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Kirby Krackle

Golden Age Comics! Issue 1: You Never Say Good Luck on Opening Night!

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The clock strikes twelve in Thoroughbred City. The moon overhead, bright and full, offers more illumination that you're accustomed. The reason behind it, you reason, is Princess Celestia, doing her best to keep her little ponies safe during these troubling times. It's a mixed blessing for her subjects. For yes, their Goddess of the Sun is doing her best at all hours of the day now to keep aloft a guiding light, but now carved into the ivory orb the image of Princess Luna, now lost in the darkness. To some, Nightmare Moon was a monster born of tragedy, and their memories of their Princess of the Night is still that of a kind and benevolent ruler. Those ponies prayed for her return, and that the threat of eternal darkness be a memory lost to the sands of time. To others, the Moon is a prison. Its single prisoner was driven mad by envy and bitterness and the sphere in the sky is the only thing keeping a terrified Equestria safe from conquest and tyranny and dying afraid in the cold dark. There is a third, smaller but growing section of the populace. They see the night as opportunity. For now, with their sole matriarch tired and in mourning and the world around them covered in shadow, these less than righteous take the time to perform acts of mischief and mayhem and all around selfishness.

For example, there has been a curious series of burglaries on the southeast side, not deviating too far from Central Avenue; the one long stretch of road that splits the island city on Horseshoe Bay in two, where most businesses make their homes. The targets were banks, post offices, halls of record and other municipalities. But thefts such as these, while unfortunate, were not unusual. What sets these crimes apart? Well, first would be the entering without breaking. Whoever is perpetrating is doing so flawlessly. There were no reports of suspicious activity or damaged lock or jimmied window. They are getting both in and out without a single eye on them, which police called impossible. The second oddity was that not a single bit was taken. Instead, the thief was making off with paperwork. Licenses, tax forms, contracts; all of them associated in some way or other with Thoroughbred's well-to-do and influential. Naturally these ponies were alerted to their privacy being invaded, having no idea why they were targeted. Though boy did they demand answers. The police meanwhile, while baffled, were a stubborn lot and absolutely refused to enlist the aid of the mysterious ponies in masks and capes running about on rooftops. Taking the law into their own hooves earned them nothing but ire from the flathooves but they had to admit, they were not experts in weird. So John Law, the big, burly and blue chief of police was left with two options: bad publicity due to unsafe streets or bad publicity due to perceived incompetence. The Daily Trot quoted him the previous Monday morning, saying it was better to save lives than save face. The first distress call to these vigilantes was made that day. It made one heck of a page one spread.

There was another set of crimes as well, being covered by another of the metropolis newspapers; the Thoroughbred Rag. It was less than reputable, to say the least. They covered the gossip columns, rumors and articles that were borderline slander. Nonsense like anti-Alicorn separatists, smugglers from the Striped Continent and monsters in the sewers were topics that no other paper would touch, so it fell to the Rag. The absurdity this week was ghost sightings. Wealthy socialites, the very same having their property stolen under the noses of office clerks (assuming they were brave enough to speak up), were claiming to have been attacked in their homes by... Well, here are the inconsistencies in story. Some claimed to have seen a spectral figure in a red cloak and chilling white mask. Others have seen the stuff of foals' nightmares; the Headless Horse or the Olden Pony demanding her rusty horseshoe. Others saw nothing at all, their vision being obscured by a thick black fog. But in all cases, the victims were scared out of their wits and their valuables destroyed, like a gang of thugs or a tornado, depending on which business pony you asked. Plus, a cryptic message was left behind at each attack, allegedly. “Keep sacred the stage”, the ghastly wail said to each of them, followed by “Good luck” before vanishing. The Police had no comment on such matters. Official statements wrote off these random acts as a bunch of old codgers having too stressful a day at the office and too many ciders at home. Some reporters tried to make a connection between these incidents and rumors of the Scenes-Songs-and-Steps theatre being haunted. It was on Central long enough to be a cultural landmark, though as of late, it's fallen on hard times. The proprietor, Soliloquy; another old codger but still plenty sprightly, laughed off such claims.

“We showponies have always been a superstitious lot, Ahmtellinyer. Tons a legends been passed downfer generations! Heck, I dun even know why we do sumovem. Why, we can't use real bits on stage. Cuz bad luck. Can't whistle. Bad luck. We can't bring Peacock feathers on stage neither. More bad luck. Oh! We need to keep the ghost light lit, fer sure. Er else it's wicked bad luck. And we absolutely positively not-nopony not nohow ever ever ever cannot say 'Good Luck' on opening night! That right ther! Hooo boy, we've fired showponies for that! Put a hex on the whole dern thing! So, eh, wait, what was the question?”

Soliloquy wasn't interviewed again.

The clock strikes one in Thoroughbred City. The term 'morning' being used for such a time feels wrong. The Sun is still a ways away and the night is still fresh. All should be peaceful. But it is not. City Hall, assumed by many to be a stronghold of civility, has fallen victim to villainy this night.

The Pagemaster is the first to bear witness to the robbery. As mild mannered Quill Pusher, he was in the office well past sundown, his nose in the books, pouring over legal documentation, currently in the middle of a discovery assignment commissioned by the local law enforcement. For what case? Why, the string of thefts among office buildings, of course. If the Unicorn didn't take the thefts personally before, he certainly will now. He hears a shattering window, and glancing outside swiftly, he sees a living shadow leaping out of a nearby office, a number of scrolls in one hoof disappearing under his dark cloak, as the shouts of guards sound behind the fleeing criminal.

Star Flight, known to the papers as Captain Nightgaurd, was next on the scene, being no stranger to action when the sun is down. He could see little from the rooftop on which he was perched, but the ear-splitting screech of a pea whistle could be heard from a mile away. It certainly helped that many a sleeping pony were shaken from slumber. Illuminating the cityscape were bedroom lights, providing a trail to follow.

Dusty Roads, wielder of the Twin-Iron staff was one such pony who was having a rather pleasant dream about watercress and saffron sandwiches. The whistles made him stir, suddenly no longer comfortable with his head resting against a garbage can. It was one of the less graceful law ponies tripping over him in the dark that made him demand retribution.

Finally, on the other side of town, there was the duo of Doctor Stein and Bravado. The young Pegasus was fast asleep. Between his schooling, his sporting and that one extra-curricular activity, sleep had become a rare commodity. But tonight, oh, tonight was different. His schedule was clear tonight and well into the next day. It would be spent getting acquainted with his pillows. The Doctor meanwhile, was catching up on a series of bit novels she had been neglecting since before the accident. One of the perks to being dead is not needing to sleep. Her book was a romance, getting to one of the steamy parts before the device in which her spirit was contained lit up the room in a blinding display. In that flash, the two became one, and a minty green Alicorn was on the bed much to small for her frame, still snoring.

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It was part of the very fabric of Equestria that every Pony found the work to which he or she was most suited, but there was yet something a little unusual in how suited Quill Pusher was to his, especially in terms of his current task. As City Hall's resident troubleshooter, anything that threatened the harmonic workings of Thoroughbred City was put on his desk, alongside the more normal paperwork of bureaucratic proceedings.

This time, however, they were one and the same. A series of rather masterful burglaries had been committed in order to obtain the papers of the great and good in the city, and it was his task now to figure out who and why. The unicorn was working late in his office, having just concluded a conversation with the chief of police the afternoon before. Right now, he was trying to determine if there was any other pattern in the thefts; usually such robberies were preludes to blackmail, but no such letters had been sent out...

In many cases, City Hall kept copies of the records, and it was over some of them that he was poring now. When he heard the crash, it was a sound that he had half-expected. Quickly snatching up the hat and mask left nearby, the Quill Pusher assumed his identity as the Pagemaster. Of course the thief would strike here, if he wanted to take all the copies, and his entrance was by no means as undetectable as previously!

Taking the nearest door, he rushed out into the street, filing cards trailing behind him in a glow of magical levitation. Apparently, the burglary was not in City Hall itself, but in a neighboring office. There were shouts and chases, but the thief was on pace to outrun his pursuers. Pagemaster, however, was in a position to run an interception course, which he did so, seeking to do his duty. "Paper thief..." He growled, hooves pounding down the darkened streets after the profaner of his profession!

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"Gah!" came the gruff and quite startled yelp of the staff wielding vagabond. The stallion stumbled to his hooves as he was tripped over by the unknowing lawpony. "Can't a fella get some shut eye around here?!" he glared grumpily, huffing a frustrated puff of air from his nostrils. To his outburst the tripped up officer glared right back at him, clambering to his hooves, "You're one of those vigilante types arent you? The hay are you doing just lounging around when a criminal is on the loose! You mask wearing weirdos are all about catching /other/ mask wearing weirdos aren't ya?" he asked with more then a bit of passive aggressiveness in his voice as he sped right off again after his fellow officers, leaving Dusty alone in the alley

The light brown furred pony barely had time to start a response before his rather loud company departed.. And as he cast his gaze up to the rooftops above him a lone figure leapt right over him.. whether that was the criminal or another vigilante joining in the chase was unknown, as the night left much to the imagination. Still Dusty simple narrowed his gaze as he tucked one hoof under his faithful Twin-Iron, sending it spinning into the ait before catching it upon the straps on his back. "Consarnit.. " his displeasure vocalized with a heavy southern drawl as he sprinted off after the pursuing group, making quick ground... the faces of the lawponirs quickly turning to shock as they were passed up by the stout, rag wearing stallion... with an iron-adorned staff upon his back no less. If they werent already livid with humiliation at being outperformed by the arising caped crusaders.. well then this particular group of enforcers certainly were now.

The vagabond skidded himself around the corner just in time to see a second black figure fleeing rapidly.. seemed like as good of a lead as any, and Dusty once again retained his powered pursuit, moving with such speed thanks to nothing but the muscles in his body.

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Bravado! Bravado! Wake up, Bravado!

Bravado stirred, batted at thin air, and one oversized wing flicked out dismissively at the voice trying to wake him. The wing hit the wind-up clock on his bedside table, knocking it down onto the floor with a clatter. He jumped up at the loud clanging, hitting the ceiling with the overly long horn, and let out a high-pitched yelp, ducking her head and clutching at her forehead. "Wha... how... what?" She looked around, bewildered, wrapped up in the blue draped fabric of her cape and skirts.

Bravado, we turned into Morning Glory while you were asleep! We're needed!

Oh. Yeah. This. Of course. She looked in the mirror to confirm. She wasn't nearly as tall as Celestia or Luna, but she was an alicorn, a little taller than Bravado, her horn longer than most horns, and a wing span that Bravado was frankly envious of. The mares would be all over him if he had a wingspan like that. Sigh. And of COURSE it would happen tonight, when he was finally going to get caught up on sleep. And she had that urge - she could feel *where* she was needed. A good night's sleep was too much to ask for ... but at least this time she wasn't going to miss class or practice.

She settled the helm over her head, being careful of the still unfamiliar horn, then tip-hoofed over to the window and struggled to fit out through it, not wanting to make her way through the hallway and risk being seen. She squeeeeezed through the small window, tripped over the sill, dropped a short distance, then managed to steady herself and made her way up into the sky, letting out a cavernous yawn.

Soon she was soaring over main street, her dark silhouette blotting out the stars above in a distinctly alicorn-shaped shadow, Everything was really ... quiet. There was no obvious giant monster or disaster that needed her attention. "Hey, Doc, is that catastrophe-sensor on the fritz or something? Nothing's going on here."

Down below, Morning Glory heard the sharp whistle of the constables giving chase, and her eyes scanned the dark alleys and rooftops down below, then managed to focus in on one form leaping across rooftops, wearing a mask and a hat, with a long trail of glowing paper floating along behind him, and the police ponies chasing along afterwards down in the streets below.

That seems to be going on, replied Doc brightly.

"Of course! That one thief that's been stealing paperwork! I dunno that this is ... disaster-worthy, but apparently the magic thinks that Morning Glory is needed!

And with that, Morning Glory reared back, spread her wings, and darted out through the night sky, shadowing the paper-controlling unicorn. Justice would be done tonight! Just needed to angle for the perfect trajectory of attack, and everything would be over before the scoundrel realized it. The hunt was on!

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Star Flight stretches his one good wing out to feel the wind flow over it while perched on top of the building. It isn't flying, but it feels better than being on the ground and he can't use his jets all night if he wants to get home. The sky writing business has been down this week, the rich and elite not partying as much with this string of robberies, he would be more concerned about money if he hadn't taken that body guard job a few nights ago. The trouble is he quickly realized that being a guard was being a glorified foal-sitter for adult ponies and the idea of going to help others was out of the question, that job lasted very shortly. So it is that late night, by himself as usual. All the ponies asleep except for the rare few who left him alone, he munched on his lunch that he brought with him. It kept him from having to take off his old Night Guard chainmail along with his jetpack to go into a diner that might still be open and deal with the glares of the other ponies for being one of the bat-winged pegasi. Moonlit Forge worried over him carrying the armor nightly, moreso that the police were actually calling for the vigilantes to help now, but at least she went beyond trying to talk him out of going into the danger.

Star Flight sighed and leaned back to look up at his only companion, the moon. So much brighter now he examines the mare now upon it, his mind wandering back to the past when he was alongside his princess. His musing suddenly broke by the shrill whistle. His sharp ears perking as he looks to the direction he heard it, seeing the lights coming on, it seemed it was that time. Donning his helmet, modified from the guard helmet to a full flight helmet, then started to run for the ledge of the building. Right as he jumped over the edge of the building, his wings spreads out with clicks, locking in place, and before he can start to fall, a blast of aurora comes from the pack on his back, thrusting him forward far faster than he could fly before he was injured.

Rocketing above the streets, he quickly catches up to the police, his purple eyes glancing ahead of them. It seems at this time they are hot on the hooves of a hobo... or it seems he's giving chase? Ahead after that is a pony with a mask and a hat, the papers trailing behind him would make him the prime suspect for a paper thief. But that would make more sense if he wasn't chasing a living shadow... oh how helpful it is to figure out which masked figure is fighting for what cause. He angles up so that he can put a lightning bolt in front of the shadow in the lead, slow him and the others down so it can help sort them out when he catches a glance of a figure in the sky. Massive wings, and a horn, there is no confusing that he's looking at an alicorn. But... there is no alicorn at night... unless it's her, his princess... "Luna?" His voice a breathed whisper before he quickly changes his trajectory to match that of the alicorns as she must know something. While pulling the old Night Guard maneuver, he drifts a little bit, wanting to get a closer look at this alicorn, to see if his princess has indeed returned.

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The law enforcement, while still diligent in their pursuit of the suspect, had to admit to feeling absurd. Frustrated, even. Their target seemed to insist on remaining just out of hoof's reach. The two Pegasi in the group especially could not get a bead on the shadowy thing. Once they were in the air, so was the thief, blinking in and out of existence in a flash and a puff of smoke. The only things left behind were a mad cackling and the smell of something burning. In the time it takes to blink, the thief was a block ahead. Then on the rooftops above. Then directly behind, doing the chasing. Or, in one instance, posing as a mannequin in a storefront display. But surely that was just a trick of the eyes.

What the pursuers did not realize is that they were being lured. Where? To the welcome mat of the Scenes Songs & Steps theatre. Almost all in the group of capes and coppers had fond childhood memories of this place. To see it ravaged by the depression left in Nightmare Moon's wake, like many other establishments on Central Avenue, was heartbreaking. Bringing to mind the recent rumors surrounding it now made it unsettling.

The shadow crept right in, the front doors left wide open. It was an invitation to these lost souls. A dare. “Good luck”, could be heard from inside, barely a whisper. One officer in particular, a rookie Earth Pony with a painted palomino coloring, would be having none of it. “That shade... it's just like they said in the Rag!”, he said in a panic. He was sweating, shaking and trying to escape from the grip of his commanding officer. “It's the Masquerade! He's lured us here! We're doomed! All of us doomed! DOO-”. The hysterics had to be slapped out of him. But it was too late. The fear was infectious. The special heroes could overhear chatter among the officers which was uncertain and distrustful. They had no idea what they were up against.

“Better the weirdos than us.”

“She's a princess! She can save us, right?”

“A vagabond and a bat-pony traitor?”

“I can't go in there. I have a wife and two foals.”

“The Masquerade can't be just a myth.”

“What if this is Nightmare Moon all over again?”

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If there was one thing that was more detrimental to the proper functioning of a city, it was chaos, even more so than crime, though the two were never far from each other. And as the pursuit of the masked burglar began to pile up like flotsam and jetsam against the bulk of the Scenes Songs & Steps theatre, matters were quickly growing out of hand. The Pagemaster was at the head of the chase, having been among the first to set off after the burglar, and quite a few lawponies were piled up behind him as he skidded to a halt. A collection of masked vigilantes were on their way too, it seemed, and now there was some frightful rumor going about!

It would be all bedlam in less than no time if somepony didn't do something. And, as the mayorally-appointed Defender against chaos, Pagemaster was the pony to do it. "Alright now, CALM DOWN!" The masked Quill Pusher called out over the hubbub, calling attention and, hopefully, silencing fearful whispering. "We've traced the thief to this building. If all the guards could fan out and cover the exits, I can go in and sort him out, alright?" He didn't reference the other vigilantes, partly because he didn't know them from Faust, and partly because the guards didn't either. He himself actually had a Security clearance, and even if the guards couldn't see his face, they might recognize his voice...

(Gonna roll a Charisma check to calm the guards down.)

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Morning Glory's broad wings gave her great speed and agility, but even she was having to do some serious work to catch up to the chase under way - the authorities seemed to be doing a pretty good job of keeping up, but if Morning Glory's tingling 'danger sense' was correct, they were probably in over their heads. And then she saw them all reeling back in terror and dismay, the chase coming to an abrupt halt.

Coming around the corner, she saw that the unicorn with all the stolen paper floating around him had turned to confront the constables. She narrowed her eyes in determination. "Not on my watch, you don't!" She lowered her head and poured on the speed, her cloak and skirts flaring around her as she barrelled down out of the sky to tackle the masked unicorn standing in front of the doors to the theatre.


(Modifiers)

Action: Charge + Rush.
Feat: Accurate Attack: -3 to saves, +3 to hit.
Attack: +3 melee +3 accurate attack = +6 to hit.

Rush bonus:
Strength: + 5
Movement Power: +5
Total: +10

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Captain Nightguard kept flight along just moments before pulling up so he's flying above the buildings. He's not sure her plan, but this is not how he was trained, it was too much chase and not enough actually getting into position. At least he knew with his cannons the height he could still support his princess in need. She must have a plan and certainly wouldn't have expected him so why would he think her flying style would be there for support of a team. Pouring on the speed to get on ahead, he sees the shadow go in... no the shadow was LEADING the police and masked vigilantes right to the doorstep to the theater. He sees the masked one turn and start talking to the police, and as he starts to decrease his speed and altitude to speak to the alicorn, it is when he hears "Not on my watch, you don't!" No royal Canterlot voice, the wrong voice even, and the way she barrels in all he can think is "Who is that?" as he realizes now it is most certainly not his princess.

Knowing that the alicorn slamming into the crowd is going to create a massive mess, he angles up to land on the overhang above the theater to watch and see how this all turns out.

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Dusty's powerful legs were keeping him quite a ways ahead of the lawponies trailing him as he barreled down the streets; heavy staff bouncing with each moment. The stallion came to practically a screeching halt as his heavy and powerful form stopped before the doors of the Scenes, Songs, and Steps Theatre.. a place of fond memories for many. However it seemed the cloaked and fleeing masked-figure was making this their 'lair' as the spectral enigma passed trough the opened doors; a harrowing voice speaking the most feared superstition known to showponies.

"Sunuva.." he muttered to himself as the figure vanished.. and already the superstitious nonsense began to be spouted from the 'proud' officers in the crowd.. well from one of them at least, whom was swiftly silences thankfully. With a momentary quiet spell Dusty took a quick look around the colorful crowd.. taking in just whom had joined in on this wild chase. For the moment it seemed he could only see one; the card-fluttering, equally enigmatic figure in an all-too-similarly looking cloak. This one looked.. dangerous, for sure, but not nearly as dangerous as the second appearance of the evening, announcing herself with a boisterous "Not on my watch, you don't!" Before the form was revealed.

An alicorn... well, Dusty could confidently state he did not see that coming. Knowing only of the Sisters.. well, Sister now, this took the stallion vagabond quite a moment to ascertain.. before he realised she had just barreled past him, on a mad charge toward the floating magician (well, Dusty -assumed- it was a magician, what with the floating cards.and all).

"What in the hay-?!" He blurted out, "Hold on! Ah' dont think he's-!" Though the words were too late.. Dusty reached for his Twin-Iron just in case he had to break something.

Up.

Break something up. That's what he meant of course.

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[ Pagemaster rolls (1d20)+2: 15,+2. Total:17 vs a DC of 15 to remove the shaken status. Success! ]

The Pagemaster, they decided, was trustworthy. He had to be. It takes a pony of great exception to win the Mayor's seal of approval. The officer in charge saluted his masked comrade and commanded the officers to “Fan out! You heard Pagemaster! I want these exits and entrances sealed! Nopony gets in or out so long as we're still standing”. And fan out they did with a renewed vigor. Thoughts of the phantom were still lingering in the minds of some, but with heroes here, what's the worst that could happen?

[ The Princess rolls (1d20)+6: 17,+6. Total:23 vs 10+...nothing, because it's a surprise attack. That's a hit.]

That, apparently. Princess Morning Glory charged in, faster than a speeding arrow and more powerful than a locomotive. The masked Unicorn literally did not know what hit him.

[The Princess rolls (1d20)+5: 15,+5 Total:20 for the Strength check. Pagemaster counters with Roll(1d20)+-1:1,+-1 Total:0. According the the Time and Progression table, technically Pagemaster is knocked back 50,000 feet. Technically.]

Neither did the few police forming a blockade by the front entrance. All they saw was a minty green blur and suddenly their savior was gone. He was sent through the front doors into the atrium. From the atrium, through those wooden doors into the seating of the rear mezzanine. The chair cushions were plush velvet, broken in and comfortable. He did not hit the cushions of the chairs. He hit the back, which were cast iron and bolted to the floor. Or rather, were bolted. The sheer force of the Unicorn-shaped projectile ripped up from the hardwood floors each seat he collided with. There were eight rows in the rear mezzanine. Eight more in the front mezzanine. Thirty more in the orchestra seating, finally coming to an abrupt stop at the front of the stage. He would have gone through the wooden paneling had he not been slowed down.

[Pagemaster gets to roll for his Toughness save. His Force Field isn't up. Roll(1d20)+0:14,+0. Total:14 vs a DC of 17. A failure, but only a minor one. He's bruised.]

But despite the... humiliating level of damage done to the theatre itself, Pagemaster got to his hooves with nothing to show for his ordeal but a bit of puffiness around his left eye.

Meanwhile, way back by the concessions booth that was nearly hit by the metaphorical cannon ball, a solitary stallion is left dumbfounded. He's young, around college age. A slate gray stallion with a mane and tail of green and violet split down the middle, which violently clashed with his maroon smoking jacket. It was deliberate and attention-getting. To say he was shaken was an understatement. In fact, he was practically foaming at the mouth.

WHAT IN CELESTIA'S NAME DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING!

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That was the thing about Chaos; it could strike at any time. Unless one had a perfect sense of vigilance, its blows would always have the advantage of surprise and initiative, being by their nature unpredictable beforehand. Such calm, philosophical reflections flashed through the mind of that great defender of Order, the Pagemaster, as a sudden unforseen blow sent him flying into the theater, across the galleries, and landed him at the foot of the stage.

He got to his hooves quickly enough, however, straightening his hat and readjusting his mask over his now bruised and puffy eyes. "I don't know what that was all about," He quipped, not without irritation, at the rather feckless-looking youth manning the concession stand, "But I am here after a burglar hotly pursued by me and the guard." While speaking, he used his grimoire-granted powers to summon a great quantity of paper that was his alter ego's namesake, readying it as a force field for the next blow. A thought, however, occurred to him as he did so. "And what, for that matter, are you doing here, staffing a concession stand for an empty house?"

So, right now I'm using my "Create Object" power to get however much paper I can; next turn or time unit that I can I'll be creating my Paper Force-Field, unless interrupted.

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... Oops ...

Morning Glory hadn't gotten used to her new strength, yet, and hadn't quite expected that tackle to be quite *that* effective ... she was honestly a little worried about the crook she had plowed through the rows of seating.

She wasn't sure if it was fortunate or unfortunate that he was already up and dusting himself off, and ... pretending like there wasn't an alicorn standing there right in front of him, instead leaning over to look *past* her and talk to some random bystander who was on the other side of the theatre?! And wondering why an employee would be cleaning up after hours? He couldn't honestly be that dense, could he?

He has the bearing of a unicorn who spends too much time with his head in stacks of papers, came the Doc's advising voice in the back of his mind. Never underestimate their ability to be oblivious to what's right in front of them.

Morning Glory cleared her throat and waved her hoof in front of the Unicorn's eyes. "Um ... you can see me, right?" she asked, completely thrown off balance.

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Ex-CUSE me!” The stallion clearly did not appeciate the wild accusations, whatever they may have been. With no regard for their levels of strength or durability, this mortal in velour marched right up to the extraordinary pair who were far more interested in their own personal quarrel than the property damage they caused. His hoof was in the face of the shorter one first. “I'M not the one who came in like a wrecking ball and tore up...” He stuttered briefly and then proceded to do a count of each piece of furnature damaged. “One hundred and eight! One hundred and eight seats that have to be closed for repairs because SOME ponies couldn't keep the fight outside! And give me those! Give me those!

The papers Pagemaster was summoning to him happened to be programmes and schedules for upcoming events. These were papers the theatre head was not happy to relinquish, snatching away a few mouthfuls before they became part of a growing barrier around the hero. “Stuck up Unicorn punks”, he grumbled under his breath. “Never any consideration for the ponies who actually have to work for a living, no weirdo powers or anything...

Oh! And you!” He wasn't grumbling anymore. “Don't think for a second I forgot about you, Princess!” He doubled back for a moment, the P word finally sinking in. There was an audible gulp and a brief pause before the stern lecture continued. “The papers are saying you're one of the good eggs! And then you let... this... happen!” This being a wild flailing of the forelegs. “I just... how could you... of all the outrageous!” His anger could not be contained any more. And Morning Glory received the full brunt of his rage: a thin stack of playbills across the nose.

This is my livelihood. You both need a better reason to be in here than 'blah blah blah we were chasing a burgler'”

[The pony in the smoking jacket rolls (1d20)+8: 8,+8 Total:16 on an interaction skill. I'm not saying which one. But he's trying to convince you all.]

[To counter, Bravado rolls (1d20)+6: 17,+6 Total:23. Nice. You win. Not buying what he's selling.]

[Doctor Stein meanwhile rolls (1d20)+-1:5,+-1 Total:4. Less nice. Also, making the modifier -1 was shorthand for extra modifiers on my end for this particular interaction. Plus 3 minus 4. She feels so guilty, she probably wants to buy him dinner. ]

[The Pagemaster rolls (1d20)+5:5,+5 Total:10. Boy do you feel sheepish.]

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Starflight gaped at the impact. That... was so incredibly sloppy... who? What? He shakes his head, it's time to figure out where everything stands. Okay, there was the shadow. It's... a question, likely culprit. There was the masked one, carrying papers, seems obvious to also being the criminal... but the police listened to him. Not the enemy? The alicorn slammed into him though... but so far... he doesn't know if this alicorn knows anything more than him. And then there's the hobo. Huh... okay, so he's being ignored by the police. Likely ally? It'd be nice to have someone watching his flank, there's been a couple fights since he's been solo his tail has been shortened a couple hairs, still not used to fighting alone. But... who is he? Can he even fight or was he just following along for the show? Boy if only he had listened to his sister following all the vigilantes, but he was busy being one, and putting food on the table, he wasn't going to worry about them except for the short bits he heard on the radio and saw in the paper. Past the time for intel gathering...

He lifts off, jets firing to land him in between the police and the theater, turning to the chief "Well... we're up to at least three unknown ponies in there now?" he only gives long enough for the chief to correct anything he may not have seen "Keep the theater surrounded, and make sure that if one of your men see something trying to leave to yell before trying to stop them. I do not want to miss it." he checks his sword to make sure that it's loose and ready then turns and goes into the theater following the chaos of the impact, ready to dodge any officer who thinks they might keep him out. His larger ears are perked, listening for anything as he comes in, expecting an ambush, muttering quietly "What I'd give for just one other of the guard right now...." He comes to find the damage of the impact and three ponies, sizing them up as they argue a moment, getting a read as long as none of them notice him, which his voice yells out at the sharpest command voice he's used when working as his Princess's guard "In the light of the moon, identify yourselves!"

((I don't know if diplomacy or intimidate would be appropriate for that command, seems more right for Profession: Guard))

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Well.. that escalated quickly. In what could only be described as a freight train hitting a sand bag the Alicorn had slammed head on (quite literally) into the enigmatic Paper Manipulator... That was what Dusty would refer to him as until he got a sufficient name, and sent him sailing through the theatre door, creating a massive ruckus from within.. and was that another voice inside?

"Well.. slap me silly.." the southern stallion mumbled in shock as the Alicorn suddenly ran inside, looking more then a bit shocked herself. The stallion's ears flicked up as he caught wind of the Night Guardsman shouting orders to the lawponies standing behind him; an official perhaps? He certainly looked it.. but Dusty gave himself little time to ascertain more about the watchman and galloped his way inside after the destructive duo.

Upon reaching the inside of the theatre the hobo stallion blinked as he .. didn't quite expect to see this. A third pony was inside, currently giving the much taller "Princess" and the thoroughly pulverized unicorn pagemaster a stern talking to.. who the hay was this one?

Dusty narrowed his eyes under the cowcolt hat and brought a hoof to the great, iron-endowed staff on his back, "So.. mind filln' me in on what the Sam hail is goin on here?" He brought that staff from his back.. and took up a most unusual stance. Holding one end of the staff to the ground with the other aimed skyward, Dusty stood up onto his hind hooves, holding that's position as if it took no effort to balance like that at all! One hoof was even tapping the floor as he stood and eyed the crowd of three; probably looking the least well dressed out of any of them.

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Trained and talented troubleshooters and investigators tend to have one major mental bias that occasionally proves troublesome in daily life: ignoring the broad and obvious facts and focusing on the niggling and out-of-place details. While this was quite helpful in tracing hidden malfeasance through a trail of routine paperwork, it didn't work quite so well in a face-to-face interaction.

Quill Pusher, who was one of the best troubleshooters the city had, blinked in the face of the concierge's tirade, noticing for the first time the trail of wreckage that traced his path inside the theater. He winced, and didn't even make a move to stop him from snatching back some of the programs. "My sincere apologies, sir. I can assure you it was not my intention to make so destructive an entrance, but-" And here his focus fell for the first time upon Morning Glory, "But apparently certain ponies were not listening when I asked everypony to calm down. I trust that this hasty action-"

Pagemaster's rather dry dialogue was further interrupted by a bellow from the back of the house. The unicorn peered through his mask at the thestral framed in the doorway. "Quill 'Pagemaster' Pusher, of City Hall." He answered promptly enough; his garb was more a formality than an actual attempt to hide his identity; he rather relied on having the backing of the city authority when he went out. Another pony came in behind, a rather shabby-looking one. At this one's question, the Pagemaster threw his hooves in the air. "I don't know, I came here to find out. Apparently, a thief was seen coming into this theater. That's all I learned, before I was knocked inside." He rubbed a sore spot on the side of his head ruefully. He was a little too off-balance at the moment to attempt anything much.

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Morning Glory was ... definitely off balance. Ponies were coming out of everywhere, all talking and yelling and scolding at once! She rocked backwards at the series of recriminations and demands for explanation, wondering what the hay she'd put her hoof into this time. With her justice senses pinging, she'd been expecting a brawl, or maybe a giant monster ... not ... an argument. She stepped backwards a few steps, one foreleg lifted, her eyes a little wide, every inch of her body language that of a confused teen...

She'd seen a lot of strange things in her couple of weeks as an alicorn hero - and she wasn't just talking the creatures she's faced, like the chocolate pudding that tried to eat her. She'd seen strange reactions from the ponies she'd rescued. Like the mare she'd pulled out of the burning shop - only to have that mare try to run back into the burning building because she hadn't finished her shopping yet. And then demand of Morning Glory when they were going to let ponies back into the shop. Or the well-off stallion that she'd caught falling from the airship, whose first question had been whether or not she'd happened to catch the bit purse he'd dropped as well. Lined up against those, a theatre employee who was raging about the wrecked seats wouldn't really have gone all that un-noticed, except ... he oversold it. Her eyes narrowed.

Oh, that poor cute stallion! We should buy him dinner to make up for this whole fiasco. And by we I mean you. Think of what we've done to him! Maybe a couple dinners. And a show.

Not now, Doc. Something's not quite right here.

Morning Glory had no idea what all was going on here, but something wasn't adding up from her initial impression ...

Thankfully, she had one pony she could rely upon as an ally.

HEY!

Fine, two ponies.

That's better.

Her broad wings spread and she flit through the air to land next to Captain Nightguard. She knew him - or at least, of him. The Daymares wouldn't shut up about him. The scars, the wounded wing, the exotic appearance, the brooding, bad-colt demeanor, the tragic story of 'striving against the evil of his kind'. He was just the sort of hero to make pegasus mares go weak at the knees.

Mmmm... not just the pegasus mares.

Stop that!

Bravado would never admit having been jealous of the Captain just a little ... but at least Morning Glory knew that he was somepony who could be trusted.

"Captain, thank goodness," she sighed in relief, standing tall next to him, trying to stand strong but still exuding that 'nervous teen' vibe. "I'm Morning Glory. I'm not entirely sure what's happening here, but the cops were chasing The Papercolt there" she said, gesturing at Papermaster, "and were scared of him when he stopped running and turned to face him. I have no idea who the other two are, but ... something seems off about the employee there... Everything about him makes perfect sense, but he's just ... he's overselling it. He's not a very good actor ..."

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He heard everything Morning Glory said. Everything. Especially the “He's not a very good actor” crack. The stallion's face, as it became more and more twisted by rage, could tell stories; dark and bitter tales of hate and betrayal where heroes become victims and dreams die. The clenched teeth could grind stone to fine powder. The glare in his eyes could ignite loose tinder. This is a face full of killing intent, of a war being waged over six misspoken words, of a lifetime's worth of disgraces suffered. This was the beginnings of an unstoppable rage, focused entirely on one clueless Alicorn.

He marched up to her, ignoring the height and horn and wings, looking upon her face with unadulterated loathing. Like he was trying to give her a pox with his mind. Slow and methodical, his eyes never leaving hers, he reached into the breast pocket of his coat. Was it a knife he was pulling out? A vial of deadly poison? No, just a business card, which he graciously presented to the good Captain, actually smiling at him.

Curtain Call”, he introduced. “Showpony nonpareil. Triple threat. That's singing, dancing and acting.” That last bit was given extra emphasis, just for Glory. “And my family founded this theatre, so please, forgive me for being overprotective.

The thief you mentioned”, Pagemaster was the next to receive a card. “is probably more of those Masquerade rumors. This makes the tenth time this week I've been questioned, actually. Though admittedly, this is the first time the questioning has been done by those mystery ponies the papers keep talking about.

So I'm going to tell you what I've been telling everypony else”, the stallion with the staff and unique stance was the last to receive a card. This was both intentional and passive-aggressive. “I don't know a thing about any robberies. But I do understand you all have jobs to do. So you're welcome to search my theatre, my home, to your hearts' content provided you straighten up a bit.

With nimble hooves expected of a 'showpony nonpareil', he hopped up on stage rather than take the stairs.

Please try to understand. The shadows aren't real. The Masquerade isn't real. And I will not be made a criminal because of some foal's bedtime story! I mean, really. Look. This is the ghost light.” This, being a solitary candle in the center of the stage, set in a wide brimmed bronze dish. “It is lit because I need to turn on the house lights every morning and not trip in the dark and break my neck. It is NOT to appease the vengeful spirits that roam the house, giving them light to perform so they don't instead sabotage my productions. Really.” He picked it up and blew it out. Only the stage dimmed slightly with the rest of the gas lamps going strong along the aisles. “It's stupid. Why would anypony think tha-

The stage's trapdoor opened beneath him. He fell. He screamed. He was cut off by the sounds of a sudden crash. He made no sounds after that. Instead, echoing throughout the theatre, were the booming sounds of every door and window slamming shut. And behind it all, starting off barely audible but getting stronger with every passing moment, was a deep and billowing laughter.

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Captain Nightguard watches everyone in the room, taking a moment to note the pony with the staff. Odd stance, but he was outside with the police, so he must be alright if they didn't stop him. When Pagemaster responds to the command, the only thing that shows any expression is the eye slit of the helmet, possibly just showing the arched eyebrow. Why wear a mask when you give your name? Of course he started wearing a mask that hid his identity, though it was rather more for having a full helmet in combat.

Then he turns to look at Morning Glory that lands next to him. He tilts his head as he stares long and hard at the strange alicorn Very definitely not Luna. I never even heard that name, much less another Alicorn. His mind races quickly going over all the royalty he knows of, but she is new to him.

The sound of hoofsteps makes him turn, the expression on the curators face makes his wings rise, out of the way of the twin devices on his sides, long tubular pieces connected to his jetpack. The wings lower as the curator pulls a card and hands it to him, taking it purely in surprise as he goes through the whole introduction. Nightguard didn't know that it was called a ghost light and what it was for, but he didn't put much stock in ghosts, but he watched Curtain Call drop into the trapdoor. With a jump and a quick flare of his jetpack, he flies over all the seats to land on the stage, hooves scraping over it as he comes to a stop to look in "Sir! Are you Okay?"

About that moment he notices how they are getting closed in, and the booming laugh "... That's not good." he turns to the other ponies left, but his eyes keep wandering over the theater, watching every shadow "There has to be stairs. We need to find them to get to him." he dips his head "And yes. We're sticking together. I don't know the lot of you and either of you..." his attention goes to Morning Glory and Pagemaster "Can be involved in what's going on." he says to Dusty Roads "I figure you coming in after the police arrived means they trust you for a reason."

((Using my notice to see if there's anything to be spotted that would be out of the ordinary))

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Morning Glory looked on, unimpressed, as the showpony declared how awesome he was, handing out his business card to ... HEY! Why didn't she get one?! Hrmph. Jerk. She rolled her eyes as he leaped to all *sorts* of conclusions, and went on an obviously rehearsed speech about -

Wait, what just happened?

She spread her wings and followed Captain Nightguard over to the trap door, her hoof touching over it just once. He ... didn't trust her?! How many alicorn heroes did he know!? "We don't need stairs, I can get this open!" she declared boldly, suddenly wanting to prove herself, and show how useful she could be. She glared at the laughter surrounding them, reared back, and struck at the trap door with a fierce blow of her forehooves.



Her strength is 26, giving her a damage DC of 15 + 8 = 23
Assuming it's a standard non-reinforced wooden trapdoor, it has a toughness save of +3.

In the event that it rolls 5 or less, her reflex save to catch herself after accidentally reducing it to splinters is +8, otherwise she falls down after the other pony..

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Pagemaster sighed the sigh of a bureaucrat who has to explain what was clearly printed on the relevant forms. "The guards were not chasing me. If they were, would they have followed my directions and surrounded the building while I was outside?" He didn't like to think of himself as impatient, but this Morning Glory didn't seem to have patience for procedure, all the necessary tasks to set a thing out properly. Some ponies called it "red tape;" he was content to note that haste in these matters preceded mistakes like the one which caused the alicorn to slam him into the theater and unnecessarily wreck it.

He was about to try to explain further and calm the proprietor, when he launched into a storm of words. Something about theatrical superstition, of which Pagemaster knew little and cared less. He was about to venture an interruption, when circumstances overtook him, a trapdoor opening underneath the manager and dropping him below, to the accompaniment of laughter.

His reply to the thestral was brief and professional, though not without irony. "Well, as I arrived here first, I happen to trust that none of you are the malefactor I was pursuing. In any case, while you and her," He nodded to Morning Glory, already diving into the action, "Help the poor fellow, I think that this gentlecolt and I," Here he quickly nodded to Dusty, "Should go backstage to where the levers for that door are. It's possible that we might catch this Masquerade, whatsoever he might be. He's shut in, so he can't have left the building."

Gathering his summoned paper about him again, he made his way onstage, fashioning the programmes into a kind of torch, which he lit from the dropped candle. "Now, let's see the stallion behind the curtain..."

Rolling Investigative skill to figure out where exactly the controls are, and if anypony's there.

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Dusty's eyes mewled over the card he was handed, hmm'ing softly in thought before tucking it away in his pouch. It wasn't long after that before the show pony began to go off on a whole spin of how great of an actor he was, in three areas of performance no less, and the stallion cowcolt simply sighed with a shrug. Show offs always seemed to get to the wanderer.. he was skilled, yes, but he was taught (and trained) to treat his abilities as gifts, not power to lord over others. Still this stallion was giving quite the opening performance.. before everything went awry. The trap door upon the stage flipped open, sending the show stallion screaming down into whatever lay below.. lights flared out, windows slammed shut and doors locked in place, and a deep, villainous laugh echoed around the entire abandoned complex.

"Ah hell.. s'gonna be wunna those kindsa deals, is it?" the stallion put himself into a guarded stance; fore hooves holding his staff tight and up before him, ready to react to anything that may come his way. His eyes turned to the first one to approach and speak to him; the renegade nightwatch it seemed.. this one seemed trustworthy enough.

"Well, see'in as how they don't mind mah company s'long as ah keep on bashin' low-life good-fer-nothins, then yeah I reckon they do trust me to some kinda extent." he responded, ending with a nod and a tip of his hat, "Name's Dusty Roads to friends, Stone Heart to everypony else."

At the second mention of him, Dusty turned to the enigmatic "Pagemaster" and nodded softly, "Sound like a plan ta'me." the stallion then simply followed along, staff held within those hooves up and at the ready.. walking in that hind-leg stance once again, heavy iron-adorned staff ready to block and parry. He resigned to let the Alicorn (still odd to see one walking about in the open like this... much less sending supposed vigilantes through doors!) and the nightwatchstallion go about their business, and kept his focus on what could be behind that curtain.

Activating Twin-Iron's Defensive Stance: +6 to Defense

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(( The good Captain rolls 10 + 10 = 20 to Notice, vs 17 + 9 = 26 to... something's Stealth. ))

Current circumstances not withstanding, the Captain's surroundings are painfully normal. Nothing is out of place, save the hundreds and hundreds of bits in collateral damage. Oh, and the laughter, which is now up to a mad cackling and is somehow coming from absolutely nowhere. Your eyes and ears are telling you nothing. Meanwhile, your gut is insisting otherwise.

(( The door rolls an 8 + 3 for that toughness save, vs a DC of 23. Not even close. ))

The Scenes Songs and Steps theatre is a building born from old world's craftsmanship. With all the smashing blindly through doors you've been doing lately, Glory, you can't help but notice how much more of a fight this door in particular has been putting up. That being said, you still break it into itty bitty pieces. But it's the thought that counts.

Having knocked away your only obstacle with the greatest of ease, all that's left is to peer down into the pit. Thankfully, it's just as lit down in the pit as it is up here. There are gas lamps everywhere, it seems. What you find thanks to the lighting is much less comforting.

(( The Princess rolls a 1 on her Notice. Against some number that is greater than 1. ))

Common sense dictates there to be a mattress directly below openings such as these, so the actors have something pleasant on which to land. Instead, the soft and squishy bedding she saw was shredded and scattered across the pit. Clumps of cotton and swatches of fabric large and small littered the area. At the center of it all lay Curtain Call, who never got a chance to hit this mattress. He's still, his eyes wide from the sudden shock and a growing pool of red spreads out onto the concrete from the back of his head.

(( Please note that Investigate is for analyzing clues, not seeking them out. I shall roll for your Search instead and see what we get, which is 18 in total. That Int score. Unf. ))

It took little effort on your part to riddle out the location of the controls. Backstage, naturally, and somewhere both out of view from the audience yet in view of the stage. Which would make it... somewhere around... here. Behind the maroon with gold trimmed grand drapes. Stage left. There are some darker curtains, made of a thicker and heavier fabric. One of them is facing perpendicular to the stage. Eureka.

It isn't a single board you find, but many. An inelegant cluster of panels and lights and dials and switches and levers. Frankly, it's a mess. Some pieces are even held together with painter's tape and... is that chewing gum? Madness. The labeling is worse. It's an incomprehensible mess of shorthand, abbreviations and foalish doodles. On the ground but still part of this haphazard system stands out one long lever, coming up nearly to the withers and painted a bright reflective yellow, catching all ambient light and shining brighter than the gas lamps absolutely everywhere. It happens to be marked with the letters 'TD', with the words 'OPEN' and 'CLOSE' on opposite ends. Open is what it was set to.

Closer inspection points to your first clue: stains upon that yellow paint.

(( NOW we investigate! Rolling a 14 + 13. 27. Well alrighty then, smartypants. ))

Some delicate paperwork puts the stain on a more suitable surface for your eyes. The color and texture of the tiny flakes are unmistakable. You've seen the same mess at the bottom of every jar of paperclips back at the office: it's rust. Honestly, these panels are covered in the stuff, which is odd. While the design is garbage, the parts are relatively new. They shouldn't have succumbed to oxidation so fa- Wait. It's on the floor as well. Hoofprints. They lead further back stage. And the gait is wrong. You only count three shoes.

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Captain Nightguard doesn't feel so good about splitting up. Yet at least the split means there's a pony watching over each other... and watching each others backs. He nods his head a bit to the plan, responding to the introduction the pony on the streets gave "The news has seen fit to call me Captain Nightguard. It works pretty well." He catches sight of the Alicorn starting up and realizing what she's about to do "No! Don't..." but it's too late, the door splinters under her hooves and he sighs "... break a heavy door directly above where somepony fell through..." he looks down, then every bit of his body goes stiff and on point at the grisly site. His eyes look over the scene from above a moment, and his voice barks to the two not looking into the pit out like a commander addressing troops "Be on guard. It seems the enemy is willing to take pony lives."

Then the night pony is on the move, the metal wing means he can't do as normal pegasus and fly himself down, but that doesn't deter him as he jumps into the pit, catching the edge of the hole with his front hooves to swing himself away from the body to keep from disturbing the scene, to land in a roll to keep from having the same fate happen to him. He quickly gets up and moves to the corpse to examine it after all, we're in a theater. Who knows what is as it seems? "Morning Glory, keep watch, this could easily be bait to distract from an attack."

((I realize I'm getting a couple rolls in here so in the way of turns may be too much, back me up and let me know if that's the case. The first is my acrobatics for getting into the pit and the second is investigation))

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