly apparent was the fact that whichever organization methods Naliyna used were either highly advanced, subtle forms of torture, or merely a complete lack of organization. Passing over these as well, Pareidolia's next focus come in the form of three separate clusters of envelopes, all of which were labeled: 'To Razorback', and had been opened, the contained letters folded under the flap. The vast majority were in Common Equestrian given the distinctly legible varied styles of hoofwriting. Noting pegasi, unicorn, earth pony, batpony, even Saddle Arabian among sixteen other, equally unfamiliar languages, each one seemed to be a request.. for admittance to join.
  196.     Pareidolia presses a gloved hand against his mask, pressing it against his face as he stares the stack of unorganized reports. {Receipts ranging from year...25998 to 25398? How? Why? Razorback is a young organization according to all texts in the library. This will be impossible to assist with without Naliyna present.}
  197.     Noting the envelopes, he picks the topmost envelope off of each pile and skims each for relevant details. {Presumably divided into accepted, rejected, and pending categories. An idea of selection criteria would be useful. Unlikely that Naliyna is the sole input on new recruits...} As he reads, he continues to glance up, keeping track of his surroundings.
  199.     Feeling the rubber stick to his face uncomfortably due to the cold, the three letters @Pareidolia hefts up to examine were each marked with a unofficial stamp stating 'Politely Deny' on the top of each. Opening to read the first, it turned out to be a reasonably formal letter, written by a Cloudsdale pegsaus mare in her late 30's, still single, whom knew how to collect something called 'Sundew', and had a penchant for harvesting wild herbs, as well as living on her own for weeks at a time in the arid forests near Gozka.
  200.     The second, puzzlingly well written and wholly informal, was by an early 20's earth pony living in Canterlot, depicting the life of a single, yet happy, athletic mare that worked odd jobs around the outer districts, everything from a new courier route, taking ore deliveries from the Boneyard, and spending her spare time at a small private clinic, in addition to taking extended trips around the Canterlot plains.
  201.     Unlike the first two, the third came from a professional hoof named Locktrot, a mid-30's pegasus mare whom was, unusually, an archaeologist of old Equestria, known for her rediscovery of a crucible casting technique used by earth ponies during the pre-Dynasty era and several other esoteric findings. At the end of Locktrot's application was a small request stating that she would not work during the night, given that Razorback was solely inhabited by batponies.
  202.     Forced to pause from further reading, Pareidolia is interrupted by an aggressive danger in the air, three sets of steel hoofboots tromping northwards on cold ground. Moments later, a rather common black mercenary helmet pokes in from the south entrance, chartreuse crystalline quickly sweeping the pagoda, landing on the equally black clad human. Muttering a phrase under her breath, the Crystal pony mercenary is followed by a batpony with thin, needle-like wingclaws in the same armor variant, then a unicorn, her spiraling chartreuse horn jutting from the center, brightly lit at the moment.
  203.     Held aloft by the unicorn, a slim earth pony concealed by an ornate, expensive looking brown leather overcoat, wide hood included, is pulled inside. Gingerly laying the young earth mare down on the couch opposite Naliyna's stall,  an unsettling malaise fills the pagoda as the unicorn leans in to inspect her charge, carefully working one of her black leather forelegs, twisted and hanging limp at an unnatural angle while the batpony stands guard in front, the helmet angrily snapping left and right in high threat anxiety.
  204. [ 1d6 = 6 ] <Provoke
  206.     Pareidolia exhales to relieve the mask's pressure on his face for a moment of catharsis. Shifting the mask around on his face, he begins reading through the letters. Despite them all being rejected, he nods in approval. (Should have expected a lack of organization by pending status'. However, all prospective recruits demonstrate either a lack of combat experience or necessary psychological temperament.) Sensing approaching ponies, he sets the letters back on their respective piles and takes part of the top stack of a nearby set of financial reports. He attempts to organize them by year, glancing at the last 3 digits occasionally while keeping his head still to give the impression he is engrossed in his work. Moving only his eyes, he silently checks the group of ponies. (Bodyguards to that earth pony? Seem to have failed to prevent injury, dislocated leg. Who would have harmed one of Razorback's visitors? A human? Unlikely, disparity in strength. They came from the south...)
  208. >Provoke: 5 turns remain.
  209.     Perusing over the first few pages, @Pareidolia notes the top was a hoofwritten notice of payment, 2,000 Bits given to one Sunny Feathers half an hour prior to now for a scheduled pickup and delivery of an alchemical recipe to Razorback. The second, the night before, was similarly a payment to Sunny Feathers for the amount of 10,000 Bits relating to a monthly contract, which led to the third sheet, an officially stamped, rather basic external-hire mercenary contract listing from Shanis of Tartarus Isle, Naliyna and Krinza's signatures below the Captain's. The fourth was a 90 some odd year old listing of for-sale alchemical recipes from Cairn Wharf, all of which had been checked off quite recently, except for one by the name of Venom at 2,300 Bits, reportedly a great improvement over it's predecessor, Toxin. Similarly, the fifth was a 3 year old notice from a private residence in Manehattan for a recipe named Refresh, a street address and a price tag of 3,500 bits included with a rubber stamped notice of daily operating hours.
  210.     Paying little attention to Pareidolia's direction, the insect-eating batpony, her coat too a dark chartreuse, swivels on hoof, orienting herself towards the south. Lofty, quiet dulcet notes from the unicorn elicit a response from the much younger mare's ragged, unnaturally cold voice in common. "No.. not here.. too public to.. risk. Set it now, I.. perform surgery.. on it later." Facing the north, the Crystal pony's head slowly turns back to offer a momentary glare in Pareidolia's direction, then returns to her watch, a front hoofboot angrily grinding on the pagoda's stonework underneath at a muted snap and subsequent pained whine.
  212.     Pareidolia continues to attempt to organize the papers while surreptitiously glancing at the unknown visitor and her cadre. (Sunny Feathers, a recent hire from Shanis. All paid receipts...) He splits the papers into two piles of paid and unpaid or pending statements with the most recent timestamps on top. He then takes another small stack off the top of the current pile and organizes them in the same fashion. (Too public to risk treating the injury? Risk? Here? Probable altercation candidates...)
  213.     He pauses for a moment and then slumps his shoulders, shaking his head slightly. (Of course, Dancing Eyes. Southern Library, who else would openly assault one of Razorback's guests. Some apparent misunderstanding. They do not trust Razorback's facilities and personnel then, must have been a severe incident. Troublesome. Razorback needs to maintain stable diplomatic relations with as many parties as possible...) Making an obvious motion, he orients his mask to look around the Pagoda for if any other ponies were nearby before briefly tilting his head as he looks back the group.
  215. >Provoke: 4 turns remain.
  216.     Organizing through the pay slips, Naliyna had lumped them together with external bills, internal contracts, for-sale listings, and even pending sales all by date, rather than what they were. Also included in the stack were several more application letters, all of which bore the same 'Politely Deny' stamp, though these ones had a single permament marker line through the middle of each word and an unintelligible, possibly angry scribble mark below. It appeared to @Pareidolia that Naliyna had requested help from another human before, didn't like their methodology, and had resorted to taking care of Razorback's finances on her own terms. Which, he noted at the moment, was going to be a painful slog since there were at least three thousand pages left, not including the questionable marking on the application letters.
  217.     The pagoda and it's surroundings remain quiet as Pareidolia checks, barring the flapping of mercenary pegasi wings above and a set of heavy hooves traveling eastwards. Immediately ceasing the grinding of her boot, the Crystal pony's black helmet swivels towards the human opposite her, two half-transparent orchid eyes surveying him with open caution. Swinging her head back towards the unicorn and earth pony, the mare sings behind her in a charming, whisper-like tremelo, her voice tinged with silent disapproval and a touch of malice. <Kingdom Crystal Pony> "I cannot even see this one's eyes. Mistress, why should we bother with these hu`um? They have dared to let a psion into their home, yet we know not what else they allow."
  219.     Pareidolia cocks his head as he hears her whisper, giving the impression he did not know what was being said. After a brief pause, he faces his mask back down while still glancing up with his eyes every now and then. He then sets out on the arduous task to organize the various bills, contracts, and papers by date according to their individual type. Maintaining his previous two piles of paid and unpaid/pending pay slips, he creates additional piles for the revised recruitment applications, externally sourced slips, and internal ones. He also removes his spare magazines from his vest pouches to act as paper weights to avoid the loss of his work. (They came here to establish relations with Razorback? A psion...then that injury was from Dancing Eyes. If they leave with such a negative impression, that would be troublesome. What happened in the Library to result in this?)
  221. >Provoke: 3 turns remain.
  222.     Unable to pierce the black mask facing her direction, the mercenary Crystal pony swivels northwards with a haughty equine noise, black hoofboot tapping in a slow, annoyed rythym. <Kingdom Crystal Pony> "Do not answer my question Mistress, I was being .. it is difficult to be here against .. .. enemies."
  223.     While sorting through the reams of pages, @Pareidolia discovers a small number of unstamped, strangely marked application letters, the four symbols on each unintelligible, yet had all been left sealed. Amidst the increasingly unclear bills, receipts, and other slips, a new category of informal requests appears, all written in Kingdom styled runes, the clipped shorthoof unusually precise and not matching Naliyna's more exaggerated scrawls. One, however, was written by Denra in Common approximately a week ago, declaring a motion of intent to sue an unfamiliar name in Canterlot for slander against Razorback, the bottom half of the page listing 'the most recent Daring Do novel', part of a fairly large series, as proof of his evidence.
  224.     Making a bit of headway against the flow of papers, a commanding phrase in unicorn draws the batpony's ire, hissing quietly before reaching under her right wing, then tossing a thin coil of bright metallic green rope behind her, the mare's aggravation clear from a derogatory snarl. Lifted into a sitting position by her unicorn guard, the cloaked earth mare sighs, muttering bitterly in a somewhat older dialect. <Earth Pony> "Know that I shall always answer thy questions my love. In truth, the other humans I hast contacted be unwilling to deal with me. Thou in turn knoweth why. I chose to come to Razorback, with thy lady Naliyna's grace, to see what my master's weaponry can be traded for. The scars thou have seen attest to his warning, that I must not breach the law of time against Her Sun's barriers."
  226.     Pareidolia furrows his brow behind his mask as he hears the crystal pony's words while attempting to sift through the esoteric sheafs of papers. (Enemies...?)
  227.     Placing the uncategorized sets written in Kingdom into a separate pile of “Pending Organization”, his gloved hand freezes as he notes Denra declaring intention to sue. He grips the paper tightly as he removes it from the stack to read. (Slander. Novels. Razorback... Unmitigated cultural exposure has already occurred? Need to enact damage control. Source of this information needs to be determined and altered. Veracity of information is likely suspect. Author needs to be identified, questioned, and placed under controlled purview until social climate is under acceptable conditions for introduction of human psychological elements. I need more information and resources. Secondary priority to establishing a local sphere of control and infrastructure. Will need to speak to Denra of this “Daring Do” novel.)
  228.     His eyes flick up at the slight slash of movement from the green rope. He switches his focus from the paper to the group of ponies, attempting to determine what the rope's purpose was and their reactions. (Theory confirmed, she came here freely under Naliyna's purview. Master? She is an envoy? Law of time against Her...Sun's barriers?)
  229. [ 1d6 = 3 ] [ 1d6 = 1 ] [ 1d6 = 6 ] <E.Perception
  231. >Provoke: 2 turns remain.
  232.     Head bowing submissively at her employer, the Crystal mercenary's helmet partially swivels north, the tremelo of her voice softening. <Kingdom Crystal pony> "I maintain your master was too kind in speaking of other humans, it pains me to see and hear his words spurned. Had he not shared that wondrous gift he may yet be here in place of you."
  233.     Noting the 'rope' to be more of a fine mesh cable, @Pareidolia finds it to be the same as the dark green batpony mare whom usually hung around Jeff carried around, it's current use as an adhoc splint of the earth pony's leg rather out of place given it's expense.
  234.     Black leather hood lifting smoothly, the earth pony's somehow unsettling ash blue muzzle is exposed, her lips curling upwards. <Earth Pony> "If thy concerns be true my love, what and whom else may we turn to? When last did thou sleep well? I took thee as brides knowingly and willingly, thus the task to keep us whole and enriched falls upon mine saddle." Pausing momentarily, a light-hearted, playful smile flickers across the young mare's lips. <Earth Pony> "Perchance I should wear one again. Las Pegasus fell, yet stallions roam aplenty still in the Crystal Empire and elsewhere. T'would not bother me in the slighest giving in to mine.. 'urges'. What say thee?"
  235.     Expectedly, the three mercenaries sigh obnoxiously, their tails flicking negatively in unison.
  238.     Pareidolia sets the slander notice aside and slowly, repeatedly flexes his hands as a dissonant feeling of agitation seeps through the Pagoda. He deepens his breathing and slowly removes another stack of papers off of the working pile, appearing to flip through them to organize while keeping his gaze focused on the group of ponies. (This sense of dread, is it coming from them? Is there a psion among them? Unlikely...previous thoughts would have triggered a reaction. They don't seem to have changed their stances. An outside source...?) He slowly moves a hand to his chest rigging, moving it back and forth as if to adjust it while loosening his combat knife from its sheath slightly. Reaching back around his shoulder, he does the same for his Gozkan blade.
  240. >Provoke: activated.
  241.     Far more inflammatory than volatile, the batpony's mildly aggressive kee's cause the unicorn to pontificate huffily in return, the Crystal mercenary's stiff turning sarcastic, all three paying little attention to @Pareidolia over a likely feud. <Kingdom Crystal Pony> "Had both of you not broken your .. arriving here our mistress would not be injured." Nodding at Zhun leaving, the young earth pony sighs tepidly, catching the attention of her mercenaries. <Earth Pony> "Enough. Our Goddesses could not desire we be so artless to argue upon sheltered ground. A helping hoof, my love?" Enveloped in a pale chartreuse field, the leather clad mare is lofted off the couch and set down, her right shoulder gingerly leaning against the unicorn's side for support. <Earth Pony> "As Dawn spoke two-hundred and forty-four hu`um live now upon Tallus, thus if I cannot free us of destitution by trade here, I must seek wealth elsewhere. So, to quiet thy disagreements, we shall leave now. It is my wish we not return here again, yet I will pray the graces of our Goddesses shelter their hearts nonetheless."
  242.     Rumbling in dissatisfaction, the Kingdom mercenary spins about, clopping smartly onto the translocation matrice to graze her hoof across a rapid sequence while the ash blue is helped nto the center, speaking a brief, polite sentence. <Earth Pony> "Remnant, after the coming delivery from Miss Naliyna I hereby ask of you to decline all translocation access from this location."
  244.     Pareidolia holds his breath as the feeling of unease settles in his chest. His eyes scan the Pagoda and surrounding area, searching for targets. (...Nothing is happening?) He slots his knife back into its sheath as he focuses back on the ponies in front of him. (Then the source of that danger was social... ?) As they argue, his eyes widen and he half rises from his seat seemingly conflicted. (244 humans? That many? Too many. We can't lose this potential link. Social is not your area of training. Poor marks. No other options. Need to act... )
  245.     Standing up as the mercenary moves towards the translocation matrice, he shouts <Earth Pony> “Wait! Please. As Naliyna's temporary aide, I request you to at least wait until she is here to personally address your situation.” He freezes for a short second as they all stare at him before stepping around the table to close distance with them. (Think. Focus. They've taken offense. Acknowledge responsibility?) Standing in front of them, he exhales deeply and clenches his fists at his side before clicking his heels and making a stiff bow from the waist up. Keeping his face directed downwards towards their hooves, he says <Earth Pony> “Razorback cannot afford to lose valuable trade partners and connections. I do not know how you received your injury, but I can confirm it was due to a lack of negligence of both human staff and ponies stationed here. Hostile altercations are only permitted against our enemies, not our guests, and I ask you to reconsider your decision or at least delay it until Naliyna herself is present to answer.” Finishing his request, he grits his teeth and holds his uncomfortable position while waiting for an answer. ('This, 3A-7 is why you are found non-suitable for Project Noah IV...')
  247.     Three sets of angry chartreuse eyes swivel onto @Pareidolia quickly, the oppressive atmosphere returning, though it came with less pressure than before. The mercenaries remain still as he speaks, iron scraping iron once, the Crystal mare then giving a stiff, albeit amused snort. <Earth Pony> "Cease bowing, our mistress is not titled." Cutting off the unicorn's interrupting Prench with a sharp hum, Pareidolia is lightly pushed up into a standing position as the mare speaks in an irate tone. <Earth Pony> "Silence yourself before I do it for you! Honored Remnant, please rescind the previous request." Holding her hoof above the translocation matrice, the mare hums a quick tempo, the satchel of weaponry lifted off Naliyna's stall to be set down next to the batpony, turning her head to to give an unseen, yet felt, glare at her compatriots. <Crystal Pony> "As I am the first .. .. amongst us, I will speak with this one alone. Do not .. or I will be most annoyed. Take her back for surgery, only this time use the alicorn's .. vial. I will not tell Dawn that her .. given gift went unused."
  248.     Tapping the edge of her hoofboot on the stone, the other three contort in reality, then disappear into a dim white tunnel along with the collective sensation of fear. Taking a step back, the Crystal mare eyes Pareidolia for a quarter minute, then sighs heavily. "I have duties to fulfill soon. As it appears you have much the same, you may come with me into our conservatory. Be warned that I will judge your words according to their honesty."
  250.     Abruptly being pushed upwards, Pareidolia finds his memory interrupted as the Crystal mare turns back to speak to the party. (The tactic worked! I hope. Social was always unpredictable.) He attempts to catch the snippets of Crystal Pony he can comprehend as they disappear through the matrice tunnel and exhales slightly as they leave. (Then the source was them.) He finally unclenches his fists and looks at the remaining mare. Noting that she was observing him, he does the same from behind his mask trying to glean any possible insights into her position and behavior. (Dawn? Their leader? Potential benefactor? A gift?)
  251.     He glances around checking for others nearby and shifts the rigging on his chest as she makes her offer. (So I end up playing diplomat. Not qualified for this. Being pulled away from Razorback -again-. Not even 10 minutes inside the compound. Need to return to protocol objectives soon...) “I do not know what happened or if I am qualified to stand in Naliyna's place for this kind of report, but I have nothing to hide. Let me leave a note.” He turns back and steps behind the table, kneeling down to sling his rifle off the floor before writing a short note explaining he was brought to the Canterlot Underground to explain the circumstances resulting in an invited guest being injured. Adding a footnote that it was most likely due to Dancing Eyes and possible encounters with humans, he then returns to the translocation stone and nods at the Crystal mare. (First the Moon, now this, and no other Command operatives...)
  253.     Pinning down the mercenary's attitude and overall posture as that of an older, well seasoned veteran in her early thirties, @Pareidolia doubts that she was unlikely to have been a Warden in the past, yet bears an important, respected position nonetheless. Becoming aware of being subjected to the same treatment in return, the mare lets slip a brief, approving smile. "I would not worry, Miss Naliyna does not feel the type to be bothered by minor interruptions. In fact, I dare say she is most content completing work as it should be done, not as it arrives. It is best to let angry mares her age.. chill off a while." Chuckling dryly at the blatant batpony humor, a short sequence is tapped in while Pareidolia writes.
  254.     Helmet tipping up at approach, the light chartreuse mare raps her hoof on the final rune. Unlike most trips through the translocation network, the current tunnel was barely a nuisance, it's dull white walls neither too bright nor dim. Smoothly deposited into an underground dome less than a third the size of the Enclave lacking a floor, instead a spaced profusion of exotic flowers, shrubs, and small trees interspersed by patches of soil, scents of multiple varieties apparent through the mask. Shafts of multiple light sources above translate into progressively increasing geometric patterns of sunstones, or something similar, embedded into what appeared to be a compressed marble ceiling.
  255.     Stepping off onto the soil with a hearty exhale, the Crystal mercenary turns her head back several inches, a half-smile apparent on her lips. "If this is your first time here, then I welcome you to Canterlot Underground's Conservatory; if not, welcome back. I am Astra Galus, part time mercenary, part time horticulturalist, part time Moors surveyor. There are few rules here. Firstly, I ask you be careful if you touch any of the examples here. Most are rare, a few are endangered, several are near-extinct. Secondly, there are a few that you must not hoofle. The bright green vines with solidly colored berries are elemental snaps from the Old Everfree, they must be hoofled with care, else they may cause a violent elemental eruption. The flora marked with four-corner posts are either poisonous, toxic, or have poorly understood dangers." Head bending down and shaking it off next to the stone, Astra leaves it and slowly paces north towards a wooden pull-cart, a clear glass barrel firmly affixed to the bed. "Thirdly, the diamond enclosure to the south houses a unique spirit-draining tree from the Elemental Plane of Aether. The tree is off limits, but if you wish to hoofle one of it's fruit you may do so. They are safe, albeit.. odd. Now then, speak freely and I will listen."
  257. >
  258.     As Pareidolia steps through the strangely calm tunnel, a strange sense of familiarity strikes him. Upon reaching the conservatory, his eyes are immediately drawn upward towards the intersecting shafts of light and an unusually strong memory surfaces. {A bright sun, filtered through a mandelbrot patterned dome of reinforced glass illuminated an interior garden. Lush enough and diverse enough to be one of the fabled “garden worlds” Interstellar Survey had transmitted pictures of. Trees long thought extinct loomed in the misty distance where an artificial mountain disappeared into a machine generated cloud layer. Animals called out to each other in the depths of the forest below. It was almost enough to obscure the pockmarked surface of a garishly lit Earth that occupied the other half of the ceiling's view. An unknown announcer led another uniform clad group out from an access tunnel on the opposite end of the dome. Framed by the white hallway behind him, he could be seen gesturing to the Sun, Earth, and the stars beyond while lecturing initiates. '-Orbital Habitat 38-7 which is one of our many orbital conservatories dedicated to one day reminding humanity of the Earth we have lost. Committee funding makes this possible, but it will be your efforts that ensure -they- do not forget. We believe in possibility which is why our symbol is the beast that embodies...'}
  259.     He takes an uneven step as his boot sink into the soft soil, unprepared for the sudden memory and the transition from stone to earth. (These ponies are too similar to us. Too willing. All of this-) Barely catching her name, he furrows his brow and coughs as the cloying scent of blooming flowers and plants seeps into his mask. (Always hated this smell. Heavy and irritating...) Shaking his head, he taps his filter pouch to confirm he still has spares before moving towards Astra. Catching up after a brief delay, he follows in her hoofsteps avoiding the myriad plants around him and scanning the perimeter of the dome looking for points of entry or rooms. “You have created an impressive conservatory underground. It reminded me of one of my Organization's orbital facilities.” He looks southward, searching for 'Aether' tree before looking back towards the cart. “Aether? It bears fruit?”
  261.     Finding that his stock of filters was full, @Pareidolia notes a single door labeled 'TO LABS' on the east, then an 'EXIT & DORMITORY' door to the west. His attention is called to Astra hooking up a small, distinctly human engineered water pump, a rather common looking civil brand, two clear tubes being attached, one to a short hose with a low pressure nozzle, the other connecting to an overly large tank on back the cart. "I did not help build this place. From what I have heard it was established four hundred years ago by the original researchers. They wanted a place to sit down and relax away from the stresses of life. Over the years three more, much like this one, have been built. Of course, here remains the most popular, much of what you see is in the process of being carefully harvested for seeds to repopulate with."
  262.     Ears wiggling in curious circles, the mercenary mare bends in close to a square crystalline brick in front of the tank, a basic power crystal, attaching what were definitely scavenged human styled insulated copper wire strands from it to the pump with great care. Far on the south side, large sheets of semi-clear diamond, well away from any other visible plant life, contain a dull white tree, several visible pulsing fruits hanging from the center of it's branches, the species not matching with any previously seen ones. "Orbital? Ah, I believe that term means 'off world', much like Luna's Moon. Most of us prefer not to visit there, it is.. stale, somehow. There is little life there save for what the Starborn manage to grow. Hardy plants do little more than provide a few snacks, but they manage. As for that tree, yes, though barely. It is hostile to most life and difficult to care for. Despite those of us, myself included, that wanted to destroy it, others wish to study it. However, that is a topic for another time."
  263.     Stepping into the cart's harness and buckling numerous sets of straps onto her, Astra turns to give Pareidolia a firm, sour expression. "The Tyrant's resurgence caused the Underground a modicum of harm and placed us into a rather difficult situation. By day we continue our research, but by night mercenaries such as myself are forced to ensure none enter without authorization. Around that time Marquis du Spiral presumably joined Razorback, which has left many important projects on hold indefintely. Under that whore Lucky's orders, Las Pegasus somehow cut off our access to Stalliongrad's friendly researchers. As of several months ago, Marquis du Spiral has not sent a single letter to let us know he is well. Adding injury to insult, my mistress desired to examine several of his works that he claimed would answer many questions the Underground seeks answers to, and what she received was a damnable psion, a primal no less, shattering her shoulder. In short.. Razorback is ill a friend of ours at the moment. Please explain to me why, with all of this known, that I should sway others into thinking otherwise."
  265.     Pareidolia makes his way to the pull cart as Astra elaborates. Looking over the water tank and noting the human derived improvements, he crosses his arms and briefly clenches his fists. (If it has reached here, then they would willingly offer it to all factions. Guidance Protocol A is no longer viable, as predicted. Will need to adjust with Protocol B. Can only hope I am not late.)
  266.     Hearing Spiral's name, he turns to face her as she explains their encounter with Razorback. (Without Spiral the situation will only deteriorate. More objectives to address...) He sighs heavily through his mask before responding. “In order to fully provide explanation for what happened, I would need to know what was said and what parties were involved. However, I can and will have to share valuable information to clarify Razorback's position. That primal psion is a prisoner of war, of sorts. She voluntarily chooses to remain within our compound under personal oath. For her to be pushed to physical violence is uncommon and disturbing.”
  267.     He pauses to move to the front of the cart, standing next to her. “I am more than certain that at least one human was involved since it's been shown amongst ponies, you are all capable of resolving a conflict of misunderstanding without resorting to physical violence. The unmitigated cultural exchange of an uninformed human is the greatest source of conflict ever to be brought to Tallus.” Uncrossing his arms to adjust the sling of his rifle, he turns his head to make it clear he is facing her. “I understand that my current explanation may not be satisfactory, but I want to posit that it would still be in your best interests to maintain at least minimal contact with Razorback. A number of us plan on bringing improvements, technological enhancements, and research we had on our own worlds to Tallus. The information we seed on Tallus will mark a major milestone in the development of all societies on this planet. We would not want to lose a link with one of the most renown neutral research symposium groups and are willing to cooperate to ensure that remains.” (A possible link? A start to the network?)
  269.     Lifting the water nozzle with a low pitched hum, Astra leans forwards heavily, pulling the overloaded cart after her with little apparent effort, only stopping to spritz the ground around unfamiliar flora, tapping the soil under each clinically. "That is curious.. hm. I anticipated she was merely awaiting trial. There remains the possibility she was offended by my mistress's enchantments, they have been known to agitate, and even drive, certain high level psions into a frenzy. Defining that would require testing of a form that I am unwilling to allow."
  270.     Visibly satisfied by @Pareidolia's first part of the answer, the chartreuse mercenary halts from watering the next, her lips curling downwards before tossing her head back towards the water pump, half-muttering under her breath. "The Marquis said something similar to that before he left. Even now we are attempting to deliver non-mechanical solutions for common problems such as THAT one.. it never ceases to irritate me how many times I must tear it apart and painstakingly put back together. On it's last leg, as it were."
  271.     Nose twitching once, the horticulturalist's tail flicks in irritation, continuing on to the next patch of flora, a vaguely familiar bright orange globe suspended by a solid green stalk surrounded by peat. "Our former master was delivered multiple technological and mechanical implements by the green one. Aside from the examples he built alongside the Underground, we discovered the concepts of a few to be sound. The increasingly difficult to maintain pump on the cart is one that we are close to achieving a much simpler, low maintenance variant for production from the Empire. A simple ion-generating power crystal, two rods, a small spool of lattice filaments, and a basic sluicing mechanism is all that is required. It would do much to aid Neighvada's frequent droughts. As for others..."
  272.     Bending forwards to sniff at the bulb labeled a Ripthorn, Astra rocks back onto her hooves, eyes closing and giving a morbid sigh. "Barely hanging on, are you? One day soon I will replant you in a better place. ..other devices he was delivered, such as the toaster and those that require 'e-lec-tron-ic cir-cuts' among others, are both far too burdensome and much too limited to be of common use. We lack the technical basis, the industrial production, and the technological understandings for such implements. While our master was alive he came to an agreement with the Underground stating that human technology cannot and does not adequately solve many day-to-day problems that we ponies face. If properly thought out, simple, easy to maintain derivatives can and may, though they are few in number as of yet. Simplicity is best, and these are most simple. Hooves, you see, do not function as well as hands at delicate tasks." Lifting one of her hooves and wiggling it for further emphasis, Astra turns her head to give Pareidolia a small frown.
  273.     "Objectively, the largest problem we face is not cultural contamination, ponies are used to isolating.. trouble makers, but disregarding that, if you have not noticed human devices do not function well on Tallus due to thirty or more consistently proven entropic effects. Even something as simple as this pump breaks down in a matter of months, which is soon to be destroyed. Our chief researchers have instead chosen to work with the Empire's crystal engineers for achieving simple solutions, however, a few are concerned about 'post-modern weaponry'. I was informed of how a certain quite simple large-scale hydrogen bomb functioned once, and I can safely say with great certainty that anything similar would verifiably cause an immediate, severe, and impossible to cease hostile chain reaction from Germaneigh's military guilds, most of whom are unicorns. Our master was quite intelligent when he informed us that technology may be an asset, but it should solely be a human asset. To that end, the Underground is in full agreement."
  275.     Silently keeping pace with Astra, Pareidolia folds his arms and looks back towards the garden as she responds. (So Spiral understood the danger as well. Seems he wasn't willing to take necessary measures though. Current unknown status is problematic.)
  276.     Stopping next to the Ripthorn bulb, he shifts his weight from one foot to the other. (Class 3 Being interference confirmed here as well. Objective unknown. Possible source of risk...along with well understood limitations of technology built for hands.) He nods slowly as she finishes. (Admirable, but insufficient as expected. The threat is already present, if not from here then from another group. At least it will buy them time.) “'Solely a human asset', that is an unusually forward thinking stance. I won't argue against it. As for the dangers of cultural transmission, it is not the isolation of troublesome elements that concerns me...” He looks over towards the exit door. “But that is irrelevant to my original purpose of being brought here. Your Mistress was looking to avoid destitution, and I was brought here to explain the circumstances of her injury and ensure continued trade communications. Is there anything else I need to address?”
  278.     Hearing a pair of lighter colored unicorns entering from the lab door, @Pareidolia is given a curious once over at range, the two lifting and waving hooves at him. Paying no attention to the pair, Astra presses her front hooves into the soil, humming a calm, vibrating tune behind her words. "Our former master was requested to speak truthfully and in three months the Underground reached this decision. To an extent that some scorned his words came, yet I knew full well his emotions. His insistence on isolating humans came from great fear, more so than I felt could be appropriate, but-" Standing up and shaking her hoof off, a half-transparent chartreuse eye rotates up at Pareidolia, smiling in an openly sarcastic manner. "Humans have long looked upon 'cute' things with trepidation. Is not the fear that by their actions such 'cute' things would be sullied, perhaps lose their innocence, an enormous burden? I however find this a most delightful weapon to use should it be needed."
  279.     Facing forwards and pulling the watering cart with her, the Crystal mercenary continues her watering, starting with a wide yellow pitcher plant, her nose wrinkling at the acidic scent, then a small stand of blood red colored short grass. "My apologies. There is one matter that you, as lady Naliyna's aide, could solve which may, and I do stress may, open some relations here. In the past two years precisely twenty-three human firearms have collected in my hooves for safe keeping. My mistress does not wish to use our former master's weapons save one thus she sought out Razorback to trade them for lesser value in the interim for the four of us to continue living on. If you perchance happen to be knowledgeable on such weapons, I would be willing to trade at equal value for their worth." Pausing to tilt her head back, a cold half-scowl creases her lips. "By my estimates more than a quarter of which will be used to acquire vital supplies for my mistress's continued naivete."
  281.     Pareidolia stares at the pair across the conservatory from behind his red mask lenses, shaking his head slightly. His sidelong glance at Astra turns face to face as she stands up. “For some humans, yes. Others actively seek to cause it. Few understand the source of that danger comes from humanity as a group.” He makes an incredulous expression as his mask affords him the luxury. “Useful against the weak willed and unaware.” Noting the cart being pulled to another bed of plants, he follows keeping his distance from the flora. He furrows his brow as she continues. (23 firearms? How? A leak? Other humans? Former master...?) “I am willing to examine these weapons and see if I can appraise them, but I would need to know how and where you acquired them in order to make an informed decision.”
  283.     Finally catching notice of the pair, Astra lifts a hoof in return, focusing back only @Pareidolia with a raised eyebrow. "There are many words our former master identified that normal ponies do not enjoy hearing: exploitation, change, war, industrialization. These things, and many more, your species are far too easily led into. While humans may be on this world now, it must be said that it will not belong to them. For so long as this is known there may be quiet, perhaps peace as well, even if some have hardened their hearts." Eyes closing and offering a small, openly amused smile, the chartreuse mare lifts her shoulders in a mock non-chalant manner. "It was worth a try. Your reaction was cute in it's own way, reminds me of flustered unicorns spotted holding hooves when they thought nopony could see."
  284.     Moving onwards into either an eatery, or considerably more likely, planting beds to keep certain forms of grass from being eaten, Astra tosses a critical eye towards the water pump, then unleashes the water nozzle on full, breaking into a half-trot. "Since the first instances of human arrival in Canterlot, wanderers, hermits, research and excavation teams as well as others across Tallus have come across humans, most already deceased, some were in the process of becoming deceased, several were fortunately given mercy before succumbing to wounds or worse. The lone sane Naghtmare that dares to wander the First Valley brought back what was left of a human over two years ago, though what killed that one and left it's equipment intact the entire Underground is unwilling to guess at. If you are suspicious of this then I will inform you now that it is unwarranted, all logs, records, and witnesses, save for the Naghtmare, have been carefully scrutinized."
  286.     Pareidolia initially says nothing, allowing a brief period of silence before responding to her jab. “Say what you like. For your sake I hope you are correct about peace.” Turning his head upwards to look at the embedded sunstones, he tries to follow their pattern. (And for our sake I will make that certain. Without protocol action, it will inevitably fail.) He keeps pace with her as she moves the pump to another bed of soil. (She misunderstands the source of the Committee's 'affections'. Better that way.) He nods slowly as she explains the state of the various humans they had recovered. (Failure to form a group. Conditions prevented them. Then Razorback unknowingly set the clock?) “Understood.”
  287.     Noting Astra's wary glance back at the rattling water pump, he looks over it for any noticeable signs of malfunction. (The more human weapons can be removed from access, the better.)
  289.     Maintaining her half-trot around the dome until reaching the exit and dormitory door, Pareidolia's inspection of the sunstones finds numerous astrological and meteorological signs, the majority being well known star clusters, roughly twenty approximations of seasons including a few that weren't Equestrian, and finally a smattering of small, bright glowstones of white, red, and blue spheres clustered around the clear roof. Passing the door itself, Astra halts upon hearing loud clicking from the pump signifying the copper brushes had finally failed for it's last time, turning back to give it a withering scowl. <Kingdom Crystal Pony> "A pair of five Bit Las Pegasus whorses are .. cheaper than this .. thing!"
  290.     Removing the straps from her armor with a high pitched hum and tossing them back, the mercenary snaps her eyes onto @Pareidolia, visibly bristling in a high degree of anger. Holding her gaze for several moments, the chartreuse Crystal pony's expression relents, leaning heavily against the hitch and gazing downwards with a calm sigh. "Before I allow you into my mistress's home, I have something to state. Over the past three years I have learned, perhaps too much of, the human propensity for arrogance, though whether your quiet was indicative of such I do not yet know. If the world history of our former master is close to yours, or the remaining one-hundred and forty-three of Razorback, then there is an eighty or higher percent probability that at least one human will attempt to assume the mantle of tyrant. If it is one form of being that all ponies despise enough to abandon their own country to destroy, it is a vain conqueror, those 'willing' to sacrifice the lives of others to achieve their own ends without lifting a hoof, or finger in this case. The trust of Equestria's ponies is at it's lowest since Dawn fled from the Slayer, yet due to humans causing a fifth and purportedly final occurrence of the Solar Tyrant, Razorback is an unwelcome sight to many. Those in the Crystal Empire are still highly angry at witnessing a human in a blue station wagon, and yes, I know precisely what that is, cause terror, then commit open theft. Allying with Las Pegasus and it's witherstabbing whore of a Matron greatly angered honest beings everywhere. Causing conflict with Stalliongrad, then exacerbating it multiple times, has caused far more to speak against Razorback as a whole; even the nobility are rethinking their formerly accepting opinions. Should Razorback reverse it's trends and prove the worries of ponies wrong more times than they have committed wrongs, some may, and I must stress may, reconsider. However, we have dealt with hundreds of conquerors and tyrants before.. they do not meet quiet ends, that you can be assured of."
  291.     Giving the failed device an annoyed glance, Astra trods around the hitch and cart towards the exit door, tail flicking sideways in an unknown manner. "Come, I will take you to my armory."
  293.     Pareidolia looks back down at Astra with a nonplussed expression as she snaps at the water pump. Seeing her shift a challenging, somewhat hostile gaze onto him, he stares back at her using his mask's neutral expression to its fullest extent. Astra's statement goes on uninterrupted with Pareidolia only rolling his shoulders and briefly balling his hands into fists behind his back. (Will need a -thorough- operation review of past human actions. And an explanation from Kraut...)
  294.     Once she concludes, he replies. “Your explanation is appreciated. I was not specifically aware of the previous damage Razorback has caused, but I know who... caused terror driving that vehicle. His name is Kraut. It seems an apology is required.” He exhales deeply as he follows her. “Your probability estimate is higher than mine by a small margin. Very few individuals within Razorback are capable of seeking dominion over ponies, much less actually interested. I am more concerned with the humans outside of Razorback's ranks. My organization has a longstanding history with my species' propensity for arrogance. That and the topic of this conversation pushed me to recall my thoughts earlier.” (Fair that she suspects me as a potential tyrant. We all share that risk. Committee or not. Much like Norose...)
  296.     Pushing the door open with her nose and holding it with a hoof for @Pareidolia, Astra nudges it closed, then gestures down a long and poorly lit white corridor, small colored signs interspersed throughout it's length. "An apology is all anypony can ask for. We are driven by emotional rationale, particularly when it comes to being wronged. As for that name.." Lifting a hoof to rub her chin, half-transparent chartreuse eyes squint in deep thought. "I do recall my former master stating.. how did he put it? I believe it was something like 'bullshit Kraut space wizard fucking techno-magic' once. It was about a peculiar, small human weapon an explorer team found. He seemed to have a great amount of dislike for these 'krauts', though I do not know the details of why."
  297.     Bodily swiveiling in a quick motion, the mare strides down the corridor at a brisk yet comfortable human walking pace. "I am no unicorn, as such calculations will never become my forte. That number is solely based off what I learned from my former master and in deliberation with the youngest Mareguard I command. Regardless, that is vital knowledge indeed. I have ponifally encountered nine of the other one hundred non-Razorback affiliated humans on Tallus, one of whom concerns me on small matters, though I have heard of two causing no small shortage of disasters for Germaneigh and Ewerup as a whole. Details are limited as we do refuse to have any contact with either while they are at war."
  298.     Turning her head back to offer a rueful, not quite offended smile, the Crystal mercenary's ears twitch in mock-deceptive motions. "Your organization must be like any number my former master knew of. Humans could learn much about adaptation and civility from ponies.. if they tried."
  300.     Pareidolia furrows his brow slightly as he stands off to the side to allow her to pass. (Did they actually succeed in their occult research? Odd failure on our part if we failed to contain Tesla's research in that world. Weapon could prove valuable. A Wardenclyffe gun?) “Likely due to their being blamed for instigating the second World War of that age that humanity had experienced decades after the end of the first.”
  301.     Keeping pace at her side, he tightens his grip on his combat vest as she speaks. (Once again, the Committee is proven correct. Two humans centered on a conflict between...alternates of Germany and Europe. Seeds of war sown by humanity again.) He shakes his head slightly at the pun. Noting her glancing back at him, he turns his head. “In some ways, I am certain it is, and you are correct that if they tried some of them would learn. Most would fail to retain and render it to the next generation. I can only wonder what they would learn from the sheep of Ewerup or unicorns of Germaneigh.” Maintaining his speed, he eyes the colored signs along the corridor as he passes looking for their destination and other relevant points of interest.
  303.     Astra's ears twitch in humored motions passing by the first two signs, the northern reading 'LOG ROOM', the southern 'SEED STORAGE', underneath each a carefully recessed white painted door, the edges solidly reinforced with no visible means of opening it. "Forgive me if I am to be long winded, but I must speak bluntly. Three times the Unclassified Type Eight green skinned human delivered a number of historical volumes from my former master's world. I was most curious of how humans committed themselves to war, so, I read. At first I discovered that we ponies share a, perhaps more barbaric, sense of national pride than humans do, a natural given that in a classical spirit of irony certain lands are far more lush than others while some are utterly barren, without any worth at all. Consider this: a sapient speaking feline of the Elemental Plane of Fire by the name of Kitler was banished for being too bloodthirsty for his pack, and took residence in Germaneigh. Due to his battle honors he has taken majority leadership of Germaneigh, the citizenry voting him in to become their Fuerra, the Burning Heart of Germaneigh, a position above First General but below Prime Prancellor. The young Prime Prancellor himself and an anomalous human of questionable agency are often absent from the Horn's Palace. They are always together, appearing and disappearing at whim with neither rhyme nor reason, yet it was reported they returned on numerous occassions severely injured but kept utmost secrecy as to why or how."
  304.     "Then there is Chamber Knight Still Flower whom is reminiscent of a highly honored human that favored mechanical warfare.. the exact name however is much too difficult for me to pronounce. In Ewerup, Bison Churnhill of the High Rams decreed that it is his sovereign sheeple's duty to reign over the entirety of the continent, but should that occur by flattening Germaneigh and smashing it's citizens across the Horn, he declares that the herd wills it to be so. Then there are the Saxoneigh, a wild tribe of nearly feral blood-drinking and possibly flesh eating pegasi whom have long raided Ewerup. They are rumored to be led by a third human, one that has for lack of a better word somewhat tamed them. How, you may ask? He taught them how to cook. Now, they treat him as divine. In a way, he may very well be! As you can imagine, my master's mirth was endless at the ridiculousness of comparing our worlds. I found the provocations and causes of several wars on his world to be equally funny albeit for different reasons."
  305.     Pausing at the second set of doors, the northern sign was the traditional symbol of pony kitchens: three carrots and a sheaf of hay fries on a plate, the opposite one 'ALCHEMY KITCHEN', Astra sniffing at both briefly before continuing on, a silly smile creeping across her lips. "For the first, one would learn how best to be belligerent, insolent, and to willingly lower one's intelligence by repeated beatings and bleatings. For the second, one would learn xenophobia and of the Evalesdraught.. but would also develop a severe height complex. Germaneighans are purebloods, descendants of the first unicorns, but are one to two hooves shorter than Equestrian unicorns. Ponifally I would prefer the second to win, my reasoning being that the Germaneighans joined in harmony with the gryphons whom flew down from their high roosts upon the Horn, forever proving that regardless of how sentient they are, sheep are obviously a raptors' best prey. Not only that, the Rams have the worst mannerisms of all, butting heads until one passes out to prove authority.. most unclever, I say."
  306.     Walking by a third set of doors, the third was interestingly labeled 'DISSECTION' to the north, the second 'CONTAINMENT', the length of corridor indicating that each of the previous rooms were considerably larger than Spiral's lab. The fourth set was unmarked, though Astra stops at the southern door, tapping it three times, then pushes it open, striding through at her previous pace, passing by sealed wooden doors with names written in each one's language, the predominant script being unicorn. "I have considered what positives the two humans whom are allied to the Empire have brought with them. Their manners have calmed many hearts among the older, more vicious Crystal ponies, yet they have also appeased some of the vindictive younger ponies whom see their parents as overprotective, though I question why one would willingly engage in sex with an alicorn. As I understand their physical abilities render them remarkably powerful and resilient which naturaly allows them to shame all other mares alive for sheer appetite, which has left some to think they are masochists. For the Hive and Lunar faction I know too little, my association with Changelings is unfortunately limited and my contact with batponies involves mango slicings being 'shoved' into places they do not belong."
  307.     Halting at what seemed to be the midpoint of the tunnel in front of a sky blue painted door simply marked 'VANDAL', the Crystal mercenary lifts a front hoof, coughing into it as her face scrunches, placing the same down with an apologetic smile at @Pareidolia. "My apologies for, as he would have put it, 'drowning your brain cells in useful but also unnecessary amounts of information you short horse'." Pressing her ear against the door for a moment, Astra shrugs to herself, then headbutts it open, striding inside the pitch black room and calling over her shoulder. "Allow me a moment to find a glowglobe, there is much debris in here and for whatever reason all the blasted light gems refuse to function."
  309.      Pareidolia continues following Astra deeper into the complex. (Notable door designs. Sliding recessed doors? Similar to human research posts.) As she mentions Anonymous and the history of other nations, his expression darkens behind his mask. (They have classified him too? Designation most likely positive compared to Research's. Damn Class 3's. And he interferes here as well spreading human information... Three factions, all victim to the human presence. The Committee stands witness. New long term objective added: Pacification/elimination of established transmission vector humans.)
  310.     Pareidolia pauses behind Astra to listen for the nearby presence of any ponies in the hall or the two kitchen rooms before saying, “Ridiculous is one word for it.” Moving on as she elaborates on the stereotypes and customs of the two groups, he looks on with interest at the two lab rooms before turning back towards the unmarked set of doors. Entering into a hallway of wooden doors marked with unicorn script and other unknown languages, he feels the pommel of his pinksteel blade for any activity out of curiosity. (All short lived 'positive' benefits. Few of them able or willing to adjust for long term effects. Creating a possible risk with lack of foresight. Will need to be observed.) He chooses to remain silent as she remarks on the effects of Lont and Thrill. Once she reaches the door and enters, he takes a moment to look up at the name 'VANDAL' with a tilt of his mask before taking his tactical flashlight from his vest and attempting to use it to illuminate the interior of the room. [ 1d6+2 = 6 ] < L-Flashlight
  312.     Allowing a clipped, soft Canterlot accent to overtake her rigid Kingdom demeanor, Astra continues into the room, a loud sigh drifting back to @Pareidolia. "Honestly it could be worse for Razorback, might as well be France.. or Prance either way, considering how many conflicts that have been started and left for ponies to pick up. I do not blame you all as a whole, then again, I am not representative of most ponies."
  313.     Touching the pinksteel blade, the metal confirms Pareidolia's suspicions with a barely felt rythmic vibration, though the tiny motions did not seem to indicate any major or severe unnatural activity.
  314.     Clicking the flashlight on, the batteries were still functional, even if they were minorly degraded. Illuminating the chartreuse Crystal mare, she stops to turn her head, half-transparent eyes squinting back, accompanied by a merry smile and her Kingdom accent returning in dry sarcasm. "Thank you, that will save me some time. Flash lights are one device I wished my master had completed his work on. Everypony that travels would make great use of a long lasting directed light which could be attached rather easily, though it is a shame that the Kingdom Engineering Guilds see such designs as minsicule, but, as the Prench say, neigh la vie. Come, my armory is in the back-" <Kingdom Crystal Pony> "Those two had best be done .. torturing her, if I .. .. walk in and they have not yet .. her bones, I will .. rape them myself with .. .."
  315.     With her passage no longer complicated, Astra trudges off muttering angrily towards the back of the room, swervering around heavily laden tables covered in arcane apparatus after arcane apparatus, mostly Empire alchemical equipment, thin layers of dust on each signifiying the projects had been shelved for several months. Interestingly, the closest tables to the door were covered in small, clear vials topped with white crystal corks, the contents of each apparently holding blood samples for analysis, the more visible ones besides being red, green, blue, yellow, and pink.
  317.     “If only others could learn the difference between the actions of a group and the actions of an individual.” Stepping into the room as he takes his hand off the pinksteel, Pareidolia notes the strange vials and looks over them briefly before directing the beam of light forwards again. (Blood samples? Samples from other creatures?)
  318.     Catching up to Astra, he directs the flashlight downwards to illuminate the floor and immediate area before asking, “Vandal. Was that the name of your former master? And was this his room?”
  320.     Winding around tables covered by increasingly unfamiliar Empire equipment, some of the newer ones looked like blood analysis equipment, including a rather large, overly complex microscope, Astra Galus calls back over her shoulder, an amused lilt tinger her voice. "Indeed. He fancied himself a rogue, a silver-tongued master of picking locks and conning goods and services from others, but here he spent little time doing those things. Before the Baronness passed away, he aided her a few times in devising cures for parasites, virii, and bacteria from the Moors, or parasites and bloodborne pathogens from Saddle Arabia, hence what you see all around. After her death he took over most of her work, allowing our mistress to focus on her ow- wait, what is..?" Trailing off in the middle of the room, the Crystal mercenary's head tilts, ears swiveling back and forth in concern.
  321.     Focusing towards the rear of the room, muffled unicorn and batpony shouting occurs, followed by a crash, glass breaking, then a short, angry shriek. Listening in as the noise increases in volume, Astra's cheeks reach an uncommonly bright shade of red, her ears flicking angrily as she squeaks out a short phrase. "Hurry, the armory is this way and my ears cannot take much more of this-" Scurrying towards the opposite side of the lab, the middle cleared of obstructions save for a single, common marble water fountain with a pool underneath. Streaking towards a solid, heavy wooden door set off to the left side of the rear wall, the chartreuse mare batters it open, skidding inside to disappear out of sight.
  323.     Stepping around stacks of unknown equipment, Pareidolia notices the microscope and stops to inspect it as Astra continues. (Largely unused equipment could be acquired for Razorback and personal use. Will need a microscope for research and construction. Analysis equipment currently minimal. Did Vandal have a background in biology and pathology?)
  324.     Pareidolia looks up, shining his light back on Astra as she pauses in time to see her face tinted red. He follows her gaze and shifts the beam of light slightly to illuminate the rear of the room. “What-” Cut off by her sudden departure, he takes a few steps towards the rear of the room and looks towards the source of the sound. Remaining still, he furrows his brow and blinks a few times. (Embarrassed reaction and pony tendency to engage in erotic acts imply something of that nature in that room...) He sighs and shakes his head, making his way towards the now open armory door. (Will need to procure spare lab equipment, preferably -not- recently used from that rear room.)
  326.     Shutting the door after @Pareidolia, Astra slides a heavy bolt sideways, muttering coldly under her breath while several more locking bolts are slammed into place, a series of chimes taking place, much like the ones Naliyna often uses to seal crystalline packages with. <Kingdom Crystal Pony> ".. careless . could at least sell their damned .. .. and .. in the bloody Empire for half what they .. .. this place .. .. .. how dare the .. guild saddle me with such .. filly .. knaves?! I would rather have a .. .. .. or .. .. rut me safely instead of drinking a .. heat potion like it is .. and whorsing themselves around like the .. sluts they are!"
  327.     Throwing her head back with a loud, angry neigh, the chartreuse mare stomps a front hoof, swallowing once, then remaining still and panting for a bit. Sighing once her breathing calms, Astra turns about slowly, clicking past Pareidolia, visibly relieved despite a distant, hollow glare of irritation. "Excuse the interruption and my manners. I have little patience for frivolities. The glowglobes here should work with the door closed, blasted earth pony magic-"
  328.     Ducking under the only table in the center of the room, quite long and covered by numerous sets of gray sheets, the mare taps on something soft, the armory lighting up by a series of shaded lanterns from above. At the least, the layout was rather professional: sets of tall wooden racks, the same type one would expect in a Guard armory to store their selections of weaponry, lined the armory's approximately 30M long walls from end to end, mostly empty save for three. At the end of the room were a cluster of armor stands of the type Bren and her crew send to the Enclave whenever bored, one Warden styled crystal armor, a second composed of haphazardly pieced together creature shells and plates, the third covered by an overly long dull pink robe.
  329.     Pushing a short, padded chair from underneath, Astra climbs onto it, turning around and sitting down heavily, reflexivly blowing a strand of mane out of her face. Humming in a low pitch, the closest sheet is lifted up and folded into a neat rectangle to be placed next to her chair, exposing the kit of what looked to be a World War 1 era Russia soldier, barring the acid burns covering the uniform. "These have been laid out in order of being found. Each was decontaminated and deemed safe to touch. Inspect as you wish."
  331.     Pareidolia steps into the armory as Astra rapidly bolts the door behind him. Hearing her tantrum, he takes a few steps off to the side to avoid her hoofstomping while attempting to feign ignorance. He stares at her making a bemused expression behind his mask. (...Really? Initial conclusion was apparently correct. Excessively emotional reaction.) Seeing her clip off towards the table, he recalls he is supposed to be unaware of the reasons for her fit. “...Is everything alright?”
  332.     As the glowglobes illuminate the room, he turns off his flashlight and stows it away. Looking around the storage room, he notes the large amount of empty space and three likely rejected or forgotten armor sets in the back before focusing on the battle kit in front of him. (World War One. Damaged uniform. Possibly from gas or from native creatures...) He sets to inspecting the individual pieces of the kit, handling them when necessary to determine their condition.
  333. [ 1d6 = 2 ] [ 1d6 = 3 ] [ 1d6 = 5 ] < E.Perception
  335.     Stopping the next sheet from being folded over the table, the Crystal mercenary turns hard, firmly set eyes on @Pareidolia, ears twitching in aggravation. "If you have ever had 'experiences' with less than savory, unprofessional mercenaries that are a CERTAIN kind of pony, those whom often tend to forget their duties when considerably more pressing matters are at hoof to attend to, those certain ponies somehow manage to spend wholly unnecessary amounts of time to indulge in proclivities that should best be saved until certain ponies are not on duty, and another certain pony is recovering in peace.. no. Tonight has been a series of unwanted assaults on my honor, so if you could ignore my pains please do so as they should be dealt with in a manner that does not include you."
  336.     Suppressing a visibly uncomfortable sigh, Astra continues her folding of sheets. Examining the first set of kit in full light, the unlucky Russian, or similar analogue, had been unfortunate to run into either a highly acidic creature or one of the few openly known flora, though the weapons were in excellent working shape. Working through the next twenty sets of varying kits from multiple eras, Pareidolia remains uninterrupted until the chartreuse mare begins removing her armor, directing each piece to the rear of the armory onto an open stand.
  337.     Freed from her confines, Astra turns sideways, flopping onto the cushion without a care, then turns her focus to the table, snoot wiggling in a curious manner. "When you have completed your assessment of those, there will be two white Empire satchels under the end of the table closest to the wall opposite the door. The first will be quite heavy, the second a bit less so. Remove and bring them to the front, from there I will advise you on how to open them."
  339.     With a succinct “Duly noted”, Pareidolia looks over the various sets as Astra unfolds them. He slowly rubs his chin as he walks down the table. (No sets after World War 2. Sets dating back to before the Bronze age. Good that at least not all of the humans that have reached Tallus have been risk factor humans. But was hoping for examples of weaponry native to my time period...) He folds a corner of the sheet under a few of the sets, marking which ones he had interest in on his initial pass.
  340.     Having reached the end of the table, he looks back towards Astra briefly before checking under the table to find the two satchels. Hefting each of them carefully, he carries them back and sets them on an unoccupied portion of the table while waiting for instruction. (Hermetically sealed? Security precautions? What equipment would require this?)
  342.     The first satchel, an unusually hard sided cross between a fairly barreled anti-tank rifle case and a delicate long instrument transport crate, weighed close to a hundred pounds in @Pareidolia's estimation, the second closer to eighty.
  343.     Idly lifting her right front hoof, Astra's lips purse, murmuring a precise, calm recitation of Conclave era words, the first case emitting a snap as it's wards unseal, afterwards focusing her eyes on the human with a severe, cautioning tone. "First, my warning. Before Dawn, previously known as Celestia, brought the first two-hundred humans here, she devised what she called an 'era lock'. As she explained to me it prevents humans from utilizing and even touching equipment from differing eras and worlds. Should a human of the mid-eighteen hundreds touches a weapon that does not exist in their timeline, for example a semi-automatic pistol from the nineteen-thirties, it will quickly crumble into ash and become unrecoverable. As I am no unicorn she did not care to explain further. I cannot tell you the specifcs of what it is, how it functions, what powers this affect or effects, nor whom now controls it. For whatever reason that she herself could not recall, Dawn did not exclude ponies from being able to touch or use such things."
  344.     Jaw clenching tightly once more, the light chartreuse mare's eyes narrow slightly. "My second warning is this: the harm that WILL occur should a human attempt to bend or break this law is most severe. Doing so nearly took Vandal's life thus I suggest the utmost care be taken. You may begin your assessment but remember: touch nothing." Whistling in two high pitches, a single seam on the top and down each side become visible, both halves opening downwards, carefully arrayed inside were two weapons.
  345.     The first was a long, semi-futuristic double-barreled machine gun in olive tan featuring an odd honeycomb cutout design, a large titanium and kevlar harness draped behind it. A double stacked ammunition belt on the left hand side fed into the receiver, the barrels stacked one atop the other, the clear gap between each showing they operated interdependently allowing for linked and uninterrupted chain-fire, reducing fatigue from extended use and improving operational performance. The overall appearance had several distinctly Nazi and American designs merged it: a high quality mechanical bipod, adjustible rear stock, select-fire switch, and optic rails on the top and left side were commonly shared between the two competing analogues. The scope, however, was obviously a high tech digital variant, it's design most likely incorporating select zoom, thermal, and night vision, a small holosight on the left side probably for close range work.
  346.     The second weapon was a long, well built semi-automatic pistol with a small magazine forward of the trigger, a safety lever above, and an LED screen showing the number '45'. Interestingly enough the barrel was rather small, approximately 5MM or so.
  347.     "The armor that one wore is quite heavily damaged and in storage." Briskly rubbing her nose with a knee, Astra's eyes roll over onto Pareidolia with a miffed expression. "The explorer team whom came upon that human was not greeted well. Two researchers, three field explorers, and one Pathfinder died before she could be killed. The Underground is still quite angry about that."
  349.     Pareidolia rolls his shoulders after setting both of the cases down, looking on as Astra chants and disengages the wards. Folding his arms, he nods once as she finishes her warnings. (Seems the Underground is versed in human history and technology to a fair degree, likely from information gathered on human members. Then these weapons must be 'futuristic' compared to the common periods they know...)
  350.     As the second layer is removed revealing the double barreled heavy weapon and the unusual pistol, he leans in closely to examine them. (Nazi and American design patterned weapon on a versatile heavy weapon platform. Harness belt included. Meant to be mounted in aircraft or armored vehicle of some kind? Fire support capabilities. Pistol has a visual ammo counter on the side? Counter productive to provide information to enemies. Unusually low caliber?)
  351.     He looks over at the second, lighter case while responding to Astra. “Target was hostile and could not be pacified? Will their armor be salvaged?” (These weapons will need to be removed from the Underground. One human or human acclimated pony will eventually uncover their construction. Dangerous ideological icons will also need to be removed. Primary risk periods already confirmed. Also need to acquire material to boost morale...) He then gestures to the second case, indicating he was ready.
  353.     Uncaringly rolling onto her back, the half-transparent mare stretches her rear legs out, grunting at the pops from her joints. "Extremely hostile, the human female committed herself to assault upon sighting the explorer team. Neither the Pathfinder nor any of the unicorns knew a Pacify spell, nor could they avoid her superior position. By the survivors' accounts she suffered six elemental lances, four blast waves, and between thirty to forty bolts before the Pathfinder could phase a manabomb inside her. What they could find was salvaged; the legs and half of the upper armor, I believe he called it an 'armored frame' or somesuch, are intact. Vandal touched a piece of the armor during initial investigations, the affect.." Trailing off, Astra's left facing eye rotates onto @Pareidolia after a moment, shaking her head slightly. "Rather, the 'effects' of doing so nearly killed him, of which I would prefer not to speak of. Due to the Underground's continued anger at that incident, among others, I will be destroying most of what is not taken to prevent theft and misuse."
  354.     Performing the same unlocking to the second case, this one was considerably more bizarre in it's appearance. Laid out in the center was a neatly folded red and white Starfleet uniform with two silver pips on the collar, a black beret of some silken material behind it with a set of badges on the brim, none of the four icons on it readily understandable, and a pair of black combat boots without any visible seams, Pareidolia's memory identifying the former owner as a redshirt, more specifically a veteran Sergeant-at-Arms assigned to a starship.
  355.     To the left of the uniform was a bulky set of, at first glance, late era football armor, save the external material being a plasticized ceramic with odd, possibly plasticized titanium plates visible, a helmet behind the set similar to late era SWAT styles, though the visor was a grim matte black, also featuring a tiny mounted light on the left and what was probably a miniaturized communications suite. To the right was a slim, rather simple and comfortable to use looking one-handed weapon: an original Type-1 phaser. Save for the completely blue coloration, next to it was later model type-2 phaser pistol in silver, both showing minor wear from extended Tallus use. Below the uniform was a Type-3 phaser rifle in matte white, black, and red, a digital readout above what would otherwise be a reciever reading "37%" in orange text.
  356.     "The owner of that particular set found himself in the Hegemony close to the Broken Trail, a rather cursed location." Rubbing her nose with one hoof, Astra stretches the other leg upwards, peering at it in mild distrust. "He escaped from there, quite a feat for a human, and submitted to apprehension by the Unitarch. The Hegemony Unitarch is comprised of the best one hundred Rangers and forty mystics drawn from across the minotaur lands. From all accounts he was thoroughly questioned by the Hegemony's leader, or leaders, whichever it may have been at the moment, and released after a day. We do not know the circumstances of death, only that he, to quote: 'served our Clave honorably'."
  358.     Listening carefully to her explanation, Pareidolia nods emphatically. “Good. My Organization would have done the same.” (Relief to find at least some parties following a realistic protocol when it comes to anomalous technology.)
  359.     As the second case's contents are revealed, Pareidolia's head tilts in disbelief for a few seconds before looking back between Astra and the uniform. (…) Kneeling down, he leans in close enough to see the threading on the shirt. (This is ridiculous.) After a full minute of silence, he stands up and sweeps his gaze up and down the room before staring down at the set again. (This world is ridiculous. This should not exist.) He turns and takes a few steps to the right, suddenly pivoting back to see if the Starfleet uniform and standard issue phasers were indeed real. (A -fictional- TV series as another reality? If this means humanity managed to form Starfleet...) He paces briefly in front of the case, gloved hands folded behind his back. (An idealised version of humanity's future actually achieved. Either the Committee was disolved due to lack of necessity, or humanity achieved this on their own.)
  360.     A voice echoes in his memories as he stops and once again shakes his head in disbelief. ('Your greatest enemy is old. Older than us. Intangible. Unknown until it chooses to be known. Understand that your greatest directive, the purpose all of your missions serve at their root is the proliferation and dissolution of ideas. Project Noah was meant for this. Amadeus was meant for this. Your--')
  361.     He sighs and adjusts his mask. “This set is based on a fictional entertainment series common across many different human worldlines. It is based on an ideal that should be impossible. The fact that one worldline managed to achieve this is...” (Fitting that the Underground acquired this. It should be kept here to prevent misuse. The proliferation of -this- human idea is..acceptable.) “You should retain control of this set. It's extremely fitting that an organization such as the Underground holds an item of Starfleet. Your mission statements would be extremely similar.” Raising an arm, he gestures back towards the other arrayed items on the table. “I am interested in acquiring the weapons from the armored human, and the set that has a folded corner. I only require the equipment, dress, ammunition, and primary weapons from the sets with two folds.”
  363.     Gaze drifting onto the opposite wall, Astra's ears flatten in a mix of anger and irritation. "Unlike certain young, soft-hearted, or too curious for their own good fools, I requested immediate destruction of these though the Underground unfortunately decided otherwise. That is, until I forced their hooves by collecting everything and storing it here. Some ponies can, and should, learn a few essential lessons from human contact."
  364.     The light chartreuse mare's eyes raise, then lower, her face tightening in a dumbfounded stare. Briskly rolling back onto her barrel, the mare lifts both hooves to rub the sides of her head, her tone becomes coolly annoyed. "Unbelievable.. Vandal stated much the same. 'A semi-realistic science fiction space opera', as he put it. I refused to watch any of that nonsense, particularly after his overly eager admissions of some childhood dream to explore the stars. I would have considered it foalish obnoxiousness until he wrote a dissertation on how similar pony communalism and the ethical socio-ideology of that one's future are, but to hear another human speak much the same.. head hurts."
  365.     Passing her focus down the table, Astra glances up at the ceiling for several moments, shaking her head with a disdainful sigh. "Fine. I'm going to let my paranoia speak for me this time, so I'll be blunt: I will expect full, prompt payment in gems equal to their value within the nex-" Interrupted by a hoof thumping on the armory door muffledly, a small teleportation circle opens in front of it, dumping a duffel bag in front of it and immediately closing, Astra continuing on nonplussed. " two days. That, however, would be Vandal's collection of weapons, circa nineteen-sixty to two-thousand and two."
  367.     Glancing briefly behind him as the bag thumps onto the floor, he stares at it in an attempt to gauge how full it is before looking back towards Astra. “How many bits' worth of gems would that be? Is that bag another potential item?” He folds his arms, tapping his boot on the floor twice before speaking. “I also do not understand what would be so 'unbelieveable' about what Vandal mentioned. The series is very much real, albeit fictional on our worlds. The majority of human worlds do eventually reach the stars and achieve interstellar flight only motivated by greed instead of idealistic visions of cooperation.”
  368.     Pareidolia then focuses intently on Astra, noting her posture, tone, and body language for indications of her current behavioral and mental state. <Basic Psychological Assessment
  370.     Estimating the size and shape of the duffel bag, a common black sports one that had been expanded beyond it's original size at least twice, it appeared to be virtually stuffed judging by the imprints on it's sides.
  371.     Astra points a hoof at the duffel bag, visibly straining to raise it onto the table. "Ninety-five thousand Bits worth for those, and, if you wish to examine them, yes." The zipper on top is pulled down afterwards, soft sided weapon cases pulled out and placed across the bag, ammunition cases and magazines piled on the inside. Glancing at @Pareidolia, the mare's eyes close halfway, sighing. "To compare, this-" Nodding at the Starfleet officer's equipment. "An improbability of human thought has come into and now become a new reality we must deal with. Though it found a home in the Hegemony, others have left stains on the imprint of our universe."
  372.     Tipping her head to the right, Astra taps her front hooves together, lips pursing in thought for a bit until she speaks. "Consider what would happen should the fictional series 'Another Pony' come true, or the long play named 'A Tail of Ice and Stone', or 'Last Pony on the Moon', each of which are quite terrifying. What is real to the various sections of your omniverse, the one that all humans have been drawn from, has become real to us. This knowledge has challenged, shaken, and damaged the existence of my universe in irrevocable means. Change, as I stated before, is not a word anypony likes to hear, and for every positive one there is at least one negative. The ponies of Tallus are naturally forgiving though that collective patience is worn thin. Even if Dawn was correct, or her concerns proven true, it would still be wrong to cage those humans whom freely accept to abandon their former ideologies and assimilate to Tallus."
  373.     Pressing a hoof to her nose, the Crystal mercenary lifts her shoulders, speaking with a muted, amusement tinged note in her voice. "Those whom do otherwise, the two in Ewerup and Germaneigh for example, will likely be assassinated. None can blame Chamber Knight Still Flower for resorting to such a means."
  375.     Pareidolia balks as the newest set of considerably newer weapons is arrayed before him, nearly all of which were extremely rare or specialized firearms. (How did Vandal acquire all these.. an FG-42, G11..) Walking along the table, he pushes the cases of each of the weapons he wanted out of the arranged line. “Your fears are understandably justified, but if humans have dealt with incursions like those then a species stronger than humans will bear them even more effectively, certainly with help from otherworlders who have faced them before.”
  376.     He looks up from the cases as he walks back towards Astra. “I'd hope you will give Razorback the chance to assist Tallus in adapting to that change. I understand that may be insulting given the conduct of our personnel, but humans are nothing if not earnest in adapting to protect or make right what they value.” Steepling his hands, he turns to face the exit and leans against the table, resting his chin on thumbs. (Assassinated? Possible opportunity?) “If Chamber Knight Still Flower has those plans in place, I applaud her foresight. Though, I thought contact with Germaneigh was cut off due to the war?” (Chance to fulfill Organization goals of removing at risk humans would be rewarding. Equipment acquisition first...) Pareidolia rolls his shoulders as he stands up, pointing a thumb back towards the foyer as he turns to face Astra. “I noticed there was a fair amount of unused research equipment outside. Do you still have any need of the microscope or other analysis instruments?”
  378.     Flashing an unreasonably cold smile towards @Pareidolia, Astra's ears swivel forwards, her body language indicating a mixture of malicious humor and low level distrust. "You do not understand my meaning. As a general rule, ponies see humans in three manners: on the inner spectrum half see your species as slow, fumbling Constructs whom will inevitably create another Ruined Isle to protect and isolate themselves. At the center spectrum a quarter have compared humans to the Vortex, a theme which has so far fit given Razorback's relatively lawless patronage via Las Pegasus. At the outer edge the last quarter equate humans with the wretched being that forced the Dynasty into existence, a blindingly chaotic self-obsessed horse whom left naught save shame, disgrace, and ruin across Equestria. I will allow one guess as to which of those I believe."
  379.     Eyeing the selected cases, the mare's ears twitch in open curiousity, turning to shake her head at the opposite end of the armory. "Four hundred thousand. To be blunt yet again, for every one hoof ponies have extended with good will, the other stretches forwards to hopefully stamp out yet another plague. The Kra`ken were barely tolerated for their coldly aggressive ways, the Shrikes hunted to hopeful extinction by the Crystal ponies, the Ethereals too have returned en masse and they will be given their own ultimatum in time. Yet, the dragons settled with us quite contently, taking many disaffected under their wings, however, Constructs have once more been sighted in the stars. In short, humans have only added to a growing list of aggravations. Eventually it will come to pass that the average pony must say: 'adapt peacably, or not at all'. We are tired of being insulted and spurned, minimized for what we evolved from and what we are now. Make of my words what you will."
  380.     Stretching out over the chair, Astra cuts herself off mid-yawn, right eye rolling back with a distantly annoyed air. "Seventy-five thousand for the other set, that one would have made an impressive museum piece. must understand that it is typical for a Germaneighan to speak such a plan publicly. While most ponies would think doing so is stupid, Still Flower's goal is to inspire enough fear to cause those two fools to cease their actions. Should they not, Fuerra Kitler would be most happy to give up a paltry few Ear-Marks from Germaneigh's coffers to make them disappear. Only a unicorn could make such a forward leap of logic, and only an elemental like him would accept the consequences. The situation is quite interesting to state the least. Off hoof that news is perhaps two weeks old, I would not be surprised in the least if both are dead by now, Saddle Arabia's assassins are quite efficient, or so I have learned."
  381.     Head swiveling halfway around, the mercenary tips her head, ears focusing towards the door for ten seconds, sighing aftewrards. "We are in the process of transferring the Marquis' own equipment from storage to here, so I do not.. ..that damned song again. Bloody minded mare, listen to something else for a change. To answer your question, no, though those are all of Empire manufacture, thus not cheap."
  383.     Pareidolia crosses his arms and slowly taps a gloved finger against his side. (Population opinion of humans lower than originally anticipated. Positive benefit for establishing Committee cells. So long as they do not integrate or eliminate humans, current protocols will be sufficient. Given history of human presence on Tallus, their reaction is understandable. Without Committee control, humans will disperse in that pattern with high probability.)
  384.     Nodding in agreement at her scathing remarks, he says nothing in response though he does straighten slightly as she remarks on Germaneigh's political intrigue. Hearing her pause, he follows her gaze as her head and ears turn to track something in the next room, and he strains to identify it. “...She is listening to music?” His brow furrows briefly as he looks at the door before turning back. “Construct hulls will not analyze themselves. How much is the microscope?”
  386.     "As I thought, your silence agrees with me. The correct answer to my facetious question is none of the above. I am a botanist before a mercenary, a professional before ever being an average rumor mill lover, but above all, I am an educated Crystal pony. With that said, my position is simple: I desire to see Razorback in excellent hoofing with the Empire, however-" Shifting one foreleg over the other, Astra Galus relieves her own serious tone with a considerate smile at @Pareidolia. "There is the matter of a certain station wagon driver to deal with first. Relations would be considerably better had that incident not occurred, though that is out of my hooves."
  387.     Nodding once, the Crystal mercenary mutters a low toned command, the five locking bolts lifting, then gestures with a hoof to push the door open as an unfamiliar song plays. "Every night without fail, the same bloody song. The irony of my words will quickly make sense to you."
  389.     Through the crack, the twanging of an equally unfamiliar guitar begins, then comes a dry male voice in a monotone cant, the batpony mercenary singing along in an equally monotone, yet somehow near-angry, stiff and formal voice. Lifting her shoulders hopelessly, Astra tips her head back, nose twitching from side to side while her eyes rove across the line of tables. "I would disadvise studying Constructs. There is little to be acquired save for reprisal from them should it be found that you were in possession of one. As for the microscope, consider it a gift from the Empire."
  391.     Pareidolia briefly peers out of the doorway into the darkness, furrowing his brow as he leans back into the Armory. (Distinctly human song. Probable staff relation to Vandal? Learned from other human contacts? Pattern matches 'post-punk' genres from archived music libraries. Specific sub-genre unknown. More cultural transfer between humans and ponies. Possible transmission vector? Low risk.)
  392.     Turning around to face Astra again, he looks over the now repackaged weapons as she continues. He stares at her for a moment before replying “Your advice and the gift are appreciated. Razorback will repay it in kind when possible.” (Too late to avoid involvement with the Constructs. The reasons they attacked the Citadel are still unclear.)
  394.     Lifting a hoof and lazily pointing at the two Empire cases, sealing them with a brief hum, Astra turns her eyes up, a smile of something akin to satisfaction crossing her lips. "Most of us, that is, older Crystal ponies, are more than happy to be one of Razorback's allies. The peculiarly orderly and self-obsessed nature of Stalliongrad, the dismissive attitudes of Canterlotlians, the haphazard social ritualism of Saddle Arabia, and the anarchic nature of Las Pegasus are anathema to us. We are both entities existing amidst tides that should by all rights be destroyed by the forces surrounding us. The Empire represents stable chaos, and, now, so too does Razorback." Flatlining the smile into a scowl, the mare's ears flick in plain warning. "Excuse the crude relationship themed pun, I have been spending too much time around that damned batpony."
  395.     Clearly attempting to ignore the music selection, Astra turns her attention to bundling the remainder of the chosen weapons and kits together, carefully wrapping each item in a single sheet, though is interrupted by a familiar iron doorway plopping down onto marble next to her, the mare's expression turning black. Newly painted white door opening, Anon, for once in a casual black and white dinner suit, strolls through, right hand carrying a thick, ancient tome of some sort, the left casually tossing a thin silver disc onto the table close to @Pareidolia. "Here, took a bit to make these ones work, should be much better than the bronze ones. Same rules as the other one, except now you have two chances. Now, as for you-"
  396.     Staring down at the Crystal mare, the green humanoid bends down over her, the two holding their respective gazes for a tense moment before Anon reaches out to place the tome on top of her head, then scratches under her chin, Astra grinning quickly. "You finally found it, Unclassified Type Eight Threat. How many worlds were pillaged during your search?"
  397.     Retrieving a brand new smartphone from the vest pocket, Anon sighs heavily, tapping the screen once. "More than I care to talk about, but yes, I did. Anything else you want to conmare me into?"
  398.     Lifting a hoof and affixing it to the book, Astra places it under her chair, head tipping with a mock sweet smile. "Perhaps not now, though I will retain my previous two threats, retract the first three, and simply ask of you to clear those death traps in the main laboratory. I would very much like my ponial space back."
  399.     Turning the offended expression on his mask onto Astra, Anon lifts his free hand to make an angry cutting motion, then orients on Pareidolia, the question mark on the mask hardening. "Don't try that shit with me again sister, you know I bring items here, not remove them! You! You get this damned mare off my back by taking one of those fucking cars!" Flipping the bird to Astra, whom simply giggles, Anon storms into the portal, wavy lines of anger fuming off his mask as the door slams.
  400.     Rolling her ears in amused victory, the Crystal mercenary sighs in a happy fashion, then turns eerily hopeful eyes onto Pareidolia. "Such a fun being to torment. would not be averse to acquiring a vehicle, would you? Ponies cannot drive you see, and I have little idea what to do with several tons of Otherworldly scrap."
  401. [ 1d6+3 = 7 ] [ 1d6+3 = 9 ] [ 1d6+3 = 8 ] <E.Negotiation
  403.      Pareidolia splays his hands out on the table, leaning against them and watching the cases while Astra continues. (...Razorback represents something much worse.) Shaking his head, he replies. “Your description is accurate. Razorback is very much an entity that should not exist. And your pun was not made for the sake of humor, so it is acceptable.” He curls his fingers into fists and taps them both against the table before pushing up to right himself. Suddenly seeing a doorway appear in his field of vision, he attempts to snap his rifle forward to bear while taking a step back, but seeing Anonymous stops him mid-motion. (-! ...More interference?)
  404.     “Class 3 'Anonymous'...” He mutters behind his mask as a polished silver disc slides across the tabletop to him. Eyeing the disc briefly, he reaches out and pockets it while focusing on Anonymous. (Another delivery here? And a 'Type Eight Threat'? Different nomeclature classification. Working relationship with any Class 3 is tenuous.) He warily notes the exchange between the two, keeping his distance from the green masked man and only staring at him when he turns to him. (Cars?)
  405.     Turning his head to face her after the man departs, he slowly rolls his shoulders. “I have many questions about your interactions with that Class 3 being.” (...Opportunity to remove human models of transportation and possibly increase Armory options welcome.) He exhales through his mask before adding, “And no, though it will depend on its condition and make.”
  407.     Leaning forwards to peer under her chair briefly, Astra pushes herself up to a sitting position, sending the bundles one by one next to the door. "I would have the exact same questions to ask of you. As far as I can ponifally confirm the green one is specifically supporting humans to the exclusion of ponies, yet it is my professional opinion that he is a rather neutral entity in most affairs, except for his pro-human alignment. He presents a paradoxical Type Eight Threat in that his limited temporal manipulation field is a Class Seven, below that of most dedicated mages, sorcerors, or the alicorns, and has abnormally high access to certain spheres of influence, namely the alicorns and leaders of most countries. However in his own words he refuses to interfere in civil, cultural, and political matters, further reinforced by a statement to me that he has an anomalous, unsubstantiated feeling of separation when in the presence of ponies, neither hindering nor preventing interaction."
  408.     Frowning in mareish annoyance, Astra collects the pale brown tome once more, balancing it on her head as she slides off the chair, lfiting her shoulders briefly. "Save for the disaster that is Prome, but I know next to little of that mess." Sliding towards the door and pulling it open, the mare's eyes roll menacingly at the song playing. [Kingdom Crystal Pony] "One more pun about .. .. and I will .. her to my wall." Sighing, Galus swivels her head to offer @Pareidolia a small nod, then strides out the doorway at the same comfortable pace as before. "Come along, I will show you to, as Vandal called it, the garage."
  410.     Pareidolia steps aside to allow her to pass, looking over the Armory and selected bundles before following her out. “Based on my Organization's assessment criteria, 'Anonymous' would fall under a Class 3 designation out of a zero to four range. From what you have described, that ranking system will have little meaning to you as it is from an entirely human species perspective. My interactions with him have been sporadic, but I would be more comfortable if he did not freely interfere with human affairs when he sees fit even if his contributions are seemingly helpful. Providing ammunition, supplies, 'wish discs', and intervening if called for. You most likely know more of him than I do.”
  411.     Looking around the dark foyer as he keeps behind Galus, he tilts his head after hearing her angry muttering. “Is that the only song your company has access to...?”
  413.     Watching the dark chartreuse batpony skipping through the tables, tossing functional glowglobes on random ones from oversized sling packs, the tune ends, quickly replaced by high intensity rave music, Astra taking on a smugly humored expression. " music? Really? If this were Manehattan.. no, it does not mean much to me. The Underground's threat ranking system is rather complex, the previous Indexes failed to account for numerous margins of error. I do not know it well."
  414.     Halting in the center of the slowly brightening lab, Astra visually searches the collections of esoteric Empire equipment, a light wooden crate lifted with a low pitched hum. "The green one's motives, if he even has any, are minimal at best. Barring an unusually principled honesty, there is little he will not answer save for his origins, which I suspect to be embarrassing. He has willingly spoken of the strange bets he has made with certain city and country leaders, the alicorns, and even Discord, yet what I find most strange is his role as a trans-omniversal courier. I questioned where his acquisions come from once, he replied that when 'certain things' go missing on other worlds he has a chance to obtain them and has even managed to acquire several vehicles before their destruction. He seems to be directly employed via the existence of humanity, but is an otherwise passive individual with fine tastes and a severe interest in voyeurism. By the way, never ask to see what is on his phone, much of it is.. obscene to state the least."
  415.     Visibly shivering for several moments, Astra pauses, sighing defeatedly @Pareidolia's question before sliding towards the entrance, floating the crate in front of her. "No, not at all, that first one is her favorite." Reaching the door and pushing it wide open, the mercenary mare turns right with an irritated snort, clicking down the dim hallway. "As a whole the Underground has discovered much allure in certain forms of human music, particularly those with calming or exciting rythyms, though what annoys us all is this 'copyright protection' contrivance. I can acknowledge the usefulness of a patent to protect one's discovery, though even that would wear down any pony's patience within a few days. To counter that irritance a project was started by several of my kin here to understand what electronic data is, how it functions, and if it is possible to reverse adapt digital media to Crystalline technologies such as our hololith, but unfortunately without Vandal's electronic knowledge and my mistress's continued mental decline I do not think it will progress further. At the very least I did learn how to replace wiring with liquid-state crystalline gels, though the first stereo player exploded when I miscalculated the amperage from a small one-stage crystal."
  416.     Nearing the end of the hallway, Astra whistles in a high tone, clopping through the dissolving illusion into a quickly brightening former flood control room, now an impromptu garage. Setting down the crate, Astra gestures with a hoof to nine mostly intact land vehicles, four covered by blue tarps in the rear, three motorcycles of various eras, a partially damaged semi-modern armored fighting vehicle of some sort, and a light tracked tank. "As a matter of convenience I 'acquired' a medium translocation disc and had it installed in the center. There is however no ventilation here, thus you could exit through the flood tunnels to Lower Canterlot if preferred, but otherwise please take your time."
  418.     Pareidolia shakes his head as Astra details Anonymous' list of interferences. (As expected, numerous incidents across time and space. Cannot be trusted despite current benefits. Humanity needs an existence bound to themselves. No gods. No higher powers. Cannot be controlled if these conditions are not met. Will need to watch for eventual betrayal of interests. Will not be able to downgrade from Class 3 due to his powers...)
  419.     He firmly nods once as she mentions his phone. “I am familiar with the nature of cosmic horrors. The stars held many.” Following her out of the lab, he feels for the music player in one of his vest pockets. (Fascination with human music...? Transmission risk is...-attempts at adapting digital media?) “If you require electronic knowledge, equipment, or music I may be willing to collaborate depending on the extent of your project. Even in my time, corporations still attempted to maintain electronic protection on files that would eventually be bypassed.” Stopping before the illusory wall, he peers in as the wall fades taking stock of the arrayed vehicles. His shoulders droop slightly at the utter lack of any bipedal, quadrapedal, or anti-gravity based transports before he moves to inspect the VBL. After a brief glance over towards the BMP, he taps the hood of the recon car twice indicating his decision. (Civilian vehicles not needed. Razorback requires more requisition with as little overhead work as possible.)
  421.     Eyeing the tome still balanced on her head, then @Pareidolia, Astra's tail lashes once in a clearly snide motion. "He is no cosmic horror, merely his perverse tastes. I have confirmed what he is not: Abomination, Eldritch, Planar, Spectral, nor Undead traces mark him, leaving the only other classifcations as Otherworldly or Extra-Planar. The instinctual portion of my consciousness feel that he cannot be Extra-Planar in nature, his methodology is too plain, open, sincere, and his abilities can be defeated or prevented. The more rational portions do not know what yet to think, save for being indebted to my mistress and thus upholding my former master's original deal."
  422.     Leaning sideways, the light chartreuse mare's eyes flicker in deep thought, shaking her head with a small huff. "To own such works of art and refuse to share.. unthinkable. Unfortunately I've little contact with my kin quartered across the city as they are, it is a difficult section of flood tunnels to navigate through. Several escaped creatures inhabit the drainage cylinders and the Underworks is still partly damaged from last year's ice buildup, then there is the loose, aggravatingly evasive Naghtmare. Most annoyingly, nopony, not even myself, can notice before it flees. Even Winter herself has been unable to locate it and for an infuriatingly active horse with wings she should do a better job of containing her reborn kin. Regardless, if I do come across one of their number I will ask if they would accept aid."
  423.     A muted click takes place from behind as the illusion reforms, Astra's ears twitching while a curiously hard set eyebrow raises, lifting the crate into the air with a droll hum. "That motion I know quite well. When he went by the name of Truce his wish for a painting from a series titled 'Sunflowers' failed. A week of moping ensued.. not even consider doing the same or I will be forced to sing."
  425.     Pareidolia's head turns briefly at her remark. “Any non-human creature with reality manipulating powers of some degree that has an interest in, interferes with, or involves themselves in human affairs to that degree is considered some variant of a cosmic horror to my Organization. A force that needs to be addressed to allow for humanity to develop free from the influences of any higher beings, demi-gods, gods, or otherwise. An endless struggle to face the existence of beings beyond our home planet. A similar scenario is underway here on Tallus.”
  426.     Stepping back from the VBL, he turns to stare at her as she offers a confusing response. (...What?) “Paintings? Mopping-and singing? What do you think tapping the hood of a vehicle twice means? I was indicating which vehicle I was interested in. What did this 'Truce' do?” He tilts his head in confusion as he crosses his arms. (Yet another human that was under their employ? Just how many...)
  428.     Humming a brisk, cheery tune to herself, the Recon's armored driver door is pulled open, Astra guiding the crate inside and presumably setting it in the back seat. "As I stated before this is not your world, nor is it a world that humans would readily be allowed to occupy. Without Celestia of Spring few plants would grow, and estrus would not occur to ensure that more ponies are born to continue the legacies. If Cadence of Summer did not live little would grow to completion nor would there be such varieties of healing as exist now. Were Chrysalis of Fall not here there would be no time to enjoy the seasons nor could we understand our histories so well, and should Luna of Winter not have arrived there would be no snow to amuse ourselves with, nor would glaciers form on mountain peaks to water the lands later. Ours is a cycle that necessitates many higher beings whom are not only accepted on Tallus but are required for it's continued existence. Perhaps the true fallacy of humans is attempting to destroy those whom created their species. Of course, perhaps they have merely forgotten their deities and have been, or are being, punished for such. Whom can truly say that humanity is better off without a matron, or patron, to kneel before?"
  429.     Sitting down lazily, a gently chiding smile creases the mare's lips, lifting a hoof to her chin while her ears splay sideways in an unknown motion. "Crystal ponies are highly sensitive to the moods of others, human. Disappointment is what you felt though I cannot firmly state why, I merely sensed it. As for Truce it was another name that my former master went by for a short time. Much like the rest of his names, each only lasted as long as it amused him, then he would allow it to be changed, dictated solely by the events he was involved in. A rather strange occurrence, I must say, to allow one's name to be changed by selfish whim or the will of another. Cute, but strange all the same."
  431.     While listening to Astra's rebuttal, Pareidolia leans his back against the VBL and rolls his shoulders. He raises his eyebrows in amusement, adjusting the chin of his mask as she explains the necessary existence of the Sisters using seasonal titles. Holding up a hand and bowing his head as she finishes, he says “Yes, you are correct. Tallus' current system requires such beings to exist and they have been integral to the success of ponies. I and others from my world understand that there are many non-human systems that make use of such beings. Our position is more one of preferred non-interferrence and action only when other less direct alternatives have been exhausted, assuming the being is not hostile towards us. Otherwise, Organization policy dictates minimizing contact for the safety and independent development of both humans and the species of contact. Sentient species should develop with as little input towards and from humans as possible.”
  432.     He pauses to look over the garage before continuing, “Your previous mention of the possibility of humans isolating themselves would frankly be an ideal scenario, but humans are already too entrenched, too involved in Tallus' affairs to remove themselves without damaging the established development of your species' ecosystem. If humanity ever had a deity or patron, I am certain they learned to distance themselves long before we evolved civilization. Ponies have never encountered a species like us, so I can understand why with their past experience with other foreign intruders they would believe themselves capable of managing the results. Though some among you seem to have realized the danger, Spiral among them.”
  433.     Sighing through his mask, he pushes off the VBL and walks to the open side door to check for the crate in the back. “Your Mistress would agree I'm sure, that minimized contact beyond carefully managed trade with humans would be beneficial for both parties.”
  435.     Poking at the marble flooring with her front hooves, Astra's nose begins to twitch in constant irritation, the acrid scents of gasoline and diesel leaking in through @Pareidolia's mask. "The New Everfree has little in the way of safety, nor is the soil rich enough to grow much, and the various megafauna will not be concerned by mere walls or ranged defenses. Without aid from the Moors, Lunar faction, Empire, and Hive, Razorback is doomed. Your species, which currently counts three females to every one hundred males, will cease to exist irregardless of the ten or so humans whom will continue to arrive each year, which does not take into account those humans whom die or are killed and subsequently replaced by another human from an entirely different world. Any organization that would declare humans to isolate themselves on a foreign planet is assuredly not one that truly cares for the well being of it's own species. Isolationism on Tallus is a slow suicide. The inherent flaws of such a problem are simple, the solutions.. neither difficult nor complex."
  436.     Tipping her head back, the Crystal mercenary frowns, eyebrows raising in expressive distaste. "Ideal for many ponies perhaps, not so for humans, yet whether or not that is understood has little bearing on the now. Without the potential of offspring Razorback will cease to exist, so would you prefer humans to simply die out in a protracted manner, or would you prefer to see your kind adapt to us without bias, rancor, or sentiments held from your own worlds? If it were up to me, I would choose the second. Forcefully, if need be." Finding the crate haphazardly stuck at a high angle on the back seat, Pareidolia notes a number of standard military ammunition containers scattered around the inside along with multiple dark red stains, notably around the machine gunner's access hatch. Snorting loudly in an offended manner, Astra pushes herself backwards, rear hooves making small circles in the air. "Before having a leg and shoulder fractured, no, she would not have agreed. At this very moment? Save for ripping one of Silver's descendants apart and severely punishing whichever humans aggravated the situation, I have no idea what her thoughts are, though those two in particular appeal to my mercenary instincts-"
  437.     Glancing up at the recon vehicle, the half-transpart chartreuse mare cracks a mildly sinister smile. "But not my mareish ones. The irony here is that taking lawful retribution against those humans and that creature masquerading as a pony would cause further provocation. As my former master once said: 'great job fucking this up for us hero'."
  439.     (Stains from use. Will need to be washed.) Pushing on the armored frame, Pareidolia steps away from the vehicle and makes his way to where Astra sits. He seats himself cross legged a respectable distance away and silently listens, eventually tilting his head in confusion. He holds this puzzled pose briefly before looking down and laughing briefly to himself, “Keheh!” (What a foreign thought process. Definite value in risk vector resistance.)
  440.     Raising his head to face Astra, he says, “'Your species will cease to exist without the potential of offspring... Would you prefer to see your kind adapt without bias, rancor, or sentiments...' Forcefully, even'.” His shoulders shake once, supressing a cough-like laugh. “What makes you think the majority of humans have any sense of species preservation or responsibility? Those that congregated at Razorback live for the simple pleasures of combat, food, drink, and escaping the duty they do not realize they have in being a human on any non-human world. Their lifestyle is naturally self-deprecating, mutually destructive, and that is exactly what they want. Even those that start relationships or families do so for their own satisfaction, not for the sake of the human species. Most live and die shirking any greater sense of duty or purpose other than what is immediately in front of them.”
  441.     Sighing deeply, he interlocks his gloved hands and rests his arms across his knees. “It is impossible for humans to adapt without bias and sentiments from their origins. At least, most humans who are brought here cannot separate themselves from it. They do not know how, or do not want to. Even those who do integrate will never do so fully or cleanly. They will carry indelibly human pieces with them that inevitably corrupt everything they encounter. Ponies with your exceptional capacity for collectivist thinking and species based unification would be exploited by humans who see this as a weakness, and inadvertently harmed by those who join you in good faith. It's already happened numerous timesIt's already happened numerous times within Razorback.”
  442.     He chuckles again, the sound muffled by the mask. “It's not so much isolationism as it is an ideally cautious First Contact Protocol. Different from the isolationist states you are familiar with. Controlled, managed human interaction at all levels of contact. Forceful, if need be. To be honest, speaking with you has reminded me of how only a few small divergences in development led to our current states. You, who are willing to go to great lengths to ensure what you believe to be the best form of integration for a species you choose to value, and my human Organization who would go to equal lengths to ensure the safest form of filtered contact for the sake of species other than ourselves.”
  443.     Leaning backwards, he splays his palms behind him and glances upwards. “Without Organization manpower and resources here though, my ability to affect even one other human will be limited, so in the end your ideal scenario of human and pony interaction will most likely occur. We are not ponies. That seems to be the source of friction here. Integrating us with Tallus' society will not change that.”
  446. *****
  447. Sunny Feathers
  448. >continued from:
  450. "I assume it's a sample, it wouldn't be the first time recipes for concoctions were shared this way."
  451. >Eyeing the tube, Sunny quietly dared it to come alive again.
  452. >To prove she wasn't losing her grip on reality.
  453. >Incarceration in a padded cell wasn't her idea of rest and relaxation.
  454. "I could be mis-"
  455. >Out rolled a scroll.
  456. >Well.
  457. "-taken. There you have it then. She seemed nice and maybe I like paying for things if for no other reason than to annoy you charitable-type merchants for my own amusement."
  458. >No way?
  459. "I swear to honest sun that she was a seal, flippers, whiskers and smooth silky coat."
  460. >...
  461. "At least I think it was smooth and silky, I didn't stop to check."
  462. >She was definitely a seal, unless she was hallucinating.
  463. >Considering the talking drakescale tube and how she thought she was a cat, that might be the case.
  464. >Assuming the bag of Bits was payment, even though she considered the option of brewing a more powerful variant of Torch payment enough, Sunny used her wing to plop the bag on her back.
  465. >Accompanied by an annoyed ruffle of her wings.
  466. >Grateful, but annoyed.
  467. "New town like Still Peak? They'd definitely welcome the trade..."
  468. >Hmm.
  469. >Sunny's train of thought suddenly found itself derailed onto another line of thinking.
  470. >Concerning certain cargo.
  471. >Hefting the bag of Bits again, the mare continued.
  472. "You wouldn't happen to have a shovel laying about that I could borrow? Or rent? There's something I've been meaning to dig up all week."
  473. >She took a moment to appreciate just how much she resembled a pirate at that moment.
  474. >Truthfully, the box might be better off where she could keep an eye on it rather than having it buried out in the wilderness.
  475. >Factually, she was paranoid.
  476. >Regardless, she'd been meaning to move it for months.
  477. >The other two recipes could keep for a short while.
  478. >Some explanation may be required or she'd be at risk of being thought of as a legitimate pirate.
  479. >As amusing as that would be, she'd never hear the end of it.
  481.     As if on cue, an eye amidst the scale-wrapped tube opens, a forked lizard tongue flicking out the end at Sunny rather quickly, though barely avoids being cut off by Naliyna popping the lid back on, retracting before more could be seen.
  482.     "Ever since the bas- rather, ever since THEN, I've heard exactly two rumors that seals were still around, but not much else. Since I'd never heard of Still Peak before now, I take it this means they settled there recently. Makes sense though, they were often just as lazy as the average dragon.. if not lazier."
  483.     Tossing quizzical eyes upwards at the odd question, the Crystal mare sits back, nodding towards the west end of her table with an exasperated sigh. "Yup! There's a pair of hoof shovels stuffed under there on that end. Go ahead and use them, but bring them back when you're done, some of the mercenaries here swear there's treasure in the forest and they can't seem to bother getting a set for themselves."
  485.     Sunny Feathers shoots an amused glare at the tube and its 'tongue' before returning her attention to Naliyna, "Late seemed friendly and energetic, the opposite of lazy in my honest opinion, but I can't say that I'm an expert. I didn't even know Seals existed until I met her." At least intelligent ones, she thought. Shuffling around and unearthing one of the hoof shovels, Sunny rolled her eye, unseen by Naliyna and silently wished she had a shovel with a little more leverage, but contented herself with a hoof shovel, as strange as she found them.
  486.     "Not in the forest actually, I buried a few things in Saddle Arabia a couple years ago and I figure Razorback's a safer place for it now than keeping it under a few feet of dirt in the jungle." The mare paused and flicked an ear uncertainly, she realised she probably shouldn't have blurted that out, but it was too late to take it back now. Hoofing the shovel into her muzzle to carry it as an excuse to keep from talking further, Sunny mumbled an awkward farewell around the shovel with vague wing gestures to indicate she'd bring the shovel back in one piece, and not covered in Pegasus saliva. With that, she trotted over to the translocation stone and punched in the runes to get her close to the Saddle Arabian jungles, she'd have to try and recall the topography when she got there.
  488.     "Well.. hm. I don't remember what they were like Sunny, it's been too long, but if you come across any more species that've decided to come back, I'll probably have a bunch more work for you to do. Ponifally, I thought all the seals disappeared like the harpies and basilisks did." Naliyna's face suddenly contorts, as if she'd just bitten into a horrifically unripe lemon, lifting a front hoof to grind onto the Star Court's for-sale list that had been read earlier. "Or the Shrikes.. if I hear THOSE things are still around I'm going to demand a Concordium alliance to wipe them all out."
  489.     Nose twitching upon hearing the word 'jungle', half-transparent ruby eyes alight on you with equal parts concern and amusement. Mostly amusement though. "Really. Saddle Arabian jungle? I'm not gonna say that was a bad idea, but it probably wasn't the best choice. Then again, all those Daring Do books say there's nothing more than giant spiders everywhere, snakes everywhere the spiders aren't, legions of leeches wherever there's a drop of water, and billions of mosquitos the size of butterflies, not to mention the hundreds of weird tentacle monsters that can't possibly be real, otherwise Sweet would've found them all by now."    Shifting her eyes to the right at a loud noise from the south, Naliyna nods dismissively as she stands, flashing a quick, secretive grin in your direction. "Before I forget, you owe me me a nose bump when you get back!"
  490.     Stepping onto the Vortex Remnant's stone, it immediately decided that Sunny weren't leaving for business, and gave the usual treatment: upside down, left side out, vertigo in places that weren't friendly, and wondering why she even bothered to travel this way.
  491.     Passing through the irritable stomach-veins, or whatever represented the Vortex's myriad system of interconnected tunnels leading across Tallus, the ever so welcoming nausea of translocation ends as abruptly as the appearance of bright, eye-searing sunlight. As Sunny struggles to adjust to the miniature suns dancing across, around, inside, and around her eyes, telltale dark greenery forming a caopy overhead begins coming into her view, along with the typical, slightly eerie quiet of a jungle recognizing an intruder's arrival.
  493.     Sunny immediately works to gain her bearings, calculating the angle of the sun and judging the quality of its light to determine north. Once figured out, Sunny moved to one of the larger trees, running a booted hoof over the bark. Scratch marks barely present from her previous visit. Another year and she wouldn't have been able to find it, it would be difficult enough trekking through the thickets knowing the way, let alone having to figure out the path again with all the nasty stuff jungles tended to have lurking within them.
  494.     The blades slid out of her hoof boots at a mental command as she began her ascent, occasionally using her wing blades as extra climbing implements, making her way to a gently swaying branch she knew would break the canopy, all while keeping her senses alert. The jungle did not welcome her and she knew it.
  495. [ 1d6+7 = 10 ] [ 1d6+7 = 9 ] [ 1d6+7 = 8 ] [ 1d6+7 = 8 ] < M. Melee: Climbing
  497.     Placing tiny cat feet on rather weak tree bark, Sunny's ascent, while neither smooth nor problematic, is sure enough to make her way up to the semi-familiar branch. Perching down and peering out into the jungle, she begins to realize... that something was terribly wrong: true north was reversed on the southern coast of Saddle Arabia.
  498.     Close by, a parrot laughs derisively at the out of place pony thinking it was one of the jungle cats. -1 Stability: 40/100.
  500.     Sunny scowled a bit at the parrot before turning her attention to the canopy. It had almost certainly changed in the two years since she'd last been there, but the rises and falls of the land remained much the same, and that was all she really needed. The little cat put her scouting skills to work, turning a full three hundred and sixty degrees to get the lay of the land.
  501.     All that was left was whether she should travel through the canopy and risk whatever dwelled there, or travel on paw and risk whatever lived at ground level. Neither prospect was appealing, but the longer she took recovering the crate, the higher the chance she'd attract the attention of unfriendly entities. Ground travel it was, it would at the very least be more direct than moving from tree to tree. With that thought in mind, Sunny began her descent.
  502. [ 1d6+3 = 4 ] [ 1d6+3 = 6 ] < B. Scouting
  503. [ 1d6+7 = 8 ] [ 1d6+7 = 11 ] [ 1d6+7 = 12 ] [ 1d6+7 = 10 ] < M. Melee: Descent
  505.     While Sunny Feathers takes a minute of intense, ear-wiggling study to determine her position, orienting towards true north via the sun's rays, she felt more at ease by the warmth. Stability: 41/100. Noting the canopy had grown significantly since she'd been in the South Mava Jungle, the name finally occurs to her, yet where it was in Saddle Arabia was not mapped out well.
  506.     Pinning down the direction she'd taken once before through a vague sense of urgency, the general indication of the trek she'd have to make was through now fully overgrown dryland jungle, although there was still enough moisture in the air to be comfortable. Taking hold of the still weak bark, the slide down was less bumpy than it was attention getting from the consistent scraping of kittyboot claws in wood, the same parrot from before emitting an annoyed chatter at the curious sound.
  508.     Sunny Feathers padded her way away from the tree, and the little cat cast one last glance up at the parrot before setting off through the thickets, using her wingblades to cut her way through the areas where it was too thick to simply walk through. It was a ten kilometer trek through some of the thickest jungle she had ever encountered towards a stream that marked the location she'd buried her crate in almost two years ago. It was her hope that the vastness of the jungle along with its dangers would deter anyone looking for it if they caught an inkling of where it was and what was inside it. To her knowledge, no one knew the crate even existed, but she had spent many nights drowned in as much alcohol as she could afford and was unable to recall what she may or may not have said and done during those times.
  509.     However, she hoped she was not so stupid a cat as to tell anyone about it, she could not fathom why she would given what was inside it. These thoughts consumed a great deal of her attention, as much as she could spare while keeping herself on track and alert anyway.
  510. [ 1d6+3 = 5 ] [ 1d6+3 = 8 ] <B.Perception
  511. [ 1d6+6 = 7 ] [ 1d6+6 = 12 ] [ 1d6+6 = 12 ] < E.Movement
  512. [ 1d6+7 = 10 ] [ 1d6+7 = 10 ] [ 1d6+7 = 11 ] [ 1d6+7 = 11 ] <M.Melee
  514.     Beady eyes staring down, the puzzle-striped parrot returns @Sunny's glance with a click of it's beak before turning away, once more minding it's own business by preparing to annoy everything else that passes by.
  515.     Slicing through twisted, long since dried out clusters of vines, water grasses, low jungle reeds, and annoyingly acrid short ferns, the damage left in her wake takes erratic turns, forced to wind about older stands of pondragoras to avoid their unfriendly, and mostly poisonous, upper denizens. Keeping a fraction of her focus on the general direction she knew she'd traveled once before, both the exertion and Saddle Arabia's daily heat begins taking it's toll, the inner layer of Sunny's bodysuit becomes thoroughly coated with perspiration, leaving a trail of sweat behind her. As a familiar sight, that of the Mava Jungle's uniquely light blue, water-retaining shrublike vines comes into near focus, the dull crack of a rotting tree snapping in half makes itself known to her ears.
  516. [ 1d60 = 31 ] <Mava Jungle Encounter: Feral Minotaur
  518.     Sunny Feathers went stock still for a moment and turned her head, eye roving as far down the path she'd forged as she could. Her line of sight was broken by all the jungle pressing in around her, and she felt the minor twinge in the back of her mind of both her Pegasi and Equine instincts urging her to get out into the open. The latter was easier to ignore, but the Pegasus in her had her slowly opening and closing her wings. Taking a deep breath, Sunny calmed her nerves and put one of her wings to good use, cutting open one of the nearby vines and squeezing it in her fetlock to draw the water out of it, drip feeding it into her mouth and letting a few drops scatter on her forehead.
  519.     As she thought, she came back to herself again, away from the mindstate of being a cat and mentally reprimanded herself for it. She was being tracked, she knew this, the jungle never took kindly to intruders, and despite the rank smell of the place, her now sweat amplified scent would stand out to anything native. Stealth was not an easy option here, she might as well have been holding a bag full of lantern gems in the dead of night for as subtle as she was being. This left her with two options: forge ahead with all speed, or backtrack and try to ambush whatever was following her. She had to get to her destination and recover the crate before sundown.
  520.     The mare dug her hoof into the soil before her and began to paint her exposed neck and face with dirt, she hoped it would be enough to at least partially mask her scent as she continued on. this time she weaved under, above and around the undergrowth as it allowed over cutting a more direct path and kept her senses and body alert.
  521. [ 1d6+3 = 6 ] [ 1d6+3 = 5 ] < B. Perception
  522. [ 1d6+7 = 10 ] [ 1d6+7 = 10 ] [ 1d6+7 = 10 ] < E.Stealth
  523. [ 1d6+4 = 9 ] [ 1d6+4 = 10 ] [ 1d6+4 = 9 ] < E.Ambush
  524. [ 1d6+6 = 12 ] [ 1d6+6 = 8 ] [ 1d6+6 = 9 ] < E.Movement
  526. >Sunny: 3 Ambush tokens.
  527.     Ingraining herself into the surrounding jungle, at least as much as @Sunny_Feathers was able to, the shadows of the increasingly erratic vines cloak her presence, hoofsteps dampened to nothing. Fleet on hoof towards what she felt was the proper direction, loud crackles akin to thin sheets of ice crunch under foot, or perhaps hoof, a distance behind her, chest and neck muscles tightening in genetic danger responses.
  528.     Crossing the front of a tree she'd marked two years ago, Sunny's attention is called downwards by eased hooffalls, the soil underneath becomes increasingly softer, the air itself less dry compared to the translocation stone's surroundings. Lagging behind, the heavy, slow gait, bipedal judging from the measured crunches rattling through the baking, dry jungle, becomes interspersed by distinctly high pitched exhalations, definitely not a sound Sunny knew offhoof.
  529. [ 1d6+1 = 7 ] <Tracking
  530. [ 1d6+4 = 8 ] <Scent
  531. [ 1d6+7 = 11 ] <Speed
  533.     Sunny stopped in place, an ear twitching in annoyance. The distance of the sound did not seem to have receeded any, and she knew then that it was tracking her, despite her best efforts. She was hardly surprised, given her condition. Turning to look over her shoulder, Sunny backtraced her steps as precisely as she could to prevent herself from creating any more tracks. Having moved back a few meters along her path, Sunny leaped off the path and onto a tree as far up as she could manage. The mare dug her hoof blades into the trunk and began her ascent, wings folded to keep her silhouette as small as possible, keeping an ear and eye out for whatever was following.
  534.     There was no way she'd be digging anything up, let alone moving it back to the translocation stone with this on her tail.
  535. [ 1d6+3 = 4 ] [ 1d6+3 = 7 ] < B. Perception
  536. [ 1d6+7 = 13 ] [ 1d6+7 = 9 ] [ 1d6+7 = 8 ] < E.Stealth
  537. [ 1d6+6 = 12 ] [ 1d6+6 = 10 ] [ 1d6+6 = 7 ] < E.Movement
  538. [ 1d6+6 = 10 ] [ 1d6+6 = 10 ] [ 1d6+6 = 9 ] < M.Melee
  540. >Sunny: 3 Ambush tokens.
  541.     Unsure if the claws were her own or from the kitty boots, @Sunny_Feathers begins feeling the strain from both her own exertion and the dry, baking jungle heat, though the soil painted on her coat collects most of the sweat, nearly reaching a mud facial level of clinginess. Perched as high as possible on the thin barked tree, Sunny's notice is drawn towards a swath of downed trees vaguely following her former path, another falling every few seconds with clinical, yet hurried timing, nearly matching her previous speed on paw. Maybe hoof. Or was it claw? Her brain was still too out of it to fully decide which was most applicable.
  542.     Before pondering on the ramifications of whether catmare was superior to marecat, or vice versa, the form of what appeared to be a stout biped, many hooves taller than a minotaur and at least twice as wide, come into view. Physically crashing into tree after tree, the creature slows to a halt close to where Sunny had paused to mask her scent, though it's striped streaks of dull brown, burnt red, and dried green coloration under the canopy made identification difficult.
  543.     Hunching over to inspect something, the patterns of streaks ripples once, the colors reversing as it stands, physically swinging from side to side, apparently uncaring of it's upper limbs smashing into the surrounding shrubbery, yet still searching for the Mava's intruder, high pitched inhales occurring rapidly in series.
  544. [ 1d6+1 = 6 ] <Tracking
  545. [ 1d6+4 = 8 ] <Scent
  547.     Sunny witnessed the beast, and for a moment, considered retreat. It was a moment born of several base prey instincts in her which were subsequently quashed. The crate had to be recovered, or its contents further concealed or destroyed if she could not.
  548.     Turning her attention back to the beast, she noticed that it was following her tracks, this was no mere predatorial beast. It seemed to be hunting with single minded intent. Its size meant that she had little hope of doing any significant harm, and its shifting coloration indicated some rudimentary form of camoflage. It would find her eventually, no mistake. What she needed was a tactical advantage. If the mare recalled correctly, the Mava jungle was situated near a somewhat mountainous region. What she needed was a height advantage.
  549.     Searching her memory of the terrain, Sunny tried to deduce where the land could potentially rise or drop sharply. If the beast was hostile and she couldn't neutralise it through force, she'd have to do it the Earth Pony way and get the natural workings of the world to do it for her. Sunny would need to go fast if needed, this thing could knock down trees and the one she was in did not seem thick enough to withstand its punishment for long.
  550. [ 1d6+3 = 9 ] [ 1d6+3 = 9 ] < B.Scouting
  551. [ 1d6+4 = 7 ] [ 1d6+4 = 9 ] [ 1d6+4 = 6 ] < E.Ambush
  552. [ 1d6+7 = 9 ] [ 1d6+7 = 8 ] [ 1d6+7 = 11 ] < E.Stealth
  554. >Sunny: 3 Ambush tokens.
  555.     Peering across the jungle landscape northwards, Sunny notes a small rise of trees in the distance, the better part of two miles out. Directly northeast however was the thick blue patch of flourishing Mava vine-shrubs, as well as spotting the telltale reflection of water deep in the center. Attention returning back to the creature, it languidly turns around once, twice, then swings towards the tree she had chosen. Remaining still for a short period, the striped skin ripples, extending it's lower right leg forwards as it bends down close to the ground, taking a single slow, ponderous step. Close by trees shake at each stomp from it's feet, or possibly even hooves, as the upper limbs ceasing their movement, remaining at their respective sides.
  556.     Stalking to the tree Sunny had climbed, the creature sways back and forth underneath it, inhaling rapidly. Standing up straight, the blocky head swivels upwards while the patterns on it's skin dissolve, leaving a flaked sandstone coloration as the face of a true feral minotaur, lacking both horns and fur, comes into view. The minotaur's dull brown eyes drop down to head level, one of it's hands raising, the earth pony foreleg-sized thumb tracing across the bark slowly. Grasping the tree with both hands, the feral beast leans in to give another high pitched inhale. Chest expanding, the brute's head cocks, the bovine ear in sight folding upwards, stock still as it does so.
  557.     Listening for a hooffull of seconds, the feral minotaur releases the tree, uttering a loud snort of disgust. Lumbering about in a wide cricle, it's skin ripples once more into the camouflage patterns before bolting off, smashing through the jungle at a hurried clip.  [ 1d6+11 = 14 ]
  559.     Sunny thought she would hold off on the sigh of relief for the moment. There was no way she'd get the crate back to the Translocation stone with that beast prowling around. She had one of Discord's distractions still, but only one, she'd need to use it wisely. Additionally, the camouflaging properties of that Minotaur meant that it likely waits in ambush since the darned thing moving around gives it away completely and if she didn't keep her eye open, she'd be at its mercy considering the speed at which it could move. The cat cocked her head, an ear twitching in thought at her dilemma. She definitely wasn't doing anything from up in the tree.
  560.     Deftly climbing down to a safer level, Sunny dropped from the branch and opened her useless wings to slow her descent at the very least. After recovering from the drop, she deviated from her path towards the Mava vine-shrubs by what she hoped was the river she'd buried her crate near, though by her reckoning it may be further upstream, she'd know it when she sees it.
  561. [ 1d6+6 = 8 ] [ 1d6+6 = 12 ] [ 1d6+6 = 12 ] < E.Movement
  562. [ 1d6+7 = 12 ] [ 1d6+7 = 9 ] [ 1d6+7 = 8 ] < E.Stealth
  563. [ 1d6+6 = 12 ] [ 1d6+6 = 12 ] [ 1d6+6 = 10 ] [ 1d6+6 = 12 ] < M.Melee
  565. >Sunny: 3 Ambush tokens.
  566.     As Sunny felt her kitty boots absorb most of the shock, she could still hear the minotaur's wonton path of destruction. If anything, the snapping, cracking, and shattering trees were much louder now, and even managing to silence the striped parrot from it's bored endeavours.
  567.     Scurrying towards the patch of vines and through them at a full out run, the ground quickly becomes a water logged, though still dense slough of what little vegetation that could survive the heat. Bumping into Mava vines, weighty and close to bursting from water storage, the patch begins to clear as the sound of water trickling becomes apparent. Reaching what should normally be a small free flowing river, it was now a number of tiny streams carving through light brown clay, loam, and mud inside the former channel.
  568.     Paused at the bank edge, the pools of water below still held some life, notably difficult to kill muddy brown catfish, a number of small reptiles and birds taking advantage of the few remaining insects seeking to keep cool in the heat, and a single, young freshwater crocodile, halfway submerged in the largest pool.
  570.     Sunny_Feathers lifted a wing up and cut open one of the Mava vines, licking at the fluids idly as she thought, her eye firmly on the nearby crocodile and ears twitching around like miniature radar dishes. She didn't particularly want to fight that minotaur, chances were she'd have to if she wanted to take the entire crate with her instead of just emptying it. Manueverability or concealability. These were questions the cat was finding increasingly irritating to deal with, as she would much prefer to lay around beneath the sunlight for a while. It had been too long since she'd done that.
  571.     Sunny shifted her weight from paw to paw to get the feeling back in her legs before backing away from the stream to firmer ground so she could follow it upstream. She could be lazy later.
  572. [ 1d6+3 = 9 ] [ 1d6+3 = 5 ] <B.Perception
  573. [ 1d6+7 = 10 ] [ 1d6+7 = 13 ] [ 1d6+7 = 8 ] <E.Stealth
  574. [ 1d6+6 = 11 ] [ 1d6+6 = 11 ] [ 1d6+6 = 11 ] < E.Movement
  576. >Sunny: 3 Ambush tokens.
  577.     Finding the sap still moderately sweet and refreshing, it was quite a bit stickier than @Sunny_Feathers realized at first, reminding her of the alcohol-infused edible gel many mercenaries that worked in Saddle Arabia often brought back with them. The crocodile continues to sleep as the catmare moves on, small birds landing and peck away at the insects covering it. Discovering the river's banks had not flooded over recently, Sunny's precision homing eye notes the path she'd taken before.
  578.     Guided by the few remaining markings that hadn't closed over, the wingful of minutes it takes Sunny to reach her destination had sweated off the protective mud facial, which had begun to smell increasingly like alcohol. Unfortunately for her, a thicket of short, skinny Mava vine-shrubs had expanded it's tentative ecological hold upstream, none of which looked as if they would survive the dry season, utterly covering over the dig site.
  580.     Sunny brought a pawhoof up to her muzzle and wiped some of the sweat from her cheek, frowning at the scent, "Damn it." She wouldn't be hiding that from the minotaur, assuming it was within smelling distance. She didn't see how, there was no wind to carry her scent down on the jungle floor and even if there was, it shouldn't carry too far through all the other scents of life in the jungle.
  581.     As for the now buried dig site, at least she could be sure that no one had dug it up. Rolling the muscles in her neck, the cat set to work using her wing blades to quickly sever the vines in small, manageable groups, stopping every so often to wipe the sticky sap off her blades. She'd need to get a serrated edge put on her wing blades if she was going to continue using them for utlity reasons. As always, she kept her ears alert and turned towards the rear in case the smell of the Mava Vine sap drew the beast in, or worse. That thought in mind, the catmare made sure to remove only as much vegetation as she needed to get to the dig site.
  582. [ 1d6+3 = 6 ] [ 1d6+3 = 8 ] < B.Perception
  583. [ 1d6+6 = 12 ] [ 1d6+6 = 11 ] [ 1d6+6 = 9 ] [ 1d6+6 = 10 ] <M.Melee
  585. >Sunny: 3 Ambush tokens.
  586.     Carving through the vines more easily than sawgrass, @Sunny_Feathers realizes after a minute or so of steady, curiously increasing effort that the sap had begun to partially harden in the heat. Aside from gluing her blades to her feathers, the layer of fluid left her suit's legs, chest, and her wings painted in an off-colored blue film. Although it weighed less than water, the sweet scent surrounding her quickly began to develop into a cloying, overly thick fragrance.
  587.     Hearing nothing except for a semi-constant, dry crackling breeze and her own movements, Sunny's directional location takes her to a small patch of bare ground, the few Mava vine-shrubs in proximity wilted and seemingly dead.
  589.     Sunny groaned, so much for being careful. The catmare retrieved the spade from where she'd wedged it between her flank and the saddlebag and prodded the ground with it. Two meters down, one meter by one half meter by one half meter wooden, cloth wrapped crate. Better start digging, kitty. Hesitating no further, Sunny set to work with the extremely unwieldy hoof shovel digging a meter by meter hole down to the crate. Mava Vine sap, dirt, mud, sweat, she was going to need another shower. At least it wasn't as liable to stain her coat as blood was. Unfortunately, her suit would also need washing, meaning the vulnerable, naked sensation she always got when moving around unarmored would have to be dealt with again. Not something she looked forward to, but it'd be worth it to move the crate to a more secure location, at least she hoped it was more secure.
  590. [ 1d6+3 = 9 ] [ 1d6+3 = 4 ] < B.Perception
  591. [ 1d6+7 = 13 ] [ 1d6+7 = 11 ] [ 1d6+7 = 12 ] [ 1d6+7 = 11 ] < M.Melee
  593.     Digging straight into clay, the effort quickly turns awkward with only one hoof shovel, the lone implement lacked the balance, leverage, and speed of a pair. Ears up and listening, the Mava jungle had become silent once more, the rare draft of wind and rarer flickerings of tiny bird wings streaking south towards the ocean all that @Sunny_Feathers could hear. Brute forcing the hard packed material for a little over ten minutes, noticeable fatigue from exertion, heat, and thirst sets in. Further paying for her earlier mistake by not taking the pair at the time a dull thunk of steel on wood occurs, the dull blue sap covering her had turned into a vaguely sticky glue-like substance from the heat, the scent now akin to boiled down sugar beets.. with extra sugar.
  594. [ 1d20 = 12 ] <Event
  596.     Sunny stuck her head over the lip of the hole and eyed the area behind her, ears twitching inquisitively. A silent jungle was never a good thing. She was going to need to get out now, especially since she'd uncovered the cargo. Working as quickly as she could manage, she excavated as much of the crate as she could, including the handles. Sunny then retrieved one of the loops of rope she kept on her and tied the length around each of the handles, climbing out of the hole and pulling the crate out with her, dragging it out of the mass of Mava vines.
  597. [ 1d6+3 = 6 ] [ 1d6+3 = 4 ] < B.Perception
  598. [ 1d6+5 = 6 ] [ 1d6+5 = 11 ] [ 1d6+5 = 8 ] [ 1d6+5 = 7 ] < M.Melee
  600.     Straining to pull the crate out from it's tomb of heavily compacted clay, @Sunny_Feathers is rewarded with a puff of stale air from it's exit, as well as a minor stiffness across her armored suit's chest and legs. Offering little resistance to the box due to their flexibility, the Mava vines part with ease, though the weight inside abrades many, the same cloying sweetness filling the air after Sunny's hoof tracks. Exiting the patch of vines, a sudden explosion from the south rocks the landscape, several columns of water visible above the canpoy before dropping from sight. Next to come were distant waves crashing into jungle, what few birds still about quieting momentarily, their calls resuming afterwards without distress.
  602.     Sunny_Feathers immediately whirled in the direction of the explosion and stared off through the trees, knowing full well she wouldn't see anything this far off. More to the point, she focused on listening, both ears pricked forwards. The mare turned her attention back to the crate afterwards, spending a little time using her wing blades to carve the worst of the clay off of the wooden container, but focused especially on the area around the latch. The crate hadn't been locked when she buried it, there was hardly a point at the time considering that if anyone had even found it there, they wouldn't be deterred by a simple lock. Or the wooden exterior itself if it came down to it. Somewhat apprehensive, she unlatched the lid and opened the crate up to check its contents.
  603. [ 1d6+3 = 8 ] [ 1d6+3 = 6 ] < B.Perception
  605.     Popping the lid up with another puff of air, this one much fresher, @Sunny_Feathers stares down into.. somepony else's possessions? Resting on top of several green cloth towels, a waxpaper wrapped round of cheese and a loaf of freshly baked bread were flanked two small clear bottles, one labeled 'water', the other having three X's on it. Partially hidden on the top was a block of jade, and a pile of oddly large coins marked in Prench script filled the lower side. Preceding Sunny's further investigation, her sense of time slows to a crawl as the world around her freezes, the event taking placing unnervingly quick.
  606.     "You finally come back here huh?" From behind, the clearly sleepy voice of a young filly awoken from a nap sighs. "I was starting to wonder who woke me up two years ago and then ran off. Now I can get me a good look at you before I decide whether or not to go back to sleep. Again." Hoofsteps trail around Sunny for several moments while she continues her unwilling imponination of a statue, two small green hooves appear in her vision, remaining unmoving for several moments as the voice turns confused. "What are.. oh, great. You're taller than me. Let me move this.. no.. wait, what? That's not right, how do I do this again? Wasn't there.. nevermind, this'll have to do." Kneeling down into view, a visibly disgruntled bright green earth pony filly stares up at Sunny, the corners of her mouth twitching while time resumes it's normal flow. "Great. It's YOU. I was expecting the loudmouth but this is even worse."
  608.     Sunny_Feathers screamed out in something of a mix of distress and extreme anger at seeing the objects that were definitely not hers. This was the correct spot, this was the crate and it had definitely remained buried for some time, but her equipment was gone. "Celestia damn it!"
  609.     Then suddenly, a filly, and she couldn't move. Normally she'd figure magic, but her mind being the state it was in, she could very well be hallucinating all of this. The moment she was able to move again, she stepped back from whatever it was that was speaking to her while wearing the form of a foal, "Who...? No, you can't be real." She paused and peered further at the filly. "At least, you can't be what you appear to be. /What/ are you?" She mentioned another, perhaps this is who took her equipment, if it was, this was bad.
  610. [ 1d6+3 = 5 ] [ 1d6+3 = 8 ] < B.Perception
  612.     Maintaining a dubiously high amount of eye contact, the filly puffs her chest out, lifting a hoof and shaking it @Sunny_Feathers' nose, an air of indignance swirling about her.. which turns out to be a hooffull of dried leaves. "Well EXCUUUUUSE me! I don't go around telling others they aren't real, or is that just the schtick you pull out of your butt just because you're taller than other ponies?! I'd buck your fat flanks if I could reach them but I'd probably bounce halfway across the ocean!" Beyond, or perhaps within the completely nonthreatening appearance, Sunny notes that the earth pony filly was.. disappointly normal. Aside from being a bit overweight, the bright green coloration clashed oddly with the black mane and tail, and while it was obvious the filly had been woken recently, there was nothing truly substantial about her. Setting the hoof down, the considerably smaller pony groans quite loudly, flopping onto her right side and angrily kicking a hoof in the clay. "What the hay biscuits does that mean?! I'm Anonfilly, an earth pony! Am I supposed to look different or something!?"
  614.     Sunny_Feathers shook her head, just staring at the Earth Pony filly. If she was hallucinating, this would be the most visceral and detailed than the others. This couldn't be real, there was no way an Earth Pony filly would be all the way out here in the jungle and what kind of name was Anonfilly anyway? No, it wasn't real, despite Anonfilly's outburst. Sunny thought it best not to respond, responding to the symptoms of her ill mind would only lead her further down the rabbit hole. She squeezed her eyes shut and willed the hallucination to end, willed herself back to reality. Now was hardly the time for her to drift off into a fanciful flight of fiction, not in this place, not with her equipment missing and not with whatever was happening upstream. The mare re-opened her eyes and turned back to the crate, doing her best to ignore any lingering traces of her fading grip on reality. First she had to properly search the crate in the event she'd hallucinated the contents as well. To that end, she used her hooves and snoot to explore each 'item' to ensure they were what she thought they were.
  615. [ 1d6+3 = 4 ] [ 1d6+3 = 6 ] < B.Perception
  617.     Ceasing her kicking while @Sunny_Feathers searches through the crate, Anonfilly continues grumbling as the cheese wheel is inspected and found to be a rather ordinary variety of cheddar, a few small bites taken from it recently. "Sure, go ahead and NOT ask me where your stuff is. None of you even bother talking to me anyways, you all act like I don't exist. I'm supposed to be doing stuff, like helping, but nooo, I'm a hallucination. I should just go to sleep for the next ten years.. or find more chips."
  618.     Apparent through the corks, the first bottle was simply fresh stream water, the second smelling faintly of cut alcohol, the percentage in the single digits. On the other side, the loaf of bread was similar to the cheese: a few days old, also nibbled on, albeit it smelled good despite the cheap ingredients. On it's own the block of jade was out of place, save for the Prench stamps across it's face similar to the coins on the bottom side. Most of the towels, labeled with fancy Prench, seemed to have been stolen from random spas, each one bearing their own symbol, though there was nothing underneath them.
  619.     Idly using her nose to poke repeatedly at a leaf, Anonfilly sighs morbidly, drawing Sunny's attention to her, whom then realizes that the filly was wearing an extremely out of place, equally cheap black business overcoat with a white undercoat underneath, a simple black tie tucked underneath. "If you're looking for the other stuff, that beat up armor and the thing in pieces I found all over the world, those aren't here. I couldn't figure out what they were or why they were broken so I put them some place safe. Just.. ask me for them and I'll give them back."
  621.     Sunny_Feathers left the contents of the crate be and looked at 'Anonfilly', she seemed extremely out of place, especially with the clothing, the name, and her very presence there. With an ear twitch and a slight kick of a rear leg, Sunny rubbed at her head with a hoof, this could only end with her wearing a fancy new jacket and an all expenses paid accomodation in a padded room. With a heavy sigh, Sunny shut her eye again and shook her head at herself for what she was about to do, "Fine. Can you prove that you're not a hallucination? Do these things belong to you?" She glanced at the crate and ammended quickly, "I mean, are they yours?"
  622.     Now that the cat was out of the bag, the mare continued on, just shy of rambling, "Come to think of it, this seems a strange place to store things. For a little filly, I mean, how did you even get here? Were you following me? Why don't you make any kind of sense to be here!?" Each question saw her raise her voice in exasperation, in truth she couldn't be angry at the filly, it just wasn't in her and she knew it showed in her tone. If anything, she was a little angry at herself for deciding to bury her things out in this forsaken jungle in the first place.
  624.     Halted from nibbling on one of the dried leaves, the vivid green filly rolls upright onto her chest, beaming a smile @Sunny_Feathers. "Finally somepony ACTUALLY talks to me instead of running away! Now if only the other however many hundred ponies like you there are out there would stop running away. First!" Clopping her front hooves together, Anonfilly tilts her head up, ears and nose wiggling expectantly. "Those are mine yes, I put them in there 'cause I needed a place to store food where they wouldn't go stale.. and I can't get a mail box without having a home.. and the mail mare said I can't have a mail box so I could store stuff because that makes no sense 'cause a mailbox is for delivering, second-"
  625.     Nodding as an unassuming steel crate pops into reality in front of her, the filly pokes at it with a hoof, peering above the lid at Sunny with squinty eyes. "I put stuff from other ponies in safe places sometimes, especially weird stuff like these. Haven't had anypony actually tell me they want anything back so there's a bunch of boxes all over filled with all sorts of weird stuff. I think one of them was a squirrel. Third, I go where I wanna go if I know where I wanna go, kinda like a unicorn but.. kinda not. I just think about being somewhere I've been and poof, I'm there, but sometimes I fall from the sky. That part's not nice. Fourth, I follow everypony like you because I'm SUPPOSED to be helping you all out. Sixth.." Rolling her eyes knowingly, Anonfilly sits up, pushing the lid off and sticking head inside, speaking muffledly for a moment, then sits up once more, a small bright green white and yellow marble balanced on her nose. "I'm Anonfilly. it's what I do, duh. Also I think all your stuff's here.. here's that funny looking marble too. Is this yours?"
  627.     Sunny_Feathers made a face at the filly apprehensively, "Don't get ahead of yourself, I'm still not quite sure I haven't gone completely insane. I do hallucinate far more often than I'd like." She probably wasn't, however, not in this anyway. The mare listened attentively to the not-hallucination, ears wiggling with interest. When the steel crate simply appeared, the mare squeaked in shock, her already jangled nerves getting worse as she fell on her rump, "Wha-!?" Soon, as she explained how she got around, Sunny made the connection that she could also move objects other than herself by thinking it too. Earth Pony magic? Earth Pony magic.
  628.     She paused at the tail end of Anonfilly's exposition, "Wait, like me? What do you mean 'like me'? I'm a perfectly average Pegasus, nothing at all remarkable or exotic about me!". She spared a glance for the marble and concluded she'd never seen it or anything like it in her entire life, "Nope, not mine, never seen it before in my life. Normally that phrase would be cause for suspicion, but I'm one hundred percent on the level with you."
  630.     "Oh, you think YOU'VE gone completely mad? I've been here for the past-" Lifting both of her front hooves and quickly counting off a string of numbers in the hundreds that ended unreasonably high. "Four thousand years? Something like that." Condescendingly rolling her eyes and ears around in wide, exaggerated circles, Anonfilly stops, staring down @Sunny_Feathers in an eerie, all knowing manner. "Don't even try that with me, bigger. 'Across the ocean' isn't good enough anymore. Come up with a better excuse in case somepony asks and don't ever make me say I told you so, that would only be the start of my butt in the fire. If you don't do something really super stupid, we'll both be fine, so leave it at that. " Popping the marble off her nose onto the ground, the business filly pushes the crate towards Sunny. "Kay then, I can't remember who has what half the time anyways. All your stuff's in here, I can send it wherever you want."
  632.     Sunny_Feathers went still and quiet, ears flipping backward and down for a while, "I don't... Know what you're talking about." It was a half hearted retort and she knew it. She wasn't dealing with a filly here, not quite. Turning her attention from introspection towards the filly again, she found herself a little relieved that she wouldn't have to carry a crate through the jungle. "There's a room in Razorback fortress that I'm staying in, are you able to send it there?"
  634.     Affixing the leaf to her front right hoof and waving it around in the air while @Sunny_Feathers thinks, the vivid green filly's eyebrows wriggle precisely twice. "Kay." Losing the leaf in a stiff breeze, Anonfilly's head swivels about, contemplating on the sound of low tide moving it's way into the jungle at a sleepy, glacial pace. Turning back and standing up, she begins to carefully brush her business suit off, lips curling back in a secretive smile. "Really now.. that changes a few things. I made a few special deliveries there, shouldn't be too hard.." Kicking the marble elsewhere, the filly pokes the crate, disappearing from view with a pop, then swiftly leaps forwards and up, planting both hooves on Sunny's snout. "BOOP! Next stop, your room-" Whether or not she expected an explosion, or much of anything else for that matter, Sunny immediately tumbles face first into what was felt like a bed judging by it's soft, bouncy nature, further thwarted from reality by cold metal poking into her left side, accompanied by four small hoof clicks on wood afterwards. "And here is where I leave, gotta find another place to stash my food. If.. actually I mean when you need me, just.. uhh... well, this is awkward, I don't have it any more? Whatever. I'll leave my business card on your door. Either that or I'll find you, not like I've got anything better to do."
  636.     Sunny_Feathers suddenly found herself in her room, and increasingly more distressed by the /otherness/ of this Anonfilly. On the one hoof, she was grateful for the filly's assistance, on the other, something in the back of her mind was frightened by her, and this showed in the involuntary muscle twitches around her legs. Who was she kidding? She had significant reasons to be scared, she understood Discord knowing, one could fill a fifth dimensional tome with the things he was aware of and still run out of room. Celestia knew, but had thankfully had the mercy to leave her in peace. Just how obvious was it that she wasn't being entirely truthful?
  637.     These thoughts in mind, Sunny could only respond to the filly with the most obvious question in a dazed, extremely confused and flustered manner, "Who...? What...? Huh?!". This was /worse/ than dealing with Discord, at least with Discord, you could expect the unexpected, but this was completely out of left field. She'd never encountered anything or anyone like this, and she'd seen some freaky stuff over the course of her career. Her mood flipping immediately as the filly announced her departure, which lead to her springing from the bed, "Oh no you don't! You can't just leave me like this! I need answers!" She did not care if anypony could hear her flustered rambling. Maybe if they saw the filly, Sunny could at least affirm that she hadn't just completely lost her marbles.
  638. [ 1d6 = 1 ] <Flank Flustered Shouting
  640.     Pulling herself upright, on her own bed and in her room, @Sunny_Feathers finds Anonfilly finished pasting a bright green card onto the hoofle, freezing at Sunny's rather lackluster shouting. Hoof slowly dropping onto the floor, the filly's head hangs down, muttering in a small, timid voice. "Like what? Do you wanna know how lonely I've been? Maybe you want to know what it's like to be thought of as a hallucination to hundreds of ponies, all the time, no matter what you do? I'm not a monster from some other place or an Eldritch thing that wants to eat everypony, I'm just doing my stupid job. I didn't like what I was asked to do, but being.. whatever I am now is lots better than not being alive." Exhaling a tired, worn sigh at odds with her physical appearance, Anonfilly sits down, pressing her head into the door silently. "Go ahead, ask whatever you want. I've got nothing but time."
  642.     Sunny_Feathers fell silent at Anonfilly's sudden change in demeanor, feeling more than a little guilty for shouting at her, such as it was, and earlier for not believing she existed. She still might not exist come to think of it. "Well..." She flailed her hooves in frustration at losing her questions, "So...! But... I guess. Therefore?!" With that outburst out of the way, Sunny peered thoughtfully at the filly. "You store things belonging to certain ponies, can't-imagine-what-the-connection-is-since-I'm-definitely-just-a-normal-unremarkable-pegasus-mare. I figured that part out on my own, but what exactly is it that you do, and why?"
  643.     The mare considered the filly further. "If you /are/ real, and I'm not completely insane, that is. You have to admit that you do seem very surreal." She cocked her head, considering what she'd said earlier and felt her maternal instincts going to work. She recognised it, she would have denied it, but damn it all if the idea of a lonely filly didn't give her an emotional gut punch. "I believe you're real. My hallucinations involve me being a feline of some sort anyway." The pegasus made a face somewhere between concern and exasperation, with a scrunch thrown into the mix. "I'm... Sorry, I doubted you... And thanks for keeping my equipment safe too, I guess." Did she sound sappy? Sunny thought so. She might even be developing F E E L I N G S for this filly. The kind of feelings that lead to things like F R I E N D S H I P and M U T U A L C A R I N G.
  645.     "Wasn't hard, one box is easy." Turning her head, Anonfilly's ears flick for a while in plain thought, then presses her snout into the brass lever boredly. "I lived in a place called Coville.. which was across the ocean. Was only a bunch of us earth ponies there, took months to cross, wasn't hard to find food but a lot of it we couldn't eat. Giant monsters, volcanoes, earthquakes, blizzards, wild magic, worse things too. It's long gone now though."
  646.     Twisting about halfway, the filly stands, tossing a hoof back and lifting up the right rear leg covering to show off a simple black runic question mark, dropping it after a moment. "I was bad at finding things, but great at keeping stuff organized, safe, out of weather. We didn't have alchemy, unicorns, or much of anything else, so if a pony got sick we weren't going to live long.. well, until the silver pony found us. After she helped a bunch of us, I started storing stuff for other ponies in places that got forgotten or were too hard to get into. I learned how to do her magic too, just not as good. I asked if I could look older once. She tried, but I'm not mad she failed."
  647.     Sniffing the door and, plainly, licking it once, an eye turns towards @Sunny_Feathers with a neutral gaze. "I don't like seeing the past dug up, so I also make sure nopony knows about it or has anything from old Tallus. If you've ever heard about any of the really dangerous stuff, I keep those things out of hooves they don't belong to as well.. same with everything ELSE from across the ocean."
  649.     Sunny_Feathers stared at the 'filly' blankly. She'd gotten the answer she wanted. "Well. That's that then. I was expecting you to be more cryptic about it, to be honest." She mentioned the silver pony, she knew who that was. Sunny now scratched her head. "I don't get it, if you hide stuff from old Tallus, then why my... stuff. It's not from old Tallus and not dangerous, or well... it's no more dangerous than anything else. In fact, that beat up armor is never going to work again, and that other thing is useless unless put together."
  651.     "I've done this for a long time now, lots of questions from lots of ponies. Also, I'm an earth pony, it's hard to lie." Muttering under her breath, @Sunny_Feathers picks out the word 'usually' amongst several other words, followed by a small, devious giggle. Straightening herself quickly, Anonfilly lets out an exasperated sigh, flicking her tail hard for further emphasis. "You know what would happen if somepony just lets other ponies have somepony else's stuff? Lots of confusion, and I hate being confused. THOSE are YOURS, not somepony else's." Lifting a hoof and pointing it at the crate twice for emphasis, the suited filly's front shoulders lift in a dismissive motion  "Just because it's broken and in a box in the middle of a jungle doesn't mean your stuff is safe. But now I've gotta go, there's a hot weird mare with four ears that needs something."
  652.     Spinning about and thumping a front hoof on Sunny's door, the lower half swings away, the filly then pausing to turn her head, a slow grin creeping across her lips. "Also, bigger? You totally fell for it. I usually spend most of my time hanging out in cities." Leaping into the portal and subsequently appearing in front of Sunny once more, two soft hooves impact her nose, the filly falling through the bed, leaving a ringing laugh after her. "SEE YOU LATER SUCKER!"
  654.     Sunny_Feathers narrowed her eyes at the space Anonfilly had formerly occupied with her ears halfway pinned back. She could appreciate the humor, but it also further reinforced to her why the ponies here were so off-putting to her. Putting it out of her mind, she knew that would not be the last she'd see of the filly, even though there wasn't particularly any reason to. She had her equipment under close watch in a somewhat secure location, and while keeping it buried in the jungle was almost assuredly safer, she could justify the risk of discovery here in that discovery, here, would be less dangerous to her than a bunch of explorers digging up her stuff. At least for the time being. What kind of pony would just rummage through another pony's things anyway? Leaving the room and nudging the door shut with a hind leg, Sunny went to shower, and to somehow clean the juices off of her /everything/, not even stripping off first.
  656.     Entering the pony barracks foyer, @Sunny_Feathers' nose is assaulted by the delightful scents of hot chocolate, fresh cookies, and grilled kola nuts, a favorite of Saddle Arabians and Crystal ponies alike. Oddly there were no other ponies in at the moment, the couches vacant while newspapers were scattered about the plates and cups on the north side's table, as if a few had left in a hurry. Finding four large, clearly marked bath & shower stalls in the foyer's cardinal corners, all appeared and sounded equally empty.
  658.     Sunny_Feathers having done this song and dance before, wasted no time showering. The amount of hardened, sickly sweet sap that had glued her wingblades to her feathers, her suit to parts of her fur, and generally made her smell rank when mixed with her sweat, and the mud she'd used as camouflage was a great deal more difficult to remove. She found herself exerting a great deal of effort carefully removing each wingblade as the sap released its hold on them and her feathers, along with taking several minutes to peel her suit off of herself. She spent even more time meticulously cleaning the suit itself, the wingblades and her catboots until they shone. At least, as shiny as they could get without oiling them. Afterwards, she was mildly annoyed at herself for being so careless with the Mava vines, as it would now mean that she had to wait for her suit to dry. There's that vulnerable, naked feeling again. She might as well return Naliyna's shovel in the mean time, and to that end she set off, but stuck to the shadows where she was invariably more comfortable.
  659. [ 1d6+5 = 11 ] [ 1d6+5 = 9 ] [ 1d6+5 = 6 ] < E.Stealth
  660. [ 1d6+5 = 11 ] [ 1d6+5 = 10 ] [ 1d6+5 = 7 ] [ 1d6+5 = 9 ] < M.Melee: Furious Scrubbing
  662.     In the middle of her shower, @Sunny_Feathers begins to relax upon finally feeling cleansed from both her exertions in the morbidly hot jungle and her excursion as a whole, the fatigue melting away under hot water. 45/100 Stability. With little else to show for her troubles except for a still sweetly scented coat and some pain from the intense scrubbing, a short, quick interruption in the form of Princess Celestia's mildly concerned face forms from the steam, her magenta eyes flicking left, then back onto Sunny with a sour, yet humored gaze. "Hello again my dear. I do hate to ask this on such short notice, but I must sincerely and humbly request that you cease your lovely, sweet songs of prayer to me, it is most difficult to pay attention to the business of nobility while so.. distracted." Delivering a sly, quick wink, the Sun's image disappears, leaving Sunny alone once more.
  663.     Leaving the physical world and barracks behind to slip into the Underdark, Sunny nevertheless remains in a state of cold and fully terrified sweating on her path to the pagoda. Upon her arrival the structure was silent, Naliyna's tent empty, though the stacks of papers and items covering it were unchanged.
  665.     Sunny_Feathers found her absolute terror at being intruded upon replaced by sheer rage. Thinking it a bad idea to reveal herself in such a state, she remained exactly where she was, still hidden while she did her best to calm herself. How dare she assume Sunny's devotion was directed at her, she should know better. The mare didn't know how long she sat where she was, simultaneously seething and shaking with fear, but she did eventually master herself. At least partially. Her devotion to the concept of the sun, and her fear of drawing the attention of its bearer were at direct odds and she could parse neither concept. Her thoughts were stuck in that loop of finding hope in the sun, and her need to remain hidden from the world. It was a highly uncomfortable sensation.
  666.     Rather than spending the next however-long puzzling out the mental conundrum, placed her sole focus on the present. Speaking of present, Naliyna wasn't, and so Sunny deposited the hoof shovel where she'd taken it from before inspecting the papers on her desk stealthily, without disturbing them. Perhaps Naliyna had left the order for the two remaining potion recipes there, and she could go collect them to take her mind off of things.
  667. [ 1d6+3 = 9 ] [ 1d6+3 = 5 ] < B.Perception
  668. [ 1d6+5 = 6 ] [ 1d6+5 = 6 ] [ 1d6+5 = 11 ] < E.Stealth
  670.     Hearing an older pony snoring on one of the west side couches, @Sunny_Feathers finds the mare's snores to be vaguely familiar, and upon listening closer realizes her to still be.. Shanis of Tartarus Isle, dead asleep in her now well known armored bodysuit, only her dim yellow ears poking out from under the snow hood.
  671.     Checking the tallest stack, @Sunny_Feathers finds a note from one Pareidolia detailing that he had taken off to Canterlot Underground in order to explain circumstances resulting in an invited guest being injured, a footnote below stating that it was most likely due to Dancing Eyes and possible encounters with humans. The paper directly underneath had been written in double-spaced Crystal pony, looking like a professional notice, the next stack over topped by an application letter written in fairly foalish pegasi script, the thoroughly unreadable name accompanied by swirly clouds and a flower.
  672.     The third stack was little more receipts and bills written in Common detailing recent Razorback expenditures while the fourth was a jumble of item listings for sale, the top sheet specifically a brand new catalogue from one of the larger Crystal Engineering Guilds in the Empire, each paragraph ending in six figure numbers that made Sunny's eyes water. Unable to find either of the alchemical notes, Sunny instead hears multiple sets of hooves approaching from the north, the distinctly Stalliongrad pegasi accents confirming them to be mercenaries also from Tartarus.
  673.     The cluster of mares, mostly Arcane Blades, enter the pagoda to take seats opposite Shanis, a pair of military dressed humans, each carrying heavy looking wooden boxes, file inside towards Naliyna's stall, setting the boxes down and seating themselves with the Blades, one of them even placing an arm around a helmeted pegasi's neck in what appeared to be a friendly manner.
  675.     Sunny, unable to locate what she required along with Naliyna's absence, simply wandered off, still sticking to the Underdark. Inevitably, her path took her back to the Library and up to the Alchemy Lab, where she could brew her concoctions and think in peace. So long as it was unoccupied, that is. Peace was all she really wanted at that moment, so she set about getting to work quietly, but still somewhat chaotically in the manner in which she kept her temporary workspace.
  676.     The first thing she set about doing was creating a base liquid to bind the two potions and allow them to interact. Attempting to just pour both in the same container would just have the same effect as putting oil and water together, they just don't mix without a binding agent. Of course, the binding agent itself also had to incorporate long lasting, self regenerative elements so the potion functions as intended for as long as possible. She'd also need to see about acquiring a durable container for it, it wouldn't do to put in all this effort only to drop the flask and spill.. what was she going to call it anyway? Sunny guessed she'd have to wait until the end result.
  677.     While she dwelled on what she was going to name the potion, she ground up one of Dancing Eye's heatstone rings into a fine powder, carefully mixing it into the alchemical binder. What she thought she'd achieve by doing this, she had no idea, but Alchemy was half science, half art, and about eighty percent wild experimentation with strange components to see what happens. It was a very avante garde kind of thing to do.
  678. [ 1d6+6 = 7 ] <Alchemy Lab
  679. [ 1d6+3 = 5 ] [ 1d6+3 = 7 ] [ 1d6+3 = 5 ] < E.Alchemy
  680. [ 1d6+4 = 7 ] [ 1d6+4 = 9 ] [ 1d6+4 = 6 ] [ 1d6+4 = 5 ] [ 1d6+4 = 7 ] [ 1d6+4 = 7 ] <Harlon's Archaic Alchemical Suite
  681. 650/999 points for combining
  683.     Like before the room still smelled faintly of chocolate and mint, only without any questionable scents left in the air. Preoccupied with the inordinately high difficulty of wearing down Empire crystal to add in as a binding agent, @Sunny_Feathers barely notices a curiuosly bat-winged cat hop onto the corner of the desk to watch, some time later dropping down to lounge in one of the windows behind her. The lab steadily darkens while she works, automated functions maintaining low temperatures and high humidity, keeping her concentration at it's peak focus. Sitting back to take a break, a short inspection showed the concoction to be over fifty percent completed, though the ear shaped bubbles it kept releasing were odd.
  685.     Sunny_Feathers sat back and kept watch on her hoofiwork. It would be some time before she'd be able to put in that much effort into her concoctions again. Nothing was really going terribly wrong with this, which was both a relief and a disappointment. As for the work itself, the binding agent was all but complete, all she needed to do now was concentrate her two permanent creations and add them to the mixture. If all went according to plan, the agent would act as a form of molecular bridge between the two different potions, allowing them to act in conjunction with one another. Kind of like how soaps bind grease, except the other end of the molecular chain attracts and connects to another substance rather than rejecting it.
  686.     She wasn't certain what effect the heatstone would have on the mixture, but she was already wondering if she could add a fourth. Perhaps pollen from the flower the Treant gave her. She looked over towards where she left the vase containing said flower, wondering if it was still there. The pollen was certainly potent, but she may have to research it some more to determine if it was safe to use. Not that she was worried if it were lethal, she'd tasted a miniscule amount of the pollen and wound up wandering the Fortress grounds in a kaleidoscopic daze, adding a higher dosage might lead to... Strange things. Sunny really had no idea, but part of her was amused at the concept of a healing potion that makes somepony go walkabout.
  688.     Still where it was, the vine-pony's flower hadn't been moved a hair, nor had the vase been changed. In fact, a small note had been stuck in front of it stating 'DO NOT EAT OR TOUCH' in the traditionally blocky, chunky earthy pony styled Common script.
  689.     The door to the alchemy lab is pushed open with no announcement, @Sunny_Feathers hearing a curious meow from behind her as a Hodch strolls in, a pair of envelopes holding station above his head, face drawn and haggard. "Saw your note on the bulletin board, thought you woud be in here. Better be ready to make a tri-" Freezing for several moments, the deep purple unicorn's head tilts, one of his eyes twitches incredulously, half-glaring beyond Sunny. "How did you.. ..Nibbles. When you are done lazing about and breaking the laws of Tallus, kindly find me in the library, and explain to me how you got in here."
  690.     Tossing the envelopes onto the desk, the reservist lifts a hoof, rubbing his nose with a defeated sigh. "I will never understand how she gets around. One of Razorback has orders for you to deliver as I am needed elsewhere. Since our original Scout still has not been found you will need to take these to the Hive. In the second ring you will find a Changeling on the southern side, she will be surrounded by canvas stands, paintbrushes, and paint cans.. and most likely covered in thirty shades of paint at the moment. Deliver these to her as quickly as possible, then wait until she has taken them to the Queen for perusal. In return you will be given several reports from a Warden stationed there, bring them back as quickly as possible since there may be others that must be delivered by hoof."
  692.     Sunny_Feathers narrowed her eyes very slightly at the Unicorn, wondering if his disposition was better now than it had been earlier. She resumed her normal compusure smoothly and almost without notice, reserving judgement. It was not her place. Her eye twitched in the direction of the letters before refocusing on Hodch, "Understood, sir."
  693.     She pulled herself out of the chair she'd been sitting in and claimed the letters, placing them in her saddlebags. She hoped her suit was dry by now. Walking around the Fortress unarmed and unarmored was one thing, going anywhere else in the same state was another, "Anything specific I should know about the Hive?"
  695.     Briefly turning to @Sunny_Feathers, a troubled, downcast expression flickers across Hodch's face briefly, shaking his head. "Please no formalities, I've.. had enough to last a couple hundred lifetimes." Striding towards the inset desk surrounded by storage cabinets, a large, shiny red colored blob is pulled out from underneath it, the unicorn silent for a short period. Pressing a front hoof into the side, the act causes an odd, muted crunching noise, attracting the flying blue bat-winged cat to land on it. "Hive itself is located somewhere in the New Everfree in a rain belt region, no marsh or clay that anypony knows of, so where, exactly, nopony but the Queen herself knows. The Changelings don't speak, they can't, instead they communicate with emotions, thoughts, sometimes pictures and diagrams if they're able to. Otherwise, they make do with using glowing green or blue air-glyphs in Common or their own language. Other than treating them just like you would any other pony, there's not much to tell."
  697.     Sunny_Feathers shrugged at his response. "Force of habit, sir. I've never kicked it and don't intend to try." Turning and moving off for the door, a thought occured to Sunny and she paused, withdrawing the bronze gear from her saddlebags. Balancing it on a forehoof for Hodch to see, she spoke. "On an unrelated note, the vending machine installed in the mess hall seems intent on tearing out its own components and whispering in a language I'm guessing to be ancient Shrike. I recovered this from it while I was in the Underdark and figured someone should know."
  699.     Eyeing the open lab door, Hodch directs the blob out in the hallway, the catbat meowing loudly and irately. "No, it's fine out there Nibbles, I just don't want Mercy running into it again." Head swiveling around, the unicorn lifts a hoof, seemingly snagging a cigar from the air, lighting it and squinting at the cog, glancing up at @Sunny_Feathers tiredly. "I'd ask how you know what that machine is exactly, then again.. I probably don't want to know."
  700.     Lifting the piece up with barely a thought for a close examination, the door closes to the tune of a tiny headbutt and snicker-hissing, eyes rotating back while he sighs. "One of these nights... Miss Feathers, I do not want to know how you know what that language sounds like either, so I will for your sake, kindly suggest that you completely forget the name of that species and everything of their existence when dealing with Crystal ponies." Turning the gear over several times, Hodch's eyebrows begin to furrow, sitting down in a careful, orderly manner, deliberaly inspecting each surface with a growing frown. "Shrikes were one of the worst enemies of the Conclaves, it's ingrained in their blood to hate them. Yes, I am aware of the irony that a Crystal pony could earnestly hate something is difficult to believe, however, it is true. Stating that name in the open will lead to being blinded, deafened, and stunned before you can so much as twitch. I have seen it happen before, it is not pretty. Hm, interesting. I'm sure you weren't able to see them, there are engravings on the surfaces here. Most of them have to do with bindings of metal, one is transfer- " Suddenly glancing up at Sunny, the reservist's mane bristles of it's own accord, taking on a cold, stern tone. "Now I know why Caliya kept stating it was cursed, it is. Was there anything strange occurring in the Underdark right then? Creatures, wind, any activity at all?"
  702.     Sunny_Feathers quickly glanced left then back again, twitching a little at Hodch's statement. That had caught her off-guard, "I have... heard some of the humans refer to it as such. It also is a machine that vends items, therefore vending machine." The mare twitched an ear backwards at the sound of the bat-cat, it might have perhaps been the same one that had been in that automobile, she couldn't be sure. Other such random thoughts drifted through her mind until Hodch mentioned her knowledge of the Shrikes. "I didn't exactly, but all avian languages, Pegasi, Gryphonic, Harpy and yes, even Shrike all bear marked similarities. It was simply a matter of deduction."
  703.     Sunny turned her attention back towards the cog, and now that her attention had been drawn to it.. she couldn't see shit Captain. Strange occurances near the... she might as well call it an artefact now, it took her a moment to dredge up the memory. "In the Underdark? Normal space appeared to be overlapped with another spectrum. They interacted with their own version of what was available in the mess hall, doors, drinks, seats..." She remembered how they had left her own seat strangely unoccupied, she could guess why, but there was no reason for Hodch to know that little tidbit, instead she skirted around that detail. "Possibly Spectral in nature."
  704.     Brow furrowing as she dredged up as many details as possible, she looked past Hodch's shoulder as she recounted the events, visualising them in her head rather easily now. "From their conversation, they had also referred to a human, they described him as 'the one that wears dog fur over his barrel and carries a ridiculous bow', like a Hegemony Minotaur, other details implied a wider society in this spectrum rather than an isolated group, they also reffered to others as spectres." She remembered the machine again, "On the machine itself, I did notice that it sort of resembled an Armadillo in the way it tended to itself..." She realised something at that moment and flicked her tail in annoyance with herself. "It was repairing itself, that cog is one of the things it pulled out." Sunny paused as she remembered one final detail that should have concerned her more at the time. "They were also able to perceive me, and I them, clearly, though they seemed somewhat concerned at the possibility that I would be able to. Leaving the Underdark after I left was..." The mare shifted uncomfortably at the implication, "More difficult than it should have been."
  706.     Placing the gear on the floor, Hodch's right foreleg lifts, knee rubbing his nose as he mutters. "Naliyna has had nothing but good to say about you. When she accepted the contract of a considerably more capable, and experienced, pony to take over the more difficult missions that Vanil would otherwise be forced to do, much of the unease that others were feeling here has been abated. Were she to become angry at you due to saying that word in the wrong context, and yes I am well aware of the blades for sale that she is fuming over, it would inflict yet another mortal wound on morale, of which there are quite a few fresh ones. Despite my irritation with your carefree, air-headed mannerisms Miss Feathers your inclusion has produced several positive effects, so I will be civil in the open. But, like every other Crystal pony, Missus Remostrine would drop everything to wage war against Shrikes, even if only one of them still alive and is in the process of being hacked apart slowly. That should tell you how much they are hated. Since I'm sure you understand my concerns, be careful around her, she is one of the few ponies I hesitate to anger."
  707.     Gazing down onto the piece, the deep purple unicorn barely taps the edge with a hoof, his expression distant, though still seemed to be listening closely. Shaking his head afterwards, Hodch angrily mutters in his own language, speaking a single word that @Sunny_Feathers confusingly did not know. <Unicorn> "Why did you bring this here green one? These .. cannot touch a Draught."
  708.     Glancing up, the reservist's ears fold back in a movement akin to warning, his tone cautionary. "Miss Feathers, I was given a rather frightening report some time ago by a pony quite close to one of the alicorns. Until I can prove or disprove that theory, I must inform you that these parts of this conversation never happened: you never heard that thing speak, you never saw it do precisely what it did, you never picked this up, and you never heard a Spectral talk about a human. What you did hear and see are non-hostile, free willed Spectrals inhabiting the mess hall. In short: do not cause a panic because this knowledge will cause precisely that. Drop off those reports as soon as possible, but while you are still in the Hive ask a Changeling there to give you a discarded skull plate, or a plate of similar size. Once you return bring it back to me, I'll be in the sitting room."
  710.     Sunny_Feathers inclined her head, she personally found the Crystal Pony's tendency to completely reject anything to do with the Shrike's illogical. Knowing was half the battle, after all, but she wasn't so stupid as to believe she could change their outlook on the matter all on her lonesome. Perhaps some knowledge was better off unknown. "I'm well aware of how Crystal Ponies feel about Shrikes, and wouldn't dream of intentionally angering any of them, hence why I brought this up with you first."
  711.     Hah, 'air-headed', what a funny Pegasus joke. One of her ears twitched subtly as she picked up on Hodch's Unicorn, but she otherwise didn't indicate that she understood most of what he had said, that single word she didn't understand might have been ancient Unicorn, the mare couldn't be sure. She looked back down at the cog, relieved she had brought this up with the right PONY and had kept it under wraps, for a while, she had been worried that she might have to bring it up to Naliyna since she was the only pony in charge she could reliably locate. "I assume that you want me to keep an eye out in case /nothing/ continues to happen. I might also be concerned about anyone else breaching the Underdark while there and seeing /nothing/, as well." A discarded skull plate? A changeling skull plate she guessed. One that was not currently being used, preferably.
  712.     "Will do." And with that, the mare turned and left, entering the relative safety of the Underdark as soon as she was out the door as she made her way back to the Pony Barracks to collect her equipment, hopefully it was dry at this point.
  713. [ 1d6+5 = 9 ] [ 1d6+5 = 10 ] [ 1d6+5 = 9 ] < E.Stealth
  715.     Still fully ignoring the alchemy lab's various signs about not smoking, Hodch puffs on it slowly, his body language expressing great pleasure at his violation of the rules. "I'm glad you understand. A rather talkative human was.. let's just say they're going to be sitting in their room eating red mushrooms and nursing a bottle of Dampener until the ringing stops."
  716.     Rubbing his nose once more, the unicorn begins to nod, then stops, holding up a forehoof to @Sunny_Feathers, the entire pad covered in small, eerie scars, making a concise clockwise, then counterclockwise circle in the air, the gesture itself a common 'be careful, danger' motion used by most mercenaries. "Three problems there. For one, you've no combat experience with Spectrals. Two, your weaponry is exceedingly bland. For three, virtually all Spectrals will cause numerous injuries of one to three forms that take weeks to recover from. Even with a resident spiritist and ten inordinately well equipped Arcane Blades, a single hostile Spectral on base will cause severe problems. Now, if you do see anything suspicious in the Underdark, inside the mess hall or near the fountain in particular, come find me as quickly as possible, same goes for the machine if you do hear it speak again. Solid proof will be needed, but I think that that it may be inhabited by a Draught, which could, potentially, force a semi-stable rift into the Underdark itself open. That sort of panic right now is arguably worse than somepony being killed. I am not certain it is a Draught, though I once joined a mystic team out of Gozka hoping to capture one. Even close to being destroyed as it was, the experience was rather terrifying." Nodding in an informal dismissing manner to Sunny, Hodch breathes out heavily, remaining seated in front of the gear while she leaves.
  717.     Returning to the barracks and finding her suit not only dry but also pleasantly warm, Sunny notes a small, brown paper wrapped package sitting atop the crate on her bed, filling the room with a faint scent of.. something.
  719.     Sunny_Feathers had no intention of engaging the Spectrals and doubted any of them were hostile to begin with, but it was still concerning, and should be observed at the very least.
  720.     Taking note of the paper bag, her ears flicked around the room, someone had been in here, and while she normally would have suspected Discord and now potentially Anonfilly, her door had been unlocked. It could have been anyone, and they could have looked in the crate. Sunny cursed her recklessness and quickly checked the crate's contents before turning her attention to the bag afterwards. Sunny cautiously nosed it open and peered in.
  722.     Pushing the steel crate's lid up and dislodging the package, nothing appeared to have been touched, nor were there any scents inside other than hers, barring the familiar one of fruits and berries. Folded like an envelope, but not glued closed, the package contained a loose set of four freshly made bars, definitely not ration styled. The first one was obviously tropical, chopped pineapple, coconut, orange, and mango chunks held together by edible gel, the second composed of a pleasingly sweet cheese, the third a mixture of wild berries, and the fourth a simple mixture of heavy cream and whole oats.
  724.     Sunny_Feathers was perplexed. Who could have left this here, and why? And would she need to recompense whoever put it there? She did not know, her first guess would be Anonfilly, but she had thought the 4,000 year old filly would have been here to terrorize her while she did it. Not knowing for sure caused her to crease her brow with mild irritation. All these strange, extra dimensional immortal beings tormenting her in various ways was beginning to make her sick to her stomach. However, it would be impolite to refuse Anonfilly's gift, if it was from her, so she found room in her saddlebags for it before donning her bodysuit, catboots and wingblades. She wouldn't need her weapons, but they could double as ceremonial ornaments if she was going to play messenger, a few engravings here and there, some gold paint, even though it was gaudy and she could appear like a plump diplomat. She scowled at the thought and left for the Translocation matrix.
  726. Exiting her room into the hallway, then outside, @Sunny_Feathers passes by a stumbling Honor Guard in illusion clone appearance, the dazed look in her eyes and manners openly stating that she hadn't slept well. Smiling at the pony barracks door opening, the mare pauses, blinking once as if to confirm Sunny's invisible appearance, tilting her head to the left only to fall onto that her side heavily, grunting as her legs cease to function. "Now I'm seeing things. This is the last time I eat the blue ones, bloody Changelings and their brain twisting mushrooms.." Making her way to the pagoda without incident, Sunny enters to find the previous group still where they were, quiet and relaxing, but that was mostly due to the uniformed human holding the Arcane Blade's hoof, a deep blush spreading across her cheeks under the black iron helmet.
  728.     Sunny_Feathers found the hand/hoof holding she was witnessing as extremely lewd. It just wasn't something to be done lightly. That human must really care for that Arcane Blade. She couldn't decide whether the mare in question was lucky, or unfortunate to be subjected to such a display in public.
  729.     The mare turned to the translocation matrix and punched in the runes for the Hive, hopefully since they were allied with Razorback, the Vortex Remnant would know where she wanted to go and send her there, otherwise, she'd be looking at scouring the entirety of the New Everfree to find it. As for the mare personally, she found Changelings unsettling, but kept reminding herself that they weren't evil, shapeshifting infiltrators. Maybe they were two of those things, but certainly not evil. She'd be fine, everything was gonna be fine. Yes.
  731. One of the Remnant's many, many eyes within the stone peer up at the pegasi stepping on it, surveying her demeanor and presence with a lax, calculating demeanor. Sensing business as it was, somehow, always able to, a placidly swirling green, blue, and black translocation tunnel opens, carrying @Sunny_Feathers inside without subjecting her to unwarranted amounts of stomach churning dissonance. Deposited lightly onto a middle size sandstone matrice, the first thing that hits her.. is heavy pelting rain. Barely able to make out anything besides the storm overhead, the rain belt forest she had landed in was a low land forest mix, albeit difficult to see outside the mud and sheets of water pouring down. Straight ahead of was a towering, seamless mound of black covered in small green dots, two clamshell gates barely seen along with a pair of small wooden huts at the sides of each, though Sunny's coat is pickled by a different kind of cold, that of curious green eyes focusing in her direction through the rain.
  733. Sunny_Feathers found being pelted with rain rather nice and turned her muzzle up to it, simply standing there in the rain for a few moments. Contented with being drenched, Sunny continued onwards with an unconcerned trot, as though it was the sunniest day in the world, shaking her mane and tail out, but keeping her wings unfurled and covering her saddlebags protectively. Upon reaching the gates, the mare stood her ground in the rain, peering up at them with her head inclined just so, was she meant to announce her presence as a formality? Her presence was already known, maybe there were guards in the huts. She took her time thinking it through before cupping a hoof to her muzzle, shouting so that her voice could carry over the din of the rain, "Helloooo in there! Might I beg entrance despite this fine weather?" No sarcasm tinted her statement about the weather, she sincerely thought it was. Just. Fine.
  735.     Coming into view, a quartet of near-alicorn height Changeling Vanguards, two in each of the wooden huts, swivel their heads at @Sunny_Feathers tromping through the mud. Forming a bright green umbrella over Sunny, the pair to the left tilts their heads in thought while the second flicks their ears. Reaching a consensus, the four nod in unison, forming a string of blocky letters, in Common of course, at eye level for her to read. 'You and your daughter may enter.'
  736.     The sound of munching next to Sunny, previously unheard, ceases with a small, familiar giggle. "Thank you pretty ponies!"
  738.     Sunny_Feathers turns her eye up to the umbrella with an almost pout, the rain was nice while it lasted. SHe'll have to go roll around in it later. Turning her attention to the... Quite large Changelings, Sunny read through their thoughts? Speech? Some amalgam of both? /Communication/, she'd go with that, "Me and my... What?"
  739.     Hhearing the giggle Sunny turned to find Anonfilly standing there nonchalantly. The mare instantly blushed at the implication they'd made, "Oh! No, no! No. No, she's not my daughter. No. Just... Just no. But thank you."
  740.     Turning to enter, Sunny looked down at Anonfilly, "As for you, what torment do you have in mind for me this time?" It occured to her that the Changelings had /seen/ Anonfilly, that wasn't to say she was real, however, they could just be seeing her mind's projection of her hallucination, but even that was stretching it.
  742.     Floating three hooves off the ground under the effects of obvious Empire floatdust, a cotton pouch of freshly steaming hay fries also hovering in front of her nose, Anonfilly quirks an eyebrow @Sunny_Feathers in an utterly innocent and completely untrustworthy gesture, speaking under her breath in a coy tone. "Besides helping you out?" Punctuating the question by digging her snout into the bag for a quick munch, the black maned filly lifts a hoof to wave at the Vanguards. "Fif fofay! Fe'f fuft fhy fafouf feif fy fom, feaffy!" Smiling with sharp looking false-teeth at the filly, the Changelings shake their heads at Sunny, emotions of mixed amusement and understanding felt in the air as the left clamshell gate opens, a single chain rattling behind the walls.
  743.     Gliding inside and spinning around, Anonfilly puts on a bright, squishy smile, shooting a barely seen 'hurry' ear flick at Sunny. "Come on mom, I've been dying to try some shortcap mushrooms!"
  745.     Sunny_Feathers walked along at a leisurely pace, which had nothing to do with ensuring that Anonfilly could keep up on her tiny filly legs. She rolled her eye at Anonfilly's lack of manners. "Don't talk with your mouth full." She froze midstep for a split second. She realised that she had reprimanded Anonfilly without even thinking about it. Following the filly in, she tried to put the distraction out of mind as she attempted to figure out where this second ring would be. She sighed at the excited filly in a half-defeated manner and spoke under her breath. "I'm not your mother..." She did continue to follow the possibly-a-hallucinatory filly, however.
  747.     "Yeeeees mooooom..." Nodding in a suitably chastised manner for a pony her age, Anonfilly rolls her eyes half-seriously in return, nosing forwards for another munch, but halts. Taking several floaty steps forwards, the green filly squints up at @Sunny_Feathers, muttering in a calmly serious tone as the clamshell gate closes. "Don't. Really, don't, okay?" Glancing back to make sure, Anonfilly exhales in relief, lifting a hoof and rubbing the end of her snout, scrunching in thought. "You nearly cheesed it out there."
  748.     Smiling sheepishly, the filly tilts her head, expression briefly switching to a frown. "Why I'm here. I got done and started getting bored so I figured I'd come see what you were doing, maybe help out for once. Look, 'mom', you've never been here so please, please take my advice: you don't wanna call the wrong kind of attention. Changelings are really nice and have a lot of good stuff to trade, but they're kinda like-" Lifting a hoof over her head and tracing the shape of a horn in the air, she drops it down to tap on the float with a sigh. "I come here and visit Queen Snuggles when I get a chance, but if she decides to take a stroll, finds you, and you say anything about being from across the ocean, the next time I show up here she's gonna ask me about you.. and that's not gonna be good. I know you don't like this, just play along until you leave and I'll go keep her busy, okay?"
  750.     Sunny_Feathers listened to Anonfilly with a straight face, unsure what exactly it was the filly wanted. Was it banter or for serious? She didn't know. As for alerting Queen Chrysalis, she didn't like the idea of being near any of the sisters, but she did have a job to do. "I had no intention of being anywhere near Queen Chrysalis. I'm to deliver letters to a Changeling covered in paint, and receive letters to return to Hodch, that was it." Apart from getting a skull plate, of course, but she'd appreciate the help regardless. "But, thank you. If you're not pulling my leg, that is. I can never tell."
  752.     Shifting heavily onto her right legs, Anonfilly carefully bites onto a few hay fries, pulling them out to steadily chew on, @Sunny_Feathers finally noticing that she'd been taken out of phase from Tallus. Currently inside the first ring, or shell, a slightly smaller dome making what was presumably the second ring unconnected to the upper shell was a short walk north, small squads of four Changelings, most of them Sunny's height, each led by an Imperial Warden march by on what looked to be exercise regimens. Beyond the filly a wide, half-oval entrance to the north was the only apparent access small, clusters of large semi-permanent Empire tents ringing the dome around it.
  753.     Left foreleg lifting, it points behind Anonfilly first, then east. "Misel is the one you're looking for. Go through there, take a right, work your way through storage, you'll find her pretty easy. She likes to paint but she can also read and write lots of languages, even a couple I never knew and at least ten that aren't used these days."  Tail flicking behind her, also suitably chastised, Anonfilly simply smiles as if to say 'fine mom'. "Like I said, I'm supposed to help, but pulling your tail isn't nice so this time I'll do you a free favor: while I'm talking to Queen Snuggles I'll tell her your situation, that way she doesn't ask funny questions the next time you come here. In return I want a small jar of sundew about this size-" Lifting her left front hoof and sketching out a pint sized shape in the air, her ears flattening somberly. "Queen Snuggles knows me but she's usually busy. When I try to get one.. every time a Changeling, or most ponies, see me I look like a different filly each time, so they won't let me have any. There's barely any alcohol in it but they're really strict."
  755.     Sunny_Feathers froze and glanced at Anonfilly after a few muscle twitches. Just telling her, that was Anonfilly's plan? The mare almost wanted to simply bolt off. "Is that wise? I'm all for keeping a low profile, and this doesn't seem like it would help me keep a low profile." Who was she kidding anyway? She'd probably be able to tell just by looking at her, Celestia did, after all, "Alright, if you think it's best, but I sincerely hope this doesn't go south."
  756.     Putting it out of mind for the moment, Sunny refocused on what she was meant to be doing. A Changeling covered in paint named Misel. Sounded friendly enough. She also needed to keep her eye out for Sundew now. Hang on, wait up, just a second, "Absolutely not! You're too young for alcoho-!" The mare snapped her mouth shut mid sentence, as she'd just remembered exactly how old Anonfilly was, and it was readily apparent from her features and quick glance at Anonfilly that she had blurted that out without intending to. The mare immediately trotted off towards the second ring and responded quickly, "I'll-keep-an-eye-out-you-go-have-fun-swee-." She screamed internally at herself as she almost did it again.
  757. [ 1d6+3 = 4 ] [ 1d6+3 = 9 ] < B.Perception
  759.     Nose wiggling, Anonfilly's ears and tail flick spoke in basic pegasi body language: 'this is your best option, bigger'. Head turning to watch a procession of Warrior Changelings dash by, the green filly turns back to @Sunny_Feathers, an eyebrow raising in a distinct questioning manner. "First off, I'm saving you time, second, you're not good at talking your way out of things, and third, I'm totally cute!" Eyes sparkling and putting on her best heart-obliterating smile, Anonfilly lifts a hoof, pawing at the air and calling sweetly after Sunny as she leaves. "Okay mom, I'll see you in a bit!"
  760.     Barely avoided by several panting Wardens defeatedly loping after the Warrior cadre, Sunny's entrance into the second ring is otherwise uninterrupted, the gateway's thin, dull green barrier opening to admit her. Briefly eyeing a troubling number of crates stacked floor to dome ceiling, each containing sixteen or so two gallon jars of a pulsing green gel, then halting to try and figure out a way through them, the only apparent course to the east was through a dimly lit tunnel one pegasus wide. Barely.
  761.     Squeezing between, around, under, over, and even through the crates as best as she was able to for several minutes, Sunny nearly runs nose first into a bright pink Crystal filly, barely six years old, sitting down in a vacant crate, an open jar in front of her, the right front hoof covered in gel, and said hoof stuck in her mouth. Eyes meeting eye in momentary worry, the filly gleefully smiles around her hoof, waving at the back side of the crate, most of the slats removed. Continuing past the filly, the sweet, aery aroma of what she was eating strikes Sunny's nose, the scent similiar to honey, yet more.. delicious.
  763.     Sunny_Feathers pressed her wing against her face, hiding her furious blush of embarrassment at Anonfilly's outburst. All the mare could do was mutter under her breath half-heartedly, "...I'm not your mother." By the Sun, she'd almost prefer being caught out than this. Anything but this!
  764.     Weaving around easily, thanks to her small stature, and after muttering an apology for interrupting the filly, Sunny continued weaving her way through the crates, which almost seemed endless. Was this the second ring or a storage closet? There was honestly no way to tell right now.
  766.     Shaking her head in a counter-apology, the Crystal filly merely removes her hoof to beam a happy smile @Sunny_Feathers, visibly glad at not being turned in, then returns to her delicacy with hearty nomming.
  767.     Diverting through ever more bizarrely stacked provisions, some of which were worrying in their lopsided nature, Sunny eventually breaks through an opening of crates, falling hooves first down onto a poorly placed stack of fluffy Empire travel beds.. which promptly begins to tip forwards into another stack, ending up in the middle of a rapidly escalating pile traveling downwards. Keeping her hoofing nonetheless, the stacks settle right in front of a small black chitin dome covered top to bottom in drying canvases, the paintings of various nature scenes doing nothing to disguise the chaotic mess of paint cans, brushes, and jars of oddly colored water surrounding it.
  768.     Inside the cutout entrance, a lone Changeling virtually splashed with random paint colors, mostly red, looks up from a pile of sliced mushrooms and a single black carrot. Green eyes blinking curiously, the unknown Changeling breed, a bit smaller than Sunny in size, offers a friendly smile. Lifting a hoof and pressing it into the air, three sets of red text form, one in Common, the second in pegasi, and the third in Changeling, the first two reading: 'Hello and welcome to the Hive, pegasus - I am Misel - have you a need of me?'
  770.     Sunny_Feathers looked between Misel, the mess she had made with the small mountain of travel beds, and back to Misel again, shaking the disorientation off. Taking a step forward, the mare once again misjudged the softness of the surface and stumbled, falling on her side. With a short flail of her legs, the mare brought herself to stand upright again. Brushing herself off of non-existent dust from her fall, Sunny stuck her muzzle in her saddlebag and withdrew the letters after a little rummaging, "Fank yew, Owy haf lettefs for yew, from Rathorbaf!"
  771.     Transferring the letters to her hooves, Sunny sat and repeated herself, "I have letters for you, from Razorback!" She looked at the letters, then back at Misel. "Or Queen Chrysalis, specifically, their usual messenger isn't available, so I'm playing mailmare today." Casting a glance back up to where she came, Sunny wondered how maneuvering between a bunch of crates had been more difficult than moving through the Mava jungle. Slight confusion. A little bit of worry for the solitary filly. Amused annoyance at Anonfilly. All these things, were running through her head as she turned back to Misel, returning her friendly demeanor.
  773.     Remaining in her seated position, Misel plants the in use hoof square in the middle of her snout in a poor attempt to hide a grin. Setting the same down, the painter's armored ears perk interestedly, collecting the envelopes and carefully opening the first one, still grinning. 'The Hive and my Queen thank you, Miss ? - Razorback's news does not often reach us so quickly - Vanil is flighty and easily misdirected in his duties you see'. Lifting a slice of mushroom as an offering to @Sunny_Feathers, a softcap she realizes, a species best eaten raw due to it's sweetness. The paint-covered Changeling's nose twitches in concern, folding the page down and collecting the others to read in silence, armored eyebrows progressively furrowing. Setting the letters off to the side of the empty dome, Misel sits back, head tilting right and staring upwards in thought, lines of text changing to Common in response. 'Strange news indeed - Nightblade Hodch is right to worry - Marquis du Spiral was strange to the Hive but still a friend '. Motionless for several minutes, the insect-like green eyes brighten, turning a merry smile down onto Sunny. 'Our Queen accepts - Relay to the Honorable Tipper or Nightblade Hodch this - All willing Changelings are allowed to safeguard Razorback until the Marquis returns - The Hive will provide it's own support including enough edibles for one year in advance - All that is needed is space for 40 Changelings'.
  775.     Sunny_Feathers replied between nibbles, thanking Misel for the mushroom, "Feathers, Sunny Feathers." Ears flicking in concern about Vanil, the mare wondered if the humans had managed to locate him yet. Spiral's absence from Razorback was of great concern to many, it seemed, she had to wonder if he was aware of the effect his departure had. If he knew, and still remained away, he was either indifferent, or doing something far more important. Sunny's more pessimistic side made the supposition that he was incapacitated and no longer capable of fulfilling his role.
  776.     Reading through the text and memorising it word for word, Sunny turned her gaze to Misel again. "Very well. On another note, Nightblade Hodch asked me acquire one of your unused skull plates, if you have any, he would not tell me what exactly it was for, only that he needed it as soon as possible." It was not technically a lie, Hodch hadn't told her what it was for, and assumed he would have told her if she needed to know. Nibbling more at the mushroom, Sunny was surprised at how sweet it was.
  778.     Smiling in return, Misel rocks back on her rear, an eyebrow raising curiously at the request. 'Nightblade Hodch asked for one? - ..just one?' Glancing behind her, the Changeling's horn sparks to life in bright green, sending flecks of paint down onto her head and illuminating an equally chaotic pile of Changeling armor plates. Picking through the assortment, haphazardly scattering them around the dome, a pair of larger skull plates and a smaller one are deposited on @Sunny_Feathers' back, sticking to her armor with ease, the painter's snoot scrunching amusedly. 'My Queen doubts that will be enough for his inquisitive mind - Tell him we did not have 'just one' - The Hive has been overbuilt so our Queen has asked us all to cease molting if possible'.
  779.     Ears flicking up, Misel blinks several times confusedly, one eye shutting, then the other, turning back around to retrieve a small stack of Empire stamped envelopes, neatly depositing them in front of Sunny with a metallic huff. 'Thank you my Queen, I nearly forgot - These should be what Nightblade Hodch wants - If you require any provisions in advance please take what you like before leaving - We have little space left for storage and I am finding it difficult to find a comfortable location to paint'
  781.     Sunny_Feathers shifted under the weight of all the skull plates she'd just been given, moving her wings about to balance them better on her back so she wouldn't have to strain too much to carry them. Hodch had only needed one, but this was fine too, she could break one down to figure out its exact composition, it might be useful as a construction material if the Changelings had a surplus.
  782.     Having balanced the weight to her liking, Sunny thanked Misel, "Thanks, I don't know what Hodch wants them for, but at least he'll have spares." Turning her thoughts to Anonfilly, Sunny remembered that she was meant to be looking for Sundew as well. "I heard from somepony reliable that the Sundew here was pretty good, but I haven't seen any around being sold, yet. I'd be grateful for directions." She could also use Sundew for its... curative properties as well.
  784.     'You are welcome - One can never know what goes on in that Nightblade's mind - He comes up with the strangest ideas - And the weirdest ones, too, says my Queen'.
  785.     Dipping her head with a happy expression, Misel sits back, lifting a hoof and rubbing her chin in thought. 'Sundew? - Oh, the rare bright yellow drink - It is strange, there only are only nine ponies in Equestria that know where to find it - We do not sell it either, the Empire prefers to take honey instead - But I digress'
  786.     Reaching out to tap the same red paint covered hoof into the air, a floor map of the Hive forms, showing the third ring nearly empty. 'Go around my dome and travel north fifty paces - There will be an entrance into the third ring, there are only a few Changelings and one Warden there at the moment - Look for the sealed steel containers next to the south entrance to the second ring - Our stockpile is..'
  787.     Leaving the dots to trail off in the air, Misel's thinly armored face scrunches in embarrassment. 'We have too much of everything at the moment, my Queen says - Ask one of the Vanguards to deliver a shipment to Razorback if you would please - It would help with our storage troubles'
  789.     Sunny_Feathers perked her ears at the mention of the honey, reminded of the filly. If that filly thought it was so good, maybe she should pick up a jar or two. At a later time, though, she was quickly becoming a packhorse. The mare memorised the map Misel was projecting. "Will do, and I'll be sure to relay the message to Razorback as soon as possible. Thanks, again~."
  790.     She wasn't sure why she ended on a singsong note, it was oddly appropriate. Must be the hoofboots again. The mare then followed Misel's directions to the letter, literally, keeping the skull plates balanced carefully on her back as she moved. The mare began to wonder why the Changelings would simply give their surplus away, perhaps it was to an ally, but Sunny couldn't see any benefit to the relationship, asides from gaining more storage space. Then again, she didn't know the specifics of the alliance and as a lowly mercenary (which continued to irk her to no end) were not her concern. Turning her thoughts elsewhere, Sunny half wondered what Anonfilly was doing at that moment, the other half insisting that she didn't want to know.
  792.     'You are welcome - Return any time Miss Feathers!' Receiving a friendly wave from Misel, the painter returns to her midnight snack, still oblivious to the paint dripping down off onto her mushrooms.
  793.     Immediately confronted with yet more crates around the backside of the dome, these ones were stacked in a much shorter and professional manner, neatly piled together to allow three lanes for hoof traffic, @Sunny_Feathers takes the west marked path, finding the entrance to the third ring easily. This one had been organized in a series of one hardwall Empire tent to eight large beds, themselves of varying makes with one from nearly every city and country Sunny knew of, placed atop steel transport crates, these ones containing black armor plates neatly stacked inside.
  794.     Rounding down towards the south through the comfortably military styled setup, small field kitchens had been set up in opportune spots, each one tended to by an Crystal pony chef obviously waiting for their hungry allies to swarm in. At the entrance to the second ring a trio of lower ranked Wardens, Halberdiers given the odd weapons standing in a triangle, were accompanied by eight Changelings of Misel's size, all louncing across the smooth floor reading through stacks of official letters and scrolls. Glancing up to notice Sunny, the first Halberdier lifts a hoof in greeting, waiting her for to speak.
  796.     Lifting a hoof ready to speak, Sunny paused, her mouth opening mid word, "I...-!" Moving the raised hoof to the bridge of her muzzle, Sunny shook her head. "One moment.". Sunny about faced and went back the way she came at top speed, managing to drop the skull plates stacked on her back in the process. Groaning at herself, the mare decided she'd just leave them and pick them up on the way back. She had forgotten the letters Misel had placed right in front of her snoot.
  797.     Reaching Misel's dome again, she picked up the letters in her mouth, "fawgot fa lethers as fwell." Waving farewell to Misel again, Sunny backtraced her path, returning to the Halberdier who had greeted her and reclaiming the skull plates on the way. "Forry, I jus-..." Sunny scrunched her muzzle and looked at the letters still in her mouth, transferring them to her saddlebags before continuing. "Sorry, I left something behind." This was a Halberdier, not a Vanguard, were they the same thing? Sweat collected on her brow in embarrassment at herself. "I need to organise a shipment of Sundew and I don't know exactly who I'm supposed to talk to about that."
  799.     Visibly unsurprised by @Sunny_Feathers returning for the letters, Misel smiles in a friendly manner, ears flicking in farewell as she leaves once more.
  800.     Now fully sitting up, the Halberdier squints at Sunny for several moments, the young mare then giggling quietly and lifting a hoof to dismiss Sunny's concerns. "Chill out there pegasus, don't worry about it. As for how many crates I can authorize-" Head swiveling around, the Warden begins mouthing numbers at a quick pace, then turns back to whistle at the largest Changeling, several short, concise sentences in Imperial directed at the stallion.
  801.     Head cocking, the mare faces Sunny with a small frown. "Basically, however many you need, though that ultimately depends on where you want it sent. We're already risking a collapse of the tunnels below and at forty crates in this ring, the Queen is right to worry. The Hive is now to the point where teams of Drones and Flankers are being sent into the second and fourth rings to look for 'missing' fillies, not that they can't find a way out but to make sure they aren't actually lost or trapped. Just tell me location and population size, I'll have them sent immediately."
  803.     Sunny_Feathers frowned at the mention of the Hive's structural integrity being at risk. Could their storage problems be connected to the departure of Las Pegasus? If so, it may very well be an intended consequence of the attack. She didn't have enough information, she'd have to gather more to draw a solid conclusion. The mare wondered if anything could be done to alleviate the problem, beyond alleviating the Changeling's of their supplies, that is. Razorback could potentially act as secondary storage for them, though she wasn't authorised to suggest such a thing, and Razorback had no unused storage facilities that she was aware of.
  804.     "We could take as much as you need us to in order to help alleviate the problem, failing that, Razorback has a population of approximately 250." At the mention of fillies, that one Crystal Filly she'd encountered earlier came to mind, "I see, I came across one, in fact, she seemed fine making 'use' of the supplies."
  806.     Ponderously standing up due to the overly thick crystalline plates, the Halberdier turns her head to the same Changeling as before, then swivels around to give Sunny_Feathers a morbidly clueless stare. "..whaa? Razorback? I thought you were from Tartarus Isle, Shanis was supposed to send a mercenary here for some trade goods. Now I get it, but taking a contract out in the middle of the fillybucking New Everfree surrounded by Wargs and ten times worse? Who'd you piss off to take that kind of contract pegasus?" The mare shakes her head quickly, ears flopping down in good humor while cracking a suddenly professional grin. "Facetious question, ignore it. Well, there's too many fillies to keep track of here. Just so long as she was happy and not trapped, I'll send a Flanker out in an hour."
  807.     Giving a flatly humored snort, the Crystal mare eyes something behind Sunny for a moment, tail flicking while calling back over her shoulder. "Pull the Vanguards off the gate, have them deliver four crates of Sundew and twenty crates of jelly of Razorback, and if they feel like it tell them to restack anything that looks like it'll fall." Two of the Changelings jump onto their hooves, flashing toothy smiles before spinning about and darting back into the second ring. Making a short, deep bow, the Halberdier straightens up with a cheerful smile, a set of heavy hooves lazily clopping towards Sunny from the rear. "Good evening my Queen. Who's the cute little filly with you?"
  808.     The merry, warm motherly voice Sunny knew of but had not heard before, was definitely Queen Chrysalis. "I am surprised you do not recognize this clever little dear, she often visits from time to time bearing gifts and a smile. As for this gift-" Rounding Sunny from her right, the black and green Queen's imposing frame comes into view, dipping her head slightly with a polite smile. "Greetings to you Miss Feathers, and welcome to the Hive. No need to bow, this is an informal occassion. I am quite sure many legends abound of me, some true, but most not, so pay them no mind please. The little one has-"
  809.     Raising an eyebrow, the sound of fillyish munching occurs left of Sunny followed by something plopping down out of sight. "Mind your manners please, it is impolite to seat yourself out of view of a guest." Groaning with just the right amount of authoritarian acceptance, Anonfilly is heard standing up, passing in front of Sunny to sit down again, Chrysalis shaking her head with a deeply amused smile. "Thank you my dear. As I was stating, the little one has explained to me the circumstances of your presence. I am curious, but as you are here on business my questions will wait, although.."
  810.     Trailing off for several moments, Chrysalis lifts a hoof, gently rubbing her chin in thought. "I thought to offer a few contracts through Shanis seeing as it would be rude to ignore her plight. She has been most gracious and accepted all five of them, however, I have not had time to send them to Razorback." Twitching an ear in something akin to annoyance, the Queen of the Hive's eyes shut with a friendly yet mildly concerning smile. "Since this one tells me you are working for them as well, would you care to take the three open ones and place them wherever free contracts are supposed to be placed? I also have two that, should you be willing to look over, I can offer to you as well. They are not too outrageous, though they are a bit strange, you see."
  812.     Sunny_Feathers opened her mouth to speak, "I-" Her sentence caught midword as she'd been about to let loose the fact that she'd requested the assignment. Her second phrase also caught in her throat the moment she realised who was behind her, and the mare went rigid as soon as she did, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular. As the Changeling Queen came into view, Sunny managed to force herself to return the smile, but knew it was not sincere. That foolish filly, what has she done?! As the filly in question passed her on her way to sit in front, Sunny eyed her with her single eye, pupil and iris shrunken down to a pinpoint. Information leak. Threat.
  813.     Just as the filly sat, Sunny blinked, her eye back to normal. Though her wing remained resting lightly against her saddlebag, the familiar shape of the Black Fog potion pressing through the cloth. Probability of escape was minimal. Damage from information leak already done. She may have to consider disengaging and going to ground for a long period of time, /if/ she got out of this. Anonfilly was more hindrance than help. She'd have to keep her options open and act later. "I think I can do that, your highness." Remain in their good graces for now. An opportunity to get out would present itself if she played her cards right.
  815.     Lifting a hoof out of sight, the passage of time ceases, Anonfilly's return stare the perfect picture of calm. "Don't even even start with me bigger. I only answered two questions. One, you took a contract for Razorback, and two, you don't like prying. Remember who's sitting right there. Don't waste those favors I just did for you or I WILL be mad and you can forget about getting anything special from across the ocean, got it?"
  816.     Releasing the temporal dilation, Queen Chrysalis had seated herself next to the Halberdier, the two speaking quietly, the first sadly, the second scornfully. "-o engineering teams available? Any in Canterlot perhaps?"
  817.     "Excuse the language Queen, however, buck them. I'd rather ask around in Neighvada."
  818.     "Too busy at the moment, next one then. What of Las Pegasus? Any news?"
  819.     "Isiet told us to, I quote, 'take it up with my Bane-scarred flanks', end quote. She no longer cares about Equestria, said Las Pegasus is done and gone."
  820.     "That is unfortunate, but I do understand their pain. Can w-"
  821.     Halted from their conversation, Chrysalis turns her head up, eyeing Anonfilly biting into a new pouch of hay fries. Eyes crinkling in suspicion at the filly for several moments, the Queen turns, offering @Sunny_Feathers a warm smile, her horn lighting up briefly as five sheets pop onto the floor in front of her. "The Hive, and myself, thank you. The first three are for Razorback as a whole, the last two.." Giving the Halberdier a morose glance, the Queen drops her gaze with a guilt-ridden expression, the Crystal mare speaking up with blatant hostility tinging her voice.
  822.     "A while back one hundred or so Changeling cores were brought here by Hollow. We've done all we can to wake them though some are simply not responding to anything we've tried. We've no idea what trauma the Tyrant caused to them before being forced into stasis, which leads into the problem. Hollow was our liasion for a while, but earlier tonight he ate a bunch of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Right now he's walking around in a perpetual daze and Roust, the Vanguard at Razorback, has disappeared, we're not sure where she is. I'll be blunt, all this one is-"
  823.     Reaching forwards and tapping the last contract sheet. "Take these two cores to Razorback and give them to a unicorn named Tipper, or Tipsy, whatever she calls herself now. Former Honor Guard medic, probably heavily faded by now, more venerable than most."   
  824.     Glancing behind her with a muted hum, a large white cotton pouch is tossed from the Halberdier's saddlepack, landing in front of Sunny, followed by a pair of dully glowing green spheres, each the size of a cantalopue. "One thousand Bits for delivery, ten thousand Bits up front to pay for any of her expenditures, twenty thousand more if she finds out anything, and I do mean anything, worthwhile."
  826.     Sunny_Feathers simply continued to observe Anonfilly quietly. The filly being angry with her didn't concern her one bit, at least that's what she told herself. At the end of the day, she had to do whatever she had to do to protect herself, she couldn't take the chance. To Sunny's eye, the filly seemed dead set on making her a target, despite her assurances of helping. Just another way these ponies were inscrutable to her.
  827.     Interrupted from her thoughts by Queen Chrysalis, Sunny turned her attentions back outwards. "Sounds easy enough, I'd be happy to do it. What about the second contract?"
  829.     The lead Halberdier makes a slight 'hold' motion with a hoof, the other two Wardens getting up and carefully nudging a mute Chrysalis to stand. Ears flattening, the mare's nostrils flare watching her kin pull the troubled Queen north, turning back to @Sunny_Feathers with a mockingly hollow regal tone. "Neither the Empire nor the Hive has much reason to interact with Canterlot besides a basic amount of low level trade. You might be wondering what this has to do with a contract, and you would be correct to assume it relates to the previous one. Hypothetically speaking, that might very well be a list of names in Canterlot that uncertain inconspicuous humans or ponies of Razorback may want to look for if they want to repay certain actions relating to recent events in Stalliongrad."
  830.     Glaring beyond Sunny for several moments, the Halberdier's face tightens into a cold, murderous expression. "Two nights ago a royal from Canterlot was snared attempting to key in the runes for Las Pegasus, claimed she was one of Lucky's trading partners. Day Guards had zero reason to believe her, searched what she was trying to smuggle out, nothing suspicious until one of them found six Changeling cores, something that a certain gold pegasus was known to sell on the black market."
  831.     Sitting backwards and folding her forelegs across her barrel, the mare tilts her head, eyebrows furrowing sharply. "You'll excuse me if I don't particularly care how stressed out you are at the moment, pegasus, so I'll be clear: Rebirth is busy trying to help the very few survivors of Las Pegasus and Queen Chrysalis is mourning over the Changeling cores that were too damaged to revive. We just buried the last one a few hours ago. As you can imagine we put a collection hat out, it's gotten quite big since them. Post that list somewhere. When one of those names is found, the Wardens don't care if they die with a whimper or a scream, we just want them sent straight to the Endlands."
  833.     Sunny_Feathers inclined her head slightly at the Halberdier, completely unconcerned with her attitude, Crystal Ponies were an overly emotional sort, as she could well remember. An assassination contract, however?
  834.     "Well, it couldn't hurt to make such a thing, hypothetically, available." Looking after the Queen's departure, Sunny felt physically relieved, and moved her wing away from her bag. She didn't particularly enjoy wetwork, in fact, she'd rather not go back to getting her hooves dirty, but this might foster more goodwill between Razorback, the Empire and the Hive. More goodwill was always good, though she had to wonder if all but targeting elements from Canterlot was a good idea. She needn't take responsibility, or get the rest of Razorback involved at all. Best to put off posting that list until she knew for certain which route she should take.
  836.     "The Wardens don't want this to be a hypothetical any longer. Socially, ponifally, legally, politically, honorably.. we either need a few of those names dead, or a few miracles. Rebirth and the Queen have suffered more than their fair share in the past couple weeks, especially after hearing at least four hundred of her own children have been ground into powder for reagents. Morale was at an all time high a month ago, now it's an all time low."     Lifting a blue colored cigar into view and biting onto it, the Halberdier focuses, flame sparking in the air and igniting the tip. "You ever think about what it would be like to ditch everything and let the monster inside take over? I have. I think about it quite a bit."
  837.     Taking a slow, deep inhale, the mare lets it out in the same manner, calmly shifting her focus towards the vacant spot next to @Sunny_Feathers briefly, then tilts her head back. "I'm even thinking about it right now. The problem is that Crystal ponies aren't welcome in Canterlot, even one of us would draw too much attention after some noble or royal had a shitstorm in public. I'll even sweeten this dark little deal: get me one of those heads on a silver platter by the end of this week and I'll.. convince a certain shadowy and nameless pony to offer his rather high in demand training services to Razorback and Tartarus."
  839.     Sunny_Feathers frowned, furrowing her brow, "/Hypothetically/." She did not appreciate speaking of such matters in the open, it wasn't her way. Still, she patiently listened to the Crystal Pony relieve her anger, even if only temporarily, before replying, "No, I don't. I'm not a killer." She didn't care for potential reward, not for herself anyway. The taking of Changeling cores for alchemical reagents was reprehensible, that wasn't to say it was deserving of a death sentence.
  840.     The mare gazed at the ground in front of her, faced with a moral dilemma. She couldn't in good conscience do this under her own prerogative, she had to be ordered to. Perhaps she could simply assume that Razorback would task her to crossing off the names on the list. Hm. She could think about it at a later time.
  841.     "I suppose I'd better get to delivering these cores."
  843.     "I'm not ponifally trying to convince you to run around hacking off heads. I know of one mare that would love to but that's besides the point, the offer is open to anypony or human that wants to see justice done." Breathing out a cloud of blueberry scented smoke, the Halberdier's eyes close, nodding in a small motion. "You're all right in my eyes pegasus, at your leave. By the way, let Razorback know they have real friends here that aren't looking down on them."
  845.     Sunny_Feathers gave the Halberdier another look. Justice, that was something she could work with. Though the line between justice and vengeance was a fine one to walk. Sunny thought she'd post the list afterall, along with a warning to keep things covert, mind. Surely there'd be others among Razorback who'd rally against what the Royals had done.
  846.     Stashing the cores, and the bag of Bits in her saddlebags carefully, Sunny nodded at the Halberdier. "I'm sure they know already." With a farewell and no further delay, the mare set off back the way she came, pausing only to check if Anonfilly was following, or if she'd gone off with the Queen. She hadn't forgotten what the Queen had said about questions, and she'd rather be far from this place when she remembered to ask. Did she blame Anonfilly for putting her on the Changeling Queen's radar? Yes, yes she did, but she wasn't mad, she couldn't be mad at a filly, no matter how hard she tried. All Sunny felt was fatigue; tired of all the secrecy that came part and parcel to a mare in her position. Perhaps when she returned to the Fortress, she'd make her deliveries and then drink herself into a stupor.
  848.     "They might, but take care of yourself out there pegasus, the alicorn phase cycles are.. troubling. These storms are stiffening the hearts of good ponies, and soon there'll be a cold that won't be swept aside by anything but new suns." Spoken distantly, the Warden remains seated motionless where she was.
  849.     Checking for the vivid green filly, she was no longer in the ring, nor were there any Changelings in sight. Leaving the third ring into the second, @Sunny_Feathers comes upon the remains of a Warden squad passed out in a heap front of the entrance, visibly covered in lather through their armor and heaving raggedly from exertion. Off to both sides scores of smaller Changelings were helping direct the much larger Vanguards into restacking the haphazard mess, twenty four pairs splitting off with a single crate firmly held above their heads, the convoy plodding south into the first ring.
  851.     Sunny_Feathers was utterly confused about what the Crystal Pony had said, she'd understood maybe a third of it. The lack of the filly's presence, however, she did understand, and the mares ears drooped as she continued on her way at a leisurely pace. She felt like she'd been kicked in the gut over her treatment of the filly, she had after all, done nothing except help her out. She'd need to apologise when she saw the filly again. /If/ she saw the filly again.
  852.     The mare went over her mental checklist, Letters delivered and recieved? Check. Skull plate(s) acquired for Nightblade Hodch? Check. Supplies organised for impending Changeling garrison? Check. Deliver Changeling cores to Tipper? Not check. Posting contracts to the Bulletin Board? Also not check. Sundew acquired for Anonfilly? Sort of checked off, it would be in the supplies and Anonfilly would probably appropriate one or two for herself. Still. She might have liked to give it to the filly herself. She'll show up, at least, Sunny now hoped she would. The mare wondered where she'd gotten off to.
  854.     Following the string of Vanguards into the first ring, @Sunny_Feathers receives smiles and waves from the working Changelings around, their open merriness doing little to curb the cold stings of depression setting in. 36/100 Stability.
  855.     Waving both clamshell gates open, the Changelings charge forwards into the rain and mud, leaving sprays of water in their wake along with metallic snickers and whistles. Unconcerned at their rapid, for Vanguard sized Changelings that is, pace, the pairs stream into an extra large tunnel flickering into life above the translocation stone, remaining open with a static hum.
  857.     Sunny_Feathers follows the stream of excited Changelings through the wormhole at her plodding pace, both ears now drooped, eye searching around for Anonfilly hopefully. What kind of mo-, mare, screws up like this? In an effort to put her depression aside, she started thinking about all the ways she could treat Anonfilly better if she ever turned up again. Like giving her alcohol! It was irresponsible, but as long as she supervised the filly, it would be fine, right? Right? She didn't know much about Anonfilly, or what she enjoyed doing, apart from squirreling items away in remote locations. She'd need to learn more, do something with her, anything really. She didn't care what it was, as long as she could make that filly smile. That would make her day.
  859.     Sliding into the pagoda, @Sunny_Feathers catches the last pair of Vanguards disappearing north into the blacked out courtyard, a pair of Tartarus pegasi trailing behind them. To her left, Shanis was still dead asleep, though the piles of blankets had been moved off her and, for whatever reason, replaced by a slim, bright white seal a bit longer than her, complete with long black whiskers, flippers, and a content smile. Cozily trapped between the Mercenary Queen's fore and rear legs, the seal's nose wiggles, friendly, intelligent black eyes alighting on Sunny.
  860.     On the right side of the pagoda a middle aged, pegasus mare, her snout pockmarked with scars, light red coat and a bright iron colored mane, had taken residence on the centermost couch judging by the three overstuffed travel packs lying off to one side. The mare's unique appearance and hazy yellow eyes, half-closed in malevolence towards Sunny for a moment, then turning her attention down to her forehooves, brought her name to the surface: Lunar Councilmistress Gale Ironmane, one of the few Lunar faction elite that had a particular hatred for mercenaries.
  862.     Sunny_Feathers stares back at the seal silently, her mouth in a firm, flat line, her expression one of... something, a mixture of shock and concern. The mare slowly backed away out of the pagoda with her eye on the seal the entire time, all her problems quickly forgotten in the face of this latest hallucination. She /was/ hallucinating wasn't she? It's like Late Pepper all over again, she was a mare, then she was a seal. Or was she hallucinating the seal to be a mare? She couldn't be sure what was real and what wasn't anymore.
  863.     Now out of the pagoda, Sunny continued to back away, all the way to the library, only turning around when she was safely inside. Probably best not to mention she was hallucinating seals everywhere and just deliver the letters and skull plates to Hodch. She climbed the stairs to the Alchemy Lab.
  866. *****
  867. Jeff
  868. >continued from:
  870. >After hearing Pare's direction, he adheres Malyne back onto himself while he rolls the Construct hull to the Tower with an amused chuckle.
  871. "Hmm, very true. Roust would make me do that, wouldn't she?"
  872. >He listens to the orange filly as he leaves the hull at the foot of the tower and heads toward the bulletin board for a required read.
  873. >So they went to the Cairn Area. At least if they disappear, again, he'd have a lead on a safe haven for them.
  874. "But you are going back eventually, right? Don't want to leave your mom there by herself."
  875. >Stopping at the bulletin board, Jeff removes his helmet and looks over the recent updates on it.
  876. >First thing he sees is and Item Sale sheet, with many expensive wares on it, as well as a very lawyered disclosure agreement.
  877. >Star Court.
  878. >Just reading the note reeked up beaurocracy and ass-covering.
  879. >He really hopes no one has been buying this over-priced shit.
  880. >After reading an update from Indurian, the rest of is curiosities subside as he reads a note from Clem.
  881. >Jeff chews on the inside of his mouth, reading the outcome.
  882. >So they have to regularly supply the Court with something to make them money, now?
  883. >Keldon owes them, BIG.
  884. >So does Clem. He better have SOMETHING to start off with.
  885. >After reading any other updates, Jeff ques back in on Malyne.
  886. >His eyes widen with shock and surprise at Malyne's statement, looking at whatever part of the filly he could visibly see.
  887. "Pregnant?! Uh... I don't think I did, at least."
  888. >Scratching his head oddly, Jeff heads over to the Armory to drop the Gepard off.
  889. "Our... we're different species. I don't think our... stuff is compatible like that."
  890. >Or is it?
  891. >This is magical talking pony land he was talking about.
  892. >No...
  893. >It's just too weird.
  894. >Silently entering the Armory in thought, Jeff deposits the huge rifle without notice and promptly leaves.
  895. >Back outside, he makes right for his house to drop of his equipment and give Manlyne her hoofband.
  896. "I'll have to talk with Tipper later."
  897. >Unlocking and entering into the Batcave, Jeff drops all his things at the table, everything else he had dumped before still in the same place as well.
  898. "Let me see..."
  899. >Rummaging through a side pocket in his pack, Jeff pulls out the sapphirine band and holds it up to the fuzzy filly.
  900. "Here you go."
  902.     Halted by a tap on his shoulder, Naliyna pipes up @Jeff attempting to move the Construct hull, her words pleasantly dissuading, yet firm. And worrying. "Jeff, leave that one here please! I promised to make sure these don't go anywhere in exchange for some paper work getting done.. unless you'd like to spend a couple hours helping me with denying requests and accounting?" Briefly considering the horrors of attempting to fix her utterly unkempt filing system and obtuse organization methods, the choice was clear: steer away from it.
  903.     Waving a hoof and bidding Naliyna her help later to dislodge any more questions being asked, Malyne flumps over Jeff's shoulder, exhaling through her nostrils loudly and muttering in a previously unheard tone of annoyance. "No. Mom was angry and would not stop swearing. She was in a worse mood than those times she had to talk to Aunt Twisted. Which is to say, she was not being nice." Waving at everypony in view until reaching the bulletin board, the orange batfoal stands halfway up, leaning over Jeff's head to read the most recent news postings and sale lists.
  904.     Mood brightening considerably at the exclamation and subsequent confusion, Malyne stares at him upside down with a dry, albeit merry smile for several moments, then reclines back down into a comfortable hanging position on his pack. "Different does not mean in-com-pat-ible. There are lots of hybrids like Changelings, Saddle Arabians, Gryphons.. and even batponies like me. Aunt Twisted once said that only Princess Cadence knows, but she does not talk about why."
  905.     Rapping her claws on the shoulder straps amusedly upon sighting the Batcave, Malyne remains silent until reaching down to take the offered band from Jeff with a rewarding giggle. "I told you I would be back for it. Next time I am not walking through string grass and fighting lots of pinchy things to get it back." Snickering in a dutiful manner, the batfilly wiggles the band onto her front left hoof, stretching it out for a close examination, then gives it several shakes to ensure it wouldn't move. Deactivating her own sticky enchantment, Malyne hops upwards, gliding down to land in the center of the table, then turns around to give Jeff a sobered expression. "..I have something to tell you, and I do not think you will like it."
  907.     Stopping the construct hull, mid-stride, Jef re-evaluates his current route and makes a disgusted face to the side. Paperwork. Ew. He decides to leave the construct wreck where it is and continues on his way. "You don't have to tell me twice Nal."
  908.     After leaving with Malyne, Jeff looks over at the concerned filly. "I'm sorry she was like that. I hope she's alright by herself." As the batfoal explains the.. occurence of hybrids, Jeff sweats internally. He's already picturing a centaur... with batwings, or a human top-half with pony legs: whatever that was called. "I guess that means you'll be a big sister at some point, then." (And me a... dad?) Jeff tries not to dwell the possibility on fatherhood as he situates himself back in the Batcave and strips most of his gear off.
  909.     After the batfilly retrieves her band, Jeff sits down as she prepares him for some seemingly unpleasant news. She knows him. So if she says he's not going to like it, then he's not going to like it. He lets out an understanding grumble and allows her to continue. "I had a feeling you weren't bearing good news. Just... lay it on me."
  911.     "Okay." Doing her best two-hoof shuffle on the tabletop, Malyne's wings furl in front of her, clicking her left set of claws together. "Before we left I snuck into the clinic after mom. I overheard Grandma Tipper stating she is going to have two foals for sure, but was worried about something. That is at least half of why she was being odd. She also gave something small to Patches and told her to give it to you, a green apple carving. It was a little difficult to steal.." Clicking the right set together, deep orange eyes sneakily peer @JeffMeyer, a sly half-smile spreading across her lips. "And much harder to put back. I am not sure she trusts me now. On the up side, I know who you can bribe with it."
  913.     Jeff watches Maylne carefully as she shifts around on the table, eyes widening slightly at the new wave of odd and shocking news. "Two... foals? Wow. Maybe... I should talk to Tipper; I just hope it's nothing bad." Somewhat happy the conversation had taken a more mischieveous turn, he nods as the batfoal mentions the extra trinket he brought back wth him. Smirking at the filly, Jeff reaches into his pack and pulls out the emerald-carved apple and places it on the table. "I'm guessing THIS apple carving. It's... well it WAS Councilor Oranti's, now it's mine, I suppose." Rapping his fingers against the invaluable gem, Jeff raises an eyebrow in interest. "Really, now? And who might that be?"
  915.     Releasing an uncomfortable sigh, deep orange eyes shift away from @JeffMeyer, one set of claws lifts to point northeast briefly. "The same pony that gives her daymares. thinks Aunt Twisted is going to, quote: 'make another big mistake soon'. She would not answer what that meant. When I asked why she would not work for Luna if she does not like being here, she said did not want to do that or go back to the Citadel either. When I asked why she could not retire or work for somepony else, mom got.. angry. She would not even talk to me. I walked to Cairn Wharf and came here alone."
  916.     Wings folding across her chest and clasping together, Malyne head dips downwards, silent for a bit before muttering tiredly. "I do not want to be alone like that again."
  918.     Watching Malyne train her claws to the direction of the watchtower, Jeff sighs to himself and puts down the apple to rub his face in silent contemplation as the batfilly further explains her mother's absence. Letting the foal make her peace, for now, he tilts the kitchen chair back a bit as he over-leans on it. "I see... what am I supposed to bargain her with this for?" He figures Bell must be so emotionally stressed, she can't even bring herself to be in association.
  919.     Jeff breaks a small re-assuring smile, and reaches out to gently pat the downtrodden filly on the head. "Maybe she's just... overwhelmed with this whole pregnancy ordeal. I'm sure once it's all over, she'll come back and be her old self again. You know you're always welcome here, Malyne." Jeff rises from the chair, picking up the emerald apple and motions her to follow. "I have something to do at my desk for a few minutes. I need to ask your opinion on something." Walking through the kitchen, and into his master bedroom, Jeff walks over to his desk and sits down in the chair. Keeping his attention wherever Malyne decides to situate herself, Jeff traces his palm on the underside of the desk and stops it dead center. "It's about Foggy Patches."
  920.     Activating the sticky enchantment on his palm, Jeff turns his wrist counter-clockwise and turns a part of the desk's underside along with it. "The other foals she arrived here with are being taken to the Crystal Empire, to get the care they need after being treated so awfully." Then pulling down, Jeff releases a tight-fitting cylinder of wood with two pegs sticking out and a hollowed-out cavity. "But Foggy might to want to stay here." Peeking at it under the desk, Jeff reaches into the wooden cylinder to grab a small key situated within and uses it to unlock the bottom right drawer of his desk. Opening it, Jeff shifts all his files on every single being in the Fortress to the back of the drawer and uses the sticky on his fingers to lift up the false bottom, revealing a single lone item: what  remained of his wish paper he recived from the green man.
  921.     Taking the paper out and placing it on his desk, closing the drawer, he takes a pen. But idles, choosing words carefully, and looks up at Malyne. "Given her situation, do you think it would be better for her to stay here, or have her go with the others?"
  923.     Letting her ears flop to the sides @JeffMeyer's reassurance, Malyne breathes out heavily, her expression warming several degrees. "I can always send her flowers. Besides, I would much rather sleep in a comfortable bed without all the pinchy things skittering around." Eyes shifting from side to side several times quickly, the batfilly's lips pull back in a devious grin. "Do not tell anypony, but mom hates flowers. They make her sneeze a lot." Tipping her head to one side, Malyne's ears flick curiously, then nods, hopping off the table and trotting after Jeff.
  924.     Pacing around to the side of his desk, her front hooves are stuck onto the wall, squirreling her way onto the ceiling, remaining languidly upside down. Allowing herself to relax once properly rested against the wall, Malyne rolls her wings around in small, stiff circles, eyes closed as she speaks in slow, thoughtful manner. "I do not think.. that.. Crystal ponies will be able to hoofle her well. They are too.. nice. Patches can be nice, but she is very.. nervous. She said that she is always looking for danger.. even if she cannot see it. Too paranoid. I do not think that Crystal ponies will understand that sometimes they will have to leave her alone to calm down."
  925.     Cracking an eye open, her face tightens with a deep frown. "I think that she would get along with Miss Shanis and her mercenaries best. They are used to dealing with rough ponies and creatures. That is merely my opinion because I do not know for sure."
  927.     Relieved that the orange batfoal had lightned up, Jeff smirks at Belltower's secret. "Heh, I've seen her have sneezing fits before. Never thought she was that allergic though." Idly observing the foal crawl up the wall, as he thinks over her reasoning and alternate suggestion, he hadn't considered Tartarus Isle, and Patches was... reasonably skittish for her situatiuon. "Hmm. Tartarus Isle. I'll have to send out a letter to Shanis, see if this is something she'll be fine with. From what I've heard, Sweet's a handful enough for her already."
  928.     After air-writing a sentence a few times, Jeff finally puts pen to magical paper, jots down his request, and quickly slips it back into the secret compartment in his drawer, relocking it. He then focuses on the emerald-carved apple, and looks up at the contently hanging filly. "So should I hold onto this, until I need to bargain with Twisted for something, or is there something you already had in mind?"
  930.     Malyne squints her eyes, peering back and forth across the room mischievously, then flicks her ears straight down @JeffMeyer, clicking her claws together as she whispers secretively. "Mom never learned how to properly sniff a flower. She jams her face into them and blames 'allergies' for her problems. Nopony dares to tell her that is the wrong way." Snickering at the implications, the fuzzy batfilly folds her wings onto her sides, shrugging exasperatedly at the other Enchained's name. "I do not like being near her. It is as if there is madness seeping out of her skin.. her eyes are worse. I have been been told often that she is neither mean nor dangerous, but she still bothers me. Maybe that is not such a good idea after all."
  931.     Rocking from side to side stiffly, Malyne stills for a hoofbeat at the question, deep orange eyes widening in concern with a touch of underlying fear. "That.. I did not think of. If Princess Luna thinks that mom has deserted and goes to find her, that would be much worse than telling Aunt Twisted the same, but if Aunt Twisted finds her first.. I do not know which option is worse."
  933.     Leaning back in his desk's chair, Jeff ponders over Malyne's perception of Twisted. He is aware of some kind of personality change in her a while back. For the most pert, it seemed like a change for the better. But Malyne ultimately knows Twisted better than he does, so if she says there's something wrong he'll just have to take her word for it. "Hmmm...." What could they do about this? "If you, Tipper, and I are the only ones that know your mom's pregnant, maybe we can use that and just use it as a half truth to explain her... absence. When Tipper told her it wouldn't be normal, Bell took of to... find someone that could help her through it, and that no one should try and find her until it's over." The Nightblade shrugs his shoulders, half-mindedly. "Who's honestly going to bother and find a mare who wants to be alone while she's bearing foals?"
  935.     "To answer your question from before, I do not know if you should bargain with it. I have heard a little about Oranti from Aunt Twisted and the Matron before. She is both finicky and possessive. Maybe just keep it safe for now." Letting her wings hang down freely, Malyne releases a small, self-calming sigh, giving Jeff a quizzical ear flick after a bit of thought, splaying her left set of claws out. "There are three problems. One, mom is still part of the Lunar military, but I do not know their rules on desertion are. Or if this counts. Two, if mom did not notify anypony the Guard are going to look for her, especially if Grandma Tipper has not announced it. Three.. what was three?" Halting to stare at her third claw, the batfilly questioningly wiggles it at her nose, then deadpans after a few moments. "That is it. I have heard from the Matron and read in two books that when blood drinking batponies leave into the Moors alone, they can regress into a state of survival. They become more like the ancient batponies, but I do not know what this means."
  936.      Hearing paper tearing from inside the desk, the master bedroom is briefly illuminated in a green tint. The half-shrieking of a startled pony precedes a loud, heavy crash from behind, ending quicker than it started and subsiding into a pained, drawn out whimper. As Jeff spins his chair around, Malyne twists about to face.. a thoroughly confounding sight.
  937.     The rear end of a bright teal coated, heavy set earth mare was on full display, upside down and with hind legs spread much wider than would likely be comfortable. Fully on display were a set of impressively large, bright pinkish-teal teats and labia lips, the mixed sky blue and violet red tail covered in clear fluids, and as the mare's front legs struggle to right herself, the heavy scent of loam and mare lust uneasily begins to fill the room. Quaking in shock, Malyne emits a rapid, spastic series of horrifed kee's and squeaks, then quickly slaps her wings over her face, the orange batfilly's sets of claws grasping each other around her neck.
  938.     Apparently unable to move after several tries, the unknown mare sighs, an incandescent blue wrapping around her head, the psion creating, essentially, a fluffy pillow to lift herself up with. Two cornflower blue eyes amidst the flushed, highly annoyed face of a mid-thirty-something stare dumbfounded at Malyne in the early stages of hyperventilation, blinking once, then swiveling down to land on Jeff. The mare's lips purse once, then spread apart in a wide smile, a smoky, faux-seductive voice issuing forth. "Well well well, look what I've found.. precisely what I did not want to see just yet."
  940.     Looking over the apple mindfully, Jeff slips it into one of his desk drawers and hides in under some loose papers. "Then we will keep it safe, for now." Jeff tries to recall the policies he remembered when studying the Lunar guard. "I don't... think this could be considered dessertion. I need to talk to Tipper, so get a better idea..."
  941.     After listening to the second half about batpony.. regression it sounded like. "We'll need to talk to the Matron, but first we should talk to Tipper. What she has to say will-AH!"
  942.     Hearing the rumbling from inside hs desk, Jeff quickly bursts from his chair and spins around, dispensing his Glock 17 from his top drawer and draws it on the.... "Uhhh". Despite the yelping from the teal mare, and Malyne's frantic screeching, Jeff focuses on the... essentials of what. The fuck. Just happened.
  943.     Looking back at Malyne, and giving her some reassuring words in batpony, he looks over the intruder and her... compromising position. A teal older earth pony, red and blue tail.... no wait, a psion. "Don't move, or talk. Give me... a few seconds to figure out what just happened." Jeff trains his TacPad on the mare for a possible reading on her. "I swear, not safe in my own goddamn house..."
  944. [ 1d6 = 3 ] <Analyze
  945.     So he writes on the paper, clearly it was activated, then this mare pops up. This isn't what he had asked of the paper... but he wasn't specific how he got the information. "Stroke of idiocy..." The Nightblade utters under his breath, rolls his eyes, and stretches a leg out at the mare's haunches to politely tip her over onto her side. "Fortress, my intruder is a guest; do not alert the guards." He announces into the ceiling, as he lowers his pistol. "Alright, this might be my fault you're here, so I'll be courteous and call off security. For now." He allows the mare to make herself decent before continuing. "You seem to know who I am, yet I am at a disadvantage. You are?"
  947.     Squeaking back incomprehensible notes of horror at the lewdness assaulting her senses, Malyne becomes less a filly and more a protective ball of fuzz and wings.
  948.     Lifting herself with approximately zero effort into an overly sitting position, the teal earth mare's tail flips up to cover all but the top edges of her teats, the blush further increased by @JeffMeyer snapping her slightly dislocated hind leg into place. "Thank you. However, you do not want to do that, hon. Knowing where I am and how impossible it would be to, heh, 'quell' the overherd's fears, it would be best if we do not know each other's name." Feeling scant pressures on both wrists, the data pad and pistol are gently lifted upwards to aim at the opposing wall, the screen confusedly reading: 'Hardened ironwood, rock & steel reinforced melded wall. Non-sentient, non-sapient'.
  949.     Glancing at the filly overhead, then at the bedroom's ceiling, a small, troubled frown settles across the psion's lips even as Jeff notices complete silence from the demi-sentient. "That is.. strange. During our siege of this fortress it was being directed by an impressive mind. A quite dangerous one as well." Expression fond for several heartbeats, the mare's head shakes, both forehooves crossing her barrel below a warm, although hesitant greeting smile , the encompassing pressure on Jeff's wrists dissipating. "No matter, so let us move on to business. I do not need to read your mind to know that you are being cautious, nor to know that you have questions. Ask, and I may be able to answer."
  951.     Once Malyne begins to settle down, Jeff looks back at her real quick. <Bat Pony>"Go to the Clinic, and have Tipper clear it out. Tell her we're gonna talk, privately, in a bit. I'll handle this." Whether if Malyne leaves or not, Jeff lets out a surprised "Hey!" as his tacpad and pistol are pushed upwards and his wrists bound by psionic energy. He keeps his composure, but tenses up in retaliation under the binds; he can't help but let the venom ooze out from his lips. "Well... certainly can't call a lady nothing. That's so rude. How's about Primal sound? Seeing as that's what you are."
  952.     Not hearing a response from the demi-sentient, and the mare letting out some alarming information spiked his hearteat. "There are far more dangerous things a mind is capable of, than just controlling defenses and throwing things around." Feeling his bindings release, Jeff holds in his bubbling rage, swallows it and begins pacing, letting out an intense sigh. Hands on his belt, and his left side to the mare, Jeff mindlessly flicks his radio on his right side to constant broadcast to the master radio as he looks down. He then looks at Primal, and gives her a smile. "And here I thought I was being very... very courteous: I dropped you here by accident, which I humbly apologize for. Then I, at least, make an attempt to keep the riff raff from barging over an intruder."
  953.     Jeff innocently brings his hands up to his chest. "But you psions... just can't help yourselves, can you? And a primal, no less. Arogant, with a capital 'A'." The nightblade points at his Tacpad and pistol, a very eerie calmess enveloping him. "I will give you that, ONLY because bullets don't seem to do the job here. You're not on the outside of these walls, with your buddies, trying to break in; you're inside now. Don't think you run this show, I do. All it's gonna take is one wrong move, on your part, for every living being in this place to come running in here; front door's unlocked. Do I make myself clear?" Grabbing a blank pad and pencil from his desk, without breaking eye contact, Jeff writes down the same request he asked of the wish paper and tosses both on the ground in front of the primal psion. "I want every. Single. One. And you get to leave. Deal?... not that I'm asking."
  954. [ 1d6+4 = 10 ] [ 1d6+4 = 10 ] [ 1d6+4 = 6 ] <E.Lady Killer
  956.     Daring to peer out from under her wing, the fuzzy batfilly ceases shaking long enough to utter a concerned squeak. The psion's eyebrows raise as Malyne hurriedly slides across the ceiling, down the wall, the earth pony's expression turning to utter incredulity as she slithers out the door like a snake. Blinking several times in an effort to process Malyne's movements, the mare turns her gaze back onto @JeffMeyer, holding a hoof up with a worried, questioning stare. "I do not mean to detract from your reasonable and likely spiritual anger, but that filly scares me."
  957.     Jaw dropping momentarily, the mare winces, holding up her left forehoof defensively. "I understand the distrust most have against a primal, but I cannot apologize for any of us except for myself." Forelegs folding over her barrel, the primal psion's head hangs down to stare at the floor, physically hunching over in a submissive, yet protective posture. "..I fully expected to have my mind burned out by this place the same as it happened to many of my sisters. Since that did not happen, I thank you for not harming me, but your words.. they are unjustly harsh. I acted to protect myself, not to harm. I beg your forgiveness if I have used undue force, yet if I allowed you to take a picture the overherd would automatically declare me a traitor. I do not want to die that way."
  958.     Hesitantly looking up, the pad and pencil are lifted up tentatively, a pained frown twists the psion's face at reading the scrawl, her ears then perking up a few seconds afterwards in confusion.. "It is true that the Queen of Rape makes enemies easier than she does allies, especially those she has touched. You are faultless for distrusting her, that all ponies would know.. oh. Oh, I.. see. This is going to be.. difficult."
  960.     Jeff sighs with relief that the foal left, less to get out of hand. He makes no rebuttal to the Primal's comment, but merely crosses his arms as she submits. Listening over her words, he subtly flicks off his radio, keeping the settings, and leans against his table. "Where I come from, there's no such thing as magic. Or animals that talk. Or demigods, or eldritch and planar shit. And especially not psions. So... the first time I ever experienced that was a dose of Anti, and from the Juggernaut, no less. Pair that with Silver's constant prying, and it leaves for a very... lasting impression. I do not even wholly trust the ones I consider my allies. And, unfortunately for you, you've already admitted to being our enemy."
  961.     The Nightblade does not forgive his actions. There's too much on his plate to care about her feelings. He looks on emotionless, as she struggles with his request on the paper. "I can't go into details on how, 'cuz I don't really know myself, but the only reason you're here is because you KNOW those names." He understand this is going to get complicated. "And you thought me taking your picture was going to be bad. I don't wish to imagine what will happen if I try to walk you out of here, and me empty handed. They might just brand me a traitor and kill both of us." He breathes sharply inward, awkwardly. "And... this house isn't shielded, as far as I know. So there's at least... maybe three psions here that are probably already aware of youre presence."
  963.     Dropping the notepad and pencil onto the floor, the teal psion hisses under her breath in anger, head darting behind her once in a mixture of fear and anger. "Leave that word to rot in the past if you wish to be remain free! Do NOT invoke the names of the Wild Ones!" Lifting the pad to eye level, though keeping it four feet away, her nose scrunches in visible disgust, pencil swirling on paper in broad strokes. "That creation is not psionic in even the most base of explanations, nor did it begin with the Queen of Rape. Experience has long shown us that such things know their own kind, although as you are not one of them I will withhold my sarcasm unless proven otherwise. Regardless of your impressions and poninal failures to keep her at bay, you are still an unnatural abomination. I had planned to negotiate with Razorback peacefully, yet if that alone makes us mortal enemies, so be it."
  964.     Halting the pencil abruptly, cornflower blue eyes glisten for several moments, muttering sourly while the pencil resumes it's efforts. "Doubtless the Queen of Rape wishes for me to take her oaths and swear allegiance to her long failed, ruinously naive idealism. I rebuke her as a daughter and a proud psion. As a mare I rebuke her endless crimes and wonton lust." Tearing off the first page and setting it down on the floor, distrust writes itself across her face. "I do not believe your words. The mind that controls this fortress knew well how to erect defenses, much like the Keep of Old Stalliongrad, yet it is missing. Not just the mind, the spark of intelligence the stones themselves held is not here either, nor the unholy angers that assaulted us."
  965.     One ear flicking thoughtfully, a second page is quickly laid down, the psion's head tilts, eyes squinting in amusement. "..her? That is a surprise. Her hatred of Otherworldly beings is as deep as the Vigil is old. I wonder what most changed her mind about humans."
  967.     Smiling as the psion struggles to contain her anger, he tightens it shut and looks to the side. "You know... I get it, really I do. We're not from this world, we must come off as unatural as we do with... everything here." Jeff waves a hand to his surroundings. "But we're here, and we're here to stay, I'm sorry. I'd go back, if I could." He notices she begins to write. Good. He lets out a sigh of relief. "I figured being here would be a change of pace; that I wouldn't be forced into another conflict, and kill again. I've done enough of that for one life."
  968.     Jeff crosses his arms, again, and drops his cold stare for a more sullen face. "I know I'm spewing a lot of bigotry, and I apologize for riling you up. But at the end of the day, I'd lock it all up and throw it out if it meant we can end this without fighting." He lets out a one note chuckle, to himself. "I'd settle for a mutual tolerance." Odd. She must be high up on the chain, if she admits she's planning for negotiations. He tilts his head to the side, raising an eyebrow. She's talking about Spiral. "Then I don't need to tell you that we are vulnerable. If we were to be attacked, again, we'll be gone by the time anyone gets near this place. And we won't return this time. Maybe they'd get lucky.. ..maybe." He squints his eyes at the mare curiously. "Who do you mean?"
  970.     "When you meet a pony, you also meet part of a herd, one that has shaped, or is constantly shaping, it's perception of other species. Herds rarely come to trust what has scorned them in the past. Among all others, we earth ponies hold grudges for the same time they hold their memories: forever." Removing a third sheet and staring at it, the mare stills for short time, then releases a deflating sigh, both forehooves reaching up to rub her temples. "Death is as much a natural law as incursions have became, yet one does not know which will happen first. If your kind were truly reluctant before, they would have surrendered instead of killing hundreds of my sisters.. then again, the overherd has allowed incompetence, narcissism, and laxity to become proud ideals."
  971.     Letting her tail drop onto the floor with an unsubtle, damp sound, the primal psion's nose twitches as she rolls the pencil around in the air, flakes of wood chipping off from it. "You will not find mutual tolerance now. The unholy blizzard choking Stalliongrad eclipses every blizzard that has struck Rebirth's kingdom in both ferocity and unnatural power. Many attribute it to humans, and perhaps rightly so, though we do not know for sure. Some of the overherd have sworn oaths of retribution, others, simple revenge. Should the impure sisters dedicate themselves to eliminating humans not even the Scorched Pegasus would withstand them for long." The pencil twirls about once, sharp end dropping onto the pad while her hooves drift down onto her teats, eyes half-lidded in focus. "Broken Hoof was one of us once. She followed in the hoofsteps and graces of Primus Longstresses. Seventeen years prior to now, sixteen companies were sent to close a Vortex Plane rift that opened in the Kenfeld Pass. Four and a half companies returned. She took the Vigilite of Scorn's oath of Earthwalk, dedicating her life to annihilating Otherworldly forces. It is a curious fear to witness such wrath. She was a quiet, sad mare in life, and even more so in death, but not one I have the right to speak of."
  972.     Setting a fourth, fifth, and sixth page down in rapid succession, the psion rocks back into her self-created pillow, shaking her head slowly. "Dancing Eyes touched this place as well. That one's path changed little after Kenfield Pass. Great sorrow and regret hang her head in shame like many, but her haunted cries stain this ground. I know not what killed her heart nor why, yet I can say for certain that hers is a void which little may fill."
  974.     Listening to the primal explain how herds work for what's felt like the thousandth time for him, Jeff walks over to his small bar counter and pours himself a short glass of an unmarked scotch. "Yeeeeah... with the reputation we had for the Councilerge during the siege, capture didn't exactly sound favorable. And negotiations... didn't really seem like an option as you were all charging our home, so we defended it. Maybe if you strolled up, all peaceful like, it would've been different."
  975.     He shrugs his shoulders and sips his dark booze, raising a finger to comment. "A blizzard, you say? Now THAT we definitely did not do. Hmm..." Taking another contemplative sip, Jeff shakes his head in confirmation. "Believe me or not, but I don't know of anything here or we're allied with that can produce something of that intensity. Personally, I feel bad Stalliongrad's been hit with something like that." The Nightblade swirls his drink around. "I'll have it looked into, not that I'm sure it'll make a difference." Jeff's somewhat intrigued she was able to discern who's been here. Latent psionic energy, probably? He looks down at his dwindling amount of scotch, dissapointed. "You are right. Both Broken Hoof and Dancing Eyes have been here. Do you know what has happened of them?"
  977.     "Had Razorback chosen a patron other than a certain revenge-lusting accursed black pegasus whore, matters could have been different. Could." Stressing the last word, the primal psion's head tips back to stare upwards, the pencil scratches in tune with teal ears flicking about. "Lore derived from the Nights of Famine states this: as frost tore into the flesh of her children Rebirth's blood spilled over the wounds of her daughters and sons, forming the laystones of the Conclave. When morning came the barren lands became holy in her grace, all left with glistening, beautiful coats, no longer were the Crystal ponies harmed by cold. None possess Rebirth's intimate, sacred knowledges, a matter as complex as a blizzard would be naught but a passing touch of her ire. Perhaps it is her work, perhaps not, I do not know enough to say."
  978.     Pulling the notepad closer to her face, the mare lifts her front left hoof, waving it around in a tight circle, the gesture unknown to @JeffMeyer. "I was not speaking of either those two. My intent, my words were of Rua Longstresses. Razorback counts among her lawful possessions, all that condemn them shall be treated as oathsworn enemies. The Matriarch-General's ownership is fair, but absolute. Her wrath, more so the second."
  979.     Reclining on her pillow, the mare's lips crease into a frown, front hooves resting heavily on her teats, the pencil spinning forgotten in the air. "The first I can tell you of. Perhaps eighty years ago Broken Hoof's grandfather willingly sated the Queen of Rape's lust. None alive know why. Safflower Trot, his daughter and soon-to-be-mother, spoke this aloud. She was brought before the Ruling Council, their judgement was this: the impure sisters would torture her until the moment her daughter is born. They did so with Bane enchanted weapons. Within Safflower's womb, Broken Hoof was marred by those accursed creations. None can know if she was spared such agony. In particular, her hooves are forever marked by those insane cruelties. At birth, the death scream of her mother was forever etched into her mind. As far as I am concerned the Master-Captain neither defected nor commited desertion, she merely chose to honorably betray her mother's betrayers. As for Dancing Eyes all I will state is this: she must kill an alicorn before she dies. Which, I do not know. Now, may I finish?"
  981.     Jeff lazily floats his hands in front of him while leaning on his desk, offering no counter arguement for the sake of pissing off the seething Primal anymore. He was officially sick of her attitude. "I'm sure you have colorful nicknames for all the sisters, don't you." And she's the one that was suggesting negotiations. Completely zoning out as she recites some bible verse, Jeff idly wait for her to finish while he pours himself more scotch. "Mhmm." Another sip goes down, and he looks at her lazily, narrowing his eyes slightly. "You're talking like I should know who this Longstresses is, or that she owns us, because I don't."
  982.     He starts another sip, but stops, and blankly stares at the Primal as she talks about Broken Hoof. Which, to be honest, was waaaaaaaay too much information he wanted to know. "Not what I was asking about, and I really didn't want te need to know about any of that." He pounds back the glass, hoping to wash the last thirty seconds from his memory. Nope... still there. "Please, finish." While she finishes up, Jeff opens the bottom cabinet up and pulls out the remaining paper, setting a pen next to it.
  984.     Another page tearing off, the pencil ceases while the teal mare halts to stare aghast @JeffMeyer, speaking after a bit of uncomfortable silence. "I was not insulting the Sisters. Regardless of their.. well, extremely minor slights in the past, I refuse to speak an unkind word against them. They are divine beings and as such I will bow to them. I cannot abide by the open disrespect shown to them." Staring down at the floor, the primal psion leans forwards, sighing quietly. "I understand that you are tuning me out, but, please, listen. I said, 'a certain revenge-lusting accursed black pegasus whore'. There is only one pony that fits such a description: Lucky. Do none of you know the betrayals she leveled against your own kind, or Stalliongrad's pegasi? I had thought that is why she left, but.."
  985.     Looking up with a frown, the mare's ears flick in worried motions, lifting a hoof and gesturing southwards, fear creeping into her voice. "You.. do not know about this? Four of your own purchased her lifetime contract in Stalliongrad, accepting her as protector. Well, they did so in the guise of ponies, but that bit of trickery aside it was ruled as legal by the rest of the Ruling Council since Pear Blossom, Stream Lark, and three others were not there to refute it. Since then Rua has legally claimed all humans as a part of her herd, although separate from the Tower Guard."
  986.     Tossing an amused glance at the last page, the mare smiles briefly, then halts, looking up uncomfortably. "But.. you asked for what happened of them. I answered your question, did I not? Dancing Eyes frightens many. To admit one wants to see a goddess killed is bad enough, but swearing that one will do so is unthinkable. I cannot imagine what it would be like without the Sun or the Moon, nor the wellspring that is Rebirth. We would all die without them. Admittedly I know little of the Queen, yet her purpose must also fulfill vital roles for our world."
  988.     The Ranger snorts to himself enjoying the Primal's 180 shifting moods. "Pfff, I hear all kind of nicknames for them ALL the time. Moonbutt, Sunbutt, Heartbutt, and Succubug are my top favs. Simple, obvious, and fun for the whole family." Jeff keeps his mouth, and mind (in this case), shut on the Las Pegasus incident. "We do miss her regular trade visits, no... clearly we've been ill-informed." For the most part, Lucky was a back-burner memory at this point. They no longer had any contact with Las Pegasus anymore, anyways.
  989.     Narrowing his eyes at her doomish expression, he leans a bit forward before she explains. His face goes blank, breathing sharply to try and control his temper. It works... kinda. Jeff didn't need his gauntlets on to shatter the heavy scotch glass, as he squeezed it into oblivion. His left arm shudders, not out of pain, but channeling every ounce of rage into the blood that was now oozing from his fist. He grits his teeth, the glass shards and strong burning alchohol not doing him any favors, as he opens his hand and shakes any look shard from its grasp. Jeff inhales and exhales, to calm himself, the worst having passed. "At this point, I don't even care who they signed it to. I am so. Fucking. Sick. Of these assholes making decisions, like this, without anyone's input." He pinches his nose, huffing in defeat. "Literally the cherry on top, of my shit-sunday, for the day."
  990.     Not caring for his blood-stained hand, Jeff raises his clean right one and snaps his fingers, his mood not entirely changing; but enough to less unpleasant. "No, you're right. I should have been more clear; I meant as in their most recent wearabouts." Seeing her finish, Jeff holds out his right hand in an acception gesture; clearly awaiting for her to psion the stack over into his hand. "If you're done, I'll look them over, and then I'll send you back."
  992.     Nodding agreeingly at Jeff, the teal mare smiles in pleasant relief. "I am glad you agree. Names such as those are given out of love or in good humor. Aongside many I find a name used solely to debase one's accomplishments most wrongful. Creating one for an alicorn used to be punished as a crime.. that is, until the Sisters outlawed such."
  993.     Shaking her head slowly, both eyes close, clopping her front hooves together in a silent rhythm. "That is.. most unfortunate. Our missing Kinosach and the Tactician Council believe Lucky was abusing her patronage of Razorback to cement her father's reign as the owner of the black market. They had proof; however, our Kinosach is missing, which means the Tribunal does not have enough evidence to secure a meeting with the Moon. Upon realizing where I was I had hoped to find proof of her betrayals against humans in order to sway Moren`Ise out of Canterlot, but if no humans here have evidence there is little that can be done."
  994.     Floating herself back several feet, the mare sighs, also lifting her front shoulders in defeat. "I could not agree with you more, certain underlings drive me to drink. First one of the Ruling Council goes missing, six cadres follow suit, then comes our Kinosach, and finally the last neutral voice of the Lunar Guard is silenced. However, not all is lost. I feel it is for the best that Rua is where she is. None in Stalliongrad dare touch humans without provoking the wrath of the Tower Guard. It is a strange neutrality, unwelcome, yet needed. By the by, I could heal that a bit for you."
  995.     Eyebrows raising, the primal shifts into a lower sitting position on her created pillow, tilting her head to the side with a small frown. "Recently? The last known act from Broken Hoof was here during the Siege. After ensuring that one of her mother's killers was deceased, she proclaimed her anger satiated and her mother's betrayal avenged, then declared her right to be sovereign. Dancing Eyes was last seen entering her mansion, after which it was reported she had been foalnapped by humans."
  996.     Lifting the stack upwards, the primal gazes upon the first for a bit, then shakes her head slowly. " No, I am not quite done. You see, I have only sketched thirteen of the Ruling Council so far. As Stream Lark is gone, his only daughter is nowhere to be found and his son has shown no interest in taking up that position. The pony whom holds the second Ruling Council member's seat has been missing for.. how many years? Ah, three. You see, there is one more. With Pear Blossom thankfully removed, I now hold the eleventh Ruling Council member seat."
  998.     Jeff purses his lips in contemplation, trying to remember anything before Pike's incident he'd only heard about. "One of ours, Mike Pikeman, for whatever reason took solace in Lucky; he was really close to her. Only ever visited when she'd come around, to sell us items. I saw him, right before he went... you know." He made a swinging motion with his fist, as if wielding a hammer. "Haven't seen him since, though; if you can, maybe he can shed some light. Or her ward, Meridian Veil. But as far as I'm concerned, Lucky never directly wronged us in any way."
  999.     Picking the remaining glass bits out of his hand, Jeff listens over the primal's ranting. "I suppose, if anything, it keeps back some uneeded bloodshed." Raising an eyebrow at her offer, Jeff shifts uncomfortably, but ultimately holds his injured hand out to her as a sign of good faith. "If you're offering, thank you." Whatever she does to his hand, he continues on listening. Interestingly, she doesn't seem to know their ultimate situation. "I see. Interesting." Better to keep it that way.
  1000.     Tilting his head up, at her contrary, he nods at Stream Lark and the missing member's whereabouts. At the last part, he grins slyly at the Ruling Council member. "Well, in that case, I suppose you won't be leaving..." Awaiting a reaction, he clams up and immediately points at his main door. "-through there. No point trudging you through the grounds in case someone does happen to recognize you. I'll just have to send you back the same way you got here. I'm guessing one of those papers has your name on it, right?"
  1002.     Setting the stack of papers on @JeffMeyer's desk, the mare rotates herself into a more relaxed, and exposed, upright sitting position, her ears flicking inquisitively. "Most all living beings need and desire interaction, even a criminal such as her. Though I do not fully understand what-" Creating a small hammer and a vague approximation of a minotaur hand, mimicking Jeff's motion after a moment. "That means, it does not seem positive, but perhaps that one's actions worked to our benefit. If I have a chance to send Shanis a letter in the coming month I will have her send Razorback a copy of her own notes. On this matter, should our Kinosach be found alive and in condition to do so I will politely request the same from her. They could, potentially, aid Razorback's reputation with Canterlot, yet Cloudsdale.. I have many doubts about them. They are more militant in thought and notably difficult to sway."
  1003.     Lips pursing, a forehoof is lifted to trace several large, earth pony styled sigils in the air, trails of dull blue smoke coalescing from the teal mare's eyes, blood flow ceasing from Jeff's hand while the rents begin to close over slowly.
  1004. [1d6+3] <Regeneration
  1005.     "Some psions whom are descended from the Queen of Rape inherit knowledge on how to.. provoke I suppose, a living body into 'restoring' it's original shape. Those like me, however, only inherit the tiniest of those slivers, useful as they may be." Illuminating the room in a subdued tone, the primal psion's eyes flick towards the doorway, then back onto Jeff, shaking her head with a bemused giggle. "No, that one fall was enough, thank you!"
  1006.     Lifting her forehooves once more and pressing them together, the mare offers a concise nod. "That is correct. I have no fear of Razorback nor it's members, save for those few whom would attack me on sight. Even then I am a practioner of the Open Eye, should I need to walk abroad freely or conceal my presence, few would notice. Not only that, my main weapon is diplomacy: I do not need to know what somepony is experiencing in order to judge their character.. of course, this does not work appear to work on humans such as yourself. Far be it from me to hold open secrets from a.." Pausing to glance upwards, the mare's nose wiggles questioningly for a moment. "Captive audience, is that how one says it? My apologies, Common Equestrian is, like it is to most ponies of Stalliongrad, my third language. It is rather difficult to remember how many double entendres and hidden meanings there are, not to mention the sheer number of times those may change every cyclical eight years."
  1008.     Jeff stops his hammering motion-mid swing, as she doesn't get it, and shrugs his shoulders. "Huh, I would have figured everyone has heard about a human that had rampaged through the Las Pegasus market with a hammer. Nevermind then." As the psion's eyes smoke blue for a few brief seconds, Jeff's hand ceases bleeding and the glass wounds begin to close up. He flexes his hand, and looks it over, impressed at the quick mending. A small smile makes its way across his face, and he puts the small portion of paper away. "A stroll through the grounds, it is. No... you're right, and I don't really hear that saying much myself."
  1009.     Walking over to the door, and holds out a hand to pause. "Despite your admission of diplomacy, I'd like to dispell any chance of emergency on the other side of my door." The nightblade opens the door, mock-examining his tacpad as he addresses anyone outside of it. "Aaaaand I've been dead for approximately three minutes. Shitty response with no- uhhhhhh." 'Anyone' was the right word, as there was no response team. Except for one...
  1011.     Ceasing the rythmic clopping of her hooves, the mare's head shakes from side to side, offering a grim expression. "No, none of our agents could deliver a single report from Las Pegasus before Isiet took over. Even with Isiet helping the Lunar Guard it is still difficult for anypony to form a clear picture of what happened there during the past two years.. then there is still the matter of that extraordinarily dangerous human mare running about searching for other humans, but I dare not think of that one."
  1012.     Rolling herself forwards, four hooves click on the floor while the pillow disappears, the psion bending forwards and stretching her rear leg out with a brief sigh. "If only Nightblade Fankil were still alive I feel all of these matters would have been resolved months ago." As Jeff opens the door to the waiting pair of DJ Lonestar, arms folded with that peculiar sleepless stare of his, Emerald behind him carrying a chic white Canterlot purse in one hand, and a small green sports pack in the other, the first half-mutters without a trace of Texan drawl under his breath. "-ead my ass he say- well.. huh, ain't you somethin'?"
  1013.     Lackadaisily stepping outside, the teal mare turns her head up, examining the two with careful interest. "I suppose I am. Does this mean I am under arrest?" Giving a deadpan look in return, Lonestar visibly suppresses a sudden, violent urge to sigh. "Hell if I know, Emerald's probably gonna take you back to her room and rub your ears the whole night long for all I care-" Bringing an intense blush and a scrunch to the earth mare's face, Lonestar's ill choice of words earns himself a swift, relatively ineffectual punch from Emerald. Disregarding it, he reaches up to tap the malfunctioning radio in his coat pocket, frowning heavily. "I'm gonna wish for infinite coffee after this, but we've got bigger problems than a questionably cute and potential new marefriend Jeff, two of them to be exact. Want the good news first like usual?"
  1015.     Looking at the psion understandably, Jeff gives her a questioning look at the mention of a woman. "What, or who, do you mean by that? I'm aware of one woman, outside of Razorback, but she's somewhat benign; living her own life." After his half-winded speech, Jeff just looks at Lonestar and Emerald as they notice the psion walking out. Subtly shaking his head at the mare's question, he snorts at Lonestar's possible outcome for her. "It's fine. She can leave whenever she wants."
  1016.     Eyeing the DJ's radio with some disdain, Jeff visibly shrugs it off, and sighs outwardly at even more situations popping up. "If it'll soften the blow of the bad news... yeah, let's hear it." He can only imagine what Lonestar had in store.
  1018.     Shifting from hoof to hoof, cornflower blue eyes snap left and right about the courtyard in hesitant motions, the primal's ears flattening as she mutters in a stiffly neutral tone. "If you should be speaking of 'she' whom is predisposed to an intensely eternal hatred of coconuts, that one's ever roving eyes are nothing short of lustful in their barbaric intensity. I am reminded of the Empress' vaunted debaucheries from hearing our Kinosach's reports of how she 'treats' mares whom reciprocate her advances, yet I dare say she may be interesting to encounter.. in a strictly professional sense of course."
  1019.     Paused from taking something out of her purse, Emerald fixes @JeffMeyer with a deadpan stare of her own, mouthing the words 'are all earth ponies like this?' Shaking her head, the Korean reaches down to pat the psion's nose lightly, resulting in a hearty swish of her tail. "There's a few questions I want to ask first, after that I'll escort her out."
  1020.     Waiting until Emerald and the teal earth mare are out of earshot, the first leading the second to the pagoda, Lonestar reaches into his other pocket, pulling free a note and glancing it over. "Good news it is then. Peach Drop came back from the Citadel a bit ago, said she couldn't find a Japoneighse translator so she came back with an enchantment that she hopes will work. The Starborn's losses were, in her words: 'much much smaller than Gale expected'. Peach also said their 'woken up Destroyers are crazy happy right now, they all get to go after the big mango in the sky'. I don't know what she meant by that, but whenever a batpony's happy it must be damned good."
  1021.     Tipping his head forwards and lifting a hand to pinch his nose, the Texan holds the position for a handful of seconds, then stuffs the note back in. "The other bit of news she gave is a pony named Hornet Song, one of the Lunar Council some years back before he retired, had a heart attack during the Citadel's little Construct invasion. She said he refused to accept being put into stasis so he's not expected to live much longer. He made some demand that one of the Starborn has to step forwards to learn his 'last secret' before he goes. I don't know what any of this means for Razorback, but if I had to guess judging by how she talked, sounds to me like he must've been supporting us."
  1023.     As the primal continues her description, Jeff is able to piece together a possible profile of Katyal. "Debauchery with mares? That sounds... a lot more familiar than I'm comfortable with." Catching Emerald's subtle signals, Jeff smirks away form the psion and gives the ever-so slightest of a nod.
  1024.     After the woman and mare leave, he crosses his arms as Lonestar begins with the good news. The Nighblade sighs in relief at the outcome of the battle. "That's good at least. You would not have believed the shit that went down on the Citadel, Constructs everywhere. That 'mango' is probably this humongous one that took off before we could finish it off. I hit it twice with the Gepard and it hardly felt it." Seeing the DJ shift gears to the bad news, Jeff crosses his arms in contemplation. He recalled Hornet Song unleashed that powerful spell, then passed out. Must've been too much for him. "Sssshit, I know Song. He helped us out while we were up there." Chewing on his lower lip, he squinted his eyes looking for an answer. "Is Song expecting a Starborn from here? Last I saw of Twisted was on the Citadel, and Belltower's taking a meditative sabbatical in the Moors. Other than Hodch, I'm the only other one in Razorback as far as I know."
  1026.     Bowing his head with a grim expression, Lonestar mindlessly reaching for a thin cigar from within his coat, lighting it with a match and barely speaking over a mutter. "Twice with that monster of a rifle.. no, you're right, I wouldn't believe it if you hadn't seen them yourself. What the hell are we supposed to do if a bunch of them show up here, ask them nice in binary not to drop a nuke on this place?"
  1027.     Tossing the match aside and staring upwards, the DJ remains motionless for half a minute, starting to shake his head, then pauses. "Nope, not that I can recall. All she said was 'one Starborn has to step forwards'.. know, that sounds suspiciously like what a unicorn would say. Give me a minute Jeff, I'm gonna make a call to the filly fooler and see if he knows what that means, and how important this Hornet Song is exactly."
  1028.     Digging into a side pouch and producing a wired headset, the Texan removes the radio from the upper pocket, tapping a set of buttons which @JeffMeyer recognizes as a short range, low frequency band. Popping the plug in quickly, he instinctively holds up a hand in a 'quiet motion, probably from spending too much time around Vanil, though drops it down with a scowl at realizing his mistake. *Hodch, you around? Good, need some information on a former Lunar Council member, Hornet Song. ..I can't say why just yet, not sure what the fuss is about. Gimme all you got, just need to double check. And thanks beforehand.*
  1029.     Tapping the call button to silence himself from being heard, Lonestar nods at Jeff, speaking in a strict, professional tone, clicking call once finished. "Got a unicorn stallion, seventy-five to eighty, dull grey, orange eyes, lean, quick for his age, and is a playcolt worse than Denra judging by the sigh. Says he's got a real gentlestallion attitude, the truly friendly sort. This the right one?"
  1031.     As the DJ light a cigar, Jeff crosses his arms in contemplation about the matter. He looks down on his tacpad and begins searching through recent recordings. He had Pearl Lake's capture, and... yes, he did in fact record the Citadel battle on it. "I have no idea and, with the Fortress's weakened defense state, I wouldn't want to find out."
  1032.     The Ranger smirks at Lonestar as he makes a call to Hodch. "Yeah. Cryptic, with not a whole lot of context. Hopefully Hodch knows what it means." Idling back, while the DJ conversed with Hodch, he thinks over the description given of Hornet Song. Old, greyed out, and he was pimping four mares out to stallions while trying to escort him, Pare, and Clem to safety. There was no mistaken. "If he fancies a fat cigar before a battle, that's definitely him."
  1034.     Dragging on the cigar with a firm, morbid glare upwards, Lonestar nods @JeffMeyer's assertion. "Hodch said he was a smoker, so that fits." Silently eyeing the sky for several moments, the DJ lifts a hand up to tap his chin, eyes squinting thoughtfully. "I know the rest of us are supposed to act on our own initiative when possible and what I'm about to say might be off track, but I've been thinking, you ever get a gut feeling Hodch isn't here willingly? He's awful accomodating to us, even when he gets nothing out of it. Remember that little expedition you took him out on? Well, he came back fairly mad, chain smoked his way through an entire box of cigars and read through a dozen books. Same thing happened when he came back with Dante and a bunch of the Honor Guard, wouldn't talk to me except for saying that he really doesn't like his job."
  1035.     Grasping the cigar and tapping the ash off it, Lonestar's left eyebrow raises, pointing the cancer branch towards the library. "I don't mean to step on your toes by asking this, but what's the chances that this Hornet Song fella blackmailed dear old Hodch into helping us out?"
  1037.     As they await a response from Hodch, Jeff thinks heavily on what Lonestar was implying, bringing a hand to his chin for consideration. "Yeah, to the Crag Moors. That was a while ago though." He really did wonder why Hodch insisted on helping them for this long. There has always a possibility that someone, everyone's, strings are being pulled for one reason or another. "It's not entirely out of the question, but it could be a number of things too. For all we know Hodch could have owed Song a hefty favor, and now he's begrudgingly sticking to whatever Song cashed it in for. I had always assumed he was helping us through a favor with Bell or Twisted, or we had impressed him that much. I can see if I can look into it, certainly Hornet Song isn't trying to pass something like that onto another to keep Hodch helping us. Would he?"
  1039.     Lifting his shoulders, the Texan shakes his head from side to side slowly, suspicion apparent on his face. "I don't think Hodch and Denra get along much. I can forgive Denra's weird preparations against Celestia, he's settled down quite a bit since then. Hodch though, he doesn't really get involved with us too much. Sure, he'll help out now and then but it's all small time affairs, can't name me the last time he wanted us to openly help him out for a change. Now, if these were earth ponies we're talking about.. let's be honest: they're shitty at scheming. Solving their problems with hooves or minds is their forte, or shouting real loud, same with Crystal ponies. Problem is, I ain't the only one that's thought the same way." Jerking his thumb in the workshop's direction and rolling his eyes, DJ Lonestar holds the sweetleaf cigar out to Jeff. "Sergei caught that dipshit psycho religious bitch, you know the one we all hate, she's the little orange horse now, spying on them from the rafters a few times. She only pops her head out of that hole when the shop's empty, though now every time those two get into an argument and he's sitting behind the big furnace in the middle, she's right there staring down at 'em. He stuck a camera up there a while back but with her fat ass in the way we couldn't get anything out of it. Few of us cornered her and.." Pausing to let a small grin creep across his face, ending it hastily. "Asked her nice for a change. She didn't like our little paint job from before so she didn't say much.. which is besides the point. Point is, when's the last time you heard Hodch talk politics? All he gives me is a face like he just bit into a sour lemon. Now, I've seen Denra catch wind of something barely political and jump on it like a pegasus on marinarated shrimp. I'll bet a thousand Bits mister former diplomant heard something from one of his contacts and now spends his free time savaging mister act-from-the-shadows. Just call it a hunch though."
  1041.     Jeff scratches the faint stubble accumulating onto his face. Maybe he'll grow a beard, again, as long as it still fits under his mask. "No, you're right. He's usually either tucked himself away in a quiet corner of the Fortress, when he's here, or back at his home. Either way he'll help and be off, never asks anything of us." He taps a finger thoughtfully on his mouth as they change subject for a bit. "Yeah, I'm aware of Miss Aquina's new body and... habit. I heard she gets around using tunnels, up on the north end, but I've never taken the time to actually look for any of them myself. If she didn't say much, she's probably not worth pursuing for more info."
  1042.     Listening to the part about Denra, Jeff sighs in worry. "Then Denra might not know much, either if he's trying to grasp at straws too. I actually wanted to ask Clem about that deal he made with the Star Court, but since Hodch helped with it I can give myself an excuse to go ask him about it instead. Maybe I can try and coax something out of him."
  1044.     "Yep, same as the rest of us have seen." Retracting the offered cigar and puffing on it several times, the DJ raises his free hand, making a wide circle with the first two fingers, speaking quietly. "Not just up there Jeff, the whole Fortress got tunnels running under it. Master-Captain gal did me a favor, made a map of her tunnels over the past few weeks. Save the Tower and your place there's at least one that goes into, or right next to, every building here, even the library. All of them are four to ten feet down, run up and down the courtyard, couple across, a few diagonal. Dunno how she dug them all out or how big they are, but at least none of 'em go under the walls, or worse, outside. Weirdest part's the one in the workshop's not hidden, or maybe she just hasn't had a chance to disguise it."
  1045.     Visibly brooding for a bit, Lonestar palms his face with a sigh, then shrugs in a 'forget about it' manner. "Personally, I don't think pushing on Hodch is going to do much, guy's been tenser than a coiled rattlesnake since Spiral left. Most of us just tell him hi, ask if he's doing good, and leave him be if he don't answer. Probably better to just go ask Clemency in person, one of the Blades said they saw him heading to the tower a while ago. Anyhow, I better get going, need to pull some extra hair out waiting for Kraut's bunch to come back, hopefully with Vanil." Turning as if to leave, the man pauses, calling back over his shoulder, tossing his free hand in the air and trodding off towards the command center. "Almost forgot to tell you the interference's still the same. Managed to hook up a temporary ham for short wave, so if you need to radio someone, or somepony, use the low bands. Catch you later Jeff!"
  1047.     The Ranger's eye widen slightly, only slightly, at Aquina's apparent work. Why, he'd never know. "At least she's keeping herself busy, not like she's really bothering anyone. But yeah, she can't be extending those tunnels past the walls." Realizing that Hodch seems like he wasn't responding, Lonestar visibly gives up on a response from the unicorn and begins going on the rest of the night. "Alright, I will, short wave it is. See you later Lonestar."
  1048.     Waving the DJ off, Jeff goes back into his home and into his office which he had left quite a mess. There was broken glass, blood, and scotch on the floor which needed cleaning up. Sighing lightly to himself, he grabs a dust pan and sponge from the kitchen and sweeps up the glass, then soaks up the liquids and throws everything into a trash bin. Dusting his hands off, Jeff looks over onto his desk and puts the Glock away, then the chair member documents into his bottom drawer and properly relocks it this time; he can look at them later. Walking back into the kitchen, Jeff looks over at his haphazardly discarded gear and leaves it as he heads out his door. He's not going to need any of it for where he's going. Locking his door, Jeff walks over to the pagoda and punches in the runes for the Enclave.
  1049.     Heading through, and exiting the portal on the other side, Jeff looks over the Southern Enclave with a bit of pride. It looked like an old junk heap before, now that it's slowly been reorganized and reactivated, it felt good. Giving passerby Starborn proper greetings, he heads to the East end to the weapons buildings. Keeping from the heavily-guarded ones, he enters the more arbitrary one with weapons of all sorts laid out for free grabs and looks for the one he had hoped was still- there it is. Same color, the void-colored maul was reminiscent of the blade he had lent Pike such a long time ago.
  1050.     Picking it up, he figured a secondary transformation had been added to it; with a single thought, it switched back into the familiar blade. Happy it was still relatively unchanged, Jeff leaves the building and heads on over to the West side of the Enclave to the miscellaneous item buildings, entering the free-grab one. After having reviewed its list, he was only interested in the Planar Snapwire; which he promptly grabs and leaves to head back to the translocation stone, then back to the Fortress.
  1051.     Arriving back inside the pagoda, Jeff carries the Void Diver blade and snapwire straight to the Work Shop and enters inside. "Krinza, you in here? I need a weapon reforged." He looks around for the blacksmith while his idea is still fresh in his head.
  1053.     Noting an odd lack of Amerose or her supporting trio of Crystal pony kin coming to greet his arrival, @JeffMeyer is nevertheless given waves from hooves of five kinds and wings of three as he strolls about, then comes an out of place white minotaur's hand, apparently one that rotated in recently. Giving little more than a cursory inspection of the blade and roll of Planar wire to write down as taken, Jeff is waved off by the minotaur, the rather old bull looking positively miffed at being forced to wear a Lorekeeper lookalike robe, complete with matching hoof socks and gloves.
  1054.     Reaching the nearly empty workshop, only Krinza and Lann were in sight, the first sitting in front of his custom anvil reading through a heavily worn book, the second completely absorbed in happily sewing away on.. something, as usual. "Yes, come in." The admittedly pudgy yellow unicorn glances up, beckoning Jeff over with a hoof and flipping the cover closed with the other. "If I am able to."
  1056.     Noticing the Workshop was literally empty, Jeff casually makes his way over to Krinza's work area. Oddly enough Lann was the only other one sewing something, while he was nose-deep into a book. Jeff holds up the Void Diver blade before switching it to the maul, and sets it on the nearby workbench along with the Snapwire. "I got a hold of my Void Viver blade again, but someone added a maul to it. Not much of a fan, so I have something in mind to replace it."
  1057.     Pulling out a sketch pad, Jeff starts tracing out the base dimensions of the tomahawk Risk had... attempted to replicate from his memory. Eighteen inches in length, four inch blade curved down slightly with the beard sharpened as well, counter-balancing pike with a triangular piercing tip curved downward, and a slightly tapering straight handle with textured grips. Finishing off the fairly accurate drawing, he shows it to the grandmaster blacksmith to examine. "It's called a tomahawk, a type of axe I've used before. Then I'd like that snapwire, I also brought, to be added to it as well. I'm not in much of a rush, on it."
  1059.     Lips pursing at the familiar blade, Krinza nudges the cover up, scanning the index quickly. "I remember this one somewhat. Spiral kept extensive notes on Underdark creatures and their weaponry. Sometimes. He did not always write down safe methods to modify such." Leaning back against the wall and crossing his forelegs, the tome is lifted, methodically paging it, Jeff noting this one to be Spiral's design work book. "...why can I not read this?" Scowling for a moment, the armorer glances under to squint at the sketch, then flips the book over, sighing. "Of course he wrote it upside down, why would anypony not?"
  1060.     Lifting the blade into the air as well and carefully pressing the tip of his hoof against the handle, the yellow and black unicorn's head cocks to the right. "Several imprints: Spiral, Princess Luna, another one I do not know. Low skill, likely unicorn, low chance of a mystic. I do not detect significant dangers, however, it is not entirely.. physical." Placing the blade down on the anvil, Krinza sets the work book to the side, leaning forwards to examine the snapwire with a frown. "I have seen this before as well. Non-sentient and reactive to external commands. This is the same form of metal scavenged from Constructs, or possibly from the Rift itself. It functions as an addition to weaponry. Most militaries banned it for use due to the association with Constructs. There is negligible danger on it's own but some ponies may detect the Rift essence. The only problem I will have is that this blade and it's alternate instancing cannot be reforged in a traditional sense, it must be carefully reshaped so as to preserve the essences contained inside. It will take me two, perhaps three hours to do so, barring this minor addition."
  1062.     Watching Krinza attempt to and finally figure out the book, Jeff leans on the work bench as he studies the blade. "There was this inventor called DaVinci who would write all his notes upside down AND backwards so no one could read anything except for himself." The unicorn comments on the blade's possible physical presence, and Jeff recalls how 'Alice' used to live in the pendant. "Void Divers can shift between this plane and the Void at will. Hell I carried one around in a pocket dimension, stored in a pendant, for a long time." The Ranger gives Krinza an uncaring look as the snapwire is examined. "Like I said, take your time on it. I'll come back well after you've finished, thanks. I have to take care of some other things before the nights over." Leaving his design on the work table Jeff heads out to take care of his next task, giving them a wave goodbye "You two enjoy yourselves."
  1063.     Exiting the Workshop, his next course should be to visit Tipper before he thinks of possibly seeing Hornet Song; hoping to get Belltower's... pregnancy cleared up. The short walk to the Clinic is cut short as Jeff noticed quite a bit of commotion at the entrance. Several humans, and ponies, were idling around a short line going into the clinic; including a food truck parked to the side of the main doors. He... he knew who owned that truck. It was that doctor that insisted on staying in Canterlot: Juan Carlos. Jeff was always miffed the good doctor refused to stay here, but maybe these days it's better off he didn't. Razorback was... starting to deteriorate. The Nightblade approaches the group of humans, and makes his presence known with a greeting whistle. "Hey, what's going on in the Clinic?" If that doctor Carlos was here, clearly it was something serious Tipper and Nova couldn't handle on their own.
  1065.     Tossing Jeff a rare smile, the gears of his mind turning in obviously mischevious rotations, Krinza merely nods in a slow, calculating manner. "I do not foresee any.. problems, though I will see what I can do about improving the 'performance'." Halted from waving farewell, Krinza instead flattens his ears, eyes closing and shaking his head as Lann calls over her desk. "Do not worry, we are!"
  1066.     Outside the Clinic, the group of six humans and three mercenary pegasi bolt upright, each one frozen in quite visceral fear for a handful of seconds, all except for one turning with frightened expressions. Stepping out of the ring, one of the more prominent Operators usually seen with Tartarus Isle mercs motions for the rest to return to their guard duty, muttering under his breath in a hard European accent. "One of you go get Tipper, now."
  1067.     Furtively glancing around Jeff quickly, the man sighs, then nods towards the left side of the Clinic. "Bad news is what. Kraut's team came back frozen a la Mask, sans Natilda and Kraut's station wagon. Brought back four things, stasis pods probably, like the ones in all those sci-fi shows back home. Me, the mares, the boys been trying to get them open, no luck so far. We think they're Construct make, they're all covered in that weird trinary no one's figured out, a couple say otherwise, they're all funky angles and silver colored so we're stumped. Was about to gi-"
  1068.     Interrupted by the door opening, an awake, aware, and yes, still smelling of copious amounts of mareijuana Tipper lumbers out, stretching her shoulders up and sighing rather happily. Turning to orient on Jeff, one faded pink eyebrow raises, the aged healer then strolling past, snorting lightly in a mischievous manner and tugging Jeff along with her. "Can four of you please go restrain Doctor Heartbreak? I'd rather that lovely Crystal mare doesn't have her cute snoot booped off. Come along Jeff, I'll fill you in somewhere safe."
  1069.     Once in the pagoda, suspiciously empty for no apparent reason, Tipsy turns her head right, eyeing Shanis dead asleep on the westernmost couch, covered in blankets with a single perfectly balanced sweet mango on her cheek. "Silly bats." Shaking her head and grinning at the byplay, the elderly mare resumes her stroll back to behind Naliyna's stall, carefully lining herself up with merchant mare's extravagant couch, then flops onto it with a huff.
  1070.     Content to remain where she was, Tipper finally speaks up in a droll, analytical tone. "What he said is indeed true. Snakebite, Novus, Kraut, and Caliya did return. Natilda is missing as is their.. ride." Wiggling her nose at the awkward term, the healer flicks her tail in annoyance. "They're all fairly well injured, however, Doctor Heartbreak and five of the Starborn's best healers have come to help me out. I thought Hodch was joking about receiving aid from the Citadel, though I'm glad for it nonetheless. I'm not worried about their outlook, they're in good hooves now, but there is another problem."
  1071.     Shifting to rest her withers against the couch, a foreleg raises, tapping the space in front of her, molten silver eyes softening at Jeff. "I have good news for you, but please, sit with me."
  1073.     Looking at the group of humans and ponies, Jeff sighs heavily at the rather grim news. "Stasis pods, I know what you mean. Maybe try and round up the Rift Carrier from the arena, see it can coax them open." Before anything else can be heard, Tipper emerges from the Clinic happily dazed.
  1074.     Agreeing to follow Tipper to the pagoda, they pass by a sleeping Shanis and over to Nalyina's stall. "We should find a way to search for Natilda and the station wagon. They went to where again, the Crag Moors, right? I also saw Doctor Carlos's taco truck. They must be in really bad shape if you had to call on him."
  1075.     Pausing at the invitation on the couch, Jeff sits down and looks at Tipper with a tired look on his face. "I think I know what you want to talk about. Malyne told me enough."
  1077.     "Correct, the Crags. None of us are willing send anyone or anypony out there considering the severity of injuries encountered. I asked Nova to, gently, search Snakebite's surface memories and see what happened during the last few minutes, then radio Lonestar once she's done. If it's safe he'll take a large recovery team out, you know the type they've been planning on."
  1078.     Laying her head down, Tipper makes a slight nod @JeffMeyer while she stretches her legs out. "Don't worry about the Doctor, he'll be staying with me for now until Bren and her team can build another section for the clinic. As for Snakebite he was in worse shape than Greenie thought at first; third degree burns over ninety-five percent of his body, thirty plus fractures in his forearms and hips, minor heart arrythmia. Between the eight of us he was stabilized and immediately treated for burns which went.. a little too well. The Starborn's unicorns are going to treat his fractures with quartzine as soon as they're done freaking out. Split Nail will be quite happy to hear he'll recover in due time. Enough about this though, I have the matter firmly hoofled, so it's on to better matters."
  1079.     Shuffling forwards to set her head on Jeff's upper leg, the former medic chuckles, smiling good naturedly as she does so. "You best be proud, now quit that before I send you to the library. Both foals are healthy, stable, and developing quite well..." Eyebrows wiggling deviously, Tipper's nose twitches from side to side, her tone relaxing. "For utterly cute half-human half-pony hybrids, barring a few differences. Both have the normal upper half of a female human, the lower half of each is, however, a little unusual. The first one has two lower legs much like any foal's rear legs, except a bit longer and slimmer in comparison. She also has two small horn like protrusions, rounded and barely there. I believe they may have something to do with the Void influence within Belltower, oddly though they are not harmful in any capacity that I or Nova could sense. The other has four legs as any foal does, though her human half is located where a pony's neck would begin. As far as we are able to tell neither will suffer from any negative effects growing up, nor do their musculature or skeletal structures seem incomplete. In fact, I'd say they'll grow up to be exceptionally healthy."
  1081.     Jeff cringes externally at Snakebite's extensive injuries. "That's good you have such confidence. Normally burns that bad are enough to put the strongest humans at a death's door; I'm glad we have magic alternatives here. Probably wouldn't be so many of us left if there weren't."
  1082.     Taken back a bit at Tipper's prognosis, Jeff smiles a bit to himself. Twins. Daughters. Definitely his, then, given the fusion of pony and human anatomy. "The first sounds like a... satyr or faun I think they're called. The other definitely sounds like a centaur. Greek mythology." He pauses, thinking over the consequences of such a pregnancy. "Tipper, that's great news and all, and I'm happy about it, but what about Belltower? Malyne told me she went to the Moors to take care of this, on her own... in seclusion. And something about going 'primal'. I want to respect her decision, but the more I think about it the more concerning it gets. Is she going to be okay out there for a year? And on top of that, we need to figure out what to do about the Lunar Guard once they realize she's disappeared; we know they'll come looking for her, eventually. We either need to cover this up, or tell everyone the truth. I feel they'd give her her space, if they knew what was actually happening."
  1084.     "He was on something's door for a bit. Humans need to learn that they can't fight lava and win all the time like the last team did, but he will be fine, as will the rest of you." Smiling at Jeff from the comfortable rest on his leg, Tipper makes a slight shake of her head. "I'm not concerned what the name is, only that they're developing well. However, the correct term you are looking is 'going feral', and it is the single most dangerous problem she could allow herself to have. A batpony whom chooses to retreat into the Moors will begin losing their modern aspects, regressing into the more primal nature of their wild ancestors. Bereft of herdship and the stabilities of social contact, Belltower will soon lose her poninality, essentially becoming little more than a wild beast, attacking everything that dares to come near her home and seeking out food when she's hungry. This ties into the reason I brought you here. She-"
  1085.     Lifting a hoof and pointing straight at the middle of the pagoda, a heavy set sapphire blue earth pony mare that could only be Dancing Eyes, only without her flowing coat of rings, decloaks on the center of the stone. "Refuses to take 'no' for an answer. Now, if you would please tone down the anger this time, I am quite positive Jeff will agree to your demand."
  1086.     Face drawn tightly, both eyes narrow, a rippling, dancing effect cascading from each. "No demands. I gave my oath, doctor, and I've long accepted it's consequences. I'm not angry, just... frustrated." Unable to avert his own eyes from the entrancing effect, Dancing lifts her head, meeting Jeff's focus with a miserable, downcast expression. "I don't like doing this Jeff. I don't have to touch your emotions to know how much revulsion you have to my kind, but I'm not about to hurt Malyne's feelings either. Before I ask my question, know that I am desperately trying to uphold my honor to you and your family, so I'm not going pull the answer to my question from your mind, or force you to answer. All I want to know is this: where is Belltower located? If you say you don't know, I'm going to track her down myself, without help, end of story. She needs to be here right this fucking moment and I don't care if I have to drag her back biting my teats off, I'd rather not waste weeks of precious time tearing the Moors down one tree at a time."
  1088.     Sitting quietly as Tipper explains what 'going feral' actually entails, as if it sounds any good in the first place, Jeff sighs heavily. She stops, mid-sentence, to bring his attention to Dancing Eyes as she appeared in the pagoda. At least it LOOKED like Dancing Eyes, just short of her usual getup of coat rings.
  1089.     Locking eyes with the psion, Jeff tilts his head slightly before looking away as Dancing Eyes explains her reasonings. He looks back at her, looking a bit distraught. "She told me she was fed up with Twisted, and that's why she left. Took all of my best equipment, hopefully to keep herself safe. I can't believe she'd keep this from me, but now we have to find her." Jeff pauses, nodding to himself slightly. "She's somewhere in the Crag Moors, but I don't know where exactly. Malyne seems to know, though, but she was pretty adamant on NOT going back there." Thinking for a second more. "I could use the vellum paper the green man gave me. Could just... 'wish' her back here, and save ourselves the headache of trying to find her. I don't have a lot of it left, so it may not have enough juice to find and bring her back."
  1091.     Growing increasingly more agitated, Dancing snaps her head to the right away from Jeff, breaking her namesake's unusual entrance with a snort. "Don't even bother with that. I know the green thing's 'wishes' shit well enough, seen those once before in a different manner." Rocking back and forth on her hooves, the heavy set mare's head tilts upwards, staring up at the pagoda's roof, speaking in a clinical, orderly tone for once. "In order of events: one, her ass will land on your face without any warning, two, she'll be twice as pissed off as before, three, she'll pull the same disappearing act, four, I'll drag another piece of vital information out of that limp-dicked colt fucker, five, I'll need her knowledge and be unable to find her, six, we'll all be stuck right here at this very moment in the very near future.. ..and seven, I really hate wasting time."
  1092.     Dropping her gaze down, Dancing Eyes shakes her mane out in irritation, firmly thumping a hoof on the matrice as she speaks, the flowing sets of rings piercing throughout her coat in an instant, accompanied by a resounding hiss of air pressure. "Remnant, find the closest stone in the Crag Moors to Nightblade Belltower and deliver me there." Watching the earth mare phase from view, Tipper begins to exhale, breath catching as Dancing returns in the middle of screaming, now covered by fire and reared onto her back legs. "-UT OF HERE AND THEN CLOSER TO HER! PREFERABLY SOMEWHERE THAT ISN'T ON FIRE YOU FUCKING IDIO-" Waiting for the primal mare to disappear, the elderly unicorn very carefully, very slowly lifts a hoof, gently pressing it to her nose. "...I suppose the Crags aren't safe. New plan: we wait an hour before sending somepony whom is fireproof in."
  1094.     Jeff sat silently and watched Dancing Eyes go on a tangent. A fairly specific, yet most likely accurate tangent. She then takes off, only to return to be set ablaze. "Oh wait... now I remember. Malyne said the CAIRN Arena, not the Crag. My mind's still on Kraut's expedition, my bad."
  1095.     He pays the flaming psion little mind, knowing she'd be fine as she gallops away. He looks over at Tipper, smiling mocking innocence. "Besides, she shouldn't be trying to rescue anyone in that kind of mood. We should let her extinguish herself and cool off before coming up with any plans." Snorting at several fire puns, Jeff crosses his arms and leans into the couch. "And if we're going to do this, I should be going out. I think I'd have the best bet talking her into coming back, but I'm still exhausted from the fight up in the Citadel. We should figure out a plan and go look for her tomorrow. She wouldn't have gone to the Cairn if she didn't think she could survive there, and with all the equipment she took from me she should have a very good chance of doing exactly that. Speaking of, do you know why she decided to isolate herself in the first place? It just doesn't seem like her. I feel like she would have been bouncing all around me with news like this."
  1097.     Waving a minorly irritated flaming hoof in Jeff's direction for a split second, Dancing phases from view once more, switching to what were most likely brutal insults in earth pony.
  1098.     Staring upwards, Tipper's visible eye swirls a fraction before freezing. Unable to blink, her entire face scrunches, sighing in a profoundly exasperated, humored, and pained manner. "You just couldn't wait to do that, could you? Stallions I swear.." Trying to calm her burning ears from the assaulting puns and still unwilling to move from Jeff's comfortable leg rest, Tipsy curls her forelegs into her barrel, obviously intent on relaxing. "I do. Belltower had a few good reasons, but an equal number of a few bad ones."
  1099.     "First one I can think of off hoof is the obvious stress of dealing with a formerly close marefriend whom, in the course of her service, changed so much as to be considered an entirely different pony. To put this into perspective, imagine that Hollow left for a month only to come back a callous, cold-blooded murderer, one obsessed with ruthlessly ripping the hearts out of innocent victims and eating them raw. Not a proper example by any means, but it fits much the same situation. Second is the constant struggle of defying her nature. Batponies are naturally lazy and only motivated by three things, those things in order being: friends, sleep, and food. If you can name a single batpony that was or is anywhere near as active as her, I'll go ask Cadence for an age delaying spell... maybe. Don't push your luck on that one though. Third, the lack of structure bothers her. A mercenary company can be run even more slipshod than this one and still come out on top, but to her military taught mind Razorback is a disgrace. I won't deny that Razorback could use better training and a paper pony instead of relying on Naliyna's incredibly weird form of paperwork.. I'm getting off track."
  1100.     Forming an approximation of a hand and using it to scratch her nose while she thinks, the faded pink unicorn dismisses it with a snort. "To put it simply, the fourth problem combines the first three: Belltower isn't as open as she wants to should be. Given the fact that she joined the Starborn and for whatever reasons refuses to leave, that creates more friction between herself and other ponies, partially in her own mind, partially due to her sovereign, partially due to her own nature. You, being military, know the difference between a secret and a 'secret', which is something that batponies, being naturally free spirited and careless, struggle with greatly. The bad reasons are simple: she doesn't like cold or rain, which makes being here miserable, which is then compounded by her dislike for wearing any form of protection. She distrusts psions on an almost instinctual basis. Even Roust. Broken Hoof and Dancing Eyes are still mortal enemies in her mind, even if neither of them have any reason to cause mischief or harm. Silver for example may be an annoying pest, but she isn't harmful. Something you should think on sometime. Lastly, like most batponies born and raised the Moors, Belltower has a deep rooted fear of the unknown, Otherworldly, and Eldritch, especially their influences. As far as she is concerned, the second can sometimes be good, but not always, the third is almost always bad, and the first is terrifying. Add in the fact that her foals are half-human, half-batpony, and what do you get? A worried, concerned, terrified, and scared mare."
  1101.     Glancing up to give Jeff a mildly stern expression, Tipper continues unabated. "Dancing Eyes absolutely adores Malyne. If she didn't she wouldn't spend all her time playing with her, teaching her to read, or everything else. I trust her mareish intuition, and quite frankly, she is Belltower's best option even if she doesn't realize it."
  1103.     Waving off Tipper's faint concerns and comment, Jeff listens intently at her psychological breakdown of Belltower. "No, you are right though. Razorback, looking on the outside, is an embarrassment and even worse on the inside. None of us hardly communicate to each other to the point of complete isolation. Lately, it feels like we've been creating one problem after another for ourselves. And to top that off, the Fortress itself is a crippled mess. I don't think the demi-sentient could protect us anymore. Either someone needs to be put in charge to start straightening things out, or we need to... start from scratch. And honestly, I don't think a pony can handle our constant antics; one of us human needs to ultimately be running things, here." But the fourth hit him hard; an inevitable truth, that he should have maybe been looking at. "I feel like an idiot, and partially at fault, for never asking her about it. I've always trusted her judgement when it came to things I couldn't understand about this world, so I assumed everything was fine all the time. I have my own secrets, so I know not to pry into others if I don't think of any of them."
  1104.     Bringing a hand to his mouth, Jeff thinks hard for a few good second on what to possibly do. "We should have a plan ready, when we find her; we need to make a deal that will reassure her fears, but we know she'll stay safe. I think she should stay in the Basin Village, with someone, even if I have to. She won't be near Twisted, she can re-acclimate with batponies, she won't be near Razorback, and she'll be away from anything else that could cause paranoia."
  1106.     Making a small ear flick, Tipper's visible eye rolls towards the opposide side of the pagoda, exhaling quietly. "That, my dear, is exactly why I trust Dancing's intuition. Do you have any idea how much slack she's tried to pick up since Spiral left? Earth pony herds are quite large, and, regardless of where each member comes from, who they are, or were, what their history is or was, they desire unity above all. If she were any other pony, especially one with less fury and stamina, I'd be mildly concerned. Consider that neither of them might not be happy here, but that may very well be the point Dancing is trying to make. Then again.." Rubbing her nose on @JeffMeyer's leg for several moments, the faded healer sets her head back down, lifting her left shoulder defeatedly. "If Belltower isn't free enough to be her own pony due to the needs of secrecy, you've no right to blame yourself either. Besides Jeff, the 'prisoner' in this case might very well make a good impression on the 'imprisoned', especially since they've got a bit more in common than most would think." Turning a sleepy molten silver eye upwards, Tipsy gives a tired smile, her nose wiggling merrily. "If you don't mind, I'd like to take a little nap, tonight has been quite exhausting. You are, of course, most welcome to be a pillow for a while, if you want."
  1108.     Jeff gives Tipper an unsatisfied look and shakes his head. "Not that I don't appreciate her initiative, and it's not because she's a psion, but I don't think Dancing Eyes is what Razorback needs right now. In fact, having a pony in charge of us humans hasn't been working out well, since Spiral. He's gone, and I know you've been trying as well." Jeff shifts into a more comfortable position on the couch. "I've been looking into means to registering Razorback as a township. It might be the catalyst we need to sober everyone up; maybe redirect from mercenary work, which we haven't been very successful at, and do something a bit more... domestic. I'm tired of us making more and more enemies, and gaining allies that think we're too dumb to dig ourselves out of our own hole." Thinking over the faintly cryptic explanation, Jeff nods understandably. "I should go, regardless. Some of the items Bell took from me, and might use to deter us, are very odd and almost unknown to even Dancing Eyes. She's going to have to know how to counter them." As he begins to shift upward, he stops mid-rise and thinks over Tipper's offer. It didn't take long, and he sinks back down into the couch and gets comfortable on his back. "Your pillow awaits."
  1110.     "Key word: tried, I gave up on that a while back. Mostly since I'm not getting any younger, heh. Dancing is only doing what she thinks she must do to maintain comfortable unity, I doubt she would go beyond that requirement but neither will she ignore your pain. I find it endearing in a way, but don't worry about domestic problems too much." Snorting lightly at the thought, Tipsy nudges Jeff's leg with her knee, eyebrow raising at him in skeptical humor. "Oh come on now, just who are those two and what do they do for a living again? They're both military professionals for one, and for two they're family mares, even if they're afraid to show it. Let them blow off their frustrations, they'll need it.. well, so long as Belltower doesn't engage Dancing's masochistic side, otherwise that is going to be most awkward for both of them." Pushing herself up to sit, the aged doctor smiles, then carefully lies down, resting her head across Jeff's stomach and snuggling into him. "Don't worry about it. One way or another, they'll be back."
  1113. *****
  1114. BUBBA
  1115. Continued from:
  1116. <-Sweet's letters
  1120.     Dangling her front hooves over the ocean water with little fear, Twisted's much smaller sister shakes her head slowly, sighing in a half-mocking tone. "I was told humans are smarter than the average unicorn, not the average colt.. as far I know Deepglow taste terrible though they aren't poisonous. Since their ink glows for days even in choppy water it's used as the second of four reagants to make permament glowstones. At least, as permament as can be. Most Otherworldly creatures like them are allowed to live by being useful to us in one way or another, otherwise we'd eradicate them."
  1121.     Tossing Bubba a less than subtly angry expression, Kelp Shoals turns down to squint at the glowing squid below, reaching out and toying with her net's lead as her voice softens. "Armored crabs, toxic dorvals, Epkrii sharks, Temphil spine-tails.. the list is endless. Kraken like the Vond, Pent, Drichte, and a few others are threats if they get too close to here, otherwise they just kill each other. Bad ones like the Mustakrakish can reach half a mile in length, they don't care what they kill which makes them the worst of the lot. From fifty to about six hundred years ago, around half of the Lunar military patrolled the coastline, eliminating those and other nasties whenever sighted. Lots of stories come from that time, not many ended well. Last I recall three ships survived, and the only one that floats is in some old Starborn stronghold. Now and then some THING manages to get out of the Deep Moors swamps, usually undead, which means hoping it doesn't cause an outbreak of more. Or worse."
  1123. >Bubba
  1124.     "I don't know much about the sealife here, that's all." Shrugging, Bubba took a quick look around to see if he could find a science stick to poke the squid. Or Kelp. Finding none, he looks back at her, listening to what they have to deal with in the water. (Straight from H.P. Lovecraft's bullshit...) Shaking his head, he gave her a shrug. "We don't have anything like that in our oceans back home, except in literature or movies. Most dangerous things in the waters are U-Boats or giant squid, depending."
  1126.     "That doesn't match with what the Matron's told me about Razorback being allied to us. Then again, that's mostly because of Twisted, she can't resist fresh sea trout. We've even had Staflank entertain humans a couple times right outside our village, not to mention the one that showed up a little while back and caused a stir." Turning a one-eyed stare over her shoulder onto @Bubba, Kelp's visible eyebrow raises, returning to poking at the net lead in simple amusement. "Dunno what somepony would do on a U-shaped boat, but as for squid-" Standing up in a slow, lazy motion, the smaller pegasus turns about, lifting a hoof and pointing it out into the ocean with a merry smile. "Mom named me after that shoal out there, the kelp's too thick for most anything to swim through. When the tide's down like it is right now most of what comes in is young, but there are a few poisonous critters. Those're brightly colored though, pretty hard to miss. Only two I know of are either too quick or sneaky to spot before they bite your hoof." Head tipping to the side for a questioning ear wiggle, Kelp's lift wing lifts up apologetically, the right reaching out to reel the lead upwards across her feathers in practiced motions, grinning as she does so. "Not that you have hooves, but if you did I still wouldn't recommend taking a swim. If that's not your thing you could stand right on the water's edge with a net or spearfish. Now if you'll excuse me I've got to get to the dockmistress before she decides not to pay the bounty for this little prize."
  1128. >Bubba
  1129.     "It's short for 'Underwater Boat', actually. Submarines." Shaking his head lightly, Bubba looked over in the direction of where she was pointing. "Bubba's not my real name, of course, but I don't see why I can't use it, since I'm making a new life for myself amongst you all." Shrugging his shoulders, Bubba looked back at the mare. "Quite frankly I wouldn't want to go swimming in the ocean here, no matter what. But thanks for the advice anyway." Nodding, he stepped back from the edge. "Have fun with that, I'll go look around some more." Giving her a nod, he departed to go look around the pier some more.
  1131.     Visibly trying to speak her concerns for the idea, and failing to do so, Kelp's face does contort through several amusing shapes. "I'm.. just.. gonna.. ignore you said that." Ears flicking rapidly confusion, the mare holds a hoof up in a pause motion. "Hold up, we're on two different pages here. You were saying that you don't know much about sea life, I was trying to say Twisted has probably taught each and every single human exactly what is and isn't edible since she spends all her time at Razorback." Purposefully ruffling her right wing's feathers upwards, Kelp Shoals offers an apologetic grin, dangling the glowing squid up on the other. "I know what you mean, we've all got a name, then we'll all got a 'name' that's a little different. You have fun too, just don't get too close to the mob of foals out here, I saw some of them carrying peaches. By the way, if you see Twisted tell her I said hi and I'll come visit if I get a chance." Briskly nodding in return, Kelp spins about on hoof, quickly trotting towards the small restaurant section @Bubba had come from earlier.
  1132.     Making his way towards the opposite side of the pier through smaller crowds of pegasi and batponies, all still chatted amongst each other with, thankfully, no clear signs of imminent rape, although more than a few mares winked in his direction. Bubba's meandering takes him over an empty, partially rebuilt section of pier, stacks of wide, freshly cut boards formed an ersatz railing, lumpy cotton bags, probably containing nails, scattered across the tops. Passing several clusters of unfamiliar unicorns and several darkly colored earth ponies on break, one of them pausing from a loaf of bread to eye him curiously, then pointing towards a damaged section of pier, beyond which was a much wider sickle-shaped dock swarming with nothing but batponies. "If you're here for the Cairn auction I can send you over."
  1134.     Shaking his head lightly at her struggling to understand U-Boats, Bubba looked back out over the water for a moment, before looking back as she spoke up. (She kinda did, but its not like we deal with oceans in the middle of Razorback. Though I do think there's a squid in the fountain on certain nights... Could be the schnapps messing with me, though.) "Peaches...? Nevermind, I'm pretty sure I don't need to know. And I'll let Twisted know, alright?"
  1135.     Looking around as he walks down the pier, Bubba purposefully kept from making eye contact with the mares winking at him, glancing over the crowds instead. "Er, Cairn auction?" Glancing over, he eyes the dock curiously.
  1137.     Nodding at the unconnected pier and it's uncomfortably high number of mares, the earth pony, for once a stallion, lifts his shoulders in an 'I don't know either' motion @Bubba. "Yep, biggest auction yet. They're bidding on salvage rights to some of the sunken Lunar Guard ships found recently." Pausing to rub his nose with the bread, the stallion stops, frowns, then tears the top off, tossing the piece into the ocean. "Moors has been expanding for a while now, the Cult and Guard been clearing out nasty pockets of the swamps, exterminating undead, trying to mark out where all the Scars are, blocking off what they can. I came here from Tartarus Isle to help rebuild, been pretty calm until the auction was set up.." Biting into a safer side of the loaf, the earth stallion's ears swivel forwards, listening in on the distant chatter. "About two weeks ago. None of us have seen the Sea's Bounty Matron since so I figured they sent one of her human friends to bid for her.. word over there is the old Starborn took quite a bit with them. Right now nopony's willing to offer much, not many divers in that group there. Could be be worth going over, bid on a couple of smaller wrecks, or offer to help salvage."
  1139.     Chewing on the inside of his cheek, Bubba listened to the stallion with interest. "How far out are some of these wrecks?" (It might be worth helping, and maybe buying some stuff off of someone...)
  1141.     Leaning forwards a bit and turning his head left, the earth stallion's ear folds forwards, remaining silent for half a minute. "So far: three washed up on beaches, six right on shore, eight, maybe eighteen within a few hooves of shore, two sunk below surface less than fifty hooves.. sixteen feet give or take one foot. Five more sunk from two hundred to twelve hundred hooves deep, makes around-" Pausing to lift a hoof and examine it, the Isle pony mutters as he thinks, then frowns up at Bubba. "Sixty-five to four-hundred feet, give or take another twenty depending on ocean. Knowing the Ferron and batponies the ones closest to a beach were probably picked over years ago. Sea's Bounty and Cairn ponies might be the only ones to bother digging around but a good earth pony-" Tapping his nose with a hoof for emphasis. "Finds most everything buried so long as their hooves can touch solid ground. If you don't care to bid could probably offer to hire out a couple of yours for them, clanners don't mind splitting salvage rights. Only reason none of us-" Motioning with his head towards the on-break earth ponies, then chuckling in a distinctly Stalliongrad manner. "Haven't bothered is we'll be busy here for the next year, and, ponifally, I don't feel like rapping a hoof across a lost Eldritch blade, if you know what I mean."
  1143.     (That's a lot of wrecks... And at least five are off limits due to no diving suits on such short notice.) Shaking his head, Bubba nodded once the stallion finished. "Yeah, I know. Thanks for the info." Giving him a curteous nod, Bubba meanders towards the pier, bracing himself to poke mares off of him if they take too much of an interest in his presence. Beyond professionalist interest, of course.
  1145.     "All right then, just don't let the batponies bite, they tend to do that... sometimes." Cracking a grin, the stallion lifts a hoof in farewell, returning to his bread and carefree lounging. Having completely forgotten that the auction side of the pier was disconnected and that the part of the dock he was on was still under construction, @Bubba's eyes miss the giant gaping hole between them, stepping off into free air and plunging down a good eight meters into chest deep water. One ankle is immediately given an experimental nibble, then the other.
  1146. [ 1d6 = 4 ] <Shore Threats
  1148.     (You are an idiot.) Splashing down, it was all Bubba could do to keep his balance in the water, supressing a thrash as something bit at his foot. "Fuck." Hurriedly glancing around for a ladder or something to climb up, Bubba did his best to appear unappealing to whatever was sampling his ankles.
  1149. [ 1d6 = 5 ] [ 1d6 = 1 ] [ 1d6 = 2 ] <E.Perception
  1151.     Despite Bubba's well meaning intentions, his lack of movement succeeds in finding solid sand, also causing the nibbles to cease, thankfully not penetrating his boots.. yet. Peering towards the auction dock, the closest pegasi had turned to stare down at him, the mares, most of them Ferron judging by the dark blue and green colorations, rapidly assemble into a line. Finding neither ladder nor rope on the disconnected section, the only safety Bubba could see was the shoreline roughly 20M to his left, a rather large and unnatural channel smashed into the sand, as if a giant hand had made a chopping motion.
  1152.     The Ferron above quickly begin dropping coiled steel nets out from under their wings, readying them to throw while the few batponies in sight heft up steel bladed shortspears in their wingclaws, aiming at the water. One of the taller Ferron snaps an angry sentence in clan-speak, visibly tensing as the Moorites heave their weapons down in a wide, protective ring around Bubba, the pegasi furiously throwing their nets downwards. Amusingly, a number of the non-Ferron pegasi leap straight down into the water, hoofblades and biteblades flashing momentarily before the water begins to boil from movement. "GET OUT OF THE WATER HUMAN, WE'LL COVER YOU!"
  1154.     Not even bothering to make a sarcastic remark about covering the sniper, Bubba turned to his left and started wading his way over, preparing to swim if the water rose any further. (I'm gonna fucking shoot at myself later for this.) He thought as he held his Garand up to keep the salt water out as much as possible. Not like it'd help too much, as all his stuff will need a good scrubbing once he's returned to Razorback.
  1155. [ 1d6 = 3 ] [ 1d6 = 5 ] <B.Movement
  1157.     Most likely freed from whatever had tasted his boots by ever hungry pegasi, @Bubba's quick wading through the ersatz barrier of spears is slowed by the same pegasi constantly bumping into him, though thankfully without being stabbed, or bitten, on accident. Possibly professional pegasi plundering the platitudes of the sea, as it were.
  1158.     Reaching waist high water halfway to the beach, the frenzy in the water behind him begins to slow considerably, and by the time his thoroughly soggy boots touch self the shoreline, equally soggy fishermares were dragging their prizes out of the water, clustering around Bubba's cold, shivering self. More than a few of the pegasi whom had jumped first now proudly bore fresh beak and bite marks, though none were angry, just the opposite in fact: many appeared quite happy to have some action take place.
  1159.     Circling around Bubba twice, a dark, shiny green pegasus with a gray and black two-toned mane of middling size lands in a puff of sand a short distance in front of him, concerned dull blue eyes roving him up and down quickly. "You all right there human? No bites, scrapes, accidental stabs?"
  1161.      Pulling off his boots  to drain them, Bubba took a moment to feel for any pain. "Well, aside from some nibbling from... whatever, I'm fine. Gonna nead to clean the salt out of my stuff later, though." Shrugging, he looked over at the mare. "Stuff like this happen a lot around here?"
  1163.     "Eh, I don't see any blood, but the ocean's coldest right this time of night. Got a heatstone? If not there's probably a dozen around here you can borrow." Lacking any pain besides the cold creeping through his skin, the mare's head tilts, shooting Bubba a questioning stare. "You mean a random human of Razorback coming into the Cairn, spending a while walking around, then chooses to walk off a destroyed dock into the ocean as if he's taking a stroll through the woods? First time's the charm, second time's a habit I suppose. Don't make it one or else you're screwed. Which by the way is less a threat and more a promise from the Ferron around here. Good thing I'm from Dryshore huh?"
  1164.     Grinning after her last verbal jab, the pegasus turns, barking at order in the dock's direction, a flurry of wings immediately following. Seconds later a small pile of the ever familiar yellow Empire crystal spheres descend around Bubba into the sand, the mare lifting a wing and rubbing her chin. "If your equipment's sensitive I'll get one of the psions up there to pull you onto the dock. I'd hate to have my blades rust out on me too."
  1166.     "Unfortunately no, I don't." Even though he knew the dangers of hypothermia, Bubba knew it'd take a bit to really set in. "Pretty much, yeah." Shrugging sheepishly, he put his boots back on. "To be honest I forgot about the hole. Thanks for causing chaos so I could get out."
  1167.     Standing, he put the stones into his pockets to evenly distribute the warmth. "Well, everything's gonna need a good wash before the salt fucks it, but my rifle and hooksword will need cleaning pretty soon."
  1169.     Reaching out with a hoof to nudge one of the far too many heatstones, the seamare snorts in loud annoyance. "Knowing how your Matron talks I suggest not thanking anypony just yet, otherwise they'll think you're offering your own kind of 'thanks', bunch of overeager horny single fillies.." Straightening up and shaking her head dismissively, she lifts her wings in a shrugging motion, taking on a relieved smile. "Don't worry about it, you saved me from pushing the meeting any farther. Even if you came out to bid I probably wouldn't told you to come back later, tonight's been a miserable load of horse feathers since everypony would rather chat instead of do business. Besides, I'm sure they were glad to get something fresh to eat."
  1170.     Watching with no shortage of amusement as @Bubba fills every available pocket, the dark green pegasus offers a wing out, grinning knowingly. "That's one reason ponies don't wear clothes, we tend to ruin them much too quickly to justify the expense. I'm Coral Pebble by the way, Lunar explorer and surveyor. If you ever need eyes over the water or a sea scout, I'm qualified for that too. I usually hang out at the other end of the pier at the fruit stand, but don't let me keep you long. Let me know when you want to get back to the portal stone and I'll whistle one of the psions to snag you."
  1172.     "For now I'll just stick with thanking you." Lifting his helmet off, he shakes the water out of his hair, making sure that there was nothing crawling into his stuff. "We don't have fur everywhere like you all do, so I'll keep it on. Plus they're uniforms, not just clothes." Shaking her wing, he nods. "Bubba, I was a sniper for my unit before coming here."
  1173.     Giving her a thumbs up, he walks off while the heatstones did their work on his clothes, taking another look around.
  1174. [ 1d10 = 4 ] <Cairn Wharf Locations: Pony Cho's Crab Shack
  1176.     Returning the thumbs up by extending three feathers from her right wing, Coral Pebble smiles, then sets about to collect the fishermares, shouting orders in pegasi.
  1177.     Strolling west along the beach parallel to the pier, Bubba's boots were still unfortunately cold and soaked, though the heatstones were beginning to do their work, steam coming off his clothes in small wispy trails. Passing the rebuilt section of dock, a series of long, light colored logs cut in half and shoved together had been fashioned into a crude ramp leading up onto the dock. Reaching the top Bubba finds he'd come back to where he'd started, a medium sized translocation stone off to either side, both delivering a cluster of dark green painted Ferron pegasi whom promptly swarm into the increasingly large crowds.
  1178.     Making his way through the crowds, one of the larger stalls overlooking the ocean catches his eye, the architecture distinctly asian themed. A carved wood sign above the entrance in a script bafflingly similar to German reads 'Pony Cho's Crab Shack', the letters mostly faded from ocean air and age, pegasi text below it probably reading the same.
  1179.     Entering the small, currently unoccupied eatery, six nearly human height cushions atop solid wooden blocks sat in front of a wide, white painted serving counter, paper hanging lantens, for once lit by actual flame, lit up traditional Far East styled flair of eye pleasing symbols and paintings of waterfalls.
  1180.     As the scent of well seasoned crab wafts back over the counter, an abnormally slender, earth pony height mare judging by the rounded ears, her coat a strange dull blood red with a pale orange mane, swivels it's head back to Bubba, fixing curious gray eyes on him. Raising an eyebrow, the mare turns around, dipping her head in a respectful motion, tipping her nose up aftwards to give a welcoming smile, speaking in fairly easy to understand yet nonetheless asian-like accented Common. "Welcome to Cho's hu`um! Come in, have seat. First drink always on me, order when you like."
  1182.     (Not ready to go back yet... more exploring, I guess. Don't know when I'd come back here, anyway.) Shaking his head, Bubba walks until he comes upon the Crab Shack. Shrugging his shoulders, he steps in and takes a look around, raising an eyebrow at the Asian as fuck decore.
  1183.     After bowing his head in a similar manner, he nods and takes a seat. "What's on the menu?" (Might as well go for food. As long as it doesn't get too degenerate.)
  1185.     "Many kinds but first here. Summer cider, tangy and sweet, best pairing for salty, savory." Lifting an exquisitvely engraved, silver gilded hoof, a thin, much too tall amber bottle is nudged onto the counter, the Japoneighsian rocking back on her hooves, eyebrows furrowing as she thinks. "Small crab best for salad, small pieces, soft, sweeter taste. Many eat straight too. Medium crabs best for stew, chowder, bigger pieces spice with lemon, lime, pepper. All like. Gryphons say large crab flesh only good when grilled wet, or make milk-boil strips, put on bread slices. Big ones.. most not like big ones. Taste strange, hard chew, not even gryphon like much. Some Matrons say acquired taste, but not eat often. If want stew or chowder, only do milk-boil with roots, vegetables, water take too much flavor out."
  1187.  Taking a sip of the cider, Bubba listens to what the mare makes. "How big do these big ones get?" Raising an eyebrow, Bubba takes a couple swallows of the cider. (Come to think of it, how big do the damn crabs get in general?)
  1189.     Much as the mare had stated, the cider was indeed a summer blend, though a bit more on the tangy side. Returning @Bubba's raised eyebrow with one of her own, the Japoneighsian turns her head up, eyeing the small eatery's roof. "Large ones? If two pegasus stand on one claw, two on other, six on shell, same size as restaurant here. Big ones are ten pegasi on one claw, ten on other, fifty on top of shell, so.. small one room cottage maybe? Pony no hunt big crab, too much threat so hire minotaurs."
  1190.     Dropping her gaze down, the mare lifts a hoof, giggling into the underpad and only marginally hiding a grin. "Minotaurs sometime win! Other time pegasi ask pretty Moon Princess, she more fun to watch. Want try one each for taste?"
  1192.     (That's... a big fucking crab.) Shaking his head, Bubba took a moment to wipe his helmet as she described the sizes. "I guess I could, how much would this cost, by the way?" Bubba had enough money to cover anything small, but he knew it was a good idea to know how much he'll have left over, ahead of time.
  1194.     Silently leaning forwards and turning her head to the left, the mare lifts a long, shapely foreleg, placing her hoof on the back side of the counter, a note of warning creeping into her voice. "When Cho say try.." Leaning in closer, the gray eye facing Bubba stares deep into his soul, the Japoneighsian's nose twitches once as her tone becomes a flat deadpan. "Cho mean try samples, silly hu`um."
  1195.     Pushing off the counter with a ringing laugh, Cho's pale orange tail flicks humoredly as she pushes open a steel lid on the rear counter, recoiling from a gout of steam. "Anoki hot! Banai banai!" Tossing her head back, the mare's head shakes, reaching over to snatch a plate, speaking as she works. "As Cho say some not like certain crab, business fail if customer not like much.. or choke, so Cho learn in home land what ponies, gryphons, minotaurs here want eat first, then come learn more before start business. Cho always busy now, Sea's Bounty bring hundred crab each week. Cho see new faces every day, sometimes even new hu`um, but not much like you."
  1196.     Sliding about and delivering a marble dinner plate onto the counter in front of Bubba, it was definitely more than a sample platter: heaped with a large steak of something vaguely resembling crab flesh kept at a distance from two obvious claw segments that would otherwise be mistaken for small steaks, a handful of leg segments, then a pile of random pieces. Rocking back on her hooves, Cho smiles merrily, tilting her head and raising an eyebrow in a challenging motion. "Cho suggest start small."
  1198.     "I was more talking about the food afterwards." Shrugging his shoulders with a roll of his eyes, Bubba looked at her. "What do you mean by not much like me?" That piqued his interest, but he was momentarily distracted by the plate of food. "Have a fork?"
  1200.     Lifting a hoof and pointing at the platter, the mare snorts in a light, amused manner. "Cho say sample, that it. Business do great here, many happy ponies come by, often leave tip, so new customer get first plate free."
  1201.     Pushing a small stool out from under the rear counter, Cho seats herself, then eyes @Bubba up and down once in thought, her ears wiggling in readily understandable motions indicating deep thought. "Have seen eight hu`um here, maybe nine, but none Razorback. Cairn small, lots Ferron, batponies, they know what many Razorback look like, they not Razorback. Not same cloth, armor, weapons, act very different than you.. how say? Very.. very stress, always in hurry. Most hu`um come with pony friend from odd places. Saddle Arabia mare come with hu`um mare twice but not seen for while now, Canterlot stallion disappear.. half year ago. Hu`um stallion from Neighvada, mare from Germaneigh, stallion from Prance, others Cho not know, come to Cairn once month."
  1202.     Blinking at the oddly named utensil, the Japoneighsian glances down, her face slacking for several moments. Picking up a two pronged bamboo skewer, she passes it over the Counter, giving a small, embarrassed smile. "Am sorry, Cho not know what fork be. Skewer work good?"
  1204.     Raising an eyebrow, Bubba only shrugs. He wasn't one to argue about free food. "Well, even in Razorback some of us dress differently. But I can't exactly say that we're stressed out or anything."
  1205.     Taking the skewer, Bubba looks it over. "It's basically a fork, just less prongs. Forks are pretty easy to make, if someone knows how to work with metals. Same goes for spoons."
  1207.     Lips pursing at the information, Cho's eyebrows furrow together @Bubba, her expression reading mild concern and confusion. "That just it. Most Cairn ponies know how Razorback look, they see in Moors often, but other hu`um.. not know right word for it. Other hu`um odd, they try avoid be seen, when that not work and attract eyes they not like that, act very stress. One even leave in big hurry without talk. Some ponies think they afraid of Cairn but that make no sense, only pegasus and batponies here. Maybe they afraid of old batpony or Sweet, but that make less sense. It very hard say."
  1208.     Visibly thinking for a moment, the mare glances down at the rear counter, one hoof reaching out to collect something, the other raising to point at the platter with a grin. "Think know what mean, will try make. While Cho busy, you busy too, cold food bad."
  1210.     Letting out a breath, Bubba looked into the food for a moment. "So, you know of humans that aren't affliciated with Razorback? That's... probably not a good thing, if one snaps and tries something stupid."
  1211.     Taking a bite of the food, he waits a moment before continuing. "If they can get one started, anyway. I've seen ponies take some hits that would outright kill us." Shrugging, he ate in silence as she grabbed at something under the counter, raising an eyebrow.
  1213.     Distracted by the steam and scents wafting upwards from the plate, Bubba finds none of it attempting to devour him in retaliation. He felt a bit sad.
  1214.     "Yes, three come here to eat often, two others just sometimes. Two look nearly same but different scent, one carries rod like ponies from Prance do, other has blade smaller than yours. First wears funny pointed hat, blue, white feather on side, look like pyramid." Bending metal into place behind the counter, Cho squints for a hooffull of seconds, glancing up to give a quizzical frown. "Cho asked ponies if humans started fights at Cairn before, always say no, but batponies say Razorback love good fights, fun kinds. Some pegasus tell about scary battles too, so Cho not sure what to think, is why I say to you other humans act strange. As for ponies-"
  1215.     Finding a whole chunk of claw, the taste was sweet, spicy, buttery, and considerably fresher than what Pella usually served.
  1216.     Wrenching her leg sideways into whatever she was working on, the dull red mare snorts loudly, ears flicking in friendly manners to show she meant no offense. "Cho not believe that! Cairn hear many stories over years, only few humans died, most humans survive battles. Unicorn two year ago tell us about Sharonel and how Old Canterlot fall and many earth ponies and pegasus from Tartarus talk lots about assassins, minotaurs, powerful ponies. Gryphons talk about fake Warlord and very bad Enforcer that eat her own. Lunars worst, they tell stories of many Constructs, elementals, scary things in New Everfree, Equestria, Spines on Dragons. Cho never want see any of them, Cho happy deal with tiny sea monsters."
  1218.     At least the food wasn't raping him. Yet. (That's... not a hat type that I'm familiar with. Probably Egyptian though.) "Have you asked them why they aren't with Razorback? And, uh, do they come here to eat on a certain schedule, or is it just random?" It would be a good idea to meet up with at least one of them. (It's good that they aren't causing mayhem, at least. It shows they're smart, for whatever time periods they come from.) "The thing is, we try our best to not get hit. Except for one of us, I think he died five times?" Shrugging, Bubba rubbed his chin and listened to her go on about Razorback's exploits for a bit, eating his food.
  1220.     "No, Cho not ask things like that, prying very rude. If customer want talk then Cho listen, but if customer want listen or hear news, then Cho talk. They come when want to, they go when want to."
  1221.     Lifting up a very crudely wrenched and pounded together fork, or at the very least an improvised anti-rape device that Bubba was fairly sure would cause most humans to back away from in fear, the Japoneighsian eyeballs it distrustfully. "Five deaths? That mean great curse.. or great blessing, but at least live. Cairn hear much fearful events from humans that come here. One from Germaneigh spoke of Wild Ones, half-pony deities from lost ages before dynasty. Alicorns kill many, drive others into Vortex to die, but some flee. Human that lives with Ferron near Mexicolt fear Primevals, things that make Overdark go bad long ago. Secret human mare that say she live in Empire go to Old Canterlot last year, she come back with terrible curse, die not long ago."
  1222.     Glancing upwards, the mare's eyes harden, leaning in several inches to speak in a subdued, quiet tone. "Cho not see how time work, but it not on side of humans. Cho think all Razorback make new friends now before real troubles come."
  1224.     "To each their own, I guess." (Well, I'll have to ask myself, if one comes in while I'm here.) Staring at the... THING, she created, Bubba nearly missed what she stated. "I mean, death is death. As much as I'd like to die at home, I can't say anything if I die here."
  1225.     Sighing, he nods at her last remark, poking at the rest of the food on his plate. "Even if we make more friends in the next few weeks, we're still in trouble. I doubt our women are keen on having kids, so we'll still die out sooner or later."
  1227.     Blinking up from the torture device, Cho drops it onto the counter with an irate huff. "Japoneighse may be silent to Tallus, not like travel other places, but we not cruel like white liar princess. When live in Ponishima before Cho learn from spirit-talkers, they speak those from other worlds that be killed on Tallus be return, dead, to place they come from. Death as humans get not right, that cruel."
  1228.     Pinning her ears back, the dull blood red mare takes on a hard set, deeply offended scowl. "Cho knows, hears of many good mares in Cairn and other lands. Even if hybrid, good mares would have human foals. If return to Razorback, tell other humans what Cho knows soon, she not think humans deserve die in evil ways."
  1230.     "Well, its more that I'd like my body be back at home, so they'd have some knowledge of me being dead instead of just... gone." Shrugging, Bubba eyes the weapon of mass annoyment before shaking his head. "So we could still have offspring, then?"
  1231.     Thinking for a moment, he nodded. "I'll put that information up on our bulletin board, then. Thank you."
  1233.     Sitting back down on her comfortable looking stool, Cho's eyes roll once, lifting a silver gilded forehoof and pointing it in distant menace towards the northwestish, then at Bubba in a more subdued manner. "As say before, that very cruel, so white liar princess hated for how she treat humans. Cho not feel evil from you, but feel, see, hear much evil from white liar princess." Head tilting to the right, the Japoneighse mare's hoof rubs her chin, eyes squinting into thin, thoughtful lines. "Cho say why not? Many hybrid not common like gryphon, batpony, Saddle Arabian, Japoneighse, Sumareian, others from lost ages be, but there still hybrids live all on Tallus. Crystal pony is kind of hybrid, so say spirit-talkers. They all pretty like Summer alicorn, Princess Cadence, once be. Cho know not much of them though. If humans not have foals with pony by now, maybe Spring, Fall, or Winter alicorns know way."
  1234.     Expression darkening briefly, the mare's gray eyes flick towards the south, her tone hard. "If other alicorns not know or refuse, maybe silver alicorn that hides all time know. Put that one on leash before talk to.. or else." Face visibly brightening, Cho's eyes close, ears wiggling with a wide, merry smile. "No no, you be thanked and welcome Bubba. It very rare for new Otherworldly come here since barrier go up during Sun-Moon War. Many Lunar ponies want see human live with them, so Cho do too."
  1236.     "Well, the rational part of me that thinks this is all just a very, very long coma dream scoffs at the idea of our genetics being similar enough to have children, much less ones who'll likely live to adulthood." Shrugging, Bubba finished up his food. "Though I know its more likely to happen, with magic and all that."
  1237.     Waving his skewer around mildly, Bubba let out a sigh. "Honestly, all I want out of this life is that I don't end up injured due to a very stupid mistake. I've seen it happen to a more recently arrived human already."
  1239.     Pointing a hoof and wiggling it in Bubba's direction, Cho twists it around to stare her over frog, glancing up with a moderately confused expression. "This not coma.. ..otherwise Cho be in coma too? Cho not like scary thought." Her smile returning quickly, the Japoneighsian's ears twitch hard in what was most likely a dismissive motion. "All human stallion need is good mare. Or mares, however like most. Pony very hardy, even if born from gems and ice like Crystal pony, rock like earth pony, air like pegasus pony.. or strange magic like unicorn pony. If need magic for foals then Cho know alicorns know how make, otherwise foal happen at right time, magic or no."
  1240.     Quieting and remaining still for a bit, the dull blood red mare's lips purse several times, eyebrows furrowing in deep worry. "Cho.. this time for say now Bubba, you listen close. Cho hear lot about humans from Lunars that live at Razorback Fortress. The pegasus and batpony Lunars, and one gryphon, they say they no want leave. They say they like humans because they treated good, eat good, have friends with human. Council on Moon no like that, they want rotate Lunars." Sitting back on her stool, Cho turn turns to the right, her jaw working several times before muttering in a hushed tone. "Cho hear from gryphon Lunar, she say Luna have no problem with Lunars join Razorback, but Cho hear politic involved. It not easy for Lunars leave, join Razorback if want, because of Council of Luna. Lunars be free and go where want, Cho hear once that some Lunars live in Stalliongrad and Empire, but Council scared that when Lunars get hurt at Fortress, Lunars may hate Razorback for get hurt, then Razorback hate Council for assign them there."
  1241.     Going silent, Cho's head snaps up at several sets of hooves clopping on wood utside, subdued chatter in the peculiarly windy pegasi language entering the shack, a trio of mares strolling in, one taking the seat on Bubba's immediate left, one on his right, and the third halting behind, surrounding him on three sides. The Japoneighse mare's face suddenly hardens, focusing an intensely angry stare on the intruders, the two seated at Bubba's sides immediately squeaking out apologies, three sets of hooves loudly fleeing. Lifting a hoof and pressing it into her nose, Cho's composure wavers momentarily, giving a morbid growl. "Cho see those pony walk back and forth, look in here many time before come in. They not Sea Bounty. Cho not trust other pegasus clan ponies, they think lone human easy to take for own. Cho think Bubba leave before weird thing happen soon."
  1243.     "Well, it's not a smart idea to neglect the ponies guarding our walls and collecting information for us." Shrugging, Bubba glanced back at the new mares, slightly narrowing his eyes as they corner him. Before he could pull out his USP, Cho sent them scurrying out of the door.
  1244.     "Thanks for that, and for the tip. I'll come back later. Until next time, Cho." Getting up, Bubba walked out while keeping an eye out for packs of rape happy mares.
  1245. [ 1d6 = 4 ] [ 1d6 = 5 ] [ 1d6 = 5 ] <E.Perception
  1248. *****
  1249. CLEMENCY
  1250. Continued from:
  1252.     Lifting a small orange shard to peer at, Nova Flicker's face creases with a deep frown. "A.. Construct? I have never encountered one, though from what little I have heard they are exceptionally difficult to destroy. You are welcome, and take care." Head tilting as her eyebrows furrow in concern, the Ward bows her head at @Clemency leaving, then returns to eyeing the biometallic chunk in puzzlement.
  1253.     Encountering neither humans nor ponies in the courtyard, the door to the tower was, as always, shut, though a single mango on a wooden plate had been placed in front, most likely left there by one the Lunar Guard as a safe snack for later.
  1254.     Taking a quarter minute for the M-S.O.L.G.'s live feed to sync with the helmet's internal displays, Clemency notes it's 'Miniaturized' designation. After a short systems check the attack satellite's functions are detailed as being fully operational, next comes a list of it's current ammunition reserves scrolling down the left screen, and finally a readout of it's position, virtually straight above Razorback Fortress in relation to Tallus. As had been stated for a while by most of the Lunar ponies, the M-S.O.L.G.'s geopositioning systems confirm Tallus was a stationary celestial body.
  1255.     Switching to it's external targeting lens after the requested readouts, the still distant bright orange Construct mothership comes into view, only now the space around it was little more than mass plasma fire targeting a much smaller silver vessel streaking about in highly erratic movements, any possible recognizable features ill defined due to the distance.
  1257.     "Yeah, 'incredibly hard'. I'm proof of it."
  1258.     Coming up to the Tower's door, he notices the mango and picks it up, inspecting it before putting it back on the plate. (More mango shenanigans.)
  1259.     As Clemency looks at the mothership, he begins to ponder the implications of its presence. Is it going to invade? Inspect us? Or is the M-S.O.L.G. setting it off? (They did say incursions like this happened before. Still doesn't make me think the satellite might have done something.) "Hmmm, what's that?" Clemency spots that figure amidst the mothership, seemingly trying to avoid its fire. (Does the Starborn have any vessels? Haven't really asked about their progress on spacecraft. More research? Along with other physics questions that this is giving me. For now, some form of rest is needed.)
  1260.     He reaches the top of the Tower where the other pegasi would sleep and sits on the platform's edge, gazing at the display still being sent by the M-S.O.L.G.
  1262.     Like virtually every other mango @Clemency had seen or been force fed, it was one of the more common eating types from the Moors, yellow with red patches and not particularly juicy.
  1263.     Climbing the Tower, by the time he reaches the platform the ongoing battle had changed little. Virtually undeterred by the highly threatening plasma weapons, the vessel remains focused in the aperture lens' alignment, continually zooming in with minor adjustments to account for it's erratic movements and managing to, for the most part, marginally keeping it in focus. Bearing some resemblance to an archaic, thin hulled sailing vessel of a type Clemency couldn't recognize, the vessel clearly lacked any external weaponry. Against the background of the Construct mothership's bristling armaments, several of which were definitely orbital cannons close to the size of Stonehenge's defensive grid, the silver vessel was positively miniscule in comparison.
  1264.     Maintaining passive targeting protocols without authority to fire, the M-S.O.L.G. parses an estimate of the vessel currently at a distance of 197 miles, placing an estimated length of 120M, width of 40M, and height of 30M, yet was still unable to give an accurate overlay of it's design. As the silver vessel reaches the 198 mile mark, it's defensive movements cease, instead jolting forwards in a surprising burst of speed and leaving two thin, solid white trails behind it, the range counter ticking up in tenths of a mile fairly quickly. Parsing the silver vessel's movement against the stationary mothership, it was currently traveling between 120 and 130MPH.
  1266.     "What is this?" Clemency keeps track of the vessel, trying to note down details of it to relay it to...someone. Who would know something like this? Maybe there's some legend or creation story of this thing. When it breaches upper atmosphere, Clem continues watching it as it zooms forward. "Maybe if I follow it..."
  1267.     Clem tries to see if he can move the satellite closer to keep the vessel in view while remaining weary of the Construct mothership. Now it's a game of seeing if it is trying to land somewhere, and if it does, where.
  1270. *****
  1271. *****
  1273. Continued from:
  1275. >Winding down the tunnel with Ivan, Raidor looks at the open cavern as they enter it.
  1276. >He idly looks at the oddly colored water, until he realizes it begins moving on its own.
  1277. >Another jelly pony was in the water, a Saddle Arabian again.
  1278. >First a head, then she half-emerges to greet them.
  1279. >The Captain breathes a sigh of relief at the normal speaking mare, and clears his through to anounce the both of them.
  1280. "Mmm hmm. Yes, greetings, Matron. I am Captain Raidor from Manehattan, and this is Ivan from Razorback."
  1281. >Raidor shifts to the left, showing the jelly matron their volitile delivery.
  1282. "We have a shipment of mana bombs, for you, from Tartarus Isle."
  1284. IVAN
  1285. Continued from:
  1287. >Well, this looks pretty nice.
  1288. >Nice open cavern that's also got a spring, or maybe a man-made pool.
  1289. >Oooooor its a goopony.
  1290. >Of course.
  1291. >At least this one speaks english.
  1292. >Gives the Matron a friendly wave while Raidor introduces the two of us.
  1293. "Brought them directly here safely."
  1294. >Also, I wonder what she meant by 'pleasure'...
  1297. *****
  1298. LONT
  1301. >"Poor Batfillies, hope their scribbles survive my armoured ass."
  1302. >With a smirk hidden behind his barbute helm Lont hopped off his bike as soon as he reached the pagoda, a firm kick of his boot smacking up the vehicles' leg in instilled unconscious routine.
  1303. >Tapping in the location that would bring him closet to his prey in a flurry of quick taps, he spun in place to jump back onto his purring 'cycle while the portal Remnant opened its maw behind him.
  1304. "Just want to say thanks again for the advice Nal, I'll-"
  1305. >He glanced down at her little desk, seeing the paper landscape that covered it from edge to edge.
  1306. "-Help you out later, for now I have official mare hunting to get to."
  1307. >With a sly wink that was obstructed by his faceplate, he drove into portal, preemptively bracing for the crystal pony crowds ahead.
  1309. >Spewing into reality, his idle metal stead immediately garnered attention from surrounding Empire citizens before noticing the armoured Operator sat atop it.
  1310. >With a tap of his boot heel to kick up the leg and twist of the wrist to roar his engine Lont set off to find the Ward, collected weapons jostling across his body to remind him he had many options for this task.
  1311. >"I've returned, any updates Cadence?"
  1312. >As he listened, he scanned around the area for his target, weaving through the commercial streets that reflected brightly under his tires.
  1313. [1d6: 4] E.Perception
  1314. [1d6: 1]
  1315. [1d6: 2]
  1316. [1d6+1: 5 + 1 = 6] >H.E
  1318. [1d6+4: 2 + 4 = 6] E.Driving
  1319. [1d6+4: 1 + 4 = 5]
  1320. [1d6+4: 4 + 4 = 8]
  1323. *****
  1324. SURPLUS
  1325. Continued from:
  1327.  >At this point instructions to follow were practically second nature for Surplus. Indoctrination kicks in after exhaustion takes over, and following directions becomes easier. The one problem he found once he got to the barracks, was the lack of spare clothes he had. Granted Peach Drop? had more than likely brought his little red off-road wagon full of junk, he had no idea where it was or what else might still be in it.
  1329. >Flecktarn off, he brought it into the shower to at least start rinsing the old uniform clean of blood and dirt, giving it as good a cleaning as he could for the time being. Surplus stripped down naked after his uniform was cleaned and took as hot a shower as he could manage, slowly peeling off the bandage that had been applied to his hand and checking over for any signs of infection. Sore muscles were appreciative of the hot rinse, and using one of his socks, he at least could scrub his teeth a little and clean off some surface plaque. As good a job as any. Refreshed, but still exhausted, Surplus found an empty bunk, hung his jacket and pants up to dry from anything he could find, and crawled onto the sleeping pad in his towel.
  1331. >His canteen chased down the pair of pills Tipper had given him, guzzling down half a quart of water before capping his canteen and setting it down on the floor, passing out on the bed.
  1334. *****
  1335. OLD HORN
  1336. Continued from:
  1339. *****
  1340. THRILL
  1341. Continued from:
  1343.     Meanwhile in the library, a single, barely heard giggle above Thrill Collins takes his attention, a cold hoof prodding his shoulder at the same time an icy, hazy voice clutches his heart. <Crystal Pony>  "Human?" Upon an inspection of the northern variety, he finds himself staring into the eyes of a deceased Crystal mare standing on the ceiling, a yellow scroll held between her lips.. one that was definitely not alive.
  1344.     Instead of the classic dead eyes, hers were a vague, distant shade of turqoise, brimming with simple mischief. An extremely long rose tinted mane, nearly touching the floor, wafts about as the mare's pale green chin tips towards the floor, releasing the letter to spastically drift downwards, the float enchantment on it struggling with the altitude. <Crystal Pony> "Please take your delivery, human. I will remain until you have read, understood or contested, and accepted this charge."
  1346.     The temperature dropping in the library should have been the first warning for Collins. The hoof touching his shoulder might have contributed somewhat as well, but it was realising that the library had no kind of air conditioning, central heating or thermostat for anypony to mess around with that made the mercenary figure out that there was someone in the room with him. Or something, to be more precise. Crystal Ponies didn't normally walk on ceilings. Or, for that matter look...dead? Alive? Possessed? That didn't stop Collins from instinctively gripping the sidearm in his holster, despite knowing that from the way that the situation was panning out and the horrible, uncertain, creeping dread starting to slowly come over him, there was very little he could do right now, being cornered by this Crystal Pony. Plus, you just couldn't kill what was already dead.
  1347.     Collins chose to keep his mouth shut and his eyes fixed on the scroll that was drifting down to the ground. A delivery? A charge? No knowledge at all over what was going on? Delivered by the dead? Collins was starting to feel indignant. Like hell was he going to open anything like this. He wasn't even going to touch or go anywhere remotely near that scroll. He'd been in Equestria too long. Way too long to get potentially shanghaied like this. He turned for the door, head turned to the Crystal Pony. "Stay there for as long as you like. I'm getting help, seeking counsel...anything before I even think of opening this." Collins left the room, and headed out of the library. Mama certainly didn't raise no fool. And she certainly said not to accept anything from strange men. Or ponies.
  1349.     Silently unmoving and staring in bafflement until the library door opens, the deceased mare groans near-audibly as it closes. Moments later, fluttering and presumably the sound of an anti-gravity mane flowing in an unseen breeze follow Thrill into the courtyard, the mare drifting alongside in an odd mid-leap state. Twisting halfway in the air without losing gliding speed, turqoise eyes brighten  as she faces Thrill's direction, speaking through the paper. <Crystal Pony> "Neither of those will be necessary, human! The scent of Siege-Marauder Naliyna Remostrine marks you as the one I am here for-" The mare's ears and nose twitch while a leg bends up to affix the letter onto the same hoof, grumbling mutedly for a moment, then takes on a bit more presentable tone. <Crystal Pony> "Now, as herd-son of Kyanite Remostrine's family, I am here to deliver this formal charge: on behalf of the Reservis Conclavia operating Naliyna Remostrine's private account, it is now yours to freely access. Please send a deposit of at least one-hundred Bits accompanied by a letter with your hoof-mark within the next two years to confirm acceptance."
  1350.     The mare furiously wiggles the page in Thrill's direction, which only manages to produce a mild fluttering noise, a sensible snicker given as she does so. <Crystal Pony> "The ponies here must all be blind, I waited to make my delivery for an hour, even after announcing myself at the front gates so I had to let myself in before dying of boredom.. again!"
  1353. *****
  1354. Anarchy
  1355. >continued from:
  1357.     Anarchy gives a little sigh as he rounds the corner and approaches the sat down pegasus. "Well, that doesn't keep her from being a bit... Spooky." He frowns as he notices her individual feathers doing work. How again..? The man stops in his tracks and blinks a few times. His mouth pulls back into a flat line underniethe his bandanna and his head turns to look off to the side for a moment. "Well, that's..." He clears his throat and looks back. "Would have been nice to know. Would have, I don't know, been nice hear from... Whoever that was, that I was talking to a criminal." Said the Rebel, "It didn't even seem like she realized." His feet started back up to take him to that same patch of grass, where he would simply stand nearby.
  1359.     "A question for you human: how many living beings have you come across here that look and feel like a combination of pure malevolence and Eldritch horror, but don't actually try to kill you? Answer: even if you'd been here for the past two years and some odd months like most of Razorback has, I'm willing to bet my entire plot the answer is 'none' so far." The gray pegasi's eyebrows lift, lowering after a moment to offer a mild, neutral smile @Anarchy. "Dancing Eyes is that sapphire earth pony's name. Worst primal psion born, makes every naughty little thing everypony on the Isle's done look like a schoolyard colt playing keep away."
  1360.     Inhaling deeply on the cigar, jade eyes snap leftwards at a distant crystalline sound, slowly exhaling a fragrant, sweet smelling cloud of tobacco and marijuana smoke. Her left ear flicks towards the northern corner of the library, speaking in a calm, albeit warning tone. "By the way, that noise out there is Naliyna singing your doom. She's normally a real nice mare, but that Eldritch pony was invited here peacefully to trade. With her injured now though.. if I were you, I'd be real careful from now on.
  1362.     The man's stance shifted slightly as the small winged horse spoke, and he simply gave a hum as she offered that smile. He barked a single, solitary laugh when the pegasus explained who the one he had been speaking with was. He may not have known what a 'Primal Psion' was, but he certainly understood the rest. "Of course she is." He said with amusement in his voice, "I try to endear myself to someone and they're just the worst candidate." His own head snaps towards the sound, and in the moment he tries to identify what and where the sound was. [ 1d6 = 6 ] [ 1d6 = 4 ] [ 1d6 = 2 ] < E.Perception
  1363.     His eyes return to the pegasus as he takes a deep breath. "Right." He says, "Any, ah, particular suggestions?" His arms shift to cross over his chest. "Beyond what's going on now, I'm a bit new to this... This drug trip of a place."
  1365.     Ears twitcing at the laughter from @Anarchy, the gray pegasus makes an awkward half-frown, having passed some sort of quiet judgement. "It's for the best you don't know what primal psions are. Since you're new here I'm not going to hold it against you, just be careful though, she's an honor-bound prisoner here. And, strictly speaking, not the worst pony you could have met right off the bat. Pony." Quietly giggling to herself, the ghostly mare pauses to draw on the sweet cigar, jade eyes rolling upwards blissfully as her own drugs kick in.
  1366.     Focusing on the direction of the noise and likely distance, it was close to the pagoda Eric had seen, yet both the similarity to a glass chime and it's organic nature were concerning, leading him to recognize a living being had somehow made it. Having kneeled down quietly without notice, the pegasus tilts her head in Anarchy's direction, speaking in a slow, methodical, thoughtful tone. "Go north. Look for the building with a hammer and anvil sign, that's the workshop. There'll be a yellow unicorn with a black mane in there, his name's Krinza. Third most level-headed pony I've met here. As for whether or not Tallus is one grand hallucination, you might wanna make a trip to Canterlot and see Celestia."
  1368.     Anarchy gives a slow nod to the words of the pegasus. Honor-bound prisoner? Ah, she probably was given a degree of freedom here that she would not have been elsewhere. Of course she would stay in a place she could move around freely. He blinked blankly at the joke he could not percieve in her words. Was she calling him a pony? Was that funny for some reason? He brushed the thought away to make room for the noise from further off. That was... Disconcerting.
  1369.     Anarchy's eyes returned to the pegasus once more to give a nod. "Yes," He said quietly, "I've met Krinza. Good per- Pony, as far as I could tell." He takes a deep breath, and then lets it out with a sigh. What was it that Dancing Eyes pony had said? He tried to remember the particular words, scowling to himself. "But, Canterlot and Celestia. Two more things I'm not familiar with." He spoke, glancing off towards the location of the sound again. If it really was this 'Naliyna,' and the sound had been for him, he would want to move quickly and vacate the area. "Thank you, miss..?" He said, eyes returning to her.
  1371.     The ghostly mare smiles appreciatively @Anarchy, taking in a deep breath, then lets it out with a short giggle. "Isn't he? His mare is wonderful, even if she's a little too chatty for my taste. They're always hard at work even though everypony tells them they can slow it down. Hard to imagine a sweeter couple than them.. just don't get them in the same room or else spaghetti covers the walls real quick!"
  1372.     Flicking a blade up to poke at the end of her ear, the pegasus tilts her head back, releasing a suddenly tired sigh. "First one's probably for the best, but I'll give you the short form: Canterlot's a city of about half a million ponies. Depending on the time of day, they either dislike Razorback, can't stand to be around them because they're ashamed of something that happened in the Canterlot Palace, or simply don't want to be associated with Razorback because of a dumbass pegasus. Also, Razorback is-" Wiggling a hoof towards the north, then at Anarchy himself. "Every human here and now you. Celestia's the Solar Princess, one of two alicorn sisters that rule Equestria, the continent we're on right now. The other sister is Luna, you'll probably meet her before too long."
  1373.     Cracking a grin, the mare's jade eyes twinkle deviously. As in, actually twinkle. "She's pretty nice, but her flanks are REALLY nice if you get what I mean." Offering up her left wing in a friendly manner, though it begins wobbling erratically, her eyes rolling in an amusedly annoyed motion. "I'm Ghost Jade. Before you ask, no, I'm not undead or a spectral or anything like that, I just spent way too long living on Misted Isle. My mom named after a piece of ghost jade she found, it's so rare there's only like ten or twelve chunks that've ever been dug up."
  1375.     Anarchy let a soft chuckle escape, being familiar with spaghetti. "I haven't met his mare yet," Said the man, "But she sounds nice." His head nods slowly while the pegasus explains the terms she spoke. So the place he was supposed to be in was a Diarchy, then. He wondered if it was constitutional or absolute, but his thoughts were cut short with the literal twinkle in the mare's eyes. Did... Did something glowing fly by? As she continued he could only think, was he in one of his Nipponese animes again? "I... See." He managed to get out, quite understanding what she was trying to say.
  1376.     Still, after a short delay he'd reach out for the wing with his own left hand, but would pause when the wing began wobbling. Was that... Normal? He'd try to take the end of it to give a single shake, if she wouldn't stop him, before pulling his hand back. After listening to her words he'd nod. "That's a lovely name with a nice story behind it, I think." He said, then returned in kind after a brief pause. "I am called Anarchy." It felt rude to not give her a name, but he certainly wasn't going to provide his real one. "Well, Miss Jade, I think I'll go give Krinza another visit." He tilts his head down slightly, "Unless you've got any more tips for me."
  1378.     "She is, Lann's a real sweetheart. If you hang out in the workshop any it'll be impossible to miss her, big smiling earth mare with a pretty yellow coat. Just don't tell her I said that or she'll probably make me another set of socks." Puffing on the cigar only to gaze down at the tip, Jade frowns over the lack of an ember. Glancing up, the gray mare's less controlled wing shakes @Anarchy's hand in return, her feathers unusually warm to the touch. "Thanks, and pleased to meet you. Don't mind my wing either, it jitters when there's Eldritch stuff around. Which is to say, it always does that here." Deftly slicing the cigar's tip off with a blade flick, Ghost Jade tips her head back, eyebrows furrowing in thought for several moments. "..nah, I'm dry, sorry. I'm one of the few kinehunters that likes being here, this place is nice. Just point me at Planar abominations and I'm ready to rip and tear. Other than that, history's my worst subject." Cracking an unrepentant grin, Jade rolls her ears around happily. "Besides politics and cooking. The first I hate, the second, well, I melted a steel pan once, nearly caught the whole barracks on fire. Got banned from the kitchen, never been back in one since."
  1380.     "Oh?" The man says, grinning under his face coverage. "I think you ponies would look cute in socks." Anarchy nearly pulled his hand away when it made contact with the warm wing. Feathers weren't supposed to be warm... "Eldritch stuff, eh?" The man asked, letting his hand fall back to his side. He nods and gives a soft chuckle. "Well, I'll be sure to find you if I happen upon any Abominations, and stay faaar away if you sneak in to take another stab at cooking." Anarchy gave a nod. "I'll be off, then." He said, "You have a pleasant night, miss Jade." He'd turn and begin to walk off, going off towards the Workshop. (Right, so, Krinza. God knows what he'll actually be able to do for me. It'd be a better use of time to figure out how to get out of here, or where I even am, in reality. Because this is, one-hundred percent, for certain, just a drug trip. Definitely.) He wasn't entirely sure that this was just a massive drug trip.
  1382.     Snorting back at the unseen grin, Ghost Jade wriggles her eyebrows in mischief. "Trust me, most ponies look cute in socks, especially the colts. Some find them a little too attention getting for their tastes, especially in the Moors and big cities."
  1383.     Stretching her wing out in front of her nose, the gray mare watches it continue to twitch unabated, then pauses, her jaw tightening as she sets a concerned expression on @Anarchy. "There's a slight difference between Planar abominations and.. real Abominations. If you ever run into the first you can usually run away without them being bothered by it, they're not all hostile, just the smallest, biggest, or crankiest ones. Barring that you can offer them something worthless to take their interest and they'll let you go. If you run into the second.. you'll wish you hadn't. Abominations don't tire and can't be killed by most means. At that point you'd better pray to the four goddesses that backup can arrive on time." Grinning and offering a nod in farewell, the pegasus lolls onto her side, legs stretching out with a relieved sigh.
  1384.     Making his way to the workshop guided by ever helpful signs, written in English, multiple languages that were beginning to hurt his head, and the all knowing descriptive icons of what each building is, Anarchy passes by a hardened steel building halfway into the ground, six set of crudely put together antennas on top. Sitting in front of the only entrance on the north side was a rough looking half-bird, half-cat being in difficult to see deep blue body armor of a medieval make, the armored tail waving back and forth, beak clicking together presumably in boredom, seemingly oblivious to the human walking by. Reaching the workshop once more, it was empty this time, save for the sounds of sewing, Krinza's voice calling out towards the door. "Come in, I am not busy. However, if you are a mercenary seeking to rent a hoof shovel, the answer is no, I do not have any on hoof."
  1387. *****
  1388. Surplus
  1389. >continued from:
  1392. *****
  1393. Dante
  1394. >continued from:
  1403. *****
  1404. CORSEN
  1405. >continued from:
RAW Paste Data
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