NewFagAlphaCentauri

InventorAnon (Anon x Tempest Shadow) Part 2

Sep 5th, 2018
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  1. >It's done.
  2. >You spent most of the night changing that alarm you made earlier.
  3. >It no longer just alerts you to anyone touching the wire.
  4. >Now the fucking thing is hot as fuck.
  5. >Ponies can survive lightning bolts, so you're not concerned about how much damage it'll do.
  6. >But it WILL hurt like a bitch.
  7. >You've made sure of that.
  8.  
  9. >But now you're a tired wreck.
  10. >You got a small nap in, but you still don't feel up to snuff.
  11. >Bills won't pay themselves, though, so you get your shit ready and zombie-shuffle your way out the door.
  12.  
  13. >You get to work, dozing off every once in a while, waking yourself up as you go.
  14. >And find yourself standing among the construction mares you've been getting to know.
  15. >Oddly enough, the boss isn't present.
  16.  
  17. “Yo.”
  18. >You drop your stuff and take a spot next to Hammertime, who slaps your ass and gives you a shit-eating grin.
  19. >”Morning, dick.”
  20. >You cock your arm and smack her ass hard enough to make her fall over.
  21. “Morning, cunt.”
  22. >”Ouch!”
  23. >She picks herself up while the others have a giggle.
  24. “So where's the boss?”
  25. >Free shrugs.
  26.  
  27. >You all fuck around for a few minutes before Fizzy shows up.
  28. >One of the mares speaks up as she approaches.
  29. >”You best not be cutting our pay cause you were late.”
  30. >Fizzlepop makes a firm glance towards the mare.
  31. >”I never said I would. You'll get your pay.”
  32. >They way she spit out 'pay' makes you think the word itself is causing her stress.
  33. >Did something happen?
  34. >...
  35. >Well, looks like being late to the party didn't net you any consequences this time.
  36. >You can only be curious about what made her late, though.
  37.  
  38. >Her eyes flicker to you and she gives a sly smile, barely noticeable with her trot.
  39.  
  40. >...
  41. >What is she planning?
  42.  
  43.  
  44.  
  45. - - -
  46. “It's a fucking hole in the wall.”
  47. >Fizzlepop next to you just nods.
  48. >Twilight doesn't even bother to look up from her book.
  49. >”Anon, that's not very nice, even by your standards. And didn't you use to tell me about all the terrible places you've eaten that ended up having great food?”
  50. >You absent-mindedly press her book down, forcing it to float below her chest.
  51. >She stares at the partially destroyed building in front of you.
  52. >”Oh, uh... there's a hole... in the wall.”
  53.  
  54. >You three continue to stare for a moment, before Fizzy starts going for the door.
  55. >”I don't think they're open.” Twilight says.
  56. >Fizzle stops.
  57. >You just stare at the two, rolling their eyes.
  58. >You cup your hands around your mouth.
  59. “Yo! You open?!”
  60. >Suddenly a green mare with dark-green super-saiyan hair kicks open the door.
  61. >”WE'RE OPEN!” She sings out to the world.
  62. “Welp, that settles that.”
  63. >You start strolling right on in, patting the employee on the head as you pass.
  64. “I like the hair.”
  65. >”Thanks!”
  66. >She bolts back and stands excitedly behind the counter.
  67.  
  68. >The three of you walk in, looking around.
  69. >It smells like expired aspirin and denture cream.
  70. >And just a hint of expired pony.
  71. >And the walls are the color of the future: beige.
  72. >And there's a decent number of senior citizens around.
  73. >And there's a pile of bingo boards in the back corner.
  74.  
  75. >You lean down to Fizzy.
  76. “Who suggested this place again?”
  77. >”Pinkie Pie.”
  78. “Right, right...”
  79. >Pinkie must have forgotten to mention the retirement home attached to the place.
  80. >Oh well.
  81.  
  82. >You all order and sit down in the spot where the hole in the wall is, preferring the breeze.
  83. >You kick your feet up on the chair opposite you and relax.
  84. >”Anon, put your feet down.”
  85. “No thanks, mom.”
  86. >”It's rude.”
  87. “You're just jealous my legs are long enough to kick up and yours aren't.”
  88. >”It's 'envious', and no I'm not.”
  89. >You turn to Fizzy.
  90.  
  91.  
  92.  
  93. “Hey, you're a long-legs. Can you reach across?”
  94. >She slides down and leans back, resting her legs on yours at an angle.
  95. >”Sure can.”
  96.  
  97. >You both look at her, and she's giving you that low glare you like to see.
  98. >”Fizzlepop, please don't enable him.”
  99. “Relax, Twilight. Fizzlepop here just understands that you're cute when you're angry.”
  100. >For good measure, you pinch her cheek, which flusters her slightly.
  101. >She groans in response.
  102.  
  103. >”Hey, Anon.” Fizzlepop takes control of the conversation.
  104. “Hay is for horses.”
  105. >Twiggles drops her head to the table.
  106. >”I regret today already.”
  107. “I don't.” You turn to Fizzy. “What's up?”
  108. >”I wanted to ask...”
  109.  
  110. >You straighten your spine a little, then put a finger up with a curious expression.
  111. >She nods slightly.
  112. >”What's the whole story about when you first got here?”
  113. “The whole story?”
  114. >”The whole thing.”
  115.  
  116. “Well, it started out when I just appeared out of thin air at Sweet Apple Acres. Don't know how or why, but I did.”
  117. >”You teleported to a different world at complete random?”
  118. “Apparently. After bugging Twilight forever to investigate it, she found nothing. It's amazing I didn't end up in space.” You pause. “Anyways. Applebloom, AJ's sister, ran up to me and starting talking up a storm wondering what I was and why I was on private property. At that point, I thought I was high as a kite, so I just didn't say anything and went to town. I found what I thought was an abandoned house, cause it was covered in broken windows and wilted flowers, but it turns out it wasn't.”
  119. >”Who's house was it?”
  120. “Lyra's and Bonbon's.”
  121. >Yep. That's how you met your ex girlfriend. By breaking and entering.
  122.  
  123.  
  124. “So Bonbon was there and chased me out of the house, then down the street with a newspaper, screaming about how she doesn't want any more broken windows and how it used to be a nice neighborhood. Applebloom and her munchkin army grouped up and found us running so they chased to see what was going on. Then some guards saw what was going on and took interest. Then random ponies just started chasing, all yelling about different things. By the time I decided that I may have made a mistake, half the town was on my tail for some reason or another.”
  125. >Fizzlepop is snickering, imagining the story.
  126.  
  127. “So I started picking up stuff off the ground and carts and throwing them at ponies trying to get them to back off. Mostly it was fruit... apples, actually. This is probably what upset Applejack so much. I managed to nail Rainbow Dash with a pie, though.”
  128. >Twilight is giving a disapproving look.
  129. >”Believe it or not, he managed to cause about as much damage as your invasion in Canterlot.”
  130. >The snickering turns to laughter.
  131. >”How!”
  132. >You shrug.
  133. “Well, mine was intentional.”
  134. >She nods, accepting it.
  135. >Windows are expensive apparently.
  136. >You're certain you got screwed cause they have to import the sand for it.
  137.  
  138. >”Here's your meals!”
  139. >The cashier pops up from nowhere and throws down plates on the table.
  140. >You all give your thanks and she buzzes off back to the register.
  141. >Silence falls as you each start eating, applying spices as you wish.
  142. >Then Twilight cuts the silence.
  143.  
  144. >”So, how did bowling go?”
  145. “Great. Fizzy beat me by two points.”
  146. >”That's a close game!” Twilight says.
  147. >”It was. Cookie did pretty well, too.”
  148. “Where'd she go, anyways?”
  149. >Fizzy sighs.
  150. >”I found her at Sugarcube corner, of all places.”
  151. >”She realizes that dieting means... you know, keeping to a diet. Right?”
  152.  
  153.  
  154.  
  155. >”She does. She's just a habitual eater.... She kinda reminds me of Grubber.”
  156. >She stares off for a moment. You can't tell what she's contemplating, though.
  157. “Hope you can help her snap out of it soon. Back home there's loads of horror stories about people getting too fat to function.”
  158. >Twilight shakes her head. “Please don't tell them. I'm still eating.”
  159. >Should you make a fat joke at her?
  160. >Nah. Later.
  161. “Still. I know the whole 'diabetes' doesn't effect ponies frequently, but there's a whole other load of health problems that go with obesity.”
  162. >”She knows. She's just a habitual eater.”
  163. “Same deal back home for a lot of people.”
  164. >” I can't imagine having a lot of people that large everywhere.” Fizzy says.
  165. >You shrug.
  166. “At least it's not like that here. You'll have her skinny in no time.”
  167.  
  168. >She snorts.
  169. >”We'll see. It's a bad start so far.”
  170.  
  171. - - -
  172.  
  173. >Another long day at work, chipping away at perfecting Fizzlepop's ship/home.
  174. >Day 4 was just roughly fixing the skeleton of the ship, then preparing some materials for the wooden layer tomorrow.
  175. >But hey, with the power-line now functioning, you can keep your crystals all charged without worry.
  176. >Just the ones you use, of course. Don't wanna by a ripoff artist after all.
  177. >But, with the day done, you're eager to go home and get some sleep.
  178. >No time for dinner or anything. You really are just that beat.
  179.  
  180. >You get home and stroll in the door, looking around to spot anything out of place.
  181. >Your paranoia guides you as you check out everything, even as tired as you are.
  182. >As you move room to room, nothing catches your eye.
  183. >No bottle, diagram, nor crystal is out of place...
  184. >except, as you approach it, the crystal charging the hot fence.
  185. >It's empty. Completely empty.
  186.  
  187.  
  188.  
  189. >You KNOW it was supposed to last a lot longer. Those things hold a freaking charge.
  190. >You furrow your brows and swap the crystal for a full one, then test the circuit with a piece of metal.
  191. >The arc across lets you know that, yes, the wire has a complete circuit.
  192. >Luckily you still have gloves on, so no shock for you.
  193. >You stroll on outside, following the wire along the fence.
  194. >You search every length of it, making sure there's nothing grounding the wire at all.
  195. >After you confirm it's just fine, you give a thrice over to the yard itself.
  196. >A few things are out of place. Some equipment tossed about.
  197. >Particularly ones that were made to accept a crystal battery.
  198. >You only get more upset when you see claw marks at the lock keeping your shed door safe.
  199. >And you're starting to get pissed when you see the crowbar and chipped wood from the frame.
  200. >At least the lock held...
  201.  
  202. >”Hi Anon!”
  203. >Dammit. This shit again.
  204. >The last thing you want is a fucking guard mare stalking around while you try to think up ways to catch a thief while...you're...gone....
  205. >Hmmm...
  206. >You whip around and smile at the mare.
  207. “What'syourface! Just the mare I want to see.”
  208. >She smiles, jumping around.
  209. >”You remember!?”
  210. “Not at all! But I did think of something that can help me catch the thief.”
  211. >She deflates a little, but stays interested.
  212. “See, here's the thing. This thief? He's only come during the day. You know? When I'm gone. When you're gone. The whole place is empty for just HOURS on end.”
  213. >You can see the gears turning in her head.
  214. “And all night, I'm here. They don't do anything while I'm here. It's just fine. It would be a lot better use of your time to look out for the thief during the day, instead. You'll be much more likely to catch him then.”
  215. >”Hmmm... but I can't just stay here all day AND night.”
  216.  
  217.  
  218.  
  219. “Then don't.” You deadpan. “Just come during the day.”
  220. >She frowns.
  221. >”But then I won't even be able to talk to you! You'll be gone the WHOLE time! I don't even have a day shift!”
  222. >You sigh.
  223. >The shit you do...
  224. “Look. Fuck off during the night and come sleep in the lounge chair during the day. I doubt they'll do anything if you're in the yard. I'll pay you in mangoes or some-THING.”
  225. >Instantly she hops over and hugs you. You push her off and over the fence again.
  226. >The girl is bipolar or something.
  227. “Watch the fence, it's hot.”
  228. >”Alright, cutie! I'll be back in the morning!
  229. >The enthusiastic, naïve guard hops and flies away, leaving you alone again in your yard.
  230.  
  231. >Now a little less pissed and upset, you go inside and lock your doors.
  232. >You're tired.
  233. >Tired of your turbo-charged quartz getting sucked dry, that is.
  234. >What's that saying?
  235. >'Don't go to bed angry. Stay up and plot revenge.'
  236. >Yeah...
  237.  
  238. >You're going to have to get creative.
  239.  
  240. >Day 5 of working on the ship.
  241. >Today's goals, as specified by Fizzlepop, are to fix all of the mechanical systems on the ship, barring the engine-room and turbines.... oh, and the storm generator.
  242. >That shit is its own set of nightmares.
  243.  
  244. >Some of the workers aren't very mechanically minded, so they stick to the simpler jobs like being a gofer or replacing sections of pipe.
  245. >Others are working on the interior heat and air, the onboard oil and water reserves... the reserve power turned out fine, so noone's on that.
  246. >You, however, got the funnest job of all.
  247. >Fixing the hydraulic cargo elevator.
  248. >And, looking over the schematics from the mechanic's quarters, this isn't just ANY hydraulic press system, it's a MAGIC one.
  249. >Because of course it is.
  250. >Still, props to these guys. Seems the species without a lot of magic around try to use it more effectively in other ways.
  251. >Looking over it, it doesn't seem like too difficult a concept.
  252. >Some runes in the base insulate the mana-charged fluid inside.
  253. >Then the power, separate from the main line, energizes the fluid, raising the temperature and pressure significantly.
  254. >Then the compressor, which IS connected to the main powerline, compresses more fluid from a reserve.
  255. >It may sound like an improvement from a purely mechanical setup, but that fluid takes a lot of weight on a ship that's supposed to fly.
  256. >Just having an air compressor would save some weight while it's lowered.
  257. >Some part of you is thinking they were being inefficient on purpose.
  258.  
  259. >Anyways. The problem right now is that it can push up from the cargo hold to the lower deck, but gets stuck just above that.
  260. >It doesn't seem to be a mechanical blockage or anything; It slows to a stall until it can't go up anymore.
  261. >You drop it down to the cargo hold again, walking around and looking for potential solutions.
  262. >Maybe the compressor is having trouble?
  263. >You follow a faded line on the floor to a hatch, then pop it open.
  264. >There it is.
  265.  
  266.  
  267.  
  268. >Visually, nothing seems wrong.
  269. >You go hit the button on the lift, then run back and watch the compressor.
  270. >It chugs along great right up until is starts making mechanical groans.
  271. >You spot the inbound line from the fluid talk and realize it's air in it.
  272. >Wonderful.
  273.  
  274. >You go check the check and lo and behold, the fluid reserve has been punctured, with fluid spilled all in the basin it sets in.
  275. >You run out to grab your welding equipment, then to grab one of the unicorns playing gofer.
  276. “Hey, can you clean this up for me? Like, just hold it in the container while I fix it?”
  277. >”Sure thing.”
  278. >She does, humming to herself and looking away while you patch the hole with a chunk of hull.
  279. “Thanks Waterworks.”
  280. >”No problem!”
  281. >She meanders off to whatever she was doing earlier, and you go check on the compressor.
  282. >Still got air in there, judging by the sound.
  283. >You turn it off and lock the release line alongside it, the open the compressor's line. You go bring the left down and come back to see the fluid pushing most of the air back through the line and towards the reserve.
  284. >Nice.
  285. >You switch everything again and hop on the lift.
  286.  
  287. >You come up to Fizzy and one of the engineers arguing over some prices or something.
  288. “Ey boss. Needa lift?”
  289. >They both look over at you and Fizzy happily tosses the papers at the engineer.
  290. >”We'll talk about this later.” She approaches you. “Anon! Glad to see you got that working.”
  291. >She hops on and drops the lift.
  292. >”How're the others coming along?”
  293. >You shrug.
  294. “Haven't checked on them yet. I was just testing this to make sure it's actually fixed.”
  295. >”Well I'm happy you're not bugging me over every bent nail or stripped screw.”
  296.  
  297.  
  298.  
  299. >You follow her off at the lower deck.
  300. “They trying to get you to buy shiny new everything?”
  301. >She huffs. “They're damn near trying to get me to buy a new ship. I told them to reuse materials, and Fore is complaining up and down that it goes against their expert recommendations.”
  302. >Ah, engineering standards.
  303. >No one can tell where their use in safety ends and their use in marketing begins.
  304. >Some say there's no difference.
  305.  
  306. “You budged on something, and now she's not letting up?”
  307. >”Yes.” She groans.
  308. “Figures. Think she's on commission?”
  309. >”She's sure acting like it.”
  310. >You both walk on and peer into the mares fixing the water tank.
  311. “Elevator's fixed! Who needs help?”
  312.  
  313. >”Can you drive a rivet?” A voice calls.
  314. “Can do!”
  315. >”Then come help me with this.”
  316. >You walk on up and grab a rivet gun while Fizzy walks around.
  317. >She doesn't seem to be entirely focused, to be frank.
  318. >Something seems to be on her mind.
  319. >Probably just Fore Mare getting her worried about new parts.
  320.  
  321. - - -
  322.  
  323. >You're Fizzlepop, and for the first time in your life, you're incredibly worried about money.
  324. >You never needed it when you were younger, and as you grew older, that need never appeared.
  325. >You were more focused on other things.
  326. >But now, it's a problem.
  327. >The coffers are soon to run dry, and you're only halfway done with the ship.
  328. >The remaining gold would be just enough to get the materials to finish, but workers don't fix a ship for peanuts.
  329. >And Fore Mare, the harlot, just won't shut up about getting cobalt-steel EVERYTHING.
  330. >She knew damn well she'd be using mostly reclaimed material, and still she bitches about it.
  331. >Nothing like Anon here.
  332.  
  333.  
  334.  
  335. >That's something to smile about at least.
  336. >He doesn't fuss over every speck of rust or dust. He just does as he has to.
  337. >If he were the fighting type, he might make a good mercenary.
  338. >Hmmph. That's a thought.
  339. >With a ship you COULD go back into that line of work...
  340. >But who would hire you around here?
  341. >And with the kind of name you've made in other regions...
  342. >Well, your career in violence is likely at an end, at any rate.
  343. >Maybe open a shipping service?
  344. >A good idea, but that still requires a functioning ship.
  345. >Which you still need money for.
  346.  
  347. >What to do, what to do...
  348.  
  349. >You could go find a dragon's hoard and take a chunk, but that might bite you in the ass pretty hard and fast.
  350. >It only works so many times before you eventually get burned.
  351. >...
  352. >You can't even think of other quick cash schemes.
  353. >You need someone to bounce ideas off of.
  354.  
  355. - - -
  356.  
  357. >You're Anon, listening to the soft hum of your fridge.
  358. >It's Friday night, work is over with, and you're contemplating dinner.
  359. >Well, sort of.
  360. >You just bought some sandwiches in bulk and tossed them in the fridge; Now you're trying to decide if you should be choosy or just play sandwich roulette for a week.
  361. >You shrug and grab some dinner, slam the door and unwrap the paper, and start walking towards the back.
  362. >...
  363. >Is that humming getting louder?
  364. >You angle yourself and listen, then but the food down.
  365. >It's not coming from the fridge.
  366. >You follow towards the back and stop at the little crystal you replaced just yesterday.
  367. >The fucking crystal is humming.
  368. >And you can see it rapidly draining of energy.
  369.  
  370. >Hunger replaced with anger, you grab an iron bar and carefully crack open the back door.
  371. >You slip outside and scan the yard.
  372. >You spot a white body on your fence, and your blood runs hot.
  373. “There you are, you little bastard!”
  374. >You charge, cocking back your weapon.
  375.  
  376.  
  377.  
  378. >The little white dragon panics and drops into the yard.
  379. >You swing and miss by mere inches.
  380. >The runt claws your arm and draws a little blood, then backs off.
  381. >You press forward, swinging twice more, each a bit closer to hitting than the last.
  382. >”I just wanted something to eat!” He says.
  383. “Eat justice you little shit.”
  384. >You swing again and connect with his legs, swiping him and putting him on his back.
  385. >He dodges the next swing, then bites down on the bar.
  386. >Electricity pulses through your arm and you flex, dropping the bar.
  387.  
  388. >Since when the fuck can dragons do THAT?
  389.  
  390. >With your free, not-numb arm, you throw a punch, knocking him down again.
  391. >He rushes through your legs and rips your pants as he does.
  392. >”Please just let me go! I'll never come back! I promise!”
  393. >Yeah, no. You're handing this little thief over to the guards.
  394. “Not until I'm finished with you!”
  395. >”Please!”
  396. >He hops on the fence and tries to climb over, but his arms are too weak to pull him up.
  397. >You grab him by the leg.
  398. >”I don't want to die!”
  399. >You hold him up by his ankle and try to stare him down, but he cowers and covers up his face, expecting you to beat him.
  400. >You cool down a bit. You already have him, so hitting him more won't do anything worthwhile.
  401.  
  402. >You look over the little dragon in your grasp. He's while, with a yellow belly and blue spines down his back.
  403. >He's scrawny. Real scrawny. As if the act of eating itself is a chore. He's a bit taller than spike.
  404. >Some of his scales are dirty, and discolored. Filth lines the gaps in his claws, and scratches cover his arms.
  405. >By now, he peaks at you from behind his arms, flinching when you flick your eyes to his. A golden necklace dangles from his neck, along with his movements.
  406. >He has tears in his eyes, and he silently whimpers while you judge him.
  407.  
  408.  
  409.  
  410. “You're sucking my crystals dry.”
  411. >He hides his face again.
  412. >”I- I was hungry. I'm sorry!”
  413. >You pull his head up just a little more to yours.
  414. “You eat crystallized energy?”
  415. >”No- Yes! I mean- I can! It just keeps me from starving for a few hours!”
  416. >You groan.
  417. >So he's a desperate little runt that chose thieving over begging.
  418. >He turns on the waterworks, shaking a little.
  419. >”P- please! I haven't had a meal in days! I d- d- didn't want t- to die!”
  420. >You nearly growl at him.
  421. >No one wants to starve... but no one likes a thief, either.
  422. “You want a meal?”
  423. >His tearful eyes light up a little, and he can only manage to nod through the sniffles.
  424. “I'll give you a meal.” You squint at him. “But you're paying me back every bit you owe me.”
  425. >He nods over and over.
  426. >”I'll do whatever you want!”
  427. >You point to the necklace.
  428. “Selling that might ease your debt a bit.”
  429. >He panics, shielding it from you.
  430. >”EXCEPT THAT.”
  431.  
  432. >You stare him down for a second.
  433. “Fine.”
  434. >You drop him to the ground and walk to the back door.
  435. >You look back and hold the door open, waiting for him.
  436. >He hesitates, clearly conflicted on what to do. Eventually, he chooses to scurry in, trying to avoid eye contact.
  437. >You lead him to the fridge, then hand him a couple sandwich halves.
  438. “The table's over there.” You point to the living room, and he timidly follows your suggestion to move.
  439. >You grab a couple glasses of water and your own sandwich off the table, then move around and set them-
  440. >Motherfucker already ate the sandwiches.
  441. >Jesus; this kid really was hungry.
  442. >You set down the water and slowly begin eating your own food.
  443.  
  444. >He chugs the water, nearly choking himself with how fast he was trying.
  445. >He sets it down and suddenly doesn't know what to do.
  446. >He twiddles his thumbs while you chew away, glancing at you every once in a while.
  447. >You decide to start asking questions between slow bites.
  448.  
  449.  
  450.  
  451. “What's your name?”
  452. >He struggles to find his voice.
  453. >”Flint.”
  454. >He stays silent until you finish chewing again.
  455. “I'm Anon.” You pause. “Do you have a home?”
  456. >He looks around.
  457. >”N-no. I was, uh... evicted.”
  458. >Another long pause.
  459. “You from around here?”
  460. >He shakes his head.
  461. “Well, how'd you get here?”
  462. >He looks around, like he wants to talk about anything but himself.
  463. >”I... was with the Stormking's army, up until he, uh...”
  464. >Died.
  465. “Are you trying to get back home?”
  466. >Again, he shakes his head.
  467. >”I don't have any home to go to.”
  468. >Flint holds his locket close to his chest.
  469. >He's very clearly concerned with losing that locket.
  470. >Must be very personal to him.
  471.  
  472. >You stay quiet for a bit, letting Flint simmer for a bit as you eat.
  473. >By the time you're done, you see him clutching his stomach.
  474. “Stomach ache?”
  475. >He nods.
  476. ”I guess you were starving, then. The stomach shrinks a bit when it goes empty for a while.”
  477. >He doesn't say anything.
  478. “Did you even try to beg some food out of the ponies around here?”
  479. >He shakes again. “No one likes anyone from the Storm Legion. Or dragons. Especially not both.”
  480. “Who told you that nonsense?”
  481. >He looks puzzled.
  482. >”What? … That's how everyone else treats us.”
  483. >You almost want to chuckle at this poor soul.
  484. >Almost. You're still upset at the thieving.
  485. “Well it's just not true here. My boss is from the Stormking's best troops, and many of the stormtroopers are scattered around Equestria right now, living normal lives.”
  486. >He looks hurt. Like you're trying to sell him some golden ticket and he's scared it's a fraud.
  487. “Look, Flint. I'll cut you a little slack.”
  488. >He looks you up and down.
  489. “I'm mostly pissed about you stealing from me is all. If you stay, and work off what you owe me, I'll let you stay here for a while. I'll keep you fed, and warm, and clean.”
  490. >'Y-you will?”
  491. >You nod.
  492.  
  493.  
  494.  
  495. “I will. But you have to work for it. Work starts tomorrow, after breakfast. Understand?”
  496. >He nods faster and more excitedly than his body should allow.
  497. >”Deal!”
  498.  
  499. >With the speed he agreed, you can only wonder how fast he'd sell his family for a few sugar-covered sweets.
  500.  
  501. “Alright.” You get up, and he watches you intently. “I don't have a spare bed, but the seat here reclines and it's pretty comfy. I'll get you a spare blanket. Tap water is fine to drink, there's ice in the freezer, and the bathroom is down the hall. Any questions?”
  502. >He shakes again, and you go retrieve a blanket and pillow. You toss them on the recliner, then put your finger on the lightswitch.
  503. “The light's right here, also.”
  504. >He nods, and hops on over to the recliner, setting it as he wants.
  505. >”Thank you.” he says.
  506. “See you in the morning.”
  507. >You flick it off and walk on back to your bedroom.
  508.  
  509. >Some part of you doesn't have a lot of stock in this runt sticking around.
  510. >Another part doesn't think he won't try anything, either.
  511. >You grab a nice, heavy tool and cuddle it to sleep.
  512. >Life just keeps on getting more interesting.
  513. >...
  514. >Also, the first thing you're doing in the morning is kicking in Twilight's door and showing off your new assistant.
  515. >She'll be so jelly.
  516.  
  517. - - -
  518.  
  519. >Saturday.
  520. >No work today, since the rest of the crew negotiates through a union, and they got Fizzlepop to give them the weekends.
  521. >And she'd sooner not work you at all than waste the weekend with only one worker.
  522. >So, today is a free day, unless someone else grabs you for a job.
  523. >That doesn't mean there isn't work for you to do, though.
  524. >with your new... indentured servant... you can likely finish most of that motorcycle before Monday.
  525. >Or build a stand for your occasional hunting.
  526. >Hmm.
  527.  
  528. >Anyways, you whip up and drop the tool in your arm, then walk around into the bathroom.
  529. >You do your morning routine, then
  530. >You see Flint snoring away, shielding himself with the blanket like it's below zero.
  531. >You stand over him, careful not to get too close.
  532. “Flint.”
  533. >He continues to sleep.
  534. >You lightly poke him with a finger and he instantly snaps into a defensive position.
  535. >He stares at you bug-eyed before realizing what he's doing.
  536. >”H-hey, boss.”
  537. “Anon.”
  538. >”Anon.”
  539. >He hops up and out of the blanket, throwing up his arm.
  540. “...why are you saluting me?”
  541. >He looks around a bit, almost like he's confused. Then, he stands normally.
  542. >”...uuuuuuhhh...”
  543. >Weird kid.
  544. “Shower's down the hall. Breakfast is as soon as you're ready to leave.”
  545. >He nods, then immediately follows the direction to the shower.
  546. >No complaints. No grumbling. No questions.
  547. >Flint doesn't really seem to be a complaining type.
  548. >...
  549. >Smart kid.
  550.  
  551. >You waltz around and get some money, then idly look over drawings and lists for projects you have on your list.
  552. >Shortly, Flint walks out with a wet, dirty towel.
  553. >His scales are significantly cleaner, giving a nice, even tone to his white scales. His underside is a shade brighter of yellow, as well.
  554. >”Where do you want the towel?”
  555. “Just set it back on the rail to dry. Make sure you know which one was yours.”
  556. >He does just so, then returns.
  557.  
  558.  
  559.  
  560. >He follows you out the door, right on your heels.
  561. “Any preference for breakfast?”
  562. >”Not really.”
  563. “You sure about that?”
  564. >He hesitates, rubbing his claws.
  565. >”I don't really like hay?”
  566. >You chuckle.
  567. “Good. I can't eat it either.” You pause. “You like eggs?”
  568. >”Yeah, sure. I love eggs.”
  569. “Perfect.”
  570.  
  571. >You lead him around town for a bit.
  572. >As he tags along, he avoids the looks of some of the early-birds around.
  573. >He does just about everything short of burying his face in your side.
  574. >You can only imagine that you weren't the only one he stole from.
  575. >Well, actually, he did say no one likes dragons. He might be holding onto that one for a while.
  576. >Good thing you're here to get him exposed a little.
  577.  
  578. “Here we are.”
  579. >Supreme Tacos.
  580. >A very proud name indeed.
  581. >You walk in and walk right on up to the cream-colored mare at the counter.
  582. >”Hi Anon!”
  583. “Hi Tilla.”
  584. >She leans over and looks at Flint.
  585. >”And what's your name, cute stuff?”
  586. >”Flint.” He says as plainly as possible.
  587. >”I'm Tortilla Conquesodor. Everypony calls me Tilla.” She leans back again. “So how can I help you?”
  588. “A carnivore wrap and artichoke wrap, please.”
  589. >She nods and throws in the order, then looks to Flint eagerly.
  590. >”Uhhh... I'll have the same thing.”
  591.  
  592. >You pay up and after a short moment, she tosses out your food.
  593. “Thanks.”
  594. >”No problem!”
  595. >You give Flint his and he follows you out the door.
  596. >You begin eating your 'carnivore' wrap.
  597. >Which is only eggs and cheese, but it's the taste that counts, right?
  598.  
  599. >So you walk towards Twilight's castle at a modest pace, eating casually.
  600. >Flint, however, is stuffing himself, as he did last night.
  601. “You're going to get a stomach ache again.”
  602. >He stops for a second. Then, continues. You're not even sure he slowed it down.
  603. >After he finishes with one wrap, you start asking questions again.
  604.  
  605.  
  606.  
  607. “You're acting all nervous at everyone that comes near.” You pause. “You still have doubts they'll like you?”
  608. >”Yes.”
  609. “Well, don't worry so much about it. I'll introduce you to the local princess and maybe that'll change your mind.”
  610. >”... I thought we were working after breakfast?”
  611. “We are. But Twilight would be upset if I didn't introduce the town's second dragon resident.”
  612. >He perks up.
  613. >”Second?”
  614. >You close in on the castle. Once you reach the door, you cock your leg and blast forward.
  615.  
  616. “Twilight!” You scream.
  617. >Nothing answers you but the echos.
  618. “Probably in the kitchen or something.”
  619. >You close the door and mosey on through the castle, checking on room after room for some living soul.
  620. >She's not in that map room, so you work around to the other side and end up at the kitchen.
  621. >You can hear clanking and clinging, so someone's obviously home. You stroll on in and find spike surrounded by batter and fruit.
  622. “Hey, Spike.”
  623. >He turns around and keeps mixing whatever it is he's got.
  624. >”Hey, Anon.”
  625. >He spots Flint, and sets his aside, hopping down.
  626. >”Who's this?”
  627. >”I'm Flint.”
  628. >They shake hands, and Spike goes back to his ingredients.
  629. >”Well, I'm Spike. Good to meet you.”
  630. >Flint just nods, and you turn to him.
  631. “Spike here is Twilight's assistant. He keeps this place clean and running.”
  632. >You turn to Spike.
  633. “So is Twilight home? I wanted to introduce her.”
  634. >He shrugs.
  635. >”She's out doing something with Trixie and Glimmer. She'll be back with the rest of the girls for breakfast in a bit.” He pauses. “You wanna join?”
  636. “Nah. Thanks Spike, but we already ate. We'll just come back later if she's not busy.”
  637. >”She doesn't have much today, so sure. Have a good one!”
  638. “Later.”
  639. >”Bye.” Flint says, following along.
  640.  
  641.  
  642.  
  643. >You walk on back to the door, but stop.
  644. “See? Ponies don't have a problem with dragons.”
  645. >”He's her employee.”
  646. “She helped raise him.”
  647. >”...if you say so.”
  648. “You'll like Twilight. Just about everyone does.”
  649.  
  650. >You reach out and pull the door inward, revealing Twilight and all -is it seven now?- companions.
  651. “Incredible timing.”
  652. >”Hi Anon!” Pinkie chirps. As the rest greet, she sees Flint, then gasps excitedly. “Hi new friend!!!”
  653. >”Hi, I'm Fl- IN-”
  654. >She hug-tackles him into the floor and starts going on and on in that talk-fast-breath-later mode she has.
  655. >That ought to get him well acquainted with ponies.
  656. >The rest of the group file in and either continue inward or watch Pinkie to make sure she doesn't talk Flint's ears off.
  657.  
  658. “Twilight? A word?”
  659. >She stops mid-stride wand back-peddles next to you.
  660. >”Yes?”
  661. >You squat down and talk quietly.
  662. “Flint here is the one that was stealing from my yard.”
  663. >”Is that so?” She looks him over. “Did he admit it?”
  664. “I caught him in the act.”
  665. >”Oh.” She says. “He looks young.”
  666. “He is. I didn't ask how old, but he-”
  667. >”Can't be much older than spike.”
  668. “Yeah.”
  669. >”Does he...you know.”
  670. “What?”
  671. >”Have a home?”
  672. “Not really.”
  673. >”The precinct can find him a home.”
  674. “Not necessary. I told him I'd take care of him if he worked for the damages.”
  675. >”Oh.” She deadpans, looking at you.
  676. “He thought ponies hated dragons, Twiggles.”
  677. >”Oh?”
  678. “Not to mention he was part of the Stormking's army.”
  679. >”Oooohh.”
  680. “So, we're working on easing him into a civil society.”
  681. >”Okay, I gotchya.”
  682.  
  683. >You both look over to see Pinkie STILL talking all over Flint.
  684. >Poor guy is just taking it all, not sure what to do.
  685.  
  686.  
  687.  
  688. >”You still need to tell the guard the situation.”
  689. “I will. I wanted to run everything by you, first.”
  690. >”Just let them know. Once you explain the situation, they'll get a detective out to interview you both, and to work everything out.”
  691. “Same deal as mine?”
  692. >”Probably. But if he's in your custody... well, it might complicate it a bit. They'll want to make sure you aren't holding him there against his will.”
  693. “Anything else?”
  694. >”That's it. Everypony loves to solve problems without arrests, so they'll work with you pretty well on this.”
  695. “Alright. I'll drop by later today or tomorrow.”
  696.  
  697. >You both walk on over to Pinkie and Flint.
  698. >Twilight picks up Pinkie with her magic and drags her off.
  699. >”Alright, Pinkie. I think Flint has had enough. We should let them go.” She looks at Flint. “Feel free to drop by! Spike would love to have another dragon friend.”
  700. >”Bye Flint!! I really like your name! See you at the party!”
  701. >The rest carry on and say their goodbyes, and you pull Flint up.
  702. >”Party?”
  703. “You missed most of it, huh?”
  704. >”I guess.”
  705. “She'll be throwing you a 'Welcome-to-Ponyville' party.”
  706. >”Oh.”
  707. >You pull him up and walk with him out the door, closing it behind you.
  708.  
  709. >You walk on home, waving to the woken ponies around.
  710. >When you get back, whats-her-name is present in your back yard.
  711. >Oh boy, here we go.
  712. >You take a metal bar lying around.
  713. >You sure have a lot of these just sitting around, don't you?
  714. >You poke her in the chest.
  715. “Hey, you.”
  716. >You startle her and she knocks off a bottle of whatever it is you bought her.
  717. >”Hey, hansssssss.”
  718. “You don't need to sleep here anymore. We caught the thief.”
  719. >You keep poking her in the ribs, until she rolls over.
  720. >”Mmmmm harder.”
  721. “Awaken, ya cunt.”
  722. >You whip her cutiemark.
  723. >”Ah! I'm awake!”
  724.  
  725.  
  726. >She tumbles and salutes with dual lazy eyes, before she shakes her head and relaxes.
  727. “We caught the thief. You can go home now.”
  728. >”Oh... okay.”
  729. >She packs up her stuff and prepares to leave. Just as she's about to walk off, you stop her.
  730. “Wait.”
  731. >You grab some bits from your bag -about 20 or so- and drop them into her bag.
  732. >”Awwww. Thanks!”
  733. >You sigh.
  734. “Look. I still don't like you stalking my place all the time, but you helped me when you didn't need to, so... thanks.”
  735. >She goes to hug your leg, and you quickly push her off again.
  736. >”No problem, Sugar!”
  737. >She hums some cheerful, tired tune as she leaves your house.
  738.  
  739. >Friggen' mares, man.
  740.  
  741. >You walk past Flint, who watched the whole thing with curiosity.
  742. “You know anything about carpentry?”
  743. >”No.”
  744. “Perfect.”
  745. >You go inside and grab some tools, then bring them out.
  746. >The rest you'll need are in the shed.
  747.  
  748. “Alright, Flint. I'm going to teach you some useful life skills. Get over here; we're starting with power tools....”
  749.  
  750. - - -
  751.  
  752. >The weekend flew by, and it's now Monday. Day 6 of fixing Fizzlepop's ship.
  753. >The detective came and went yesterday. Everything is find and dandy, but they want you to itemize everything you can so you can justify how much work you'll make him do to pay you back.
  754. >Admittedly, he didn't owe YOU a whole lot of money, but you are providing food and housing right now, so you get to play that fun game of 'well, are you compensating him enough?' and it's all sorts of fun.
  755. >More importantly, he actually has to pay back others as well.
  756. >You all more or less ironed out a payment plan he needs to stay on to get back what he owes to the others.
  757. >They were informed of him coming forward to the detective and all that jazz, so now a good chunk of the town knows what's what about the new dragon, and the rest will likely know within a few days.
  758. >Cute little exotic guy that needs some TLC from life in general? Yeah, Flint's gonna be riding the sympathy express for a while, whether he knows it or not.
  759. >At least he'll get relaxed around here. He's incredibly tense over every new thing.
  760. >Especially right now.
  761.  
  762. “Don't lag behind now, Flint. You've got an easy payday if you just stick with me.”
  763. >”Are you sure there isn't some other way I can work for money?”
  764. >What a confusing little dragon.
  765. “I mean, the only way to work for money is to, you know, work.”
  766. >”I mean-” He corrects. “-is there someone else I could work for? Commander Tempest won't like me around.”
  767. “You keep saying that, but I keep telling you she'll be fine with it.”
  768. >”Somehow, I still don't believe that.”
  769. “Ye of little faith.”
  770.  
  771. >You both make it through the brush and wait around for the boss.
  772. >Some of the other crew spot Flint and talk a bit, but everyone straightens out again when Fizzlepop arrives.
  773.  
  774. >She walks with the usual authority in every step, but for just a glimpse, you swear she squints at Flint.
  775. >It couldn't have been more than a flick of the eyes, but it was there.
  776.  
  777. >”Today we'll be fixing the interior and the hull, besides the engine room. Everypony will be using the new materials I piled inside first, then reclaimed material as it's made ready. Once that's done, we'll be moving on to some of the exterior hull, but don't start without my direction. Questions?”
  778. >Everyone shakes heads.
  779. >”Good. Let me know if you need something.”
  780. >Everyone grabs their things and starts filing towards the ship.
  781. >Fizzlepop sticks her hoof up, and you both stop.
  782. >”Every*pony* doesn't apply to you.”
  783.  
  784. >You raise your eyebrow sky high, and she turns to Flint, prowling toward him.
  785. >”And what are you doing back here?”
  786. >Back here?
  787. >He stammers something unintelligible, hiding behind your legs.
  788. “He's here to work off the debt he owes the town.” This gives her pause. “I was hoping you'd be willing to pay for an extra hand. Or claw, as it were.”
  789. >She twists her head around your legs, keeping her wide eyes right on him.
  790. >”Is that so?”
  791. >”Yes!”
  792. >He whips around, keeping you in the middle.
  793. >She backs off and looks at you.
  794. >”I doubt his work is quality.”
  795. “I've been training him with tools over the weekend.”
  796. >”Three sewn threads does not a tailor make. I'm not paying a full him the full one-fifty.”
  797. “I figured.”
  798. >”I'll pay eighty.”
  799. >You meet her eyes.
  800. “One hundred.”
  801. >She furrows her eyebrows.
  802. >”Eighty-five; not a bit more.”
  803. “Deal.”
  804.  
  805.  
  806.  
  807. >She points to the pile of reclaimed wood.
  808. >”You two are refining the reclaimed wood while everyone else is busy. Take out the nails and screws, sand down where it needs, and help the others when you're done.”
  809. “Alright.”
  810.  
  811. >You drag along Flint towards the work area, and you both start getting to work.
  812. >Fizzlepop wanders on towards the other workers.
  813.  
  814. “Back here?” You ask.
  815. >”Huh?”
  816. “She asked what you were doing 'back here'. She found you here?”
  817. >”Well, yeah... this was my hoard.”
  818. >Oh, that's awkward.
  819.  
  820. “So you found the ship first? Or did you down it yourself?”
  821. >That'd be pretty kickass, actually.
  822. >”Uh, neither, really.” He pauses. “I was on the ship already, with the army. The engine broke or something, and we crashed here. Everyone was in such a rush to get to Canterlot, they just grabbed some supplies and started running. I just... stayed. No one came back... I guess they forgot about me.”
  823. >Hmm.
  824. “Seemed like an easy out, huh?”
  825. >”Yeah, it did. I really didn't like those guys.”
  826. >He yanks at a nail, starting a pile on a small piece of wood.
  827. “Then why were you there in the first place?”
  828. >”They took me from my friend, and... did some things to me.”
  829. “....like...?”
  830. >”I couldn't tell. Most I was asleep for. I guess the Stormking was trying to enslave me or something, since he couldn't do that to any larger dragons. He screwed up my dragon magic, though, that's for sure.”
  831. “So that's why you can eat mana?”
  832. >He sighs.
  833. >”Yeah. And spit it out. I lost my fire. I can't stand the heat anymore, either. They took away so much, I just... I wanted to be a dragon, again. So I stayed and... started collecting.”
  834.  
  835. >Hmmm.
  836. >This sounds like the kind of stuff you ought to tell Twilight.
  837. >She can't give you the world, but she can usually find a start.
  838. >Later, though. You have some other things on your plate right now.
  839.  
  840.  
  841. - - -
  842.  
  843. >”Here.”
  844. >Fizzy chucks a paper sack of gold at you and Flint.
  845. >You catch yours perfectly.
  846. >Flint catches it with his face.
  847. >”I already let the others know as well; I've run dry on funds, so there won't be any work for a while.”
  848. >She doesn't seem upset, but you know better.
  849. >She'd rather stay busy than idle around, and not working on the ship means lots of free time.
  850. >As she walks off into the ship, you turn to Flint.
  851. “Hey, you wanna go get dinner for the both of us?”
  852. >”Uh, sure.”
  853. >You fork over twenty bits.
  854. “Just remember:no hay, no minerals. Anything else is fine. Meet me back at the house.“
  855. >”Alright!”
  856. >He salutes and runs towards the town.
  857.  
  858. >You head towards the ship, where Fizzlepop is leaning over the rail overlooking the 'yard', if it could be called that.
  859. >She spots you, but just watches as you come towards.
  860. >You grab onto the outer frame, where armor is supposed to attach, and climb up.
  861. >You get up next to Fizzlepop and sit on the rail.
  862.  
  863. >”You came up the hard way.”
  864. “More like the fun way.”
  865. >You lean towards her.
  866. “Money problems?”
  867. >She sighs.
  868. >”Ships are expensive things, Anonymous. I ran out of money much faster than I anticipated. And my usual means of getting resources doesn't work here.”
  869. “Lots of yelling and scary lights?”
  870. >”Yes.”
  871. >Oh shit, that was supposed to be a joke.
  872. >”So I've been up the wall, trying to think of a way to get some good money. I can only work so much at that gym before I lose my sanity. And Cookie's on thin ice after vomiting on equipment yesterday.”
  873. >You're pretty sure all ice is thin to a girl that big.
  874.  
  875.  
  876.  
  877. “Well, sounds like you need some help brainstorming.”
  878. >”I would appreciate any useful input.”
  879. “Fireworks for Trixie's shows?”
  880. >”Meager pay, and I'd hate it.”
  881. “Lumberjacking?”
  882. >”No tools and no demand here.”
  883. “You could teach guards how to fight.”
  884. >”Can't start it myself without equipment. Can't join another without formal training.”
  885. “Sell animal furs?”
  886. >”Faux fur is pretty cheap, and ponies usually can't stomach things made from animals.”
  887.  
  888. >Well, you're stumped.
  889. >You were sure of the lumberjacking, but then again, Ponyville isn't exactly growing fast.
  890. >You're willing to bet there's demand, though, as frequently as trouble happens around here.
  891. >Hmmm....
  892. >Wait a second.
  893. >At the pizza place....
  894. >At the bowling alley...
  895. >You, Fizzlepop, the guardsmare...
  896.  
  897. “Make bets.”
  898. >”I don't think gambling is the answer, Anon.”
  899. “It is if you're the house.”
  900. >She looks at you, curious.
  901. “Get Bulk Biceps to rent you one of his boxing rings. Host some fights here, take up bets, get your cut, give the winner a prize, the whole shebang. Maybe get some of the restaurants around to throw up a food stand.”
  902. >She shakes her head.
  903. >”I'm not sure that'll work, but it's a decent plan.”
  904. >You shrug. You really don't have any other ideas.
  905. “Papyrus at the town hall will know the laws pretty well. Maybe ask the barracks if any guards would hypothetically participate.”
  906. >”I'll look into it.”
  907.  
  908. “Alright, well, I'll let you get some time to yourself.”
  909. >You turn around and take a step down, but you stop.
  910. >”Wait.”
  911. >She looks around quickly, then gives you a one-legged hug.
  912. >”Thanks for the help.” She says softly. Shortly, she stands back again. “I mean it.”
  913. “It's nothing, Fizzy. I got a lot of help when I moved here. I wouldn't want anyone to miss out on the feeling.”
  914. >She watches you step down and you get halfway to the ground before you remember something.
  915.  
  916.  
  917.  
  918. “Oh, and Fizzy.”
  919. >”Yes?”
  920. “You took an airship from a teenager.”
  921. >She chuckles darkly.
  922. >”Anonymous? Do you see that gaping hole you walk into every time you work on the ship?”
  923. “Yes?”
  924. >”That hole wasn't there until Flint put it there when we fought.”
  925. “Oh shit.”
  926. >”Yeah. You wouldn't have wanted him to stay around either.”
  927.  
  928. >That's a big fucking hole, too.
  929. >If he got much bigger, he'd be a bit of a threat to Ponyville.
  930. >You wish you'd realized he's the same dragon earlier, though.
  931. >Having him work on the ship must be salting the wound.
  932. >Ah, oh well. It's a bit late at this point.
  933. >Besides, it's not like he bought the thing. He just wasn't able to defend a claim.
  934. >...
  935. >Better go make sure he's fine.
  936. >Oh, who are you kidding. He'll be inhaling whatever cheap food he found for the both of you.
  937.  
  938. - - -
  939.  
  940. “Morning, Flint.”
  941. >”Morning, b- ...Anon.”
  942. >While you're sitting under a skeleton of a 'motor'cycle, Flint hops around and chugs some water.
  943. >”So what jobs are we doing today?”
  944. >You shrug as best you can, still trying to attach a tire to the front suspension.
  945. “I think I finally made a sign and threw it out front. We don't have any work until someone walks in and asks for something.”
  946. >”Oh.”
  947.  
  948. >Like before, he twiddles his thumbs, waiting around for something to happen.
  949. >You let it go a while, content to work on what will soon be your ride.
  950. >And you get to thinking.
  951. >Where do ponies get rubber, anyways? Isn't it made from oil?
  952. >You've never seen an oil pump around here.
  953. >You've only ever seen one mine, now that you think about it.
  954. >And half the time they were just carrying crystals.
  955. >Do they... do they grow it on trees, here?
  956. >Magic apples, why not normal coal?
  957. >Maybe Pinkie knows where you can buy a coal-tree. She used to live on a rock farm, after all.
  958.  
  959. >Hmm. Flint still looks incredibly bored.
  960. >Well shit. You don't own any board games.
  961. “If you want to try and work a job by yourself, there'll probably be something up at the job board in the town hall.”
  962. >”Oh. Okay.”
  963. >He immediately hops up and heads towards the door.
  964.  
  965. “It was just a suggestion. You don't HAVE to go.”
  966. >”No, I, uh... I'd rather go work. Can't sit still.”
  967. >Now that's something you can understand.
  968. “Alright. Just don't stay out too late.”
  969. >And with that, he leaves.
  970.  
  971. >Wait, did he take the glass with him?
  972. >That little shit.
  973. >He better not break it.
  974.  
  975.  
  976. - - -
  977.  
  978. >You are so close to finishing your new bike, you can taste the freedom.
  979. >You can swear you hear eagles in the dis...
  980. >Wait, no, that's the front door squeaking.
  981. “Hey, Flint.” You call out to the front. “Still haven't made lunch yet. It'll be a bit late today.”
  982. >”What a shame. I was told your cooking was great.” Not Flint says.
  983.  
  984. >You scoot and look at Fizzy walk into the room.
  985. >”What is that thing?”
  986. “A motorbike.” You slide out from under it and sit up. “Of sorts. This one's going to run on crystals instead of gas.”
  987. >”Inventive.”
  988. “I'd hope so.” You get up and wipe your hands on a rag. “So what brings you in today?”
  989. >”Just wondering if you'd like to participate in the fights this Friday.”
  990.  
  991. “What? You've already set up fights?”
  992. >”I have.” She smiles. “Turns out, half the guards spar with full-contact frequently. They'd gladly make a tournament of it.”
  993. “Sweet. Who's all in so far?”
  994. >”Some guards and Rainbow. Not many others have signed up yet.”
  995. >Ah. Of course RD would be the first to join.
  996. “Well yeah, I'll join. I have a score to settle with that guard who's name I still don't know.”
  997. >”The one that was supposed to leave you alone?”
  998. “That's the one.”
  999. >”She broke the pact and you rewarded her with mango smoothies.”
  1000. “I paid her penance to guard my shit while I'm gone.”
  1001. >”She happened to be useful at the time, so instead of punishing her, you used her?”
  1002. “Yeah, I did.”
  1003.  
  1004. >You both stare at eachother in a small moment of silence. Some unintelligible emotion crosses her face, but disappears quickly.
  1005.  
  1006. >”Well, in any case, the sign-ups are at the ship's mailbox.”
  1007. “Alright. I'll drop by later. Have fun!”
  1008. >”I'll try.”
  1009. >She leaves, and you go back to staring at your bike.
  1010.  
  1011. >This bike is going to be so fun when you finish it.
  1012. >You could travel to Canterlot within an hour at top speed.
  1013. >A few hours to Apploosa.
  1014. >Waaaaaay faster than taking the train.
  1015.  
  1016.  
  1017. >...
  1018. >Maybe you could charge rides.
  1019.  
  1020. - - -
  1021.  
  1022. “Anooooooooooon!”
  1023. >You are Pinkie, and you are tap tap tapping the front door.
  1024. >This silly stallion! He never answers quickly.
  1025. >You bang your head against the door a little louder.
  1026. >”It's open!”
  1027. >You pop open the door and stroll right on in, meeting Anon in his kitchen.
  1028. “Anoooon! You're invited!”
  1029. >You take a letter off your basket-hat and give it to him.
  1030. >He puts down a frying pan and takes the letter.
  1031. “Ohhh, whatchya makin'?”
  1032. >”Rabbit sandwiches. Want one?”
  1033. >Your stomach gets queasy and you shake your head violently.
  1034. >”Suit yourself. Is this for Flint's party?”
  1035. “It is! Tomorrow night! Can you make it?”
  1036. >He shrugs, putting the invite down and poking at whatever is in the pan.
  1037. >”I can, but I don't know. Flint might enjoy the party more if I'm not there.”
  1038. >That can't be true.
  1039. >Everyone loves Anon at parties!
  1040. >Eh, well, maybe not Twilight, but still.
  1041. >He's so fun!
  1042.  
  1043. “Why do you think that?”
  1044. >You hop up and sit on the counter next to him.
  1045. >”I can't imagine he thinks much more of me than his creditor.”
  1046. “Aww, come on Anon. He likes you more than that.”
  1047. >”Sure. For my cooking.”
  1048. “That's the spirit!”
  1049. >He giggles.
  1050. >”Really though, I think I'll sit this one out. I'm sure he doesn't want me breathing down his neck all the time. Probably reminds him of his time in the Legion.”
  1051. “Alright.”
  1052. >You pat him on the shoulder and hop down, heading towards the door again.
  1053. “Just let me know if you change your mind, okay?”
  1054. >”Will do, Pinks.”
  1055. >You just about make it out when he catches you again.
  1056. >”OH, and Pinkie?”
  1057. “Yeeees?”
  1058. >”Where do ponies get coal?”
  1059. >You snicker.
  1060. “From the ground, silly!”
  1061. >”Okay. Just wondering.”
  1062.  
  1063.  
  1064.  
  1065. >You close the door behind as you hop off to the next pony on your list.
  1066. >Mare. You were hoping Anon could help ease Flint into crowds, but you guess you'll have to do it yourself.
  1067. >Oh well. Looks like you'll just have to give it the old Pinkie try!
  1068. >...
  1069. >...
  1070. >Also, keep an eye on Anon.
  1071. >He might be onto your family's secret grow-coal trees.
  1072.  
  1073. - - -
  1074.  
  1075. “Oh thank fuck.”
  1076. >You are Anon, master mechanic.
  1077. >And you've finally fucking finished this thing.
  1078. >You caress the scrap shielding the hunk of crystal in the middle, then flip the switch on the top.
  1079. >A low hum starts up, like a bass guitar playing a single soft note.
  1080. >You twist the handle, and the back tire spins hard.
  1081. >Perfect.
  1082.  
  1083. >You detach the chains holding onto the chassis and roll the bike out the front door.
  1084. >You close the door and hop on, starting towards the town's center at a slow pace.
  1085. >The hum only gets a bit louder as you pick up the pace. It's not nearly as loud as a true motorbike.
  1086. >You sail through the town, enjoying the wind in your hair.
  1087. >You ride on through the streets, smiling at ponies as you pass.
  1088.  
  1089. >A pegasus glides over you -you can tell by the shadow.
  1090. >”Hey Anon, what's up!?”
  1091. “You, Thunderlane!” You shout, glancing up.
  1092. >”Hardy har har.”
  1093. >He drops down next to you, sticking close.
  1094. >”So whatchya riding?”
  1095. “Testing out my new motorcycle.”
  1096. >You swerve around to show off a little.
  1097. “Smooth riding so far.”
  1098. >”Looks fun!”
  1099. “It is!”
  1100. >You make a turn and start circling the town hall.
  1101. “So I heard one of your girls are pregnant.”
  1102. >”Flitter is! She's so excited!”
  1103. “Well congrats. Don't get stuck changing all the diapers while the rest of us 'wild stallions' run free!”
  1104. >”Aww, it won't be like that! We can still drink together!” He pauses. “So what about you?”
  1105.  
  1106.  
  1107.  
  1108. >You slow down and look at him.
  1109. “What?”
  1110. >”You know. Kids. Ever thought about having any?”
  1111. >You shrug.
  1112. “Used to I guess. I doubt I'll ever have any.”
  1113. >”Why not?”
  1114. “Besides the fact I'm infertile to non humans?”
  1115. >”Uhh...” He rubs his neck.
  1116. “Never found the right girl, right place, or right time.”
  1117. >”Well...” He pauses, probably fearing he hit a nerve by accident. “Ponyville's a good place... Lyra wasn't the best choice, I guess.”
  1118. “It's alright, Thunder. You don't have to figure out everything for me.”
  1119. >”I just wanna help, bro.”
  1120. “Really, it's fine. I'm not good with kids anyways. Besides, it's hard to start a family when I'm busy riding out my midlife crisis!”
  1121. >You pop a wheelie and hold it for a solid two seconds.
  1122. >”You're not even thirty yet.”
  1123. “Like I said, Thunderlane. Midlife crisis!”
  1124. >”If you say so, Anon.”
  1125. >He goes for a hoof bump and you oblige.
  1126. >”I gotta go. We should hang out soon.”
  1127. “Sure thing, buddy. See ya.”
  1128. >”Later Anon.”
  1129.  
  1130. >He peels off and you do the same, heading back towards your house.
  1131. >The ride is pretty smooth. Suspension seems fine. No obvious problems.
  1132. >It seems like you can oil up where it needs and call it a day.
  1133. >[spoiler]Note: Add ATV somewhere to your list. One good enough to hitch a small trailer.[/spoiler]
  1134.  
  1135. >You pull up to your house and walk the bike into the back yard.
  1136. >You lean it on the shed out back and walk into the house.
  1137. >Suddenly, you are hit with a wall of the scent of ten thousand sandwiches.
  1138. >You can taste the cheese in the air and with every breath you collect more and more grease-stained calories in your lungs.
  1139. “What the hell?”
  1140.  
  1141. >You whip around into the front room and see Flint on your recliner, both hands on his bulging stomach, and he is groaning in pain.
  1142. >Next to him is a tall stack of boxes, obviously the source of the stench in your house.
  1143. >You peak inside the top box to see several poorly constructed sandwiches, drowning in a pool of cheese and oils.
  1144. “Where'd you get these?”
  1145. >”Payment... for work.”
  1146. “They paid you in sandwiches?”
  1147. >”It was a taste testing job.” He explains. “I... I ate so much.” He reaches a claw out to you. “H- help.”
  1148. “Have you tried drinking water?”
  1149. >”It just made it worse!”
  1150. “Then sleep it off.”
  1151. >He groans as you start hauling off the boxes to the fridge.
  1152.  
  1153. >It's a lot of food. Like, a LOT.
  1154. >Whoever made them must not have liked how they turned out.
  1155. >Oh well. You can comp him some of the debt for free grub, you guess.
  1156. >Fun times. Fun times...
  1157.  
  1158.  
  1159. - - -
  1160. >You are Fizzlepop, and...well...
  1161. >You're tired.
  1162. >Convincing Bulk to let you borrow the ring, getting someone to run the bets, someone to come sell food, someone to guide scaredy ponies through the straight path through the forest.
  1163. >It's all so tiresome.
  1164. >And then one of your fighters chipped a hoof, somehow.
  1165. >Now you're off one contestant and the brackets are uneven.
  1166. >How does one even chip a hoof?
  1167. >Magic, probably.
  1168.  
  1169. >You walk around and look down on the ring from the deck of your ship.
  1170. >You lay down, staring on as a pegasus flicks the stage lights around, trying to get it to stay in one spot.
  1171. >You close your eyes, trying to let them rest for a moment.
  1172. >...
  1173. >You never got tired working as a mercenary.
  1174. >Physically, yes. But never this kind of internal exhaustion that has come upon you recently.
  1175. >It started when you came to Ponyville, you suppose. Slowly.
  1176. >It was small, and started growing when you settled into the castle. Then when you got the ship.
  1177. >You can feel it coming to a point. But why? What's causing this... weariness?
  1178. >You'll figure it out eventually. Maybe you should mention it to Twilight.
  1179.  
  1180. >You open your eyes again.
  1181. >The lights are now set correctly, and you have a clear view of the the arena below.
  1182. >You flip over the 'V.I.P.' sign on the rail, letting any incoming ponies know that the deck of your ship isn't for them.
  1183. >You waltz to the elevator and ride it down, then pass by the desk where you're hosting the bets, just outside the ship's entrance.
  1184. “Everything ready?” You call up to the pegasus.
  1185. >”Testing, testing.” She says into her headset, which echos through the speakers.
  1186. >She glides down and gives you the headset.
  1187. >”All set on the tech side, Fizzle.”
  1188. “Good.”
  1189. >You put on the headset and turn it off, and the blue glow dies.
  1190.  
  1191.  
  1192. “If you're done, feel free to relax until I get you. You're not going to get another break until the tournament's over.”
  1193. >”Yes ma'am!”
  1194. >She flies off to the food stands.
  1195.  
  1196. >With that done, your eyes linger to the fighters gathering near one end of the ship.
  1197. >Thirty...five, now.
  1198. >Looks like you'll have to figure out if anyone can fill that slot.
  1199. >Unlikely, on such late notice, but not impossible.
  1200. “Rockheart!”
  1201. >A burly mare steps forward, immediately jumping out of a conversation.
  1202. “Your fight is last on the first bracket. Your opposition forfeited the fight, so we're looking for someone else while the others are in the ring.”
  1203. >”Aww, mare! Are you serious!?”
  1204. >She throws her towel and stomps off. “Never shoulda let that scrawny little....”
  1205. “Anyways.” You continue. “We're looking for one more in the meantime. If anyone knows someone that wanted to join, now's the time. Else, Rockheart gets a free win.”
  1206. >Several of them shake their heads, but one mare hops around and brushes by you.
  1207. >”I know a mare! I'll be right back!”
  1208.  
  1209. >Well that was simple.
  1210.  
  1211. >You stroll around, checking on all the other little things as you do.
  1212. >Soon, you work yourself over to the entrance and welcome ponies as they pass.
  1213. >Many of them head straight to the seats, but a few go talk to some of the fighters instead.
  1214.  
  1215. >”Hey, Fizzle.”
  1216. >The mare's voice grabs your attention.
  1217. “Hello Twilight. Here to watch the carnage?”
  1218. >”Actually, I'm trying to find Anon. Make sure he isn't participating.”
  1219. “Oh, he is.”
  1220. >She lowers her head and groans.
  1221. >You cock an eyebrow.
  1222. >”Sorry. I'm just... I'm trying to keep him from hurting his reputation again.”
  1223. >You tilt your head a bit.
  1224.  
  1225.  
  1226. “I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at. Lots of ponies signed up for the tournament.”
  1227. >“I know. I'm not going to go so far as to stop the whole thing, but I need to talk Anon out of it. I don't think he's in his right mind about this.”
  1228. >She pauses.
  1229. >”Last time he got into a fight, he was all drunk. He broke a mare's rib and threatened to do worse.”
  1230. “That sounds more like a drinking problem. He hasn't been drinking today, Twilight. I'm sure he'll be fine.”
  1231. >She kicks the dirt.
  1232. >”I know it sounds like a 'drinking' problem, but I don't think so. He has a tendency to not talk if he doesn't want to. I'm scared he was using it as an opportunity to release tension, and didn't even care he was hurting anypony.”
  1233. >That doesn't exactly sound like the Anon you know. You know his as a much more easygoing, hard worker.
  1234. >Then again, you've never seen him drunk.
  1235. >Maybe Twilight knows what she's talking about.
  1236.  
  1237. “Well, if you want to talk him out of it, you can find him out behind the ship.”
  1238. >You're not going to force him, though.
  1239. >He's a grown man and can decide for himself.
  1240. >Twilight leans in for a hug.
  1241. >”Thanks Fizzle. Wish me luck.”
  1242. >You wave her off as she heads away, then idly go back to greeting ponies.
  1243.  
  1244. >You're not convinced.
  1245. >Anon was very sober when he decided to join.
  1246. >Besides, how else is he actually going to solve his little dispute with that guardsmare?
  1247. >Talking it out?
  1248. >Hasn't worked yet, apparently.
  1249. >Violence is clearly the next line of action
  1250. >Tonight will prove that.
  1251.  
  1252. - - -
  1253.  
  1254. “I don't think you're supposed to bend like that.”
  1255. >The mare in front of you is arched over, somehow keeping her body on all fours but with her back turned toward the ground.
  1256. >It was an unnatural, surreal picture.
  1257. >”Shut up and just push.”
  1258.  
  1259. >You squat down, putting a hand under her back.
  1260. “Try not to scream in my ear when you pull something.”
  1261. >You press up, and she contorts even further than before.
  1262. >That does NOT look healthy.
  1263.  
  1264. >”Anon, can I talk to you for a moment?”
  1265. >Oh boy, you can only guess what she wants.
  1266. “Just a second, Twilight. I'm trying to summon my inner H.R. Giger.”
  1267. >”I hope that's not a demon.”
  1268. “Depends on who you ask.”
  1269.  
  1270. >Suddenly, you hear several vertebrae pop, vibrating through your fingers.
  1271. >And the mare on your hand hitches her breath.
  1272. >Uhhhhhh.
  1273. >”Ooooooh. That hit's the spot. Thanks Anon!”
  1274. >The mare rolls off and starts stretching other parts of her body.
  1275. “No problem.”
  1276. >You stand up and walk off with Twilight, staying a small ways away from anyone else.
  1277.  
  1278. >You stop and squat down next to her.
  1279. “Alright. What's up?”
  1280. >She takes a deep breath.
  1281. >”I want you to drop out of the fight.”
  1282. >You offer nothing more than a deadpan stare.
  1283. >”I know you feel like this is the only way to solve your issue with that mare, but we still have tons of other things to try first. I'm afraid this is just going to make things worse between you two, and I'm also afraid you're going to make yourself look bad if you hurt the other girl too much.”
  1284. >You pinch the bridge of your nose.
  1285. “Twilight, it's an organized fight. It's expected that people get injured.”
  1286. >”But last time wasn't! You broke her ribs last time and it was at a party!”
  1287. “Ah, she probably had it coming.”
  1288. >”Anon!”
  1289. “What? She's been all sunshine and smiles since then anyways. She even helped me try to catch Flint when I asked her to.”
  1290. >”She- … she showed up after I talked to her?”
  1291. “Yes. It only stopped for a little bit.”
  1292. >You stand up.
  1293. “Twilight, I know you wouldn't do this unless you thought you were helping, but I'd rather just solve it my way. She's just too stubborn.”
  1294.  
  1295. >She looks like she's unsure what to say.
  1296. >After mouthing something to herself, she settles.
  1297. >”You're sure this will get her to leave you alone?”
  1298. “Almost certain.”
  1299. >”And you're not going to hurt her too much, are you?”
  1300. “No more than anyone else in the tournament.”
  1301. >You stare at eachother for a moment.
  1302. >”Alright, Anon. I'll trust you if you know what you're doing.”
  1303. “Thanks.” You sigh. “See you after the fight.”
  1304.  
  1305. >She walks off again, leaving you alone.
  1306. >Finally! Now you can work on your sucker punch.
  1307.  
  1308. - - -
  1309.  
  1310. >You see Twilight slide out from behind the ship again, and you sneak up to her side.
  1311. “How'd it go?”
  1312. >”AH”
  1313. >She hops a foot and holds her chest after she lands.
  1314. >”Oh, it uh... alright, I guess.” She pauses. “I wasn't able to talk him out of it.”
  1315. “I figured as much.”
  1316. >Also, you were kinda hoping as much. You didn't want to mess up the brackets again.
  1317. >”I guess I'll just have to trust him on this. He really just doesn't want to do it another way.”
  1318. >She slumps a little, looking toward the ring.
  1319. >You're not exactly the best with emotions, but she's looking a little... defeated?
  1320. >Let's see... what would a friend do at a time like this?
  1321. >What would Twilight do?
  1322.  
  1323. >You graze up against her side.
  1324. “If it helps, maybe try to remember that Anon isn't a pony. I doubt he puts the same emotional stock in fights that ponies tend to.”
  1325. >She nods.
  1326. >”You're probably right. I'm just over-thinking it.” She gives you a quick hug.
  1327. >You embrace it, but then push her off.
  1328. “Go grab one of the good seats. They're filling up quick. I need to get ready, anyways.”
  1329. >”Alright. Good luck with the crowd!”
  1330. >She trots off.
  1331.  
  1332. >Oh, Twilight, you should know by now that Tempest Shadow knows how to please a crowd.
  1333.  
  1334.  
  1335. - - -
  1336.  
  1337. >”LADIES AND GENTLECOLTS!”
  1338. >Suddenly, the lights go dim, and some tinted lights flare up, highlighting Fizzlepop on a plank, reaching out from the ship.
  1339. >Lightning bursts around, creating a transition.
  1340. >The whole crowd looks up, taking in the menacing view.
  1341. >“Welcome to tonight's tournament! Tonight, we have thirty-six of your best fighters lined up to prove who's the best! There will be two rounds of one-on-one elimination! The final two rounds will be three-way fights!”
  1342. >”Each fight will last until forfeiture, knock-out, or the time limit! If the time limit is reached-”
  1343. >She points across the crowd.
  1344. >”YOU will be the judges of who fought better!”
  1345. >The crowd cheers around you. You just cross your arms and keep listening.
  1346. >”And a reminder to the fighters! All three in the final fight will receive a prize, but the best gets the biggest!”
  1347. >More cheers , mostly around where you are.
  1348. >”Fights will begin in ten minutes! May the best fighter WIN!”
  1349. >Another strike of lightning hits the plank as the lights flick back.
  1350. >You watch with concern as the plank snaps and she drops to the ground.
  1351. >She lands in a roll and struts across the back of the crowd, as if that didn't just happen.
  1352. >She does keep a glare at Derpy as she walks away, though.
  1353.  
  1354. >This is going to be a fun night.
  1355.  
  1356. >You lean down to Pinkie Pie, who is sitting next to you, and eye-deep in a bag of popcorn.
  1357. “So who do you think is gonna win?”
  1358. >”Mmmmmph.” She thinks as she crunches away. “I don't know. Rockheart is really buff. She's probably gonna kick my tush!”
  1359. “Who's that again?”
  1360. >”Redheart's big sister!”
  1361. “Never met her. What does she do?”
  1362. >”She's the town mortician.” She chews through more popcorn. “She's only here half of the week, though.”
  1363. >You guess lifting bodies builds a lot of muscle.
  1364. “Seems like a living, at least.”
  1365. >She snickers, and keeps diving into her food.
  1366.  
  1367. >You wait it out until the fights start up.
  1368. >You don't want to lose your front row seat, after all.
  1369.  
  1370. >The first round begins and the two launch straight at eachother.
  1371. >As per the rules, only one has wings, so no wings are allowed. But it likely won't be a long fight because of it.
  1372. >Within twenty seconds both have landed a couple punches on eachother.
  1373. >Or whatever you call a 'kick' with the front legs.
  1374. >One slides under the other and launches her up, then lands a kick before the other hits the ground again.
  1375. >The other recovers and charges the first, driving into her chest and flipping her back.
  1376.  
  1377. >”That looked like it hurt.”
  1378. “Yeah. That was a hard hit.”
  1379. >One mare stands over the other, pinning her opponent until she forfeits.
  1380. >You look up at the bracket, and read down the list.
  1381. >Hmm. Looks like you're third from the bottom.
  1382. >This is gonna be a small while.
  1383.  
  1384. - - -
  1385.  
  1386. >Another mare walks past you and collapses in a seat, rubbing the hoof-shaped bruises.
  1387. >You pick yourself up and jump onto the ring. Your opponent does so on the other side, and quickly accepts the tie to keep her wings down.
  1388. >You both get ready in the corner, waiting for the referee to ring the bell.
  1389. >The anticipation is weighing on you.
  1390. >You can finally kick her ass for annoying your ass on sleepless nights.
  1391. >And for being a total stalker.
  1392. >And for being a cop.
  1393. >...
  1394. >Honestly, it's more about the combination than any particular-
  1395. >DING
  1396.  
  1397. >You both sprint at eachother; You, with your arm cocked, and she, in a charge.
  1398. >She leaps high and bucks, but you dodge just enough.
  1399. >You react with a weak punch to the gut, but she seems unaffected as she lands.
  1400. >Neither of you talk as you reach for eachother again.
  1401. >She goes for a sweep and you jump, landing with a solid punch to her thigh.
  1402. >She recovers instantly and taps you on the head, pushing you back.
  1403.  
  1404. >That's odd. The kick felt lighter than it should have been.
  1405.  
  1406. >She tries to follow up with a punch to the gut, but you catch it, and strike across the cheek.
  1407. >You next hit misses as she ducks and pulls you, then butts her head into you.
  1408. >You wrap your free arm around your neck as she realizes her mistake.
  1409. >She fights to lift you off your feet and you let go, landing on the ground.
  1410. >She turns around and rears back for a stomp.
  1411.  
  1412. “Nope.”
  1413. >You flick up your legs and catch her chest with your feet, then grab her hooves.
  1414. >You plant two solid kicks to her chest, then drop her, and sucker punch as she catches herself.
  1415. >She plants a couple punches to your gut before you can roll her off.
  1416. >This is beginning to hurt.
  1417.  
  1418. >You scoot away and get up, and she stands as well.
  1419. >She charges you and you pop her in the snout.
  1420. >While she blinks, you grab her barrel and lift.
  1421. >[spoiler]Oh got why do ponies weigh so much.[/spoiler]
  1422. >The best you can, you throw her down to the ground again, stunning her.
  1423. >You lean down and take her in a headlock, then lean where her legs can't make good contact with the ground.
  1424.  
  1425. >You've got her right where you want her, and start applying pressure.
  1426. >You pull tighter as she starts writhing in your grip.
  1427. >She tries to hit you any way she can, to get you to budge, but to no avail.
  1428. >She efforts get weaker and weaker, and you can see her eye look back at you, then start loosely moving around.
  1429. >She spasms as she gives in, nearly going limp, then the ref rings the bell.
  1430.  
  1431. >”Anon wins the match!”
  1432. >You drop her, and she immediately gasps for air.
  1433. >The ref helps her up and walks her to the edge.
  1434. >You just hop over the nearest edge and head back to your seat.
  1435.  
  1436. >As you sit, Pinkie motions for a hoof bump.
  1437. >”Good fight! She's probably going to be feeling that tender rib, though.”
  1438. “Yeah. I feel like I could have done better.”
  1439. >”You should be proud! These are trained professionals.”
  1440. >She pauses.
  1441. >”Oh, right! I'm up. Can you hold my popcorn?”
  1442. “Sure thing, Pinks. Good luck.”
  1443. >”Thanks!”
  1444.  
  1445. >She hops around and gets into her own fight, and you casually eat her popcorn.
  1446. >Yes, you are eating what she asked you to look after.
  1447. >You'll buy her more.
  1448. >Actually, where did you put your b-
  1449. >”Hey handsome.”
  1450.  
  1451. >You nearly give yourself whiplash looking next to you.
  1452. >The little harlot whose ass you just choked out is sitting next to you, lazily leaning on your side.
  1453. >How in god's good name...
  1454.  
  1455. “Didn't we agree on a bet? I won.”
  1456. >”Baby, I think we both won tonight.”
  1457. >She looks up at you with big eyes and a bright smile.
  1458. >You can't help but think you've seen it before somewhere.
  1459. >...
  1460. >Wait a second.
  1461.  
  1462. “Have we done this before?”
  1463. >She nods.
  1464. >”At your party.... remember?”
  1465. >No, not entirely. But you're getting a vague sense of deja vu.
  1466. “You...came up to me.”
  1467. >”Uh huh.”
  1468. “And....I punched you.”
  1469. >”You're missing quite a few details there.”
  1470. “Fill in the blanks for me then.”
  1471. >She leans against your side as she recalls.
  1472.  
  1473. >”I said that I could protect you in this new, dangerous world you know nothing about, if you wanted. You said you didn't need any protection. I told you to prove it, and you did.”
  1474. >She caresses your thigh with a hoof.
  1475. >”And I must say. It's nice to have found a stallion that knows how to take care of himself.”
  1476.  
  1477. >Alright, now you're piecing everything together.
  1478. >Also, you feel a little used.
  1479.  
  1480. “Well, that's nice, but I'm still not interested.”
  1481. >”Well, we can start slow.”
  1482. “Just how lonely are you?”
  1483. >Her smile drops, her eyes shift, and she rubs her forelegs.
  1484. >”Uhhmmmm...”
  1485. >That's all the answer you need.
  1486. “Give me, like, thirty seconds.”
  1487.  
  1488. >You stand up and look around for your little dragon buddy.
  1489. >You see him sitting next to Spike and Twilight, so you crouch-walk in the front to get to them quickly.
  1490. >Twilight smiles as you approach.
  1491. >”I see you two are chatting now. Did everything work out?”
  1492. “Not quite. We're ironing out the details. Flint, do you mind helping me for just a second?”
  1493. >”Sure.”
  1494. >He hops up and follows you, leaving Twilight and Spike with their raised eyebrows.
  1495.  
  1496. >You take him back and sit him down next to the mare, and you sit next to him.
  1497. “Okay. This is Flint, the new resident dragon. Flint, this is, uh...”
  1498. >”My name's Hard Tack!” She exclaims with a smile.
  1499. “Right.” You grab Flint's arm gently. “Flint, can you do that electrical thing with your claw?”
  1500. >”Uh, sure?”
  1501. >He arcs lightning between each of his claw tips, and Hard Tack looks at it in awe.
  1502. >You quickly guide Flint's claw down to Tack's cutiemark.
  1503. >BZZZT
  1504. >”EEP!”
  1505.  
  1506. >She thumps her leg against the ground, then gives Flint a blushing smile.
  1507. >Flint fights out of your grip for doing that.
  1508. >”What the heck?”
  1509. >You ignore his reaction.
  1510. “He's usually awake around the twilight hours. If you could keep your visiting to then, thanks.”
  1511. >”What's this about?” He's still looking at you.
  1512. “Oh, and he's, like, fourteen.”
  1513. >”I can wait it out.” She says.
  1514. >”Seriously. What's going on?”
  1515. >She leans down next to Flint and gives him a gentle hug.
  1516. >”Say, Flint. Do you want to go get some dinner?”
  1517. >”Dinner?”
  1518. >”Uh huh. I'll buy whatever you want.”
  1519.  
  1520. >He looks at you, as if for some kind of approval, then turns back when you don't react.
  1521. >”I'd love some dinner.”
  1522. >”Well come on, I know a great place with big greasy sandwiches.”
  1523.  
  1524. >You wave him off as he follow's Tack.
  1525.  
  1526. >Well, trying to get her to hold to her word didn't work so well, but in the end, you think you finally got most of that thorn out of your side.
  1527. >Who knows. Maybe Flint will even thank you for it.
  1528. >All in all, it's turned out fine. You can go back to your projects and fixing the damn ship behind you.
  1529.  
  1530. >But first, let's see if you can earn one of the prizes.
  1531. - - -
  1532.  
  1533. “I can't believe I lost to you.”
  1534. >Pinkie chews through more popcorn.
  1535. >”I can't either! Guess you weren't motivated enough, huh?”
  1536. >You give her a soft stare, and she just shrugs to you, then holds out her bag.
  1537. >”Want some more?”
  1538. >You grab a fist full and start mulling over the rest of the night.
  1539.  
  1540. >So you kicked Tack's ass and promptly lost to Pinkie.
  1541. >It'd hurt your ego if you didn't understand just how fast she is at moving around.
  1542. >She tired out everyone -including you- and just wrestled them when they got exhausted.
  1543. >She even managed to get third place.
  1544. >Since you lost well before, you could have made bets yourself, but you didn't care to. You'd rather sit and relax; enjoy the game for what it is.
  1545. >So you sat and ate Pinkie's popcorn until the end, hardly getting up after your own loss.
  1546. >But now the fights are over.
  1547. >There's a few little fillies -guards to be, you believe- pinning eachother on the ring. They flop this way and that while some mares shout pointers.
  1548. >Most of the rest, though, are slowly heading for the exit.
  1549. >Any crew are cleaning up quickly, since it's past midnight and they're likely tired.
  1550. >You and Pinks are they only two that really sat still and chilled.
  1551. >Even Twilight bailed.
  1552. >You were sure expecting her to come over and talk to you about Hard Tack, but she probably had Spike on her mind at that point.
  1553. >Dude was knocked straight out.
  1554. >Tomorrow morning though, guaranteed.
  1555.  
  1556. >You remove your legs from the bench in front, and someone collects it for their things.
  1557. >Since you're about to lose your seat anyways, you peer around for the host of this little event.
  1558. >You don't find her very quickly.
  1559. >In fact, you can find her nearby at all.
  1560. >You turn to Pinkie.
  1561. “Hey, where'd Fizzle go?”
  1562. >She shrugs.
  1563. >”Last I saw she was over talking with Biggs, but she left already.”
  1564. >Alright. She's not out here. Not over in the crowd, either.
  1565.  
  1566. >You look up towards the cabin on the ship.
  1567. >A shadow moves across the open door, and you know where she is.
  1568. “See you later, Pinkie.”
  1569. >She waves you off as you move towards the ship.
  1570. >You climb the outer skeleton at a brisk pace, then vault the rail.
  1571. >You approach the doorway and peek inside.
  1572.  
  1573. >Fizzlepop is standing over her chest. Gold pieces and platinum bars are stacked neatly on the side, while she scribbles on some note.
  1574. >You gently tap on the door, and she turns to the side to see you.
  1575. “How's the pull?”
  1576. >She hums as she places the remaining money.
  1577. >”Enough to finish repairs, I think. If I'd known this town had such a gambling problem, I might not have bothered getting a job.”
  1578. >You chuckle.
  1579. “Yeah, Ponyville has more money than it looks. Fruit exports are top dollar.”
  1580.  
  1581. >She places the last of the bits and pulls the lid down, locking the chest.
  1582. >She sits there with her hoof on the lid, frozen in thought.
  1583. >After a small moment, she looks back at you again and saunters over.
  1584. >”Sorry. What was it you wanted?”
  1585. “Just checking up on you.”
  1586. >”Hmm.”
  1587. >You back up as she comes out, closing the door behind her.
  1588. >She looks up at you with those lidded eyes.
  1589. >They're a little glittery from starlight, the lights gently dancing as she moves.
  1590. >She brushes by you and takes a seat at the rail, staring over the crew still around.
  1591. >”Sorry. I'm just tired is all.”
  1592. >Aren't we all?
  1593.  
  1594. >You sit next to her and hang your legs over the edge.
  1595. >You look over and see that Pinkie's gone, and not much of the crowd is left.
  1596. >The lights are all down, and everyone is working in the moonlight.
  1597.  
  1598. “So. What's the plan now?”
  1599. >She glances over to you, then to the yard.
  1600. >”Finish the ship. Then... I don't know.”
  1601. >She trails off. For a moment, you're not sure If she wouldn't rather be alone, getting some sleep.
  1602.  
  1603. >”Anon, have you ever lost your motivation before?”
  1604. >Lost it entirely?
  1605. “Not really. I've always had something to move on to.”
  1606. >She continues to stare on, but you can see she's mulling over your answer.
  1607. >”Up until now, I've always been that way. From the day I lost my horn, I'd always have some objective in mind. Revenge. The next conquest. The works.”
  1608. “And now...”
  1609. >”...and now, I don't.”
  1610. >Right.
  1611. >You adjust yourself.
  1612. >This isn't something you know how to talk about, but you should try, right?
  1613. >You're not sure you have much more than some fortune-cookie advice, though.
  1614.  
  1615. “Well, we just need to think about what you're going to do after the ship's done.”
  1616. >”Start a shipping company, probably. But then, what?” She turns to you. “Then just run the same routine forever?”
  1617. “You don't have to do that. If you own the ship you can hit whichever ports you want.”
  1618. >”Ad lib shipping isn't normally a great business model.”
  1619. “Well, no Equestrians are daring to go to Klugetown. You'd have a monopoly.”
  1620. >”And run between there and here forever?”
  1621. >Right. That wouldn't solve it.
  1622. “Maybe rent out the ship for travel? It could take you all over.”
  1623. >She shifts her legs.
  1624. >”Sounds reasonable, but I don't know. I'm sure anything across Equestria would have been well established by now.”
  1625. “Not between here and Mount Aris. Or any of the other lands you'd been to.”
  1626. >She turns an unfocused gaze forward, mouthing something.
  1627. >”Maybe. Most of the lands are unnmapped. I'd have to get a good navigator that could guide by memory.”
  1628. >She shakes her head.
  1629. >”I still don't think it'll solve my problem. They're all good things to do in the meantime, but none of it is filling me with conviction.”
  1630.  
  1631. >You're a little short on ideas, then.
  1632. >You wish you had an answer for this, but you really don't.
  1633. >Maybe just... keep pressing?
  1634. “So do you have any ideas on what would?”
  1635. >She flicks her ear to listen better.
  1636. “You were constantly traveling. You never knew what tomorrow would bring. I guess you love high stress environments?”
  1637. >”'Love' isn't the right word. I function well with stress.”
  1638. “Close enough. It's what you know. We just need to find you something that fills a similar role.”
  1639. >”Is it really that simple?”
  1640. “Probably not. But it's a start.”
  1641. >She furrows her brows, then relaxes, lost in thought.
  1642. >You clear your throat.
  1643. “I think the more important part is to keep an eye out for opportunities. Just because we can't think of anything doesn't mean there isn't something for you. Sometimes it just takes a while to figure out what to do.”
  1644.  
  1645. >You both sit there in silence for a small amount of time.
  1646. >Luna's moon is shining bright, but rogue clouds are wafting over the forest, and any remaining crew are rushing to take their equipment away.
  1647. >Fizzlepop is still looking onward, still mulling over something.
  1648. >You stretch out your arms, then start rubbing the sore spots on your thigh.
  1649. >”I'm sorry.”
  1650. “Hmm?”
  1651. >You look at her, confused.
  1652. >”I'm pawning off my problems on you.”
  1653. >You shrug.
  1654. “Not really. Friends help eachother. Besides, I like solving problems.”
  1655. >”Well, thanks.”
  1656. >She turns to you and points to herself.
  1657. >”Hey, since you're in such a problem-solving mood; Wanna find me a new horn?”
  1658. >You both give a tired chuckle, quiet and uncaring.
  1659. “Sure! Sure. But it'll cost you a leg.”
  1660. >Another chuckle.
  1661.  
  1662. >You both let the quiet creep in again.
  1663. >All the crew members are gone. The yard has no trace of the event, and the clouds are rolling over.
  1664. >The cool air brushes by and comforts you.
  1665. >You're tired, sort of. You could probably fall asleep if you laid down here, but if you so much as stand up, you feel you'll be awake for hours.
  1666. >So you decide to sit and enjoy the not so lonely silence.
  1667. >...
  1668. >Was that a water drop?
  1669. >You look up and felt another drop.
  1670. >The darkened sky holds no lightning, but you can feel the storm coming.
  1671. >You slowly stand up and turn to Fizzle.
  1672. “Hey, rain's about to start out here. I think I'm gonna go home for the night.”
  1673. >She doesn't say anything. She doesn't even look at you.
  1674. “Fizzle?”
  1675. >You wave your hand in front of her, but then, in the dim light, you realize her eyes are closed.
  1676. >Sh-... she fell asleep.
  1677. >You snap your fingers a couple times, but get no reaction.
  1678.  
  1679. >The dripping turns to light rain. It'll get heavier soon.
  1680. >You move around to Fizzle and shake her shoulder a bit.
  1681. >She doesn't wake.
  1682. >Bit of a hardened sleeper, huh?
  1683. >She's probably had to sleep through canon-fire at some point.
  1684. >Well, it'd be rude to just leave her here...
  1685.  
  1686. >You wrap your arms around her torso and try to lift, but her taller frame and the awkward position means all you achieve is lifting her hindquarters.
  1687. >And her legs lock, keeping her in position.
  1688. >Ha! That's right.
  1689. >You totally forgot ponies can sleep on all four like it's nothing.
  1690. >Shit, how's she staying asleep through it though?
  1691. >You'd flinch at the first touch.
  1692.  
  1693. >You try again and partially get her off the ground.
  1694. >Her legs gently scrape across ground as you waddle into the cabin, careful not to bump her into the door.
  1695. >You stand her next to her bed, then forcefully roll her over into the mattress.
  1696. >With that done, you grab one of the lanterns on the wall and light it up.
  1697. >She probably won't miss this for a night. Just make a note to give it back...
  1698. >You close the door on the way out, turning off the light just before you do.
  1699. >In the increasing rain, you hook the lantern on your pants and hop over the rail, careful not to slip.
  1700.  
  1701. >And in the dead of night, you retreat from the rain, eager for some rest.
  1702.  
  1703. - - -
  1704.  
  1705. >A crash rouses you from your sleep.
  1706. “-where I damn well plea...”
  1707. >Your eye rip open, your fists clenched.
  1708. >Woken on the floor, you shuffle away papers and go for the door, promptly forgetting whatever the dream was.
  1709. >You whip open the door and look around.
  1710. >Spike is sitting on his ass, rubbing a bump on his head.
  1711. “Did I do that?”
  1712. >He shook his head, standing up. “No. I've just got a case of bad luck today.”
  1713. >Sounds like a him problem.
  1714. >You lean on the frame.
  1715. “So, how can I help?”
  1716. >He snaps his fingers.
  1717. >”Twilight wants you to drop by some time today if you can.”
  1718. >Must be about Hard Tack. Hopefully it's so she can lay it to rest.
  1719. >You shrug.
  1720. “Maybe. I'd rather talk to Flint first. He hadn't come back from his date.”
  1721. >He gives a thumbs-up.
  1722. >”I'll make sure to let her know.” He turns toward town and marches off. “Later!”
  1723. “Later.”
  1724.  
  1725. >You close the door and look around.
  1726. >The mess of papers and books lying about stare back at you.
  1727. >You'd never really seem it as a problem, because you've never really lost anything in the mess, but some part of you still insists you need to fix this.
  1728. >Later, though. You don't think there's an office store in Ponyville.
  1729. >And it's gonna suck if you have to go all the way to Fillydelphia. Surely Canterlot will have something.
  1730. >Just another thing to do, you suppose.
  1731.  
  1732. >You shift around the room, trying to remember what you were supposed to do next.
  1733. >It's Saturday, so no work from Fizzlepop. The town hall's board should have some work but... maybe you could go pester Dr. Skinner some more.
  1734. >Nah. It'd probably do you some good to go check on Flint first. If everything went right, you put Hard Tack's eyes squarely on him and she'll give you some room.
  1735.  
  1736. >You grab your every day carry and shuffle out, locking the door as you do.
  1737. >You shouldn't be too long. You're pretty sure you know where to find them...
  1738.  
  1739. - - -
  1740.  
  1741. >”Okay! So, your questionnaire about building a new school is taken care of.”
  1742. >Spike looks over a list while you tidy up your desk.
  1743. >”Your letter about building supplies is sent. Luna confirmed the meteor shower for tomorrow night. We're still waiting for Anon to drop by and...” He scratches down a detail. “Applejack is still out visiting family.”
  1744. >You look up at the clock above, surprised at the time.
  1745. “Great! It's not even noon yet. We'll have plenty of time to relax this weekend.”
  1746. >Spike puts the items down and stretches.
  1747. >”Yep. Plenty of nap time. Just as soon as I finish my comics.”
  1748. >You roll your eyes.
  1749. >He's been getting into them more and more recently. You'd rather he read something a little more mature, but you don't want to get discourage him from getting into reading.
  1750. >At least he hasn't gotten any enchanted ones again.
  1751.  
  1752. >The front door crashes open loud enough for you both to hear.
  1753. >Spike promptly picks his pen back up and checks off the final box on his list.
  1754. >”And there's Anon.” He sighs. “He's going to break that thing, I just know it.”
  1755. >He hops down and marches out the door. “I'll send him in.”
  1756. “Thank you Spike.”
  1757. >”No problem.” He closes the door on his way out and yells. “Quit slamming my door!”
  1758. >A muffled conversation goes on before in comes Anon and Flint.
  1759. >You sit patiently while they finish up.
  1760. >”-fine. It's enchanted or something.”
  1761. >”I'll stop worrying when you stop slamming.”
  1762. >”It's not gonna break.”
  1763. >The two seem to huff at each other before Anon shuts the door.
  1764.  
  1765. >As they approach, you glance at a few small notes, reminding you of your thoughts.
  1766. >You stand up. You place your hoof over the front of your chest, focusing on the weight of your next words.
  1767. “Anon, I'm-”
  1768. >”Forgiven.”
  1769. >You hesitate long enough for them both to take a seat.
  1770. >Anon is trying to hide a smirk behind his hand, faking an itchy face.
  1771. >You furrow your eyebrows at him, and he cracks open a full smile.
  1772. “I worked hard on that apology!”
  1773. >”I don't doubt that, but it's hardly necessary. I know you're just trying to look out for me.”
  1774. >Darn it. You were going to share what you learned and everything.
  1775. >You stuff away the notes. Maybe you can go compile everything in your journal later.
  1776. “So how is it with Hard Tack?”
  1777. >He sticks both thumbs up, and you happily scribble on some paper at your side.
  1778. >”We've almost got it all figured out.”
  1779. “Great! So, she's leaving you alone now, or...?”
  1780. >”She'll drop by every once in a while to show Flint around, take him to eat, all that. So... we'll see.”
  1781. >You tap your hoof.
  1782. “I guess we will then.”
  1783. >You look at the teenage dragon.
  1784. “So how do you feel about this, Flint?”
  1785. >He raps against his necklace a couple times.
  1786. >”Well, I don't know. She's nice, but... I guess I'm still surprised.”
  1787. >You nod along.
  1788. >It's to be expected. He's likely still going through some kind of hormonal stage, and the issues of being used for an army sure aren't going to help anything.
  1789. >You also want to make sure he isn't being cornered into this, or feeling like it anyway.
  1790. >Obviously, the best course is to take everything slow and steady.
  1791. “If you ever have second thoughts or change your mind about something, come talk to me. I know Anon here can be willful, but you don't have to do anything you don't want to.”
  1792. >He nods.
  1793. >After a bit of silence, Anon speaks.
  1794. >”So, is that all you needed to talk about?”
  1795. >No, not really.
  1796. >But the next topic is a bit more sensitive.
  1797. “Actually, I have something else.”
  1798. >You flick your eyes to Flint.
  1799. “Do you mind if I talk to Anon alone?”
  1800. >He hops out of the chair and doesn't hesitate to move outside.
  1801. >”Sure thing. I'll go hang out at the square or something.”
  1802. >”Have fun.” Anon called back.
  1803.  
  1804. >With him gone, it's just you and Anonymous.
  1805. >You sigh, putting away the things you were holding with your magic grasp.
  1806. >As you trot around and jump into the now-vacant chair, Anon straightens up, keeping his eyes on you.
  1807. >You definitely have his attention now.
  1808. >”Is this the part where you chew me out in private so the kids don't have to watch?”
  1809. >You giggle.
  1810. “No. I wanted to thank you and talk about Fizzlepop.”
  1811. >He shifted slightly, prompting you to continue.
  1812. “She came to me earlier and told me about your discussion last night. She seemed rather elated. It meant a lot to her.”
  1813. >A look of confusion crosses his face.
  1814. >”We didn't exactly solve any of her problems. Hell, I'm not entirely sure I helped her at all last night.”
  1815. >You shake your head.
  1816. >Ponies aren't equations; you know that these kinds of problems are more than merely 'solved' or 'unsolved'.
  1817. “Maybe not for the problem you're thinking of.”
  1818. >You grab an old, yellowed book from the corner of your desk.
  1819. >The edges are rough, and the spine is in tatters.
  1820. >You were heartbroken when you first saw it. Even more when you found out what it was.
  1821. >You place it in his hands.
  1822. >”What's this?”
  1823. “It's Fizzlepop's Journal.” You start. “The entire time she was with the army, she carried it with her. She never used... she never wrote in it. She only read it. Tempest Storm couldn't afford to forget what Fizzlepop Berrytwist lost. But Tempest is gone. When she shuffled through her things after she got here, she wanted to throw it away. She thought it was worthless to keep. I had to beg her to keep it, but she wanted nothing to do with it, so she gave it to me.”
  1824. >You throw your forehoof around.
  1825. “I already asked if I could read it. She didn't care, so I read it all. Do you know what I found out, Anon? The Fizzlepop Berrytwist of today is NOTHING like the one of yesterdecade.”
  1826.  
  1827. >He nods along.
  1828. >”What does this have to do with our discussion somehow helping?”
  1829. >You tap your hooves.
  1830. “I'll circle back to that.”
  1831. >You place a hoof on the book.
  1832. “Do you want to leaf through a few pages?”
  1833. >He raps his fingers a few times, lost in a sea of thought; then carefully places the book down on your desk, pushing it away.
  1834. >”I trust her to tell me if she wants. If not, well, sometimes it's just better to leave it be.”
  1835. >You look at him, pensive.
  1836. >You thought he'd be more curious.
  1837. >And 'leaving it be' is definitely the wrong choice here.
  1838. “Alright. Just the important bits then.”
  1839. >Pausing, you take a breath.
  1840. “Fizzlepop used to love parties. She used to throw them for her friends and neighbors. Filly-Fizzlepop loved cake, icecream, fireworks, dancing! She used to get so excited at every holiday! Hearth's Warming was her favorite time of the year!”
  1841. >He continues with his curious look.
  1842. “How did she act at her welcome party?”
  1843. >”She talked. Hardly drank or ate. Was annoyed by the music.”
  1844. “Yes! She acted the same way when we began the Friendship Festival in Canterlot. She was dismissive until she showed the world what she could do. She made magic fireworks better than anypony had ever seen!”
  1845. >You hop down and pace, suddenly unable to sit still.
  1846. “For that moment... for those precious seconds, I saw the real her. Her eyes were open to me. To the world. She was happy. Content. Nothing else mattered.”
  1847. >You pause, letting everything sink in.
  1848. “Anonymous. Do you know what her cutiemark is?”
  1849. >He looks at you, wrapped in more concentration with each moment passed.
  1850. >”A shake and fireworks.” He states.
  1851. “And do you know what her special talent is?”
  1852. >He remains silent for a long moment.
  1853. >”I never asked.”
  1854. “And she doesn't like to say. I found it in her journal. Celebrations, Anon. Her special talent is celebrating. The past, the present, holidays, festivals. You have no idea how many times she played the flower-filly for weddings, when the bride and groom couldn't find a family member.”
  1855. >”Are you sure it's her journal?”
  1856.  
  1857. “I know- I know. It almost sounds like Pinkie, but I'm certain. She told me herself.” You continue. “So, I thought to myself, 'Why the disdain for parties? What's the different between a party and a celebration? Aren't they one and the same?'”
  1858. >You huff.
  1859. “I'd been stuck, trying to figure it out. It wasn't until this morning that everything clicked. She said your discussion meant a lot to her, and she was... happy, I guess! And I thought, 'That's it! That's the difference! A party is just a party; a celebration has meaning!'”
  1860. >You look right at him.
  1861. “She was happy when she showed us her magic at the friendship festival because it was the part that meant something to her. Last night, even if you didn't solve anything, you tried. That meant something.”
  1862. >You take a deep breath, tracing over your path of logic again.
  1863. “When her horn was taken, she stopped writing. It was her final entry. When she ran away, she lost everything. Her home, her friends, her family -if she even had any. So, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that all cause for concern?”
  1864. >”Couldn't be anything else, I imagine.”
  1865. “Exactly! From the day she set out from Equestria, nothing was anything more than an obstacle to her true goal. If it set her back, it would upset her. If she conquered it, it didn't help because she still didn't have what she wanted.”
  1866. >At least, that's the most sense you can make at the moment.
  1867. >You look at him, making sure he's still following along.
  1868. “I think... I think that's how it was. Her talent was... IS celebrating. She lost everything worth celebrating, then just grew apart from the concept. She was frequently surrounded by aggressors; became distant to positive contact, maybe even reject it. Without anypony to fall back on, she felt she had to double down just to survive. She felt alone and... somepony that's alone can pretty easily convince herself that connecting is useless.”
  1869. >You sure know how that feels.
  1870. “Or, worse... a liability. So she sealed up everything and buried it. Then...”
  1871. >Wait, hold on.
  1872. >You lost your train of thought.
  1873. >What was... okay, right.
  1874. “So, she pushed out her old self and invested -for years- in her new self. Most of her honed skills have so little to do with what her calling is. And now, after the whole time, Tempest is over. She's gone. But Fizzlepop spent so much time pushing away her old self, she can't just jump back again. So, now she's stuck. Part of her old self is still there, pulling on the thread and trying to get out, but can't. It has to fight years of her daily training to be as she is today.”
  1875. >You look at him expectantly.
  1876. >His brows are furrowed and eyes are wandering without real focus.
  1877. “Did I lose you?”
  1878. >”No, no.” He shakes his head. “So, you think she has some kind of split-personality-”
  1879. “Oh nonono. Nothing that extreme.”
  1880. >You take a quick breath.
  1881. “I just think that she's... having trouble consolidating who she was, with who she is.”
  1882. >He keeps staring.
  1883. “Old her loved celebrations; that part of her is really her. New her doesn't love parties; that part of his is really her too. Now, the hard part, is putting those two things together.”
  1884. >He nods along.
  1885. >”So, to help this, you want me to do...”
  1886. “Nothing.” You pause. “Wait. I mean nothing different.” You lean over your desk. “You're already exactly in the position most beneficial to helping Fizzlepop.”
  1887. >”Okay. Sounds easy. How does this help, though?”
  1888. “If-... She hasn't had a real, convincing reason to celebrate anything. If we can give her one, I think we can help her rediscover the part of her she left behind. Bring it to life. We can't just get her horn back, but we can get the next thing she lost; friends.”
  1889. >He crosses his arms and gives a blank expression.
  1890. >At least, you think he does.
  1891. >His tiny eye movements can be difficult to read sometimes.
  1892. >But the length of silence following does prove he is thinking it over.
  1893. >After a while, he shakes his head and offers a nearly silent laugh.
  1894. >”So the same as usual, then? Be a friend until the problem works itself out? You didn't have to offer up all the psychoanalysis just to tell me that.”
  1895. >You sit down behind your desk.
  1896. “A bit much?”
  1897. >”About ten bits or so, really. Were you working on it all morning?”
  1898. “Well, not ALL morning.”
  1899. >”Uh huh.” He says. “Just, don't keep yourself up tonight over it, okay? Fizzle's not going anywhere.”
  1900. “I know that. I just feel like she needs my focus.”
  1901. >You did promise to do everything you could to help, after all.
  1902. >He stands up, stretching his legs.
  1903. >”So, that's all of it? Anything else to get off your chest?”
  1904. “No, that's pretty much all right now.” You pause. “I know you haven't known her that long, but... it sounds reasonable, right?”
  1905. >He shrugs.
  1906. >”I don't see any holes in it, but this isn't really my expertise.”
  1907. >You nod.
  1908. “Well, thanks for listening. Let me know if you need anything.”
  1909. >He waves as he walks towards the door.
  1910. >”Will do.”
  1911. >He exits. Shortly after, you realized you forgot something.
  1912. “Oh, and if she's short on funds for the ship, let me know! I'll pay you to do it!”
  1913. >You don't hear a response, so you're not certain he heard.
  1914. >Oh well. You can just tell him later.
  1915. >…
  1916. >You better go over everything again.
  1917. >Make sure you didn’t miss anything important.
  1918.  
  1919. - - -
  1920.  
  1921. >As you leave the castle and head back home, you, Anon, mull over what Twilight said.
  1922. >It made a lot of sense. Mostly.
  1923. >With how strongly ponies you know gravitate towards their purpose in life, you’d think one couldn’t just push herself away from it and be fine.
  1924. >Maybe, after what she went through, she was just as durable mentally as she was physically.
  1925. >Or maybe some other explanation.
  1926. >Let's leave Twilight to the psycho-babble, though.
  1927. >You prefer a more direct approach.
  1928.  
  1929. >Come when you find the right time to talk to her -and you will- you'll hear it straight from the horse's mouth.
  1930. >Who better to know her problems than she who has them, after all?
  1931.  
  1932. >With your mind on the matter made up for now, you carry on to the house.
  1933. >You unlock and lock and make your way in.
  1934. >Lights and gentle fans flick to life as you peruse your things and go about your usual business.
  1935. >As you go through some random designs, you hear an unfamiliar voice in the other room.
  1936. >”There he is.”
  1937. >The DEFCON level drops while you pick up the nearest section of metal something.
  1938. >You stand next to the doorway, poised to swing straight down.
  1939. >A stallion pops his head through the entrance and you strike.
  1940. >He pulls out at the last instant and you earn a hard miss.
  1941. >He looks at you again.
  1942. >”That's not very neighborly of you, sonny.”
  1943. >You jump back into a defensive stance.
  1944. “Breaking into someone's home isn't either.”
  1945. >”How else was I supposed to know you weren't ignoring me? My daughter kept telling me about you, you know!”
  1946. >The muscular batpony -shit, he's almost Big Mac's size- gestures for you to follow him.
  1947. >”Also, I got you a thank you gift!”
  1948. >You hesitate, then follow, keeping your weapon between he and you at all times.
  1949. “Who's your daughter?”
  1950. >”Hard Tack!”
  1951. >Oh no.
  1952. >He points to a cake, and you walk over to it lowering your weapon only a little.
  1953. >It's a small cake, with perfect cursive on top, reading 'Thanks for proving my daughter isn't gay'.”
  1954. >Oh no no.
  1955. >Your lips froze in fear of what was about to occur.
  1956. >”I wanted to thank you for showing my daughter isn't some dyke or something. I'd almost given up on her, but you pulled her through. She's settled for that dragon right now but...” He scoffs.
  1957. >”Well, he's nice but not exactly worth the investment, you know? She kept telling me about how threatening you are and I kept saying 'Missy, you need to jump on that. A hubby that can kick is one worth keeping.'”
  1958. >No. You were through with this crap!
  1959. >”And she couldn't get you to go out with her so I thought 'Maybe he's taken.' But then word around town is you're not so when this little fling with the lizard is over with I'm gonna make sure you and her are all sorts of cozy with each other.”
  1960. >He jabs your leg lightly. “But I'm not gonna break that little dragon's heart so soon -stallions need a good time too, am I right? So until then, I'm gonna keep dropping by and we're gonna get to know each other reeeeeally well.”
  1961. >NO. NO. NO.
  1962. “Out! Get out of my house!”
  1963. >You grab him by the nape and drag him through the front room and out the door.
  1964. >Well, not really drag. He submitted to the motion willfully.
  1965. >But you wish you could carry the fucker and launch him out with your boot.
  1966. >You slam the door on his smile and lock everything up.
  1967. >”It's alright. I know you're probably just worked up and not thinking clearly. I'll come back and we'll talk about what kind of dates you want!”
  1968. >You shut all the windows, starting from that room.
  1969. >You work around the side and come back to the last window.
  1970. >Just before you close it, his face pops up on the other side.
  1971. >”Oh, and let me know what flavors of cake you like!”
  1972. “Fuck off!”
  1973. >You whip it closed, backing away into the heart of your house.
  1974. >The muffled voice continues.
  1975. >”Alright, see you tomorrow! Make sure you're free some night this week so I can bring breakfast over.”
  1976.  
  1977. >You thought you'd solved the problem. All you did was jump to the source.
  1978. >And now you've got the big daddy hunting you, trying to do what his daughter couldn't.
  1979.  
  1980. >Why you?
  1981.  
  1982. >You need locks. More locks. Bigger locks. Magic locks.
  1983. >Something to keep the madness out. And a weapon. You're beginning to wish you'd finished your shotgun already.
  1984. >Salt rounds sound lovely right now.
  1985. >...
  1986. >Maybe... maybe you should try Twilight's way first. Talk to some people.
  1987. >See if you can't root out this problem while it's still fresh.
  1988. >Yeah. But have a backup plan.
  1989. >Just in case.
  1990.  
  1991.  
  1992. - - -
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