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Kirby Krackle

Golden Age Comics, Issue 2: Wednesday's Child

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But that's not fair!”, Cherry Top screamed, loud enough for the whole house to hear. Starting to bud into a lovely young mare, she was on the verge of tears as soon as she came downstairs to see one heck of a spread. There on the dining room table was an extra large pie from Ray's (green peppers, red onions and black olives) and a massive three-tiered cake lovingly crafted by mother Cookie Crumble over days. The décor was as bright as Hearth's Warming, a plethora of colors strewn about the house, with so many streamers and balloons you could forget there was a ceiling. And oh goodness, the presents. Aside from the small pile from Mom and Dad, there were several from relatives who couldn't make it for the big day and one or two from the more generous parents of the guests.

 

Please, sweetheart. It's your little sister's birthday. I promise we can talk about this later, but-

 

No!” Her breath was short, her heart was racing and her legs were wet noodles but none of that mattered. Dad was going to hear it, one way or the other. “No no no no no! You said! You said I had to quit gymnastics because we couldn't afford the lessons anymore! You said!

 

Just Desserts did indeed say. Every position on the force was suffering from cutbacks, his included. Even with his lovely Cookie Crumble putting in extra hours at the bakery, there just weren't enough Bits coming in to keep up with the bills. Sacrifices needed to be made. So the good cop needed to make some rough decisions. One of them happened to be breaking his little girl's heart to keep the house afloat. It killed him to do it.

 

So how come...” She sniffled. “How come Bittersweet gets such a big party?

 

Sweetheart, we talked about this. Mommy and Daddy were saving our Bits since last year! Your party will be like this too, we promise. We love you both so much. It's just been hard for everyone since we all lost Princ-

 

NO! That's not fair! Coach said I was good! Real good! Why do I have to give that up just because of a stupid party!

 

Last week alone, Just Desserts had to deal with masked vigilantes, a haunted theater, the discovery of an illegal spice trade, an apathetic Internal Affairs department, and a cross-eyed birdbrain who ran the post office. Wasn’t he due for a real day off? Didn’t his little girl deserve to have an extra special birthday? Couldn’t he have just an ounce more patience? Please, Princess Celestia?

 

This is all your fault!”, he heard one daughter yell to another. Okay, that tears it.

CHERRY TOP!” Dad screamed, not playing good cop anymore. Gasps were heard from the little ones in attendance, while the few grownups were not at all surprised. “Go to your room! And you’re not coming down until you learn some manners!

Bittersweet, the chocolate colored blank-flank was meanwhile clinging to Mama Cookie, unsure of what to make of all the commotion. Why was Big Sister so mad? Why was Daddy so mad? Why couldn’t they just be happy instead? When could she have a slice of pizza?

Cherry Top marched over to the birthday girl’s cake; its five candles brightly lit.

I wish you’d leave and never come back.

Then she blew out the candles and went up to bed.

~.~

 

As the clock strikes one in Thoroughbred City, Cherry Top has, despite all conventional wisdom, arrived at the doorstep of the Scenes Songs & Steps theatre. It’s been a while since she’s been here, even before the rumors started. Now, with what looked like the aftermath of a wrecking ball on one side, the idea of this place being haunted seemed a little less crazy. Good. Well, good from a big picture standpoint. Less good in that Cherry Top wouldn’t be caught here on a bet. This place was spook central! Kids shouldn’t be within a hundred feet of this place; the ‘Foals watch for free’ sign be damned! She was almost relieved to find the front doors locked. This meant she could turn around and go home to her-

 

Oh.

 

Frightening as what lie ahead may be, the thought of going back empty-hooved scared her far worse. So, with a racing heartbeat and wobbly knees, she crept to the rear of the building, remembering another rumor she heard about the place: there was a back entrance that, if a foal knocked just right, would open to reveal all you could eat popcorn free for the taking. It sounded like bait, to be honest; not unlike a certain fairy tale gingerbread house. But she asked around. And sure enough, their backsides remained whole and ungobbled! In fact, the little ones (and their parents) were grateful for the snacks being brought home.

 

The only door that even resembled a secret passage was heavy and iron and labeled ‘employees only’.

Shave and a haircut…”, she knocked, half full of jitters and half wondering what kind of bland sense of humor ghosts had to have in order to come up with something like this. Meanwhile, inside, Curtain Call sneezed.

Thoom. Thoom. The service entranced opened on its own with an agonizing creak.

 

~.~

 

The fresh and hot popcorn did well to warm Cherry’s belly but failed in unknotting it. The Ghost Light sat before her, brightening the stage just enough so she wouldn’t trip on anything. And it was such an unassuming little candle. There were probably boxes more in the back somewhere, ready to replace this one once it burns its last. So it couldn’t possibly be the only thing keeping vengeful spirits from entering this world. Right? Well, there was only one way to find out.

Funny, the lawpony’s daughter thought as she drew the most important breath of her life; her blowing out a candle got her into this mess and blowing out a candle was going to get her out of it.

I wouldn’t do that if I were you.

 

This stranger did not catch her off guard. She did not scream. She especially did not spring back several feet in a panic. None of these statements are lies.

 

O-oh y-y-yeah? And w-what’s it to you?

 

Well, for starters, I work here. And you’re trespassing.” Just to double check himself, the gray and green and purple Earth Pony adjusted the hem of his jacket in an attempt to look as official as possible. “Oh, and you were about to blow out the-

 

I know what it is!”, she interrupted, now face to face with whoever this was. And whoever this was, he was doing an excellent job of blocking her view of the candle. “And I know what it does! I’m not an idiot! So get out of my way!

 

Then you know the Masquerade is a monster!” Not playing games anymore, the older pony had her by the withers. He was looking scared. She stopped struggling.

 

It’s something ancient and terrible and I don’t want to think about what it would to do some poor little filly who decided to summon him on a whim.

 

I need him!” Her cries echoed through the entire house, breaking the silence into a thousand pieces. Curtain Call could easily see how close to tears she was.

 

I messed up real bad, mister. I cast a spell or placed a curse or something, I don’t know. I didn’t mean to. But I did it and I don’t know how to fix it and whatever weird occult thing happened took my little sister away! The Masquerade is the only thing that can help! Please, mister. Please. I’m so scared.

 

And just like that, the house was quiet, save the occasional little sniffle.

 

Okay. Okay, you win. Do what you have to. But I’m getting out of here first. They don’t pay me enough for this.

 

Cherry Top didn’t even have time to wipe her eyes before the employee was gone. She was grateful, sure, and his fear of the creature made her feel a little better about this idea. She needed something ancient and terrible.

 

The Scenes Songs and Steps theatre is now a no talking zone. If a manager receives a complaint, you will be given a warning. If the disruption continues, you will be ejected from the theatre without a refund. Keep your horns dark and silent and your wings out of sight. In addition, you will not be seated after the start of a show. In short: do not talk, do not cast, do not fly, do not arrive late. Thank you. And enjoy the show.

 

~.~

 

Meanwhile, Soliloquy has finally made it to the roof.

 

I swear, I dun know if it’s that ladder or my hip but that climb gets worse every time.

 

He could hear his nephew’s bellowing downstairs, so that must mean the Ghost Light is out. That was his cue to blow out another, also morbidly named. Perhaps, he wondered, there was something not quite right in the boy’s head.

 

The Dead Mare’s Light was a recent instillation, done in agreement with Curtain Call’s four new friends. The two theatre heads promised to keep it lit at all times, which meant daily maintenance. So, should this light ever be out, the implication is that neither of them are here to keep it lit. Morbid but practical, now that they’re in a dangerous line of work.

 

If this light goes out, come running.” 

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MorningGlory.png

 

Bravado was done with study for the evening.  He waved good-by to Hypothesis and Test Tube, and then settled his saddlebags on his back as he wandered on off towadrs his own dorm.  Was it late?  Or early?  He honestly wasn't sure.  Practice had left him tired hours ago, but they'd needed to go over their research project before the lab tomorrow, make sure they were all on the same page.

On automatic, Bravado hopped up onto the rim of the fountain and followed it around, his wings out to help him balance.  At just the right spot, he glanced over past the Clover Library.  Third light to the right, just past Morning Tower.  Not named for Morning Glory, of course, predated her by several decades.  He kept meaning to find out who it WAS named for.

Bravado...  her mental voice in the back of his head seemed reproachful.  Perhaps worried.

What, Doc?

Back up a few steps.


Bravado backed up.  His sleepy mind had just caught up with what he'd seen.  Or not seen, as the case may be.  Where was it?  One, two, .... third light should be right there.  Right?  Yeah, that fourth light was the Morning Tower light... where was ...

"Curtain," Bravado whispered.  He spread his wings and took off.He hurried to a little grove of trees that were a convenient blind spot, and pulled the alicorn amulet from around his neck and held it up high. It glinted despite there not being an ounce of light showing through the cloud cover above.

"For Loyalty!" he cried, "for Justice! And for Equestria!"

The light glinting from the amulet shone brightly, wrapped around him. He floated up off of the ground, turning slowly in the air, as bands of light wrapped around his form. He swelled, growing a little bigger, his form growing feminine. Her wings flared to an impressive wingspan, she turned a half-rotation, and a light shone from her forehead, then swelled out to a long horn. Another half-rotation, and a light shone from her flank, settling in as the rising-sun cutie mark of Morning Glory. The amulet disappeared from her hoof, then, and the light at her horn spread out to cover her head in the distinctive helm. The light settled around her chest, formed into a breastplate. Around her hooves, forming into the distinctive boots. Along her flanks, turning into the skirts of her uniform. And then the rising sun cutie mark flashed, and settled into the center of the breastplate, before Morning Glory settled back down to the ground, her wings spread, her head low, and a fierce, ready grin on her face.

In a flash, she took off into the sky.  Almost instinctively, she formed her helm into the Nemesis Sword, but the familiar hilt had only a couple inches of broken blade beyond it.  She felt regret at the loss of so potent a weapon, but ... well.  She bent forward and her great wings beat the air, speeding her across the city at breakneck speed, until she was above the Scenes, Songs, and Steps theatre.  Ah, good, the bricks for the new balcony had arrived, they could finally fix up that balcony.  But that wasn't why the Dead Mare's Light was out.  She darted through the sheet covering the opening in the side, and slipped into the theatre.  Caution.  Don't come barrelling in, not like last time.  Captain Nightguard's lessons sounded in the back of her mind.  Observe and measure the situation first.  Listen, first, so carefully.  The soft murmur of voices, and ... was that the soft hiss of a snake?  No, couldn't be.  She peeked over the edge and into the main area.  A little foal was there, talking to The Masquerade.  Oh, thank goodness.  Not an *immediate* emergency.  The hissing noise must have been the pipes.  Well, obviously something was up, but first, time to put on a small show.

Morning Glory's voice rang in the excellent acoustics of the theatre.  "Greetings there, Ancient One.  I thought we'd already had out this discussion - it is not the place of the dead to bother the living.  Especially young fillies like this.  Am I going to have to banish you, friend?"  She let her voice get a little less formal on that last, a smirk coming to her face.
 

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Bravado was not the only pony who had to work a late night in Thoroughbred City.  Even on days no busier than usual, Quill Pusher was the last pony to leave the office, but lately he felt himself becoming more and more nocturnal, without the compensation of actually being able to sleep at night.  It had started shortly after he, as the Pagemaster, had joined up with a few other high-powered vigilantes to undo the nefarious work of some... Doctor in corrupting the city police.  In resolving that, he had promised a budget increase to the force, in order to get them to stand down, and make them less susceptible to temptation later.

 

Much easier said than done.  After a full marathon of shifts writing up that budget proposal, he had to go before the most parsimonious city council imaginable in order to defend it.  Only the sympathies of the mayor, along with the windfall from the recently arrested Maxie Millions, had enabled him to get it to pass.  

 

*That's one promise I won't be able to make again in a hurry.*  The unicorn thought ruefully, as he finally began to sort out and put away his papers.  It had taken all his political pull and credit just to keep this one, and from the looks on the faces of the council, he wasn't going to get them back any time soon.

 

Sighing as he finished, he looked out the window abstractedly.  He could understand sightly better now why the forces of law and order were circumvented; having to do things all through the proper channels was slow enough without the risk that myopic ponies would prevent the right thing from being done at all....

 

Wait.  The lights weren't right.  There were supposed to be four...

 

Pagemaster's face began to lighten, as he magically pulled his mask and hat from underneath his desk.  He was needed again, but now he could act directly to clean up the city... or at least help keep the others in line.

 

**~**

 

It was 15 minutes by cab to the theatre from City Hall, if you tipped the driver enough to hurry.  Quill had used the seclusion of the hansom to do a quick change of getup, paying his fare in advance and leaving a note as he slipped out while the cabbie waited at the light.  No need to let the fellow see where the Pagemaster was going, after all.

 

This roundabout method of travel meant that he arrived slightly later than many of his compatriots; certainly later than Morning Glory.  "Hello all."  He tipped his black bowler hat to the gathered company as he entered.  Hm, a foal was present... "Has she come for a show, or for assistance?"

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Star Flight was finishing up a short night job. Three hours of unloading a train, all bits in pocket for job finished, no guaranteed work after this. One rookie trainhopper found, successfully snuck out before the bosses caught him. The thestral sighs as he counts his meager earnings and puts them in the pouch of his work cloak before nestling it a bit tighter to the oncoming chill of the weather. No other known work tonight, time to search out for further postings, he certainly didn't find this one by waiting in one place. He stifles a yawn, his new compatriots had him up in the day... even in the nightguard, sun was up, gave time to bunk down. That was dayguards problem. Of course then, what does she expect without the nightguard. He certainly hasn't seen the EUP involved around here. He an annoyed huff at that, taking his large clanking "tool" bag and swings it over his back. At least for the small favors that work ponies kept to themselves and didn't bother trying to find out what the thestral carried with him, then again, most saw the scarred thestral and knew bothering his items would probably land them getting meals spoon fed to them.

 

As the night deepens, He settles and gets his lunch. A soup, last meal made from the earnings gained fighting the gang. At least the pot of soup should last him the rest of the week. He made sure he got the food -before- he got home, Forge griping that she could have got materials, him arguing "You can't eat brass." His sister was going to be the death of him, nevermind that half the time he gets home and she's completely forgotten to eat while working on projects, he has to make sure that there is actually food in the budget. At least whatever money she brings in, he leaves her to use as she desires, he can provide. He muses as he looks at the rooftops, some of the houses starting to have smoke coming from the chimneys, at least living in a cave means he doesn't have to spend any to provide heat. His eye trains over one portion of the sky and he pauses, double checking the landmarks, the light is definitely out. Whelp, looks like he's doing community service after all tonight. He heads to a darkened alley, a few minutes later, the armored Captain Nightguard flies straight up the side of the building, the aurora jetpack flaring as he angles and flies straight to the theater.

 

He lands near the theater and slips inside, good, no new holes in it today. He listens, no yelling, no shouting, quiet... okay, some quiet talking, and one theater major hamming it up. At least the ghost keeps most ponies out, allowing the group to meet in secret. He moves to the second floor, going to another balcony, purposely making noise so he's not sneaking up on those in the theater, settling on the balcony, staring down at the scene with the filly silently, still at attention like a statue.

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At the time, and for a few minutes before hand, Dusty had found himself lent against the cold masonry of an old a warehouse, up on the roof and right next to the door leading down to into the facility. The last few nights in between meeting his new companions and learning of his new "Hideout" had been the same rigmarole; finding baddies in the progress of committing whatever crime Mare Luck had deemed that day, beating them into unconsciousness, then waiting for the cuff-clicking Law Ponies to move their hinies and catch up. Tonight was no different save for the criminal in question being far less than interesting.. this one barely took one hoof to the chest before collapsing into a breathless and barely conscious mess. Not dead, obviously, Dusty had his standards, but sometimes a good flank whippin is the only way to teach low lives a lesson. Seriously, holding up an old mare who got held over for extra hours, having to brave the night of the city just to get home... that was simply too low of this particular stallion crook.

Speaking of which, the crime committing klutz was currently hog tied and laying on his side, grunting and groaning as consciousness returned. Of course he began to struggle weakly, and let out a pained yelp a moment later, and Dusty's voice broke the dead silence of the night.

"Iffin' ya'll don't want those cracked ribs turning tah broken ones ah reckon ya'll don't wanna move much, city boy."

With back lent on the wall, hind legs holding him up, and Twin-Iron resting unused between his crossed fore-legs the Stetson Wearing Stallion simply waited for the routine to finish up.. hat angled down to hide those dark green eyes as usual. It tipped upward a slight bit as the door to the facility was violently kicked open and two officers ran out... of course one brandishing his night stick at the stallion hobo. "Where is the culprit..." He snarled out, as if pained to speak to the vigilante.

Those emerald eyes turned to the officers in question, and simply nodded his head to the side toward them, "Behind yuh."

Turning to see the captured thief the two went about apprehending him in silence, barely even glancing to Dusty as they exited view, the crook in tow.

"Y'ur welcome." He mumbled softly and sighed. Sister alive this was droll, and on top of that it was getting colder; the stallion's poncho and recently stylized outfit would only provide so much heat.. speaking of heat, wasn't there supposed to be a light atop the theatre?

Oh bucking hay.

Dusty's head and hat raised towards the theatre in a start, one hoof grasping Twin-Iron and the other pushing the rim of the large hat upward, "Well that ain't right..." He muttered once again.

Bringing his staff over his shoulder in a flurry, the stallion prepared to get on the move; something was amiss, "T'aint good, neither..." And with that, his hind hooves sprinted him toward the build's edge, and Twin-Iron's massive iron end collided with the masonry, cracking it in several spots as he vaults himself away; roof-hopping again and again as he makes his way to the hideout.

~~~~~~~~~~

For the crew assembled at the Scenes, Songs, and Steps the first sign of the staffed wielding hobo arriving was a loud, definite THUNK before the front door.. and upon two legs in walked "Stone Heart", as he was still known as by the group themselves. Joining the collection near the Masquerade and the visiting filly, Dusty's hat raised and his head gave a nod.

"Ya'll are still in one piece, so that's good.. only question is, what else is goin' on here?"

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Curtain Call; now in character, couldn't exactly show it, but he was more than grateful to see his friends arrive so quickly. Now if only his patrons were this punctual.

 

You great benefactors”, the Masquerade said, giving a flourish and a curtsey to the four as the best thanks he could give right now. He also made a mental note to get them some free tickets in the future. “Sprinkle our society with thankfulness. For your own gifts, make yourselves pra-”

 

Hold it right there, Princess!”, Cherry Top demanded, throwing herself in between this new Alicorn and the spirit of the theatre. “Don't you and your cronies even think about it!” If it's one thing Curtain Call absolutely could not stand, it was being interrupted. “The Masquerade is MY monster! I summoned him and he belongs to me! So you keep your banish-y hooves off!

 

Precocious little scamp, isn't he? Good thing no pony could see Curtains roll his eyes under the mask.

 

Dame Cherry Top!”, the faux-phantom spoke with perhaps a little too much rumble to his voice.

 

((First dice roll of the game is a Knowledge: Civics check. The results are as follows: Bravado 17, Stein 19, Curtain Call 3, Captain Nightguard 9, Pagemaster 25, Dusty Rhodes 15. The DC was 22. So currently, only Quill Pusher recognizes this filly. She's the eldest daughter of the Chief Deputy.))

 

Indeed, twas thou who hath called upon this spectre. As such, tis my duty to act in thy best interest, so long as Dame draws breath. The band before thou hath fought by my side in the past in times of great need. Some of them mortal, others less so, all of them extraordinary and all of them ready to again rise to the challenge. So I give my solumn vow that we five are one in thy service.

 

Yeah, but, like-” she was just about to protest, but she was interrupted this time.

 

D̸̠͎̲͎̭̙̜̕͢A̷̩͚̱̹͍̜̪̮͔̯̳̖̠̞̳͡M̴̵̛͉͖̬̤̩̱͙̙͙̫̤͇̬̕͞ͅȨ҉̛͢͏̗̳̤̠̗͖̮̫͍͔͕ ̜̯͔͍͈̳̻͍͡͡C̢̠̝̰͕̪̫̀͠ͅH̵̷҉̴̞̠̦͠E̖̤̠͕̲̼̰̟͇̳͜ͅR̕͟͏̶̲̦͕͙̯͍̳̞̳͚̙̕R̷̡̼̜͎̘̭͚̞͉̥̲͡ͅY͈̟͍̮̖̜͟͢͜͜ͅ ̢̰͚̖͇̗̤́͘͝͝T͖̺̩̥̀͢͝͝O̶̴̴̻̙̪͚͙̱P̨̨̨̘͉͉̖̯͕̥͇̩͖̕

 

 

There was now too much rumble in his voice. Captain Nightguard could hear the glassware rattle. And along with the excellent acoustics, Uncle Soliloquy was in the projection booth, working the lights to warp and distort the image of their friend. It did not take long for there to be no light at all in the house at all, except for the two massive white beams coming from the mask. “Thout shall never mind more worthy a band than we five. Do I make myself clear?

 

Yessir.

 

Excellent.” The illusions cast ipon the stage went as quickly as they came and the world was back to as it should be. “Now, if thout would, please describe your ordeal to them, as you did for thy humble servant. Come, come, dispatch. Make a short shrift.

 

~.~

 

Not too long ago...

 

Cherry Top was thrown awake by yet another nightmare; having fallen asleep crying hours ago. Still shaken and now groggy, she double-checked the time, finding both Celestia's moon and the hands of her nightstand clock at their zenith. Midnight. But that couldn't be right, could it? Dad should have been up here for a scolding, right? Her little tummy rumbled, not having been filled since breakfast. “Or at least to sneak me a slice of pizza.

Already an expert on the subject, Cherry crept downstairs with nary a peep. Many nights, when Dad would get home super late, she would hear his thunderous hoofsteps from downstairs and be bear-hugging him before he could blink.

Wait. Something was wrong. The lights were still on. Why was everypony still here? Why was everypony asleep? She rushed to Mom and Dad, stepping over loose piles of wrapping paper, giving them a worried nudge. Nothing. She called to each of them, shaking their withers as strong as she could. Still nothing. She started trying to wake everypony else; the other foals, the chaperones. Nothing. She could feel the tears starting to well up again, but this time she fought them back. Instead, she ran to the kitchen and did her absolute best at pitching a fit. She screamed, she banged pots together, she threw water on everypony's faces.

 

WHY ISN'T ANYTHING WORKING!

She couldn't smother her temper for much longer. The filly was scared and confused and most importantly, terrified. Who could she call? She was screaming until hoarse since forever, it felt like. The police station was miles away. And the city was... well, Dad demanded she never go out after sundown. No choice but to wait then. Alone. But at least everypony is here.

Hold on. Where's Bittersweet?

 

 

~.~

 

And that's all I know”, she said with a sniffle, having explained every last detail she could. The physical and emotional fatigue was finally catching up with her. “They were still asleep when I left. And I came here... well, I mean, I didn't know where else to go. I-

 

And then the tears came. The poor girl could not fight them back any longer.

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MorningGlory.png

 

Morning Glory rocked back at the three feet of fiesty red-head threatening her.  She did her best to keep the laugh stifled, and quietly murmured, "Not actually a princess, you know ..."  She wasn't going to argue fine points of legality with a young filly, however.  And the exchange between The Masquerade and the young filly was entirely too amusing for her to jeapordize her poker face by opening her mouth.

The smile was swiftly cleaned away by the serious story she told them, though.  As the filly broke down crying, she stepped forward, one large wing wrapping around her small shoulders as the alicorn settled down to comfort her.  "Hey.  Don't worry, we'll do everything we can to find her.  Look at this group.  We got brains, we got muscle, and we got spooky access to the other side."  She chuffed her hoof under Cherry Top's chin.  "So let's get started.  Have you contacted the police, yet?  We know a pretty good stallion there - chief deputy.  He'll help you, too."
 

 

I guess this'd be a diplomacy check?  Which would be a +12, unless my 'attractive' feat applies here to make it a +16.  I imagine 'appealing' includes 'little fillies seeing a pretty pretty princess'.

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With Dusty's arrival, the Pagemaster felt a quorum had been reached.  He didn't know right now where the last of their number was, but the Captain could be anywhere for all the city official knew.  Or cared; he really had little patience for antics irrelevant to the issues important to Thoroughbred City.  Hence, while the Masquerade and the filly were going back and forth, he was concentrating on trying to figure out who she was.  He could have sworn that he'd seen her before...

 

Once Cherry actually got around to telling her story, however, the description of her family clicked in his head.  He began to nod, suddenly a lot more attentive.  If someone was striking at the chief deputy through his family...

 

She was starting to cry.  Quill Pusher had never spent much time around children, and so had no real knowledge of what they would or would not find comforting.  All he had to go on was instinct, so he followed it.  He knelt down, lifting up his mask so she could see the pony underneath.  "Yes, we know your father.  I've actually visited there, though I don't know if you remember.  Rest assured, we'll help him, and you, get the family back together, alright?"

 

I'd actually like to roll a charisma check to see if that actually works.

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Listening to the plight of the young filly, he steps up on the rail of the balcony, and with a flare of aurora he lands on the stage, the chainmail he wears jingling lightly. He steps around to the front Cherry Top, slightly behind the two speaking to her, trying to work his voice to casual instead of barking orders as he's used to. "You know this young mare Pagemaster?" Is it a target against him if he knows her? He looks to Cherry Top "Don't worry. I'll make sure there's someone watching over your family." he thinks a couple moments, talking to youth... he has to think of how he would have phrased it to his little sister before she started being smarter than him. Which is difficult, because that came a LONG time ago "Now... I want you to think hard. Is there anything you can think of that might have caused this. Not... the what, but something you might have seen when you came downstairs. Or something you heard. Or maybe even smelled that was unusual about today." He's asking for a longshot here, but hey, sometimes the foals were better at paying attention to the monsters at night than the adults who had stopped believing in them. Star. Could use you here, you were better about calming the kids down than I was so I could question better.

 

I believe this is falling more under the investigation for me on the Q/A.

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Dusty's ears pulled back at the rather.. odd dispute between the little filly and the Masquerade. Old ghostly-and-ghastly was just as good with fillies as the stallion hobo imagined... or at least, as good as he could be while keeping up the facade of the haunting spirit.

With Nightguard's arrival the stallion reclined against his up-stood Twin-Iron; not exactly feeling like he'd be that much of use in this situation. A little one's family suddenly collapses into deep unconsciousness, and the littler sister of the two goes completely missing. Sounded like some of those old fairy tales meant to scare children into behaving.. an intent Dusty always felt a tad bit iffy about, but that was beside the point.

Stepping forward to more prominently join the group, he gives another nod of that Stetson-covered head of his as he peers toward Morning Glory, The Captain, and Pagemaster all questioned the little one about any extraneous details. "Ah don't suppose ya'll know of any'uh some.. super villain types that are known fer usin' sleep magics or somethin'? I keep hearin about some new masked baddies popping up here and there.. don't know if any are that threatenin' but, well it's all ah can think tuh ask." He hums in thought once again..

"...come t' think of it... what sorta folk do we know that go about kidnappin' or abductin'? Iffin some pony is behind this then they has tuh have some kinda goal in mind that'd need the filly's sister. Somethin' like this don't happen without some purpose." He spoke his mind to the group, offering what insight he could.. of course, investigation was not his strongest point. He was in every way the Muscle of the group, with some knowledge of spices, herbs and farming, as little as that would help in many situations.

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(( Secret rolls! ))

 

The phrase ‘Deputy Chief’ did indeed make Cherry Top stop crying, but only in the way that iodine makes you stop worrying about the cut on your leg.

 

To Morning Glory, she tried her hardest to say just who exactly Chief Deputy was. But the poor girl choked before any words could come out. She may have even started screaming, had Pagemaster not chimed in. The young mare recognized him only once the mask came off; he had attended a few Hearth’s Warming parties at their home. Cherry remembered him being boring and prone to using a lot of big words. But he was a friend of Dad’s, so that was enough to settle her nerves.

 

Mhmm.” She took a single deep breath, wiping her face clean on the Masquerade’s cloak. “Thank you.

 

The Thestral, while unnerving at first (as she’d never seen one before the Nightmare), had a matter-of-factness to him that reminded him of dear Sire. Maybe he was a cop too.

 

Nothing seemed wrong”, she answered, sounding unsure. “At least, I don’t think so? When I got downstairs and everypony was asleep, the place was a mess. Like, they just went to sleep in the middle of the party.” She went silent for a bit, scratching her noodle, trying to bring any other memories to the surface. Ultimately, she shook her head no.

 

We are in agreement” the specter bellowed, addressing Dusty. But with that mask on, goodness, it was hard to tell which way Curtains was actually looking. “Tis not some random happenstance that befalls the young one. Though I can nary think of any soul, living or dead, who might use an innocent babe for their own nefarious ends.”  He thought for a bit. “...Is Maxi Million accounted for?

 

The night’s silent contemplation is broken suddenly, by what sounded like ten thousand pea whistles. The city was in a panic. And Cherry Top looked the worst. This could only mean one thing: Daddy was awake.

 

Oh, and maaaaaaaaaaaybe Dad doesn’t know I’m here…

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MorningGlory.png

 

Morning Glory felt miserable... she'd tried to comfort the young filly, and instead had driven her into even greater hysterics.  Still, maybe it was just part of the cycle, because she seemed to have gathered herself together, afterwards, and wasn't nearly as depressed.  She winced, though, as she wiped her face on his cloak, and reached under her breastplate.  One of the earliest things Doc and Bravado had done, after becoming Morning Glory, had been to inventory her gear - and tucked away inside the breastplate was a little pocket full of hoofkerchieves.  They hadn't understood why that had been important, at the time.  Now they did.  Where heroes went, there were tears.  She held it up to the little filly's nose and murmured, "Blow now."  She let the filly keep the hoofkerchief, embroidered in the corner with Morning Glory's own cutie mark. 

 

So.  Time to work.

"All right, then, let's get you back to your sire, young filly," she said softly.  "Would you be scared to ride on my back to get there all the more swiftly?"  She looked up to Stone Heart. "And you, I can carry in my hooves.  I know Captain Nightguard and our ancient friend here can get there under their own power, and I assume that Pagemaster can fashion wings out of playbills or some such?  I am certain we shall find what we need at the center of commotion.  And once we have reassured the police that at least one of their missing young fillies are out of immediate danger, we can set about studying the scene for clues as to her disappearance.  If anything supernatural has happened, I'm sure that Pagemaster, Masquerade, or myself will be able to find it, but let's not rule out mundane causes just yet."  She spoke confidently, as if they'd been working as a team for ages, and of course remembering to keep on the act for the Masquerade.

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It was a strange sight, five adult ponies dressed to intimidate the bad guys trying to comfort a little filly.  Pagemaster was honestly not sure if they were actually going to be able to do that, but fortunately young Cherry Top was able to stop crying and give a little more information.

 

"Maxie's still behind bars."  He said, in answer to Masquerade's query.  "And I honestly don't see this as a part of his modus operandi-"  Any further eloquent elocution, however, was cut off by the sound of the pea whistles.

 

Oh, and maaaaaaaaaaaybe Dad doesn’t know I’m here…

 

Pagemaster sighed, rubbing a hoof under his bowler.  "Oh, dear.  We'll have to tell him first thing, or all kinds of suspicion are going to surround us.  I'll go out and tell the police outside; they know my face.  The rest of you... go on.  I'll catch up in a cab."  He trotted off outside, internally wondering if "Princess" Morning Glory was off her rocker.  *Paper wings?  Really?  Even if I knew how to make them properly, I wouldn't know how to use them!*

 

He slammed open the front door, calling out to the uniformed pony he saw outside.  "It's alright, we've found her!"

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Dusty had to admit, being carried by some pony else was... a mite bit emasculating. Still, in the line of hero work one must depend on others for help, and without any advanced technology, wings, ancient magic, or paper conjuring, he had to rely on himself to get places quickly. Or at least most of the time he had to.

"Ah uh.. dun rightly like the idea but, ah don't have any better options muhself, miss Glory. So iffin that's what'll be happening then.. Ah'm ready t'go when ya'll are." He nods, settling Twin Iron upon its back-strapped holster as he took to his fours once again. This little filly's predicament seemed like it was ready to blow up into something much bigger then they could predict given their little knowledge... well, hopefully the night would finish without /too/ much Super Villain beating.

...ah who the hay was he kidding, he'd been bored and was hankering for some real challenges!

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"Let us go now... before we find ourselves in trouble before we actually find the trouble." Nightguard really didn't relish the idea of being around the police with this filly. One was missing already, so two missing makes for a different issue. And one is here, it won't take long for the police to jump to the conclusion the second is with this little band. Of course one might call this thestral a bit jaded when it comes to police jumping to conclusions. Speaking of...

 

"You lot go on, I won't be a moment behind you." he goes to follow Pagemaster to meet the cops by way of out the second floor where the damage had been done to the theater, such a convenient exit, and to the rooftops. I'm sure the Paper Lord is in no trouble, after all he paid these cops... the thought still leaves a dirty taste in Nightguards mouth ...However, they've proven to be fast to brandish power on the side of ill before, and it would be best for us to NOT be split up fully if that's the case.

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Wait! Found who?

 

Swing Beat, who was a bundle of nerves all night thanks to his unlucky draw to stake out the Scenes Songs and Steps theatre, could not have been more happy to see the Pagemaster step out of the shadows. Finally, a friendly face! He was at a full gallop to receive the news, but was rudely interrupted by the unmistakable cry of-

 

YAHOOOOOOOOOOO!

 

-from a hundred or so feet up. Cherry Top had never rode an Alicorn Princess before! Unfortunate circumstances or otherwise, she could not help but enjoy herself. After all, when was the next time she would get a few of the city like this?

 

The older one. Right.” Already tired with these shenanigans, Swing Beat took a moment to rub his temples before blowing a very specific tune into his whistle. In no time at all, one of their paddy wagons was pulling up. “If the Princess is taking her home, you should be there too. I'll ride in back. Hop on! You need a ride too, Captain?

 

Better than a cab?

 

The Masquerade was the first to arrive at the no-longer-quiet household, but also the last to leave the theatre. The thespian lingered for just a little while, until the rest of his team had left, to tell "Silver, lock up the house for me." to the quiet of his home. He perched on the roof of Just Desserts's home, remaining unseen, but making note of just how frantic the block was at this point. Just Desserts, commendable pony that he was, refused to leave his home just in case his little girls came wandering home. The police work was all done there, uniforms all running in for their orders or to deliver supplies from the office. And it was all done with screaming. Some of the neighbor's lights were on, he noticed, with ponies having a peek at the chaos outside. None bothered to come out and ask when they saw the fuzz was involved. The last thing he noticed that didn't involve actually introducing himself to the police (which he was still very uncomfortable with), was how everything smelled.

 

Sure, once you step onto any street on Doughton, you get the smell of toasty bread crusts. Been that way for years. But this house... wow. Was somepony baking?

 

Hey.” Cherry Top, down from her flier’s high, began to get a little unsettled as she directed Morning Glory closer and closer to her home. He also couldn't help but tug on a minty green ear to get her attention. “We'll get her back, right? You promise? Promise me, okay!” There was time for one more tug on the ears before they touched down across the street. And that last one was a demanding yank.

 

Every cop there, once they laid eyes on the two heroes and their precious cargo, immediately stood at attention. And all of them either called to their commander or demanded the runt get to her folks before they rupture something.

 

Just Desserts and Cookie Crumble were out onto the street before heroes could blink, scooping up their baby and absolutely smothering her with hugs and kisses and joyful tears. A few awkward moments passed before Dam Cookie looked up to Morning Glory with hopefully eyes and asked...

 

And where's Bittersweet?

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Morning Glory ignored the feeling like she should be correcting someone's use of an incorrect title, instead giving into the joy of the filly's delighted cries, and perhaaaaps might have taken just a bit longer than she otherwise would have to get to the young filly's home.  She wasn't sure why Stone Heart didn't sound like he was having just as much fun, dangling from her forehooves - flying was the best thing ever, and these two earth ponies didn't get many chances to enjoy a flight like this, through the pitch black night, with the sparse lights so distantly far below, the cold wind whipping through one's mane and wings... it was so dark some nights that it was almost like the ground wasn't even there, and if you dove downwards, you could dive forever!

Bravado, there's a few things I might have to explain, in the future, about exactly what flying feels like to somepony without wings...

A rare treat, right?

Later, Bravado.  Later.


Still, no flight lasts forever, and soon the lil' filly was tugging at her ears and gesturing enthusiastically.  "Haha!" she laughed - thankfully the tugging wasn't too painful to the powerful alicorn.  "Careful there, those aren't reins!  And I swear to you on the Fire of Friendship that guards us against the eternal ice, Cherry, that we shall not cease our search until we find her."  She took on a rather more formal tone than usual, recognizing the little filly needed reassurance.

When she was a several feet above the ground she backwinged to slow herself down, and let go of the dangling hero beneath her, dropping Stone Heart to the ground and trusting him to be able to land well.  Then she, herself, was coasting in a gentle arc to land lightly at the front of the house, spreading her wings wide and tilting to the side to slide Cherry Top off of her back, down the wing, and right into the waiting hooves of her worried parents.

Of course, then came the hardest thing of all... that look of desperate hope.

"Well, Miss," she said, putting as much confidence into her voice as possible, her head high and not letting a single ounce of her doubt show on her face or in her words.  "That's what we aim to find out next.  The rest of my allies will be here soon to assist in this - we've already heard Cherry's side of the story.  Once everypony is here ... do you think you two could give us your view of how things went?  There's a notable gap where Cherry was upstairs and didn't see what happened."

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Pagemaster, relieved to be free of the necessity of getting home by paper airplane, gratefully accepted Swing Beat's offer of a ride in his paddy wagon.  "Thank you.  Our your own foals alright?  We don't know yet whether this foalnapping was targeted or widespread."  Hm... upon reflection, that remark had probably unsettled the poor guy more than anything else.  Unwise, but what can you do?  He needed more information.

 

He kept mostly in silence on the way back to the house, thinking.  Of course, given where the snatching had taken place from, it was likely that the chief deputy would have already investigated the scene... on the other hoof, if he at first thought it was a matter of running away, rather than foalnapping, the scene might have been disturbed already.  In any case, he wanted a look for himself.

 

When they arrived, the besuited (and still unmasked) bureaucrat hung back to allow the parents time to reunite with their child.  That done, he stepped up beside Morning Glory, tipping his hat to Just Desserts, one city official to another.  "Rest assured, we'll do all we can to find your other filly.  You know with what meticulousness I pursue fraud and error."

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The thestral didn't desire to ride along with the police. Something about them showing up at days amongst the Dusk Gait community, he took to his own methods, enjoying the sky above. The night to him was the sort of time he loved flying, he could see much of the city, how it moved. Many thinks the city sleeps, but she is not a creature who rests. At night movements are always found, whether from the ponies finishing the third shift, to the animals scavenging, to those that didn't want to be seen. Contrary to popular belief, the last isn't usually nefarious, but instead of a rendezvous between two young ponies that the family might not take a liking to. But this watch allows him to monitor for anything wrong on the way to the household, as in the woods, a portion of the city that truly goes quiet, -that- is where something lurks to drive everything else away. That or the moment those that are typically awake in the day rousting about at night in a panic.

 

Just as he spots Morning Glory he cuts the engines to his wings, the glide coming down where he lands a lot more heavily than a pegasus or other thestral, he trots up next to the Alicorn, head on a swivel, looking less at the family at first but gaining a true glance about his surroundings before slowly zeroing in on the family, his ears perked to hear what the family has to say. I assume we aren't so lucky that the other one wandered back and this is all one big misunderstanding...

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Dusty, meanwhile, was plastered with a look that spoke aloud "I am not amused" as he was hefted by his midsection by the alicorn hero as she flew through the city's aerial space. He normally could make his way around the city without much overwhelming difficulty, but sadly, his own four hooves and the staff that had served him well for so long were quaint compared to an alicorn's wingspan. He longed for a day he could find a more self-sufficient method of travel.. at least the pony carrying him was one he trusted. Morning Glory always seemed a nice enough mare, and of course the little filly riding along her back was having more then a blast. At least /someone/ was enjoying this.

As his body was released a few feet from the ground Dusty took to tucking his body in quickly the moment his hind hooves touched pavement, tucking and rolling up and standing aright upon his fourhooves before the distraught looking parents.. whom probably were expecting a police stallion to be the one returning their daughters, rather then a winged mare and a masked stetson-stallion whom quite literally dropped out of thin air to greet them.

Letting everyone talk and reunite, Dusty stepped up beside Morning Glory as she spoke.. ears perking as he had caught the sounds of Pagemaster and Nightguard approaching them. Good, the gang was all here. "Ah promise ya'll we'll find yer little filly, mister and missus.. ah have a feeling there's something mighty unattural involved in this. We could use all the info you," he turns his dark green gaze to the crowd of lawponies gathered around them, "and all-a-you can give us."

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Mother and Father, their hopes dashed, could only clutch their child tighter. Unspeakable fear was wracking their brains, and it took all their might to not collapse in tears or scream vengeance into the night sky. But the two had each other, and with each other, they would stay strong for their little ones. All was not lost. Right?

 

Cookie Crumble, a tan and brown Appaloosan Unicorn with a bright pink mane and eyes, was the first to stand straight. She also made certain her ears did the same, not wanting to show her baby girl that she was scared.

 

Please. Come in.” And that was addressed to everypony, heroes included. Just Desserts and Cherry Top were the last to follow, as he didn't want anyone to hear that terrible mix of angry yelling and happy yelling he was giving to his kid.

 

-and don't you dare do something so catastrophically stupid again!

 

Inside was, well, a crime scene. Barricade tape sealed off the living room, keeping the remains of the birthday party nice and tidy for the investigation. The invited guests were, unfortunately, detained, and currently taking a short rest in the master bedroom upstairs before they'd need to come down and give more statements. And officers were absolutely everywhere, peering through magnifying glasses and dusting for prints. But the madness lies in the kitchen.

 

Cookie Crumble was a baker by trade, by hobby, by Cutie Mark. Stirring a batter and greasing a pan and preheating an oven to 350 degrees was her comfort zone. It's what makes her happy. That being said, in times of great stress, she has been known to hold bake sales for the neighborhood one day later. Right now was one of those times. So, with her hold aglow, she was simultaneously cracking eggs and sifting flour and creaming butter and every other step of baking all at once without skipping a beat. Cakes and cookies of all kinds were stacked haphazardly across every flat surface. This would be a treat to behold if it wasn't a coping mechanism.

 

I don't know how much help I can be. My little Sweety was looking down after Honey and Cherry were fighting.” Her eyes looked painfully tired. “So I let her open presents early. She played with a few toys and I went to get the pizza ready. When I came back, everything was unwrapped and everypony was asleep and that's when I nodded off. I woke up to Honey's pea whistle Celestia-knows how many hours later.

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Nightguard entering the household attempts to take in the crime scene, but that distraction. Baking is happening. Oh that heavenly scent makes his stomach growl, he hadn't finished dinner when he saw the candle. But no time for that, be professional. He didn't expect much from the police, but Cookie Crumble was another witness to circumstance, one more closer to the time the little one disappeared. He follows to speak with her. "Cherry said she came down after she woke up upstairs, and everyone in the party was asleep, nothing she could do to wake all of you. And everyone was asleep in the front room when you came back? When you entered the room, was there anything out of place from your home, anything you might have heard or smelled, no matter how unusual? Any guests you didn't recognize or might have gone missing since everyone woke up? Also..." he pauses a moment a mental chuckle as he is definitely running on instincts for questions, this is usually something more with parents and other family "... well, nothing your two were arguing about would be about Bittersweet..."

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Dust y'all hooves brought him into the police ridden home, and a gentle wave of unease crawled up his spine. While he was no criminal, those living on the streets or simply wandering to wherever room opened weren't exactly looked upon with a bright smile from law enforcement, at least in his experience. Being regarded as one of the "mask wearing weidoes" certainly didn't help either, but at least everypony was here for the same reason. Still, even as his heavy and bulky form settled near the crime scene, barred off for investigation, the stallion couldn't deny he felt a tad bit out of his element. He was a fighter, a farmer, and a street wise wanderer; investigation and interrogation weren't exactly his strong suits. He took in every conversation he could, doing what he will with the information before-

"Something smells good in here..." He muttered lightly, the stallion staff-fighter's belly giving a rather conspicuous grumble.. when was the last time he had eaten?

His Stetson wearing head peeked around the corner of the kitchen toward the cooking mare in question.. by the sisters look at her go. The amount of effort going into coping could feed a slum for a day, which was either very sad or very impressive.. or a mixed combination of the two.

As Nightguard did his questioning with miss Crumbles, Dusty decided to at least use was little knowledge he could to scan about the gathered ingredients.. searching for perhaps out of place herbs or anything that he may recognize as something that "shouldn't be in a pantry". An herb and spice farmer could possibly serve some use here... 

((Perhaps an investigation check or a specific knowledge check? I know I gave Dusty knowledge in spices and there was talk of giving him something like Street Smarts.))

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Pagemaster listened to the interview, deciding not to muddle the waters by chiming in.  Nightguard probably wouldn't appreciate the cross-purposes.  As Dusty came in, however, the bemasked bureaucrat sidled up to him.  "I know you've got a more sensitive nose than mine."  He said softly to the large stallion.  "Would you mind accompanying me to the living room?  You'll more likely be able to detect any trace of a substance that might have been used to knock out the guests.  I'll scan to see if it was magical.  Between us, we should be able to pin it down."

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The situation was not encouraging to Morning Glory.  Sure, she wanted to help, but ... she really wasn't sure what she could do that a whole department of police couldn't.  She wasn't exactly a detective ... she didn't have any special justice powers towards finding foalnappers.  She was completely unsuited towards this sort of job.

Still.  That's why they had a team, right?  Captain Nightguard had an excellent series of questions - he sounded like he knew what he was doing.  If she couldn't help find the foal, then the least she could do was reassure the family.  And to that end, she held her head high and took on an air of reserved dignity, as if she were assessing the situation carefully, and not simply at a complete loss for what to do.  She would have to ...

Oh, gosh, that kitchen smell was delicious.  As much as she tried to ignore it - it'd be so rude - her stomach rumbled hungrily as she tried to focus on the work at hoof.

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