[IC] Equestrian Radio Show's Adventure Variety Hour: Explorers of STOMP

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CoffeeHorse

*sip*
Staff member
Council of Elders
Citizen
Located south of Horseshoe Bay is the city of Caballuston. A sleepy little seaside town with few inhabitants but lingering history, the residents go about their average lives as great forces work below the surface. For this is the city that houses the Equestrian Expedition Keep, a privately funded group that collaborates with museums and researchers throughout Equestria in need of talented individuals to brave the ruins of the ancients for discovery and science.

Of course, if only it was that simple.

Seeking out the strongest and smartest of our fair nation, the Keep secretly funds the organization known as the Specialized Team for Obtaining Museum Pieces. It's true goal is to find dangerous artifacts before they fall into the hands of evil. Many unsavory villains would seek out such wonders to plunge the world into chaos for their own fiendish desires. But never fear folks. The heroes are ever ready to discover new wonders, buck the plans of villainy, and STOMP out evil!


*static crackle*

Good evening folks! Hope you all enjoyed that soul stirring musical performance by the Fillyharmonic Orchestra because now it's time for another exciting Saturday night with the Equestrian Radio Show's Adventure Variety Hour! Brought to you by the rock bottom deals of Barnyard Bargains. This week we once again bring you to the explorative exploits of the Explorers of STOMP. No point to dilly dallying, let's bring you to the team...

On a warm and sunny Tuesday afternoon, deep below a renown museum in the sleepy seaside town of Caballuston, a motley multitude has been gathered in a meeting room. This is a new team, awaiting their first assignment together.


You should mingle a bit in character until Brisk Iron enters and starts the briefing. Decided to type up how each was brought to the room for general reference.

Amber Spark:
Amber Spark hears a knock upon her office door. Upon opening it, she sees Zig Zag standing there waiting for her.








"Brisk Iron needs you.
Best not to keep her waiting.
Just follow me, please."
Winding through back hallways, they soon come to an empty office. Soon after, Rhapsody is brought in.


Rhapsody:
Rhapsody hears a knock upon her office door. Upon opening it, she sees Zig Zag standing there waiting for her.
"Brisk Iron needs you.
Best not to keep her waiting.
Just follow me, please."
Winding through back hallways, they soon come to an office with Amber Spark already seated and waiting.

Windrose Weave:
As soon as Windrose Weave enters the museum, a green and pink zebra happily intercepts her.
"Traveler of lands.
Your many skills are needed.
Just follow me, please."
Winding through back hallways, they soon come to an office with two other ponies seated and waiting.

Light Fantastic:
A member of the janitorial staff, a red pegasus, excitedly greets Light Fantastic as she enters the museum. "It's you! It's really...I mean, um...I see you're here for official business. Follow me." Winding through back hallways, they soon come to an office with three other ponies seated and waiting. "Can I have your autograph?"

Night Cap:
A member of the janitorial staff, a red pegasus, cheerfully greets Night Cap as he enters the museum. "Hey there! Seems there's somepony waiting for you so follow me." Winding through back hallways, they soon come to an office with four other ponies seated and waiting. After leaving him for a short period of time, a pegasus was brought in by a green and pink striped zebra. The zebra shyly nodded towards Night Cap before stepping out.

Willow Wisp:
As soon as Willow Wisp enters the museum, a green and pink zebra happily intercepts her.
"Fighter of fires.
Your calm talent is needed.
Just follow me, please."
Winding through back hallways, they soon come to an office with five other ponies seated and waiting.


Amber tried "waiting" for almost five full minutes and defaulted to rearranging her toolcase, something of a challenge considering that each caliper and file and loupe had its own custom-fit slot. She watched hesitantly as each new pony entered the room, looking up anxiously and trying not to make eye contact. When the black pegasus pony first entered, she nearly started a conversation, and she'd almost gotten up the stuffing to do so when the gruff-looking earth pony in the duster entered and her confidence shattered.

Finally, minutes later, she tries again.

Her name - it was something musical, Amber knew that. Melody? Cadence?

"Um, Rhapsody, it's a very nice surprise to see a familiar face!" said Amber, smiling awkwardly. "You're an astronomer, correct? I think - I remember your work on - something to do with - stars - well, maybe you can fill in the details for me. Do you know any of our - " Amber can't help pausing to glance around the room, settling on that much-abused jacket and the hard-edged earth pony wearing it. "Any of our esteemed colleagues in this endeavor?"


Light Fantastic gave the excited pegasus an amused grin as they walked down the hallways.

"I would be delighted to," she said.

She levitated a photo and a quill out of her saddlebag. With a flourish, she signed her name to the photo and gave to her companion.

Once they reached the office, she took note of the other ponies gathered.

"Hello, everypony!" she said brightly, "How are all of you this fine day?"


Amber looks up from Rhapsody at the loud pink unicorn entering the room. "Um, hello!" she says, looking the unicorn over. "I'm Amber Spark. I'm an antiquarian and researcher here. What's your specialization? Ancient caballigraphy? Equipology?" She glances at the unicorn's cutie mark and back to her piercing blue eyes. "Historical ... fashion?"


Night cap sits motionlessly, only his eyes moving as they follow the zebra until she is completely out of sight. He then slowly looks around the room, turning his head as he goes. Finishing his survey of the room, he aims his gaze at the floor and begins to breathe deeply. His eyelids droop.

One ear twitches as he hears Light Fantastic's question. Barely keeping his eyes open, he answers.

"I feel great," he says in a peppy voice.


The Black Pegasus nods as she looks to the pink and green Zebra. "Alright." She says and grabs up a saddle bag and throws it across her flank; might like the rest of her outfit; the rainbow stockings, and currently neon green hairband, the saddle bag was brightly colored, magenta with orange flames patten. She trots through the hallway following Zig Zag until she reaches the room with currently only the unicorn she'd seen around here in passing, Ember this , or maybe Amber that; something or other, she never was that good with names. Her purple eyes focusing on her as she finally speaks up.

Rhapsody nods. "Its nice to see you as well, even if its only passing recognition. Least it means I won't be completely surrounded by wild cards." She replies, taking on her more professional tone at the moment... might as well put on a good first impression. "Yes, I am one of the top astronomers here." Okay... maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but she was very skilled and dedicated to her job and was respected for it... least she thinks she is. "Constellations was what my last paper was about, talking about how they related both to the here and now and gave clues to the past." She replies and notices as the other ponies start to enter.

Her eyes seeming to light up a bit at Light Fantastic, she doesn't know here... but she's colorful... she's a bit in awe and a bit jealous at the same time. "It would be better if it was night, hard to get any work done while the sun is obscuring all the other stars." She says as she tries to hide it, and then looks back to Amber, to answer her last question. "Not really, I've been... busy... with other things, I've not had time to really gather any information on the others."


Light Fantastic flashed a big smile at her fellow unicorn.

"My name is Light Fantastic," she said, "One of Equestria's most famous ballerina ponies. It's pleasure to meet you...ah...I don't think I caught your name. Or any of your names for that matter."

 

CoffeeHorse

*sip*
Staff member
Council of Elders
Citizen
"Amber Spark," Amber says, nodding. "Yes, let's have some introductions. I've just been speaking to Rhapsody, here, who's apparently the very best astronomer they could find. It's very exciting to meet you all - I'm just honored to work with such a highly recommended team."

Amber looks aside at Rhapsody. "Constellations, hmm? That is fascinating. You know, I was on the team that decoded the Canterkythera mechanism, which was used to predict the heavenly cycles, and I've always been intrigued by astronomical equipment and calculating machines. One of the first machines that really caught my eye as a young foal was the famous Crystal Orrery - I assume that you've seen it? Of course you've seen it, everyone's seen it - I just - oh! - think it's really fascinating to see how past Equestrian societies have worked to record and calculate the heavens. There's something very pure about it, I think - our little machines to emulate the vast machine we find ourselves within and unravel its workings. Do you have any - "

Amber catches herself and looks at her hooves.

"Um, it's very nice to meet you, Rhapsody."

Amber looks up to Light Fantastic. "So, Ms. Fantastic. You say that you're a ... a dancer, correct? That's ... that's really wonderful, I think hobbies are very important, you know, I make puzzle boxes sometimes, little ones," Amber says, gesturing with her hooves. "I think it's important to keep one's mind and body sharp! But, um ... what do you do?"

Amber motions with a hoof to the rest of the group to step up and introduce themselves as she takes a step closer to Light Fantastic, looking at her with a curious and slightly uncomfortable smile.


Willow Wisp followed the Zebra, muttering something under her breath about not being a fire fighter...

Looking over the five other ponies present in the room, her face creased into a frown, giving little more than non-committal noises to their greetings.


Despite being the third in the room, Windrose seemed perfectly content to sit quietly and look upon the surrounding conversations with bemused detachment. She seemed to be anticipating the upcoming briefing far more than the small talk around her, although her ears had perked up at the mention of a crystal orrery. She also seemed to have trouble containing a chuckle in exact proportion to the length of Amber's sentences.

At first she had resisted the more cheerful unicorn's temptations to come and introduce herself, but Amber's gesture made it unavoidable. Primarily because everypony else was either asleep, aloof or already talking. She took a step towards the group at large and tried to sound jovial. "Windrose Weave, I walk around and look at things." But not...too jovial.


OOC said
The tense switching is driving me batty. Which should we be using?

"Windrose Weave, nice to meet you," says Amber. "That's a lovely name, and you know, that's quite a - well, that's a very interesting -"

Amber motions to the slumped earth pony stallion and grins nervously. "And you are...?" she asks, motioning with her horn as if to draw a more forthcoming answer out of him.


Tense switching is one of my worst bad habits. I seem to switch between them at random... sometimes even during the same sentence, so no matter what the answer is I'm likely to keep slipping between past and present.

Rhapsody glances to Amber, as the unicorn introduces her. "I doubt that is why I am here. I'm an astronomer, I've got little experience exploring ruins and the like. It's not like I'm adept at traversing rough terrain or beating up monsters or anything. Its like when isn't there a monster or guardian when ruins are involved? Last thing we need to do is awaken or piss off some ancient god-like entity like Discord or Ahuizotl; an Astronomer is going to be little help there..."

Though as her work is brought up, Rhapsody's demeanor seems to change some, her tone sounding less formal and seemingly any worries she might have of being here melt away. "Oh, yes... I've heard some about that. Always was eager to get a real look at that, though I've heard its not in the best shape. But I guess not every artifact is gonna be nowadays... Learning of new, or rather ancient ways of how ponies used to chart and study Luna's great tapestry has always been one of my biggest interests." She says and giggles as you bring up the orrery. "Seen it? I've spent several of the better nights of my life studying and trying, hoping, to learn even more about it and apply it to my own studies. There's no way they have all it's secrets figured out yet. Always seems like there is one more to figure out, even when you're sure there isn't."

The Black Pegasus almost seeming to match Amber's speed as she gets into discussing her thoughts and ideas, before the Unicorn catches herself, which seems to have a similar effect for Rhapsody; who glances about as she seems to try and recover her professionalism."Yes... It is a... pleasure to meet you as well Amber." She states and decided to take a seat before she makes an ever bigger foal of herself in front of all these strangers.


"I dance ballet for a living," said Light Fantastic, "You might have heard about my role as the Phoenix in the ballet of the same name. I've danced with many of Equestria's finest ballet companies, but most of the time I stick with the Canterlot Ballet Company.

Constellations? That sounds fascinating. What all does it entail?"


I'm used to screenwriting, so I just use present tense out of habit.

Night Cap raises his head and speaks with a slight smirk

"You all know me. Know how I earn a living."

He glances around the room. The smirk disappears.

"Sorry. Always wanted to say that. The name's Night Cap. I'm an explorer of sorts. I've explored plenty, but I don't usually work with an institution like this. My operations are independent, and poorly funded I might add."

He glances around the room once more.

"To be honest, this is the largest team I've seen. I often just go alone. You could say I do it for the love of it. Seeing things other ponies haven't seen. Learning things other ponies don't know. It calls to me."


Present tense it is, then. I'd started there since Zamuel did, but I noticed myself slipping into past, too - yuck-yuck.

I suddenly realize that I also have to get better at sequencing things in my posts to reflect, like, time. I realized too late that I'd switched Amber's responses to Light Fantastic and Rhapsody out of the habit of responding to the last poster in a thread....

As Rhapsody explains her own experience with antediluvian astronomical aids, Amber can't help feeling excited despite her many and mounting misgivings about the other ponies in the room and her sudden uncertainty about just what kind of project she's signed herself into. Unconsciously, Amber sidesteps closer to Rhapsody. She speaks in a low, quick aside, almost a whisper, to Rhapsody. "We simply must discuss this further in the future. You know we have an extrapolated replica of the Canterkythera Mechanism on display here at the museum, but," and Amber's voice drops further, conspiratorily, "I'm sure we could arrange for you to examine the real thing if you'd like."

Amber turns to the earth pony stallion. "Night Cap, it's very nice to meet you. So you're an experienced adventurer, then? I suppose it's very sensible that we have at least one of your sort on the team - no idea what we might be encountering out there!" Amber can't help glancing skeptically at Windrose and settling on Light Fantastic, sizing her up one last time with an expression of very poorly disguised suspicion, as she motions to the last pony in the room. If Windrose had seemed intimidating, the pegasus who had entered the room last gave Amber echoes of her thesis defense. "And you are ... " Amber asks, motioning with a hoof.


"...ready to start as soon as everypony is seated." Brisk Iron walks into the room with a folder tucked under her left wing.

 

CoffeeHorse

*sip*
Staff member
Council of Elders
Citizen
"Chi-Chief Director Iron!" Amber says, dropping into her seat like a plush doll. "Yes ma'am. Um, very nice to see you here, ma'am."


Night Cap jolts alert at the sound of Brisk Iron's voice. He sits. His eyes fixate on the folder.


Rhapsody nods to Amber. "Yes, another time when were not busy with what likely to be some wild goose chase." She says, though its hard to hide that bright glimmer in those purple eyes, the black pegasus clearly excited at the idea of seeing the real thing, barely able to contain a fangirlish squee of excitement at the prospect.

She blinks as the Cheif Director enters much sooner then she had expected, being a mixed blessing that she's glad that this will be over sooner then later, but annoyed that the prospect of hearing more from Amber is cut short at the moment. She plops her tail down. "Yes, Cheif Director." She says once again in her full professional mode.


Windrose finishes taking her seat about when Amber and Rhapsody start, sitting on the edge with rapt attention. She looked like she'd be wearing an immature grin if she weren't busy taking in as many details as her eyes could scrounge up.


Light Fantastic glanced up as Brisk Iron came into the room.

"Of course," she said.

She took her seat.


Willow Wisp gave Amber Spark an icy look, then took her seat,


Amber crumples a bit under the glare but says nothing, trying to make it clear that she's giving Brisk Iron her full attention while biting back a growing instinct to wink back into the hallway.


Brisk Iron sits at the desk and calmly adjusts her glasses. "For those who don't know who I am, my name is Brisk Iron and I'm the Chief Director of the Equestrian Expedition Keep. Of course, those who do know who I am probably know that this is not for standard Keep business. You are being tasked with a mission of utmost importance." The managerial mare opened her folder, spreading several drawings and a few photos across the table. "Several reports have come in from the northern regions that there has been a steady temperature drop the past few days. Initially, it was not deemed an issue but it's bypassing the Crystal Empire's climate field. This would imply the effect is magical in nature and where the problem lies. We have reason to believe somepony has either discovered the Wand of the North Wind or has gotten close to where it is. The wand itself is one of several long lost relics of great power and would be highly dangerous if it were to fall into the wrong hooves. While the Keep has a northern base, an expert team is needed for the actual searching, both for the dangers of reaching it and for dealing with anything you find there."


Night Cap glances at the photos. His smile returns.

"What are our orders?"


Amber squints as she levitates a couple of drawings for a closer look, seeming to forget entirely about her anxieties and the other ponies in the room with them. "Do we know anything about the wand's history or forging?" she asks, turning away from Brisk Iron as she compares a set of sketches.

OOC:Can I roll for further information about the wand derived from the sketches based on Amber's freaky knowledge abilities? Like, could she try to determine how it was made or what it's made of?

OOC: Edit to add fix skill check:

Amber continues to carefully consider the sketches.

Freaky Knowledge: Antiquarianism

1d20=7 +5 +9 = 21.


"With all due respect, Ma'am; I don't see how we are an 'expert team'. An astronomer that barely leaves her lab, a dancer, an overly excitable researcher, somepony that 'looks at things', then we have the quiet angry one... Only Night Cap seems to have any real experience with this sort of thing." She states simply. "If this really was as dangerous as you believe, wouldn't alerting the Royal Guard or somepony that could actually DO something be more prudent an action? Assembling six strangers with varying degrees of experience, seems more like an invitation to disaster then anything else." The black pegasus, getting a several of her concerns over this whole project off her chest.


Upon hearing his experience spoken of, Night Cap nods his head in proud acknowledgment, with raised eyebrows and a smile.


Willow Wisp's eyes narrowed at the accusation of being 'angry', but kept her objections to herself.


"With all due respect Rhapsody, you and I both know you're in this room for more than just your astronomy degree. Each pony is multitalented. Some more obviously than others. Some of you have been vouched for." Her eyes ever so briefly paused on Night Cap, then Light Fantastic. "But you all have skills of worth. I wouldn't put you at risk if I didn't think you could pull it off. The Royal Guard is quite aware but our northern base is closest to where we think the source is."


Rhapsody caught Willow's eyes narrowing, if the horseshoe fits she huffs to herself. Though at Brisk's comment she blinks abit. Seems that the chief knew of her... Night life... Rhapsody simply nods. "Yes, ma'am."


Suddenly distracted by something other than nasty looks and poor hygiene, Amber, for her part, seems for the first time to be certain she is in the right room. "Yes, I'm sure we'll find out what the loud one and the quiet one are for shortly." She shuffles through the papers, handing one in the direction of Rhapsody. "Hold this one, please." She adjusts her glasses with a hoof as she studies the inscription on the shaft of the wand in one of the sketches. In the drawing, the wand's metallic-looking snowflake head seems to levitate above the shaft.

"I've heard of the Wand of the North Wind, but I'm shocked to see that the rumors are, for the most part, true. Sacrificed magic - the magical talents of unicorns and pegasi forged directly into the material of the wand. Inelegant, barbaric - a little beautiful, though," she says. "No ordinary enchantment this - not that you could control the weather on that scale with ordinary enchantments, unless you're Starswirl the Bearded and you're scheduling a picnic," she continues, pausing to chuckle. "Certainly not the most interesting relic for study, but..." She turns the sketch sideways, calculating; can I get two papers out of this? Three, in a stretch? "But quite a piece of history, and it will certainly be an impressive museum piece - can you imagine touching it, all that old magical power in one place, all those ponies from so long ago just reaching out to you across time ... of course we can only display a replica, at least without a very powerful disabling spell, but I think we can manage the sheen," she says, glancing up at Rhapsody.

"It's not actually metal, you see, but I think I can emulate the lustre with the right alloy, once I can work with it in hoof." Amber looks at the black pegasus with a sideways grin, speaking in a low aside."Still don't think this overly excitable researcher has something to contribute?"

She begins to collect the papers, then glances around the room again, smiling. Her gaze fixes on the pink unicorn that she's almost certain by now really is claiming to be a dancer, then the apparent vagabond who looks at things, and finally for an instant on the angry pegasus, snapping her glance back like a hoof from fire.

She shuffles backward and flops back into her seat, looking attentively and uneasily at Brisk Iron.


Willow Wisp cleared her throat and spoke in a calm, cool voice, "What kind of terrain will we be passing through to pick up this wand?"

 

CoffeeHorse

*sip*
Staff member
Council of Elders
Citizen
Rhapsody watches Amber Spark as she gets her groove on about the wand, there is no sense of shock about all this; only a very pleased smile. "I never said you didn't have anything to contribute," She replies honestly, as the unicorn easily backs up what Rhapsody had learned in the minutes before Brisk entered. "my comment was only a brief summation of your personality based on what little time we had to talk. I only doubt the..." She pauses for a moment, and decides 'sanity' is not the best word choice in front of the boss, "Doubt that a team with no experiences with each other, is really the best choice over a group that is both experienced with objects like this and is used to dealing with each others proclivities." She states, still having her doubts about this collective working despite what Brisk Iron had told her.

"And actually your the one I have the least doubts about, at the moment, thanks to our short discussion earlier." She says, trying to make sure her words come across that she's not thinking less of the others, as she hadn't mean 'overly excitable researcher' as an insult or otherwise doubting in her ability and didn't want a similar 'confrontation' with the rest of the group... okay, maybe she completely doubts the angry one... but that's for the look she gave Amber earlier, and already Rhapsody was starting to have a bit of a dislike towards her; but she's not had enough time to get to know or talk to them yet, so she doesn't have a strong grasp yet of what they bring to the stable either way..


Light Fantastic regarded the photos with curiosity.

"If you don't mind me asking," she said, "What kind of power of this wand possess?"


"It's a very powerful weather control implement," says Amber, somewhat emboldened by Rhapsody's words but nonetheless suddenly speaking very quietly. "And not the cheery Sun Stone kind, by the look of this information...." Amber trails off, looking to Brisk Iron to take the lead.


Light Fantastic gave a slight shudder.

"I can understand why it's so important then," she said.


Night Cap continues to smile.

"So we have an idea where the source is. What do we know about the area? Are there any old ruins, temples, caves, abandoned research stations, anything that might be used as a base of operations? If someone is looking for this thing, I imagine they're not just strolling around out in the open. Might we be able to narrow our search?"


"I'm glad you clued into that detail Amber because most ponies don't. Despite being attuned to the cold, the wand can manipulate all types of weather. As far as travel conditions, it's mountainous permafrost. Exploration has been limited due to the climate though we're narrowing down which mountain we think it may be stored in. We don't know where outside parties might be stationed since it's difficult enough to maintain our own base."


"It sounds like we'd better pack heavy. Now if we do run into unfriendly outside parties out there, how should they be dealt with?"


Brisk Iron slowly looked over the group. "You'll have to use judgement on unfriendlies. It's preferable to detain them so the actual authorities can question them. That said, I understand if you need to...defend...yourselves. Just don't seek out trouble or use needless force."


"Understood. I will use my judgment."

Night Cap ponders for a moment.

"When does our train leave? We'll need to prepare provisions for this mission."


"The base is not on the rail lines. Other travel arrangements have been made. Did anypony else have any questions?"


When Brisk Iron had commented on her observation, Amber had smiled and nodded like a grade school student with a right answer, but she began to look worried as the details of the mission were sorted through. She nodded at Night Cap's mention of collecting provisions; she had felt packed and prepared for anything before the meeting, but now she felt she could take a few minutes to sit down and try to figure out what kind of day she was having. When Brisk Iron asked if there were further questions, she hesitantly looked around the room and slowly started to raise a hoof, then shook her head and nodded.

"Yes, Ms. Iron - I mean, I may be just a bit behind the rest of the group on one significant detail here, and I wonder if you can clarify - well, I just didn't realize that we would be - I don't suppose the wand is acting up on its own, ma'am, and I suppose that if it were exposed to the right circumstances, it could have been activated by accident or something to that effect, but ma'am -"

Amber shook her head. "Do you have any idea what condition - or in whose possession - we should expect to find the wand in, ma'am?"


Rhapsody watches and listens to the questions, being mostly silent and observant during this time. "We're probably all going to need at least some time to gather some supplies for a climate. I don't think any of us could have the level of foresight to pack for the extreme temperature's we'll likely be facing." She states, even though she had some items for the cold, where they were going cold tend to be an understatement. "Unless, you are wanting the wand AND six new ice sculptures for the museum, Madam Iron." She says, trying to be as respectful as possible, when Brisk Iron makes it sounds like they'll have almost no time to prepare before heading out.


Windrose mulled for a few moments before speaking up. She lost any trace of giddiness sometime after Amber raised the possibility of the wand already being found, and throws a concerned glance at the sketches. "If it can lower temperatures across an entire region, freezing over a small ruin or base is no real trouble. I don't usually bring fire enchantments with me."

 

CoffeeHorse

*sip*
Staff member
Council of Elders
Citizen
Brisk Iron responded to the various concerns in a calm and collected manner. "I don't know if the wand acting up on its own would be a good thing or not. Wouldn't have to deal with hostile parties but it may also mean the wand needs to be destroyed outright instead of being recovered. Cold weather gear will be provided for you. I believe we were able to get Light Fantastic's exact size from her theater company though the rest are rough estimates. Amber, collect the folder's contents. Everypony follow me." After walking through several corridors, the team arrived in a room with a large rune circle on the floor with several unicorns standing around it. "Alright, everyone walk to the center of the circle and relax. This will tickle a bit." The unicorns' entire bodies began to emit a pale pink light which soon filled the room. Each of the team members feels something similar to having their face powdered but all over their body. Suddenly, there's a falling sensation, as if being dropped from the greatest of heights! Hurtling and spinning until...stopping. Almost like a mother griffin cradling her hatchlings in her wings. Around the team is different set of unicorns that are clearly drained. And then it hits: the cold. Brisk Iron glares at one of the attendants. "Why isn't the base wa..." "Something's wrong! The warming spell on the base has been eroding over the past hour and something's affecting the backup generator. We do have the gear ready for the team though." Several assistants scramble to get the team into winter coats that seemed to have a subtle warming enchantment.


Night Cap feels cold for only a brief moment, before it gives way to an almost cozy numbness. Every hair on his body straightens out. Nothing else moves.

Feeling returns as Night Cap struggles to cooperate with the unicorn trying to put a winter coat on him. Every time he stiffly begins to move a limb he feels an unfamiliar sensation, like nothing he'd ever felt before. Cold? No. "Cold" is a word he'd used plenty of times, and this feeling is not what that word meant. This feels more like what he imagined being on fire might feel like.

He speaks without separating his teeth.

"How much gear do you have?"


Amber splays all four legs and then stands on her hind legs momentarily to peer at her back, shaking her tail, as she checks herself over. "I think that was fun," she says through a shiver, her horn crackling with tiny sparks in tune with her shaking. "I'll need to get back to you in a few minutes," she says as she gratefully accepts a coat and draws it over herself, "but yes, I believe that was fun." She draws the collar closed, adjusts her saddlebag strap, and glances around the room, still shivering.


Light Fantastic let out a sharp hiss as the cold hit her body.

"Great Celestia!" she exclaimed, "I don't think even the winters in the Crystal Empire are this cold."

She graciously accepted the coat from one of the other unicorns.

"Much obliged," she said.

She started to trot in place to keep her blood flowing.

"So what do we do now?"


"Interesting." Said Willow as she was putting on the winter gear.

Turning to Light Fantastic, she asked, "Is that what teleportation feels like..?"


Rhapsody follows along as they are lead out of the room and through parts of the museum she had never knew existed. The black pegasus looks cautiously at the circle, before slowly trotting into it with the rest of the group. Rhapsody gasps and shivers softly as she feels like her whole body is being powdered before seeming to drop from nowhere; an urge to open her wings hitting her but before she can they... stop... like literal air breaks are applied to her and the group's decent. A sharper gasp escapes her lips as the cold hits her. "Buck its cold." She says as a shiver runs through her body. The attendants just barely seeming to the get the coats on quick enough for Rhapsody's liking.

Rhapsody's ears perk as she hears Amber talk of fun. "I've had fun, I know what fun is. This isn't it!" She says with a huff as her body starts to warm up thanks to the coat, before looking over to Light "They're not... Partly because we're further north, and partly because the Empire has magic in place that helps negate the worst of it." She replies and then looks to Amber once more. "Your our expert on the wand, supposedly." She says, not doubting Amber's skills but also not knowing just how far they extend in this topic. "Would the wand be causing the warming spell to deteriorate and generator?"


"I can't feel my wings."


Amber turns to Night Cap and lolls her head, perplexed. "I can't see your wings. Do you think something went wrong with the wink?" She shakes her head. "I've never teleported further than a few feet, myself, but I suppose I can imagine misplacing something along the way, especially if it wasn't attached to me."

She steps over to inspect the stallion's back, then hears Rhapsody's question and looks at the floor, narrowing her eyes.

"My expertise will only really help with the wand itself. I can't tell you much about the spell - oh, if only I could duck down the hallway to Winter Moon's office," she exclaims. "He could tell us whether or not the wand's magic could work its way back through the protective spell or into the machinery. But if I could take a look at the generator, I might be able to tell you more," she says.


Windrose catches her balance coming out of the spell fairly easily, tamely looking down at herself and checking a hoof as if making sure everything was still in order. She glanced at the tired unicorns in turn, mumbling "I suppose it's only short winks that feel like jumping..." She was also becoming frigid, but she could deal with that after a quick glance around the room.

Windrose removed her duster with a sad look as the assistant rushed towards her. "The leg warmers are a bit pointless too," she said with a wry smile at her saddlebag. She glances up at Rhapsody. "Oh, even I could tell you it was probably the staff. I don't think a warming spell would erode from normal cold; wouldn't it just fail to keep it as warm?"


Amber draws out the small notebook she'd been scribbling into in the meeting room out of her saddlebag and sits down, looking over her notes. Her voice takes on the same near-monotone it did when she was taking them.

"Hmm. Yes, you're probably right, Ponywholooksatthings," she says. "But even if the spell spread into this base and chilled it, it shouldn't be affecting the generator, should it?"

I guess I'm rolling to see if my general knowledge of magic is enough to answer the question with any certainty.

20 → 20 + 9 = 29

Whee, likely-useless natural 20.


"There can be number of various reasons that a spell could fail on a theoretical angle. But yes,its the combination of it and the generator's failure that stands out to me." Rhapsody says as she starts to pace back and forth. "It's too much to be a coincidence."


As the assistant briefly noted to Night Cap that they had enough supplies for everypony, Amber Spark was able to make impressive insights over the nature of the situation. While something of the wand's caliber could certainly cause problems, the descriptions used seemed more in line with magical nullification. It would explain why the Crystal Empire was having difficulty keeping the spell out. It also revealed that at least one of the Keep's generators was magical in nature. The slow rate of decay instead of the usual instant deactivation would imply the effect was leaking from somewhere instead of being targeted.


"Not a coincidence," Amber says, still shuffling through her notes and making a couple of quick addenda, "but not weather control magic. Something is probably nullifying the protection spell and the generator - and that might explain the difficulties the Crystal Empire is having against this cold, too." Amber begins tucking away her notes.

She turns to one of the assistants and begins to step away from the group. "Does somepony have an espresso machine that doesn't require magical power? And did anyone find the earth pony's wings?" She pauses and blinks, a snap of electricity from her horn making a soft pop. "Ooooooooh," she says in sudden revelation, holding a hoof to her lip.


Rhapsody nods as Amber starts to comment about her theories. "That's 'good'" She replies, one could almost hear the air quotes around the word good. "So now we have two issues to deal with, the wand and the source of the nullification." She muses mostly to herself as she continues to pace back and forth, part of it to help her think and part of it to help warm her up more. "But that is why I didn't want to jump to conclusions that it was the wand doing this. Unicorn magic isn't as infallible as some like to think, growing up with two unicorns has taught me that much."

"Espresso or something along those lines would be very good. Something warm would certainly help me think more, I think." She says perking an ear to Amber's request. "So, didn't something similar to this happen some time ago? Back when that King Somnambula or whoever attacked?" Rhapsody asks, not being the best with names, especially when its cold and hard to think. "Not saying it's strictly related, but it wouldn't be the first time that this region has experienced such shield failure."

 

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[MANY POSTS LATER]

The stallion glared at Night Cap's attack, only for he and several of the COIN team to be bowled over by a gust from the wand. The pegasus snarked at this,
"I know you pride yourself for 'earth pony hardiness' and all that but you really should wear a jacket like the rest of us. Or a scarf at the very least. Last I checked, monocles don't keep you warm." With a playful midair somersault, she rained a bevy of lightning bolts indiscriminately upon those below her.


[A SUMMARY FROM THE OOC THREAD]

In Season 1, Amber, a resourceful unicorn antiquarian working with the Equestrian Expedition Keep, was selected along with the capable, tough, and surprisingly [scrubbed] astronomer pegasus Rhapsody to join with a group of untrained vagrants and firefighters, and also a dancer, to save the Wand of the North Wind from COIN, a pack of treasure hunters with no conception of proper archeological procedure who had upset it. In the process, Amber learned the value of friendship and a new respect for the divine art of dance.


[VERY EARLY SEASON 2]
However, the two arrived at the break room at the same time as Amber Spark. Not many were there and the food was quite fresh. In addition to the pineapples and fudge already mentioned, there were also danishes and tea.
 

CoffeeHorse

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[EARLY SEASON 2]



The foals crowed closer to Night Cap and the colt asked, "Mister Night Cap, if you're too hurt to help the others, how come you're not in the hospital?"


[...]


"Dude, they put you with the foals?" It seemed that Stumped Ivy and Summery Flutters were finished with their contributions and had decided to meet Night Cap in the safe zone. "We've got a long trip ahead of us so we wanted to make sure you were paid before we left. As far as your services, thank you for your...you. Farewell." Summery Flutters handed Night Cap a hefty bag of bits then briefly waved goodbye before picking her brother up and flying away. Several of the foals stared at the bag.

"Mister Night Cap, are you a pirate?"


A tired looking mare ran up to Night Cap carrying a notepad, "I was trying to get this to Summery Flutters or Stumped Ivy since it looks like they dropped it. Looks like I just missed them but if you catch up, could you give it to them?"


Try and try and try as he might, for all the effort Night Cap put in, he simply couldn't catch up to Summery Flutters and Stumped Ivy as they traveled northward. Now he had an abandoned notebook and a steep hill to scale down. Meanwhile, the mayor gave Willow Wisp her payment. After the mayor left, Veldfire Green pulled Willow Wisp aside, "This means a lot to me. Years ago, my younger brother got trapped in a vildfire. Thankfully, ve managed to get him to safety before he vas seriously injured but it still took it's toll. He's the only adult in the town who didn't participate today. He's too terrified. Mere candles fill him vith fear. I understand that brushfire is a natural part of the area but I didn't vant anypony else to risk getting hurt. Villow Visp, vhat vould you do to protect those you love? Me? I vould give the whole vorld." After a pause, she shook her head and chuckled, "Here I am, laying all my burdens on you. Sorry about that. Besides, vhat am I rambling on about? My friends and family vould never profit from the end of the vorld. Once again, thank you for helping this community."


Night Cap struggled to scale down the side of the hill. Precariously steep and adorned by various brambles, it was a rather dangerous and uncomfortable descent. Above him, he could hear the cries for 'Mister Night Cap' to come back or that perhaps the fire lady could help him.


As Night Cap managed to make it back up to the top, several foals crowded around him wondering why he tried to climb down if he was too hurt to help out.


"Where did you think you were Mister Night Cap?"


"What's a tavern?"


The foals stared at Night Cap in confusion.


Willow Wisp had wanted to leave immediately after getting paid, but she allowed herself to be pulled aside by Veldfire Green before she could take off. She listened intently, but then she was struck by the first question, her worries and problems with Tweet Speak were pulled to the forefront, and her mind fell into high alert. Her feathers and fur bristled instinctively, as if getting bigger could fend off marital problems. She maintained a calm demeanor, but her mind had once again resumed hostilities, she was distractedly listening at best, and Veldfire Green's bright yellow coat was doing her no favors.

Her mind kept working and working and working and then tripped on something the other mare said, "...vould never profit from the end of the world." She knew that phrase, she remembered it from the mountain. Of course, she could hardly forget anything about that mission, but that stood out. Willow's mind crashed to a halt, and her eyes narrowed, and she composed herself.

"Of course, I'm happy to see a job well done. Contact me if you need any problems..." She prepared to take off, "Stomped out."

Taking off, she felt proud of that little wordplay, Tweet Speak would have loved it.



Veldfire Green smiled and waved at the departing Willow Wisp, "I certainly vill!" Meanwhile, the numerous foals that surrounded Night Cap prepared to reply to his question and ask several of their own until they became distracted by the sight of the 'Fire Lady' who they happily cheered and waved to overhead.


Willow Wisp really needed to get going, but she couldn't ignore that kid screaming for hel- Oh, that was Night Cap. She swept downwards and landed quietly.

"Greetings, children." She said, almost leaving it at that, "And Night Cap."


Night Cap looked like he was about to pop, and the last thing Willow Wisp needed to deal with was a stallion with an aneurysm.

"Night Cap, I need to return home quickly," Willow Wisp said, "But, I can fly you down to the base of the hill."


Willow Wisp flew Night Cap down to the bottom of the hill as the foals waved their farewells.


[...]


After getting some info from the locals, Willow Wisp found that Veldfire Green was doing some work outside her home, "Vonderful to see you returned after things vent so svimmingly. Vas there anything else I could help with?"


"Yes. We need to talk. Inside." replied Willow Wisp curtly.


"Very vell." Veldfire Green walked inside and held the door open for Willow Wisp.


Willow Wisp closed the door behind her, and then locked it behind her, for good measure.

Willow Wisp rounded on Veldfire as she cleared her throat, "There is no profit in the end of the world." She quoted, and then affixed Veldfire Green with a cold stare, "What do you know about COIN?"


Veldfire Green sighed and sat down, "You may have noticed from my voice that I'm not from around here. Family moved here vhen I was young and it became home. After vhat happened...vith the fire...I hoped it vould never happen again. I know this area has such fires and it could happen at any time. Two of my employees, Summery Flutters and Stumped Ivy, have been talking vith me the past year about...options. The siblings have been vorking vith this COIN on their off time and kept telling me about travel, meeting new ponies, and the like. The more they talked about it, the m! ore it stayed in the back of my mind. In the end, it came down to money. The town simply couldn't spare the expense to pay you. Flutters and Ivy said they'd pay for it but I vould need to join them. I agreed because...vell, vhat vould you do to protect those you care about?"

 

CoffeeHorse

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[MEANWHILE AT THE KEEP]


Amber's eyes widened at Static's reference to Dazzling Midnight's words, and she didn't hide her uncertainty at how to answer his question. "They are ..." she started, thinking of Splash Flaunt (whom she hadn't exactly liked , but found less threatening than, say, Hazel Naught) and Bottle Wary, but also of the tough mercenaries who attacked the research station, and now this plan to steal the Sword and Strut. But hadn't STOMP stolen the Wand of the North Wind from them after being beaten to its discovery and rightful claim? And been prepared to destroy it afterward if it seemed too dangerous?

"COIN are our rivals," she said, slowly. "They're businessponies and -" she thought of Bottle Wary - "misfit researchers along with some hired backs. They don't care about archeology at all except for the money they can make from it - classic tomb raiders, I suppose." She shook her head. She couldn't quite quite shake the image of Night Cap and Bottle Wary's conversation and the thought that they could just as easily have met from opposite sides. "It's not really important what kind of ponies they are," she said, shaking her head and speaking as if reassuring herself. "They could hurt ponies and damage research tonight if we don't stop them."

She paced uneasily. She thought of Rhapsody's disdain for COIN, and in a strange way, it reassured her.

"At least there's something we all agree on," she said. "Nopony benefits at all if these artifacts end up being abused to the ruin of Equestria."


Static Signal wondered at her halting words, wondering what wheels could be turning in her head.

"Well, I'm glad we can all agree that we don't want to kill ourselves!" He said sardonically. "You don't seem to have anything particularly...bad to say about them. So what would you think of me now if I had taken Ms. Midnight's offer? Would you join COIN if we ever did run into a group that was...less restrained about the end of the world?"


Amber blinked and paused for a long moment. "Mr. Signal, you seem like a nice enough sort, and as a projectionist, I know you must have some respect for carefully studying and recording the truth and sharing your knowledge with others. Knowing that ..." She couldn't help allowing her horn to build up a small electrical aura, and she smiled very slightly at a faint crackle in the air, wagging her head slightly to indicate her horn. "If you were with them and not with us, threatening the Keep's research, I think I might feel rather bad about having to use this on you tonight." She looked upward at her own horn and frowned slightly, really thinking about the thought of hurting Mr. Signal. It really was unpleasant to consider. She tried to shy the feeling aside.


Static grinned at the threat.

"Good!" he said. "Because my, admittedly limited interaction with them consists mainly of them coming into my home and trying to convince me to play the part of a spy against my current employer. It even seems they got to my boss, getting him to try and sabotage this exhibit we've got going on. I may not know about individuals within the organization...and like I said, my interaction with them has been limited...but I can tell you this much. COIN is not what I'd consider good ponies.

"If they hiring practices include persuading ponies to betray their current employers...Celestia only knows what the insides of their own organization is like!"



Set at ease, Amber smiled easily. "Indeed. Such attempts at professional espionage are simply intolerable," she said with a bitter snort. "You know, during my underungulate studies, I heard rumors of a student research assistant who had been stealing and selling test answers. Once the faculty discovered him, I do believe that he would have been better off exiled to the moon," she said cheerily.

Amber seemed to lose herself in reminiscence, and a long moment later found herself having been staring at the recording equipment and trying very hard not to. "So, ah, how exactly does this apparatus operate? I see the lens and optics here and the film advancement mechanism....."


Static shows Amber the basic functions: how to load the film, the focus, film speed, switching between still shots and movies. There was even a function for projecting illusions. But until he had some actual photage to use, he didn't really have a way to show off that particular function yet.

"And that's about as much as I can show you with just a crash-course," he said finishing up. Static looked at the time again. "Time's crawling. I'm not exactly excited about the prospect of meeting up with Dazzling Midnight again. But I kinda wish it would just happen so it would be over and done with. Lady gives me the creeps."


Amber peered over the device and tried to sort out its workings as Static Signal illustrated its use. She hadn't expected the practical upshot of learning how to use the equipment, too, but she took some quick notes as he illustrated each of the controls and began to look forward to seeing the device in action. "Simply capital," she murmured in exclamation as Static Signal indicated the projection function.

Amber nodded as Static Signal expressed his impatience. "Quite agreed," said Amber. "I won't lie to you, Mr. Signal, I do have some anxiety about tonight's tangle. But the sooner COIN begin their attack, the sooner we can solve that problem and return to our own work," she said.


"Yeah...that...would be great," Static Signal said, less than enthused. He let out a weary sigh. "Except it really wouldn't. I haveta level with you, Amber. This one night has completely changed my life. For the first time since I've began my carreer as a projectionist, I feel alive.

"I normally sit in a dark booth showing one dull movie after another...movies I've seen several dozen times over. I go home, crack open a bottle of bottom shelf Flim Flam cider, eat a couple value pack frozen chimicherrychangas and call it a night.

"For the first time in...ever...I feel like I'm doing something important. And though it means my life is on the line and I've been so frightened for my life this entire night that I'm lucky horses can lose their lunch...I have to admit that I've never felt so...exhilarated. How do you go back to normal life after this?"



Oh, Amber thought. He really is that kind of projectionist; but she didn't dwell on it. The last expedition had taught her to trust Brisk Iron's judgement in selecting her staff.

Amber accepted Mr. Signal's invitation to honesty with a conspiratorial duck of her head. "You know, Mr. Signal, there are some days, if you can believe it, that I don't even find endless hours poring ovelr the research on a pivotal antiquity or creating pains-takingly detailed records of the characteristics and measures of a partial remainder of an ancient mechanism exciting - not every moment, at the very least," she said in a hushed tone. "And I must admit that I do find this all - rather stimulating," she said with a smile.

Amber didn't want to presume; she couldn't help thinking that if Mr. Signal was happier to risk life and leg in defense of a museum exhibit than to go through his daily routine, he might really consider looking into a new line of work. But he had also, after all, seemed quite upset about the now very likely-seeming loss of his job. But she kept the observation to herself.
 

CoffeeHorse

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Static gave Amber a smile. He still had a lot to straighten out in his head. He didn't wan't to lose his projectionist job no matter how sick he was of it. He found the oppurtunity to work with STOMP exciting, even if it was the most danger he'd ever been in. So many conflicting thoughts and emotions ran through his head and yet now really wasn't the time to dwell on it all. Still, Amber's words helped.

"Static." He said with a slight nudge. "My name...Static."


Amber nodded and smiled. "Yes, Mr. Signal," she said. "I'm ordinarily quite terrible with names, but I wrote yours down. See?" She held up a page of notes with "Ponies of Note" at the top and Static Signal's name among a list including "Tangerine Sands," "Dazzling Midnight," and "Double Dusk", with notes written next to each in an illegibly tiny scrawl. She drew the notebook back before Static had any chance to read the notes under his own name.

Amber stared pointedly at the projection device. "I can't help wishing we had one of your terribly dull movies here right now," she said, looking ever more impatient as she paced a circuit on the marble tile.


Static Signal was taken aback. "Yes...ma'am...Ms. Spark." He checked the time and returned his attention to the floor. Time was dragging again.


"Amber is fine," she said absently, staring at the pedestal. "I do wonder how the COIN ponies are going to enter this chamber." She thought back to Rhapsody's assessment that COIN might intend to nab the Sword in transit, before anypony had mentioned the Strut. "I suppose that if they really are interested in the Strut, they might well be entering with the Sword. I'm sure that the Chief Director and Mr. Sands have considered all the possible plans of attack COIN might intend to employ, but I do wish we had been told a bit more about what to expect."


"At this point I think it's anyone's guess. Could be if they take it in transit, they may not even come here and we'll be sitting here for a very long while with nothing to do."


Amber frowned. "That wouldn't explain the postcard, unless it was a distraction meant to keep us here. And Dazzling Midnight's proposed 'dry run', as well."


"I guess that's true, though the postcard only mentioned the Strut. Still, best to have all bases covered. It's just the whole waiting thing is..."



Static sucks in his breath and nearly jumps out of his skin...again. He picked a hell of a day to stop drinking!

"All's well here, Mr. Sands." Static looks at the time again. "The clock seems to be moving extraordinarily slow. Other than that, we're good."


Amber nodded. "Yessir, sir, I believe we're ready, sir," said Amber, in a slightly gruff voice, or what she might have though gruff sounded like. "Mr. Signal's equipment seems to be set and ready, and so am I." Amber paused. "We had just been discussing COIN's possible plan of attack tonight - have you and the Chief Director determined anything about what strategy they might have in mind?"


Static gave Amber a warning glance. He didn't want any pony to know where he hid the camera, or even that he had one...not even keep employees. That's why he had it hidden.

"Static...my name's Static." he said with a sigh.


Amber blinked. "Mr. Signal, I do think we're all quite aware of your name by now."


Static Signal facehoofed, shook his head and turned to regard Amber. "Okay, let me try a different tactic. Could you please...please, please, please, please...PLEASE...call me 'Static' instead of 'Mr. Signal'? Mr. Signal is what people used to call my father. Besides, it's just awkward to be calling you 'Amber' while you're calling me 'Mr. Signal'. So...please? Call me Static?"


Amber nodded. "Static, yes, of course, thank you," she said, nodding. "Why didn't you say so earlier? Really, I wouldn't wish to make you uncomfortable."

Amber turned back to Tangerine Sands.

 

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Meanwhile, Black Night had finally arrived back at the Keep, entering through one of the side entrances to obscure her arrival. She stuck to the shadows, grates, and vents around the museum to keep her presence minimized as she made mental notes of various rooms that could be key in the up-coming heist and working out the possibilities to take down COIN agents as quickly and silently as possible. Of course, as she neared the room where the sword would be located she heard the voices of Amber and two other ponies she didn't know. Peeking through a vent she watched as one of the two she didn't know left.

She popped out of a vent while Amber was deep in her studies, and the other was examining something else in the room. "Amber Sparks." She states in a hushed voice, trying to keep the other pony unaware of her presences, as she approaches. "Rhapsody told me you might still be here. You're going to be the one guarding the Sword of Shining Dark when ti gets here? Are you sure you will be up for the task with just the two of you?"


Static sucks in his breath and jumps again (hereafter known as 'is startled). Is every pony that works here a Luna blessed ninja?

With a sigh, he turned to the newcomer. Hi. I'm Static Signal. Never been in a fight before myself. So, I guess the more help we have the better.


Amber nodded to Tangerine Sands as he left, determining to think very hard about not thinking about who might be a double agent, and returned to her notes. She had skimmed up some of her notes on the Llamayan calendar project on her way out of the office and was comparing citations, but finding it difficult to concentrate. She wasn't sure how to respond to Static's question about what had been so clearly wrong - something she'd guessed had been a typographical error when one of her sources had disagreed with the others about the length of a First Epoch, but fully intended to look into in detail when she had the chance - but he seemed to have lost intere! st by the time she had formulated a response. He checked and reset his equipment and seemed very attentive to the time and the layout of the room, and Amber could only assume he was quite busy and not to be disturbed. She didn't want to admit to herself that she would welcome the distraction; there was only very little she could do checking over her notes without her research materials.

When she heard the creaking of the metal grate and the soft landing of a pegasus pony behind her, she dropped her quill and turned around, worried that COIN had begun to make their move, but was both reassured and astonished at the sight of Black Night. She raised a hoof to correct her - Spark, singular - but set it aside as Ms. Night addressed her.

"Ms. Night, I presume?" Amber said. "Yes, the two of us were assigned to stake down the display area for the Sword of Shining Dark. I do believe that we are prepared, but to be entirely honest with you, none of us really have any idea what to expect from COIN tonight. We would be quite obliged if you were to stay and help," she said.

Amber couldn't help asking. "Is Rhapsody on the grounds as well?" Amber couldn't help thinking that Rhapsody's presence here would have been more reassuring than Ms. Night's, but knowing that she was on the grounds at all would be a comforting thought.


Black Night looks to Amber. "Just Black Night, its a title not a name." She states as she is addressed in Amber's usual fashion before addressing the beige unicorn's first concern. "COIN isn't to be taken lightly, regardless what they do. I've had several run-ins with them over the past few months. They will pursue their goal till none are left standing. If what I was told is true, and they have two target chances are they'll have some sort of way of contracting each team. If possible, being able to disrupt communication spells might throw them off track depending on how well they are co-ordinated."

She looks over to the exasperated stallion, a faint smirk at his comment about ninjas before addressing him. "I don't work here. I am... a freelancer. You must be new in town, those that have lived here know of me; even if they don't believe it. I have been requested here due to my experiences with dealing with COIN and other criminals."

Black Night returns her focus back to Amber at her question and nods. "Rhapsody should be back on Keep grounds by now and reporting in to your boss. I am sure she'll preform admirably in helping to defend the Keep." She answers and looks over to the doorway. "What have you done so far in setting up defenses?" She asks to both of them.

 

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Static stands there dumbfounded. "I knew we were forgetting something," he murmured.

"So far I've just set this thing up so that we might get some pictures of some COIN operatives...start a dossier on known members and gathering information," he said, trying to sound like he wasn't completely useless.

"I'm...not too experienced with setting up security and pointing out strategic fighting positions. Like I said...I've never been in a fight before. I'm...actually just a projectionist for the museum's history theatre."


Amber nodded as Black Night spoke, smiling as she confirmed that Rhapsody was on the watch as well, and turned to Static as he explained his preparation. "I fear there's little I can do in the way of preparation," said Amber. "If I could access the museum archives, I would like to learn more about the properties of the Sword of Shining Dark. I believe that Ms. Iron and Mr. Sands have been making preparations for defense, but even they don't seem to be quite certain what sort of attack to expect."

Amber paused. "Obstructing COIN's communications would certainly give us an advantage," she said slowly. "Mr. ... Static has a device with him for communication with the main office, and I don't think that COIN will be expecting that." Amber spoke slightly uneasily, but heeding Mr. Sands' words, did not think about the possibility that Black Night was an imposter and COIN double agent to whom Mr. Static and she were revealing the Keep's plans. "I'm not at all studied in the sort of magic that could be useful for such purposes, however, and I don't believe that Mr. Static is, either," Amber said, glancing at him with an expression of "no offense intended." "I do imagine that someone here at the Keep would be, however - I know a couple of my colleagues are quite skilled in such disciplines. We could notify the head office and have them send someone who may be able to help, if they could spare us another unicorn with the skills required."


"Well, no, I can't say I'm studied in magic,"Static said, pointing to his hornless head,"not a unicorn. My equipment can't disrupt communications, but I can send brief messages if you need me to. Just tell me what you need me to tell them.

"As far learning more about the sword..."
Static took a look at the time. "Well, the movies at the theatre can be rather lengthy...and I'd hate to be gone too long leaving this room unguarded. I would say we can bring them here and use this projector...but this mobile one doesn't really do sound. Let me think..."


Static Signal realized that not only were there no documentaries about the Sword of Shining Dark, he had only ever heard it mentioned once at his prior job in a rather hushed tone.


Static signal pounded his head, trying to remember.

"No no...I can't...no! No nothing in the theatre. But 'Sword of Shining Dark' is certainly ringing bells." Suddenly it came to him. "Manehatten! Yes, it was mentioned once when I worked in Manehatten. Very hush hush. Can't say I remember more than that." He looked apologetically at Amber. "Sorry, Amber. I know that's pretty useless. Just some vague bit of nothing. But, no, now that I think about it, there's nothing in the theatre.

"As much as I'd love to know more about what we're guarding and why COIN wants it, though, I'm afraid the research will have to wait until later. Right now, we should probably take Black Night's advise and see what we can do about getting this room secured as tightly as possible.

"You said something about some unicorns you knew who could help? If you can give me their names, I can radio to see if they can be spared."


Static then turned his attenton to Black Night. "Also, any more suggestions you may have would be appreciated."


Amber nodded. It was a vague bit of nothing. She enjoyed documentaries as much as anypony, but she hadn't really expected that Mr. Signal would have a film on the Sword of Shining Dark; she'd had low hopes of finding anything even if she'd had access to the archives, and she didn't want to find herself unconsciously fawning over Sir Avid Satinburro, the adventurer documentarian of rare and ancient magical creatures and of the melodic voice that always ... she decided to drop the subject of documentary film as she'd found it.

"When we ... retrieved the Wand of the North Wind from COIN, its properties proved quite significant in our strategy," she said, somewhat defensively. "But under the circumstances ... no, I imagine that the office will know whom to send if anypony is available. My first thought was Winter Moon, but I believe he's taken a holiday. Just suggest to them that we may be well advised to attempt to obstruct magical communication in these rooms."


I'll see what I can do.

STATIC CALLING. AMBER HAS POSSIBLE PLAN. REQUESTS A UNICORN BE SENT SKILLED IN DISRUPTING MAGICAL COMMUNICATION.
It wasn't until he'd finished sended the message that Static came to realise something. Wait a minute...wouldn't that disrupt this thing as well?


Black Night looks over to Static. "That is a possibility, but there might be ways around that. I only have a limited knowledge of magic, but in some cases types of magic can vary. I would think that only a broad ranger blocking spell would effect your devices, but I suspect the Keep might have contingencies in place for that. Brisk Iron certainly seem the type to not leave such to chance."

"As for other fortification, the simplest would be a force field spell around the door. Even if they can counter it, it would stop them from just bursting in on you completely; but I am unsure if that is in Amber Spark's repertoire. There is also the possibilities of using various items in the museum for simple traps. ropes, pulleys, tarps or curtain for drop traps, or if it can be blended into to room a net trap could help take out some."
Black Night contemplates as she looks around to room trying to think of what all else is at the Duo's disposal, since she can't stay in just this room all-night.

She turns to Amber "You know the museum well, do you know of any artifacts or items that could be used to slow or even stop anypony? Even just one, is one less you two might have to fight."


Amber frowned at Black Night's suggestion, thinking of the idea of putting additional artifacts into peril. "The possibility that COIN manages to overpower us and escape with the Strut and Sword is a ... a scenario we must consider," she said, in a measured tone. "Many of the Keep's most prized artifacts have little practical use in such a circumstance anyway. We shouldn't endanger more of the Keep's priceless historical treasures for a marginal advantage. For my part, I don't know why we're even maintaining the real artifacts on display tonight. It would not be difficult for a pony with t! he appropriate skills," Amber straightened slightly and seemed to puff her chest, "to create facsimiles of both the Strut and the Sword in a matter of hours."

Amber paused, paced a circle, and shook her head. "No, I believe that I am quite capable of holding a line of defense here." Amber thought of Rhapsody's and Willow Wisp's bravery in fighting off the horde of COIN associates at the mountain, set her jaw, and again permitted a small charge of electricity to build on her horn. "My experience with fighting is somewhat limited, but I have put in some practice since my last encounter with COIN. I must admit that I would feel safer if Rhapsody were here, but if I am all the Keep has to spare ...." She paused and looked at Static. "And you're here, too, of course," she said politely.


Static gives a heavy sigh. I wish you would've said something before I sent that last signal.

ADDENDUM. SOMEONE NAMED BLACK NIGHT ALSO SUGGESTS UNICORNS WITH THE ABILITY TO MAKE FORCEFIELDS AROUND THE DOORS IF POSSIBLE. I KNOW IT'S NIGHT AND WE'RE SHORT STAFFED THOUGH. ALSO, IS BLACK NIGHT PART OF THE STAFF? SHE SEEMS HELPFUL BUT I DON'T RECOGNIZE HER. SHOULD WE HAVE SECURITY DETAIN HER?

Static then turns to Amber. "Just how many magical artifacts are in this museum? I had no idea I worked at an armory!"


Back within the Caballuston branch of the Equestrian Expedition Keep, Static Signal received a reply to his questions:

BLACK NIGHT IS TO BE GRANTED TEMPORARY CLEARANCE FOR TONIGHT. STEEL FLINT IS CAPABLE OF MAGIC COMMUNICATION DISRUPTION. LOCATED IN E25.

 

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Amber watched as Static tapped out the improbably long message, wondering about its content. She smiled at him as he expressed his honor at working with the Keep, but frowned as he asked about magical artifacts. "It's not an armory," she said in a low voice, her voice trailing as she shook her head.

Amber jumped when the machine began tapping back a reply. She listened to the taps and looked at Static, amazed that he could make sense of such an inscrutable sound, but held herself back from saying anything as not to break his concentration and focused on the taps, trying to see if she could make out any patterns she recognized. When the taps stopped, she looked at Static again. "What did they say?"


"Pity!" Static muttered. "The more advantages we could get over these griffon spawned bushwoolie herders the better."

"Well, first a glowing recomendation for Black Night. I guess that means we can trust her. I...noticed you waver before. Seriously, leave the embittered mis-trust of everyone else to me. It doesn't suit you."
With that he muffled Ambers mane playfully like a little brat brother would his sister.

"Second of all, it seems Steel Flint would be able to help with that magical communication disruption. She's over in E25...where ever that is."


Amber did not seem amused at having her hair mussed, but didn't react. "Yes, you're right, my apologies," she said. "We did agree that being suspicious would be your job. I simply realized that unlike any of the Keep employees, Black Night would be difficult to confirm as herself," said Amber, with an apologetic glance at Black Night.

"E25," said Amber. "Capital! Ms. Flint would certainly be able to help us." Amber began to bolt out of the room, stopped, retrieved her notebook and quill with a sheepish expression, and turned out the door at full gallop.


Static looked after as Amber dashed out. "No worries. I'll just stay here and...keep...guard..." He said to the now empty doorway.

He turned sheepishly to to Black Night. I...meant no offense. This just seems to be a heck of a night for betrayel. It's become hard to know who to trust.


Black Night looks to Amber. "Perfectly understandable, though even with Keep employes there would be ways. Changelings, con-men, to just straight up actors. COIN seems very versatile in its membership." As if either of there needed more reasons to be untrustful to those here tonight, but she had to be honest. "I know the mask can make it hard to trust me, but if your friend Rhapsody does and you trust her then know that my reasons are pure and I just want to stop COIN from hurting and using others. I am sure you can see how that relates to making sure the Keep and its exhibits safe."

"It's fine, though had I ulterior motives, I would have acted on them already. I got in here easily, without either of you noticing. If I was COIN, I likely could have had the Sword., it if was here. Or even taken you both out."
She states as Static addresses her, keeping her calm and formal, not condescending for their lack of preparation. She knew well the the Keep's choice of employees we're a bit more eclectic then she would choose... but then she'd probably not be on the team otherwise.

"They never mentioned a defense specialist did they?" She asks, she had no skill in reading coded messages; but Static only mentioned Steel Flint for communications.


"'Black Night is to be granted temporary clearance for tonight. Steel Flint is capable of magic communication disruption. Located in E25.'" Static quoted. "These communications are usually rather...terse. On the good side, I guess that means you don't particularly need to keep the stealth thing going...unless of course you're hiding from COIN instead of us."


"Hiding over simplifies it, but yes. I am trying to keep my presence to a minimum, to increases the likelihood that COIN won't be expecting me. I am essentially a 'wild card' in tonight's plans. If I can take some out with out being seen, or at least they can't report it if I am seen, that can potentially be a blow to their moral, increasing the chances they'll be unfocused and make mistakes." Black Night states, explaining to basics of her plan.

"There can be more to a fight then simple and direct combat. Being able to achieve a psychological edge, can give you the chance to have your enemies take themselves out. You keep mentioning a lack of combat training, but don't focus on that. Not tonight, at least. Try and think of what skills and abilities you do have, and how they might be used differently to distract somepony. It doesn't matter how good at combat you are, if you can get in a good solid unexpected strike, or otherwise disable them." The vigilante adds, trying to give Static some reassurance in what he can do without needing to fight.


"Well, as far as mis-direction goes, it takes some prep time. But..." Static flips a switch on the projector. Amber suddenly appears before them working on her notes. "Mis-direction I can do. Whether I can capitalise on it, however, is a different matter.

Now in your case, if you don't mind a little unlearned advise...I may not have heard of you because I just recently moved from Manehatten. But here in your domain, you seem to have some noteriety. Maybe instead of minimizing your presence, have you thought about leaving absolutely no doubt that you're there...somewhere. Somewhere you're there. Somewhere you're watching them, planning your attack. But, Celestia help them, they have no idea where. And on that front...
Static hold up his camera for Black Night to see, I can help you be in two places at once if you'd like.


In the hallway, Amber tucked her notebook into her saddlebag and bolted down the hallway. The maze of the museum's corridors and galleries sometimes confused even her, and she'd been reminded recently that there were rooms even she didn't know about, but she found her way to E25 and skidded to a stop outside the door. She hesitated before knocking - Ms. Flint really might be busy with other things in this chaotic night, she thought - but slowly raised a hoof and knocked. "Ms. Flint? It's Amber Spark."


Amber ducked her head into the Anugypt Strut exhibit. "Ms. Flint? Black Night came out of the ceiling next door and had a suggestion."


Black Night listens to Static and considers his proposition. "I can see the pros and cons of both. On one hoof them knowing I am here, means they can be prepared for me, while on the other them knowing I am here could disrupt their moral." She replies and considers, trotting back and forth as she goes over options. "Though at the same time, if that is just an image of me it could set them off guard. Reports of my being here, just to find that its a trick... Could make them cocky which could lead to mistakes. Alright, sure. Lets try it."


Static Signal starts to take photos of Black Night, both still photos and video...vids of her pacing, standing still, turning and attacking, ducking in and out of cover.

Now that his needs of the equipments uses changed, so did his needs of where to place it. He no longer needed to get video of every coming and going of the display. Instead he needed a place where the projections of Black Night would be most convincing...and still be able to hide the equipment.

He placed it strategically where he could also find a hiding space for himself.

"There's a bit of magic involved in maintaining the illusion," he told Black Night. It requires a bit of concentration. If you have somewhere else to be... He hides himself and starts to concentrate.

Spoiler


Steel Flint subtly chuckled, "My my, I figured our caped crusader would wait until the last minute to swoop down upon our adversaries. What is her suggestion?"

Spoiler


"Yes, ma'am, she suggested that she was hoping not to make her presence known, ma'am," Amber said, then put a hoof to her muzzle in a silent "Oh." "She suggested that we might create a disruption spell of some kind to interrupt magical communication. If COIN sends two teams for their two targets, then it seems that we would be well advised to limit their capability for communication, ma'am."


Snowy Skies giggled quietly at Amber's realization. That was nice information to have. He'd heard rumors about Black Night around town since coming to Callabuston, and from the sound of things it was good that she was on their side. She certainly would've made a better guard-mate than his current compatriots. He thought about the subject at hand. Disrupting communication wasn't really his specialty, but then, it sort of was. "This may be asking a lot. Like, an awful lot." He says, slowly and respectfully, making a visible effort to look composed and serious. "But if their method of communication can be determined, I bet I can replicate it and mess with their heads a lot."

 

CoffeeHorse

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Nodding in response, Steel Flint said, "I'll certainly do what I can to help with blocking any telepathic communique. As far as your request Snowy Skies, what did you have in mind?"


Amber nodded. "Thank you, ma'am," she said with a dip of her head, then turned out the doorway into the other exhibit.

She scanned the room quickly and noticed a numeric disparity: two Black Nights, zero Static Signals.

"I knew it!" she shouted. "Imposter! What have you done with Static? And which is ...." Amber shook her head - no second guessing - and charged at the Black Night to her left.

Spoiler


"Well..." Snowy Skies says, drawing the word out long enough to focus a spell. "If their communication is telepathic, I could make them hear their colleague's voice in their ear." Brisk Iron's voice hissed at Steel Flint. "And if it's any sort of code, there's nothing better for disrupting their concentration than endless static. Or endless Christmas carols!" Dusty Winds' voice cheerfully announced to the room. "Now I know it's an awful lot to ask of somepony to get me that information in the middle of a battle." Snowy Skies continues, back to his own voice emanating from his own mouth. "Bu! t when it comes down to it, I'm mostly good for stirruping--sorry, stirring up chaos. Anything that makes me more effective is--"

He breaks off suddenly, looking at the covered crystal case. There was an idea, so simple he had simply passed over it. Surely they hadn't ALL passed over it, had they? "That...That is the real Anugypt strut under there, yes?"


"Yes it is. It's been on exhibit this past week."


Static sighed at Ambers display. Over here...trying to concentrate...please don't kill yourself.


Black Night just sorta glared at Amber as the beige unicorn rushed her, but didn't budge. "Really now?" She asks looking to Amber and shakes her head. "It seems like your illusion is certainly good enough to confuse allies, Static Signal." The masked vigilante says with a sigh, trotting over to the other her and waving a hand through it to show Amber that it isn't real. "Your teammate here thought it would be a good tactic to have a 'second' me around to try and deter COIN operatives from going for the Sword."

Spoiler


Snowy Skies took a deep breath. Even after years of subterfuge, politeness still did not come naturally to him. "Why is it still here? This place has vaults! Big ones! I should know, I've cleaned them. Well, I've cleaned outside their doors. But there are some very impressive, impregnable-looking doors in this museum. Why not stow the sword and the strut behind one of those, and deposit copies out here?"


Steel Flint sighed in response to Snowy Skies' question, "The crystal is quite heavy so moving it is a struggle. The vaults aren't particularly easy to open. Quite simply there's a matter of difficulty. I know Sands has been actively watching it but you've made a valid point. I don't know if we have time but we can try to make a copy of the Anugypt Strut as a decoy. The Sword of Shining Dark is quite different. Due to its unique properties, a decoy would be immediately noticed on sight."


Now that made Snowy Skies curious. "Ooh, how? What is special and dangerous about that sword, anyways?" He asks, dropping the subject of moving things entirely. If the excuses to not move them were laziness-based, he wasn't going to get anywhere.


Amber had intended to tackle the would-be Black Night, but the unicorn simply bounced off the tough pegasus and rolled into a heap at her hooves. Amber winced with embarrassment as she shook herself into a standing position under Black Night's chiding and Static's too-late explanation. "I'm sorry - you must admit that the situation did look - well, rather incriminating," she said, as she turned to look at the projection. It really had seemed quite convincing on her way in the room. She stepped up to it and took a closer look.

Spoiler

"It really is quite convincing," she said. "It'll be quite the show for COIN."

 

CoffeeHorse

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Brisk Iron walked into the room but paused as she saw "Black Night". Waving a wing for whoever was behind her to stop, she gave the crime fighter enough time to hide before waving for the others to come on. Into the room walked an earth pony carrying a large box and several different kinds of ponies serving as guards. The box smelled of the ocean and was placed on the pedestal in the center of the room. As the box was opened, all of the lights in the room dimmed. What was initially just a handle in a glass case soon formed a glowing black blade that warped the light around it. Brisk Iron and the group of ponies left the room though two waited outside in the hall.


Amber nodded to Brisk Iron but said nothing as she entered and led in the pony with the Sword and the guards. She watched with amazement as the light dimmed and the sword presented - collected? - its blade, beginning to understand what she had read about its being "weightless." Despite the reverential silence in the room, she couldn't quite contain an "Oh, my." Out of all the curiously and somewhat dramatically named artifacts and events she'd studied, she hadn't expected this one to be quite so literal. She stepped toward the pedestal and leaned in close to look the blade over.


*** stuff missing ***



"All right, whoever you are," said Light Fantastic, activating her magic, "Let's dance."


"There's no escape you sunless miscreant!" Swooping towards Night Cap was a large black griffon. He was wearing a bandolier covered in pouches that had large shoulder pads that altered his silhouette. Striking Night Cap forcefully, the griffon landed and spread his wings in a threatening manner.

Sword gripped by her jaws, she swung the sword at her opponents only for nothing to happen. The triangle chimed once more. "Unimpressive. However, it see! ms the sword is either defective or a decoy. Message the others." "Right away. Just let me
UNGH!" The unicorn grunted in pain and then held her horn. The lead pointed towards Black Night and the other two attacked with bolts of magic.

Meanwhile in the next room over, the invading ponies stared in confusion,
"What the hay? Dude, you're weird." "F-find him. He said if we catch him, that thing will go away." The unicorn ran towards the statue where "Snowy Skies" was hiding, only to double over in pain as her horn was forcefully struck by a golf ball. In retaliation, the earth pony stallion tackled Steel Flint.


"Pony feathers," Static growled to himself. They went straight for the real Black Night. They saw right through his illusion. And that looked like a hell of a hit she just took too. With Amber blinded, this was effectively a three on one battle.

But what was he supposed to do about it? He was a projectionist...a history museum projectionist. He didn't know how to fight. But Tartarus if he could sit back and watch his friends get beat up like this.

Wait...friends? Yeah! Friends! And send him to Tartarus if he was just going to sit back while this thug used them as punching bags!

Static broke out of his hiding space, dismissed the illlusion and charged at the leader, hiting her solidly with all his strength.

"Knocking the glasses off a unicorn and ganging up three to one on a pegasus...you're not too impressive yourself, you dragon tempered mule!"


Crouching low the ground, wedged between two statues, Snowy Skies took the sound of the golf ball hitting the floor and gripped it, twisting and stretching until it resembled a hissing, authoritative, stage-whisper, directed at Light Fantastic. "I'm going after the Pegasus." The golf ball hissed. "Distract the Earth Pony." Snowy Skies took a deep breath and spread his consciousness out into his mist, coursing through the air until he wormed his way into the ears of the three assailants...

second movement: Deus

It was white, everywhere, and the cold was biting, the sort that made your breath hurt. Snowy Skies stood alone on a cliff, looking down at the three miscreants huddled below him. "Welcome to my world." He says in a booming voice, dripping with disgust and distaste for his foes. "I call it The Staff." He continues, as five black lines cut across an invisible dome-shaped ceiling. "I control everything here, especially time. Right now, 24 hours in The Staff is 1 second in...your world. You lost my first game, so we'll just have to move on to the next one. The name of this game is...Maze." He taps a hoof on the ground, and vast stone walls slide up out of the ground, surrounding each pony. Stone crossbars form a ceiling to the maze as Snowy Skies dramatically sweeps a hoof across his view. "There are two ways to exit The Staff. One is to wait here until my associate nails you in the face with another golf ball. She's quite good at that. For two of you, there is a much simpler way to exit The Staff. All you have to do is hit the pegasus in the face as hard as you can. You'll find your world more or less as you left it, and can move on with trying to oppose me. Unfortunately for your pegasus friend, he has a much harder task. He has to find the exit. Don't worry, I'm sure you'll find him before he escapes, it's a very large maze. Mind the traps."


Amber continued to build her attack, scrambling with her hooves to find the glasses and blindly letting off a pair of strikes from her horn as its aura built up in a crackling glow. After the second strike, she felt a metallic clatter under her hoof and slipped on her glasses, looking around the room to quickly assess the situation.


*** stuff missing ***


 

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"I'm not some foal to be doted on. I've survived far worse." Steel Flint winced a little, then smiled, "But the concern is greatly appreciated. I'm disappointingly rusty. The thieves have been warded off though Light Fantastic gave chase to one and Snowy Skies...a pony of poor taste...followed. What happened on your side?"

"All the same, it's best I completely withdraw and remove the source of the raised adrenaline. I simply hope your Chief Director offers the same leniency I have." Tangerine Sands then walked off with Silent Belle in tow.

As the chase continued, the runner turned into another exhibit hall. In the middle of renovation, there were several tools, ladders, and paint buckets strewn about. Swiftly weaving about the clutter, they then cut back into the main hallway. Seeing Night Cap, she smoothly somersaulted over him while pulling a packet from her belt. Tossing it on the ground, it exploded into a web of wires that lined the corridor!



Static winced, sighed and fidgeted as he looked around. He looked to Black Night and the prisoners. "Seriously, I'm not sure about my rope work with that one. You may want to check on that." He gave another long sigh. "And if you have any job ideas, I think I may need them soon."


Amber tried to shake off her shock at seeing Ms. Flint like this, but found herself stretching to peer around it instead, a wild, branching mass of emotions that she could brush aside no more readily than an oak tree. "The Strut - wasn't taken?" she asked, looking at the pedestal and back to Ms. Flint. "Yes, we - we were successful as well, ma'am. We apprehended three unicorn attackers and handed them over to Mr. Sands' care. The Sword is with Black Night." Amber hesitated. "We should have reported immediately, but I chose to inspect the sword while Mr. Signal secured the attackers."


Steel Flint blinked in confusion, "Why was there a need to inspect the Sword? Though as far as the Anugypt Strut, it should still be under the weighted velvet."


Amber looked at the empty pedestal and the vaguely sarcastic face painted on it, then back to Ms. Flint, confused. She shook her head. "One of the COIN attackers claimed that the sword was false. Though with all of the projections going around tonight, I suppose she could have meant anything. It's not important. I should have reported to you immediately, ma'am. I'm sorry."


"The sword is still in the case, correct?"


Amber blinked, her glasses as always comically magnifying the effect despite her uneasy expression. Slow down, Amber, she thought, explain things from the start. "No, ma'am," she said. "When the attackers entered the room, Black Night removed the Sword from the case. Static Signal used his projector to create an illusion of Black Night to ward off additionally attackers, while the real Black Night and I repelled the three in the room. Their leader knocked off my glasses, and I believe I may have missed some details of the fight while I retrieved them, but ultimately Mr. Signal revealed himself and took down the leader, and Black Night assisted him while keeping the sword safely in her belt. I struck a second unicorn before she could assist the leader, and I believe Black Night had already dealt with a third. We restrained the three of them until Mr. Sands arrived to take them into custody."

"I think that COIN may be using some kind of illusions as well,"
she said after a pause. "The doorway between the exhibit halls was hidden by some kind of projection when I entered."
cleardot.gif



"The door was done by one of ours. It would be unwise to keep that sword on a belt but I'll have to talk to Black Night about that." Steel Flint stood up, "By the way, how is Sands nowadays? Does he still have that high strung partner of his? Oh, never mind that. I'll just ask Brisk next time I see her."


Light Fantastic kept on the pony's tail.

"Get back here!" she hollered.


Snowy Skies darted around the corner, falling back into a running rhythm and letting his adrenaline burn away his fear for a moment. That focus was obliterated as the brown pony came into view in front of him. Snowy Skies skidded to a halt, inches from a crash and stared, nose to nose, at the familiar pony.

Tonight, all the demons in hell had come back to haunt him. But here, here was a guardian angel.

"You can help me!" He cried, dragging Night Cap's face even closer to his. "It'll be trivial for you! C'mon!" He charges back down the hall with renewed fervor, suddenly prepared for anything, even the preposterous web of cables he found before him. He gets to play one last trick tonight, make use of one last plan he had conceived in the last few years. He casts an illusion, on himself, and time slows down. He knows it hasn't really, that it's truly that his perception has sped up, but he ignores that detail, looking closer at the web and looking for a sweet spot, an opening he can fit through. He picks one and carefully prepares to jump, leaping through the air and smoothly passing through the opening, glancing back to check on his guardian angel as he continues pursuit.


As the adrenaline finally worked its way out of his system, Static looked around at the room. Mr. Sands had left and Black Night was attending to the prisoners. Amber had left to do something else. He looked at the otherwise empty room. What was he supposed to do. Then it hit him.

"Wait...she was....blind?"

"Knocking the glasses off a unicorn and ganging up three to one on a pegasus...you're not too impressive yourself, you dragon tempered mule!"

"So that triangle was like..."

"Knocking the glasses off a unicorn

"And I..."

"Knocking the glasses off a unicorn"

"And what I just did...after she was already unconscious..."

"you're not too impressive yourself, you dragon tempered mule!"

"Pony feathers!"


Static runs out of the room.

"MR. SANDS! WAIT A SECOND!!!!"
cleardot.gif



Tangerine Sands stopped and sighed, "What is it Mr. Signal?"

Effortlessly making a fouetté turn to dodge Night Cap, Light Fantastic began gaining on the runner. As the two charged past Night Wings, the mysterious pony barreled through the museum doors and took a flying leap towards an incoming pegasus. "Silly little dancer. Did you really think you could catch up?"

Running past Snowy Skies and leaping through the rope web, an earth pony called out to Night Cap, "You gotta help us, dude!" Looking at the runner, then at Night Cap, then at the invader carrying another through the rope web, then back at Night Cap, Night Wings asked, "Do you know these miscreants, Night Hat?"

 

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Static Signal felt as small as he'd ever felt as he looked up at Tangerine Sands. It took several deep breaths before he could start.

"I...I know where Belle's sonic thingy is. You see...I...I didn't know she was blind, you know? I just...I thought it was a weapon. So when we defeated her I thought it would be best if she didn't have it when she woke up because she might use it to escape and harm us so I gave it to Amber to give to whoever would be the best person to give it to like maybe it was a relic type weapon that belonged in the museum because Celestia knows we have a lot of those because I didn't realise Belle was blind and it was how she sees and I know I should have come to you earlier with this but I didn't trust you because this whole night has been that way with Dazzling Midnight trying to recruit me into COIN and as far as I can tell finding out my boss was part of COIN and I just didn't trust you or Black Night and I barely even trusted Amber and that was only because she seemed so unfakably naive to be a bad person so after what Belle did to Amber all I could feel was a red hazy hatred of everything I hated Belle for the way she treated Amber I hated the underlings because I could have so easily been one of them and I hated myself for the same reason because Dazzling Midnight might have had me if not for a few ill-spoken words and I hate myself for knowing that I almost excepted her offer I hate myself for knowing I'm even capable of doing what you saw me doing when you walked into the Sword room because I'm not really like that and I don't want to think that I made a lier out of Ms. Irons because she put a lot of faith in me and I hate that COIN has ruined my trust in other ponies but I don't care if you are part of COIN or not because..."

Static takes a deep breath and pours every ounce of his energy into his next words, like they are the most important words he's ever said in his life...

"SHE NEEDS HER GLAAAAAASSEEEEES BAAAAACK!!!!!!"

Static breaks down into a sobbing heap on the floor. Tangerine Sands can barely make anything out of the murmering...much like he could barely make anything out of the hundred-mile and hour speech he just endured. He was pretty sure he could make out a few 'sorries' here and there.


Amber stood with Ms. Flint and motioned toward the pedestal, nodding as Ms. Flint explained that the doorway illusion wasn't COIN's. "He seemed well, ma'am," Amber said. Then, with a second thought, "Somewhat out of sorts when he arrived after the fight, but well. I know we're all under a bit of stress at the moment. I believe I may have met his partner, as well." Amber looked around the room one last time. "What is our next step, ma'am?"


The events on the other side of the web are all but invisible to Snowy Skies, and while he can hear them he doesn't register anything important. He considers chasing his other assailants (he could certainly give them another scare), but he wasn't yet certain what he could do without bringing about...that...again. The safest thing for him to do was absolutely nothing, so he limps his way back to the Anugypt Strut room, walking right past his fake door and through the illusionary wall. He is a little surprised to see more than one pony in the room, but quickly recognizes the newcomer. "You're Amber Spark." He says wearily.


Amber regards the silver-gray unicorn. "Yes sir," she says,straightening slightly. "And you are?"


"Snowy Skies." He replies, coughing up some dust. "What's a paper-pusher doing in a miniature war zone?" He gets an odd look on his face, then grins widely and shakes his head. "Asks the janitor. We get all sorts here."


Amber bristles slightly. "I've done field work," she says, defensively, her voice trailing slightly. Her voice drops almost to a mutter. "And my team did successfully protect the Sword of Shining Dark from COIN tonight," she says, glancing again at the apparently empty pedestal of the Anugypt Strut.


Snowy Skies rolls his eyes. "Well at least it fooled somebody." He says, dismissing the illusion and revealing the velvet curtain. "Can you check if the strut is still under there without removing the curtain? It is awfully heavy."


Light Fantastic kept her charge toward the pony.

"Why don't you come back here and say that to my face?" she hollered.


"I'm afraid I can't," said Amber. "I've never studied magical perception. You know, I don't know how many times I've been asked to do the card trick at parties -" she shook her head. "Allow me to take a corner," she said, and stepped up to the case, closing her eyes and lifting one corner of the fabric with her magic.


"You're going to want your eyes open." Snowy Skies comments drily as he lifts up a second corner.


With the utmost agility, Light Fantastic made a flying leap at the runner...

"W-what, you DO know them?!? Night Hat, you're under arrest!" "He's police? Nuh uh. Not going to jail, dude!"

Steel Flint frowned, "I can't see how somepony with your illusionary capacity could suddenly be such a lightweight, Snowy Skies. Let me handle this." Using her magic, Steel Flint snatched the weighted velvet curtain out of Amber and Snowy's grasp and off of the display. She then gasped in shock! The torn edge of the sheet for the Anugypt Strut was repairing itself. However, the musical notes were disappearing and the majority of the page was already gone!

What's this? It seems the mysterious magical music is maddeningly missing from the manuscript! Is it just a mishap or has malevolence reared it's head? Tune in next time folks for more of the Equestrian Radio Show's Adventure Variety Hour!


*static crackle*

 

CoffeeHorse

*sip*
Staff member
Council of Elders
Citizen
*** so much missing ***


Static raises an eyebrow at Night Caps outburst. You know, you seem to be a little jittery. You could probably use something to calm you down. If you want, I got like a whole fridge of hard cider that...I...probably shouldn't have any more. It's bottom shelf, but it's all yours if you want it.


Static Signal winced. "Never had any before?" He was shocked. "How is that possible?" Static thought to himself . "I thought everypony must've had cider somepoint in their life. Heck! I was just a little filly when..."

"Neeeeever mind. I just started to try kicking the habit myself. It would probably be a mule thing to do getting someone else hooked."


Black Night looks to Night Cap... "That might explains a few things..."


A look of sheer dread plastered itself on Static's face as he tried to picture this twitchy, high-strung pony on coffee. "Yeeeeah, you know, I just had my last drink of cider a few hours ago. Something tells me I'm going to need a support group. May do you well to drop the coffee. We'll quit together. What do ya say?"


"Same thing with me and cider. All the more reason to quit."


"Say." Snowy Skies says, a little slowly. "We're not guarding the Strut anymore because it's...well, gone...but is anyone still guarding the sword?"


Static spares a glance at Black Night.


"Static, I really don't think that either of you should do anything that would lead to your deaths. It seems an unhealthy habit of yours."
Satisfied that the conversation was no longer a particularly consequential one, Amber stepped forward. "Does anypony know where Light Fantastic and Rhapsody are? I haven't seen either of them since the commotion started."


"Who's Rhapsody?" Static shrugged it away. "Anyway, Black Night, please tell me you still have the sword?"


[Steel Flint font] "Why would Black Night have the Sword?"


"I still have the sword on me, I felt that it wasn't safe in the room with no one to watch it while there was a chance of their being more COIN operatives on premise. I was in the process of going to see Brisk Iron about it before leaving the museum to deliver our prisoners; but then the scene with Night Cap happened so I haven't been able to turn it over. " Black Night states as she looks from Static to Steel "We are also unsure if it is real or not, Since it seem to do nothing when it got used in the battle. I had been hoping that somepony could take a look at it to make! sure it hadn't somehow been intercepted before it got here."

The Masked pony then turns to look to Amber. "I am sure that Rhapsody is okay, Brisk Iron will likely know where she is." Or at least she is hoping Brisk Iron has a good excuse to cover her other self's current absence.


Static was taken aback. It wasn't until just then that he realised that the two keep employees charged with gaurding the sword just left it in the hooves of a vigilante they barely knew. He fidgeted a bit before answering.

Well...you see...if not for her, Amber and I probably would not have won the night. So I guess learned to trust her. After all she helped us protect the sword and she has no love for COIN and I tell you that and she even tried to help us puzzle out how to make the sword work because Silent Belle claimed it was a forgery and Black Night already had the sword anyway because she used it during the fight so when Amber went to see how she could help you and I had to run after Tangerine Sands because of certain reasons..."

Static Signal took a deep breath before crying out.

"WE LEFT IT IN THE HOOVES OF A VIGILANTE WE BARELY KNOOOOOOOW!!!!



Steel Flint's voice took on a much more stern tone,
"What do you mean by 'used in battle'? Surely no one here was foolish enough to try to wield it."


Black Night blinks and that shoots a glare to Static at his outburst, and then turns back to Steel. "Silent Belle had already gotten to the sword, having not feel for Static's copy of me. I felt that the quickest way to try and end the fight afterwards was to use it against her," Leaving out the part where she herself broke the sword free... "After having heard rumors about the last artifact that was retrieved about one of your teams."


Snowy Skies sees Static's deep breath and pushes out his magic, tamping the shout down to a more normal volume level. He cannot, however, change the inflection, so the cry sounds no less piteous.


Static shrunk under Black Night's glare. He backed up to where the others were standing, cursing to himself.


Steel Flint's tone didn't improve, "That sounds like somepony is breaching information in a separate problem from tonight's situation. The Chief Director will deal with her since it's not my place. Where is the Sword now?"


Amber eyed Black Night's belt. "Ms. Night, please return the Sword to Ms. Flint," said Amber, somewhat mechanically. "'Okay' or not, Ms. Night, I would like to follow up with Rhapsody as soon as possible. And does anypony know where Ms. Fantastic is? We have had the 'all clear.' We should regroup with the rest of the staff and collect our observations from the night."

 

CoffeeHorse

*sip*
Staff member
Council of Elders
Citizen
Light Fantastic spotted Willow out of the corner of her eye.

"Well, well, if it isn't Willow Wisp," she said cheerfully, "What are you doing here?"


The sight outside the museum was puzzling, what could possibly happening? And why was Light Fantastic there, shouldn't she be on tour..?

She circled for a landing, softly descending to land near the group of ponies, before announcing her presence.

"Light Fantastic." said Willow Wisp, "It is good to see you again."


"I contained it in one of my heavy duty pouches in my belt, since it doesn't seem to have an effect if there isn't any light. Potential fake or not, there is no reason not to be careful with handling it." Black Night replies, as aside from her potential recklessness of using it; she's been careful in handling it otherwise. She was still Rhapsody after all, and protecting the artifact was part of her job description.. well her /other/ job description.

At Amber's request, Black Night looks to her and then back to Steel "I have no issue in turning it over, as it was always my intent; but Would it be wise to turn it over here? Where it is well lit?" She asks, an honest question for Steel, but could be seen as questionable by the others as they don't fully trust her yet in this guise. "Not knowing what it does, other then activating by warping light, I wouldn't want to endanger anypony any more then its already being free does."

"I am not saying that you shouldn't want to follow up with her, I am just trying to ease your mind. We were given the all clear. It they your friends weren't safe already, surely they wouldn't have given that command, right?" Black Night asks, trying to reassure Amber, while not seeming dismissive of her concerns, by point out the logic of her reasoning.


Snowy Skies snorts at the term 'heavy duty pouch' and abruptly decides that his usefulness in the conversation has come to a close, given that Static did not seem prone to any additional outbursts. "I suppose that I am still looking for a vibrant orange pony named Tangerine Sands, since Zig Zag is momentarily out of the picture. Has anyone seen him recently?"


Tangerine Sands tied up the runner with her own rope, "With this miscreant detained, I'll deliver her to the police since I know they're coming and approaching this way. Since you and this pegasus seem to know each other, go back to Steel Flint and report your findings. I believe everypony will be dismissed soon but make sure you speak with Keep staff first." He then carried the criminal to the several police officers who were approaching the museum.

"Sands should be here any moment. He has a habit of just randomly showing up."


"Ain't that the truth!" Static thought, but didn't dare to say out loud.


"Steel Flint and I will correspond with the police. Shouldn't be a problem. Brisk Iron calmly walked into the room.


"Oh...pony...feathers!" Static thought to himself. It just got exponentially more crowded in here. And he knew the moment Tangerine Sands came in to talk to Brisk Iron...he blanched at the thought. Would that the floor would open up and swallow him whole...right...now!


"Director." Snowy Skies says, surprised to find himself much less perturbed than normal when Brisk Iron melted into sight like that. "Night Cap said earlier that he had some important intel he was trying to get to us." He says, pushing Night Cap forward


Amber nodded with an at-attention expression to Brisk Iron as she entered but sidestepped back to Ms. Flint's side all the same.


"How did you come upon information on the attack? Also, an all clear was received but I don't see the Sword of Shining Dark in its case."


"I have it with me. After Amber Spark went to check on the Strut, and Static Signal left in a panic, I felt that leaving it unattended would not be wise, since the case got broken in the attack and there was still potentially COIN agents lurking about." Black Night explains, keeping it brief. "I had intended to bring it to you to ensure its safety before escorting the prisoners to the local authorities, but due to efforts of Night Cap I got side tracked before I got that far. One of the COIN agents thought it was a fake as well but no one here has been able to verify those! claims; which is another reason I wanted to turn it over to you, just in case she was right."


"Wait in my office, Black Night, and I'll retrieve the Sword and validate whether or not it's fake." "You and I need to talk." Just then, several police officers entered the room. "Everypony wait one moment. I'll speak with you afterwards but I need to speak with Steel Flint first, then Black Night. Night Cap, Steel Flint will bring you some paper shortly." Brisk Iron and Steel Flint walked out of the room.


Static stood there, not certain what to feel. On the one hoof, he felt like he'd just been reprieved. But on the other hoof, a reprieve was just another way of saying "delaying the inevitable." He was really just wishing this night would end. He already had it planned out anyway. He was going to walk away from the keep, fired and jobless. Then he was going to meet up with Dazzling Midnight tomorr *checks the time* later today and he'd be dead. Simple!

Great love of Cadence he needed a cider. He needed one like he's never needed one before.


Black Night nodded to Brisk Iron. "Understood." She says simply, and takes leave of the group and heads to Brisk's office.


Not long after, Light Fantastic and Willow Wisp entered the room. Right behind them was Tangerine Sands.


Static lets out a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding and finds a wall to lean up against. I'm thinking I better get a couple winks while I may before I get fired. He looked wearily over at Night Cap. "Looks like you could use a bit of shut-eye yourself there, friend. Room enough two on this wall.


"Amber Spark? Night Cap? What is going on here?"


"Ms. Wisp? And Ms. Fantastic - it's quite - well, capital to see you," said Amber. She turned back to Willow. "The museum was under attack by COIN. We successfully repelled the invaders and have detained several of them for questioning. We're not certain whether or not it's a related phenomenon, but one of the artifacts that COIN had attempted to steal is in the process of disappearing while the other seems to be an incorporeal fake." Amber paused. "Oh, and apparently nearly anypony might be a double agent. I'm not, in case you're worried."


"Interesting." Willow said, "I had come for aid regarding COIN, myself, but it seems you have your hooves full."


As panicked as he was to see Sands again...still not looking forward to see the end of his carreer looming closer, Night Cap had still asked him a question and he didn't want to be rude.

He tore his attention away from the new arrivals and gave a shrug to Night Cap. "Yeah, I suppose, friend. You're a friend of the keep, are you not? Makes you a friend of mine...however uncertain my future employment here may be. Celestia knows I cant have too many friends right now."

 

CoffeeHorse

*sip*
Staff member
Council of Elders
Citizen
Light Fantastic was okay, looking no worse for the wear. On the other hand, that suggested that there hadn't been much of a scuffle, which made the capture of a culprit unlikely. But how important was that at this point? He'd finally found Tangerine Sands. Goddess, he was tired, and he needed to be awake for what he was going to have to do...He tapped his hoof on the ground, and a 'quiet' guitar shred, a dozen quick notes just a little above speaking volume, rang up from the floor. He shook his head a little as they passed over him, and decided that would have to do as a revitalizer.

"Tangerine Sands, I'm Snowy Skies. We met earlier today." He says, offering a hoof to the policeman and sounding a little distracted. "You work with magical sound, yes? Your voice is still bouncing through my head from earlier. In any case, I have a song I'd like you to hear. I'm wondering if you can recognize anything of magical importance that might be an innate part of the song." Snowy Skies steps back and releases the spell he had been crafting.

What he was doing would probably offend any historians in the room. He was taking sheet music in an unknown script, choosing the modern key and time that made sense with the melody, and picking instruments that suited ancient Anugypt. But all he was trying to do was create beautiful music, and his notes rang through the museum halls. He wove lyres and harps throughout, with the occasional odd rhythm of a rattle-like instrument he had seen in the exhibition hall, called a sistrum. He knew from the tapestries that there were supposed to be flutes, but he knew that his music could only sound as good as he could imagine it, and he didn't think he had it in him to imagine a flute that sounded remotely pleasant. He made up for it with the quiet murmur of song in the background, mixing shreds of languages with low volume to create the illusion of a coherent chant.


Light Fantastic was able to notice that this sounded incredibly similar to an excerpt of the music from her upcoming dance.

Elsewhere, Brisk Iron walked into her office and sat at her desk.


Ms. Iron seems to trust you, so you check out in my book. Of course, on the other hand, she trusted me too and that didn't quite... Static shook his head. He really was tired and was talking waaaay too much. He needed to start being more careful about how much he let on. But still, you seem to be a decent pony. I'd be interested to know what past you have with Black Night. She doesn't seem to like you much.


Amber nodded to Willow Wisp. "It is perhaps still best that we bear our loads together," she said. "What did you encounter? It may shed some light on the goings on tonight in the museum."


"I don't expect this conversation to go well." The pegasus asks as she walks towards the desk. "But either way, we should probably clear up if you're wanting to talk to Black Night or Rhapsody." She says as she pulls the sword from the pouch she kept it it and sets it down on the desk.


Static Signal shrugs. Before tonight, I didn't have much of a social life. So I'm not really in a position to judge social protocols. She's definetly the serious type. I can see where that would put some ponies off. But like I said, she has no love for COIN and she probably saved me and Amber a lot of hurt tonight. So I really don't want to say anything bad about her.


Brisk Iron looked Black Night in the eye, "Rhapsody of course. I was only opting not to reveal your identity to others who may not know it. The first question is, why did you attempt to use the Sword of Shining Dark? I'll go ahead and tell you this one is a fake."


"COIN had blackmailed a good pony into joining them, I intend to fix that."


"We encountered something similar," said Amber. "The yellow earth pony here, Static Signal," she said. "An individual from COIN had attempted to conscript him as well. Luckily, he had the occasion to contact the authorities about it." She watched as Night Cap and Static Signal continued their conversation just out of earshot. She was reminded again of how Static's plight had reminded her of Night Cap and, worryingly, of Bottle Wary. "COIN does seem quite resourceful in finding ways to make ponies do what they want."


Snowy Skies had been watching Tangerine Sands intently for some reaction, but turned to face Amber and the oversized pegasus named Willow Wisp. His music still playing in the background, he says, "I've functioned alright up until this point, but now you're just making me too curious. What on earth is COIN?"


The Black Pegasus nods. "Question of semantics really, I find that I respond differently as Black Night." She replies. "Yes, I figured that, when it didn't do anything. I was more concerned with whether it was your fake, or someone else s." Rhapsody states."As for why, Silent Belle wasn't fooled by Static's hologram, and had disabled Amber." Rhapsody, much like Static, had seen what was a much more delicate act as something worse. "She also had a device with her, as Tr! iangle that I now know was for seeing purposes; but at the time seemed plausible to breaking into the sword case. With Amber disabled, and Static not seeming fit for combat... at that moment... it was a tactical call to try and take out the three before they could hurt them. I recalled how the wand seemed instrumental in our success last mission. The quicker I could take them down, the more likely I could move on to try and insure the safety of others." Like always, Rhapsody still seen that it was her job to protect everyone regardless the cost. "So if you wish to punish me for doing such, I take full responsibility."


Amber managed to entirely suppress a scowl at being addressed by Mr. Skies except for a tiny perturbation over her right eye. "A criminal group of treasure hunters," she said. "They seem to be the rivals of the Keep in every possible way. The tend to seek out similar ponies to procure the very same artifacts for very different goals," she said. "And they aren't at all unwilling to hurt ponies if it helps them make a claim."


"Fascinating." Snowy Skies says, turning back to Tangerine Sands immediately. "So, Tangerine Sands? Anything interesting, in your opinion?"


The current line of conversation finished, Willow Wisp alighted on a conspicuous absence. "I am surprised I haven't seen Rhapsody here, she still works here, yes?"


"Yes, ma'am," said Amber. "She's here, somewhere, although I haven't seen her since before the attack. I've been very much hoping to run into her as well."


"Don't take too much offence." Static tried to comfort Night Cap. "It's been a crazy night. COIN seems to do a good job making it hard to know who to trust."

Static took another look at Tangerine Sands when it dawned on him. "Oh pony feathers! I just remembered something! We'll talk again later, okay?

Static called out, Mr. Sands...sir. As he walked up, he pulled out the triangle. "Ms. Iron may want to see this before you decide whether or not to let Belle have it back or not. But...here's the "glasses."


Light Fantastic grinned at all of her companions.

"I wasn't expecting a reunion tonight," she said, "What do you mean blackmail, Willow?"

 

CoffeeHorse

*sip*
Staff member
Council of Elders
Citizen
"An admission helps mitigate things, especially since what you said to me in the exhibit room was different from what you told Steel Flint." Brisk Iron took a deep breath, "I'm trying to keep anger in check but it's being replaced by disappointment. I greatly disagree with your choice of action. The Wand of the North Wind attempted to exert its will upon Willow Wisp and it's only through your actions that things didn't get far worse. What if YOU were the one taken over?"! There was a brief pause. "Rhapsody, what would you do if you grabbed the Sword, then turned around and slayed both Static and Amber? I never predicted you would try to use it but such power is why I put a replica on display instead of the real thing. It's taken years to build one close enough and it required help from a foreign contact. If this exhibit was successful, it could lead to more such replicas being made, like one of the Wand of the North Wind. I'm tired of having to destroy history to keep ponies safe. In not expecting anypony here to try to use it, I didn't tell you this was a fake. However, I didn't alert anypony, not even Steel Flint who I've known for decades, so I'll take full responsibility for that."

Tangerine Sands took the triangle from Static Signal, "I'll make sure this is handled properly. As far as this music, I hear where somepony could possibly place secret notes but I don't hear any in this piece. Yet, it sounds oddly familiar. Night Wings, do you..?" "It sounds a lot like the music from Light Fantastic's upcoming performance. I remember that last time she was in New Coltro and had hoped to attend tomorrow if we got the case wrapped up in time. Ms. Fantastic, we may need your assistance tomorrow to look into some things with your production company. Would you be willing to help?"


"By that point, I had already retold it several times, and was trying to keep a summery brief because this has been a long night for everypony." Rhapsody replies with a huff. "I had not thought of that," she admits, but remains firm. "I was more worried about COIN getting it, as mentioned the leader of their trio was more focused, and had a sonic artifact that could have been used for breaking your case. What if she had gotten it? What if her lack of Fear of Black Night made her use it? Being able to take down the pony t! hat's been a thorn in their collective side for months effortlessly to rally her scared companions? Or use it to threaten Amber or Static? There are plenty of What-Ifs and worse case scenarios, I tend to suffer through most of them when trying to make the right call." Even her mask doesn't help hide that twitching eye of hers, when she starts listing off several other grim possibilities, as well to what you mention. "I didn't, I knew even when making it that it wasn't the best option; but 'in STOMP hoofs is still better then COIN hoofs' was all I had to rationalize my actions mentally. I just had to have faith that my team would have been there for me, like I was for Willow, if it had corrupted me." She says with a sigh and looks to you. She still was expecting some sort of punishment, and was still willing to face whatever it was for her decisions.

"Other things of note:" The black pegasus adds, not wanting to completely change topics, but feel they should probably be said before whatever repercussions are decided on "There are, or should be, four COIN operatives locked in a room in the front hall, three are unconscious. The one that isn't needs his sister looked after, it seemed something bad happened to her in their fight, and was trying to get her to a hospital when either the griffon or Night Cap got them first. He promised to go quietly if she got aid. Night Cap claims that this might have been an inside job, so you might want to do a staff review see if anyone isn't suspiciously absent now. Finally; despite what Sands may or may not have told you; Static preformed very admirably tonight he has some... issues... but there is much more to him then I think even he realizes. Some training might help temper his aggressive tendencies."


Static returns to where he'd left Night Cap. Seeing he wasn't there anymore he scanned the room and found him over with the rest of his friends. He considered joining them. Convinced that by tomorrow he probably wouldn't have a job and would probably have no more chances to meet with his new friends, he wanted to take as much time as he could with them.

But then he looked at them. He knew Amber, he had a conversation with Night Cap. He wouldn't mind chatting more with them at all. But he'd only been in the same room as Light Fantastic once before and had no clue who Willow was. Meanwhile they looked like long time friends catching up on old times. He didn't feel like he had much of a place there.

Instead he walked back over to the wall, sat down and rested up while he could. He needed to regain his energy if he was going to make it through his next meeting with Brisk Iron


Snowy Skies nods at the griffon, slowly digesting the bittersweet fact that the music he had made was already in use by someone else. Right now everything was like thinking through quicksand. He shook his head, and out of the corner of his eye spied the once-frozen-corpse distancing himself from Amber Spark and Night Cap. Considering how close he had stayed to one or the other of them up until now, that was odd. But perhaps this was an opportunity. "Excuse me for a moment." He says quietly to the policeman pair, walking over to the errant Earth Pony. "So what happened to you tonight?" He asks, sounding as pleasant as someone who recently had a dinosaur skeleton dropped on them can.


Static stood to face Snowy Skies. "What happened?" Static echoed. "Not sure where to start...or if I have the energy to go through all the details again. I feel like I've already tried to explain my actions several times tonight to several different ponies and more and more it just feels like I'm making excuses. Long story short? Rage. Just a rage I didn't even realise I had in me. And what I did with it..." Static winces. "It's the kind of thing that would never have happened if I'd just stayed in my little projection booth where I belong."


Snowy Skies tilts his head a little. It was possible that he was looking at a little monster. He speaks quietly, but a little urgently, alert again, for a brief moment. "That's not what I would've expected to hear. I'm the janitor, so you may not have seen me, but I've seen you in your little projection booth. You move like a--" He caught himself. 'Frozen corpse' didn't seem like a good term to use in polite conversation. "--You moved like a zombie, from point A to point B, task 1 to task 2. But tonight? You look tired, but it's different. It's like...you blossomed, then fell off the stalk. You found something tonight, something that gives you a buzz, something that makes you feel like nothing else. If I were you, I'd cherish whatever made you feel that way. It's not an easy thing to come by...Of course, in your state you've probably already lost it, so I'd start looking again. Right now."


Static gave a small shrug. I felt alive. I can't deny that. I felt more alive than I have since...ever! But if the price of me feeling alive means that other ponies get hurt and I start to hate what I see in the mirror? At least before it was just utter indifference.


Snowy Skies shakes his head, grinning. "See, now you're making a common mistake: you're thinking in binary. Ponies don't have two setting, we have a whole scale. Maybe a high C causes problems for those around you." He says, a shrill note bouncing between the two of them. "But maybe you could bring it down to a G, and nobody would mind at all." A high note, lower and clearer than the harsh tone of before, plays out, cutting off as it goes beyond the two of them. "Not everypony gets to feel like you did." He says with gravity.


Light Fantastic nodded.

"Just let me know what you need," she said.


"'What if they had gotten it?' is the reason for a replica. I was shocked that you attempted to use it but COIN or any others with ill intent were my true concern. The important thing is that everypony is safe. As far as Sands, I haven't had a chance to speak with him yet but I'll make sure to do that next. I'll also let him know about the ponies locked in the closet. I may speak with you again in the morning but for the moment I'm pretty sure you, well...all of us, could use some rest." With that, Brisk Iron stood up and opened the door to h! er office.

"One of us will be there in the morning but over the night, try to think if anything strange has been going on recently. Disappearances, odd dreams, or anything else out of sorts." Steel Flint returned with a written document for the police. She also gave Night Cap some blank paper and a pencil. Shortly after, Brisk Iron walked in and requested for Sands' presence. Not long after that, Sands returned and said to Static Signal, "Your Chief Director will see you now."


"That it was a replica, doesn't change my reasoning when only you have that information, Ma'am." Rhapsody states with a shrug. "You also might want to figure out where I've been while Black Night's been doing all this. Amber seems worried." She adds before leaving the office.

 
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